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CSBG Archive

Bill Mantlo’s Back Pages

Every day this month I will share with you the first (at least as far as I know) U.S. professional work by a notable comic book creator. Here is an archive of the creators who have been featured so far.

Today’s featured creator is Bill Mantlo!


Bill Mantlo was one of the most prolific writers for Marvel during the 1980s, writing notable runs of Micronauts and Rom the Spaceknight. He also wrote Spectacular Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk. He also did fill-ins for pretty much every book Marvel published during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

After holding a few odd jobs here and there, Bill Mantlo gained an assistant job at Marvel in 1974 when he was roughly 23 years old. He worked for Marvel’s production manager at first, and his first pro work of ANY kind was doing some coloring work. However, his first work as a writer came in December of 1974, for Marvel’s black and white martial arts comic magazine, The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, the seventh issue to be precise.

The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu was also just the fourth art assignment for George Perez as a pro artist.

Here is the opening of #7’s story (both stories star the Sons of the Tiger)…

And here is the opening of #8’s story…

Neat stuff.



March 14, 2011 at 5:54 am

Gotta have been pretty sweet to have gotten an artist of Perez’s talent on your very first story.

Also, up until jumping online a few minutes ago, I’ve spent an hour or so reading early silver age strips (reprints), and having had my brain keyed in to that mode – Mantlo read like Shakespeare!
It was a bit of a system shock.

I love Mantlo’s writing. He’s an amazing talent

Thanks for posting these pages, Brian. The Sons of the Tiger needs revisiting and this story proves it. Bill, George, and Bob did a crackerjack job here!

I definitely loved Mantlo’s work in the early 80’s, especially all the new stuff he came up with in Rom and Micronauts, inventing entire new concepts and cultures for Marvel. It’s a pity his stuff isn’t used more.

However, his stories turned *very* dark after a point- most notably in Rom #50 and thereafter- I always wondered if he went through some creative phase or if Marvel told him to make things grittier. How’s that for a Legend?

Got them all; but still – REPRINT NOW!

nice to see what talent Mantlo was before he even did Rom. marvel needs to reprint son’s of the tiger and interesting that Bill also was teamed up with a just starting George Perez two legends together early on.

Ed (A Different One)

March 14, 2011 at 7:38 am

Yeah – I always thought that Mantlo was the great, underrated Marvel writer of the 80’s. His run on Spectacular was one of the most underrated Spidey runs of all time (and that on a character who, in my opinion, has been criminally short on “great runs” to begin with). And while I never had a chance to read his work on Micronauts (that’s an error I hope to rectify within the next year), his work on Rom was unique and compelling and a hell of a lot higher quality than anything we had a right to respect from a comic that was born to sell toys as its primary function.

The health issues that befell him later in life is one of the great, unrectifyable tragedies of comics history. I haven’t heard much about his condition for a long time, but I pretty much gave up any hope of hearing good news in that regard some time ago.

Thanks for this. I loved a lot of Bill’s work, especially Micronauts and ROM. A shame what happened to him.

Jason Aaron used the Sons in the Wolverine Manifest Destiny mini in like 08. I would think he’ll use them again, he likes using characters that have been cast aside.

Although I knew that Mantlo worte Sons of the Tiger, I always thought his first work was his first issue of Marvel Team-Up for some reason. Since the Sons of the Tiger appear in his third issue of Marvel Team-Up, I probably should have known better . . . .

Mantlo was a decent writer whom I’m coming to appreciate more with each passing year. Marvel should package his Iron Man Run in a nice hardocver before the next movie comes out. Sad that because so much of his stuff was for licensed comics that it’s not being reprinted. Hopefully he (well, his brother, I guess) is getting checks for the reprints that have come out.

His Hulk run is great too. I defy anyone to read Hulk 290 and not say it’s fabulous.

Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin

March 14, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Cloak and Dagger, ROM, Micronauts, Swords of the Swashbucklers, the Hulk run, the Spider-Man run, Rocket Raccoon, Jack of Hearts, the Iron Man run, Sons of the Tiger, Paradox, the Thing stories from Marvel Two-In-One, his Namor and Doctor Doom stories from Super-Villain Team-Up…

Those were some brilliant comics. Mantlo was truly one of the greatest.

Even some of his lesser works, like his Alpha Flight run, Champions run or the Human Fly contained that awesome Mantlo sparkle.

Sectaurs is probably the only thing of his that I ain’t familiar with.

Say what you like about his Alpha Flight run, but it’s the best Alpha Flight run other than Byrne’s

I’m always willing to heap praise on Mantlo – truly one of the great comics writers of any era. And thanks for posting these; never seen them before, so I’m now pining for some kind of reprint (& seriously considering just tracking down these issues of DHKF…)

Mantlo’s Spectacular Spider-man was classic stuff. The Black Cat/Doc Ock arc from the 70s (issues not years) was as good as Spidey has ever been.

Ed (A Different One)

March 15, 2011 at 11:00 am

@michael howey

I think you’re talking about the gang war between Doc Ock and the Owl that the Black Cat got shot up in – if that’s the one, I’m with you. Although in my recollection I couldn’t remember if that was under Mantlo’s pen or Stern’s when he was on Spectacular – either way it was a great story and the author did a great job of using the Cat’s predicament to “echo” nicely off of Spidey’s unresolved guilt over what happened to Gwen Stacey all those years ago. And, if I remember correctly, there was a really nice final “showdown” between Spidey and Doc Ock to kind of cap the whole storyline off (if I remember correctly – that’s when Spidey physically tore Ock’s robotic arms away from his body).

Another fine PPSSM issue I particularly remember from Mantlo during this time period was the one I always called the “gun control” issue. The issue starts off with Spidey trying to stop a break-in by a couple of young “punks”, one of whom gets shot and killed by the store owner before Spidey can stop him. This is then parlayed into Spidey getting wind of an illegal shipment of hand guns into Manhattan and him trying to track it down and stop it. He eventually finds it and stops it, but in the process, an NYPD officer also gets gunned down and killed.

What’s really neat about the issue, though, is that throughout the “heroic” story of Spidey tracking down the shipment and stopping it, the issue is also interspersed with scenes from the Daily Bugle newsroom where Peter, Robbie and Lance Bannon are having an intelligent debate over gun control issues. Furthermore, at regular intervals throughout the issue (usually when Spider-Man is extracting information or beating up a bad guy in the foreground), a small black & white panel would show up in some small corner of the page showing where someone in some other part of the city is either using a handgun to commit a crime or someone being hurt/killed due to handgun use/misuse.

What always bugged me about the issue though is that, even though it’s always been a favorite issue of mine, I always thought that it was overtly anti-gun in message (while I tend to lean more in favor of gun owner’s rights). However, after re-reading it recently, I realized that Mantlo really did leave the question of who’s right and who’s wrong open for debate, pointing out that despite the efforts of cops and heros alike to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, and NYC having some of the toughest gun laws in the country, the problem of violent crimes and gun-related deaths seem to continue unabated. It really left the issue of “what is the answer” floating out there unresolved.

Like I said, I’m a little sketchy on all of the details, but I just remember that being a great time to be a Spidey fan with Mantlo on Spectacular and Uncle Rog manning the reigns on ASM. With a few short-lived exceptions, it’s been one long downhill roll for the character ever since (though Slott’s been giving me reason to be optimistic lately . . . )

I loved Mantlo’s Spectacular Spider-Man. It was a great time to read Spider-Man, between Mantlo on Spec and Stern on Amazing.

Since several commenters mentioned Spectacular SM, I feel compelled to stress how much I loved Mantlo’s first run on that title: it started off with a bang, i.e. that White Tiger story, and included excellent arcs like the Carrion saga and the Lizard/Iguana throwdown, and Swarm even showed up. Never a dull moment!

I haven’t read the gun issue but I picked it up at a mart this very weekend. Will read it soon.
As for the showdown with Dock Ock. The tearing off of the limbs was merely the halfway point. \the showdown was about three issues later when a battle in a train yard ended with spidey basically telling ock that he would alway beat him and demonstrating it with great force. He didn’t jyst defeat ock. He crushed his spirit.
Classic stuff.

Ed (A Different One)

March 17, 2011 at 6:06 am

@michael howey

I bow to your superior powers of recollection. I do believe you’re right – I think he tore the arms off of ock during the battle where the Cat was shot up, with the final battle being a few issues down the road.

I do remember that final battle being a major tour de force though. It just seemed the Spidey at that point, and at that advanced point in his development as a hero, should have been able to easily overcome someone like Ock and this was the first time I ever saw a writer really take that and run with it. It was also kind of cool to see Peter going around and making his peace with all of his friends and loved ones before the battle, as if he knew this would be a “final confrontation” type of throwdown (of course it wasn’t in the overall scheme of things, but it sure felt like it at the time). Good stuff all around.

Enjoy the gun issue!

Sienkiewicz Mellencamp

April 20, 2011 at 11:00 am

Looks like Perez was heavily influenced by Gene Day back then. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

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