The issues of Strange Tales that furnish the contents of this reprint volume were published in 1966-1968. They begin with Steve Ditko art, which — alas! — soon vanishes. I am not a fan of the corny style of Bill Everett, although Marie Severin’s work on the title was passable.
The writing throughout is mostly from Stan Lee, and it is bombastic and ridiculous. I rather liked the multi-issue Roy Thomas / Stan Lee plotline that might have been titled “There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly.” The world is imperiled by some mystic menace, so Doctor Strange must unleash an even greater one to keep it at bay: rinse, cycle, and repeat. Also good for laughs are the later numbers written by Jim Lawrence. They feature Strange’s unmotivated quasi-romantic championing of the miscellaneous Victoria Bentley, to say nothing of her being arbitrarily chosen for extraterrestrial ravishment by Yandroth, Lord of Technology!
Reading back over this early material leaves me impressed with just how far the comic book representations of occultism have come in my lifetime. Granted, Doctor Strange is nowhere near the leading edge of them these days, but he was then! [via]
This fourth collection of Doctor Strange comics in the Marvel Masterworks series covers the period of my own infancy to first literacy, as well as some of my very favorite early adventures of the comic book magus. This 1969-1973 span includes the cease of the original Doctor Strange (nee Strange Tales) title, key appearances in such other Marvel mainstay books as The Incredible Hulk, and the Master of the Mystic Arts’ domination of the early issues of Marvel Premiere. It also coincides with the end of the period where Strange wore a mask and worried about having a “secret identity.” (As an element of working out this aspect, the omnipotent Eternity made the sorcerer into a Pooh bear, living under the name of Sanders.)
There is a truly awesome variety of art talent included here. P. Craig Russell, Frank Brunner, and Barry Windsor-Smith are all before their respective primes, but it’s a delight to have their distinctive styles applied to this character. Gene Colan offers some groundbreaking art that would define Doctor Strange as much as any artist since Steve Ditko. Writing on the end of the superheroic secret identity arc comes from Roy Thomas, but the later Marvel Premiere run features an elaborate Lovecraftian pastiche kicked off by Archie Goodwin and further developed by F. Gardner Fox.
I own most of these comics in their original issues, but I’m very pleased to have them also collected in this high-quality reprint volume. [via]
The two parts of this fun book are each a suite of short stories centered on one of Moore’s characters in a different fictional world: the swords and sorcery of Jirel of Joiry (Black Gods) and the space opera of Northwest Smith (Scarlet Dreams). The entire book is full of evocatively hallucinatory fantasy and outre eroticism.
Jirel of Joiry is interesting as being a scarlet-haired “woman girt with a sword,” formulated independently from Howard’s Red Sonya (let alone the Red Sonja later created by Roy Thomas). It is almost as if the fictioneers of the pulp era were tuning in to some Platonic Idea of the Scarlet Woman. In this connection, see also the April Bell of Williamson’s Darker Than You Think.
The book is an attractive but cheaply-bound trade paperback issued in 2002 by Gollancz under their “Fantasy Masterworks” imprint. The cover shows a detail of the head of Medusa from a painting by Caravaggio, which is in allusion to the seminal Northwest Smith story (and Moore’s first-ever-published—and much re-published—fiction) “Shambleau.” Although “Shambleau” is indeed the story of encountering on Mars the creature which is the basis of the Medusa legend, Moore doesn’t describe her as looking like Caravaggio’s portrait at all. [via]
This graphic novel collects the first four issues of Daniel Way’s 2009 reboot of Roy Thomas’s 1970 Conan knockoff Starr the Slayer. The 21st-century version is an “adult” fantasy title from Marvel Comics’ “Max” imprint. Richard Corben furnishes the art in his inimitable style. The story is very suited to Corben’s work; it is a profanity-riddled barbarian-boy-makes-good adventure, with the narration provided in rhyming doggerel throughout by a ludicrous minstrel. Complication is provided by a hack pulp writer “Len Carson” (Thomas’ creation), who is supposed to have invented the barbarian and his world, becoming enslaved by a fictional villain he created; thus the evil sorcerer Trull effectively has the demiurge as his thrall. This metaficitonal opus is sort of what you might get if a drunken 19-year-old D&D player tried to write James Branch Cabell’s The Cream of the Jest.
This slender volume is a fast read, full of disgusting violence, nudity, and general hilarity. [via]