Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Larry Eischen - 1950s/1960s

sgLarry Eischen - Is there a boy alive who doesn't go through a dinosaur/monster phase in life? Playing with dinosaur toys, watching monster movies, picturing himself fighting T Rex and Godzilla--all part of a boy's growing up.

Back in the fifties, I loved the comics featuring monsters. And for a monster fan, nothing beat the Atlas line of anthologies--Journey Into Mystery, Tales of Suspense, Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish. Every issue was a treasure trove of science fiction, horror, and monsters.

There was a Ditko tale with mysterious drawings of swirling mists and weird angular drawings--usually accompanying a tale of science fiction or magic. Don Heck or George Tuska would illustrate a tale of strange planets, written by Larry Lieber with a twist ending.

And leading the issue, usually taking the cover spot, was a Jack Kirby monster.

Kirby could make a monster out of anything--giant trees, statues (the Easter Island statues terrorized DC and Atlas in Kirby tales), and even a living hill.

There were dragons, globs, and giants-hairy giants, bald giants, giant mummies. Droom, Goom, Fin Fang Foom, Spragg, It--names to fear. Every issue the story was the same--some lone figure wandering into the monster of the month, hearing that monster's plans for taking over the world or destroying humanity, only to be bested by the lone hero.

The army would occasionally get involved--presaging the numerous Hulk/US Army battles to come. The monster boom at Atlas lasted several years, from the imposition of the comics code to the coming of the Marvel heroes. When the heroes took over, the Kirby monsters lingered for a bit to be controlled by Mole Man or Sub-Mariner in battle against the FF (probably a reason why the Fantastic Four was my favorite Marvel comic) and finally in the person of the Hulk--the Kirby monster with the ongoing title.

Several of the monsters--notably Fin Fang Foom and the original creature named Hulk--returned to battle the heroes in later years.

DC featured science fictional monsters in their anthology titles too, but nothing as horrific as the Atlas stuff. House of Mystery, House of Secrets, My Greatest Adventure, Strange Adventures, Unexpected & Mystery in Space always had a creature or two and I would get each month's worth of them from a comics loving uncle in those days.

Unexpected and Mystery in Space frequently had monsters in the continuing features Adam Strange & Space Ranger. When Marvel started taking off, the anthology series started featuring continuing characters, Doom Patrol in My Greatest Adventure, Martian Manhunter in House of Mystery, Eclipso in House of Secrets. Lots of forgettable characters popped up quick and disappeared as quickly and the monsters were gone.

Over at lowly Charlton, they picked up the licenses for a couple of monsters featured in movies from England. Often they had Ditko art. Gorgo was a Godzilla knockoff--complete with parent monster and offspring. Konga was King Kong clone. Both series lasted a couple dozen issues plus specials and return of's--making them fairly long-lasting for Charlton and the only Charlton titles I bought regularly. They also did another Euro-monster--Reptilicus, but changed it quickly to Reptisaurus--a title that lasted less than ten issues.

Dell & Gold Key tried the monster route with various titles but their big success in that territory was fan favorite Turok, Son of Stone. Trapped in a lost valley, Turok and sidekick Andar fought 'honkers' for years before finally getting cancelled. If nothing else, you could count on Turok for a regular shot of cavemen and dinosaur action.

For a boy going through his dinosaur/monster phase in the 50s/60s, comics provided quite a thrill.

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