For Your Consideration: Adventure into Fear Omnibus


Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger


by Robert Greenberger

Once the Comics Magazine Association of America revised its Comics Code guidelines in the early 1970s, Marvel Comics was the first to pounce on the new freedoms, ushering in four-color horrors from Dracula to Werewolf by Night. Title after title introduced new creatures and the humans they aided or preyed upon. Thankfully, one such series benefited the most.

Adventure into Fear Omnibus

Adventure into Fear Omnibus


Fear was introduced in late 1970 as a 48-page reprint, along the lines of Fantasy Masterpieces, collecting stories by the company’s greatest writers and artists – Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, Steve Ditko, Christopher Rule, Carl Wessler, Sol Brodsky, Paul Reinman, Joe Sinnott, and George Klein — drawn from their myriad anthology titles ranging from 1949-1962. These have all been included in the forthcoming mammoth Adventure into Fear Omnibus, collecting the entire 31-issue run.

Adventure Into Fear #10

Adventure Into Fear #10


Once the restrictions were lifted, Marvel commissioned new works, starting with some shorts which debuted in issue #9 from staffer Mimi Gold and artist Bill Everett. Then came issue #10 as the cover added Adventure into to the cover (while the indicia remained Fear). The cover featured Man-Thing, who had debuted a year previously in the trailblazing Savage Tales #1 in a story from Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, illustrated by Gray Morrow, who provided this cover. Conway was back, along with artist Howard Chaykin, to kick off a brand-new series of stories. Back up this feature was another short from staffer Allyn Brodsky and artists Jack Katz and Everett.

Adventure Into Fear #11

Adventure Into Fear #11


Under a Neal Adams, cover, the following issue gave us the writer who is most closely associated with the creature: Steve Gerber, who had befriended Thomas in his youth and was invited to come join staff. Immediately, Gerber gave us Jennifer Kale, a comely teen, to interact with the muck monster, as they faced the arrival of Thog the Nether-Spawn. That story was pencilled by Rick Buckler and the following installment was from Jim Starlin and Buckler as the writer was getting settled in. Sales were good enough that the reprints were jettisoned in favor of full-length stories beginning with issue #15, which also gave us a nice Frank Brunner cover as the influx of the next generation of talent continued.

Adventure Into Fear #15

Adventure Into Fear #15


Things really gelled with issue #13 and the arrival of Val Mayerik as the penciller. He and Geber were of the same mind and together they raised the bar of storytelling. There was one bump in the road when Gerber introduced Wundarr, a Superman knockoff, prompting a complaint from DC. Still, readers were responding to the quirky tales and the sales rose to the point where the creature was propelled into his own title, but not before Man-Thing’s final appearance in Fear also gave the world Howard the Duck (here, Disney didn’t complain until he received his own newspaper strip).

“I honestly think I kind of let the series lead me around by the nose,” Gerber, who died in 2008, told Jon B. Cooke in Swampmen. “Those characters would pop up. Jennifer Kale was in the very first story that I did. The sorcerer turned up a couple of issues later, I believe. As they began to interest me, I just let them sort of run the stories for me.”

Gerber admitted to the difficulty of writing the character. “Well, all of the normal motivations that any other character would have do not apply to this character. He doesn’t even particularly have a survival instinct. He’s a creature purely of empathy, and he has this one insanity trigger of the emotion fear. So every story had to be constructed about the characters around him.”

Adventure Into Fear #20

Adventure Into Fear #20


To fill the void left behind, Editor-in-Chief Thomas tapped Morbius, the Living Vampire he co-created with Gil Kane in 1971. After appearing in Amazing Spider-Man, the tortured scientist afflicted with bloodthirst was an ideal candidate, especially after appearing regularly in the black and white Vampire Tales magazine.

The assignment fell initially to Mike Friedrich and Paul Gulacy as they reintroduced readers to Michael Morbius and his tragic background, with a cliffhanger leaving Morbus with his next victim: a young girl. Gerber, who wrote Morbius’ first solo tale in VT, picked up the thread with no clue what his predecessor had planned. With Gil Kane on board, they ran in a different direction, which led towards a secret genetic engineering lab. Kane left but Gerber stuck around with Rick Buckler, Luis Dominguez, and P. Craig Russell for the next few stories as he gained his footing.

Adventure Into Fear #24

Adventure Into Fear #24


After his surprise popularity in Tomb of Dracula, it made sense for Blade the Vampire Hunter to track Morbius, setting up their first of many confrontations in issue #24. As Gerber got busier, he chose to hand off the series to Doug Moench, who arrived to dialogue the following issue before taking over. He was partnered now with Frank Robbins who added an atmospheric touch to the series. One issue of note is #27, inked by comic strip legend Leonard Starr (signed as D. Fraser). Additionally, Bill Mantlo, who colored issue #26, was promoted to writer for the final three installments, working with artists Don Heck & Bob McLeod, George Evans & Frank Springer, and Robbins & Vince Colletta. The comings and goings of the creative teams meant the series never found its footing which may have helped speed along the series’ cancellation.

Adventure Into Fear #31

Adventure Into Fear #31


Between the covers, you will see some of Marvel’s finest creators work with the confines of the varying eras and find their way as times and tastes changed. You can watch Gerber grow in confidence once he knew he was keeping Man-Thing, and then find a solid partner in Mayerik. These stories, which comprise the majority of the volume, largely stand up to the test of time. Morbius suffered from the opposite, but you can see flashes of inspiration and what might have been. All told, this is a book worth giving a read.