Saturday, July 15, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 190: Doctors are strange when you're a stranger

Doctor Strange #3 (1974) boldly features (and apologizes for) a case of the Dreaded Deadline Doom, where, a handful of issues into the (bi-monthly) series, artist (and co-plotter) Frank Brunner couldn't get in the art on time. Today, they'd just postpone the issue another month or two and make us wait for it. Not in those days! The standard modus operandering of 1970s Marvel was to print a fill-in inventory story if the schedule was interrupted in any way — or, frequently, a reprint of an older issue. In those days, at least, if you couldn't hunt down back issues, the only chance you had to see the original stories was reading a reprint, but that's got to be a disappointment when you pick up a new issue.

Still, you can't say that Marvel didn't give us good reprints. (Go ahead: it's actually physically impossible to say that, right?) Most of the issue is a reprint of Doc's big-ass battle with Dormammu (yo mammu!) with classic Ditko art, and that story contains this vitally important debut of Doc's paramour Clea and a definite Declaration of Defiance!


Panel from Doctor Strange (1974 series) #3 (September 1974), reprinted from "Duel with the Dread Dormammu!" in Strange Tales (1951 series) #127 (December 1964); plot, pencils, and inks by Steve Ditko; dialogue by Stan Lee, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Sam Rosen

...and it's got a page and a half wrap-around bookend by Brunner which ends with this bold bravado:


Panels from "Amidst the Madness" in Doctor Strange (1974 series) #3 (September 1974), script by Steve Englehart, pencils by Frank Brunner, inks by Alan Weiss, colors by Jan Brunner, letters by Tom Orzechowski

After that it's even pretty easy to forgive Frank Brunenr for missing #3's deadline, because here's the sort of art he created for issue #4:


Page from "Amidst the Madness" in Doctor Strange (1974 series) #4 (October 1974), co-plot and script by Steve Englehart, co-plot and pencils by Frank Brunner, inks by Dick Giordano and Bob Wiacek, colors by Linda Lessman, letters by Tom Orzechowski

WHOA.

Here's the bad news: obviously Brunner couldn't keep up with the schedule, because issue #5 is his last. He's replaced by Gene Colan, and '70s Colan is about as appropriate for Doc Strange as cookies are for your little stuffed truly.


Letter page segment from Doctor Strange (1974 series) #5 (December 1974)

Sadly, I don't think the Englehart/Brunner Fu Manchu project ever materialized, but Frank continued to do artwork for Marvel on Howard the Duck, Conan, and others, and co-created the classic First Comics series Warp. I've always felt we never got enough of Brunner's stunning art, but his work on Doctor Strange for Marvel Premiere #11-14 and Doctor Strange #1-5 are stone cold classic. Here's to you, Frank!

1 comment:

Your Obedient Serpent said...

I first started reading Doctor Strange during Colon's long tenure in the '70s, so in my head and heart, his version of Stephen is the archetype, even though he was preceded and followed by artists much more adept at the surreal otherscapes Doc visited.