Letter from #6:

“It seems every time I pick up a Marvel comic these days, Bill’s writing it.”

Letter from #7:

“There’s nothing wrong with Sal [Buscema}’s work, except that other people ink it.”

And so the onslaught of awesome continues! Right after the last issues have me praising ROM for Bill’s ability to weave magic out of nothing but plain thread, or reach back into other character’s forgotten histories for good characters, these issues have Bill Mantlo dripping creative villain and concepts. Whereas the earlier issues had relatively few supervillains (because the toy company was lazy), these issues give us some great Mantlo (and, now, Marvel) originals, the Hell Hounds of the Black Nebula:

Disguised as dogs, they morph into scary Kirby-ish Deviant monsters with one terrifying exception: they can willfully become intangible. Twenty times more vicious than the Matrix’s version of white men with dreads are the Hell Hounds of the Black Nebula, these fiends walk through walls

and viciously attack

And then, right before the Kirby monster’s introduction, Bill throws us another one with a terrifying and abstract Ditko villain!

“it’s coming!”

ohhhh, to be swallowed by a being that crosses dimensions to become a hungry and authoritative wall. These Dire Wraiths are terrifying. he awakens into complete darkness.

And then we have the Thornoids. The inhuman arms of Alan Moore’s fully connected and omnipotent Swamp Thing, they prove that Dire Wraiths can possess more than walls. These are comics moving with a new villain each issue.

No wonder these series sold more than 300,000 copies each month to kids at the time. And no wonder that Parker Brothers couldn’t find any legitimate way to make a toy out the indescribable void of Deathwing and the faceless Thornoids.

The Hell Hounds of the Dark Nebula would’ve made damn cool action figures, though.

And “coolness” becomes the quest in these comics. Told with a whopping three double page spreads, they each even get their own poetic headline, the first one referencing Faulkner long before that crappy scenester band.

The next splash page announces in no uncertain terms ROM’s tremendous size:

More ludicrous splash pages will be on their way, but for now, let us leave with an example of some Sal Buscema artwork that really deserves some recognition to the hardest working man who never wanted to pencil a page, but only ink:

look at how brilliantly the shot is framed, monster into terrified humans into helpless ROM. Instant danger.

Until next time I can find some time to squirrel away for more of these.

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