Super Friends #5, June, 1977

“Telethon Treachery”

Cover: Ramona Fradon and Bob Smith

Writer: E. Nelson Bridwell, Penciler: Ramona Fradon

Inker: Bob Smith, Colorist: Jerry Serpe

Editor: Dennis O’Neil, Executive Editor: Joe Orlando

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From the Superfriends Wiki (snarky comments are edited out):

Greenback chooses to begin his crime spree during the third annual, Justice League ‘Super-Thon’ in Midtown Metropolis that is hosted by the SuperFriends and their teenage sidekicks Wendy and Marvin.

His plan involves two components, both of which hinge on the superheroes hanging around the TV studio making oblique references to other superheroes (For example: Harvey’s old Black Cat, Siegel and Shuster’s Funnyman and even Iron Man, among others, get either a shout-out or a brief appearance). The first part of Greenback’s pan hinges on the hope that the superheroes will be too busy answering the phone to fight crime. The second part of his plan is to kidnap all the richest donors who call into the telethon.

Greenback waits for the names of the biggest donors to be mentioned on the air. The first are from New York, which he disregards as too far away and waits for donors from Metropolis or Gotham City.

When he finally abducts his first wealthy guy, it’s Bruce Wayne, so that’s bad luck for Greenback. One by one the Super Friends pursue the abducted Batman, eventually leaving only Wonder Woman and Superman on the phones.

In the Batmobile, Aquaman & Robin, Wendy, Marvin and Wonder Dog follow Bruce’s signal device but are downed by Greenback’s gun and captured. Wendy sends a message to Superman and Wonder Woman via Wonder Dog (who was hiding under the Batmobile when the others were caught! WW rescues the other Super Friends as Superman rescues Bruce Wayne.

Wayne switches to Batman and captures Greenback. Back at the telethon, our heroes celebrate a record-breaking total!

***

Much is made over the guest stars and donations made during the telethon – including $75,000.00 to the Heart Fund by Anthony Stark (Marvel’s Iron Man).

***

The letter column reviews continue to go from loving it to hating it. It is announced that Wendy, Marvin and Wonder Dog will leave as of issue #7, to be replaced … but they don’t mention by whom. I Wonder …

In the meantime, the letter column says the Atom will guest-star next issue!

***

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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Seven Soldiers of Victory, part 4: the Star-Spangled Kid & Stripesy!

Adventure Comics #441, October 1975

The back-up feature is an unpublished saga of the Seven Soldiers of Victory – written in the Golden Age but never rendered and completed until 1975.

Adventure 441 splashPart Five: The Star Spangled Kid and Stripesy

“Dead End Animals!”

Writer: Joseph Samachson, Penciler/Inker: Ernie Chua (Chan), Colorist: Carl Gafford

Editor: Joe Orland

The Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy drop (literally) into the Land of Magic. Hearing a fight in a nearby club, they see animals in human clothing walking, talking and fighting! The animals – dressed and speaking as a juvenile gang, attack and subdue SSK & Stripesy.

They awake tied to a chair, and trick their rat guard in leaving so their friend, a lion, can untie them. The chair walks away – even the furniture act human!

Star Spangled Kid plants a torch and matches in the pouch of a kangaroo and then sets fire to the club. The furniture evacuate the building and spot the planted evidence. The furniture and the animal gangs fight it out.

The furniture win the battle and make the animals vow to be good or else. To thank our heroes for helping reform the Dead-End Animals, the lion asks his friend the whale to give SSK and Stripesy a lift back to earth.

***

This stuff is just getting weirder and weirder …

The “Dead End Animals” are based on the Dead-End Kids, later morphing into the “Bowery Boys”, stars of dozens of comedies. Ironically, the Bowery Boys were never made into a comic book (at least not in my searching!); odd – Huntz Hall and Leo Gorcey would have fit in perfectly in a 1950’s DC/TV humor comic (ala Sgt Bilko, Jackie Gleason, etc.)

***

The letter column contains two positive reviews of the then-debuting SSOV storyline. I got this issue off the stands, being a big Aquaman fan even then.  I had not heard of the Seven Soldiers at the time and this weird back story picqued my interest. It took me many decades to gather up all these issues!

***

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!

Super Friends #3, February, 1977

“The Cosmic Hit Man?”

Cover: Ramona Fradon and Bob Smith

Writer: E. Nelson Bridwell, Penciler: Ramona Fradon, Inker: Bob Smith

Editor: Dennis O’Neil, Executive Editor: Joe Orlando

As two separate teams, the Super Friends defeat Spectrum and Anti-Man while Wendy and Marvin safely watch from the sidelines. But after their defeat, the villains disappear.

They were captured by Dr. Ihdrom along with a hundred other intergalactic villains. He atomizes all the villains and coalesces them into one being: the World Beater!

World Beater quickly dispatches the Justice League and then appears in the Hall of Justice to battle the Super-Friends. Wonder Woman whisks Wendy, Marvin and Wonder Dog and tells them of her mother’s prophecy (from last issue) that they are earth’s only hope!

World Beater defeats the Super-Friends with ease (we the readers learn that Dr. Ihdrom has been captured and jailed for his murderous crimes) leaving only Wendy, Marvin & Wonderdog.

They come up with a cunning plan: they assume if he has all the super-villains powers, perhaps he also has their weaknesses. They trick World Beater into using Spectrum’s x-ray powers (Anti-Man’s weakness – that is how Superman defeated him in the earlier pages of the story). World Beater is weakened and passes out.

Wendy and Marvin revive the Super-Friends and the Justice Leaguers and receive their thanks.

***

The letter column explains why these five heroes were given the job of training their young recruits: through some inventive reimagining of their origins, it is explained that Superman, Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman and Aquaman were all trained to be superheroes in their youths. Thus, having been trained as children, they know how to train children.

Ah, yes.

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***

The story here is still oriented to the younger audience, but still keeps a cosmic scale to it. Plus it guests most of the Justice League, whetting the appetites of the young TV-show fans who picked up the comic to read the adventures of other DC stars!

Ramono Fradon’s art is pitch-perfect for this comic. Her style is easy on the eyes and accessible to young fans who might be overwhelmed by … say … Mike Grell if he did the book. She would have been my pick for the book, too. And Kurt Schaffenberger…

***

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!

 

Super Friends #2. January, 1977.

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“Trapped by the Super-Foes”

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

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

A recap of the previous issue leads into Wonder Dog playing charades to warn Wendy and Marvin about Chick’s radio transmitter in his umbrella. Too late! The Super Foes invade the Hall of Justice and capture Wendy and Marvin. Wonder Dog escapes with Cheetah chasing after him.

He avoids Cheetah by running through a dog show (the entrants quickly start chasing Cheetah) and Wonder Dog re-enters the Hall of Justice secretly and uses the transporter to materialize up to the Justice League Satellite headquarters. The on-duty Flash beams up the Super Friends (and Krypto to translate) and they learn of Wendy and Marvin’s plight!

Penguin uses floating umbrellas to lift Wendy and Marvin in to the sky. Toyman uses toy hummingbirds to attack the balloons. Toyboy and Kitten worry – they do not want to take part in murder!

Fortunately, a batarang, heat vision and a golden lasso smash the mechanical birds just in time: the Super Friends save the day!

But it was all a distraction: during the rescue, the Super Foes stole all the parts to the Super Robot. Emergencies across the globe leave only Batman and Robin to track own the stolen robot parts.

The Junior Super Foes capture Batman and Robin. Penguins orders the Juniors to kill off the dynamic duo. The Juniors refuse. Just as Penguin is about the pull the trigger himself, he is knocked out by Marvin – he and Wendy snuck aboard the Batmobile in the best Spritle and Chim Chim fashion!

Wendy and Marvin convince the Juniors to help them catch the Super Foes, but Penguin activates the Super Robot to stop them all!

Superman swoops in and is nearly crushed by the robot, but finally defeats it with his mightiest blow. The Super Foes are captured, and our heroes promise to put in a good word for the Juniors.

Afterward, Queen Hippolyta the Amazonian mother of Wonder Woman looks into the Magic Sphere – the earth faces destruction unless it can be saved by three heroes: a girl, a boy and a dog (no, not Trixie, Spritle and Chim Chim)!

***

The letter page give brief origins for each of the Super Foes and hypes the next issue.

***

The story was again aimed at younger readers and the fans of the TV show – although with more violence (punches thrown, etc.). The art was not cartoonish – although the Juniors had wide eyes and Wonder Dog was drawn in a typical cross-eyed cartoon animal way.

Estrada and Colletta did a good and serious job.

***

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!

A disjointed review of Justice League …

Only in America can a movie that has made over 200 billion dollars in profit be considered a box-office bomb.

I liked Justice League.

I didn’t love it with giddy glee nor did I hate it so much I demanded of God my 2+ hours back. But I liked it. I might even get the DVD when it comes out.

I saw it over this past weekend (as usual several weeks since it was released) after most of the professional and fanboy reviews were in.

I struggled for some days with this review – I just couldn’t put my finger on what I liked and disliked about it. I think that is because the movie couldn’t decide what it was either.

Justice League suffered from bearing the burden of being both a capstone and a touchstone.

A capstone: the finale of the first phase of the DC Cinematic Universe (DCCU) – giving us a conclusion to all that came before it. On that level, it worked: it reconciled the cliffhangers from Batman vs Superman: Superman’s death, Wonder Woman’s place in the DCCU, etc.

And to compare Justice League with the original Avengers movie is an unfair as it is inevitable: Avengers was the capstone of Marvel’s cinematic universe, but did so in a thrilling way – fans (and even non-fans – therein lies the key) were excited by a fun plot with fun characters.

The DCCU has hardly been fun.

Expectations were low for the movie – most assuming it would be the usual fest of ultra-violence and brooding sociopaths with no redemption or hope. A typical Zach Snyder film. (He left the movie after the suicide of his daughter – something that is unimaginable and my deepest sympathies and condolences go to him and his family. I can’t imagine his sadness and am very sorry for his loss. But his movies are still shit.).

Then Joss Whedon “took over” and word spread the tone was lightened and (gasp) bits of humor were injected. By this time Batman vs Superman made only the darkest basement-dwellers look forward to Justice League; while Wonder Woman gave the rest of us comic book fans cautious optimism.

DC’s capstone was satisfying, but only just. There is no avoiding the feeling that DC is struggling in Marvel’s shadow and is constantly in a state of catching up (which it has with rare exception since the 1960s).

Familiar and “new” heroes get together and fight off an alien menace. Sound familiar?

“Yes, but it’s Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman! People will flock to see it!”

Fans will, to be sure. But the rest of us? Are you willing to risk $300 million on that?

It had its great moments: the only shining point of the big battle amongst our heroes was watching Superman’s eye follow the Flash as he approached and the ensuing superspeed slugfest. You just have to see it to understand what that is going on, I won’t spoil it. We know exactly what is going through Flash’s mind at that moment. “Oh shit” was left unspoken and hardly touches how Flash must have felt.

And kudos to the secondary cast – particular Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, JK Simmons as Commissioner Gordon and Jeremy Irons (stealing ever scene) as Alfred.

***

Justice League is also the touchstone of the future DCCU. From here would spring an Aquaman movie, a Flash movie, and a more-in-tune-DCCU-Batman and Superman franchise reboot.

Herein lies the problem – DC is again copying Marvel with Avengers Age of Ulton. It was also a lynchpin, but it spent too much time being a lynchpin and forgot it was supposed to be an enjoyable movie.

Admirably, Justice League avoided some of the problems with Age of Ultron. Time and background was given to the newbies: Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg. But was it enough to make us anticipate their movies? With the large scope of the movie, it may have gotten lost. As with the comics, the stories of the smaller characters are lost compared to the big three. Still, Justice League showed us as much of Aquaman and Flash as Civil War did of Spider-Man, which lead to Homecoming; a success

Another problem with the Flash is the parallel with the excellent handling of the CW Flash. My very first thought when I saw the trailer introducing the Speedster was, “Why not Grant Gustin?” Leave it to DC: not only are they plagued by their failures, but also their successes.

(and by the way, the DCCU is the Spock-with-a-beard universe compared to DC-CW. Gustin’s Flash – even another actor with a comparable personality – would have been an ill-fit. To his credit, Ezra Miller did a great job – he’d have made a great Peter Parker.)

Justice League had other good moments. Batman giving Flash advice: save one person at a time. I wish the movie would have continued with the theme: Flash’s rescue of the Russian family should have reminded us of that.

There’s more: some of the humor was well-placed and in character (a problem that notably plagued Thor: Ragnarok). The only real awkward/ill-placed bit of funny was in the aforesaid rescue of the Russian family. Anyone who knows the name Dostoyevsky probably knows it is not Russian for “Goodbye”.

But DC is not really known for their comedy.  Over the past few decades, they’re not really known for their comic books either…

A disjointed and mixed review for a disjointed and mixed movie. I’d like to discuss it further, would you?

Copyright 2017 Michael Curry

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!

Superfoes

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…

house ad Kotter and Superfriends

***

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!

***

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 #446: Aquaman and the Creeper!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#31

Adventure Comics #446

Adventure_Comics_Vol_1_446

Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist: Jim Aparo

Editor: Joe Orlando

            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, as part of the Weird line: Weird Mystery, Weird War, Weird Western, etc. Weird). Some New Adventure Comics are available for viewing at the online library Comic Books Plus.

            It went from a comic of humorous stories to action/adventure tales during this time – some stories were written and drawn by eventual-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).  In 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 comic switched back to its adventure roots for the next few issues (Captain Fear debuted) before Black Orchid debuted in #428 (August 1973).

            With issue #431 (February 1974), the Spectre began his iconic run of stories by Michael Fleisher/Jim Aparo that were more in the supernatural setting than the superhero one.

            Aquaman (a back-up feature for a time – with Mike Grell’s first DC work – although published after he took over the Legion’s art from Dave Cockrum) took over as the main feature as of issue #441 (October 1975).  This is where our Bicentennial issue comes in…

            During this run the readers were treated to some fantastic back-up features; including the aforementioned return of Aquaman and a “lost” story of the Seven Soldiers of Victory.

            Superboy returned home as of issue #453 (October 1977) until the comic reverted to its anthology roots by becoming a Dollar Comic as of issue #459 (October 1978) and featuring, in various issues, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Deadman, Elongated Man and Aquaman. This lasted for seven issues. As a Dollar Comic, Adventure became a bit of a repository to wrap up story arcs from cancelled comics: the New Gods and the Justice Society of America completed their storylines (most notably the JSA tale featured the death of the Earth-2 Batman, a critical moment in the creation of the Huntress).

            With the new decade Adventure returned to standard size as of issue #457 (January 1980) with a new version of Starman debuting, sharing the bill with Plastic Man (and eventually a three-way bill with the returning Aquaman) through issue #478. Issue #479 (March 1981) featured a rebooted Dial H for Hero, where two normal people turned into fan-created superheroes, until #490 (February 1982).

            The title was revived in September 1982 as a digest-sized comic featuring new tales of Shazam and Challengers of the Unknown. It was mainly a reprint series for the Legion of Superheroes. Those reprints eventually took over the book until its final cancellation as of issue 503 (September 1983).

            Adventure Comics was revived a few more times and in September 2010 was brought back with new numbering through twelve issues, but then resuming the older numbering with #516 (503 + twelve new issues, you see) again as a Legion vehicle until finally put to rest as of issue #529 (October 2011).

***

            This is the only comic of the Bicentennial line that recognizes the Bicentennial on the cover other than the top header. Aquaman, king of a foreign state, is happily waving the Stars and Stripes on the left side of the cover. Atlantis honoring our birthday! Of course, he IS half-American on his father’s side. Was he the first comic book anchor baby? 😉

The Manta-Ray Means Murder”, Paul Levitz/Marty Pasko ( w ), Jim Aparo (a)

 Adventure 466-2

            The splash page shows Topo the octopus strangling Arthur Jr., but the dumb brute was only rescuing the baby – who was crawling to the exit. Robin calls the Sea King to report he has not been able to find Aqualad. Aquaman tells Robin of recent events – his being deposed and banished from Atlantis – and tells Robin to warn Aqualad when found to avoid the undersea kingdom lest he be shot on sight!

 adventure 466-3

            Meanwhile, Aqualad and Tula (Aquagirl) are on a gambling boat in Louisiana to stop a diamond-smuggling ring. Aqualad fights off the smugglers but if finally knocked out. He is revived to discover the ringleader is Black Manta! Manta catches Tula eavesdropping and, not knowing who she is, ties her up and throws her into the sea to her supposed death!

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            Interlude: while Aquaman is away, his successor Karshon, plots an assault on Mera and Arthur Jr.

            Aquaman finds Tula and unties her. They raid the gambling boat, rescue Aqualad and beat Manta to a pulp. Black Manta ducks out and escapes, even fighting off a giant squid holding his manta-ship. On board, Aquaman discovers a cache of underwater laser rifles – the kind used by his successor Karshon. Manta was not only smuggling diamonds, but running guns to Atlantis!

            This story was reprinted in the trade paperback Death of a Prince, 2011.

***

Mind Over Murder”, Martin Pasko ( w ), Ric Estrada and Joe Staton (a). Part two of three.

 creeper

            A solo Creeper tale. He first appeared in 1968 in Showcase #73 and in his own comic for a time. He was a creation of Steve Ditko and the art here is reminiscent of his style.

            At the Humbolt Institute for the physically handicapped, the Creeper saved Dr. Joanne Russell from a brutal assault from a giant plastic monster that had already killed one therapist. The four policemen charge into the room and train their guns on our hero – thinking him responsible! The Creeper fights off the police.

            Creeper remembers the plastic killer – he saw it during an interview with Dr. Vernon Maddox in his secret identity as TV reporter Jack Ryder. Maddox could control a mannequin with his telekinetic power.

            As Ryder visits Russell, a sleeping Maddox subconsciously activates the killer mannequin. Russell tells the Creeper that she and Maddox are rivals competing for the same grant money, but is that reason enough to kill her? While they talk, the mannequin attacks!  Russell, on the Creeper’s instructions, calls Maddox and wakes him. Maddoz uses his telekinetic power to force Russell to walk out the window of her high-storied hospital room! To be continued!

 

 

Dateline Adventure: letters for Adventure Comics #444. All positive letters praising the Aquaman series (and rightly so, it was a great run) by Kevin L. Callahan, Brea, CA, Scott Gibson, Evergreen, CO and Scott R. Taylor, Portland, TX.

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #32: Tarzan #251

 

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.