Welcome Back Kotter #3, March 1977

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“The Return of Augie Berelli”

Cover: Bob Oksner

Writer: Tony Isabella, Pencils: Ric Estrada & Bob Oksner

Inker: Bob Oksner, Editor: Joe Orlando

A thug visits Kotter and his wife at their home. He warns Kotter that Augie Berelli will be at the school that day and Kotter better be there.

Kotter tells his wife that Berelli, one of the most notorious gangsters in the country, was an original sweathog and a classmate of Kotter’s! In fact, Kotter won the heart of a fair maiden also wooed by Berelli, who swore vengeance!

At school, Kotter is beside himself – he believes Epstein’s note from his mother, takes Horshack seriously and apologizes to Woodman! The Sweathogs offer to help their teacher.

Berelli walks into the classroom and says hello to Kotter and his nephew Vinnie Barbarino.

NEPHEW!!? That’s right, Berelli isn’t here for vengeance, but to thank Kotter for the good job he is doing teaching his nephew.  The Sweathogs are impressed by Berelli’s charm … and wealth!

Kotter reminds his class that Berelli is a criminal, infuriating Barbarino who leaves in a huff.

The FBI approach Kotter and ask him to help catch Berelli. Barbarino hears the conversation and throws a punch at the agent. Kotter agrees to help the FBI in exchange for releasing Vinnie.

The next day, Berelli charges into the classroom to confront Kotter. The FBI get the drop on him, until he takes Kotter hostage. Barbarino tries to intervene and is rewarded with a smack from his uncle. Berelli whispers to Kotter to fight back and catch him. Fumblingly (is that a word?) he finally does so.

It turns out this confrontation was planned by Berelli and the FBI as part of a guilty plea. After Berelli found out Vinnie punched a G-Man, he realized his nephew was going down his path and did not want Vinnie to turn out like him. So, he arranged his capture by Kotter; who has the one thing Berelli does not have – his nephew’s respect.

The last panel shows Vinnie at his classroom desk crying.

***

The letter column printed positive review of issue #1, most were thankful the comic was not done in the Binky/Scooter (read Archie) mode of half-page gags and two or three-page stories.

***

The art here is still wonderful. The team of Estrada and Oksner work on these characters, although at times there is a lack of background art. Perhaps they were rushed by a dreaded deadline doom (to borrow a phrase from the competition)?

Tony Isabella is a wonderful comic book writer, prose author, comic book historian (1001 Comic Books You Must Read Before You Die and July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic Book Life of Tony Isabella, Volume 1) and is a very nice guy – the creator of Black Lightning, the Champions, Misty Knight and more! Black Lightning is the most recent (and welcome) addition to the current “DC/TV” line on the CW network and Tony’s latest comic book work is Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands at DC.

***

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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Kobra #4, September 1976

Behold, the Bronze Age!

bronze-age

“Brother’s Keeper – Brother’s Killer” Written by Martin Pasko, Art by Angel Gabriele. Inker: Lowell Anderson, Colorist: Liz Berube, Letterer: Ben Oda, Editor: Gerry Conway, Assistant Editors: Paul Levitz and Jack C. Harris

Cover by: Joe Kubert

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Kobra 4 house ad

Synopsis: Kobra leaves his New York headquarters to go to Peru to oversee an archeological dig. There his crew find another Ovoid similar to that found in issue #1. As before, the Ovoid opens and a second Servitor attacks! The blast to Kobra’s arm also causes Jason to flee from his graduate school class. Melissa follows Jason, a synopsis of the comic’s plot is given (“I just met my brother … we have a symbiotic link…”) and Jason questions Melissa about her past relationship with Kobra. Melissa runs out before giving any answers.

Meanwhile, the battle with the Servitor ends in the machine’s dismantling. During the battle it carried a metallic cylinder that spoke to Kobra after the battle. It is an alien from the planet Illandus, who came to retrieve the pod that creates the Servitors.  Kobra takes the Illandian to his New York City lair.

Jason returns to his apartment after a late class to find Randu Singh waiting. After a quick confrontation Randu asks Jason’s help in defeating Kobra – Randu fears Kobra will soon declare war against his native India.

The Illandian reveals its physical form to Kobra – a two-headed four-armed alien that shall soon split in two again. Kobra is intrigued by its duel nervous system and plans to examine the alien to eliminate the link between himself and his brother. They discover the first ovoid has again produced a Servitor. The Illiandian wishes to take his probes and Servitors and return to his home, but Kobra says there are forces on our planet that will stop the alien from doing so.

Well, he IS correct …

And convinces the Illiandian to help Kobra stop him! Kobra’s first victim is Lt. Perez – whose outgoing plane is torn apart by one Servitor and Perez crushed by another! Jason and Randu arrive in the midst of the “Chaos at Gate 57”. Jason confronts his brother.

The Illiandian realizes that it is Kobra who is preventing him/them from retrieving the pod and unleashed a wall of flame at the airport. Jason and Kobra continue to fight over what happened to Melissa – Jason is convinced Kobra is involved in the disappearance.

An ovoid appears around the Servitors and the Illiandian and whisks them back into the alien vessel. Kobra is enraged and strikes Jason now that all his plans have been thwarted – even Project R might be abandoned, he says!

Jason awakes to find the airport in chaos, Perez dead and Kobra long gone (but how, he thinks? Kobra would have been knocked out cold, too!). Perhaps he should seriously consider Randu’s suggestion about making the ultimate sacrifice…

***

The letter page explains that the magazine was reprieved from the pending cancellation of #3, but also says its mailbox is almost empty of letters! AND this is the fourth artwork team in as many issues! Bad signs …

This issue had the famous editorial that ran in all the Conway’s Corner magazine:

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Oh how I yearned for a team-up between Kobra and Kamandi!

And as for Jason’s foreboding dread of Kobra being more powerful than he (Jason was knocked out while Kobra escaped). Even when I read this back in 76 my first thought was … “Well, wouldn’t his followers have carried him away … or wouldn’t he still be teleported to his ship…?”

This issue is a nice book-end with issue #1 – explaining some of that storyline while (thankfully) forgetting the super-hero-y aspects of #s 2 & 3. No one was expecting the series to get better.

But it did!

***

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!

 

Hercules Unbound #3, March 1976

 

Behold!

bronze-age

“Within the Pit Below”

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

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

Synopsis from DC Wikia: “Cerebus captures Jennifer Monroe in order to lure Hercules to a battle in Pluto’s realm.”

Most modern comics can use 15 words to describe over 18 pages of story and art, true, but a Bronze Age comic?

Going through the entrance to Hell, Hercules, Kevin and Basil meet a minstrel and Charon at the shores of the River Styx. Our heroes are attacked by one of Pluto’s Shadow Beasts. Kevin begs the minstrel to help them save Jennifer. The minstrel plays his lyre to weaken the Shadow Beast. Hercules quickly dispatches the ethereal monster.

The minstrel, Orpheus, joins Hercules on his quest.

Cerebus meanwhile takes Jennifer to Tartarus, the palace of Pluto and his lady Persephone.

Meanwhile again, back in Paris, Jennifer’s friends David Rigg and Simon St. Charles are captured by Ares – their fate to be determined in a later issue!

Orpheus reveals why he is in hell: as with the “real” legend. This son of Apollo lost his bride Eurydice when she died from a snake bite. He went to Tartarus to confront Pluto. Pluto allowed Eurydice to follow Orpheus out of hell as long as Orpheus did not turn around to look at her. Nearly at the gate, Orpheus was overcome by his curiosity and turned to make sure his bride was still there. She was, but instantly disappeared back into hell.

Cerebus and Jennifer talk quietly – here he seems to pine for his former bride-to-be, whereas last issue he was filled with rage as to her betrayal. Hercules finally tracks down the Nubian and calls him out to battle! The gods clash! Hercules knocks a wall on Cerebus, crushing him. Jennifer speaks to Cerebus while he is in his death throes. “It is the woman who betrayed you that caused your death,” she says. “No, it was my hatred and need for vengeance,” Cerebus says.

Pluto releases Jennifer. Orpheus reveals he is a ghost and reunites with Eurydice just as Cerebus was released from his hatred.

Finally reunited with Jennifer; Hercules, Kevin and Basil leave Hell.

 ***

The letter column is filled with missives praising the first issue – the art, the story and Hercules quiet (compared to his Marvel counter-part) power.

***

In a few panels Cerebus shows more depth than Hercules. But this was a fun issue and a nice way to complete the first story arc.

But in three issues we still do not know much about our main characters – neither Kevin nor Jennifer despair over the losses of WWIII. Hercules – although there is no question that he is loyal and heroic – is still a mystery. He hates Ares, true, but what about his loves? What makes him smile? Laugh? We know his persona, what about his personality?

***

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 #51; May, 1977

 

Behold, the Bronze Age!

bronze-age

 

Cover: Walt Simonson

“Killing Me Softly With His Scream!”

Writer: Jack C. Harris & Martin Pasko; Penciler/Inker: Joe Staton

Colorist: Liz Berube

Story editor: Paul Levitz; Managing editor: Joe Orlando

#50 had new material book-ending the excellent reprint of MM#6. Remember, this is a blog about the Bronze Age – there is no place for even an excellent Silver Age story here!

The new story in #50 (Consisting of only just over two pages) was as follows: Magnus and his robots are ordered to a secret military base wherein lay “Project Automaton”. When they arrive, they are informed the Metal Men are now in the custody of the US Army!

The robots are locked into a chamber while Colonel Craven tries to convince Doc Magnus to use his robot building technique for Project Automaton. An attack on the Metal Men by unknown armed terrorists is foiled by our friends, and one of the unspeaking attackers kills himself during the interrogation.

We meet Vox – a man with a mechanical jaw and voice box whose scream can kill and who is building a cyborg army for America’s enemies. Vox and his cyborg army invade the army base to capture Magnus and the Metal Men. The robots fight off the cyborgs, but Vox manages to make off with Magnus, Iron and Colonel Craven! Vox demands the secret on how the Metal Men can alter their forms – with this knowledge his own cyborgs will be invincible!

Magnus refuses to tell his secret – but Craven tells Vox in exchange for a mechanical heart to replace his pacemaker! Craven tells Vox about the Metal Men’s responsometers, that allows them to change their form. Vox refuses to honor his end of the bargain and his heart gives out in his rage.

The Metal Men trick the Cyboriginals (Vox’s cyborg army) into leading them to where Vox is keeping Magnus and rescues him.

***

The letter pages ranged from complimentary to scathing in their reviews of issue #49, which the editor says is the start of their new “tongue in cheek” version of the Metal Men. Did I read the same issue? That was part two of the Eclipso story … tongue in cheek? Wha…?

***

I suppose this issue shows the “tongue in cheek” direction of Metal Men. A strange villain, true, but not in the goofy mode of, say, Plastic Man.

The eclectic story is magnified by the dual writers. The prior issue said Harris came in to help with Pasko’s plot.

The artwork is fine and solid – a good description of the style of Joe Staton. His fluid style complements strange plottings of the story in addition to the Metal Men themselves. Staton captures their powers and abilities cleanly and clearly. By this time, he has already become the Bronze Age artist for all things Earth-2 and will shortly become THE Green Lantern artist. He is currently doing his usual thorough workman-like job for the Dick Tracy comic strip.

***

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!

Mister Miracle #22. February 1978.

Behold, the Bronze Age!

bronze-age

Cover: Marshall Rogers

“Midnight of the Gods”

Writer: Steve Englehart as John Harkness

Penciler: Marshall Rogers, Inker: Rick Bryant and John Fuller

Colorist: W. Argyle Nelson-Smith, Letterer: Milton Snappin

Story Editor: Larry Hama;  Managing Editor: Joe Orlando

Scott Free decides to take on Darkseid himself! Through a hologram message, Darkseid challenges Free to surrender or the earth will be destroyed.

Miracle again incites the Lowlies, but is arrested. He escapes from the Prime Protectors’ prison cage. Avoiding the guards, Miracle enters the Cerberus Chute, through which lay Darkseid’s throneroom!

Miracle confronts his foster father and blasts him with a lethal blaster. Darkseid survives the blast and warns Miracle that there can be no light without darkness. Does this mean there can be no ending to war and hatred, Scott Free says?

Darkseid ends the meeting the throws Miracle into a vortex, laughing…

***

Per DC Wikia: Due to the writing not meeting his own standards, Steve Englehart used the pseudonym “John Harkness” for this issue. No source is given.

It wasn’t that bad. True, it wasn’t the best thing he had ever written … and the last two pages were odd and preachy.

And even the artwork seemed sketchy and rushed. Not Rogers’ best either.

Definitely an “in between” issue – Miracle is still trying to foment an uprising among the lowlies and a non-confrontation with Darkseid. The storyline barely advanced; you’d think this was a modern comic.

***

The editor in the letter column claims they have the hit of the century on their hands.

***

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!

Hercules Unbound #4, May 1976

Behold, the Bronze Age!

bronze-age

“Within the Pit Below”

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

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

While sailing in the channel heading for England, Hercules and his troupe are attacked by a U-Boat filled with … cat people! They are under orders by their leader Hunter Blood: destroy any ship heading for the Sceptered Isle! Herc defeats the cat people and tows their boat to shore.

They are going to England because their friends David Rigg and Simon St. Charles left a note saying they are headed there. Readers from last issue know this is not true! Jennifer also has her suspicions.

After another battle, Hunter Blood captures our heroes and bound Hercules and Kevin to church bells in the tower of his cathedral headquarters.

Hunter, by the way, has the ability to turn anything in his gaze to dust. A sad and ironic power to someone who collected works of art before the war – he can no longer see and admire the collection he loves!

The bells of the cathedral toll and Hercules is given extra power through Kevin to break his bonds and destroy the bell tower!

Hunter believes Hercules and Kevin dead, but Hercules appears in the doorway and calls Hunter to battle in a final-panel cliffhanger!

***

The letter column has two letters again praising the first issue and recommending connections with Wonder Woman and Hippolyta while asking NO links to Kamandi. With this issue that might be too late!

***

The cat-people brings this comic very close to the world of Kamandi. We will have to see what future issues bring.

And we finally see a glimpse of Hercules’ adaption into the modern world – something the comic has ignored for three issues. Although the nuclear holocaust of World War III gives the creators a way around modern-era issues, our hero is STILL 2,000+ years from his time. The brief encounter with “woman’s lib” has been the only characterization of the Son of Zeus in the magazine! We learn a little more of Kevin’s bizarre mental powers, but nothing else.

***

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 #49. January 1977

 

BEHOLD!

bronze-age

“The Dark God Cometh”

Cover: Walt Simonson; Editor: Joe Orlando, Story Editor: Paul Levitz

Writer: Martin Pasko; Penciler/Inker/Plotter: Walt Simonson

Colorist: Carl Gafford; Letterer: Ben Oda

Robert Kanigher is given a creator credit.

The god Umbra increases Eclipso’s power and he unleashes it on the Metal Men, turning Lead to molten slag! Eclipso captures Mona, but Gold and Iron mold Lead into a magnifying glass and aims him at Eclipso. The bright intense light changes Eclipso back into Bruce Gordon.

We learn that ancient aliens landed in Peru and were considered gods by the prehistoric natives before being banished by white magic. Generation after generation of witch doctors kept the alien cult alive until the last servant/priest Mophir died battling Bruce Gordon. Mophir scratched Gordon with the Black Diamond – a segment of the jewel in Umbra’s forehead – used in their Umbra worship, turning him into the Umbra’s new servant, Eclipso.

Back in the cave where Gordon first fought Mophir, the Metal Men find another parchment, this one a Spanish translation of the Incan scrolls. Magnus reads what he cans, reviving Umbra who attacks!

Umbra sends death bolts to kill off the human companions – bolts that criss cross to get to their intended targets and … eclipse each other. Gordon changes to Eclipso who joins the Metal Men in battling Umbra. Magnus orders the Metal Men into specific configurations to create a giant laser beam emitter to focus Eclipso’s Black Diamond beam into Umbra’s forhead jewel and shatters it. Umbra explodes and sloughs back into the ocean.

The bright light from the explosions turns Eclipso back into Bruce Gordon. Doc Magnus uses the parchment to recreate Umbra’s undersea prison and, with the Metal Men’s help, trap Umbra again.

***

The letter column explains that Gerry Conway has moved back to Marvel with most of his books going to Joe Orlando and a series of assistant editors. The letters were positive with suggestions of guest heroes and villains.

***

Walt Simonson’s dark and gritty style was perfect for Umbra and his brethren – Cthulhu-esque kaiju but of mezzo-American design. Pasko did a fantastic job finishing this semi-revival of Eclipso.

The comics really is getting better and better! This is Simonson’s last issue as the series artist …

***

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!