by Robert Greenberger
Marvel Comics fully exploited the updating to the Comics Code in the early 1970s, letting monsters, demons, vampires, werewolves, mummies, zombies, and other things that go bump in the night fill their pages. It encouraged publisher Stan Lee to go head to head with Jim Warren, unleashing a flurry of black and white magazines that explored the supernatural. At the same time, an explosion of color comics included numerous try out titles that let some of these creepy folk flex their muscles for a curious audience.
Many new characters were created, some gained traction, others footnotes in the Marvel Universe, but they deserve some love and the House of Ideas is collecting the seminal tales in Marvel Horror Lives Again Omnibus collecting Fear #24, Giant-Size Chillers #1, Haunt of Horror #2, 4-5; The Incredible Hulk #162, 181-182, 272; Legion of Monsters #1, Man-Thing #10-11, Marvel Premiere #27, Marvel Presents #1-2, Marvel Preview #3, 7-8, 12, 16; Marvel Spotlight # 24, Marvel Team-up #80-81, Monsters Unleashed #9, Rampaging Hulk #1-6, 8; Solo Avengers #5; Strange Tales #73; Tomb of Dracula #10, 67; Tomb of Dracula Magazine #3, 5-6; Vampire Tales #2-4, 8-9, War is Hell #9-15; X-Men #139-140, and X-Men Annual #6.
The earliest story is a retconned tale from Strange Tales #73 (Feb. 1960) by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby, and Bill Everett. Here, a man named Frank battled a mutated, intelligent giant ant and was later revealed to be Ulysses Bloodstone, monster hunter! Bearing the mystic bloodstone on his chest, he arrived in Marvel Presents #1-2 from writer John Warner with art by Mike Vosburg and Bob McLeod, Pat Boyette, and Sonny Trinidad. That second issue left readers with a cliffhanger to be finished in the pages of Rampaging Hulk magazine with art by John Buscema, Rudy Nebres, Bob Brown, Sal Buscema, Marshall Rogers, Val Mayerik, Bob Wiacek, and Alan Kupperberg. These were basically monster of the moment tales and his last appearance came from Steve Gerber, Kupperberg, Rod Santiago and Rudy Messina. Today, we have forgotten Ulysses thanks to the charm of his daughter Else.
Also forgotten is Don McGregor’s Hodiah Twist, detective of the supernatural, who debuted in Vampire Tales #2 with art by Rich Buckler, Klaus Jason, and Carlos Garzon. The sleuth made his second and final appearance in Marvel Preview #16 in a fine story by McGregor, Gene Colan, and Tony DeZuniga.
Then there’s the menacing Manphibian, who made all of one appearance in the pages of Legion of Monsters #1, courtesy of Marv Wolfman, Tony Isabella, Dave Cockrum and Sam Grainger.
Wolfman was far more successful with the arrival of Blade in Tomb of Dracula #10, becoming a recurring threat to the vampire and crossing over into films long before the MCU was born. He popped up throughout the comics after his initial arrival with stunning art by Colan and Jack Abel. Blade got some solo love in Vampire Tales #8-9 in stories plotted by Wolfman and dialogued by rising talent Chris Claremont, both drawn by DeZuniga. He even had a black and white adventure in Marvel Preview #3 from Claremont, DeZuniga, and Rico Rival. Wolfman and Colan also offered up a solo feature in Marvel Preview #8.
Fear #24 saw him pop up to tackle the scientific vampire Morbius courtesy of Gerber, P. Craig Russell, and Abel.
Dracula’s first child, Lilith, rose from the grave and her spirit possessed the body of young Angela O’Hara in Giant-Size Chillers #1, from the prolific team of Wolfman, Colan, and inker Frank Chiaramonte. She went on to plague her father and have her own tales throughout the 1970s. She had her own stories in Vampire Tales #4 (Tony Isabella and Ernie Chan) and #6 (Wolfman and Gerber, Bob Brown and Tom Palmer) as well as Dracula Lives! #10-11 (Gerber, Brown, Chiaramonte, and Marcos). And let’s not forget Marvel Preview #12 (Gerber, Brown, and Frank Springer) or her text features from Tomb of Dracula magazine #3 by Lora Byrne and Lynn Graeme with art by Colan and John Romita, #5’s story by Ralph Macchio and Graeme, Colan and Palmer; or #6’s short from Macchio and Graeme, with art by Bill Sienkiewicz and Eric Von Krupp.
Lilith stirred up trouble for her father in Tomb of Dracula #67 (Wolfman, Colan, and Palmer) before getting caught up in her father’s scheme to force Storm help him obtain the dreaded Darkhold in X-Men Annual #6 from Claremont, Sienkiewicz, and Wiacek.
If there was a Son of Satan, certainly he couldn’t be an only child, a fact proven by the arrival of Satana in Vampire Tales #2 in a sneak peek from Lee and Romita before ceding way to Gerry Conway and Esteban Maroto. In time, we learned she was banished from Hell to Earth and survived as a succubus. We saw her across the line such as a confrontation with her brother Daimon Hellstorm in Marvel Spotlight #24 from Claremont, Sal Buscema, and McLeod as well as Marvel Preview #7-8, both drawn by Vicente Alcazar.
Others got to tell her story in the pages of Haunt of Horror with Conway and Marcos kicking things off in #2 followed by Isabella and the great Enrique Romero (#4) before Claremont regained control, accompanied by new talent Pat Broderick. The writer paired with George Evans in #5, where we saw her banished from Hell.
Claremont chronicled her other appearances including Marvel Premiere #27, with art from DeZuñiga and Rival. He even managed to work her into the pages of Marvel Team-Up #81-82. Mike Vosburg, Gene Day, and Steve Leialoha illustrated the tale as Dr. Strange was turned into a werewolf, and his lover/apprentice Clea turned to Spider-Man for help. Satana sacrificed her life to save the Master of the Mystic Arts (it’s okay, she got better).
The Incredible Hulk #162 from Steve Englehart, Trimpe, and Sal Trapani. The furry Canadian monster had the misfortune of crossing paths with the jade-jawed giant. When he next appeared in issues #181-182, by Len Wein, Trimpe, and Abel, the Hulk was aided this time by a newcomer named Wolverine. Francois Lartigue became a Wendigo and battled the Hulk in issue #272 in a story by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema.
Claremont, John Byrne, and Terry Austin took Wolverine and Nightcrawler into battle with the Wendigo in X-Men #139-140, which also involved Alpha Flight, setting up their own series. Claremont also managed to write a story about the creature as the cover feature in Monsters Unleashed #9, with art by Yong Montano.
Finally, you can’t beat death itself. So Sgt. John Kowalski learned when he was cursed by a German scientist trying to help stop Hitler. Soon after, he died in combat and Death sent his spirit out as his agent. He was cursed to possess the bodies of the recently dead and atone by helping others. His exploits were chronicled in War is Hell #9-15, created by Isabella, but inherited by Claremont (with some help from Gerber). The art was by war veteran Dick Ayers, Springer, Don Springer, Trimpe, Trapani, Evans, and Dave Hunt.
When Claremont was writing a revival of Man-Thing in the late 1970s, he brought Kowalski back for the final issues, actually putting himself in the story in a memorable meta moment. The art for this came from Perlin, Wiacek, Mayerik, Giacoia, and Al Milgrom. And not to be outdone, Dennis Mallonee and John Ridgway brought Kowalski back for an interesting encounter with the Scarlet Witch in Solo Avengers #5, the most recent story in this fascinating collection.