Just added a new post to my blog, this one spotlighting the often-maligned JOHNNY STORM, THE HUMAN TORCH series.  The first 5 covers (so far), lovingly restored, in all their 4-color glory.
 

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Can we get a link to this fantasty section of "alternative covers?"  I'm most interested to go see it.

 

Also, can you point to a sample of these three sided border covers?  I think I agree with you totally... they were one of the things that drove me away from comics (among other things, Jack leaving Marvel, stupid plots, out of character characters, etc.,the rise of monsters...)   except I used to call them "frame covers".

Here you go...

http://www.webspawner.com/users/zodiaccomics/fantasycomicboo.html

 

Scroll to the bottom and click the tiny "GALLERY" button to get to the pages.

 

 

"out of character characters"

Sounds like John Buscema's F.F.!

Oh WoW!  Those are great "covers"....   I especially like some of the alterations that you've chosen to make.

Example: Tales of Suspense #61 (not a strong original)...   And the Past PoT Pete/Trapster cover from Strange Tales #124 is a dramatic improvement. (PS: Have you heard how/why he chose that awful name to start with? Someone suggested a very plausible explaination...that he was sniffing glue, and was stupid/high at the time!)

As I recall, most all the split books of this period at first shared covers, split or inset, and then after a year or so, began to alternate whole covers between their heroes.  This also meant besides getting the whole cover goodness, if you were NOT familiar with the book, and didn't recognise that it was split or that the heroes were sharing a book, that you could easily miss a month on the newstand, if you were following, say, Iron Man, but not Cap... Hulk but not Subby... Nick Fury but not Dr. Strange.   On the other hand, you might also find that you were wheting your appetite for another artist's style or for the second feature's storyline, since you already had it in your hands.  As a kid, it occured to me that this was the goal at Marvel.... to make you familiar with dissimilar heroes, so that you'd broaden your reading and likes.

When in reality, the truth was Marvel just wanted to make money!

Doesn't anyone know, just off the top of your head, exactly which covers in Tales of Suspense, Tales to Astonish, and Strange Tales featured full covers alternating between the heroes?  I might have guessed the Iron Man #73 with the Black Knight vs. Iron Man, and Strange Tales #135 with the debut of Nick Fury, Agent of Sheild... but that would only be a guess on my part.  Anyone know for sure?

Nevermind...I just went to the Grand Comics Database and flipped through the gallery for each.  I was close on both guesses...

Tales of Suspens #70 was the first full cover with Captain America featured. Iron Man's full cover was 71.

Tales to Astonish #76 was the first alternating covers with Subby... however, they did one full cover about issue 72, but threw in a few insets in the intervening covers.

Strange Tales #134 featured the beautiful full cover with the HUGE Watcher Head watching over Camelot, as the first full cover...and immediately afterward featured Nick Fury, Agent of Sheild with an odd split cover that shows his x-ray and lots of busy action. Dr. Strange was #136 immediately afterwards.

Anyone know if Journey into Mystery or  Amazing (Adult) Fantasy  did anything similar?

JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY went straight from "monster" covers to THOR covers from his debut.  Ditto for AMAZING FANTASY and SPIDER-MAN.

For most of the period when they had full covers alternating, on the inside, you still had a consistent lead and back-up feature.  In STRANGE TALES, it was NICK FURY lead, DR. STRANGE back-up.  For ASTONISH, it was SUB-MARINER lead, HULK back-up.  but a few months before the end, they began alternating the leads and back-ups, so whatever was on the cover became the lead story.  But then the books split into 2 separate solo books, and it all came to an end.  It's kind of a shame, as in most cases, the splitting signalled a downward turn in the quality of the books (or, at least, the sales).

I remember someone once suggested that STRANGE TALES was the worst-selling of the split books, and only maintained its sales by applealing to both right-wingers (SHIELD) and left-wingers (DR. STRANGE).  Separated, neither book held its own.  Of course, that doesn't take into account the creative CHAOS that hit NICK FURY as soon as Steranko quit (following a dispute with Stan).  When I re-read those issues again recently, I was very impressed with Frank Springer's solo art-- especially on aircraft.  (He should have done a run of BLACKHAWK!)  But they kept changing writers, and most of the writing was trying, badly, to imitate Steranko's WORST excesses.  The best-written issue was "Hell Hath No Fury" by Steve Parkhouse, art by Barry Smith, but the inks were AWFUL.  Checking the previous issue's cover, it's clear if Springer had inked Smith, it would have looked a LOT better.  Tragically, neither Parkhouse or Smith continued on the book, and the 3-parter that resulted was extrememly disjointed. Between Gary Friedrich, Herb Trimpe & Sam Grainger, you could definitely see a conscious return to the Kirby-period style of the book, but it was too little too late, and the last issue theyclearly pulled the plug in mid-production.  (The last 5 pages were by a different artist, Dick Ayers, and those same 5 issues totally contradicted everything that had been leading up to them.)  I hate to see a book die that painfully...

 

At the same time, the Roy Thomas-Gene Colan-Tom Palmer DR. STRANGE was reaching new heights every issue... but it wound up being cancelled anyway.  Crazy but true:  some fans at the time kept asking for Dan Adkins to return when Colan & Palmer took over.

That's a very shrewd observation about the right and left wingers loving Strange tales for each other's features....

I also felt it was a very very odd pairing.  But interest in both themes supported the book for years...

I also felt that at the time they split apart, both SHIELD and Dr. Strange were at high points... but Marvel as a whole could not sustain the quality of any of their split books, once the split occurred.

Hulk became an oversized melodrama, the missing link saga being one of the worst examples.

Subby was flopping around, unsure where to go, after a disasterous retcon to force Destiny into Subby's history.

Iron Man took a terrible dip in quality (IMHO) when Gene Colan left, and then again after Johnny Craig.

Cap, which looked like the front runner for a good while with Kirby at the helm, stumbled with Steranko, and then after they introduced the Falcon, didn't know where to go with it... after two years, it was stumbling along...

Dr. Strange looked appropriately strange, but the panel design looked like modern day "decompressed storytelling", and then took a HUGE mis-step with trying to make Dr. Strange into a masked Super-hero for a few issues.

Only SHEILD looked like it was going to succeed, as long as Steranko was at the helm.  But very quickly, with a confusing Scorpio/brother Jake storyline also seemed to loose it's way along with Steranko as well.

It just seemed to me that old Marvel, with the old master artists and storytellers, had gone away. The magic wasn't there any more.

Oops!  Had the wrong "fantasy" version up.  Here's the right one...  (see corner box pic)
Unfortunately, except for the final Watcher/Kang story, they are really quite run of the mill Torch/Thing 10 page adventures.

Yeah. There's a few pages here and there that are quite impressive, notably the splash page of ST 131 ("The Bouncing Ball Of Doom!"), which shows Johnny & Ben in a CORVETTE heading for a toll booth thru a squad of policemen.  But the stories, and the storytelling, just do not impress.  I have to figure it's because Bob Powell, a longtime vet of the business, may NOT have been used to having to plot his own stories.  Had he come back to Marvel in the early 70's, there would have been a small army of young, hotshot fanboy writers he could have teamed with, but here, he was expected to do it himself.

 

It's the same story over on GIANT-MAN AND THE WASP in ASTONISH.  Powell's period of that series is my least favorite, despite a rotating array of inkers, some more or less imnpressive than others.  By comparison, on THE HULK series, every one of Powell's episodes was plotted & laid out by Jack Kirby, and on DAREDEVIL, his 3 episodes were plotted (and laid out) by Wally Wood.  (I put that last bit in parenthesis, because the credits were written in 3 different way on those 3 issues, and I'm still not sure if they're in any way accurate, or just written differently.)

 

Joe Orlando had the same problem, on DAREDEVIL and GIANT-MAN, but he didn't hang around as long.

 

The truth is, the best-looking Powell art I've seen has been the solo work he did for Magazine Enterprises in the early 50's (the same holds true for Dick Ayers).  Of course, there's also those 1966 BATMAN bubble-gum cards he did where his pencils were painted over by Norm Saunders... WOW.  As a friend of mine once commented, they looked like a 1940's "film noir" detective movie-- except, in color.

 

I went back to the Essential Human Torch volume and looked up that Bouncing Ball of Doom story.

I have to agree, the artwork by Bob Powell left a lot to be desired, IMHO... best example:  The Mad Thinker looked like a cross between Bevis and Butthead, and Einstein...  and The Puppet master looked more like Uncle Fester than the classic P.M. we've known and loved.

I just don't think he could draw these characters as they are originally presented...  though he WAS able to tell a story.

PS: I looked for that splash page, but didn't think it was all that remarkable, myself.  What was it that appealed to you?

I think it was the Corvette...

 

I'd have to check, but I know The Puppet Master deliberately underwent plastic surgery at the time to completely change his appearance. Then, in the same story we learned this, he BLEW his secret, which made it all a waste of time.  He stayed that way for some time, but eventually returned to his original "Howdy Doodie" look.  Generally, I long ago came to HATE that character. He doesn't seem to have any sensible motivations, and 98% of his stories are nothing more but revenge schemes.  Yeah, revenge for things HE started in the first place. Someone should have put that loser out of his misery long ago. (But then, I got to feel the same way about The Mad Thinker, by the late 60's.)

The OHOTMU (Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe) overturned the plastic surgery angle. It said someting along the lines of, "For a time the Puppet Master wore foam padding and plastic make-up appliances which he referred to as his 'plastic surgery.'"

 

NOTE: That's not a "Mopee"... it's a "Bereet": 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/its-not-a-mopee-its-a-be...

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