Mr Miracle #19; September 1977

Behold!

Bronze age

Jack Kirby leaving Marvel for DC is held by some (myself included) as the beginning of the Bronze Age. It is arguable, and some of the other dates and events have merit, but everyone agrees Kirby’s work at DC left an impact felt to this day (as was obviously his work at Marvel).

His creations in the early Bronze Age will battle the Justice League in their upcoming movie.

Kirby started the Fourth World mythos with the New Gods, Forever People, (taking over) Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen and Mister Miracle. Mister Miracle was the last surviving Fourth World book by the time of its cancellation in 1974 after 18 issues (Kirby left Jimmy Olsen some time before). By 1977 it was time to revive the super-escape artist with one of the best writers and one of the best artists of this or any age!

I won’t review the Fourth World books in this blog – it’s been done by others (and far better than I) and those reviews are easy to find online. Besides, I tend more toward the second (or third or lower) tier of comic books of the 1970s. By third tier I mean in terms of popularity and sales, certainly NOT quality!

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MrM house ad

Mister Miracle #19.  September 1977

Cover: Marshal Rogers, Managing Editor: Joe Orlando, Editor: Denny O’Neil

“It’s All in the Mine”

Writer: Steve Englehart, Penciler: Marshall Rogers

Inkers: Marshall Rogers & Ilya Hunch (alias Crusty Bunkers: Dick Giordano, Mike Nasser, Al Milgrom, Jack Abel, Alan Weiss, Joe Brozowski, Terry Austin, Neal Adams).

Per DC Wikia:  When Marshall Rogers realized that he was running out of time on the issue, he enlisted the aid of his friends, and assigned each of them a character in the story: Mister Miracle by Rogers, Barda by Giordano, Granny Goodness by Mike Nasser, Kanto by Milgrom, Highfather by Abel, Oberon by Al Weiss, Bedlam by Brozowski, Vermin Vundabar by Austin, and Mister Miracle’s eyes on page 1 by Neal Adams.

Colorist: Liz Berube, Letterer: Morris Waldinger

Per DC Wikia:

Granny Goodness and three of Mister Miracle’s other foes (Dr. Bedlam, Kanto and Vermin Vundabar) kidnap Big Barda from New Genesis, forcing Scott Free to become Mr. Miracle again. To rescue his new wife, he returns to Earth and reunites with Oberon, and the two go after Granny. She forces Scott to enter a deathtrap without his Mother Box, but when he escapes, he finds that his foes have left, and still have Barda with them. He deduces that they are now on the moon and he plans to follow them… continued next issue.

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The letter column gives a brief history of the magazine and waxes philosophically on … escaping. It asks for letters and hypes upcoming DC comics.

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This series is superb and never got the sales it deserved. Englehart and Rogers make a wonderful team – at this time they were also doing their six-issue legendary run on Detective Comics (the run that included the Joker Fish). The story is intriguing for this first issue – picking up where the last issue left off years before with Free’s and Big Barda’s honeymoon on New Genesis.

Marshall’s art is as wonderful as always – the characters look so real you think you are looking at a photograph. Barda never looked so beautiful. Not even the pencils and inks of Crusty Bunkers could hide his style!

An excellent start. This series will last for years!

Won’t it?

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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!

 

 

 

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RIP Len Wein, co-creator of Wolverine and Swamp Thing

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Len Wein, the award-winning writer and editor, perhaps best known for co-creating Swamp Thing for DC Comics and Wolverine for Marvel Comics, along with editing Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, passed away Sunday, according to multiple industry reports including word of the news from fellow comics veteran Paul Kupperberg. He was 69 years old.

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Wein got his start in comics in 1968 working on DC’s Teen Titans #18. His first Marvel work came in Daredevil #71 in 1970. From there, he continued writing anthology stories for both publishers, along with guest-spots on such titles as Superman and The Flash.

Together with Bernie Wrightson, they created the supernatural superhero Swamp Thing in 1971’s The House of Secrets #92. Swamp Thing would go on to star in various ongoing and miniseries that continue to this day. Wein also contributed to the Man-Thing mythos over at Marvel by introducing the concept of “Whoever Knows Fear Burns at the Man-Thing’s Touch.”

During Wein’s tenure at Marvel, he teamed with artists John Romita Sr. and Herb Trimpe to create Wolverine in The Incredible Hulk #180. In 1975, Wolverine would appear as a member of a revamped X-Men team in Giant-Size X-Men #1, penned by Wein and illustrated by Dave Cockrum. The new lineup that included classic characters like Storm, Nightcrawler, and Colossus would become mainstays across multiple X-Men lineups and volumes.

Wein returned to DC in the late 1970s as a writer and editor, where as the former he created Batman supporting cast member Lucius Fox, and contributed to a rare DC/Marvel crossover in DC Special Series #27. His work as an editor included runs on New Teen Titans, Batman and the Outsiders, and All-Star Squadron, and the aforementioned Watchmen.

Word of Wein’s passing began to spread across social media, with writer Brian Michael Bendis thanking the creator for his work on the X-Men and Swamp Thing. “Len Wein, co-creator of WOLVERINE and SWAMP THING & more responsible for the x-men you love than he gets credit for. Thank you.”

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Taken from various news sources. Condolences to his family and friends. We have lost a giant.

With Super Friends Like These …

Super Friends #1.  November 1976.

Cover by Ernie Chan & Vince Colletta; Editor: Joe Orlando

“The Fury of the Super Foes”

Writer: E. Nelson Bridwell, Penciler: Ric Estrada, Inkers: Joe Orlando & Vince Colletta

Colorist: Jerry Serpe

Robin finishes Marvin’s training for the day just as the other Super Friends enter the Hall of Justice. The Troublalert tells them villains are attacking the three locations of Project SR – a robot designed to end war! The Super Friends divide into teams of three – Holy Gardner Fox! – to fight off the villains!

Superman goes to Hudson University (joining Robin, who is a student there) to fight the Toyman and Poison Ivy who are trying to steal the robot’s artificial brain.

Aquaman goes to the underwater lab where scientists are working on the robot’s indestructible steel for its body. His “old foe” the Human Flying Fish attacks the lab.

Batman and Wonder Woman (with Wendy, Marvin and Wonder Dog in tow) go to Gotham City to prevent the Penguin and the Cheetah from stealing the robot’s solar-powered battery.

In each case, the heroes almost get the better of the bad guys, until the villains youthful sidekicks appear!

Honeysuckle ensnares Robin; Toyboy distracts Superman; Sardine squirts squid ink to blind Aquaman; and Chick and Kitten sidetrack Batman and Wonder Woman to allow the villains to escape!

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Wendy, Marvin and Wonder Dog do manage to catch Chick and Kitten and take them to the Hall of Justice. The Super Foes’ sidekicks are impressed and think they might be on the wrong side. As the tour continues, Chick sends a secret message to the Penguin – they are in the Hall of Justice, just as planned!

Wonder Dog overheard Chick’s betrayal, but how can he tell Marvin & Wendy of Chick’s betrayal?

To Be Continued…

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The letter page explains briefly why there has been no Super Friends comic up until now and a brief, and convoluted, origin of Wendy and Marvin and their connection to Batman and Wonder Woman: Wendy is the daughter of the man who taught Bruce Wayne detective skills and Marvin is the son of the original Diana Prince – the nurse who allowed Princess Diana to assume her identity [cough Lamont Cranston/Kent Allard cough}.

***

There was (and still is) a lot of debate about whether the events of this comic were “out-of-continuity” with the rest of DC or not. I doubt the intended readers of this comic cared.

It was aimed at younger readers; fans of the TV show. Taken that way, it was a fun first effort. The story was direct without being simple and the art clean and clear without being juvenile. Older and more cynical readers will roll their eyes at this issue, but let their eyes roll. They aren’t the target audience. They never were.

And they still aren’t!

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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!

Oooo! Ooo-ooo! Oooo! Welcome Back Kotter #1

 

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Welcome Back Kotter #1. November 1976.

Cover: Bob Oksner. Editor: Joe Orlando

“So Long, Kotter!”

Writer: Elliot S. Maggin, Penciler: Jack Sparling, Inker: Bob Oksner

Kotter’s kitchen ceiling starts to collapse when the building next door gets demolished. Putting up with the drunken superintendent/janitor almost makes him late for school. Kotter literally runs into the mailman downstairs. Among the letters flying through the air into Kotter’s hands is one from the City Board of Education approving his transfer to a better school.

The Sweathogs notice Kottter is in a strange mood and see him poring over the letter. When they find out he has scheduled a physical (required for the transfer), they assume he is sick. The TV show would have milked this for the bulk of the show, but Kotter and Vice-Principal Woodman tell the Sweathogs that Kotter is leaving them – to allow his wife to live someplace safer.

The Sweathogs help Mrs. Kotter clean the apartment and shop for groceries to convince her to be happy where she is. She realizes what the students are trying to do and comes up with a better plan. She calls Mr. Pevey, the Social Studies teacher when Kotter was one of the original Sweathogs.

They meet and reminisce. That and Epstein’s practical joke convinces Kotter to stay. He tears up the letter.

***

The text page asks for letters from the readers giving their “ratings” of the comic and contains a biography of Gabe Kaplan.

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Humor very much reflects the show – you can hear Gabe Kaplan’s voice delivering his Groucho-like Kotter lines.

The art was spot on – all the characters looked like the actors that portrayed them.

Much like the show it began and ended in Kotter’s kitchen. The last panel even had the lyrics to the song played over the closing credits. Truly a DC-TV comic.

house ad Kotter and Superfriends

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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!

 

Oh Mighty Isis #1: DC-TV

Isis #1. November 1976.
Cover by: Kurt Schaffenberger
“Scarab – the Man Who Would Destroy!”
Story/Editor: Denny O’Neil; Art: Ric Estrada and Wally Wood

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From DC Wikia:
An ancient Egyptian pyramid is being erected in the town square, as Andrea, Cindy, Rick and Doctor Joshua Barnes, the High School Principal, watch. From the pyramid emerges Scarab, an evil sorcerer who was imprisoned inside. As he uses his magic to capture the others, Andrea transforms herself into The Mighty Isis and saves her friends. Scarab then attacks Isis with a lightning bolt and she deflects it with one of her spells. Scarab takes to the air to get away and Isis follows him. To distract her, Scarab causes an airplane to disintegrate while airborne and Isis has to rescue the passengers. Scarab gets away and Isis returns to the high school to become Andrea.
She is met by Cindy, who asks Andrea about the time she helped in finding a pyramid. Andrea’s mind then wanders back to the time she found the amulet that gave her the powers of Isis. As Andrea looks through magic books to find a way to defeat Scarab, he roams the streets. He uses his telepathy to locate Isis but finds Andrea instead. He uses her to set a trap for Isis by creating a magic aura around her that destroys anyone with magical powers. He sets fire to Andrea’s house, then flies to the White House to capture the President. Meanwhile, Andrea’s pet bird, a crow named Tut, unties the gag in her mouth. Andrea quickly says, “Mighty Isis!” As she is transformed into the Goddess, the aura that surrounded her is destroyed instantly. She commands the fire to go out, then takes to the sky to go after Scarab. On the way to the White House, Isis uses her powers to transport the pyramid to the White House grounds. She creates oak trees to camouflage it. Isis challenges Scarab to face her. As Scarab attacks Isis, she lowers the pyramid and traps him inside. Afterward, Andrea explains to her friends that when Scarab was forced to reenter the pyramid, he would be imprisoned there forever.

***

The text page provides a brief history of the goddess.

***

This comic was on the shelves in July 1976. By this time the TV show Isis was completed her first season. In September, season two, comprising seven new shows, would debut.
A great beginning. The art is wonderful – Wally Wood’s inks dominates Estradas’ pencils – who is himself a great artist – with a very clean and (otherwise) identifiable style.
The story was NOT aimed at children. Adult comic book fans would find the story and art enjoyable, too. Like the TV show, there was a lesson, of sorts, at the end; but it was in the context of character conversation as opposed to Isis speaking directly into the screen (as was done in her first appearance in Shazam #25).
Isis’ incantations are wordy, but never annoying (compared to, say, Zatanna, where one needs a pocket mirror to read her spells). At one point in their battle Scarab calls her “noisome”, which means smelly, not noisy.
I’d bet she smells nice … more flowery and earthy than perfume-y … I don’t know why …

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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’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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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!

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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!