COVER STORIES for 06/03/2007
COVER STORIES INSTALLMENT #108
Welcome, faithful readers (and those of you joining us for the first time) to the 108th installment of Cover Stories, the weekly column in which I, Jon B. Knutson, present a group of covers with a common theme!
This week's theme is "Special Guest Star!" in which, naturally, a guest star appeared in the comic book, which used to be a pretty special event until it started happening nearly all the time (remember when Wolverine seemed to guest star in nearly ever Marvel book?)!
We'll start with a different guest star than you might expect, but in a title you've probably come to expect... Action Comics 130!
Ann Blyth is the special guest star on this first cover. Superman's had a number of real-life people (mostly actors) appearing in his adventures in various magazines... I recall stories with Orson Welles, Perry Como, Pat Boone... even Allen Funt from Candid Camera appeared in one wacky Silver Age tale!
But I'm talking about Ann Blyth, aren't I? I would guess that most of you are unfamiliar with her career... but rather than try to summarize her bio, I'll refer you to the Internet Movie Database's bio of her at http://imdb.com/name/nm0001955/bio -- and you'll be able to see there how her career went! She had a pretty long career, and apparently was popular enough that DC figured her guesting would sell a few extra comics! It was due to her role as Lenore the Mermaid in "Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid" in 1948 that must've prompted this particular story... although it's difficult to tell from the March 1949 cover-date of this issue whether or not the book came out while that movie was still in theaters!
We were still about 10 years away from the introduction of a real mermaid, Lori Lemaris, into the Superman recurring characters, however!
Al Plastino did the art for this cover, and did a very nice job, I must say! He also did the art chores inside on "Superman and the Mermaid." Also in this issue were Congo Bill in "The Adventure of Aladdin's Lamp" with art by Ed Smalle; Tommy Tomorrow in "The Ambassador of Space" by Otto Binder, Curt Swan, and John Fischetti, Zatara in "One Man's Army" by Joe Samachson and W.F. White, a Casey the Cop filler by Henry Boltinoff, and the Vigilante in "The Singing Bandit of Black Hills" by France Herron and Bob Lubbers.
Moving on, I must say that the "guest-star" trend, once it started, prompted some rather interesting recurring team-ups. You're probably familiar with the Flash-Green Lantern team-ups that happened in their respective titles in the Silver Age (and those are probably the best known, at least outside of the regular Superman-Batman team-ups in World's Finest), and maybe even some of the recurring team-ups in Brave and the Bold... but that didn't mean Marvel didn't have a recurring team-up!
Here's Amazing Spider-Man King-Size Special #4, guest-starring the Human Torch! I'm sure you recall that not only was the Torch the first solo hero to guest in a Spidey story (heck, he and his teammates appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #1, and then he teamed with Spidey separately later in the Lee-Ditko run), but he was also Spidey's first guest in Marvel Team-Up!
This is a pretty funky cover, however... we're accustomed to seeing the Torch's fire trail colored yellow, but here it's white (with some highlights on the edges in yellow, orange and magenta).
Larry Lieber (brother of Stan Lee) did the pencils on this cover, while Mike Esposito did the inks. In this tale, "The Web and the Flame" by Stan, Larry, and Mike, Spidey and the Torch battle it out with the Wizard and Mysterio. The tale was also reprinted in Giant-Size Spider-Man #6, and in Essential Spider-Man Vol. 3. Kind of surprised it wasn't reprinted in Marvel Tales somewhere along the line, and maybe it was!
As you can see, the Torch definitely made his way into Spidey's book... why, look at issue 77 here!
This cover is all John Romita Senior (back before he had to include the "Senior" part on his name, as John Jr. was a long ways away from working in comics yet)! This is really a unique cover, as Spidey is definitely the smallest character on the cover! Heck, he's nearly in the background, while the Torch is the dominant character!
"In The Blaze of Battle!" was by Stan Lee, John Buscema and Jim Mooney, and it was reprinted in Marvel Tales #58 and Essential Spider-Man Vol. 4. My recollection of the tale was that Curt Connors had turned into the Lizard again, and the Torch set out to capture him, while Spidey tried to not only stop the Lizard and turn him back to Connors, but also to keep the Torch from injuring the Lizard, as Johnny didn't know the Lizard's secret (and Spidey wasn't going to tell).
This time around, Spidey's the guest-star, in Avengers #11! This cover is considered by many to be a composite or collaboration, with no consensus as to who drew which, if any, of the characters! Chic Stone gets the most votes for inking it, but the artists may have included Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and Dick Ayers.
"The Mighty Avengers Meet Spider-Man" was by Stan Lee, Don Heck, and Chic Stone. It was reprinted in Marvel Masterworks #9, Avengers Annual #5, and Essential Avengers Vol. 1. I believe in this tale, Avengers membership is offered to Spidey, but then either he turns it down, or the Avengers decide he's not worthy somehow, or there's just a general disagreement as to whether or not he'd fit in (The Wasp, I recall, was especially against Spidey joining, claiming that wasps and spiders are natural enemies).
And that's it for the special guest stars!
Join me next time for another installment of "Cover Stories," when it'll be time for another segment of "Comics They Never Made" featuring a DOUBLE-DOSE of Drive-In Movie Classics, and in the meantime, you can check out my blog at http://waffyjon.blogspot.com for photos of classic toys, other comics covers, comic book advertisements, monster movie stills, and other musings and ramblings by me, or email me with comments about this column at !