Weird War Tales #47: DC’s Weird Bicentennial Salute!



Weird War Tales #47


Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist: Joe Kubert

Editor: Joe Orlando

WWT logo

          The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups of comic books. “You got your horror comic in my war book!” “You’ve for your war book in my horror comic!” I loved this comic book, just LOVED it! It combined the two genres at which DC excelled!

            Weird War Tales debuted in September 1971 and lasted 124 issues until June of 1983. It was an anthology of supernatural stories set during a war. Any war. Vikings, Nazi’s, Yanks & Rebels and post-apocalyptic tales were represented.

            Although not a “personality” such as Cain, Abel or Destiny, the comic was “hosted” by death – a skeleton dressed in a uniform appropriate for the story.

            By the 1980s, regular features or “stars” were introduced – alternating between GI Robot, the Creature Commandos and the War that Time Forgot (dinosaurs) – sometimes alternating between features, sometimes teaming with each other. By that time, though, it had lost some of its horror pedigree in favor of more quasi-superheroics.


Bloodbath of the Toy Soldiers”, George Kashdan ( w ), Rubeny (a)

            In a post-apocalyptic world, despotic General Arax’s son Zeron plays with toy soldiers, exactly matching both sides’ moves in the next day’s battle. Arax’s aides, secretly loyal to the opposing force’s democratic leaders, change Zeron’s next battle plans, leading to a huge defeat.

            In a fit of pique, Arax destroys the toy soldiers. When Arax finds Zeron playing with one last toy soldier the boy kept hidden, the general, Arax throws it in the fire.

            Arax melts along with the toy replica.


            “The Day After Doomsday”, Steve Skeates ( w ), Paul Kruchner and Tex Blasdell (a)

            The sole survivor of the Great Atomic War hears a cry for help in the rubble. He digs and digs and finds a tape recorder accidentally turned on in the shifting debris replaying a radio soap opera, “Help! Help! Unhand me you brute!” In frustration, he bashes the tape recorder against a wall, causing the fragile masonry to give way and crush him.

This two-page tale is reprinted in the trade paperback “Showcase Presents: the Great Disaster featuring the Atomic Knights”.





The Warrior”, Jack Oleck ( w ), Ricardo Villamonte (a)

            Hulgar, the elderly Viking, duels Godfred to prove he still is a warrior. Eric, son of their leader Ottar, begs for mercy for Hulgar. Ottar grants it.

           During his first raid, Eric panics and is branded a coward. Holgar gives Eric the Shield of Thor that will make him invincible! With the shield, Eric defeats Godfred to earn his place in the next raid. Eric fights bravely against the British, but is killed.


WWT Viking 2 WWT viking


             Holgar mourns and begins forging another ordinary “Shield of Thor” in case anther youngster needs to find his courage from within…


APO Weird War Tales, letter column for issue #44:

            Linus Sabalys, Lavel PQ, Canada; positive comments on some stories, negative for others.

            Mark Schmieder, Concord, MA; the editor points out that Mark has the opposite view as Linus Sabalys on every story.

            John Elliott, New York, NY, positive, but requests novel-length tales instead of serializing stories over multiple issues.

            The column has a plus for Star Spangled War Stories #200 starring the Unknown Soldier and Enemy Ace.  ), but with no mention of any Bicentennial connection (see my previous blog about the missed opportunity to hype a 200th issue during the Bicentennial)


            Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #15: Four Star Spectacular #3.


Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.

Pretty good for a Monday! A wonderful review of Abby’s Road!!


What a great way to start the week!

Abby’s Road got a wonderful review: you can read it here

or here:

Book Review

Reviewed by Charity Tober for Readers’ Favorite

Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption: And how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped by Michael Curry is much more than just a book with a long and quirky title. The story follows the journey of the author Michael and his wife Esther as they undergo infertility treatments and ultimately adoption in their endearing quest to become parents. Curry is refreshingly honest, descriptive and raw when describing this roller coaster of a time in his family’s life. As you can tell by the book’s title, Curry also has a sense of humor, which he demonstrates throughout the story (so many fun geek and pop culture mentions in this book). The quest to bring Abby home is an endearing and enlightening read to say the least.

Anyone going through infertility, difficulties conceiving or the adoption process will find a kindred spirit in author Michael Curry. And even those who have zero issues adding to their family will find this book informative regarding the real life struggles of other parents. The POV of a male will probably appeal to readers who are expectant or struggling fathers-to-be and I found the light-hearted tone throughout the book enjoyable. I applaud the author for revealing to readers not only the happy times but also the dark and heartbreaking moments that he and his wife endured. The author’s use of quoting his and his wife’s Facebook posts throughout the story was an accurate reflection of the current digital age and added a realistic tone to the book. Highly recommended!

Charity is very charitable!  Thank you for the great review from Reader’s Favorite!

“Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.


Winner, Honorable Mention, 2014, Great Midwest Book Festival

Abby’s Road is available at Amazon here:

at Barnes and Noble here:

and at Smashwords here:


Original Material Copyright 2015 Michael Curry; the review copyright its holder or holders.

Our Fighting Forces starring the Losers #168



Our Fighting Forces #168




Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist: Luis Dominguez

Editor: Murray Boltinoff

            Our Fighting Forces ran for 181 issues from October 1951 until September of 1978, a victim of the DC Explosion/Implosion. In the previous year of this Bicentennial issue (1975), Jack Kirby left the magazine after eleven issues.

            It was a typical war anthology in the 1950s and by the 1960s featured specific characters or “stars”, including Gunner and Sarge, Lt. Hunter’s Hellcats and the Fighting Devil Dog Lt. Larry Rock (Sgt. Rock’s brother). The Losers became the star feature in January of 1970 with issue #123.

            The Losers were four DC Comics war heroes from other defunct series or cancelled magazines:  Capt. Storm (Navy) from his own series Capt. Storm which lasted 18 issues, Johnny Cloud (Army Air Corps) from All-American Men of War, and Gunner & Sarge (“Mud”-Marines) who also appeared in All-American Men of War and earlier issues of Our Fighting Forces.

            The Losers “formed” in GI Combat #138 (October 1969) as POWs rescued by the crew of the Haunted Tank – the lead feature of GI Combat. DC (National) kept them together in best “Dirty Dozen” fashion as a strike force or task force with each issue a special mission (somewhere in between the straight-forward military adventures of Sgt. Rock/the Haunted Tank and the espionage/saboteur tales of the Unknown Soldier). In between they resumed their duties in their individual branches as back-up solo stories.




            The Losers were killed off during the Crisis on Infinite Earth … twice: once by the Anti-Monitor’s troops and again, the publisher’s blood lust still unsatisfied, Losers Special #1 by the Nazis. They were brought back briefly in the year 2000 as part of the Creature Commandoes. Don’t ask…


“A Cold Day to Die”, Robert (this issue called “Bob”) Kanigher ( w ), George Evans (a)

            In Norway, the Losers are captured and will be hung if they do not reveal their mission. Their accomplice, sometimes Loser Ona Tomsen, a leader of the Norwegian underground, will hang with them!

            Flashback to the beginning – the Losers parachute into Norway fighting off Nazis shooting at them as they land. Gunner is hit. Ona takes them to the plant that they are ordered to destroy – a plant making “heavy water” used in atomic bomb research.

            They plant the explosives but are captured and walked to the gallows. Captain Storm asks for one last cigarette and detonates the explosives with a devise in his wooden leg. The Losers escape the Nazis and rescued by the underground.


Navaho Ace Johnny Cloud in “Death Knocks 5 Times”, Ex-Lt. Bart Regan ( w ), ER Cruz (a)

            One kill shy from making Ace, Ben lands his fighter while Johnny Cloud waits. Cloud finds Ben dead in his ship – even dead he brought it down safely.

            The base is strafed by Nazis, Cloud takes Ben’s plane up with Ben still in it and dispatches the Nazi. Lying in wait in the clouds is Ben’s real killer! The Nazi shoot Ben’s plane and Cloud jumps for safety. The Nazi is about to kill the parachuting Cloud when Ben’s plane, with Ben still clutching the stick in a death grip, collides with the Nazi. His fifth kill. Ben made ace after all…



Mail Call: Jack C. Harris answered the letters of … Eric Ehrlich of North Platte, NE (positive, but spotted a few gaffes), Edward Wojcik of Detroit, Michigan asked for the return of Gunner and Sarge’s dog Pooch (and we were so promised) as well as other unused DC battle stars to join the Losers), and Teddy Arnold of Houston TX asks for a Losers/Blackhawk team-up. The last paragraph is a plug for GI Combat.


             The Losers were brought back as a gritty modern commando group for 32 issues in the 2000s. 

 new losers

             Remember the movie they made based on the comic? Neither do I…


 losers movie


            Was the Bicentennial numbering of Our Fighting Forces (unlucky 13) intentional? Doubtful, it seems DC didn’t put much thought into this Bicentennial promotion (going back to the Superman #300 or Star-Spangled War Stories #200 potential…). Too bad. Can you imagine the reaction of this self-deprecating group of characters? “Leave it to the Losers to be Bicentennial Banner #13…”


            Join me for my next review of one of my favorite comic series: DC’s Bicentennial issue #14: Weird War Tales #47


Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.


Bicentennial Plops!!



Plop! #22




Published bi-monthly, fifty cents, 48 page “Giant”, August

Cover artist: Dave Manak

Editor: Joe Orlando

            Plop!? Plop!? I’ve dreaded this moment ever since I decided to do a blog series on the comics that made up the “DC Salutes the Bicentennial” event. How on earth am I going to do an issue synopsis on Plop!?

            Plop! was DC’s attempt at copying the underground comics common at the time. It started as a small humor strip in House of Mystery, but that didn’t quite fit the genre. Well, why not take the strip and similar ideas by (at the time) new young hipster writers like Steve Skeates and put them all into their own comic?  Horror comics have had their skeletal fingers in the western genre (Weird Western Tales), war titles (Weird War Tales), even romance books (Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love), so why not humor?

            Thus was published the first issue of the Magazine of Weird Humor on October 1973 through 24 issues ending in November of 1976.

            Legend, or in this case Steve Skeates, says it was originally going to be called “Zany”. Skeates, Orlando and Carmine Infantino discussed the title. Skeates said it could be called anything as long as it was funny. Carmine Infantino made the snarky comment that they couldn’t call it, for example, “Plop!” They could. And they did. 

            Plop! contained mostly single panel or single page strips. A few strips ran for several pages.  Jokes and puns were written in the blanks between panels – right-side-up, upside-down, sideways, etc.  What city is made out of hard stone? Flint. In what city do people wander? Rome.

            The illustrated gags were simple and silly but always done in the macabre or horror vein. A doctor walks into a waiting room to tell a vampire, “It’s a bat!” That sort of thing (and using “vampire” and “vein” in a paragraph together is another example. Hey, this stuff writes itself!)

            Our hosts for all this frivolity were Cain from House of Mystery, Abel from House of Secrets and Eve from Secrets of Sinister House (and other comics – she moved around a lot…).


            The Table of Ploptents {sigh} for the issue is as follows (the creators – writers and artists are unknown unless otherwise noted):

The Kicking Man – John Albano. An abusive man kills the father of a beautiful girl to mary her. He kicks things when he is angry – including his new bride. The bride asks a witch to curse him. He has his leg amputated because of the curse. Does that stop his kicking? Kind of – now he whacks people with his severed leg…


 plop kicking man


Prison Plops

People Plops

The Plopular Person of the Month – by Basil Wolverton. This was a regular feature in the comic by this legendary artist!

Maybe I Just Have Big Bones – John Albano & Bill Draut. A fat man takes enough pills to lose several hundred pounds to please his wife. Now he has too much loose skin! A face lift makes him handsome! It even shows off the striking cleft in his chin! No, that’s his navel…

Prescription Plops – Ford Button

Peter Pureheart – Joe Orlando ( w ) – Orladno? I like when the management gets their hands dirty! & John Albano (a)

The Dirty Thief – Steve Skeates ( w ) and the legendary Sergio Aragones (a). A husband tired of his wife’s compulsive cleaning tries to rob a bank to make enough money to divorce her. He creates a formula turning him into micro-size particles so he can sneak under the bank vault. Before he can leave the house, his wife vacuums him up and throws him in the trash…

Animal Plops – Don Edwins ( w ) & Dave Manak (a). An experiment to see why elephants are afraid of mice. Ends up they swallow elephants in one gulp!

Plopular Poetry – written and drawn by the incomparable Wally Wood! One creation was the Mangaroo!

  plopular poetry


The Cross-Eyed Pussycat – John Albano ( w ) and Scarpello (a). I remember this strip from other comics – usually a one-panel fill-in to complete the page. An internet search cannot find any other appearances other than Plop, but this strip was used as fill-in elsewhere in the DC Universe…

Historical Plops – Don Edwins ( w ) & Dave Manak (a)

A Tale Before Sunrise – Steve Skeates ( w ), Vincent Alcazar (a). A vampire hunter sees a caped figure rounding a corner. He attacks it with a stake! In the last panel he is arrested for murdering Batman! Plop was one of the stranger team-up suggestions in an issue of The Brave and the Bold. The editors in that comic may have published it to “prove” the reader was randomly naming DC “characters” to try to humiliate him, but a comic filled with Batman-themed gags would definitely be one for the history books! This strip was reprinted in the Best of DC digest #63 (an all-Plop issue).

Hunting Plops

Monster Plops – Ron Edwards ( w ) & Dave Manak (a) – in one gag a vampire hunter opens a coffin and hammers in a stake. In the last panel the vampire is leaping in pain with a stake out of his rear end. How was I to know he slept on his stomach, the hunter asked.

Spaced-Out Plops – Dave Manak

The Final Plop – Robert Johnson

            Gee, a plot synopsis was possible…



Plop Drops, letter column. The letter were something straight out of “Catcher in the Rye”: kids complaining about how awful the magazine was … all in fun, supposedly…

Jimmy Holcomb of Mesquite, TX asked why they started putting ads in the comic; Anonymous (Plop is infesting his favorite store and chases customers away), Linus Sabalys of Laval PQ, Canada predicted Plop will burn out soon (he was right! It lasted only two more issues!), Ron Lindsey of Augusta, GA (Plop will make you sick, scare away cockroaches and can be used as a weapon in the next war), Ken Kemble of San Antonio, TX lists Plop’s good qualities: (a blank paragraph), in a separate paragraph the editor asks that anyone submitting jokes and gags needs to provide a return envelope, Mike Thompson of Lockemup Prison enjoys Prison Plops the most, Mott the Hobbit of Middle Earth asks simply … why? Unsigned has a long letter describing his prison life and the effect the magazine has on him and his cell mate at the insane asylum, Mike White of Mackinaw, IL says Plop is the worst, by that he means the best … etc.,  Anonymous of Glutton, VT wants more sergio Aragones – although he asks why Aragones would leave MAD to work at this rag… and the editor announces they will no longer publish anonymous/unsigned letters. The person answering/commenting is likely Paul Levitz.


            The truly sad thing? After almost 40 years there will still be ten-year-olds reading this issue and wetting themselves from laughing so hard…

            I kid. Truthfully? Kudos to DC for trying to honestly do something different. Even Marvel’s attempt at humor was stuck firmly in the MAD vein or comics such as Not Brand Echh, a satire with its toes still dipped in the superhero genre.  Plop lasted for three years. The reprints in various “Best of DC” digests in the late 1970s are some of the most sought-after of that series. Plop is not too expensive on the secondary markets (but not cheap either) yet devilishly hard to find!

            You might say even after all these years the comic is still very Plopular.

            You knew I had to end this on a bad pun, right? …


            Join me for my next review of DC’s Bicentennial comics! Who else would be issue # Unlucky 13 except the Losers of Our Fighting Forces.


Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.




Batman #277: my Bicentennial blog continues!



Batman #277

277 cover

Published monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Ernie Chua (Chan)

Editor: Julius Schwartz

            Batman debuted in Detective Comics #27 cover dated May of 1939. The next spring in 1940 he was given his own comic. Batman #1 featured the debut of iconic villains the Joker and Catwoman. For the past 70+ years, renamings and renumberings notwithstanding, there has been a Batman comic book published ever since.

            By the time of the Bicentennial, though, Batman was suffering a lull in sales, if not popularity. The popularity of the television show in the 1960s turned the comic into a campy child-like (or even child-ish) version of the Caped Crusader.  The 1970s turned him back into the dark knight of vengence. The pendulum swung even farther in that direction in the 1980s and has yet to swing back to even a middle ground. That is in the future, however, on July 1976, Batman the character and the comic were somewhere in between…


            “The Riddle of the Man Who Walked Backwards”, David V. Reed ( w ), Ernie Chua and Tex Blaisdell (a)

            A Black-Lagoon-ish sea creature terrorizes the sitizens of a Florida resort town. A vacationing Bruce Wayne and girlfriend investigate and fight off the beast near a cave on the beach.




            The next night Batman stakes out the cave and spots a man land his small boat on the beach and walk backwards into the cave – sweeping away his prints.


277 backwards



            Batman enters the cave and fights off the stranger only to be knocked out by a third man!

            Batman awakes … as Bruce Wayne! His assailant is dead and Wayne arrested. He escapes from the local jail and meets Alfred. Alfred had followed Batman to the cave and quickly removed his costume to protect his identity from the killer and the police!

            Escaping, Batman – back in costume – searches the cave for clues and finds oily goo, that leads him to an off-shore oil rig. He overhears crooks talking about a “drop”. They catch Batman and throw him in a huge tube under the sea.


277 tube



            Escaping again, Batman goes to the new drop point discussed by the crooks in the rig – their old drop point, the cave, is now compromised. He fights the sea creature again – it is one of the crooks in disguise, and stops their drug-smuggling ring.

            Bruce Wayne is released and returns to Gotham City, where an unbelievable naive Jim Gordon believes that he and Batman being at the same Florida resort is entirely a coincidence…



Letters to the Batman, answered by the Answer Man himself, Bob Rozakis for issue #273. Rod McLaughlin of Ramsey, Mont. (positive), Peter Sanderson of New York, NY (guesses that David V Reed is another name for Julius Schwartz;  Rozakis debunks it), Fred Schneider of New York, NY, Mike White, Mackinaw, IL, & Michael D. Darguy of Royal, MI all contribute with positive comments.


            Join me for my next review of DC’s Bicentennial issue #12, a little magazine called PLOP!


Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.


House of Mystery #243 – DC’s Bicentennial issue #10

Do You Dare Read …

hom iconic 



House of Mystery #243

 HOM 243

Published monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist: Ricardo Villagran

Editor: Joe Orlando

            House of Mystery was the most successful of the many excellent horror anthologies DC released in its catalogue. The first issue was published in December 1951 and lasted 321 issues until (appropriately) October 1983.  There have been various revivals of the title since with mixed success.

            Because of the Comics Code, HoM changed formats in the mid-1950s to more science fiction/suspense stories.  It soon became a home to superheroes – Martian Manhunter and Dial H for Hero mainly. By July 1968, the Code weakened its grip allowing DC to hire Joe Orlando to bring the magazine back to horror stories with issue 174 (a reprint issue – new stories resumed with #175). #175 introduced the House’s caretaker, Cain, whose own “adventures” occasionally book-ended the issues. He would introduce most stories and provide a comment in the final panel.




            “Brother Bear”, Bob Haney ( w ), Franc C Reyes (a); Zebulon Hunt heads to the electric chair, having been found guilty and convicted for murder.

            In his resort in the far north, he used his airplane to hunt down and chase polar bears. He would land after the bears were tired out to shoot them for trophies. His manservant, the Inuit named Umiak, protested. This got him a smack from Hunt for his trouble…

            Hunt later killed a bear Umiak was himself hunting … although it looked more like the manservant and the beast were communicating with each other … somehow…

            Hunt finally found the huge bear rumored to be in the area – the biggest on record! He chased, it, shot it, decapitated it and took the head to be stuffed as a trophy. When the taxidermists opened the crate they found the head … of Umiak!


            “Things Like That Don’t Happen”, Sheldon Meyer     ( w ), Jess Jodloman (a)

            Sid and Millie Barnes were found dead on the beach.

            Flashback to Sid finding Millie on the boardwalk after hours in front of her favorite attraction – the fortune-telling machine containing the wooden mannequin of a Gypsy King. Sid begs her for $2000.00 – the last of her inheritance for yet another “investment” scheme.  After an argument she relents and gives him the money.

            The Gypsy King dummy falls over and Millie sets it upright again. A fortune card pops out of the machine: “24 Black Gets It All Back”.

            Millie discovers Sid’s “investment” was a roulette table! Sid is already down to the last $50.00 of the $2,000.00 as Millie swoops the money away and puts it on 24. A winner! She lets it ride. Another winner! She wins back her $2,000.00 and leaves. Sid follows.

            They argue on the beach. Sid knocks Millie down, killing her accidentally. Since no one would believe it was an accident, he buries her on the beach. A third party sneaks behind Sid and kills him! The police find tracks in the sand leading to and from the boardwalk and the fortune telling machine. The Gypsy King’s shoes are filled with sand…



Cain’s Mailroom. Managing Editor Paul Levitz answers letters as Cain on issue #239.  Linas Sabalys of Laval, PQ, Canada had both positive and negative comments, Arthur Grance of Staten Island, NY (positive), Sam MCHendley of Berkeley, CA requested Cain no longer host Plop as it is beneath him…


Next: DC’s Bicentennial Banner #11 – Batman #277!




Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry


Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.

Superman #301 – DC Bicentennial blog series continues!



Superman #301

Superman 301

Published monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Jose Luis Garcia Lopez & Bob Wiacek

Editor: Julius Schwartz

           I must admit it is a coincidence that I am posting this blog 77 years to the day when Action Comics #1 hit the stands! But what a wonderful way to celebrate!

           Superman, the comic and the character, was DC’s sales juggernaut in the 1970s, even before the movie starring Christopher Reeve. The annual sales statement “required” of every comic book published showed this magazine was selling 216,122 copies*. A good amount for the time – and today as well!

            Superman debuted in Action Comics #1 cover dated June 1938. One year later – cover dated June 1939 – Superman was given his own comic. It was the first comic book devoted to the adventures of one superhero. The first issue reprinted the serial from the first few issues of Action Comics as well as original material. And for the past 75 years, renamings and renumberings notwithstanding, there has been a solo Superman series published ever since.

            Other than that, c’mon if you don’t know who Superman is, are YOU reading the wrong blog. But for more of a biography, check out my previous blog post spotlighting famous adoptees real and otherwise:


            “Solomon Grundy Wins on a Monday”, Gerry Conway ( w ), Jose Luis Garcia Lopez and Bob Oksner (a)

            The Joker’s Hostess ad appears in this comic.

            Terry Austin and Bob Wiacek’s names appear on a theater marquis. Austin’s distinct artist’s signature appears on a restaurant sign.

            Coincidental continuity worthy of Marvel: Superman mentions the rest of the Justice League are away on a mission in space. Justice League of America #132 (discussed here) begins with the JLA indeed returning from a mission in space!

            A new criminal organization, Skull, who would torment Superman and Metropolis for many years to come, enters – filling the gap left from the now-defunct Intergang.

Grundy GL

            Solomon Grundy, trapped in Slaughter Swamp on Earth 2 by the Green Lanterns of Earth 1 and Earth 2 (Hal Jordan and Alan Scott back in Justice League of America #92), realizes that if his hated enemy Green Lantern has a double on another earth, he might have one, too! Somehow he teleports to Earth 1 Metropolis to search for HIS counterpart (this set a probably-unrealized precedent: The Brave and the Bold #200 featured a villain, Brimstone, who was so outraged at the death of his earth’s Batman that he transported his mind to his counter-part on Earth 1 to battle THAT Batman – obviously you can teleport between earths with raging emotions as well as a cosmic treadmill!). Superman and Solomon Grundy battle, while the swamp takes over the city. Superman disguises himself as an Earth 1 Solomon Grundy and lures his doppleganger to the moon, stranding him there.


             And that was the end of Solomon Grundy … not by a long shot!



            All the while, Clark Kent and his new girlfriend/groupie Terri Cross report on the battle. Clark Kent? Actually, it was Steve Lombard hypnotized by Superman into protecting his antagonist’s secret identity.

            The last several issues sought to change the old status quo of the Superman mythos – giving Kent a new girlfriend and giving him (and Superman) more spine and attitude. “This isn’t even a challenge,” he tells some Skull cronies…

Not that Superman #300 needed the extra sales boost, but why not bend the rules a bit and delay the release of that milestone until the July cover date and make it a Bicentennial comic? Marvel did that with Captain America #200!


Metropolis Mailbag: E. Nelson Bridwell answers the queries. Letters for Superman #296 were all positive; Jonathan Kuntz, Los Angeles, CA, Adam Castro, New Rochelle, NY, Scott Gibson, Evergreen CO, Ken Regalado, South Pasadena, CA (pointed out some flaws in the story, although was mainly positive), Bob Robinson, Lincoln, NE, and Mark Zutkoff, Timoniom, MD

Metropolis Mailbag Extra: E. Nelson Bridwell. Letters for Superman #297 were mostly positive; Hugh J. Leach, Mason, MI, Jack Gregotz, Mayfield Heights, OH, Roger Thomas Enevoldesen, North Augusta, SC, Ronald M. Fitz, Valparaiso, IN, Mary E. ReCasino, Vernon, CT, FL Watkins, Champaign, IL, Kevin L. Callahan, Brea, CA, and Dave Wilcox, Arlington Heights, IL (a negative letter – E. Nelson Bridwell says this was only one of two negative letters received on this issue. An incredible feat if true…).



* Here is a sample of sales figures published in DC’s annual “required by law” financial statement for 1976:

Brave and Bold: 151,000

Justice League of America: 193,000

World’s Finest: 132,185

Adventure Comics: 104,309

Superman: 216,122

Superman Family: 156,636



Next in my blog series of DC Comics’ Bicentennial issues: House of Mystery #243





Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry


Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.


Freedom Fighters #3 (1976) – battle at the World Trade Center!



Freedom Fighters #3


Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist: unsigned (Dick Giordano per Grand Comic Book Database)

Editor: Gerry Conway

            Quality Comics was a successful comic book company during the medium’s golden age. It introduced Kid Eternity, the Blackhawks, the much-lauded Spirit and Plastic Man to comics. The company closed shop in the mid-1950s and the catalogue of characters was bought by DC/National. They continued only four of Quality’s titles: GI Combat, Plastic Man (although DC would not publish a Plastic Man comic until the 1960s), Blackhawk, and Heart Throbs – all but the latter were still being published by the time of the Bicentennial (Plastic Man especially would get much more popular in the coming decades).

            But what of the other characters of the defunct company? They languished until 1973 when they were introduced to DC readers in Justice League of America #107 in that group’s annual meeting with the Justice Society of America.


            The Quality characters, that issue told us, were from an alternate earth – Earth X (most DC characters lived in Earth 1), where the Nazi’s won WWII. The sole superhero survivors of that conflict were Uncle Sam, the Ray, Doll Man, the Human Bomb, Phantom Girl and the Black Condor. With the combined might of the JLA and JSA, the World War (of Earth X) was finally won by the Allies; so the Quality heroes decided to form a permanent group and move to Earth 1. A version of this story was re-imagined in Batman: The Brave & The Bold…


            A letter writer in this issue questioned that – why not have adventures on “their own” earth showing the group rebuilding their world? The editor said that would not make a very good comic book. Perhaps, but would the sales of the comic have been any worse than they were for their adventures on Earth 1? The editor guaranteed there would be an issue #4, an odd thing to say for a successful comic. The comic lasted for 13 issues – personally I loved every one of them! In my opinion the first issues were, indeed, stinkers; but the series picked up steam after a while.

            I particularly enjoy the “secret” Marvel crossover in issues #8 & 9 with the Invaders. Thinly disguised versions of Namor, Captain America, Bucky, the Human Torch and Toro fought our heroes. Mirror dopplegangers of the Freedom Fighters appeared in the Invaders comic.

            Freedom Fighters was cancelled just before the “DC Explosion” of 1978 and merged with Secret Society of Supervillains. SSOSV was cancelled too – no “Explosion” issues were released, although it is available in the Cancelled Comic Cavalcade and as a SSOSV trade paperback. But the cliffhanger – the Silver Ghost hires a company of villains to defeat the FF once and for all – was never resolved.

            Referring to them as the FF in the letter columns and the comic itself seemed awkward. Who didn’t first think of the Fantastic Four, instead?

            Although this issue contains a done-in-one story, a back story continues through the series – the FF are on the run from the police after being tricked by the Silver Ghost (in issue #1) into helping him commit crimes.




            Untitled (Grand Comic Book Database gives the title as “Scragg the Super Sniper”), Martin Pasko ( w ), Ramona Fradon & Juan Canale (a), Liz Beruba (i)

            The FF escape from a police showdown (last issues cliffhanger, I presume), and hide out in a dumpy loft apartment. Doll Man creates an invisible shield for them. 

            Meanwhile, Arthur T. Sommar finally snaps and kills his wife. He goes to work and ends up in the midst of a battle between the FF and a gang of sport-supply store robbers! Unbeknownst to all, two youthful Qwardian teenagers are exploring earth and also chance upon the battle. They bombard Sommar with a Staser ray to even the odds – mutating him into Scragg the Super Sniper!

            The FF defeat Scragg and take him in for questioning. He reverts back to Sommar and calls his lawyer. The operator has a similar screechy voice as his wife, which snaps him back into his Scragg persona!

            The FF defeat him again at the twin towers of the World Trade Center (Human Bomb: “What’s this clown’s next act — fragging those towers?” 20/20 hindsight makes this reader want to say, “Ouch…”) with the Human Bomb taking the brunt of Scragg’s damage. The Ray tries to grab Scragg’s arm before he plummets to the pavement, but his hand goes ethereal like Phantom Girl’s and Scragg slips away! The incorporeality is likely due to the invisibility ray, Doll Man assumes.

            Back at their loft, the FF realize they signed a lease under their civilian identities – which are known by the police! They must leave. Where can they go to be safe and not hunted like criminals? Where?

            Wonder Woman appears next issue per the last-panel blurb! That issue (#4) was the first issue of Freedom Fighters I owned and read.



Freedom Fanmail: Mike White of Mackinaw, IL (positive, although the Ray’s contempt of Uncle Sam was criticized – Conway explains that although the FF joined together for common purpose, they aren’t buddies!) and Harvey Sobol of New York, NY (negative – criticizing the art and their move to Earth 1 instead of helping rebuild their own home world).

            Next: Superman #301!




Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry


Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.

Joker #8 – DC’s Bicentennial blog continues!



Joker #8

Joker 8

Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist: Ernie Chua (he dates his covers 1975 throughout)

Editor: Julius Schwartz

            The Clown Prince of Crime first appeared in Batman #1 in 1940 (below)

 Joker first

 … and has since become the most successful and recognizable bad guy in comics; and only the most obstinant Marvel Zombie would disagree. Even my daughter at three years of age knew the Joker.

            Why then did it take until May of 1975 for the Joker to get his own book?  Villains were given their own titles even in the pulp era – the Mysterious Wu Fang and Dr. Yen Sin to name two; both of them spawned from the Fu Manchu novels of a century ago.

            Villains headlining comics were not unknown in the Golden Age – Yellow Claw for example. But not by the Silver Age … nothing. What happened in the interrim?

             The dearth of superhero titles is what happened. There weren’t that many mask-and-cape-dogooders headlining comics out there (although there were lots of other genres published in the 1950s) and therefore not much room to give a bad guy his own magazine. 

            The Comics Code Authority is what also happened. Although Marvel’s Doctor Doom had his own series in Astonishing Tales, giving a villain his own book was dicey stuff back then – especially if that villain was a homicidal maniac! To appease the code, Joker’s insanity was toned down and he was always captured or surrendered by book’s end.

             The Joker reflected his nemesis over the decades – from a dark criminal in the 1940s to a more gimmicky criminal in the 1950s. 

             By the time of the 1966 Batman TV show, well … 



            I think the Joker is the one on the far right. It’s hard to tell; they are all wearing masks. 

            And just so you know, as of today? What is the arch nemesis to Batman’s violent-porn-brooding-sociopath-like? He’s carved his face off and stitched it back on. 

joker face'


             Maybe toning back his insanity wasn’t such a bad idea…



            If the Joker is/was so popular, why wasn’t the title a smash hit? Throughout the comic’s run (to issue #9 in October 1976) the art was wonderful – this Bicetnennial issue especially features the marvelous work of Irv Novick.


            But the stories were uneven. That’s being kind.

            The first issue was a battle royale with Two Face. Excellent start. The silly issues afterwards likely didn’t even please the youngsters. The fight with Luthor is embarrassingly bad. Great issues, however, were peppered throughout – the fight with “Sherlock Holmes” and this Bicetennial issue are examples of how good the book could have been.



            Joker #10 was plugged in the letter column of issue #9 and in the “Daily Planet” house ad featuring upcoming releases. The cover and some interiors are found on the internet if you do some searching. When this comic was cancelled, why didn’t they run it in Batman Family? Why not then continue the series in its sister title? Were sales that bad? Were the stories not taken seriously?


The proposed cover for Joker #10 

            Would the comic have been more successful with a full-time hero opposing him? Robin or Batgirl?  Perhaps a non-caped hero like Jason Bard or someone else from the back issues of Detective? The comic could have been better and should have lasted a hundred issues!

            Wisely, Batman did not appear in the series, not even in a cameo. His image was peppered throughout – a face on a dartboard, for example.  In this issue Batman’s mug was on a safety net and a “bullet” that popped out of a toy gun.  Thus it is hard to count this as a “Batman” title.

            This was only one of four Bicentennial comics I owned at the time of their publication. It took me 38 years to finish the collection!


“The Scarecrow’s Fearsome Face-off”,

Elliot S! Maggin (w ), Irv Novick and Ted Blaisdell (a)

            Disguised as the Scarecrow, Joker steals a canister of fear formula from Star Labs in Metropolis. An angry Scarecrow frightens the location of Joker’s Ha-Hacienda from a former lackey. Joker discovers the Scarecrow’s impending visit and leaves a message to meet him at the local zoo. There, Joker uses the fear formula via a swarm of moths to scare away guards and patrons while he steals a hyena mural for his hide-out!

            The Scarecrow flies in and battle ensues! Scarecrow’s pet crow Nightmare pinches out Joker’s nose plugs while Scarecrow uses acid to release the gas from Joker’s canister. Gas billows out and Joker is on his knees, terrified. The Scarecrow giggles. Giggles? Yes, Joker switched the fear formula for his own laughing gas! His fear was feigned!

            Scarecrow is caught by the police and Joker makes it back safe and sound to his own padded cell at Arkham Asylum.

            Death toll (despite the attempts to assuage the Comics Code Authorities): two guards and one former henchman.



The Joker’s Ha-Hacienda: letters answered by the Joker himself, mostly for Joker #6! Likely Bob Rozakis answered the letters; these were mostly one-sentence questions and/or comments (“Who is Moriarty?”) answered in a snarky style (“I came home to find all my Batman comics burned, did you do it?” “No, if I did it, I would have burned them while you read them!”). Snarky, but not mean – answers were funny and the insults gentle. This is the Joker, not Murray Boltinoff!

            Mark Wannop of Camden, NJ (positive), Clifford Gerstman of New York, NY (positive), Michael D Dargay of Royal Oak, MI (negative), Fred Schneider, New York, NY (positive), Doil Ward of Ardmore TX (spotted a gaff), Adam Castro of New Rochelle, NY (a general question), Kirk Anderson of DeForest, WI (general questions), Mike White of Mackinaw, IL (negative) and “The Catwoman” challenging Joker to a battle in the next (and last) issue!

            Lots of mail for a failing comic? True, but the nature of the letter column – and answer by the Joker himself – likely had readers send in missives they otherwise would not have done!



            This issue is reprinted (as is the entire series) in The Joker: Clown Prince of Crime trade paperback.


 Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

 Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.




Justice League of America #132



Justice League of America #132


Published monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Ernie Chua (the date under his signature is 1975)

Editor: Julie Schwartz

            The Justice League of America debuted in late 1960 in The Brave and the Bold #28. After a three-issue try-out, they were awarded their own magazine a few months later. There has never been a month without at least some kind of version of the JLA published by National or DC – gaps as publicity stunts aside…

            Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter and Aquaman joined together to fight evil. 

            Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky wrote and drew the first several years of the series and the editorial reigns were held by Julie Schwartz.  This was Schwartz’s third try at reviving Golden Age characters – updating them for a modern audience.  The Flash and Green Lantern were rousing successes, so he tried again in the pages of Brave and Bold!  This time he brought back the old Justice Society of America: changed the name to something “more exciting” (someone once said a Society makes them sound like they got together to have tea) and updated the roster with the few heroes available at the time.  There was really no one else around: Adam Strange?  He’s good, but harder to work into a plot than Aquaman, so instead he was a frequent guest.  Roy Raymond TV Detective and Rex the Wonder Dog wouldn’t work, Challengers of the Unknown and the Blackhawks would make things too crowded.  Superboy would be impossible!  Batwoman? Robin?  Nah!  Green Arrow?  Oops, forgot about him – he’d join in Justice League of America #4.

            Eventually Fox and Sekowsky left the writing and art chores to others. Some issues were drawn by Neal Adams! But eventually the art was given to Dick Dillin.  Some fans dislike his art even to this day. I loved it! His are the images I have when I think of the Justice League – not Sekowski’s, not Lopez, not Heck’s, not Lee’s nor anyone who drew the later and latter versions of the group. Dillon is my  … Dylan.

            Plus in this particular issue he draws Supergirl! Oh, yummy …


            This image is from the next issue, but still …

            Justice League of America was always a sales powerhouse for DC, with only a handful of magazines selling better (Superman for example). Its dip in sales during the 1970s was proportional with the industry as a whole.

            But even in the dip. Marvel was outdoing DC, in buzz if not in sales. Trying to catch up – something DC started in the mid-1960s and continues to this day – DC kept story threads going from issue to issue in some of their comics; Justice League of America included. This bicentennial issue is a fine example: it is part two of a two-part story, but the thread (Supergirl searching for her cousin) continues into the next issue; her search then becomes its own two-parter.

            As is the case with this magazine, the thread is interrupted by the annual JLA/JSA summer multi-parter. One of Justice League of America’s most unforgivable crime in this vein came in the next year with issues #139: Steve Englehart took over the writing chores for an incredible run of issues, but the annual JLA/JSA summer team-up stopped the story in its tracks. When it returned to the storyline (the Construct attacks during dissension amongst the JLAers), it had lost steam and Englehart was gone by issue #150 with his events and changes to the group’s dynamic forgotten.


            The inner front cover features a different Hostess ad from the Bicentennial comics so far. Instead of “Superman Saves the Earth”, we have “The Cornered Clown” starring the Joker!

            The annual sales statement “required” of every comic book published showed this magazine was selling 193,000 copies*. A fair amount for the time – and today as well!

            “The Beasts Who Fought Like Men”, Gerry Conway   ( w ), Dick Dillin & Frank McLaughlin (a).

             This story is continued from the previous issue. Returning from a mission in space, the Justice Leaguers not involved in the events of the previous issue are attacked over New York City by Queen Bee and her intelligent swarm! They dispatch the swarm, but Queen Bee escapes. Perhaps they can track her whereabouts in their satellite headquarters…

            … whence they are attacked by Green Lantern foe Sonar! Last issue, Sonar developed a “credit card” that would help him control humans as soon as they touch said card! Instead, the cards made humans as dumb as beasts and as a side effect made animals as intelligent as humans! Sonar defeats the JLA but runs away when nearly bested by Supergirl, who at that moment entered the satellite searching for Superman.

            The team splits up; half go to Washington DC to fight Sonar, who are then also attacked by animals from the Washington Zoo.  Sonar is caught after being nearly trampled by an elephant.

            The other half goes to Chicago to fight Queen Bee. During the fight they discover that although Sonar created the human/animal link, Queen Bee controls it! The two villains were unknowingly in cahoots! Queen Bee is also defeated.

            JLA members missing since the last issue are found – except for the Man of Steel!  Supergirl asks the JLA’s help in finding the missing Superman.



JLA Mailroom: featuring comments on issue #128; Bob Rozakis answered and commented on the letters. Paul Emrath of Milwaukee, WI (positive), Glenn Rowsam of Oakland, CA (positive – and praises Wonder Woman’s return to the group); DK Thomas of Brunswick, ME, Michael D Dargay of Royal Oak, MI, and Fred Schneider of New York, NY are given brief comments discussing an age-old question argued to this day: is Green Lantern’s oath necessary to recharge his ring?


            This issue is reprinted in the trade paperback Showcase Presents: Justice League of America Vol. 6.



* Here is a sample of sales figures published in DC’s annual “required by law” financial statement for 1976:

Brave and Bold: 151,000

Justice League of America: 193,000

World’s Finest: 132,185

Adventure Comics: 104,309

Superman: 216,122

Superman Family: 156,636



            Shameless plugs department: Some of the information in this blog is gleaned from my new ebook: The Brave and the Bold – from Silent Knight to Dark Knight, an index of the DC comic book. Available at Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords websites. It’s free, so get it now!


           The Barnes and Noble link is here:




Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry


Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.