Timba! Ungowa! Tarzan read Bicentennial blog! Blog good!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#32

Tarzan #251

 tarzan 251

Published monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

Editor: Joe Orlando

            Do I really need to tell you about Tarzan? You know all about the King of the Jungle … Lord Greystoke, parents marooned, raised by apes, you Jane …

            I will say he debuted in the 1912 novel (the first of 24) “Tarzan of the Apes” by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

            There have been Tarzan comic books as long as there have been comic books – even during the so-called “Platinum Age” when companies would reprint his strips into comic book format. From February 1948 until August 1962 Dell Comics published the adventures of the Ape Man for 131 issues. Gold Key took over the comic from #132 (November 1962) until #206 (February 1972).

            DC Comics published the character from #207 (April 1972) through #258 (February 1977), when Marvel Comics bought out the rights and published their own comic beginning with new numbering.

***

            Another missed opportunity – with a scheduling version of three card monte, the 250th anniversary issue of Tarzan could also have been a Bicentennial Banner comic…

***

“Jungle War (part two)”, adapted from the novel Tarzan the Untamed, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Gerry Conway ( w ), Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (a). This serial will conclude in issue #256.

 untamed

            It is 1914 in British East Africa. Tarzan carries Major Schneider of the Kaiser’s army to the top of a ravine and, after a struggle, kicks him into the waiting paws of a hungry lion (hungry, Hun, get it?), thus avenging Jane’s (supposed) death. Still, mourning, he kills an antelope for food and viciously fights off a pack of jackals intent on stealing his meal.

            Later, he attacks a German machine gun nest, turns their guns on the German army and escapes unseen.  He informs the general in command he will not rest until every German in Africa is driven out or dead. Tomorrow he vows to empty out the German trench without firing a shot.

            Tarzan shoos off a pack of hyenas eating a boar to skin it. He returns to the ravine where the lion is sleeping off his Germanic meal from two days before. Tarzan uses the skin to cover the lion’s head and paws – rendering it helpless. He unleashes the lion into the German trench. The Boche flee into No Man’s Land and and thus shot down by the English. The lion finally ends by killing Lieutenant Von Goss – who was at the moment bragging about burning the Greystoke plantation to the ground.

            Tarzan chases the other commanders into No Man’s Land. They beg for mercy, please do not kill us as you did Schneider’s brother, they say.

            Brother? Yes, Tarzan killed the brother of Captain Fritz Schneider. Not Schneider himself.

            “Jane’s killer still lives?!” Tarzan bellows in rage.

            To be continued…

 

Ape Mail: letters commenting on issues #247 and 248 by Mark Schmeider, Concord, Mass (mostly positive, but wants more details as to the artists involved – it is explained that the Redondo Studio does some of the art and it is hard to track – whoever came in that morning did the art!) and Don Vaughn of Lake Worth, FL (positive and requests they continue the Fantastic Creatures of Edgar Rice Burroughs feature – the editor says the feature will resume in Tarzan Family and hypes that companion title, telling us all new stories are on the way (for two more issues …).  The column also contained a list of the first ten Tarzan novels, their dates of release and the issues of Tarzan that adapted the stories so far! The editor also asks for more of your letters!

***

Join me next time for the last DC’s Bicentennial issue #33: DC Super-Stars #5

 

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.

 

 

Advertisements

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!

 adventure 466-1

            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.

It’s a bird … it’s a plane … it’s …. a Bicentennial Banner blog!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#30

Action Comics #461

actioncomics461

Published monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Bob Oksner

Editor: Julius Schwartz

            Action Comics? Really? You need me to give a background of Action Comics? Okay, okay … Issue # 1 was cover dated April 1938 and featured the debut of that literary iconic trope – the superhero. He was and is called Superman. He was not a masked crime fighter inspired by the pulps like Crimson Avenger, but more in line with the pulp’s Doc Savage or Hugo Danner (the prototype superhero from the novel “Gladiator” by Phillip Wylie) in that he was a perfect human specimen. Only a bursting shell could pierce Superman’s flesh; he was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Look! Up in the sky!

            Rather than a Doc Savage clone, he wore a colorful costume and cape ala the pulp detectives of the day. He was a hybrid of these two styles of hero and transcended them both.

            Superman was on the cover of the first issue (in the iconic pose of his smashing a car to bits) and did not appear on the cover again until #7, and then again not until #10.  But based on the sales of the issues on which he WAS the cover feature, the star of this anthology comic was obvious. After #13 he was on the cover (even if it was just a blurb) on every issue until the 1980s, when it changed to a weekly format.

            Action Comics also saw the debut of Lois Lane and Superman bad guys Lex Luthor, Brainiac and the Parasite as well as other DC/National heroes such as Zatara, Vixen (although she should have debuted in her own comic cancelled in the DC Implosion) and Supergirl.

***

“Kill Me or Leave Me”, Cary Bates ( w ), Curt Swan (a), Tex Blaisdell (i)

            This story is continued from the previous issue and continues in the next, concluding in the issue after that (where Superman, with amnesia, witnesses the signing of the Declaration of Independence – the comic that was actually on the stands on July of 1976 as opposed to the cover date). Still, with a little manipulating it could have had the Bicentennial banner, yes?  I owned the next two issues after this when they were published.

 karb-brak

            Villain Karb-Brak is convinced Steve Lombard is Superman and attacks him. Superman, meanwhile, saves a Senator from flame-thrower-wielding terrorists and hies to the Galaxy Building just in time to save Lombard. They battle.

            As in the previous issue, Superman gets feverish around Karb-Brak, who touches Superman and causes the gym in which they fought to explode! Superman saves Lombard and Karb-Brak. Karb-Brak, in his human identity of Andrew Meda (get it?) walks away.

karbbrak

            Karb-Brak reveals his origin: He is banished from his home planet in the Andromeda galaxy because he is allergic to everyone on the planet – a planet of super-powered beings. But the planet of his exile – earth, obviously – has a being whose powers are similar to his own. When Superman approaches, he becomes allergic. If he does not eliminate Superman, he will die.

            With Lombard no longer on his list of Superman’s secret identity, Karb-Brak goes to suspect #2: Clark Kent. Using his psi-machine, Karb-Brak mentally manipulates Clark’s friends and other citizens of Metropolis into falling in love with Kent. They fawn over him, want pieces of his clothing and treats him like a 1970s rock star. Kent is chased into a park and attacked by Karb-Brak, where Clark accidentally hurts bystanders while protecting his identity. His guilt and concern hold him back as Karb-Brak continues the assault.

            The crowd cheers on Clark Kent – they now realize he really is Superman – and he fights back. The psi-machine worked too well. Karb-Brak returns to his psi-machine to make the public cheer him instead of Kent. Superman knocks out Karb-Brak, and uses the psi-machine to make the public forget his dual identity and the fight in the park.

            Karb-Brak is now too weak to fight Superman and gives him an ultimatum: stay on earth and I die or leave earth forever and let me live – which will you choose, hero, which will you choose?

***

The Toughest Newsboy in Town”, Elliot S! Maggin (w), Curt Swan (a), Tex Blaisdell (i)

            This is a solo Perry White story. Perry was the editor-in-don’t-call-me-chief of the Daily Planet – Clark, Lois and Jimmy’s boss. He first appeared in November 1940 in Superman #7. Before that time, Lois and Clark worked for George Taylor of the Daily Star. The explanation of the switch was never given at the time, but retconned in the 1970s as part of the Earth-One and Earth-Two lore.

            After Easter dinner, Perry’s gathers his four grandchildren to tell them of his amazing exploits.

            In 1934 Perry was hawking papers when a man gave him a quarter for a two cent edition! Perry recognized him as missing toy company heir Victor Larson. Perry followed Larson to his office where he kept a man named Doctor Norton hostage. Victor ran up gambling debts with the mob and is in hiding; Norton has designed an atomic bomb and Larson is trying to torture the plans out of him. Perry jumps through the window and eventually knocks out Larson. Poor Norton dies of a heart attack in the meantime. Perry writes his first story (the atomic bomb angle was nixed) and got a job reporting for the Daily Planet instead of selling it.

            One newspapers headline (partly covered) touts “Giordano wins art …” The editor of this Earth-One Daily Planet was not named in this story – was it George Taylor?

 

 

Superman in Action: letter column for Action Comics #457 (which introduced Pete Ross’ son Jon). Brian Scott of Streator, IL (positive), Mike White of Mackinaw, IL (positive), Mark Schneider of Concord, Mass (negative as to the Superman feature, but positive on the Green Arrow back-up), and Dan Cardenas, San Luis Obispo, CA (positive) contributed.

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #31: Adventure Comics #446

 

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.

Detective Comics #461: the Dark Knight Bicentennial Banner blog continues!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#29

Detective Comics #461

Detective_Comics_461

Published monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Ernie Chua

Editor: Julius Schwartz

            The first issue of Detective Comics was published in March 1937 as an anthology comic book specializing in hard-boiled detective stories akin to the pulp magazines that were its inspiration. Despite retooling and renumbering for publicity and sales’ sake, the comic has been in publication ever since!

            It is the comic book that DC Comics took its name from. So really the company is called Detective Comics Comics. I know, nowadays it’s called DC Entertainment. Fine. I still sometimes refer to it as National. I’m old.

            The most obvious claim to fame of Detective Comics was the debut of Batman in #27 (May 1939). But Detective also featured the debut of Robin, Commissioner James Gordon, the Martian Manhunter, Simon and Kirby’s Boy Commandos, Batgirl (the 1960s version), Walt Simonson’s Manhunter, Batwoman, Bat-Mite, the Crimson Avenger, ManBat, and Batvillains the Penguin, the Riddler, Two-Face,  Killer Kroc, the Calculator, and Blockbuster.

            Sadly, despite some incredible stories and art, Detective Comics at the time of the Bicentennial was at its nadir. Within two years there will be serious talk of cancelling their namesake comic. Fortunately it merged with Batman Family into a Dollar Comic and survived the DC Implosion. Batman’s immense popularity in the coming years made the idea of cancelling the magazine laughable. It’s still out there, renumbered as part of DC’s “New 52” publicity stunt, but still one of only six of the thirty-three comics published under the Bicentennial banner still published as an active title.

***

“Bruce Wayne – Bait in a Trap”, Bob Rozakis and Michael Uslan ( w ), Ernie Chua/Chan (a), Frank McLaughlin (i)

            This story is continued from the previous issue and concludes in the next. I owned that third issue when it was published.

            Captain Stingaree believes Batman to actually be three different men; as part of a corps financed by Bruce Wayne. He kidnaps Bruce Wayne and alerts Commissioner Gordon and Alfred to that factby exploding a dummy in Wayne’s clothing on the front steps of police headquarters.

bruces clothes

            Batman appears (to the delight of a stunned Alfred) and vows to “rescue” Bruce Wayne. Batman later explains that he easily escaped a holding cell meant to keep in a frivolous playboy, not a dark avenger of the night! Mud from the kidnap scene leads Batman to Gotham’s sewers. Stingaree blocks the exits and unleashes swarms of rats to attack Batman. He escapes, but the next chamber is flooded and he and a scuba-equipped Stingaree fight it out, both falling unconscious and whisked to a drain leading to the Gotham river (eww…).  Stingaree awakes first and hauls Batman off to his lair.

underwater fight

             Bruce Wayne appears at police HQ and tells Gordon and Alfred that Batman rescued him. But … but…

            Stingaree, only now discovering Wayne’s escape, approaches the captive Batman and unmasks him – revealing him to be Batman #2: Robert Courtney! We readers who did not read part one gasp in astonishment and say, “Umm, who?”

            All will be revealed in the next issue. Granted it’s been nearly 40 years but I don’t want to spoil the ending. If you REALLY want to know, email me. Or look up the ending online…

***

The Moneybag Caper”, Denny O’Neil ( w ), Pablo Marcos (a), Al Milgrom (i)

Trench Tec 461

            St. Louis private investigator Tim Trench appeared in three issues of the “all new” Wonder Woman (#179-181 – not counting a later reprint issue) helping her and I-Ching during her non-powered Diana Rigg phase. He had two solo stories in Detective Comics (460 and 461) and did not appear again until 2006 when he was killed off in 52 #18. His Wikipedia entry also says he was a member of the Hero Hotline, but the Hero Hotline, nor the Grand Comics Database or DC Comics Database, mention this.

            He was a two-fisted old-school private dick. You could almost hear the saxophone music playing in the background of his two solo stories. He was such a caricature he could only be described in metaphor. If he was a brand of toilet paper he’d be taken off the market – he was rough and tough and wouldn’t take crap off of anyone…

            Tim enters his office to find one of Big Willy Cline’s hired goons. But wait, this isn’t a hit – the goon, Manooch, says Cline has a job for Trench! Since his “bank account is lower than a snake’s belly”, he says he might be interested.  Seems Big Willy tried to double cross the other gangs and got caught. He offers Trench 500 big ones to see him safely to the airport.

            A car tries to run over Trench, Cline, and Manooch. Trench knocks a blind man out of the way but too late to save Cline, who is shot by a man in the car. Trench shoots back – killing the driver and the shooter. He socks it to Manooch, who dove out of the way before the car hit. He was in on it!

            Meanwhile, the blind man walks away with the $500 cash. That’s okay: Trench didn’t earn it anyway…

 

 

Batman’s Hot Line: letter column giving universal praise for issue #457, “No Hope for Crime Alley,” a story that has become a Bronze Age classic. All five letters praised the story – the first three writers calling it a masterpiece. Adam Castro of New Rochelle, NY, David B. Kirby of Richmond, VA, Paul Emrath of Milwaukee, WI, Louis A, Latzer of St. Louis, MO and Elizabeth Smith of Tacoma WA contributed. The latter was the only letter writer to also praise #457’s back-up Elongated Man story.

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #30: Action Comics #461

 

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.

An Unexpected (#174) Bicentennial Banner Blog!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#28

The Unexpected #174

The title is prefaced with “Have You the Nerve to Face …”

Unexpected_174

Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist: Luis Dominguez

Editor: Murray Boltinoff, Asst. Ed: Jack C. Harris

 

            Tales of the Unexpected was a science fiction anthology debuting in March of 1956 and lasting until issue #222 (May 1982). It changed its title to The Unexpected as of issue #104 in January 1968 and slowly changed formats from science fiction to horror. Online comic shops and guide books refer to this series as “Unexpected, The (1968)”. It became a Dollar Comic with issue #189 (February 1979) and merged with The Witching Hour and House of Secrets until issue #195 (February 1980) before returning to its standard format. The Witching Hour/House of Secrets merger was abandoned as of issue #206 (January 1981). Most of these last issues featured the adventures of Johnny Peril, detective of the occult.

2914904-johnny_peril_01

Before that, the only lasting feature of note was in the mid-1960s with Tales of the Green Glob.

green glob

            I’ll bet you weren’t expecting that…

***

“Gauntlet of Fear”, George Kashdan (w), Don Perlin (a)

            Dr. John Terril, world-renowned psychiatrist, is hired to analyze the paranoid president of a foreign republic. He is informed by Scorbo, the president’s lackey and an obvious germophobe that there really IS a plot to kill the president (it is not said what his position is or relation to the president)! If Terril can withstand the Gauntlet of Fear, he can infiltrate the organization led by the Great Bajir. He is thrown into an underwater cave and attacked by a giant squid and piranhas. He panics, faints and wakes up in a cell. Scorbo is really the Great Bajir and he is brainwashing Terril into one of his thralls to kill the president!

            The brainwashing continues: bats, spikes and skulls haunt Terril. Even the roaches in the cell panic him. But he has an idea. He starts crawling in his cell like a baby. Bajir enters his cell, thinking his plan worked. Terril tosses handfuls of roaches onto Bajir, panicking HIM! The thralls see their master in panic and snap back to their old selves and hurl Bajir from the window of his castle.

***

“Sands of Time”, writer unknown, Rich Buckler (a).  A man sentenced to be executed at dawn escapes. But while escaping he suffers a severe bullet wound. He breaks into a cabin to hide out the day. He shoots a clock, “You won’t be able to tell me the time anymore!” Collapsing from the pain and too weak to move, he then shoots a giant hour glass. “You won’t be able to tell me the time, either.” The sand slowly falls onto his face. By dawn, the sand suffocates him. He died at dawn anyway…

***

“The Long Arms of Death”, Weshley Marsh (Murray Boltinoff himself) ( w ), Fred Carillo (a)

            Gerald is the new English secretary to millionaire Raj Simha of an unnamed Indo-Asian country. Gerald is warned to stay away from the Raj’s daughter Kaleli. But Gerald delivers flowers and breakfast in bed to Kaleli, walks with her in the garden and falls in love.

            Simha refuses to allow Gerald to marry and forbids any further contact.

            Gerald steals money and gems from Simha’s vault to raise enough money for two tickets back to England. Simha catches Gerald and is killed. Simha’s guards attack Gerald but are pulled back by many arms. It is Kaleli – she is the ten-armed goddess of death – Kali! She hugs Gerald with all her arms, crushing him. She tells the guards to call the police and report two dead bodies…

 

 

Unexpected Mail: the letter column does not necessarily comment on previous issues, but instead, like Ghosts, readers submit brief tales that fit the genre of the comic. Damian Brokaw of Denver, CO tells us of pygmy chimpanzees – the possible missing link! Janet Fadel of Hollywood, CA notes that issue #172 features an exorcism as well as an article about the upcoming film “Exorcist 2” and discusses the film, Robert W. Chan of Edmonton, Canada writes about a 1969 case in Louisiana when water turned blood red.  Ronald Vias of Dover, NJ discusses an Allied WWII plan to plant incendiary devises on nocturnal animals and bats and sic them on Nazi strongholds.  Other articles discuss upcoming movies about the Loch Ness Monster and “Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde”.

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #29: Detective Comics #461

 

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.

 

 

GI Combat #192: More bicentennial banner blogging

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#27

GI Combat #192

GI_Combat_Vol_1_192

Published monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Luis Dominguez

Editor: Murray Boltinoff, Asst. Ed: Jack C. Harris

            GI Combat was another comic acquired by DC when they bought out Quality Comics. I wrote this in my reviews of the Bicentennial issues of Blackhawk and Freedom Fighters … Quality Comics was a successful comic book company during the medium’s golden age. It introduced Kid Eternity, the Blackhawks, the much-lauded Spirit and Plastic Man to comics. The company closed shop in the mid-1950s and the catalogue of characters was bought by DC/National. They continued only four of Quality’s titles: GI Combat, Plastic Man (although DC would not publish a Plastic Man comic until the 1960s), Blackhawk, and Heart Throbs – all but the latter were still being published by the time of the Bicentennial (Plastic Man would get much more popular in the coming decades).

            GI Combat debuted in October 1952 featuring US soldiers fighting godless commies across the globe. It later featured stories set during World War Two. The first DC issue was #44 (January 1957).

            It was a standard anthology with standard war stories, but eventually a starring feature took over as lead.  The Haunted Tank debuted in issue #87 (May 1961) and continued as the main feature until they shared cover billing with The Mercenaries in the comic’s later issues.

Haunted_Tank_001

 

            Confederate General J.E.B Stuart’s ghost is sent to guard his descendant and name-sake Jeb Stuart during his battles on the European front in World War II. In one story I remember fondly, Stuart’s tank is destroyed and replaced by a Sherman. “Sherman!” The ghostly Stuart was aghast that his descendant would use a tank named after a Union general! A great story, but I cannot find the specific issue.

            With issue #201 (May 1977) GI Combat became a Dollar Comic with increased page count and all-new stories such as Tales of the OSS. It returned to “normal” size with # 282 (March 1986) – making it one of the last Dollar Comics. By now the Haunted Tank was occasionally replaced as the lead feature by The Mercenaries, a fighting troupe set in modern times. The last issue was #288 (March 1987). It was the second-most successful war comic DC produced next to Sgt. Rock.

            The comic is also notable for being the debut vehicle for The Losers, who moved to their own starring feature in Our Fighting Forces. “The Rock”, a one-shot character, arguably the prototype of Sgt. Rock, had his one appearance in a 1959 issue.

            GI Combat was revived as part of the “New 52” line, but was cancelled after seven issues. The Haunted Tank was also revived with Stuart, the WWII descendant, haunting his granddaughter in modern times. A few other revivals also proved unsuccessful.

***

“The General Has Two Faces”, Bob Kanigher ( w ), Sam Glanzman (a)

            The Haunted Tank crew is tasked with killing Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. A squadron of tanks and planes would be expected and fought off, but a single recon tank might make it through.

            As the tank crosses a bridge, it is attacked by two fighters. Jeb is severely injured, leaving Gus to take command and stop the fighter planes. He sees JEB Stuart, who warns him of dangers to come. The other crewmen, Rick and Slim, think Gus is imagining things just like their commander.  They destroy the Krauts and cross the bridge.

            But the tank’s treads bust and they have to hoof it with their injured commander (note the change to a WWII-like vernacular…). They are met by the teenage students of an all-girl school at the Van Maltz castle, led by its Baroness. Helga is angry that the Baroness would allow verdamt Amerikaische soldats into their home. She is locked away until she calms down and the Haunted Tank crew are fed and healed. Jeb and the Baroness share a kiss.

            Someone releases Helga, who immediately gets “help”. The next morning Helga sits in the lead tank of a squadron attacking the school. Sitting beside her in command – Rommel!

            Jeb shoots at the tanks with a crossbow using dynamite sticks instead of bolts – blasting the tanks to smithereens! Rommel’s lead tank makes it to the drawbridge where a mysterious figure is cranking the handle to lift the wooden bridge. Rommel shoot and kills the figure, but too late! The tank falls into the moat – killing all. Jeb discovers the mysterious figure was the Baroness. She saved her enemies from her own people.

            Later the crew discovers it was NOT Rommel in the tank at all, but a double instead.

***

ww-oss

OSS: Office of Strategic Services is a top secret branch of military intelligence. These spy tales were featured throughout GI Combat, especially in its Dollar Comic days. It was also given its own lead feature in the last issue of Showcase (#104). The feature debuts here! Other than the Joker’s Daughter in Batman Family #6 and Earth Man, kind of, in Superboy starring the Legion of Superheroes #218, these three were the only “debuts” featured in the Bicentennial comics.

Target for Tonight – Me!” Bart Regan (w), Ric Estrada (a). Victor Lazlo (intentionally to be confused with Paul Henreid’s character from Casablanca …) and two others parachute into occupied Czechoslovakia. His companions are shot while landing and he is captured and taken to Gestapo HQ (which is made to look like a hospital and therefore, not bombed by allied aircraft) and searched. He is Czech and returned to exact revenge on the Nazis for killing his Jewish wife. He is interrogated and ordered to be hung from the gallows when an Allied bomb raid destroys the headquarters and everyone in it – including Lazlo. Seems the Nazis missed the transmitter implanted in his forehead by the OSS. He was captured intentionally and offered his own life to defeat the damned Boche!

 

 

Let’s Make Tracks: letters for #286. A positive letter from Michael Lapsley of Morrow, GA asking about prior crewmembers of the Haunted Tank, Paulo Mariorann of Parma, Ontario asked about the Haunted Tank’s theater of operation – various places in Europe in one issue and Burma the next? The editor explains (as with Sgt Rock) these stories are not in chronological order, Mike Karvalas of Chicago, IL questioned the Tank being in Greece, explaining that there were not many US soldiers in Greece – the editor explains that the Haunted Tank crew were some of the few, Tom Kelleher of Norwalk, Conn. Criticized JEB Stuart’s old man appearance when he was a relatively young man – he is a ghost, says the editor – and he looks like a ghost!

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #28: The Unexpected #174

 

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.

 

 

 

World’s Finest Comics #239: Bicentennial banner blog continues!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#26

World’s Finest Comics #239

World's_Finest_Comics_239

Published nine times a year, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Ernie Chua (unsigned – very unusual for him). Inked by John Calnan

Editor: Murray Boltinoff

            World’s Finest Comics began life as 1939 New York World’s Fair Comics and 1940 New York World’s Fair Comics. Those were one-shot anthologies released by National Comics featuring their star attractions – in 1939’s issue that meant Superman, Slam Bradley, the Sandman and Zatara. 1940 starred Superman and Batman (and Robin, don’t forget Robin) in the same book, although in separate stories, along with stories of Hourman, Slam Bradley, Johnny Thunderbolt and Red, White & Blue. The comics were so successful the company decided to make it a continuing quarterly comic called World’s Best Comics with #1 dated Spring 1941. As another company already was publishing a Best Comics, National changed the title to World’s Finest Comics with #2 (Summer 1941) to avoid their getting a taste of their own litigious medicine.

            It was a successful anthology featuring separate tales of Superman, Batman (and Robin, don’t forget Robin), Johnny Thunder, Red, White & Blue, the Crimson Avenger, and others; but always featuring solo tales of the company’s Big Two: Superman and Batman (and Robin, don’t forget Robin).

            Sales in superhero comics slumped over the years, causing cancellations of most magazines and cutting of page counts in the survivors. There was only room for one feature in World’s Finest now, who should it be? Should either Superman or Batman (and Robin, don’t forget Robin) be relegated to a back-up strip? Or ousted altogether?

            The powers-that-were came up with a brilliant idea – team up their two biggest stars in one story! Thus the Superman/Batman Team (and Robin, don’t forget Robin) was born in issue #71 (July 1954).

            Except for a brief time in the early 1970s (issues #198 – 216) – where Superman instead teamed up with other DC characters in an imitation of The Brave and the Bold, the magazine remained a vehicle for the Superman/Batman team. Robin? By this time Robin had grown and was more or less on his own. Robin appearing in World’s Finest after the switch back to Superman/Batman was rare. He did team with Superman in one of the non-Batman issues: #200 in fact…

            With issue #244 (May 1977) World’s Finest returned to its anthology roots by becoming a Dollar Comic and featuring additional stories starring, among others, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Wonder Woman, the Creeper, the Vigilante and Shazam/Captain Marvel.

            The comic reverted back to “normal” size with issue #283 (September 1982) and lasted until issue #323 (January 1986).  By this time Batman was budding into his “brooding sociopath” persona with which came a dislike of Superman, his “old friend”. The editors and writers gleefully took advantage of the rift between the two characters for the next twenty years.

            World’s Finest was revived as a mini-series in 1990 and the title Superman/Batman ran from 2003 – 2011 for 87 issues. Batman/Superman – the flip made quite likely to boost sales – is a “New 52” title. World’s Finest itself became a “New 52” title with DC’s reboot of their line featuring stories of the Power Girl/Huntress (and Robin, don’t forget … oh never mind) team.

            As an anthology in its Golden Age, World’s Finest featured the “best” of National Publications, so no new heroes or supporting characters of note debuted. The comic did introduce two durable villains: the Scarecrow and the Composite Superman (a man with Superman’s costume on the right side and Batman’s on the left, with all the powers of the Legion of Superheroes … you read that correctly…).

***

“The UFO That Stole the USA”, Bob Haney ( w ), Curt Swan and John Calnan (a), Jack C Harris (Asst. Ed.)

            People who started reading comic books only since the 1980s missed out on the glorious writing of Bob Haney. I regret never having had the chance to meet him and shake his hand and tell him how much I enjoyed his work – especially his long runs in The Brave and the Bold and World’s Finest Comics. He died in 2004. Websites are devoted to his range of work.

            Oh sure he has his detractors – even his biggest fans (like me) cringe at some of his quirks – his apparent hatred of Plastic Man, for example. But mostly he is criticized for his utter lack of continuity. His work stood so much in its own bubble it was designated as being in its own alternate universe – designated as Earth B. Haney’s job was to tell a story – and if regular continuity or character canon had to be changed or ignored, it was. If a factoid had to be put in that only appeared in that issue and never again to appear in that character’s history, so be it. Bruce Wayne was a US Senator for a time. He had more wards after Dick Grayson (most of them were imprisoned or killed) and never mentioned again. These were called Haney-isms.

            But they were fun, and kept the story going. Face-palm moments? Oh to be sure. But I’d rather read a comic written by Bob Haney than most anything released today. He made comics fun to read. That was the whole point, isn’t it?

***

            Superman and Batman investigate a rural farm outside of Gotham City. Where one half of the farmhouse stood is now a huge smoking pit, the house neatly cut in two. The farmer and his wife hysterically babble about their horse and someone stealing fish and are taken to a hospital. Superman investigates the pit – it goes down for miles and before he can reach bottom notes that the tunnel is hotter than the core of the sun (Wait, wouldn’t that turn the earth to a cinder? Shut up.)!  Whatever did this is obviously of extraterrestrial origin (Well, not necessarily … I said shut up.).

Worlds-Finest-239-03

            Batman enlists a police sketch artist to draw the farm couple’s rants. He draws a spaceship destroying their house and stealing their fish pond and horse.

            They return to the farm to find a crowd of UFO “crackpots” including a boy who finds a clue – a map identifying other possible targets. Also in the crowd is Gold of the Metal Men, disguised as a human. The heat from the pit melts his disguise and the crowd, thinking him an alien, pushes him into the pit! (Wait, if it’s hot enough to melt Gold’s disguise, why aren’t the crowd blistering and getting hot? Because gold melts at a lower … I said shut up!). Superman rescues him before he melts away.

            Why is Gold there? He is a UFO buff, you see. A fact never revealed before or again in Metal Men lore. It is this issues’ Haney-ism.

            ( What kind of bull– … Shut up, I said!)

            Since the map the young boy discovered is made of a metal not found in this solar system, Superman heads to space to find the planet of its origin. Batman discovers that the metal did NOT come from the aliens’ home planet, but was mined elsewhere.  Batman drives to a nearby space observatory to radio Superman – if he finds the metal’s home planet, he will be accusing the wrong planet’s inhabitants!

            But the aliens shoot at the Batmobile from the sky, knocking Batman out. He is saved by Gold and taken to a hospital. Superman and Gold, aware that the aliens may be watching and listening, pretend to Kervorkian Batman by pulling his plug and killing him (ala the cover)!

Worlds-Finest-239-14

 

            Actually Superman substituted a dummy Batman, threw Gold into the atmosphere where as thin gold foil he could block the alien scanners (but Gold wouldn’t have the mass to cover the entire … I’m warning you!) and whisked Batman to his Fortress of Solitude where they compare notes.

            They find the alien spy satellite and triangulate the home planet. Superman takes off to exact revenge. After he leaves, the house, the pond and the horse are returned intact (But how could the house be made whole if it was sliced … That’s enough!) The aliens meant no harm, but how to tell Superman that? Gold spins into space where Batman sends a message via Morse code to Superman (but the mass thing again … Zip it!).

            Meanwhile, Superman has already deflected a deadly beam shot from the alien planet. When he gets Batman and Gold’s message, he confronts the aliens. No, they meant no harm to Earth – they were merely testing their weaponry for their attack upon their enemies on the planet of Pyra. Oh well, that’s okay then, says Superman. He flies into space and redirects the deadly beam back to Pyra. He explains that the beam is now so diluted it will only stun them. This is also apparently acceptable to our heroes…

            He warns the aliens never to experiment with weapons meant to destroy another civilization on Earth again. The aliens cheerfully agree: “You are an intelligent and all-powerful being. We bow to your wishes!”

            Ah Bob Haney, god rest your saintly soul…

            (But … sorry, story’s over!)

            And while we’re at it, it is always good to see Curt Swan art … he is never anything less that perfect! (I agree … it’s too late to suck up now)

 

From the World’s Finest Fans: letters for WF #236, guest starring the Atom. A positive letter from David Trenton of New York, NY, J. Charles Backman of Sterling Heights, MI criticized the incorrect use of Morse code in that issue, John Baker of Baltimore, MD asked about where the headshots on the cigar-band cover came from (from various back issues and promo drawings) and Fred Schneider of New York, NY wrote a positive letter.

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #27: GI Combat #192

 

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.