Friday Flashback: Get Your Halloween On
By Troy Brownfield
Welcome back to the Flashback. As we all know, there have been Halloween issues without number. It doesn’t matter what company or title; eventually, most books wind their way toward some kind of Halloween tale. The Flashback this time is of a book from the ‘70s that I personally never read until I ran across it in a comic shop in the ‘80s. But I think that we’ll agree that it totally fits the bill.
1971: Joy to the World! Well, at least that was the number one song by Three Dog Night. Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” was huge, as was “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart and “Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones. Of course, 1971 is also the year of “Led Zeppelin IV”, one of the mightiest rock records of all time. Filmwise, it was the year of “Shaft”, “A Clockwork Orange”, “Billy Jack”, “Harold and Maude”, and “The French Connection”. Big deals on TV included the TV movie “Brian’s Song”, “All in the Family”, “Sanford and Son”, and “Gunsmoke” (yes, it was still running). And in comics . . .
Marvel Feature #2: This was an interesting book, as it was the second appearance of The Defenders! That’s right; the non-team would headline the first three issues of this title before moving over into their own book. You’ve got Hulk, you’ve got Namor the Sub-Mariner,a and you’ve got Dr. Strange! The cover says it all: “The Dread Dormammu Returns - - To Ravage A Cosmos!! Nightmare on Bald Mountain!”
Inside, writer Roy Thomas, artists Ross Andru and Sal Buscema (and editor Stan Lee, of course) give us a pretty great horror-tinged heroic tale. We open with robed worshippers trying to call Dormammu, but the Dread One demands a sacrifice. It turns out that he wants Dr. Strange. As it happens, the good Doctor is off travelling in astral form when the minions come for him, and they use a spell to lock Doc’s astral self out. Wong tries to help but gets beat down. After the Doc gets nabbed, Clea shows up, and resolves to use Strange’s Eye of Agamotto to find Stephen.
We’re then interrupted by a righteous ad for Lee Jeans in which a family beats down a forest fire with their jean jackets. I s#!+ you not.
Back to our story. As Clea’s attempt to find Strange accidentally summons the Hulk and Namor’s aid, we see . . . hey! Roy Thomas! Roy and Jeanie Thomas are in Vermont, and they meet up with Tom Fagan. Fagan tells them stuff about Bald Mountain and its recurring red glow that will turn you white. Bet you can’t guess where that ceremony was, eh?
Hulk and Namor make their way to the town (which is, of course, preparing for its super-hero themed Halloween parade!). The pair accidentally rumble for a minute, but Clea and Wong are on hand to explain. After outfitting Namor in a suit and fedora (to hide his ears) and using hypnotism to bring out Banner, the heroes move closer to Strange by . . . taking the bus!
The parade and ritual begin at about the same time, and Hulk and Namor start kicking some cultist ass. Doc’s astral self hops out of Wong and back into his own body to fend off Dormammu. There’s much sturm and drang, part of the mountain collapses to kill the cultists, Strange holds Dormammu off, and Hulk and Namor crawl from the rubble.
Overall, it’s old-school fun, lived up by sharp art and the great Tom Fagan speech that Thomas scripted. There’s also a ‘50s Namor story reprinted that Caleb would no doubt love.
So that’s a Halloween Flashback Favorite of mine. How about you? Favorite Halloween issues? Favorite horror issues, even? Talk about it.