Gray Morrow

Adventure into Fear 10 (October 1972)

Adventure into Fear #10Of the three stories this issue–the first two are original, the third is a sixties reprint–Man-Thing is the easy winner. The other two aren't any competition.

The reprint is a Stan Lee and Larry Lieber (probably) written tale of greed. Don Heck gets some moody art in, but nothing particularly good. The writing's lame.

Ditto for the second story, which is sort of a tale of greed. Bugsy Malone versus pirates. Allyn Brodsky's script is terrible. Jack Katz and Bill Everett contribute indistinct art.

But as for Man-Thing… the art, from Howard Chaykin and Gray Morrow, is pretty good. And Gerry Conway's script has a couple moments. Not enough, but a couple. The problem seems to be his pacing. He front loads the story setting up Man-Thing and then doesn't have enough room for a good finish. It's creepier with the bad finish… maybe Conway intended that reading of it.

C 

CREDITS

Man-Thing; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Howard Chaykin; inker, Gray Morrow. The Spell of the Sea Witch; writer, Allyn Brodsky; penciller, Jack Katz; inker, Bill Everett. There Is Something Strange About Mister Jones; writers, Stan Lee and Larry Lieber; artist, Don Heck. Letterer, Artie Simek; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Lois Lane 2 (September 1986)

Lois Lane #2Newell figures out how to manage the issue better this time–there’s still the informative scenes, a particularly one where Lois goes to a home for runaways–but they feel more natural. The plotting of the comic, which is somewhat confusing just because Lois isn’t a rational protagonist, is fantastic.

There are a lot of subplots–Lucy, Lana, the detective, the rest of the staff at the Planet. While Lois doesn’t have time for them (about the only place where the issue falters is when Lois realizes how isolated she’s become), Newell takes the time. She shows how they’re reacting not just to the distance from Lois, but from their proximity to the events she’s covering.

And then there’s Clark. While a Superman “family” comic, there’s no Superman (something Newell undoubtedly wanted, given the seriousness of the story), but she still gets in the complicated relationship between Lois and Clark.

It’s excellent work.

A- 

CREDITS

When It Rains, God is Crying; writer, Mindy Newell; artist, Gray Morrow; colorist, Joe Orlando; letterer, Agustin Mas; editor, Robert Greenberger; publisher, DC Comics.

Lois Lane 1 (August 1986)

Lois Lane #1Writer Mindy Newell gives Lois Lane a serious story to cover–a murdered child–which sends her into an obsessive panic. Newell shows not just Lois’s investigative work, but also how the pursuit affects her and those around her.

The Gray Morrow art is elegant and disturbing. It’s a perfect combination; he’s able to handle the talking heads parts and the more emphatic, quiet parts. Newell and Morrow push on the informative angle, but they compensate it with the rest.

Newell explores how disturbed Lois becomes, how single-minded. There are some plot contrivances–problems at work, Lucy in town–but Newell still just uses them to emphasize Lois’s irrationality and drive.

The comic’s also got a great domestic scene with Clark and Lana. Newell’s very deliberate when it comes to the characters, particularly in their thought balloons.

The comic is awkwardly paced, but Newell and Morrow execute it successfully.

B 

CREDITS

When It Rains, God is Crying; writer, Mindy Newell; artist, Gray Morrow; colorist, Joe Orlando; letterer, Agustin Mas; editor, Robert Greenberger; publisher, DC Comics.

Dark Horse Presents Annual 1997 (February 1998)

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For a Presents annual (or oversized special), this one has a lot of solid work.

Pearson’s Body Bags is a fun diversion. The art’s great and the story moves. It gets a little visually confusing, but it’s good.

And Verheiden (with Marrinan) finally produces a decent installment of The American. It’s a thoughtful story, very well written.

Arcudi and Musgrove’s The Oven Traveler is dumb. It’s a one page story dragged to four.

Aliens (from Smith and Morrow) is atrocious. It’s Aliens meets Westworld. If it weren’t terrible, it’d be an interesting genre mix—plus, Morrow can’t draw the aliens. They look awkward and goofy, not at all frightening.

Jillette and French’s Rheumy Peepers and Chunky Highlights is overwritten but mildly diverting….

Stephens and Allred’s The Stiff is decent, if too silly.

Then there’s a decent Pope finish. It’s a talking heads story, which seems like a waste of Pope.

CREDITS

Body Bags; story and art by Jason Pearson. The American, The Big Deal; story by Mark Verheiden; art by Chris Marrinan; lettering by Sean Konot. The Oven Traveler; story by John Arcudi; art by Scott Musgrove. Aliens, Tourist Season; story by Beau Smith; art by Gray Morrow; lettering by John Costanza; edited by Bob Schreck. The Adventures of Rheumy Peepers and Chunky Highlights; story by Penn Jillette; art by Renée French. The Stiff, Disappearing Act; story, inks and lettering by Jay Stephens; pencils by Mike Allred. Four Cats; story and art by Paul Pope. Edited by Jamie S Rich.

Dark Horse Presents 55 (October 1991)

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Sin City is really bad this time. The amount of white space suggests Miller didn’t spend a lot of time drawing it. It also doesn’t seem like he spent much time writing it. Even with his terrible narration, this installment is a new low. Though I guess some of it does sound a lot like the Spirit movie narration, which doesn’t seem appropriate.

Johnson’s art is a little better on this installment of Earth Boys. He clearly worked at it more. But the story itself is still terribly written (by Biggers and Brooks).

Byrne continues his Next Men with a decent entry. It’s better than I expect from Byrne, but not as good as the first part. Especially not since he starts using a new character here with no introduction.

And Arcudi’s back to the crap with Homicide, Morrow or no Morrow. Decent last page reveal, but absolutely terrible dialogue.

CREDITS

Sin City, Episode Six; story, art and lettering by Frank Miller. Earth Boys, The Big Schlep; story by Cliff Biggers and Brett Brooks; art by Dave Johnson; lettering by Pat Brosseau. The Next Men, Interlude II; story, art and lettering by John Byrne. Homicide, The Long Rode to Truth; story by John Arcudi; art by Gray Morrow; lettering by Pat Brosseau. Edited by Randy Stradley.

Dark Horse Presents 54 (September 1991)

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The big surprise this issue is Byrne’s Next Men. It’s actually pretty solid (though I think it features all four Byrne faces). The art’s great–nice flow of action–and the story’s intriguing. I think it’s the strongest narrative structure I’ve ever read from Byrne (though it might just be because it’s a prologue).

Geary’s got a few Transgression Hotline strips. They’re solid, amusing and unremarkable. Geary’s a professional though and they’re well-produced.

The Homicide closer from Morrow and Arcudi is fabulous. Morrow transforms the strip from Arcudi’s regular bore to something out of a film noir. During this installment, Arcudi even manages to insert something subtle, which I didn’t realize he was capable of doing.

Finally, Sin City. Miller uses almost this entire installment to promote violence, torture and cruelty. Wait, can you torture without cruelty? Anyway, he throws in some terrible dialogue and narration as a bonus.

CREDITS

Homicide, The Creep, Part Two; story by John Arcudi; art and lettering by Gray Morrow. The Next Men, Interlude; story, art and lettering by John Byrne. Transgression Hotline; story, art and lettering by Rick Geary. Sin City, Episode Five; story, art and lettering by Frank Miller. Edited by Randy Stradley.

Dark Horse Presents 53 (August 1991)

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It turns out all I need to like Homicide is a good artist. I think Arcudi fashioned the story to fit Morrow’s sensibilities, but it’s easily the best dialogue Arcudi’s written on the series. Morrow really shows how important an artist is in making a mediocre (at best) script work.

Geary’s got a single page again. It’s a little more profound than usual and not entirely successful.

Paley’s got a crazy cat strip and it’s simply lovely. She breaks the comic strips panels and lets loose this swash of ink. Even with Morrow in the issue, it’s the best art, just because she’s doing so much on each page. It’s a great comic.

Not great (or good) is the Biggers, Brooks and Johnson entry, Earth Boys. It’s two wasted pages.

As for Sin City? The only thing worse than a regular Sin City entry is one where Miller does filler.

CREDITS

Sin City, Episode Four; story and art by Frank Miller. Secret Places of My Shameful Past; story and art by Rick Geary. Kute Kitty Kartoon; story and art by Nina Paley. Earth Boys, Wheel to Power; story by Cliff Biggers, Brett Brooks and Dave Johnson; art by Johnson. Homicide, The Creep; story by John Arcudi; art and lettering by Gray Morrow. Edited by Randy Stradley.

Blazing Combat 3 (April 1966)

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There’s a lot of great art this issue… but it seems like Goodwin was getting worn out. There really aren’t any stories with any bite–even the WWII one with the marine taking gold teeth from every corpse he finds.

The opening story, credited to Joe Orlando but apparently pencilled by Jerry Grandenetti, is an indistinct monotony of war story. All of the faces look identical (Orlando did ink it, so maybe he is responsible after all). Goodwin relies a lot on action sequences this issue. Almost all the stories have lots of them.

Alex Toth’s story, set in what appears to be a post-apocalyptic Russia (but it could be anywhere, the Russia thing is just a guess), is probably the weakest. Toth’s art doesn’t go well with the story of a survivor who goes crazy when he encounters others.

The Wally Wood (maybe Dan Adkins pencilled) is best.

CREDITS

Special Forces; writer, Archie Goodwin; penciller, Jerry Grandenetti; inker, Joe Orlando. Foragers; writer, Goodwin; artist, Reed Crandall; letterer, Ben Oda. U-Boat; writer, Goodwin; artist, Gene Colan; letterer, Oda. Survival; writers, Alex Toth and Goodwin; artist and letterer, Toth. The Battle of Britain; writer and inker, Wally Wood; penciller, Dan Adkins; letterer, Oda. Water Hole; writer, Goodwin; artist, Gray Morrow; letterer, Oda. Souvenirs; writer, Goodwin; artist, John Severin; letterer, Oda. Editor, Archie Goodwin; publisher, Warren.

Blazing Combat 1 (October 1965)

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In seven stories–from the Revolutionary War to the burgeoning Vietnam conflict–there isn’t a single moment of humor. Goodwin doesn’t give the reader a single moment to forget he or she is reading a war comic. There’s so little humor, it’s got to be intentional. If Goodwin had just been writing loose, someone would make a joke at some point. There’s no joking here.

Goodwin’s soldiers–regardless of what war they’re fighting in–are devastatingly human. Whether it’s the vengeful GI killing a Nazi POW, a disfigured Revolutionary War soldier or an observer in Vietnam–when they were still mostly observing. Blazing Combat needs to be read to be believed. It’s amazing anything like this comic was ever published, especially in the sixties.

There’s some amazing art–George Evans is my favorite, doing a story about fliers, but John Severin’s does a nice job too.

It’s a significant work.

CREDITS

Viet-Cong; artist, Joe Orlando. Aftermath; artist, Angelo Torres. Flying Tigers; artist, George Evans. Long View; artist, Gray Morrow. Cantigny; artist, Reed Crandall. Combat Quiz; artist, Alex Toth. Mad Anthony; pencillers, Tex Blaisdell and Jeff Jones; inker, Maurice Whitman. Enemy; artist, John Severin. Writer and editor, Archie Goodwin; letterer, Ben Oda; publisher, Warren.

Superman 238 (June 1971)

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Superman finally decides he can’t go around on half-power–but there’s a great butt shot from Swan on the first page for the ladies when he’s leaping instead of flying–at the end of the issue. His sand-double has been sucking his powers away and worse, the sand-double isn’t willing to help as Superman has to save the planet.

It’s kind of a neat way to agitate a situation (it starts as a ransom demand, but then there’s the atom bomb being dropped into the earth’s core) and O’Neil’s of the crisis is excellent. His devices to distract from Superman when Superman’s off page getting his plan together… not so excellent. They’re okay, but basically just standard “Where is Superman?” scenes with the supporting cast.

The back-up Krypton story has nice art from Gray Morrow, but it’s a lame Adam and Eve as sci-fi story.

CREDITS

Menace at 1000 Degrees!; writer, Denny O’Neil; penciller, Curt Swan; inker, Murphy Anderson. A Name Is Born; writer, Cary Bates; artist, Gray Morrow. Editor, Julius Schwartz; publisher, DC Comics.

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