Let the insanity ensue!
What better way to start our holiday festivities than with a charming little title whose eponymous star is the rotting corpse of a morally-challenged businessman? (No, dan, it's not Mitt Romney's Comics and Stories!) I am, of course, talking about
#12. Tales of the Zombie #1-10
I liked all of Marvel's b&w horror titles from that 1973-75 period but Zombie, in my opinion, stands out from the pack. Using an old Stan Lee/Bill Everett story from the Atlas title Menace as its launchpad, Steve Gerber wrote a stunning series of stories that outdid even his stellar work on Man-Thing, a thematically and structurally similar strip. Taking advantage of the magazine format to tell ghastly, often violent morality tales laden with magic, madness, monsters and mayhem, Gerber also delved into the dark sides of his characters in ways that were more honest emotionally than even the liberalized Comics Code of the '70s would allow. The art, too, is fantastic throughout the run, notably the work of Pablo Marcos (rarely have artist and character been more perfectly matched) and a mind-blowing Alfredo Alcala job in #7.
But the primary reason the series made it onto my list is Simon Garth himself (or is that itself?). Gerber's Zombie is astonishingly multi-faceted for a dead dude, simultaneously filling the roles of repulsive horror, pitiable victim, sympathetic anti-hero and, while alive, deeply flawed husband, father and friend. Unlike many Marvel series of that period, the series actually comes to a conclusion with #9, a moving story by Tony Isabella in which Garth is restored to life for 24 hours and spends it tying up loose plot threads and saying the goodbyes his murder had denied him.
ToZ was also the occasional home of Brother Voodoo, the Len Wein/Gene Colan super-hero from the Strange Tales revival, a character I've always had an inexplicable soft spot for. He took over the lead spot as of #10. (That, alas, would prove to be the last issue save for an all-reprint annual later that year.) But honestly, neither the Brother Voodoo episodes nor the title's non-series backup stories are memorable enough to have merited this citation. For me, it's all about the peculiar chemistry between Simon Garth and Steve Gerber.
I summon the air freshener!