DC’s version of the Prince of Power!

Behold!

Bronze age

Hercules Unbound #1, November 1975

“Hercules Unbound!”

Cover: José Luis García-López, Editor: Joe Orlando

Writer: Gerry Conway; Penciler: José Luis García-López; Inker: Wally Wood

Hercules awakes four weeks after World War III. He broke free of his enchanted bonds to rescue a blind teenager, Kevin, and his dog Basil, who were being terrorized by an enraged sea creature.

Kevin tells Hercules about the nuclear devastation of Greece, the death of his brother and his and Basil’s escape in their family sloop. Hercules decides to accompany Kevin to Rome to find Kevin’s father.

Ares, meanwhile, looks upon the fighting in Rome and laughs. He then commands the military forces back into a hopeless battle.

Hercules and Kevin make it to Rome. Hercules recounts his capture and imprisonment by Ares in aulden days. They fight off minotaur-like demons and battle-crazed citizens. He spots Ares and challenges him to battle. Ares responds by siccing the red-hued Smasher on Herc. Kevin and Basil help Hercules defeat the monster that Ares created.

After the battle – Kevin recognized Smasher as his own father.

***

The letter column gives a brief origin to the classical Hercules and introduces us to Gerry Conway, Jose Luis Garcia Lopez and Wally Wood. It also hypes Claw the Unconquered #4 and Stalker #3.

***

An interesting beginning leaving many questions – which entices us to keep reading obviously… So far we see only a bit of Hercules’ famed strength and not much of his personality (by this time his Marvel doppelganger’s braggadocio is legend). Perhaps DC is avoiding the obvious comparison by pulling back the man-god’s traditional vanity. His shock at being in the modern world is non-existent – perhaps the post-apocalyptic world is more familiar to him.

The mystery of Kevin’s powers is canny for comics of the time (not meant as a criticism). He brings us the only real emotion of the comic – it’s only been a month since nukes flew and destroyed everything! Plus his brother was killed and he discovered his father was made into a nuclear monster! He MUST have great inner strength to handle this!

The art is fabulous – but even Lopez’ art is nearly swallowed by Wally Wood’s stylish inks. Regardless, every page is beautiful.

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

 

 

Shazam #25: Saturday Mornings on CBS

 

Shazam #25. October 1976.

Cover: Kurt Shaffenberger

Isis: “Isis … as in Crisis”

Writer: Denny O’Neil, Art: Dick Giordano, Editor: Julie Schwartz

An old school building is being demolished. Student Cindy Lee is trapped in the rubble as a huge chunk of wall is about to crush her! Andrea Thomas changes to Isis and magically saves her. Captain Marvel swoops down to introduce himself – he was going to save Cindy until Isis intervened. Cindy was tracking two suspicious characters when she became trapped.

We get a brief origin of Isis: while on an Egyptian expedition, Andrea finds a scroll and amulet once owned by Queen Hatshepsut –  the only female pharaoh. She is compelled to put on the amulet and read the scroll. “With this, you shall have the power of the goddess Isis…”. Andrea calls out the name “Isis” and transforms for the first time.

Cindy spots the crooks again – they were retrieving stolen gold coins they had buried on the demolition site. The crooks catch Cindy after a car chase. They put Cindy back in her car and send it careening down a cliff!

Isis rescues Cindy and captures the gold coin thieves.

***

Captain Marvel: “The Bicentennial Villain”

Story: E. Nelsen Bridwell, Art: Kurt Shaffenberger, Editor: Joe Orlando

Through a riddle, the old wizard Shazam warns Captain Marvel about great danger to the country: Listen for a laugh that can bring tears to millions!

Someone is sabotaging Billy’s documentary of young people’s contributions to history. He hears a sinister laugh aboard a sailing ship and runs afoul of Dr. Sivana! Sivana gags Billy and scuttles the ship. Billy works off the gag and says the magic word to turn into Captain Marvel. Marvel saves the ship from sinking, but Sivana gets away.

Sivana leaves a note saying he is going to destroy America city by city! How can Cap stop him when he (Billy Batson) has to work in New York? To be continued!

***

 Letters comment on Shazam #23 (by then a quarterly reprint) and explains the new direction of the comic including a change in editors.

***

logo

Thus began the DC-TV line of comics. It was published June 29, 1976, with a cover date October 1976. By June the show had been on for 22 months and was about to start its third season as the Shazam/Isis Hour with only six new Shazam episodes (in addition to repeating Season One’s 15 shows and Season Two’s 7 episodes).

The Captain Marvel tale is a lead-in to eventually change its format to more closely reflect the show. So far there is no big camper or mentor, but it is implied they are coming in the next issue.

The Isis story fits snugly into the television show style. She even gives us a “lesson” at the end of the story as per the TV show – seeking danger to impress someone is just as dangerous: “We should each do what we can as well as we can.”

Plus the art on both stories are wonderful. Shaffenberger has always been a favorite – clean, solid art and very accessible to the young reader.

Giordano’s art on Isis is beautiful – he really brings the characters to life.

The DC-TV imprint is off to a good start!

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

Metal Men #45, May 1976: Welcome Back!

Behold!

Bronze age

Metal Men #45, May 1976

“Evil is in the Eye of the Beholder”

Cover: Dick Giordano; Editor: Gerry Conway

Writer: Steve Skeates; Penciler/Inker/Colorist: Walt Simonson

The Metal Men tour the country’s colleges displaying their powers. This allows new readers some exposition as to who the Metal Men are. Doc Magnus, meanwhile, is held for mental examination after being rescued from Karnia.

To aid in his recuperation, the Feds allow Doc time and equipment to make another Metal Man. He creates Plutonium Man. PM escapes and leaves a trail of mayhem behind. A Karnian spy is exposed among Magnus’ keepers. Magnus and the surviving military hunt down Plutonium Man.

But the Metal Men get their first. Despite all their efforts, nothing works and member after member meet their doom … until Platinum wraps herself around Plutonium Man to cause a mini-China Syndrome, destroying them both.

Magnus, seemingly all better, vows to rebuild the Metal Men.

***

Metal Men’s history by this point is very strange, stranger than you expect from this group: even Gerry Conway admitted so in the letter column. And if the man who brought you Conway’s Corner’s stable of comic books thinks something is strange …

In brief: by 1968 the original Metal Men creative team moved on to other things and the new team made the Metal Men fugitives from justice and hunted by the law. The robots created secret human identities and fought supernatural enemies. Doc Magnus was kidnapped by the dictator of Karnia and brainwashed to evil and hatred as to his creations. The comic ended with a cliffhanger, of sorts, with #42, January 1970.

Three reprint issues in 1973 failed to gain traction. The magazine was revived again in 1976 with this issue.

Rather than start anew, this new creative team wrapped up the storyline from six years before. Perhaps they should have restarted the comic and pretend 1968 – 1970 never happened! If only because it gives the series an awkward grittiness.

But if this comics’ creators insist on grittiness, it picked the perfect team. Walt Simonson’s art (his first DC work since Manhunter) fits in perfectly. His workman-like style is instantly recognizable even at this “early on” stage. It fits well.

And Gerry Conway’s obvious love for the characters is evident. He does a Red Adair-like job of putting out the continuity fires and inevitable clean-up!

Welcome back, guys!

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

DC-TV: Saturday Morning comics…

DC-TV

When most people think of DC television … well … nothing pops into mind.

When most fans of DC comics think of DC television, their minds go to the live-action shows such as Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, Gotham, or the upcoming Black Lightning.

Some comics fans may think of excellent animated series like Batman: TAS, Batman Beyond and Justice League Unlimited.

house ad (October 1976)

But for some of us the phrase “DC-TV” takes us back to 1976 and 1977 and four comic books published by DC but put under a different banner (now we would call it an “imprint”): the DC-TV Series of comics!

Logo Superfriends

Superfriends originally aired in 1973 and 1974, lasting only one season. It was revived as a mid-season replacement in 1976 and one version or the other continue to air into the mid-1980s. The comic Superfriends (TV shows are italicized, comics underlined) was published starting November 1976 until August of 1981, lasting 47 issues. The Saturday morning cartoon still being popular, the comic used the DC-TV logo through its entire run.

Logo Shazam

Shazam (Captain Marvel) debuted in September 1974 for two seasons with a third as part of the Shazam/Isis Hour in late 1976 – coinciding with the DC/TV comic books debut. The comic book published its first DC issue in 1973 and was suspended in early 1976 – despite the still-popular TV show. It was revived as a DC-TV comic and lasted for 11 more issues (until June 1978), the last two issues without the DC-TV logo. The comic book lasted longer than the TV show, but to be fair it started before the show as well …

Logo Isis

Isis debuted in September 1975 and lasted for 2 years and 22 episodes. She was never actually given her own program, but linked with Captain Marvel in the Shazam/Isis Hour. Her comic lasted 8 issues until January 1978, lasting longer than the television show – athough the character appeared in animated form in other Filmation shows (such as Freedom Force in 1980).

Logo Kotter

Welcome Back Kotter also debuted in September 1975 and lasted until May of 1979. Its comic lasted ten issues until May 1978. An unpublished story and other features were printed in a tabloid-size special edition.

Rumors abound of negotiations of a MASH comic book. If true, it did not go far.

Shazam #25, with an October 1976 cover date, introduced us not only to Isis, but the DC-TV series. The other three comic books debuted in November 1976, but available on the newsstands (as per the house ad) June, July and August of 1976.

For only the second time in its history, National/DC changed its logo to accommodate this special series of comics. The first issues had a simple DC-TV logo attached to a console television showing us the star of the magazine. This was during their “cigar-band” logo period. When the publisher went back to the logo in the upper-left corner, it added a square-shaped “TV” to its circular starred “DC”.

I’ll review most of the DC-TV line-up in this blog. I’ll stop with Super Friends #13 (July 1978) when it became the last title of the line.

I hope you enjoy the blog series and I look forward to your comments.

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

Kobra #1: Kirby’s DC leftovers, but great pulpy fun!

Behold!

Bronze age

Kobra # 1, March 1976 (remember the cover date of comics is about three months ahead of the actual publication date, blah blah blah…)

“Fangs of the Kobra” written by Martin Pasko and Jack Kirby, art by Kirby and Pablo Marcus. Editor: Gerry Conway, Inkers: D. Bruce Berry and Pablo Marcos, Colorist: Carl Gafford, Letterer: Ben Oda

Cover by: Ernie Chua (Chan)

Synopsis: (why type it all out when someone else has done it for me?)

(the following paragraph courtesy of ReadComicsOnline):

Deep beneath the streets of Manhattan, assassin-for-hire, Horst Buchner, along with two associates, are ushered through secret tunnels, to keep a prearranged rendezvous with Kobra. At the first sign of insult, Buchner’s men draw on Kobra. Put off by Kobra’s arrogance, Buchner declines his offer of employment, deciding, instead, to rob Kobra of several intriguing artifacts. Still held at gunpoint, Kobra leads Buchner and his gunsels into another chamber, one that holds Kobra’s most unique artifact, the Ovoid. Within the confines of the still shimmering meteoroid, Kobra reveals an enormous alien robot, he calls the Servitor. At Kobra’s command, the Servitor steps forward, then murders Horst and his associates, pummeling them to death with its giant metal fists. Sensing that his brother, Jason Burr, is soon to learn of Kobra’s existence, and whereabouts, Kobra sends the Servitor up to the streets, on a mission to slay Burr. The Servitor leaves a swath of destruction in its path, as it makes its way to Columbia university. Despite opposition from New York’s finest, the Servitor moves inexorably to the student union building. Inside, Lieutenant Perez is interviewing Jason Burr. Just as Perez is about to reveal to Burr the existence and identity of his brother, the Servitor crashes through the wall. Lifting Burr up in one of its gargantuan hands, the Servitor, at Kobra’s command, begins crushing him. Suddenly, Kobra, too, feels the crushing force of the Servitor’s grip compressing his own chest. Realizing that he and Burr share a sympathetic bond, Kobra orders the Servitor to release him. The countermand causes the Servitor to self-destruct…

Jason meets Lt. Perez who tells Jason the secret origin of Kobra …

(from Wikipedia): (Kobra) “… was born part of a set of Siamese twins, but was stolen at birth by the Cult of the Kobra god, since a prophecy claimed he would lead them to rule the world. Under their teaching, he became a dangerous warrior and a sadistic criminal mastermind. He led the cult into using advanced technology to menace the world.  … However, unknown to the cult, he had a psychic link to his twin brother, Jason, who knew nothing of Kobra. As a result, one felt what the other felt, including pain. Because of this, his brother was recruited by an international agency to help them combat Kobra.”

Perez convinces Jason to injure himself (holding his hand over a candle flame. Kobra cannot stand the pain any further and confronts Jason for the first time). Perez and his men try to capture Kobra, who slithers through their trap. The police shoot at the terrorist. “No guns!” shouts Jason to no avail. Were they trying to kill Kobra? IF they do, he will be collateral damage! Kobra escapes unharmed …

***

(from Wikipedia):

(Kobra was) “… created by Jack Kirby for a proposed DC Comics series called King Kobra, the first issue of which was both written and drawn by Kirby (the letter column discussed Infantino and Kirby wanting to do a take on the Corsican Brothers). This first issue then sat in DC inventory for over a year, during which time Kirby left the publisher to return to Marvel Comics.  Eventually the concept was handed over to writer Martin Pasko with orders to make a series out of it. Pasko was unimpressed with King Kobra, feeling it to be a throwaway idea churned out by Kirby as he was preparing to leave DC, and tried to make the best of the assignment by whiting out all of Kirby’s original dialogue, rescripting the issue, and having Pablo Marcos redraw some of the art (and re-)titled simply Kobra. … Pasko later reflected, “I wrote all of Kobra with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek—it was a preposterous exercise dumped in my lap, and it helped pay the rent on a very nice place in the Village.”

Dumped? Even the letter column introducing the comic said the title was “thrown” into Conway’s Corner. It seemed no in at DC gave much of a damn about the comic.

Pasko was correct about this preposterous exercise, but THIS pre-teen loved every issue of it! I still have every issue of the original run. The comic is great fun straight from the pulps – not a caped crime-fighter in sight! It was akin to Dr. Yen Sin or the Mysterious Wu Fang.  DC did something it did not do often – it took a chance! An unknown villain in the lead and an unknown cast! Very shortly it would launch another villain-led comic: the beloved Secret Society of Super-Villains, firmly entrenched in the DC’s superhero world.

Kirby’s art by the mid-1970s was an acquired taste: exaggerated physiologies, gaping mouths, fingers the size of Snickers bars, women whose eyes were set below the center horizontal line of their faces, etc. Marcos did his best redrawing Jason and Perez, but the redo was glaring and obvious. I would have loved cringing at Kirby’s original dialogue, but Pasko did a fine rewrite with what he had (I kept expecting one of the Cobra Cult to say, in Kirby’s typical expositional shorthanded way, “We must obey!”).

Not an auspicious beginning to only the second DC title to headline a villain (The Joker was first by less than a year). Villains starring in comics was a rarity (and was to remain so for the next several years – nowadays it is somewhat common): the Golden Age had its Yellow Claw and the Sub-Mariner (who was more of an anti-hero than an outright villain). The Silver Age, with its Comics Code, was more cautious about villain-led features. Even the House of Ideas itself – Marvel in the Silver Age – only gave Doctor Doom the lead in an anthology without giving him his own title.

The comic got better in later issues … much better …

***

 About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

Adventure Comics #425: a new, less super direction…

Behold!

Bronze age

Adventure Comics #425. January 1973.

Joe Orlando: editor. Mike Kaluta: cover artist.

***

“The Wings of Jealous Gods”

Writer: Lynn Marron; Penciler/Inker/Letterer: Alex Toth

Rodeo showman Chad L. Hammond is in the Himalayas, where he hears rumors of “hawkhorses”. His guides say they are a myth, but he wants to hunt them anyway! In a snow-less grassy valley, he captures a foal and kills its winged mother. His guides accuse him of killing a sacred god and desert him.

While descending with the foal, he is attacked by pegusi, but managed to take the foal (now named “Cloud”) to the US and enters her into the racing circuit until its wings sprout. It wins, often, making Hammond a rich man.

Cloud’s wings begin to grow much to Hammond’s ire – he can’t race it if it has wings! He orders the wings removed. Cloud’s handler (who came with Hammond from the Himalayas) tries to stop Hammond but is killed for his concern over the sacred animal. Hammond sets the barn on fire – hiding the evidence of his murder.

After Cloud’s wings sprouted, Hammond rides the skies – only to be held hostage as Cloud joins the white Pegasus. They make it back to the sacred mountain and drop Hammond into a nest of hungry, sharp-toothed foals!

***

“Prior Warning” Writer: unknown. Penciler/Inker/Letterer: Frank Redondo

Aliens come to earth claiming to be peaceful. They think they are tricking the earthlings and actually plan to attack. But earth attacks them first and drive them off! The aliens have no idea what made the earthlings know they were, in fact, aggressors. Maybe the fact they dressed like Nazis and their leader is a dead ringer for Hitler!

***

“Sword of the Dead” Writer/ Penciler/Inker/Letterer: Gil Kane

Evlig, the renegade knight, slaughters a woman and her children, not knowing it was the family of John the Gaunt, retired champion of the kingdom. John comes out of retirement to hunt down the killer and both fight to the death … and beyond!

***

“Captain Fear”

Writer: Robert Kanigher; Penciler/Inker/Letterer: Alex Nino

A native Carib tribe in Haiti are attacked by Spaniards in search of slaves. Fero, the son of the chief, and others are captured and put to work in the mines. They revolt and escape in a Spanish ship; only to have the ship destroyed in a storm.

Rescued by other pirates, Fero fights for the command of the ship and kills the Asian captain. He renames himself Captain Fear – for that is what he will put in the hearts of every white devil he will meet! This he vows to the cheers of his bloodthirsty crew!

***

In a short letter column Joe Orlando explains the change in the magazine’s format from Supergirl to high adventure: fantasy, science fiction, mystery and/or horror!

***

Until its first cancellation in 1982, Adventure Comics was the oldest continually running comic book on the stands (back when there were stands…). Its first issue was called New Comics dated December 1935 by someone calling themselves National Allied Publications. It changed its title with issue #12 (January 1937) to New Adventure Comics. The “New” was removed in November 1938 and remained that way until its cancellation (although during the Spectre’s run in the early 1970s it was called Weird Adventure Comics, to cash in on the horror trend: Weird Mystery, Weird War, Weird Western, etc.

With its change to New Adventure Comics, it changed formats from humorous stories to action/adventure tales – some stories were written and drawn by future-Superman creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Seigel.

At the dawn of the superhero age Adventure dove right in with the debut of the Sandman with issue #40, Hourman (#48, March 1940), Starman (#61, April, 1941) and Simon & Kirby’s Manhunter (#73, April 1942).

When More Fun Comics changed formats to humor stories, its characters moved to Adventure, including Superboy, as of issue #103 (April 1946).

Issue #247 (April 1958) the Legion of Superheroes debuted. They eventually shared billing with Superboy during their classic run.

They were replaced by a solo Supergirl lead as of issue #381 (June 1969). She starred in the comic until #424 (October 1972). The letter column of her last issue explains she will get her own book but says the editors do not yet know the next issue’s new format. It only says to be back for a “new line-up of fantastic features!”

With #425 Adventure went back 35 years to focus on … well … adventures! Why? A search of the internet does not say specifically, but I can guess. At this point both DC and Marvel were making good money with their non-superhero lines – horror comics weren’t outselling Superman, but by gum the sales figures weren’t bad! With the Legion safely ensconced in Superboy and the Maid of Steel getting her own magazine, maybe it was time to add another non-superhero anthology … perhaps a repository for some not-quite-horror-themed tales …

(For more on Adventure Comics history AFTER issue #425, click here … or watch this blog for future issues!)

***

Captain Fear is the only feature of this short-lived era of Adventure with any legs. He had back-up stories in later issues of Adventure and in the Unknown Soldier.  He is given pages in Who’s Who and the History of the DC Universe.

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!