Great Moments In Comic Book History #28: Iron Man Meets Thanos and Drax The Destroyer


50 years ago, in Iron Man #55, both Drax the Destroyer and Thanos made their first appearances.

Iron Man #55 opens with Drax the Destroyer being held prisoner on Thanos’s mobile prison planet.  This Drax is far different from the Drax who became famous as a result of being a part of the MCU.  This Drax is a former Earthling who was killed by Thanos but then resurrected and given one mission, to kill Thanos.  There’s nothing funny, not even unintentionally, about his Drax.  Knowing that Drax will not stop until he has destroyed him, Thanos has chained Drax up and spends his spare time taunting him.  Just because Thanos is evil, that doesn’t make him smart.

Drax sends out a mental message to Iron Man, despite the fact that he and Iron Man have never met.  Tony Stark agrees to help Drax because Drax’s messages are so powerful that Tony can’t even attend a business meeting.  After suiting up as Iron Man, Stark flies out to Thanos’s prison planet.  Along the way, Drax tells him the abbreviated details of Thanos’s origin and Thanos’s love of death.

Iron Man’s fist meeting with Thanos is not particularly auspicious.

Thanos thinks so little of Iron Man that he assigns the moronic aliens known as the Blood Brothers to battle Iron Man.  Iron Man is able to free Drax, the Blood Brothers are easily defeated, and Thanos makes a hasty retreat.  Drax thanks Iron Man, shakes his hand, and then heads after Thanos.  And I suppose Iron Man gets back to Earth somehow.

Thanos and Drax were created by Jim Starlin, who wasn’t even Iron Man’s regular writer.  When the planned story for Iron Man #55 ended up running behind schedule, Starlin was assigned to create a filler story.  Thanos and Drax were both characters that Starlin had invented for a planned-but-never-written sci-fi epic in college.  Starlin reused them and their origins in Iron Man #55.

Though thrown together at the last minute, Iron Man #55 predicted the future of Marvel in a way that, even at the time, few realized.  When Starlin took over Captain Marvel, he reused both Drax and Thanos and crafted an epic space opera that was later reused during phase one of the MCU.  For all the credit that was given to Kevin Feige, the Russo brothers, Stan Lee, and countless others, the MCU owes much of its success to Jim Starlin.

And it all began with Iron Man #55 running behind schedule.

IRON MAN #55 (October, 1972)
Writer: Jim Starlin/Mike Friedrich
Penciler: Jim Starlin
Inker: Mike Esposito
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Roy Thomas

Previous Great Moments In Comic Book History:

  1. Winchester Before Winchester: Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #45 “Ghost Dance” 
  2. The Avengers Appear on David Letterman
  3. Crisis on Campus
  4. “Even in Death”
  5. The Debut of Man-Wolf in Amazing Spider-Man
  6. Spider-Man Meets The Monster Maker
  7. Conan The Barbarian Visits Times Square
  8. Dracula Joins The Marvel Universe
  9. The Death of Dr. Druid
  10. To All A Good Night
  11. Zombie!
  12. The First Appearance of Ghost Rider
  13. The First Appearance of Werewolf By Night
  14. Captain America Punches Hitler
  15. Spider-Man No More!
  16. Alex Ross Captures Galactus
  17. Spider-Man And The Dallas Cowboys Battle The Circus of Crime
  18. Goliath Towers Over New York
  19. NFL SuperPro is Here!
  20. Kickers Inc. Comes To The World Outside Your Window
  21. Captain America For President
  22. Alex Ross Captures Spider-Man
  23. J. Jonah Jameson Is Elected Mayor of New York City
  24. Captain America Quits
  25. Spider-Man Meets The Fantastic Four
  26. Spider-Man Teams Up With Batman For The Last Time
  27. The Skrulls Are Here

Great Moments In Comic Book History: The First Appearance of Werewolf By Night


From 1954 to 1971, comic book readers across America were safe from werewolves. The Comics Code Authority, that set of rules instituted to get Dr. Frederic Wertham to stop declaring comic books to be the greatest menace to the American way of life since the horseless carriage, forbade any supernatural characters. Werewolves were not allowed to fight alongside or against any of the super heroes published by D.C., Marvel, or any of the other comic books companies governed by the CCA.

The CCA started to relax their rules in 1971, especially after Marvel published an issue of Spider-Man that did not get the CCA’s seal of approval because it featured a friend of Peter Parker’s getting hooked on drugs. When the issue not only sold well but also generated a lot of negative publicity about how out-of-touch the CCA was with what comic book readers were actually having to deal with, the CCA started to relax their rules.

Marvel reacted by introducing a whole host of supernatural characters who had previously been banned under the CCA. Throughout the 70s, Captain America, Spider-Man, and others often shared their pages with the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and sometimes even Satan himself.

Werewolf by Night was Marvel’s first werewolf. (The title had previously been used before the CCA went into effect, back when Marvel was still known as Atlas.) He made his first appearance in the 2nd issue of Marvel Spotlight. By day, he was Jack Russell. He was also Jack Russell by night, unless there was a full moon. Then, he was Werewolf by Night! He was different from most Marvel characters in that he lived in Los Angeles instead of Manhattan. However, one thing that he did have in common with a surprisingly large amount of comic book heroes is that his story started with a mugging.

At first, Jack thinks this was just a dream. It’s only later in the issue that his mother confesses that Jack’s father was a werewolf and apparently, the curse has been passed down. Jack is not happy to hear that and after promising to never attack his stepfather, Jack runs off into the night. Later, when Jack nearly breaks his promise, he realizes that a werewolf cannot have a family. A werewolf must always be alone.

From such simple beginnings, one of Marvel’s most venerable characters was born. Many of the Marvel horror characters disappeared after a few issues but Werewolf by Night has remained an active member of the Marvel Universe. Though my favorite Marvel werewolf remains Man-Wolf, Werewolf By Night has had his moments. My personal favorite was when he, Spider-Man, and Franenstein’s Monster teamed up to take down the Monster Maker. It’s not easy being a werewolf but Jack Russell (and, when the series was recently rebooted, Jake Gomez) has always done his best.

Marvel Spotlight Vol.1 #2 (February 1972) — “Night of Full Moon — Night of Fear

Writers — Roy Thomas, Dean Thomas, Gerry Conway

Penciler and Inker — Mike Ploog

Letterer — John Costanza

Editor — Stan Lee

Previous Great Moments In Comic Book History:

  1. Winchester Before Winchester: Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #45 “Ghost Dance” 
  2. The Avengers Appear on David Letterman
  3. Crisis on Campus
  4. “Even in Death”
  5. The Debut of Man-Wolf in Amazing Spider-Man
  6. Spider-Man Meets The Monster Maker
  7. Conan The Barbarian Visits Times Square
  8. Dracula Joins The Marvel Universe
  9. The Death of Dr. Druid
  10. To All A Good Night
  11. Zombie!
  12. The First Appearance of Ghost Rider

Great Moments In Comic Book History: The First Appearance on Ghost Rider


Marvel Spotlight was a comic books that existed so Marvel could introduce new characters and showcase heroes who were being considered for a full time series.  Think of it as being the Marvel equivalent of pilot season.  In August, 1972, Marvel Spotlight #5 introduced the world to Johnny Blaze, the motorcyclist who once made a deal with the devil.  Johnny Blaze was better known as Ghost Rider!

While riding through Manhattan on his motorcycle, Johnny spots two criminals committing a murder.  He wants nothing to do with it and tries to drive away.  The two criminals follow him and corner him in an alley.  And then this happens:

The rest of the story is simple.  Ghost Rider makes flames emerge from the ground.  The criminals, who are named Clyde and Dingbat, run away.  How does one criminal end up named Clyde while the the other has to settle for Dingbat?  The rest of the issue is a flashback, telling how stuntman Johnny Blaze sold his soul to Satan (later revealed to be a disguise of frequent villain Mephisto) in order to save the life of his cancer-stricken stepfather Crash Simpson.  Though Crash survives the cancer, he still dies when he attempts a dangerous stunt.  Satan still wants Johnny’s soul but is vanquished by Roxanne, Crash’s daughter who is pure of soul and has been reading up on occult practices. However, every night, Johnny is transformed into Ghost Rider.

It’s nothing complicated but, from such humble beginnings, legends are born!

Marvel Spotlight Vol.1 Issue 5 (August, 1972)

Great Moments In Comic Book History: “….And To All A Good Night”


In 1970, Marvel finally gave Black Widow her own solo series.

Of course, she had to share the spotlight with The Inhumans.  When Marvel revived their anthology series, Amazing Adventures, each issue featured two stories.  The Inhumans starred in the first story while the second story would feature Natasha Romanoff (a.k.a., The Black Widow) and her assistant, Ivan.  While The Inhumans dealt with cosmic concerns and royal intrigue, Natasha and Ivan would battle more down-to-Earth criminals.  It was not a perfect combination as the Inhumans had little to do with the Black Widow and vice versa.  But, for 8 issues, they made it work.

The 5th issue of Amazing Adventures was a Christmas issue and it featured a story that was dark even by the standards of Marvel in 1970.  Ivan comes across a teenage boy who is about to jump off a bridge.  Ivan grabs him and takes him to the Black Widow’s luxury apartment, located at the top of Manhattan’s Mammon Towers.  “You mean that jet set chick who cooled the Young Warriors’s scene a while back?” the teenager says, showing that he knows all of the hip lingo.

When Ivan and the teenager arrive at the apartment, the Black Widow has just stepped out of the shower.  (Every issue of Amazing Adventures featured at least one scene of the Black Widow either showering or getting dressed.)  The Black Widow wishes Ivan and the still nameless teenager a Merry Christmas but the teenager isn’t impressed.

The teenager explains that he’s from Utah.  He came to New York with “a dime in my pocket, sawdust in my skull” and eventually, he ended up crashing at the pad of a cult leader called The Astrologer.  Using the stars as his guide, the Astrologer sent his cult out to commit crimes.  At first, the teenager was cool with all of the the petty theft but when the Astrologer suggested robbing a blood bank and holding all of New York’s O-type blood hostage, that was a bridge too far.

As the teenager finishes his story, the members of the cult show up.  Out on the balcony of her apartment, Natasha fights several of them off before a cult member named Willie gets in a lucky punch and knocks her down.  The teenager shouts that he won’t allow the Black Widow to die because of his mistakes and he jumps at Willie.  Both of them fall off the balcony and plummet several stories to their death.

With tears in her eyes, Natasha calls the police to report a death.  No, she and Ivan never learned the teenager’s name. “But yes,” Natasha says, “I guess you would say — he was a friend of mine!”

Merry Christmas, right?

Three issues later, Black Widow would get her revenge on the Astrologer and the villain was never seen again.  She never did learn the teenager’s name but his brief appearance was one of the key moments in her brief run in Amazing Adventures.  His sacrifice not only established that the Black Widow lived in a dangerous world where even Christmas could end with a sudden death but it also epitomized the concepts of sacrifice and redemption.  He may have been a runaway and a petty criminal with “sawdust in my skull” but could still save the life of a hero.

Amazing Adventures (Vol. 2 #5, March, 1970)

“…And To All A Good Night”

  • Writer — Roy Thomas
  • Artist — Gene Colan
  • Inker– Bill Everett
  • Letterer — Artie Simek

Previous Great Moments In Comic Book History:

  1. Winchester Before Winchester: Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #45 “Ghost Dance” 
  2. The Avengers Appear on David Letterman
  3. Crisis on Campus
  4. “Even in Death”
  5. The Debut of Man-Wolf in Amazing Spider-Man
  6. Spider-Man Meets The Monster Maker
  7. Conan The Barbarian Visits Times Square
  8. Dracula Joins The Marvel Universe
  9. The Death of Dr. Druid

Trailer: Captain Marvel


Captain Marvel

Tonight we finally get to see the official trailer for Marvel Studio’s upcoming entry to their ever expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. Just like Marvel Universe-616 which was born at the Big Bang and continues to expand ever outward there doesn’t seem to be any sign of the MCU suddenly collapsing under the weight of fan expectations and the imagination of the writers and filmmakers who have been tapped by Kevin Feige and group to usher in the Golden Age of Comic Book films.

This past summer, fans of the MCU were treated to the spectacle (and surprisingly emotional) that was Avengers: Infinity War. Those who stayed for the final stinger at the end of the credits of that film were treated to a clue as to who may just save the MCU from Thanos’ snap.

Captain Marvel will be Marvel Studio’s first female-led entry to the series. Some have been in the camp that Marvel took too long to do such a project while a small, albeit very vocal group think Marvel have been bit by the SJW bug.

For the most part the majority of fans are just excited to see the adventures of one Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel finally up on the big screen. We shall see this March 8 whether Captain Marvel lives up to the hype and excitement that has been building since the end of Avengers: Infinity War.