Wednesday, January 31, 2018

How do you make dinosaurs boring?

Back when I was methodically reviewing Marvel Comics from the 1960s in order, I would occasionally have to talk about a story I didn't like. The idea was that I would cover every Marvel Superhero book starting with FF #1 and, as fun as that particular universe is, they did do a clunker from time to time.

I eventually got to a point where I didn't own (either the original or a reprint) a lot of the comics from a particular month, so I phased out that project and began reviewing pretty much randomly chosen comics. That means that I would almost always be talking about comics I enjoy reading--there would rarely be a critical review. And that's just fine. I write this blog in part to celebrate the stuff I like and to pass on my impeccable taste the rest of the world, thus saving civilization.

But every once in awhile, I run across a story that should have been good, but just blows the opportunity. Then I have to vent. I did that a few years ago, when a Charlton comic messed up a chance to make a Phantom/John Paul Jones team-up the epic event it should have been. I usually like Charlton comics, but now I've found a story that messes up a Western gunfighter  vs. dinosaurs story set on a jungle island. Seriously, how do you mess that up?

Kid Montana #36 (September 1962) includes the 10-page story "The Dawn World," tentatively written by Joe Gill and drawn by Pete Morisi. The length is probably one of the problems with the tale. A lot of these pages are needed just for exposition, leaving too little room to flesh out the action stuff.

Kid Montana gets a letter from a lady named Lori who runs a trading post in the swamps of Florida. She's also an archeologist and has a theory that there are floating islands left over from the Ice Age on which ancient flora and fauna might exist. Learning of one of these islands from a local Indian, she hires a steamboat to take her to it, bringing Montana along in case they run into something dangerous.

Well, there is danger afoot. The three-man crew of the boat are actually escaped convicts looking for a hideout AND the island turns out to be thick with dinosaurs. When Montana and Lori are attacked by a carnosaur, it proves to be immune to bullets, but a stick of dynamite works quite nicely.

The page above shows, I think, the problem with "The Dawn World." The art is simply not equal to the task of making the story look appropriately awesome. There are one or two panels that look nice, but the art does not flow effectively from panel to panel and there are far too many close ups and tight shots of the characters. I want to like this story. I really, really want to like it. But it just looks too mundane. A Western gunfighter tossing explosives at a hungry dinosaur should never look mundane.

Anyway, the bad guys give themselves away, shoot and wound Montana, and then run into the jungle when they find out Lori has found pearls.

In another poorly choreographed sequence, the outlaws run into dinosaurs, panic and run back to the boat, where Montana captures them. As they all leave, Montana uses the rest of their dynamite to blow up the island. He does this with Lori's permission--because she's a scientist, by golly, and all good scientists blow up their most important discoveries for no rational reason.

Charlton produced a number of good Westerns, but they dropped the ball this time. They had a gunslinger, a steamboat, a crew of thugs, a pretty girl and an island full of dinosaurs. If you can't mix all that together and come up with a fun story, then you just aren't trying hard enough.

You can read the story yourself online HERE, but I ain't promisin' you won't be wasting your time.

Next week, the Justice League makes a return trip to the 73rd Century.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Friday, January 26, 2018

Friday's Favorite OTR

Let George Do It: "The House That Jack Built" 10/2/50

George is hired by Lacey Jack, a man he never heard of but who even tough thugs seem to be afraid of. George is asked to watch over Jack's sister, but instead he finds himself racing to prevent a murder.

...or so George thinks.

Click HERE to listen or download. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Fourth Gunman

Remember the Ace Doubles? They easily rank among Mankind's greatest achievements. I'm pretty sure they fall between the pyramids and the Great Wall of China on any legitimate list.

Ace began publishing them in 1952 and the line didn't peter out until the late 1970s. They were... well, they were wonderful. Each paperback was two novels in one, printed back-to-back with each novel oriented upside down in relation to the other. So you read one novel, flipped the book upside down and then read the other. Genres published by Ace as Doubles included science fiction & fantasy, detective fiction and Westerns. Aside from the great storytelling featured within each Double, they usually had magnificent cover illustrations.

I've never made a point of collecting the Doubles, but if I have a chance to get my hands on one, I inevitably will do so. So when I recently had a chance to acquire the 1958 Double featuring two Westerns, I did so.

As of my writing this post, I haven't yet read Slick on the Draw, by Tom West, but I have read The Fourth Gunman, by Merle Constiner.

I was not familiar with Constiner (1902-1979), who has 25 separate novels (mostly Westerns) listed under his name on Goodreads. But--even though I'm supposed to be something of a scholar about such things, I don't feel too bad about that. There were so many Westerns being churned out in the 1940s and 1950s, it's pretty much impossible to be familiar with them all.

Costiner, it turns out, was good at Westerns. The protagonist of The Fourth Gunman is George Netfield, who owns a saloon in the town of Kirksville. When the novel opens, Netfield is already hip-deep in trouble. He's become aware that a local ranch owner is looking to gain control of both a second ranch and the feeding station in town. (The area where cattle are held before being loaded onto trains.) The rancher would then use these resources to move stolen cattle through the town and make a lot of money. The local sheriff is corrupt and on the rancher's payroll, so there's no point in looking to the law for help.

Netfield does not want this to happen. He is, essentially, a very moral man who likes his town and doesn't want to see it corrupted. But this attitude gets him on a hit list. And, as the novel opens, his barkeeper, who is also his best friend, is murdered.

Netfield learns that there are four gunman in town and that one of them--named Kruger--is particularly dangerous. But Netfield is not a man to back down. He's also pretty good with a six gun himself, as he demonstrates when he kills one of the men who killed his friend.

The story spreads out from here. There's plenty of action and Costiner definitely knows how to effectively describe a gun battle. A particularly interesting one takes place early in the novel, when Netfield and another ally are being stalked through a lumberyard, with stacks of wood forming a maze around them.

Costiner also introduces several fun supporting characters: A young man named Wingate who was cheated out of his small farm, but proves very skilled with a rifle; and an aging gunfighter who should probably have outgrown his nickname, the "Turtle Creek Kid," but never did. Both these guys affect the story in surprising ways.

I also really enjoy how Costiner uses the gunman Kruger as the scariest villain. He's very much an unseen threat. Neither we nor Netfield meets him in person until the climatic gunfight. But Kruger is effectively built up as a serious threat throughout the novel, so we feel us presence hanging over all other events even before he finally shows himself.

That climatic battle, by the way, is exciting and satisfying as well as ironic in how it plays out.

So I've run across yet another writer whose works I want to read more of. For years, I've had a plan to meet and marry a wealthy heiress so that I can spend my life reading everything I want to read. I really need to get that plan rolling.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Quick Trip to the 73rd Century

Justice League of America #138 (January 1977) shows us that being heroic can sometimes cause more problems than it solves. Especially if the problem being solved didn't even exist in the first place.

The Justice League satallite receives a surprise visit from the planet Rann. Alanna, the wife of Adam Strange, has traveled 4 light years because she needs someone to save her husband.

Adam Strange's deal--as most readers here probably know--was getting bounced back and forth between Earth and Rann (which orbits around Alpha Centauri) by zeta beams. Not long before this issue, he'd been able to settle permanently on Rann and finally marry the woman he loved. But now he's getting zapped back to Earth again--while also being carried forward in time to the 73rd Century. He's having a harder and harder time battling various threats to future Earth.

So Alanna goes to the League for help. Superman and Flash, both able to casually time travel, soon arrive in the 73rd Century along with Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Batman. Once there, they encounter that century's Green Lantern for Sector 2814.

They soon encounter one of the threats that has been giving Adam a hard time. But its not a threat. The fireball plummeting from the sky is actually a 73rd Century streat cleaning device. Which means the citizens of that country have simply gotten used to a fireball plunging towards them every day. The future is weird.

When Adam shows up to stop this "threat," his efforts simply cause damage. And the corrupt Zeta Beams infusing Adam have both made him unable to think things through and made him powerful enough to be a threat even to Superman.

By the way, Dick Dillon's art is superb in this issue. I especially like the panels above in which future Green Lantern and Aquaman double-team Adam in a valiant effort to make Aquaman seem useful in a fight not taking place in the ocean. 

Typically, Batman is the only hero there who comes up with a plan other than "everyone hit Adam Strange." He manages to stay one step ahead of Adam's ray gun, which eventually drains Adam of the corrupt Zeta energy, snapping him back to normal.

Written by Cary Bates, "Adam Strange--Puppet of Time" is a wonderful story containing several really fun ideas. The fight between Adam and the League is well-choreographed and I like the design of future G.L.

But despite the happy ending, this isn't really a stand-alone tale. The next issue, the five Leaguers who traveled into the future will find themselves fading from reality. Why? How?

Well, next week we'll pause for me to vent about an old Charlton story that commits the grevious sin of making dinosaurs boring. But in two weeks, we'll pay another visit to the 73rd Century.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Friday, January 19, 2018

Friday's Favorite OTR

I Deal in Crime: "The Abigail Murray Case" 9/27/47

Private eye Ross Dolan is hired to drive a prime and proper elderly schoolteacher across town. Why does she need a P.I. for that? Because someone has just threatened to kill her!

Click HERE to listen or download.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Cosmic Cube

Read/Watch 'em In Order #89

We continue our trip through the August 1939 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories with "Cosmic Cube," a story written by a fan as part of a contest. The author is Graph Waldeyer, who went on to write 4 other published SF short stories during the 1940s. I have no information on how he ended up being named Graph.

"Cosmic Cube" is a neat little story. The protagonist is a scientific genius named Herbert Monroe, who is directly compared to Sherlock Holmes. Monroe is a scientific detective who's "field was the cosmic scene, rather than mundane crime."  So he won't solve your murder, but he will figure out how to save the planet if the need arise. He even has his Watson, a friend named Rob Gilton.

The story is set in a space opera future, in which Earth has waged a successful war against the Venusians. But now there's a bigger threat threatening the planet. A giant cube--as large as a sun--is tumbling towards Earth.

Monroe is the only person who knows how to destroy the cube before the Earth collides with it. But his solution is based on a theory so fantastic that Monroe knows there's a good chance that he'll be dismissed as a madman.

His theory proves to be true, but I don't think I'll even hint at it. The story has a really fun twist to it that I don't want to spoil. You can find the magazine online HERE, so you can read it yourself.

After "Cosmic Cube," there's a surprisingly difficult science quiz. For example:

People living in New York partake of the following velocities:

___ mile per second, due to the diurnal revolution of the Earth.

___ miles per second, due to the annual revolution of the Earth around the sun.

___ miles per second, due to the translation of the Solar System toward Vega.

___ miles per second, due to the rotation of the galaxy.

Gee whiz, the science fiction pulps might have occasionally run silly stories, but no one can say they didn't think their readers were reasonably smart.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Graveyard of Stagecoaches

Somebody is rustling stagecoaches. Not just robbing them and their passengers, but stealing the entire stagecoach after forcing the rider and passengers to disembark. And the oddest thing is that each stagecoach's tracks simply disappear when a posse tries to trail the stolen vehicle.

This is the situation Roy Rogers rides into in the tale "Graveyard of Stagecoaches," which appeared in Dell's Western Roundup #2 (1953). The art is by Mike Arens and the writer is uncredited.

Roy is briefly mistaken for one of the outlaws, but soon establishes himself as a good guy. He meets the owner of the stagecoach line--pretty young Maggie Temple who has run the business since her dad died. Maggie is now up to 20 missing stagecoaches and her business is--not surprisingly--in trouble.

Roy, of course, sticks around to help. This leads to a couple of attempts on his life, but he soon begins to harbor some suspicions as to what is actually going on.

The villain is a thug with the highly appropriate name of Hog Garber, who was sent to prison by Maggie's dad. He's arranging to hijack the stagecoaches and then uses a hand-car on an old railroad spur to transport them to an abandoned mine. His henchmen go along with it for a share in the profits of the loot taken from the coaches. 

Hog's motive? "I've watched these coaches slowly rotting month after month...just like I rotted in jail! Sometimes I come here at night an' prowl among th' dead coaches. I get a funny feelin'... a good feelin'."

In other words, Hog is Crazy Pants. But don't tell him that to his face. One of his henchmen does that and gets shot for it.

In the end, Roy tracks Hog to the graveyard of stagecoaches. There's a brief but nifty chase over the tops of the coaches (I would have loved to see this scene in one of Roy's movies), then Hog crashes through the rotted roof of a coach, into a nest of rattlesnakes. Ouch.

This is a fun story. Like many B-movie cowboy tales, it effectively combines elements from the detective genre with Western elements, making for a strong plot. And Hog is an unusual and effective villain.

You can read this one online HERE.  Or you can read it while its set to music:

Next week, we'll visit with the Justice League as they follow Adam Strange into the 73rd Century.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Friday, January 12, 2018

Friday's Favorite OTR

Night Beat: "A Case of Butter" 9/25/50

A shipment of contaminated butter is delivered to Chicago and Randy Stone must help track it down before it reaches the public.

Click HERE to listen or download.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Unnamed Hunter, Unnamed Prey

Geoffrey Houseman's 1939 novel Rogue Male has a great premise. A skilled hunter decides--just for the sport--to see if he can successfully stalk the dictatorial ruler of a totalitarian nation. He doesn't intend to actually pull the trigger (though that is called into doubt later in the novel). He just wants to see if he can do it.

The dictator and nation are unidentified. Houseman wanted his readers to decide for themselves if it was Hitler or Stalin, though he admitted he considered the target to be Hitler. That, I think, makes the most sense. In fact, as least one later edition of the book used Hitler in the cross hairs on the cover.

Also, the 1941 movie version---Man Hunt, starring Walter Pidgeon--overtly used Hitler as the target. I saw the beginning of that one years ago on TV, so I'm just gonna go with that and, for the remainder of this review, I'll refer to the bad guys as Germans.

I can't give a name to the book's protagonist, though. The narration is all first person from his point-of-view, but he's careful never to give us his name.

Whoever-the-heck-he-is is captured by the Germans while stalking Hitler. He's tortured even after he freely admits his motivation. Without excusing the torture, it's actually not surprising the Germans don't believe he wasn't actually planning to pull the trigger. Who would believe that?

They decide the best way to dispose of him is to fake an accidental death, so they toss him over a cliff. But he lands in a bog, which at least partially breaks his fall.

This sets up an incredibly tense sequence in which the protagonist is unable to walk on his injured legs, has hands that are nearly useless after his fingernails were torn out during his interrogation, and has one eye swollen shut from the beatings he took. Despite all this, he needs to successfully hide from those who will soon arrive to "discover" his body and then he needs to escape the country.

The novel can be said to have three long acts and a short fourth act to bring it to a close. The first act is the escape from Germany, which is breathlessly suspenseful. Despite his injuries, the man still has his quick intelligence and his skills as a hunter (which translate into skill at foiling those hunting him). He crawls, painfully climbs trees, and lays false trails as he gradually regains the use of his legs. Because his fall off the cliff was supposed to be accidental, he'd been given back his money and papers. The papers don't do him much good, but the money is enormously useful in acquiring a small boat and drifting down a river until he reaches a port city.

Eventually, he gets back to England, where he realizes that he can't approach his own government for help and that enemy agents are still on his trail. When he's forced to kill one of them, he's then pursued by the cops as well, though the cops don't know who he actually is. His escape from London, his efforts to again lay false trails and his establishing a hidden lair in the country makes up the book's second act.

He successfully eludes the cops, but Germany's top agent is soon dogging his heels. This is the third act, ending with an extraordinarily tense sequence in which the agent has trapped him in the small underground hiding place he had established. Now, to get out, he'll need to use scraps of wood, metal and brick--along with a dead cat--to improvise a weapon and kill the agent.

It is one of the few times in either fiction or real life that a cat has actually served a useful purpose.

The last act is an escape from England and his decision about what to do next. He considers himself as waging a personal war against Germany by now and this informs his future plans.

Rogue Male is full of action, but it is more accurately defined as a novel of suspense, especially during the first and third acts. And it works wonderfully well in this regard. The tension builds on the very first page of the novel, when the protagonist finds himself at the bottom of the cliff the Gestapo had thrown him off. The tension stays high until the story ends.

So the author is successful in keeping us in suspense for 191 pages AND actually finds a use for a cat. He's two-for-two.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Jealous Alien Women and Really Big Crocodiles: Tragg and the Sky Gods part 3

Though Jessie Santos still paints the cover for Tragg and the Sky Gods #3 (December 1975), Dan Spiegle takes over the interior illustration. Santos' style was perfect for the story, so he will be missed. But I'm a huge Spiegle fan also and he continues to give the story a rawness that makes Don Glut's strong writing even more effective.

At the end of last issue, Tragg's enemy Gorth (who is now brainwashed by the aliens as well as just being a jerk by nature) has convinced the tribe that the Sky Gods are benevolent. Tragg and Lorn are once again exiled.  When the tribe's chiefton allows Gorth to convince him that all their strongest warriors should visit the Sky Gods and say Hi, Tragg's brother Jarn decides its time to leave.

The visit to the Sky Gods goes as well (or rather--as badly) as you would expect. The warriors are easily captured by the raygun-armed aliens and put to work as slaves. The alien leader Zorek as decided to move their base from their damaged space globe to inside a dormant volcano to protect their remaining equipment from dinosaurs. The captured tribesmen are put to work carrying the heavy stuff.

Jarn warns Tragg and Lorn of the danger to the tribe, but when they try to help, Lorn gets knocked into the volcano crater by an attacking Dimorphodon. Darn Dimorphodons. Never trust 'em, says I.

Tragg and Jarn get captured trying to help. The alien guard actually tries to just kill him, but his raygun is too low on power to finish them off. It's an effective reminder of of why the aliens aren't just rampaging across the valley--with their ship damaged, they are low on resources and power.

The story can be said to be very effectively divided into three acts. The capture of Tragg, Lorn and Jarn brings the first act to a close. The second act presents us with a variety of shenanigans going on at the aliens' new volcano base. Keera still has the hots for Tragg, but when he rejects her, she orders Lorn to be deliberately overworked and then punished when she can't keep up. Zorek tries to experiment on Tragg with a De-Evolvo Ray, taking way his genetic enhancements of increased strength and intelligence, but Keera secretly sabotages this. The alien woman is trying to convince herself she now hates Tragg, but can't suppress her feelings for him or her increased doubt about her own peoples' plans.

All this is extremely well-done. Despite the absense of overt action, the pacing does not seem slow while we are provided plot exposition and characterizations are steadily advanced.

Act Three begins when Tragg manages to get the drop on a guard, allowing him, Jarn, Lorn and Korr (the tribes' chief) to make a break for it. This involves running through a chamber inhabited by a giant crocodile, which promptly eats the guard Tragg has taken prisoner during the escape.  This proves fortuitous, though, as the crocodile distracts the pursuing aliens long enough for the good guys to get away.

The story concludes with Tragg and Lorn hoping to find other men to help battle the aliens, while Jarn and Korr head back to the caves to see if they can free the other prisoners.

Tragg and the Sky Gods continues to be an excellent series, with each issue self-contained enough to be enjoyed on its own, but still advancing the overall story arc. Add to this exciting action and interesting characters and we continue to read through a comic book series that should be better remembered and appreciated than it is.

Next week, we return to the Old West, where Roy Rogers is trying to find a... Secret Stagecoach Graveyard?

Monday, January 8, 2018

Cover Cavalcade

Wonderful Jim Aparo cover from 1969.

You can listen to a great discussion of this issue on Comic Reflections HERE.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Friday's Favorite OTR

21st Precinct: "Case of the I.D. 80"  12/4/53

A retired cop applying for a gun permit renewal is the starting point for a very touching and human story.

Click HERE to listen or download.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Crime on a Clipper

Gee whiz, I really want to recommend 1941's Desperate Cargo, because there were aspects to it I enjoyed enormously and it was a pleasant way to spend 62 minutes (IMDB lists it as 67 minutes, but I think that's because it's in the public domain and the surviving prints have some awkward jumps where a few moments are obviously missing.)

But it does have a flaw. It spends the first 40 minutes or so as what is essentially a romantic comedy. Ralph Byrd plays Tony Bronson, who is the new purser aboard a clipper plane that's about to fly from South America to Miami. Ann Howard plays Julie Duncan, half of a two-girl vaudeville act which can't afford a ticket on the clipper to get home. The two fall in love, but shenanigans ensue that get them mad at each other, with Tony convinced Julie was just using him to get free tickets on the plane.

In the meantime, a former pilot named Carter (played by Stanford Jolly) is planning on hijacking the plane and stealing a valuable cargo. Jolley was a perennial villain in Westerns, but plays a more modern crook with equal effectiveness.

Anyway, Byrd and the rest of the cast are likable and reasonably witty, so the first part of the film is reasonably entertaining as long as you remain patient while you wait for it to turn into the crime drama that the poster and title promise it will be.

That part is pretty good. The film essentially becomes a hostage drama with an interesting setting. I suspect that the interior of a clipper isn't presented with the least realism--I think that real clippers have less in the way of private cabins and more regular seating to accommodate more passengers than the half-dozen we see in the film. But the setting is a neat one, giving a mildly claustrophobic feel that adds to the tension.

Tony tries to come up with a plan to retake the ship after the crooks take over, but Julie is more proactive with an attempt to lay a Honey Trap on a bad guy who thinks she's pretty hot. To be fair to the bad guy, she is pretty nice to gaze upon. In the end, though, it's Tony who has to come up with a last-minute desperate plan to catch the crooks before they get to their destination and decide they don't want to leave any witnesses behind.

So Desperate Cargo boils down to about half-romantic comedy and half-crime drama. Even though I think the comedy part goes on too long, I did enjoy both halves, so I recommend the film with the proviso that you can't track me down and beat me up if you watch it and then feel that you've wasted 62 minutes of your life.

Here is is on YouTube, though if you have Amazon Prime, they have a print that is slightly better in quality.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Jungle Lords and Armored Despots, Part 2

Astonishing Tales #4 (February 1971) picks up Ka-Zar's story again, using this issue and the next one to finish up the current story arc. And there's a lot that happens in this story arc. It's actually interesting to consider how much story writer Gerry Conway and artist Barry Smith manage to fit so comfortably into a total of 20 pages.

It's another case in which multiple plot twists make it difficult to effectively summarize the plot. Ka-Zar is back in the Savage Land, hoping to somehow stop the rampaging army of the Sun People. The army is currently attacking a city of peaceful lizard men, who have been at peace so long they have no idea how to fight back.

I love Ka-Zar's attitude when he arrives to help. The story as a whole is an effective portrayal of the tragedy of war. But at the same time, Ka-Zar is given some dialogue that also points out the necessity of being ready to confront evil. "While you awaited your champion," he tells the lizard people when they say they can't fight for themselves, "your women died. Is this peace--or sheer folly?" Comic books from this era often don't get the credit they deserve for how thoughtful they could be.

In the meantime, the Petrified Man's continuing mutation gives him the power of the Sun God and he pretty much just orders the army to stop fighting. Queen Zaladane objects to this and has her pterodactyl snatch up Ka-Zar. The P. Man, though, soon goes insane with power. The action moves to the temple of the sun god, where lots of shenanigans ensue and Zaladane and Petrified Man end up dead. 

A great story, compactly and effectively told, visually striking and salted with a number of strong character moments.

The Dr. Doom half of the book is also fun, but I think a little less effective in its storytelling. Written by Larry Lieber, the art in issue #4 is still by Wally Wood (who had been the regular artist on the feature), with George Tuska taking over for the fifth issue.  Doom, while he's waiting for his castle to be rebuilt after the events in the previous issues, decides to spend a few days at the French Riveria to see how more mundane rich people entertain themselves. He's not impressed and after wrecking the casino in the hotel after someone implies he might be interested in mere money, he heads home.

In the meantime, the Red Skull--who is currently hanging out with a band of would-be despots known as the Exiles--decides that Latvaria would be a good place to start a Fourth Reich. Taking advantage of Doom's absense, he and his gang take over.

Doom returns and is, I think, too easily captured when he's knocked out via a gas attack. How many times in the past have we been shown his armor is air-tight? Gee whiz.

He escapes, though, fairly easily and sends the Red Skull and his gang packing without too much trouble. He also uses hypnotic gas to make them think he's shrunk them down before sending them back to their island hide-out.

The story has some fun imagery in it, but the Skull and his gang are far too underpowered to give Doom any significant trouble. There are some effective moments in the story showing how living under tyranny can bring out the worst aspects of human nature in some of the populace, but the action sequences simply don't have enough tension or excitement to them. Also, Doom seems far too merciful to the Skull and the other Exiles.

On the other hand, watching Doom taking some vacation time in the Riveria is undeniably fun.

Doom's feature lasted just a few more issues, though this does involve a great story featuring the Black Panther which I'll probably review eventually. Ka-Zar took over the feature as the sole lead through issue #20, then we got an unusual but fun set of stories featuring It, the Living Colossus--a character taken from a Tales of Suspense story from 1961. Deathlock the Destroyer showed up in issue #25 and stuck around until Astonishing Tales came to an end with its thirty-sixth issue.

So the days of anthology books featuring the seperate tales of two different characters came to an end. As I said last week, I miss books like that, but the economics of modern comics would probably never allow for it again. Oh, well. It was fun while it lasted.

We are overdue for a look at the next issue of Tragg and the Sky Gods, so we'll do that next week.

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