The Frankenstein Monster #8

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Halloween is here! Can’t say I’m much of the celebrating type considering my childhood was spent decked out in flammable plastic…and handing out candy to other kids. All dressed up with nowhere to go. Thanks Mom, for making an 8 year old man the door. Don’t feel bad. I’ve more than made up for it over the years by consuming my body weight in miniature Snickers.

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 “The sweet smell of nostalgia and noxious plastic fumes.”

We’re not here to discuss my tragic backstory. That’s what hard liquor is for. No dear friends, time to talk comics. With the spirit of this hair raising holiday in mind, I’ve decided to revisit some Bronze Age Marvel Monsters. Everyone enjoys a good fright right? Publishers recognized the appeal of horror and flooded the market with a myriad of titles dedicated to the macabre. The majority of these issues had an anthology layout while solo books were reserved for the genres movie mainstays. Dracula being the most notable and popular with the fans.

This makes The Monster Frankenstein #8 (cover dated January 1974) pretty interesting to me. First, he’s the big brute of scary set but with an over saturated market, the chatter in the crypt was Frankenstein’s book neared it’s demise. Frank’s adventures needed a little life, so Marvel turned to Dracula for a three issue guest appearance. Did it do the trick or was this story more rotten than a Jack o’ Lantern in late November? Let’s take the lid off of this nefarious narrative by Gary Friedrich and the brilliant John Buscema.

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As the cover indicates, we start with Frankenstein opening a coffin to reveal Dracula rip roaring and ready to go. For an immortal creature he doesn’t bother to waste any time. This leaves Franky boy a tad shocked. One would think Drac might like to use the bathroom after waking up, or perhaps enjoy a good stretch before going into stalk mode. We got ourselves one nimble Nosferatu here!

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“You and me both Pal…”

I gotta admit, it’s pretty cool this story hits you with action outta the gate but how did this meeting come to be? Sheer chance? Of course not. Enter Marguerita the Hag. This little old lady lured Frank into her gypsy camp last issue. Filling his belly with food and his heart with high hopes of finding a home, she requests he follows her to a cave. Turns out only he possesses the strength needed to open the coffin that lies within. Here’s the rub, Marguerita is in fact a vampire herself eager to see her dark lord again. Be careful what you wish for baby!

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“Knuckle sandwiches are included with the early bird special.”

While all this geriatric grappling is going down, the reader is introduced to Marguerita’s beautiful granddaughter, Carmen. Bearing witness to the melee, the girl is horrified to discover her beloved Bubbe is a baddie. Marguerita grabs Carmen violently, turning Frank’s eye away from Dracula. He saves the girl from a vampire bite and drives a stake through her matriarch’s ticker.

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“You’re the reason for my life…You’re the inspiration.”

Dracula sees this as prime time to hit the bricks. I mean, c’mon all that stalking makes a guy thirsty.  So off to the nearest town for blood he goes. Meanwhile, Frankenstein and Carmen emerge from the cave to discover the entire gypsy camp, once welcoming to Franky, have been slaughtered. The nearby Townsfolk felt the need to punish them for turning the woods into the Universal Studios Monsters Tour. Now they gone and done it. Not only is Drac on his way to suck ’em dry but Frankenstein is out to avenge his fallen friends.

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“Nowadays you can just illegally download some Gypsy Jams. Back then, not so much.”

Let’s tackle my biggest gripe about this issue. Hell, about Vampire tales in general. Anytime I see the whole change into a bat but keep my face thing, I’m annoyed. Why? Just go full on bat. To add garlic to my gripe, Dracula even keeps his collar here! You may think you’re the most stylish flying rat in Transylvania there buddy but next time just rock a leisure suit. The ladies will love it! Well, some maybe. Ok…keep the collar.

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“Do these wings make my ass look fat?”

Where were we? Ah yes, a fury infused Frankenstein! The denizens of Gypsy Genocideville are aware he is en route. Rather than play sitting duck, the Burgomeister  insists they set out to kill the monstrosity before it arrives. Gotta love the role of Burgomeister. Has there been any other profession portrayed as a bigger dink in realm of fiction? The only other job that may hold a torch is the Hospital Orderly. I challenge you fine reader, to prove me otherwise.

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“Burgomeisters…cementing a bad rep for over 200 years.”

As the Villagers wonder where to start the hunt, Frank’s already arrived at the town square. He smashes a wagon and goes on a diatribe about hatred. For a supposed lunkhead, he’s fairly spot on about men being the true monsters of the world. Word of advice to Frankenstein though: the Ghandi routine gets lost in translation when you murder everyone within arms reach! Hey, It’s the thought that counts…right big guy?

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“Quit running! I have to see if your nether regions can accommodate a wagon wheel!”

Similar to Trick or Treaters that descend upon the house giving away full size candy bars, the locals manage to swarm on Frank. Someone finally realizes pitch forks are useless and grabs a rifle. Guns are a pretty lousy solution to any problem but I will say this, I’d be willing to get the resulting sound effect tattooed on one of my buttocks.

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“Look on the bright side, at least scarring isn’t an issue!”

Subdued by the bullet, Frank is tied to a post and given the “burn the witch” treatment. This ends with a splash page and is probably my single favorite moment of the book. The beast shows bravado only to seemingly crap his pants and with the odd word balloon placement, the chimney is telling him to die.

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“Just friggin’ great, you bumpkins had to go and burn the last good street pole!”

Was this the spooky spectacular that reinvigorated my spirit for the season? Not quite. The problem here is the script. It cashes in on every cliche that’s been used in genre from the get go. Pacing was good but it’s terribly predictable. The art is the strength here as John Buscema makes you feel like you’re watching a classic Monster movie.

Worth a read for fans of the subject matter but for the rest of us, It’s a pass. Seal it in the Tomb of Tired Tropes and hope no one ever sets it free.

 

David Schultz is the Creator/Co-Host of the Parlipod Podcast. Give it a listen on Soundcloud or via the GWW Radio Network. If you have a comic you would like to see reviewed on Two Staple Gold or just want to harass Dave, follow @lavahog on Twitter.

 

 

 

*All images/video clips are rights of their respective owners. Links to external sites are used solely for informational purposes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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House of Mystery #148

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House of Mystery has long been associated with horror but it actually featured superhero stories from #143- #173. Martian Manhunter aka J’onn J’onzz was the main attraction for the majority of that span. He’s always confused me a little. Not the character overall but rather his popularity. The dude is a straight up heavy hitter in the DC Universe and when he comes up in conversation among fans there is genuine affection there.

So why can’t J’onn hold on to a solo title like the other big guns? He’s an original member of the Justice League who has appeared in video games, animation and live action TV. He’s also been in so many titles, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him DNA tested on Maury.

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” Grant Morrison is a HO!”

I suppose it’s fitting to follow up a paternity test anecdote with Martian Manhunter battling a race of prophylactics. Wait, don’t tell me you don’t recall the Clash with the Condoms back in ’65? All good, that’s what I’m here for. Let’s take a peek at House of Mystery #148 “The Beings in the Color Rings” ( I preferred my title too) by Dave Wood and Joe Certa.

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Before we examine the story, I have to be honest with you. I don’t care for sidekicks. Some have a place. Marvel’s Rick Jones or DC’s Robin for example, had important roles in comic book history. Mention the likes of D-Man or say, any animal in a cape to me and prepare for a look that will melt your face off. J’onn may have had one of the worst of the bunch in Zook. He’s cute, resembles a teddy bear, speaks like a child and every time he appears on panel, I want to punt the little bastard into next week.

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“I’m gonna bring you home and flush you like a turd.”

The issue begins with Bedford City being attacked by a strange creature from the sky. J’onn hears the radio bulletin while chilling in his mountain lair and deducts it must be a manifestation of “The Idol Head of Diabolu”. Other than having a name that rolls off the tongue, Diabolu was an artifact from Mars that granted ordinary folks powers. If his suspicion of it’s involvement is true, we can add giving baby toys sentience to it’s resume.

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“Let your kid play with these at your own peril pal…”

So what form of evil is this thing capable of? Basically, it tosses rings around that suck up items of corresponding colors only to spit them back out sans pigment. Yellow ring picks up a yellow taxi and voila, it’s white. Before you head to the rooftops and start yelling “Cheeseballs!” at the heavens let me remind you this was the sensational Silver Age. An era chock full of random plot points, so there is one cool thing it can do… summon an electrified two headed octopus!

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      “J’onn please. Don’t be rude. It’s name is Larry and he has a Massage License.”

This proves to be a let down. The wannabe Wacky Wall Crawler is merely a mirage. Something that does please me however, was back in the day heroes had powers to suit any pickle. Kids nowadays with their search engines will never understand the importance of  “Super Memory”. That’s right, us old timers used to walk to school during blizzards and had to use our alien brains to access the Encyclopedia Britannica. The struggle was real. Oh before I forget, the Earth is about to be enslaved by ringworm hungry for paint.

hom1487“The Rainbow Paint Factory appears to be constructed from a crossword puzzle.”

Rather than fight any more imaginary beasts, J’onn has a plan. It’s terribly stupid but hey, if you haven’t noticed already, this isn’t the finest work of fiction. He decides the ringworm is absorbing colors and sending them somewhere. If he can become bait maybe the source will be revealed. Showing exemplary carpeting skills, he rolls up giant piece of turf to call attention to green. The trick works and he’s whisked away to another dimension. May I remind you he’s already the correct hue so the sod sushi is a bit unnecessary.

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“Little known fact: Martian Manhunter taught Bob Marley how to twist a spliff.”

At the start, I referred to this yarn as the Clash with the Condoms. Well I’ll be damned if the “disk people” he encounters are not related to rubbers. Seriously. They seem harmless at first. “Color gives us power” and all that jazz but their real intent is to oppress Earthlings and coat the world in latex. Just kidding, I made that last part up but it’s actually an improvement to the plot.

PicMonkey Collage“This Halloween, tell your friends it’s a Disk Person costume.”

Now that our hero has found himself at the mercy of sinister love gloves, how does he save the day? Surprise…he doesn’t. J’onn actually gets his Martian mutton roasted by the baddies. All seems lost until, and I’d rather swallow nails than say this but Zook comes to the rescue. A character I can’t stand shows up, yanks him out of out of trouble and this issue wraps up with J’onn remarking he owes the city a patch of grass.

This book was ghostwritten and I completely understand the creators not wanting to be associated with it. Rancid from start to finish, I had zero enthusiasm to check out the back up feature “The Man who Hated his Powers”. The story was one of the worst I’ve ever read. That’s saying something. I can usually justify the existence of a comic by relating to the time period it was released but in this case, the defense rests.

If your a hardcore Martian Manhunter fan or just someone interested in learning more about him, this is not for you. On the other hand, if you’re eager to get your Zook on, He’s the true protagonist in this drivel. Read away and prepare for a robust slap to be delivered by yours truly.

David Schultz is the Creator/Co-Host of the Parlipod Podcast. Give it a listen on Soundcloud or via the GWW Radio Network. If you have a comic you would like to see reviewed on Two Staple Gold or just want to harass Dave, follow @lavahog on Twitter.

 

 

 

*All images/video clips are rights of their respective owners. Links to external sites are used solely for informational purposes.