Bill Mantlo

Howard the Duck 31 (May 1979)

Howard the Duck #31What a bad comic. Whether it’s Mantlo’s rhyming of adjectives and nouns, the lamebrain fight scene, Bev’s silly way of resolving her situation–it’s all bad. It’s all bewilderingly disconnected, not just from the series, but from the other elements of the comic. It’s like Mantlo can’t even figure out how to move these characters in relation to one another.

And I want to be positive about it. Like anyone would be in trouble trying to followup Gerber but Mantlo does a bad job. Independent of not being Steve Gerber, he does a bad job. Howard acting like a snarky sitcom character isn’t Howard. He and Bev get together again it’s not even a scene. Regardless of having Colan on the pencils (though Milgrom’s inks weaken quickly), it doesn’t feel right.

Howard’s big adventure ends and it’s not even Howard anymore. It’s a clueless imitation. Marvel Nurse Ratchet’d him.


The Final Bong!; writer, Bill Mantlo; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Al Milgrom; colorist, George Roussos; letterer, Irving Watanabe; editor, Jim Shooter; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Howard the Duck 30 (March 1979)

Howard the Duck #30Al Milgrom inking Gene Colan. And it’s not bad. It looks like Milgrom does a lot of work on Howard’s face–his lines are smoother than everything else–but otherwise, it’s not a bad job inking at all.

Milgrom’s not the only change. Steve Gerber’s gone and Bill Mantlo’s scripting. He changes some details about Howard’s current predicament, immediately removing the complications for Howard and Beverly, and gets going with the adventure.

Howard gets a suit of Iron Man armor to fight Dr. Bong. It’s really dumb and it’s hard to believe it won’t some day end up in a Marvel movie with Robert Downey Jr. doing a $100 million five minute cameo.

At one point in the issue–which is terribly written–Mantlo gives Howard a line about how death is preferable to humiliation. Howard might survive without Gerber, but Mantlo’s humiliating the poor Duck, page after painful page.


If This Be Bongsday!; writer, Bill Mantlo; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Al Milgrom; colorist, Michele Wolfman; letterer, Elaine Heinl; editors, Mark Gruenwald and Jim Shooter; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Annual 4 (November 1984)

Well, I’ve finally found something Bill Mantlo can write–little old ladies.

This issue is mostly about Aunt May and her mysterious behavior. Turns out her pre-Ben Parker boyfriend is back and sending her love letters and causing these very distracting walks down memory lane. Of course, New York’s in different shape than it used to be, so Peter and Nathan are freaking out. Spidey follows her, things get resolved.

It’s funny how well Mantlo writes May’s stuff, given how he overwrites the rest of the issue (and inexplicably retells Spider-Man’s origin). He doesn’t take any time to make Nathan sympathetic–he seems like a nasty old man–and Peter’s barely present.

The art’s fine, with some nice detail on the thirties New York panels.

Oddly, there’s the implication May never truly loved Ben Parker.

The Black Cat backup is moronic and infantile, though Randall’s art is decent.


Memory Lane!; writer, Bill Mantlo; pencillers, Kerry Gammill and Sal Buscema; inker, Carlos Garzon. Cat and Mouse; writer, Bob DeNatale; artist, Ron Randall. Colorist, George Roussos; letterer, Janice Chiang; editor, Danny Fingeroth; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 300 (OctoberΒ 1984)

I don’t think I’ve ever read such an overwritten comic book. Mantlo’s endless expository narration is, no pun intended, incredible. It’s not well-written narration–it does get better after a while, once he’s done introducing guest stars (I’m pretty sure he retcons out Daredevil getting doused in radioactive goo).

The story–if the issue has a story–is the Hulk going nuts and destroying New York City and everyone trying to stop him. It ends with Dr. Strange exiling him to live between worlds… or somewhere along those lines. It’s not an all action issue in the modern sense, since those read in four minutes at the most. With Mantlo’s narration, this issue is a time commitment.

Luckily, there’s Sal Buscema to pull it together. There’s occasional awkwardness in the art, but Buscema’s design–his panel composition–is wondrous. This comic book moves; with that narration, it has to.


Days of Rage!; writer, Bill Mantlo; penciller, Sal Buscema; inkers, Gerry Talaoc, Alan Kupperberg and Danny Bulanadi; colorist, Bob Sharen; letterers, Jim Novak and Janice Chiang; editors, Jim Massara and Carl Potts; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Cloak and Dagger 4 (January 1986)


I can’t believe Marvel didn’t relaunch Cloak and Dagger during the Bush years. It’s a neo-con wet dream (complete with discreet racism, with Cloak being the evil black, corrupting Dagger, and cops beating witnesses).

This issue is, I think, my first Cloak and Dagger ever. I wasn’t missing much. They’re both really annoying. She’s holier than thou and he’s, well, nuts too. The whole thing reads like a PSA on acid, which I kind of understand, but not really. I get the intent–superheroes versus drugs–but it’s so utterly simplistic, even when it tries to be complicated, it’s just annoying.

I mean, you want to tell me no comic book creators ever dabble in recreation drugs? Please. I’m sure some blog about it today. Cloak and Dagger lumps them all together because it’s propaganda; it’s not even well-written propaganda.

And Leonardi’s art is super bad at times.


Ultimatums; writer, Bill Mantlo; penciller, Rick Leonardi; inker, Terry Austin; colorist, Petra Scotese; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editor, Carl Potts; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Rom 72 (November 1985)

Oh, is Rick Jones green and fat as a superhero because he’s supposed to be “hulking out?” Mantlo never made it clear in the writing.

I think I’ve tried to read Rom before and failed. This issue is better–and Rom-free–than the last one I tried. Maybe because Ditko draws the Beyonder like Gene Simmons with a jheri curl. It’s so atrocious one can’t look away.

Mantlo actually gives a lot more thought to the Beyonder than Shooter does in the regular Secret Wars II issues and I’m sure if Mantlo had written that series, it would have been better.

I’m not saying, obviously, this comic book is any good. It’s actually pretty damn lame. It’s just a better characterization. But only of the Beyonder. Rick Jones is beyond lame in this comic (I didn’t even know he was in Rom)–he’s never even seen Pinocchio.

Big yawn.


When You Wish Upon a Star; writer, Bill Mantlo; penciller, Steve Ditko; inker, Bob Layton; colorist, Petra Scotese; letterer, Janice Chiang; editor, Mike Carlin; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Incredible Hulk 312 (October 1985)

What a goofy comic book. It’s the Hulk’s origin again (I’m not sure if it’s the first time the abusive father has been included but I imagine Mantlo came up with the idea of Thunderbolt Ross destroying Bruce’s childhood stuffed animal). It’s the origin with Bruce’s father abusing him and murdering his mother (this issue is, as I understand it from cursory research, the first to include that retcon); it’s also an origin I don’t particularly like….

Overcomplicating the Hulk is always a mistake (just look at Ang Lee’s Hulk) and involving the Beyonder in a Secret Wars II crossover is lame, unless the Beyonder just fixes him.

Mignola’s artwork is more mainstream than I’m used to seeing from him but he does a good job of showing how awful everything is around Bruce.

It’s a depressing comic book and somewhat pointless.

The Hulk is best when he’s smashing something.


Monster; writer, Bill Mantlo; penciller, Mike Mignola; inker, Gerry Talaoc; colorist, Bob Sharen; letterer, Jim Novak; editors, Pat Blevins and Carl Potts; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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