Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter #10: Bicentennial Fu!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#24

Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter #10

Richard_Dragon_Kung-Fu_Fighter_Vol_1_10

Published monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Dick Giordano

Editor: Dennis O’Neil

            During the early to mid-1970s everybody was kung-fu fighting. The craze was fast as lightning. Both DC and Marvel jumped on the bandwagon – Marvel with its excellent Hands of Shang Chi, Master of Kung-Fu (which actually began as Marvel Special Edition #15 from December 1973) and its various spin-offs (Giant Size …) and magazines; and Iron Fist, martial arts set firmly in the superhero mode.

            Although a little slow to catch on to the craze, DC Comics jumped in with Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter. The character debuted in the 1974 novel “Dragon’s Fists” by Denny O’Neal and Jim Berry.

 dragon's fist

            They adapted the character into the comic book. The first issue was dated May 1975. Richard Dragon was a thief caught burglarizing a dojo. Its sensei trained him to use his talents for good. Literally, GOOD (the Global Organization of Organized Defense).  Good group, bad anagram.

            The comic ran for 18 issues through December 1977 and for a time was published monthly. In 1976 DC continued the craze with Karate Kid – martial arts set firmly in the superhero mode. Karate Kid’s Bicentennial issue (#3) has already been reviewed…

            By the time Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter ended, so had the Kung Fu craze. Good thing, too, I suppose: it was a little bit frightening…

***

“The Human Inferno”, Denny O-Neil ( w ), Ric Estrada and Jack Abel (a)

            The letter column admits this is a fill-in issue. This is one of the four Bicentennial issues I owned when they were new on the stands.

        Ben Turner (who would eventually become the Bronze Tiger) inherits a thousand acres of timber land. The lumberjack foreman is a murderous brute named Hatchett and vows to kill this new owner, as he did the previous owners, lest he cut into the lumberjack’s vast profits!

 hatchett 2hatchett

   

        Richard, Ben and Lady Shiva travel to the property and are promptly attacked by lumberjacks. Dispatching them, Ben meets his namesake nephew, who has been in hiding since Hatchett murdered his parents.

            Again attacked that night in their hotel, the quartet go to Hatchett for the final face-off. Our heroes make it to a log cabin which is set ablaze by the loggers. Ben, Benjamin and Shiva go through the front door to face a chainsaw-wielding maniac while Richard, badly burned, battles Hatchett.

 

The Dojo: letters answered (presumably) by Assistant Editors Jack C. Harris and Bob Rozakis. Letters by Bart Casey of Dayton, Ohio (very positive), Jim Humm of El Monte, CA (asking if Richard Dragon exists on the same earth as Superman and Batman – yes) and Judy Newton of Thompkinsville, RI (praising Shiva as a more liberated woman than Wonder Woman). Texts introduce us to Jack Abel and tells us that this is Denny O’Neil’s last issue as editor – Gerry Conway will be handling the editorial chores (at least for the next issue) and the writing will be taken over by David Anthony Kraft.

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #25: Blackhawk #247

 

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.

Tarzan Family #64: the Bicentennial blog continues!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#23

Tarzan Family #64

TarzFam_64_WP

Published bi-monthly, fifty cents, August

Cover artist and Editor: Joe Kubert

            Tarzan Family began as Korak, Son of Tarzan from Gold Key Comics and first published in January 1964 until issue #45 in January 1972. DC Comics bought the rights to the Korak character as well as his more famous father and continued the son’s comic with the original numbering (#46) beginning in June 1972 until #59 (October 1975). The book was renamed Tarzan Family while continuing the sequential numbering until it was cancelled with issue #66, December 1976. This was part of a “Family Series” DC launched in 1975 as companions to Superman Family (which had debuted the year before – an amalgam of the Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Supergirl titles): Tarzan Family, Superteam Family and Batman Family. They were “Giant” comics containing mostly reprints for fifty cents, with the lead story (and sometimes a second feature) as a new piece.

            Tarzan Family featured Korak in a new tale and reprints of a Tarzan Sunday strip as well as reprints of the comic book adventures of other Edgar Rice Burroughs creations such as Carson of Venus and John Carter of Mars from earlier issues of Korak or other DC comics.

burroughs-with-characters

            Korak the character, the son of Tarzan and Jane Porter, appeared first in the Tarzan novels and movies (although in the popular Johnny Weissmuller movies he was replaced by the adopted “Boy”).

***

            “The Gigantics”, Robert Kanigher ( w ),  Ruby Florese (a).

            Korak is still searching for his lost love Meriem, his search takes him to the peak of a high mountain where he is snatched up by giant Roc. The bird flies him to a hidden kingdom of giants. The King orders Korak be sacrificed, but his daughter is charmed by the little “doll” and wants him for her own. If the priests agree, she may have him.

korak

            Korak watches as a Vestal is sacrificed to the gods. If it rains, Korak may live with the princess; if it does not, he must be sacrificed.  There is much thunder and lightning, but no rain. Guards come to carry away Korak, but with the help of the princess’ diamond, he escapes. The princess puts Korak back into his cage and escapes with him into the wilderness.

            To be continued…

***

            “Lights of Doom”, Robert Kanigher ( w ), Noly Zamora (a)

            A John Carter of Mars tale. John Carter and Tanna, Princess of Barsoom are transported aboard an alien spacecraft. The aliens heal Carter and tell him to be their spokesman as they promise to cure all Barsoom of their ills in exchange for their fealty. He refuses, breaks free of their force field, takes command of the ship and crashes it back to the surface of Mars. As he and Tanna leave the ship, an ominous shadow covers them; they turn to face their new adversary …

            This was a new tale continued from the previous issue and to be continued … but never concluded … the storyline was never finished!

***

            “Battle with Bu-Gash”, Russ Manning (w/a)

            A reprint of a Tarzan Sunday newspaper strip with Joe Kubert art and story bookending the tale. There is no indication of where each week’s strip begins or ends; is it one strip per page? Heavily edited to fit the standard comic book page? Perhaps, perhaps not, but the storylines jump without much explanation…

            Tarzan rescues a bull elephant from the Sahara desert, leading it back to the jungle. He then rescues a baby gorilla from a Pangolin (a lizard). Tarzan fights off the baby’s father Do-Ag. While they battle, a rogue gorilla named Bu-Gash swings off with the baby and his mother. The baby falls and breaks its leg – certain doom to a species unable to heal one another. Tarzan mends the leg and Do-Ag and Bu-Gash do battle. Bu-Gash is defeated and flees the tribe.

            Meanwhile, Korak helps Nubilia become chieftess of a human tribe, having helped oust the tyrant chief Imbaza (the coup is never shown; presumably it was in a previous strip not published here). Korak questions how a supposedly peaceful ruler commits murder to obtain a throne.  Leaving the village, Korak watches a hippo save an antelope from the jaws of a crocodile – animals helping each other out of instinct? Can man learn this? Korak then swings into the midst of a battle between two apes vying to be king of their tribe. “Tarzan is coming, Leave us,” says one ape. “That is what I intend to do,” says Korak. 

***

            “Pirates of Venus”, Len Wein ( w ), Mike Kaluta (a)

            Carson of Venus tale reprinted from Korak, Son of Tarzan #50 (February 1973). Descending from the Venusian trees, Carson bids farewell to his dead friend Kamlot. But Kamlot is NOT dead – merely paralyzed from the spider-beasts venom! Together they kill a basto – a gigantic boar – for their meal! They are then both captured by Klangan – bat-winged creatures – and flown as captives through the forest to a vast Venusian sea.

 

 

The Ape Vine: a half-page letter column discussing mainly issue #62. Letters by Steve Kalaitzidis of Toronto, Ontario (spotting an error – John Carter fights a race from Edgar Rice Burrough’s Carson of Venus tales), Mark Schneider of Concord, Mass (positive, but criticizing the sameness of the Carter/Carson stories – the editor says considering the previous letter, that makes sense!) and David L Klees of Newton Centre, Mass (asking for a tabloid-size edition of the Hal Foster Tarzan strips – I would have agreed! They did a tabloid of Dick Tracy, why not a Tarzan reprint? Alas, it was never to be…). E. Nelson Bridwell answered the questions and announced this was Joe Kubert’s last issue as editor. Joe Orlando takes over with the next issue. After that, there would be only one issue left before cancellation.

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #24: Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter #10

 

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.

 

Some thoughts on Avengers: Age of Ultron

age of utlron

                (I’ll keep the spoilers to a minimum and give you fair warning, but there’s nothing in this blog that you can’t find online elsewhere …)

I tend to see movies late in their runs. I don’t like crowded theaters so I usually wait until week two or three when the general masses have seen it once and the uber-fans have sated themselves during the week. Thus is this late review of Avengers: Age of Ultron.

And not a review as such, more like some random thoughts akin to my blog on Guardians of the Galaxy.

Avengers Age of Ultron is doing very well. It is the biggest money-maker of the year so far and has grossed a billion dollars internationally.

It certainly doesn’t need me blogging about it to hype it. Fans will go see it whether I like it or not. And I did like it. A lot.

It was just like an Avengers comic book from the 1970s.

But …

What is that nagging feeling I have in the weeks after seeing it? There was something about the movie while I was watching it and afterwards that keeps pecking … and I think I finally know what it is…

***

               I certainly loved more of the movie than I disliked: casting James Spader as Ultron was a genius move – the casting director deserves a bonus! He probably already has gotten more than the artists and writers who created the characters in the movie … but that is another argument.

And the battle scenes and special effects are grand.

avengers

               I especially enjoyed the human elements of the movie – and the humanity shown by the characters – going out of their way to save innocent lives. Captain America’s line “I asked for a solution, not an escape plan” said more for heroism than any scene from the Man of Steel

Plus we finally get to see more of Hawkeye and his personal life – the one character from the first movie that had no real back story. An excellent one was provided.

The things I didn’t like about the movie were not what was niggling at me. These things didn’t ruin the movie for me; rather they made me go … “What?”

Maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but I was lost at the creation of Ultron. The McGuffin of this movie – apparently required in all Marvel/Disney movies – was the stone in Loki’s spear. Somehow the stone contained an artificial intelligence that Tony Stark and Bruce Banner injected into their Ultron defense system and thus activated him.

Somehow the system was imbued with Tony Stark’s personality (Ultron was referred to as an “anti-Stark” a few times). That left me scratching my head a bit. Was it because he took over Jarvis’ mentality and Jarvis had a bit of Stark’s personality? Did I miss or forget that from a previous Iron Man flick?

Regardless, it worked; James Spader’s voice-work perfectly emulated Robert Downey Jr’s vocal inflections and mannerisms. In another reality he could have been cast as Tony Stark/Iron Man. Brilliant stuff. And while he didn’t steal every scene he was in as was the case in the first movie with Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Spader/Ultron made a memorable villain.

(Small Spoiler Alert) And the romance between Black Widow and Bruce Banner didn’t bother me. After Star Trek 5: My Eyes! Out Vile Jelly!’s fling between Scotty and Uhura, nothing like that bothers me anymore…   But I will say this – if Scarlett Johansson whispered to me that it was sundown and started rubbing my hand the last thing I would do is calm down…

***

               But none of that bugged me. I put my finger on the problem some days later while trolling my wall on Facebook. “Did you catch these Easter Eggs in Avengers: Age of Ultron?” shouted one article. I did not read the article, because it was my eureka moment – the problem I had with the movie hit me:

Avengers: Age of Ultron spent so much time being the flagship of the future Marvel cinematic universe it forgot, at times, to be Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The movie was burdened with being the gateway to future Marvel movies. It gave the film an “in-betweenness” it would not have had otherwise. With the exception of Godfather II, most sequels stink, especially when compared to the first and sometimes third movie. Two words: Indiana Jones. Even The Empire Strikes Back suffered from its “in-betweenness”. Great as it was, it was still the opening act for the third movie (and what a stinker that ended up being). Like the Pirates of the Caribbean and Matrix franchises, Movie 2 was basically part one of two.

Even before Age of Ultron’s release we knew what was going to happen next. Not just the Ant-Man movie, but we knew the next Avengers film will adapt the fantastic Infinity War storyline – and do it in two movies! A Black Panther movie is in the works. Captain America’s next movie will adapt the equally fantastic Civil War storyline and may give the now-aging stars of the Captain America and Iron Man franchises an excuse to bow out with a bang. Literally.

civil-war

               Age of Ultron crams all that in. They do not take away from the film to do it; which is why it clocks in at two and a half hours.

And I’m not talking about the now-mandatory mid- and post-credit teasers. Those are just that – teasers to thrill you as to what comes next (except for Thor the Dark World – I stuck around twenty minutes for THAT!? I could’ve been home by now).

So there’s nothing wrong with end-of-the-movie teasers. “James Bond will return…”

Remember when I said the movie was much like an Avengers comic book in the 1970s? Back then the comics would have a panel or two foreshadowing what is to come. “Who is that mysterious figure lurking in Avenger’s mansion? We’ll find out next issue, pilgrim, ’cause right now it’s back to the ACTION…” Age of Ultron was burdened with them, and I do mean burdened:

Thor’s illusion leads us to the next two Avengers movie and foreshadows his own next film; Captain America’s illusion reminds us to watch the next season of Agent Carter; the ending of the movie  – heck, the entire introduction of the new Avenger members – sets up Civil War. Our heroes go to Wakanda and fight a bad guy (played by chameleon Andy Serkis) to set up the Black Panther movie.

infinity war

               Even before Age of Ultron was released we the people knew about the next Avengers and Captain America movies. By this time during the first Avengers movie we the people had no idea what the next movie was about – it wasn’t until August 2012 that were even given the title. Age of Ultron was the forgotten middle child even before it hit the theaters.

Oh, I’ll go see the next movies, don’t worry, but I wanted to see Age of Ultron.

Too many moving parts leading in too many directions. That was what was nagging me.

And even Age of Ultron’s post-credit teaser was a let down. What was the real difference between this one and the teaser from the first Avengers movie?

This was a meme posted on my Facebook wall:

 Shield

               And I responded: That’s the movies, though. If it were the TV show “Agents of Shield” it would be, “I’m here to ask you a question, but I won’t ask it until the end-of-season cliffhanger. When you answer six shows into the next season I will say, ‘and now for the follow-up question…’ which will not be asked until that next year’s cliffhanger, and if we’re renewed…” The movies aren’t getting that bad, but they planted those seeds too. It’s getting to that point.

Let the next few movies worry about themselves. And in the meantime, let me enjoy Age of Ultron.

 ***

Footnote: As is usual with sequels TV networks aired the first Avengers movie to whet our appetites. I Tivoed the movie and watched it with my 5-year-old-daughter. Her gasp when Thor was first on screen is a memory I will cherish to my dying day. She says Thor is the best good guy ever. She (along with billions of others) laughed when Hulk beat Loki into the ground – after many minutes of explaining that Loki was a bad guy) and still loves watching Thor, Iron Man and Hulk beat up the “big fish”. At first she called Iron Man Flash and now she’s reversed that.

Although she likes the scenes with Hulk, she is starting to identify with Black Widow. Thor is still her favorite. I hope it’s because Daddy cosplays as Thor…

thor

Original material copyright 2015 Michael G Curry

Superboy starring the Legion of Superheroes #218

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#22

Superboy starring the Legion of Superheroes #218

Superboy_Vol_1_218

Published 9 months of the year, thirty cents, July

Cover artists: Mike Grell

Editor: Murray Boltinoff

            Superboy, the adventures of Superman when he was a boy, debuted in More Fun Comics #101, January 1945.  It was the first new comic book character to have a measure of success after the initial Golden Age/pre-WWII rush of superheroes – the fact it was a spin-off of one of the most successful comic book characters before or after World War II helped its success a bit, I would imagine.

            The character moved to Adventure Comics in April 1946 with issue #103.  Three years later he was given his own magazine starting with issue #1 dated April 1949 while still headlining Adventure Comics.

            Flash forward to April 1958 and Adventure Comics #247 (good things happen in April, it seems…). In the 30th century, youthful superheroes, all inspired by the adventures of the previous millenium’s Superboy, formed a club called the Legion of Superheroes. Three members went back in time and asked Superboy to join their ranks. The group returned in issue #267 of December 1959. By issue #300 (September 1962), the Legion grew so popular they were given their own series, although usually always with Superboy in attendance.

            The Legion continued in Adventure Comics, Action Comics and Superboy until 1973. In issue 197 of Superboy the Legion became part of the comic’s title, as Superboy starring the Legion of Superheroes (although it would be still categorized as just Superboy for some time). By #231 the title became Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes, then Legion of Superheroes with #259 when Superboy was booted from his own magazine.  Comics starring the Legion have been revived several times and their continuity endlessly changed and rearranged in the decades since.

            The fans of the Legion are … well, legion. Facebook pages, APAs, fanzines and other fan-based appreciation societies flourish. At the time of this blog, DC is slowly bring back the Legion after the cancellation of two of their comics from the “New 52” line-up. I’ve loved the Legion since my first issue (#209) and try to catch most of their revived titles. Overall the stories have been very good – some of them even excellent – but nothing seems to recapture the glory days of their Adventure Comics run; although to be frank, the run in which this Bicentennial issue is a part is my personal favorite…

            Nearly every Legion story are available in reprints – either in comics form, trade paperback or hardback. This comic was reprinted in Legion of Super-Hero Archives #12.

            Long Live the Legion!

***

“The Secret Villain the World Never Knew”, Cary Bates ( w ), Mike Grell (a)

            This is Cary “Mr. Surprise” Bates at his best, so this will take a while…

            Three rejected Legion applicants leave the Legion HQ. Quake Kid learns the hazards of flirting with Infectious Lass (who I always found to be incredibly sexy .. perhaps it is the charm of forbidden fruit…) while the third is still in shock that he was rejected.

Tyroc  

          Meanwhile, the applicant that was accepted, Tyroc, prepares to land on the HQ roof. Inside, Brainiac 5 recaps Tyroc’s origin and first meeting with the LSH from issue #216 to Light Lass, Colossal Boy and Element Lad who were on mission in space (again with the mission in space…) and have yet to meet Tyroc. Tyroc joins his new teammates…

218_1

            … only to be attacked by Zoraz, who burns his way into the headquarters. Zoraz activates and uses the four Legionaires’ powers against them (Colossal Boy grows so fast he smacks himself unconscious against the ceiling, etc.).  Tyroc causes an explosion that Zoraz absorbs, sets fire to the HQ alarm and escapes while Tyroc is recovering from the sonic onslaught.

            Superboy and Cosmic Boy arrive and explain Zoraz’s origin to Tyroc. He once raided the Legion Cell Bank (our second lesson in cloning – Secret Society of Supervillains #2 also gave us a footnote-lecture on cloning this month) and stole samples from each Legionnaire! Thus, as the new member, Tyroc has the only power Zoraz cannot counteract!

            While patrolling theie headquarters, Tyroc and Shrinking Violet pass an air vent in which sits a shadowed figure – who vows to find a way to wipe out the new guy!

218_3

            That evening, Zoraz attacks Star Boy and Dream Girl during a romantic interlude and defeats them. Tryoc tries to save them, but Zoraz creates a vacuum in the gymnasium voiding Tyroc’s sound-based powers. Tyroc escapes by smashing a hole in the wall to sweet air and freedom! Zoraz gets away, but the shadowy figure in the air vent returns and says he now knows how to finally defeat Tyroc!

            Tyroc is called to a meeting where the defeated Legionnaires are now fine and dandy! What gives? Zoraz was actually Sun Boy and (alternately) Superboy! It was one last test for Tyroc (the LSH trick/test new applicants a lot – look at Superboy and Star Boy’s initiations …)

            But then Zoraz appears! The Legionnaires think it is Sun Boy and tell him the joke is over. Zoraz unmasks – it is the rejected applicant! Absorbency Boy! He can absorb residual energy left behind by superheroes. So in the Zoraz costume, he has the powers of Sun Boy AND Superboy! Yikes!

218_6

            Absorbency Boy/Zoraz challenges Tyroc to a battle for Legion membership (one hopes the Legion would still reject AB if he won…). Tyroc blasts him with a pitch only Superboy can hear. The inexperienced Absorbency Boy reels at the painful sound and Tyroc knocks him out. Later that day, Tyroc is sworn in as the newest member of the Legion of Superheroes. Presumably Absorbency Boy goes back to testing paper towels. Not quite – they turned him into Earth Man, one of the Legions deadliest villains and eventually joining the Legion. He died in the Legion’s last pre-New 52 book as heroically as this modern comic age allows…

Tyroc joins

            The “morgue” of the clone bank contains the names of several Legionnaires, and also Cary Bates, Allen Ladd and John Boy.

            This is one of the four Bicentennial issues I owned when they were new on the stands.

            This story is reprinted in Legion of Superheroes Archives #12 and Showcase Presents the Legion of Superheroes Vol. 5.

 

Supertalk: the letter column was handled by Jack C. Harris but still done in the Boltinoff “sound bite” style (see The Brave & The Bold) for issue #215. Mike White, Mackinaw, IL (positive, but disliked some of the new costumes). The following letter writers out and out hated the new costumes: Marie Munas of La Mesa, CA, Katie Raisler of East Lansing, MI and “A Worried Fan”. Scott Gibson of Evergreen, CO liked the costumes and the current stories, Sarah Finnegan of Washington DC spotted a story flaw regarding Ultra Boy’s powers, Barry Charles of Louisville, KY asked for a return of the Fatal Five (and they would in the next issue, per JCH) and David Hanson of Swartz Creek, Michigan finished off the letter page with the ubiquitous “Long Live the Legion”!

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #23: Tarzan Family #4

 

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.

 

Secret Society of Supervillains #2 – Bicentennial Bad Guys!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#21

Secret Society of Supervillains #2

SSOSV2

Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artists: Dick Giordano & Terry Austin

Editor: Gerry Conway

            I loved Secret Society of Supervillains. I frickin’ loved it!I got a late start on collecting the series – My first issue was #6 after the Darkseid/Manhunter introductory story arc finally ended. By now it was 1977, when I started seriously collecting comics instead of getting the odd issues from friends and family. But I got every issue after that and was very sad when it was cancelled with issue #15 during the DC Implosion. Over the years I trolled the back issue markets until I completed the collection. Two more issues were written and drawn and reproduced in the famous Cancelled Comic Cavalcade, and the finale of this story arc (started in #15) that would have concluded in #18 was written and discussed in Back Issue #35. The Amazing World of DC Comics #11 reprints the original first issue with a different line-up and direction. 

            I told you I loved this series…

            A mysterious benefactor formed an “anti-Justice League” led by a clone of the original Manhunter. Founding members included Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd, Sinestro, Star Saphire and others. In issue #2 more intrigue is revealed…

***

“No Man Shall I Call Master”, Gerry Conway Robert Kanigher ( w ), Ric Estrada (a)

            Captain Comet returns from obscurity a 20-year mission in space (what IS it this month with missions in space? See Superman and Justice League of America…). While noting the change in clothing styles, Comet comes across a battle between Green Lantern, Gorilla Grodd and Hijack (a former member of the Royal Flush Gang, but still with the card motif).

            Since Lantern attacked first, Comet assumes he is the bad guy in the brawl and knocks him out and saves Grodd and Hijack. He reveals to Grodd that he can read his thoughts.

            At the Society’s headquarters, Grodd (who has in turn read Comet’s mind) reveals to the SSOSV Comet’s origin, recapping Strange Adventures #9 & 10 from 1951.   Since Comet knows nothing of superheroes, the SSOSV ask him to join their group as a dupe in their fight against good!

            Later, Comet finds the graves of his parents and friends. Manhunter approaches and reveals that the SSOSV are criminals. Comet knows. Grodd’s mental block is good, but not THAT good. Manhunter reveals he is ALSO fighting on the side of the angels. They are both attacked by Mantis of Apocalypse! They fend off Mantis, who escapes before he completely runs out of power.

            Manhunter takes the SSOSV to the underground laboratory of their benefactor and reveals him to be Darkseid! Mantis attacks again! To be continued…

 

            The Superman Hostess ad appears in this comic rather than the Joker ad. Don’t they put ANY thought into these things?

  ssosv

The Sinister Citadel: Gerry Conway’s soapbox asking for suggestions appears (see All Star Comics #61). Also, there is text of the publication history of Captain Comet, a bio of Sinestro and new writer David Anthony Kraft.

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #22: Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes #218

 

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.

Blitzkrieg #4 – one of DC’s best ideas…

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#20

Blitzkrieg #4

Blitzkrieg 4 

Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist and Editor: Joe Kubert

            Blitzkrieg was a unique idea in comics and a bold move for DC. It ran for five issues (from February 1976 until October 1976) and was a war anthology focused on the Nazi’s view of World War II. Some stories (such as the main story in this issue and in the first) – featured a soldier aghast at the atrocities of war amongst his more leering, villainous comrades. Other stories’ themes included evil Nazis getting their come-uppance, a common theme among DC’s horror books. The Nazis as a whole were never shown in a sympathetic light, although showing the humanity in individual soldiers was common.

            I hope Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert were proud of the series. They should be. In a few months these co-creators would team again for the equally excellent Ragman book.

            The series was cancelled with the next issue.

***

“The Tourists”, Robert Kanigher ( w ), Ric Estrada (a)

            Three Nazi soliders tour Paris. While riding a tour boat on the Seine, they are shot at and subdue a sniper. They shoot down another sniper pair on the Eiffel Tower – a young couple caught in the slow elevator. At a cafe near Notre Dame Cathedral they invite local ladies for a meal. The brother of one of the ladies shoots at them, killing even his own sister. They return fire and kill him. They visit the Louvre. While walking through the Jewish quarter and watching citizens being removed, a woman throws a grenade hidden in a loaf of bread. They give chase and she throws herself in front of an ongoing train rather than be captured (an image depicted on the cover). There are more assassins at the Arc de Triomphe are defeated, but not before they replace the Nazi flag with their French colors. Why do they take such risks with their lives for such foolhardy things, one of the trio asks. Franz, the thoughtful and bookish member of the trio, who is only interested in seeing the sights for likely the only time, says, “Perhaps we must convince them first … that they ARE defeated.”

***

The Souvenir” same creative team.

            The Afrika Korps’ Feldwebbel named Wasser (we never learn his first name) collects souvenirs from every battle to send to his wife. But the British on the road to Cairo have been slim pickings (a watch that has been burning in the sun for days, for example). His company raids a fort and he finds a framed picture of Churchill. Perfect! Not really: the picture is booby trapped and explodes. His comrades joke that he has collected his last souvenir.

***

Battle Album by Sam Glanzman gave us a brief history and overview of the Chance Vought Corsair during WWII and Korea.

 

 

Blitzkrieg Briefs: letters for issue #1 from Craig Kenner of Massillon, OH (positive, and gave the letter column its name); Cadet Captain Ruby S Nelson of Jacksonville, AL criticized anachronistic mistakes on weapons and uniforms; Drury Moore of Springfield, IL told us the German Army was quite democratic among their officers and enlisted while the US Army, who fought for our freedom, was strictly autocratic; and Thomas Edward Bigham of Matt, Mass said the magazine was fair-minded in its portrayal of the Nazis.

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #21: Secret Society of Supervillains #2

 

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.

Brave & Bold #128 – a Bicentennial team-up!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#19

The Brave and the Bold #128

B&B128

Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Jim Aparo

Editor: Murray Boltinoff

             I beg your pardon in advance for this crass hype, but I’ve already done the work on this one.

            All information 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.

 brave-and-bold-cover

            The Barnes and Noble link is here: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-brave-and-the-bold-michael-curry/1120872264?ean=2940046443011

            The Brave & the Bold ran for 200 issues from 1955 through 1983. During its run, the best writers and artists in the business introduced us to comic book icons, some of which are still published today: the Justice League of America, the Teen Titans, the Suicide Squad, the Outsiders, The Viking Prince, the Silent Knight, Metamorpho, Katanna, Nemesis, Wonder Girl/Donna Troy, the silver age reboot of Hawkman, the revival of Green Arrow (he changed costumes and grew his beard). Those were just the good guys. Starro, Amazo, Bork, Copperhead, Shadow Thief, Matter Master and the Manhawks also made their villainous debut in B&B.

            It began with swashbuckling features such as the Viking Prince, Silent Knight, the Golden Gladiator and Robin Hood. Five years later it changed to a Showcase-style try-out anthology featuring the Justice League of America, the Suicide Squad, Hawkman and others. Next came something new in comics – regular team-ups of characters throughout the DC Universe: war comics characters, established superheroes, even a meeting of the various youthful sidekicks from the superhero line. The aforementioned Teen Titans were one of their many successes.

            By the time of the Batman TV show any comic graced with the Caped Crusader on the cover outsold any other comic, Brave and Bold included. It wasn’t long before the dollar signs in front of the eyes of National Comics’ owners and editors helped them decide to keep Batman as the permanent star of the comic.

            As a third Batman title, it was criticized even then for being out of the regular Batman continuity. Regular writer Bob Haney wrote in his own continuity bubble – he was even jokingly given his own “alternate earth” where events of his comics happened; events that were mentioned nowhere else in DC’s comics. Bruce Wayne had a brief stint as a Senator. Wayne adopted many more wards than just Dick Grayson (most of them were either killed or sent to prison as criminals…). Wayne’s chief financial rival was the femme fatale Ruby Ryder – who continuously planned the demise of Wayne Enterprises! And she appeared no where else – only in the pages of B&B.

      By its Bicentennial issue the comic was coasting on its once vast popularity.  Quoting From Silent Knight to Dark Knight: “B&B still had good sales* and loyal readers from years past (the sales drop was proportionate to the industry as a whole), and the marvelous Aparo art was always spectacular, giving B&B its distinct look. … It wasn’t the best comic book in terms of sales, story and originality, but it was still good!” Before this point in its history, B&B was at the very top. But once you are at the top, there is only one place to go.

       This issue in some ways reflected that problem…

This is one of the few Bicentennial issues I owned when they were published.

***

Death by the Ounce, starring Batman and Mister Miracle, Bob Haney ( w ), Jim Aparo (a).

            The Shah of Karkan, the world’s richest ruler, is landing in Gotham (of all placed) to sign a peace treaty. Gotham’s finest and Batman scour the city for spies and assassins. While searching a condemned sports arena, Batman sees a body being dumped from the rafters. He is beaten by the shadowed killers, only to discover it is Big Barda and Oberon – the body being “dumped” was Mr. Miracle practicing an escape for his big comeback.

            Things get worse for Batman – his idea of smuggling the Shah in a laundry truck backfires and the Shah is kidnapped by someone called “Gigi”.

 b&b 128-2

(dig this beautiful Aparo art!)

            Via a tapped phone to the president, they fool the kidnappers into thinking they only have a decoy and the Shah is safe in his hotel room.

            Batman enlists the help of Mr. Miracle by besting him in an escape routine.

 b&b 128-3

            Batman, disguised as the Shah, is kidnapped in his bed and taken to an underwater derelict redesigned as a headquarters for Mr. Miracle baddie Apokolypsian Granny Goodness (G.G. – “Gigi” – get it?). She agreed to kidnap the Shah in exchange for one ounce of a youth-restoring potion created by a Dr. Kiev.

            Mr. Miracle, hiding all this time under the bed on which the Shah/Batman slept (the kidnappers lifted the bed through he skylight while the “Shah” slept) frees Batman and the real Shah. They escape and Mr. Miracle detonates left-over gun powder in the derelict ship – destroying Granny Goodness once and for all … yeah right…

 b&b 128-1

            The second of only three appearances by Mister Miracle, and the only issue of B&B that gave even a small nod to Kirby’s Fourth World with an appearance by Granny Goodness (a bit out of character and out of place here, I think) and a few mentions of Darkseid.

            Using Granny Goodness seemed an afterthought – something to link with Mr. Miracle. Any super villain could have been used. Any non-powered villain could have been used. Come to think of it, any guest star could probably have been used. Anybody can hide in a bed – you don’t have to be the World’s Greatest Escape Artist to stow away. The Marx Brothers could stow away.

            Now that would have made a fun comic…

            See what I mean by coasting?

 

Brave and Bold Mailbag (letter column): comments mainly on issue #125 and as always peppered with team-up suggestions, edited and answered by Jack C Harris. B&B’s letter columns read more like movie posters than actual letters – “Fantastic,” says Bob Rozakis of Elmont, NY; “Fair,” Keith Griffin of Mobile, Ala. writes; “Blows!” Michael Curry of St. Louis, MO shouts. This way the editors can mention twenty or more letter-writers in one issue.

            David A. Jones of Horse Cave, KY (positive)

            Jim Dever of Philadelphia, PA, Robert Gustive of Grand Island, Neb., “Hackman” of Santa Martia, CA and Joe Peluso (he contributed five total letters to the comic during its series) all ask for Aparo to draw Flash in his regular series.  I would add Aparo should draw EVERY DC series. JCH says Aparo’s schedule will nor permit it.

            Burt Fowler of Jacksonville, FL thinks Aparo’s Barry Allen looks too much like Aquaman…

Jim Planack of Poughkeepsie, NY, Scott Taylor of Portland, TX, Jerry Rosen of New York, NY, Thomas Russon of Mt. Kisco, NY and John Jesse of Hobart, IN are mentioned.

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #20: Blitzkrieg #4

 

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.

 

 

* 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