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.

 

Celebrating the 200th issue of … every comic book ever!

200 and counting!

My 200th blog. That may not be a big deal for writers who blog every day – they’d hit 200 by July of their first year of blogging. But it’s a big deal for me! That’s a lot of writing!

Ironically I am in the middle of a blog series commemorating the comic books released by DC comics during the US Bicentennial of July 1976. If you collected 25 of the 33 comics published with the Bicentennial banner cover and you will get a free Superman belt buckle.

A comic book reaching its 200th milestone is a big deal. Probably more so nowadays with the constant rebooting and relaunching of titles, it is not likely we’ll see many comics go all the way to number 200. It still happens, though: Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man released its 200th issue on June 2014.

#200 anniversary issues were usually a larger-than-normal-sized comic (with a larger price tag of course) and a special story or the rip-roaring conclusion of a story arc. But that was usually in the bronze age and beyond. Earlier comics (before 1970) usually didn’t care about their 200th issue.

Some of these comics didn’t even mention their 200th anniversary issue other than their standard numbering:

Action_Comics_200

Action Comics: January 1955

Adventure_Comics_200

Adventure Comics: May 1954

Detective_Comics_200

Detective Comics: October 1953

House_of_Mystery_v.1_200

House of Mystery: May 1972. Great cover by Neal Adams here.

Strange_Adventures_200

Strange Adventures: May 1967

300px-Star-Spangled_War_Stories_Vol_1_200

Star Spangled War Stories: July 1976.

This in particular was a real shame at a missed opportunity. Dated July 1976, the 200th anniversary of the USA and this landmark was not even mentioned in a cover blurb, only the letter column gave it some attention.

Compare that to Captain America #200 with an August 1976 cover date:

 Captain_America_Vol_1_200

Others included:

Blackhawk_Vol_1_200

Blackhawk: September 1964

Millie_the_Model_Vol_1_200

Millie the Model: February 1973

and Superman: October 1967 and Wonder Woman: June 1972 (reprinted below)

Older Archie comics were not known for celebrating their 200th issues:

869981

Archie: June 1970

Betty & Veronic

Archie’s Girls Betty & Veronica: August 1972

Laugh Archie

Laugh: November 1967

Pep

Pep: December 1966

Jughead

Jughead: January 1972

Life with Archie

Life with Archie: December 1978

betty-and-me

Betty & Me: August 1992

 

Cotber 72

October 1972

 

May 2005

May 2005

Again, this could be a Bronze Age or later thing … in fact, only Betty & Me from 1992 gives the anniversary even a cover blurb.

Harvey comics? Only three of the comics they published made it to 200: their two main stars Richie Rich and Casper. And … Sad Sack!

Richie RichJuly 68Casper

But other Harvey comics? Wendy the Good Little Witch made it to the 50s in number of issues, Little Dot over 100…

The big two – Marvel & DC – being mostly in the superhero vein, were the ones who celebrated 200th anniversaries the most. Three characters – Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash – had two eponymous comics hit #200.

Wonder_Woman_Vol_1_200Wonder_Woman_Vol_2_200

Superman 200Superman_v.2_200

Flash_v.1_200Flash_v.2_200

 

Other DC comics that hit #200:

Batman_200

Batman: March 1968 (note this early celebration, but this was at the end of the Batman TV show craze …)

Green_Lantern_Vol_2_200

Green Lantern: May 1986

Our_Army_at_War_Vol_1_200

Our Army At War: December 1968

Superboy_Vol_1_200

Superboy starring the Legion of Superheroes 200: February 1974. Featuring the marriage of Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel and starring all members, the Substitutes, the Wanderers and others!

GI_Combat_Vol_1_200

GI Combat: March 1977

Hellblazer_Vol_1_200

Hellblazer: November 2004

Superman_Family_Vol_1_200

Superman Family: April 1980

 Unexpected_200

Unexpected: July 1980

World's_Finest_Comics_200

World’s Finest: February 1971

Young_Romance_Vol_1_200

Young Romance: August 1974

(note these last two also had no real focus on their 200th issue)

***

 Marvel comics had their share of 200th anniversaries, too; aside from Captain America in August 1976:

Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_1_200

Amazing Spider-Man: January 1980

Avengers_Vol_1_200

Avengers: October 1980

Fantastic_Four_Vol_1_200

Fantastic Four: November 1978. This issue featured the “final” battle between Mr. Fantastic and Doctor Doom. Doom was killed at the end of this issue, true, but came back (as nearly all comics villains do) some issues later.

Incredible_Hulk_Vol_1_200

Incredible Hulk: June 1976

Kid_Colt_Outlaw_Vol_1_200

Kid Colt Outlaw: November 1975

Thor_Vol_1_200

Thor: June 1972

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Conan the Barbarian: November 1987

Daredevil_Vol_1_200

Daredevil November 1983

Iron_Man_Vol_1_200

Iron Man: November 1985

Marvel_Tales_Vol_2_200

Marvel Tales: June 1987

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Savage Sword of Conan: August 1992

The_Spectacular_Spider-Man_Vol_1_200

Spectacular Spider-Man: May 1993

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_1_200

Uncanny X-Men: December 1985

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What If: February 2011

X-Factor_Vol_1_200

X-Factor: February 2010

X-Men_Vol_2_200

X-Men: August 2007

Other publishers: Looney Tunes: September 2011

 Looney_Tunes_Vol_1_200

and Charleton:

October 1972

October 1972

And more …

Spawn from January 2011 and Tarzan from June 1971…

And let us not forget one of the longest running comics of all time…

 

Adventures of the Big Boy

February 1974

And finally …

cerebus_200

 

 

My personal favorites?

 JLA_v.1_200

Justice League of America: March 1982. This comic featured all members of the JLA – the original team members were hypnotized into assembling pieces of a mcguffin that will bring one of their original villains back to full power. The subsequent members try to fight off the originals. Each battle is its own chapter with a different artist. In beautiful art by Joe Kubert, for example, Hawkman fights Superman. The Phantom Stranger/Aquaman/Red Tornado battle is the only artwork by Jim Aparo in Justice League of America. Lots of great art throughout.

 Brave_and_the_bold_200

Brave & Bold: July 1983. The final issue of my favorite comic of all time. Let me cheat and use the review from my free ebook: The Brave & the Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, a Guide to the DC Comic Book.  Available here.

Batman & Batman (Earth Two), Smell of Brimstone, Stench of Death” Writer: Mike W. Barr, Art: Dave Gibbons.  …

               Earth-Two, 1955 (the year B&B began): After a series of robberies, Batman and Robin finally defeat Brimstone. Earth-Two 1983: Hate is all that has kept Brimstone alive. His hatred of Batman is so great; when he hears of Batman’s death, his mind passes into his Earth-One counterpart where another hated Batman still lives! Earth-One 1983: Brimstone causes riots in Gotham and eventually traps Batman in the same lava “hell pit” Batman escaped 28 years before! Can Batman escape – er – again – in time to save Gotham, catch Brimstone and find out who the heck Brimstone is? Well of course he can, but he never figures out Brimstone’s Earth-Two secret. And he never will.

               “Batman and the Outsiders”, Writer: Mike W. Barr, Art: Jim Aparo. Batman and the Outsiders protect Mikos from his own terrorist subordinates – who vow to kill Mikos (under his own orders) for the glory of the cause!

               Oft-requested Batmite finally appears in Brave & Bold in a one page comic.

               For the first time since Nemesis, new characters were introduced – Halo, Geo-Force and Katana.  They are the first new B&B superheroes since Metamorpho, who is also a member of the new Outsiders.

               One last team-up and one last try-out.  The try-out was a success: the Outsiders going on to their own series (replacing Brave & Bold on DC’s roster along with New Talent Showcase) and lasting for several years afterward. Later incarnations link the Outsiders (still featuring the resurrected Metamorpho) as a splinter group of the Teen Titans.  Appropriately, both groups began in Brave & Bold. The third incarnation harks back to the Batman-formed play-by-their-own-rules meta group.

               It was trendy at DC for a while to introduce new groups by mixing new characters and old. At times it worked brilliantly (the Teen Titans); at times it was an utter failure (the Justice League of America). The Outsiders were another success.

 ***

Have I missed any? Most assuredly: Dell 4-Color, other Looney Tunes comics, etc.  I hope I didn’t leave out your favorite! But Happy 200 everyone!

 ***

Excerpt from The Brave & the Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, a Guide to the DC Comic Book copyright 2014 and reprinted here with the author’s permission.

Otherwise, original material copyright 2015 by 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.

Wizard World Con 2015

St. Louis Wizard Con 2015: Hey Kids! Comics! Finally!

Wizard Con has held a convention in St. Louis for three years now. I have been to all three and blogged about the 2013 and 2014 cons.

Although at times during this little review it may seem I thought this year was a disappointment, it will probably turn into one of my favorites! And for reasons other than why I enjoyed previous Wizard Cons. Opposite reason!

The first thing I noticed was the lack of vendors’ booths and lack of celebrities attending. The list of attending celebrities definitely lacked the star power of last year – Shatner and Adam West for us old folks and Nathan Fillion, Bruce Campbell and others for the younger crowd.

This year’s list left this old timer shouting out a resounding, “Who!?” People I didn’t know starring in shows I don’t watch. George Romero was the only one on the list that raised my eyebrows. It might be interesting to shake his hand and tell him how much I enjoy his work. But then another part of me wanted to slap him and say, “Look what you’ve done!”, Tara Reid, Elvira, Michael Rooker, Billy Boyd, Hayley Atwell, Jason Mewes,  Naomi Grossman, Joey Lawrence , B.J. Britt, Mark Dodson, Jason David Frank, Robin Lord Taylor,  Paige of the WWE  and a few St. Louis Rams linebackers (which I believe is some sort of local sports team). A few stars who were supposed to be there weren’t – such as Guardians’ Dave Bautista.

Looking at the guests of other Wizard Cons (Indianapolis and Des Moines) show the dearth of stars in St. Louis: Shatner, Billie Dee Williams, Robert Englund & Carrie Fisher to name a few.

(NOTE: if the “dearth” of stars includes your favorite performers … or heaven-forbid the performers themselves or someone they know reads this and thinks of it as a slam – fear not! My heart will grow three sizes this day before the blog is through. Stay with me and let me rant on for a bit longer…)

Lou Ferrigno wasn’t in St. Louis, but will be at Des Moines. Ferrigno! He’s ALWAYS at these things!

               Even the list of artists was disappointing. Indianapolis had Jim Steranko! Steranko! And while St. Louis had Michael Golden and Gary Friedrich … still … Steranko

               Neal Adams wasn’t in St. Louis, but he will be at Des Moines. Neal Adams! He’s ALWAYS at these things!

Was this a Ferguson thing? Did the local St. Louis promoters not treat the guests properly? In all my internet trolling I have not been able to find anyone even guessing why St. Louis got a bit of a short shrift on the guest list. I WAS told there was a major convention in Detroit that weekend – and it was Memorial Day weekend. Was that enough to keep other stars from attending?

And there were only about half the vendors (if that) attending than from previous years. Were they expecting a small crowd? Was it too expensive to attend (I found out the answer was no …).

And the crowd was only about half (if that) from the previous years. It seemed there were more cosplayers than non-cosplayers. Of course that day was the cosplay contests for adults and kids, but still…

But it wasn’t all bleak. In fact, when it was done I realized I had a lot of fun!

Once again I went with my sister and her family. Also attending were one of my best friends and his wife. We met their daughter and son-in-law there, too. We ran into another friend there, too. “I didn’t think you were going to go,” he said.

I didn’t plan on it, to be truthful. But my sister and her husband and two of their sons were going and asked me to join them. My wife said it was fine – she would watch our five-year-old-master-of- all-time-and-space for the day and told me to go enjoy myself.

And I did. Here’s why:

My sister and family helped me see through my solipsistic dislike of the guest list. Sissy was so happy to meet and speak with her idol Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) that she cried when she spoke to her. This made Cassandra cry. “My sister made Elvira cry!” I told anyone willing to listen.

The friend who came with me had an Elvira supplement of a Chill role-playing game for her to sign. She said she must have a copy of this in her house somewhere but otherwise didn’t recognize it!

My family wanted to meet Michael Rooker and have him sign various Walking Dead/Guardians of the Galaxy things. I got in line with them and as I left held out my hand and said how much I enjoyed him in JFK and Tombstone. He shook my hand and thanked me.

My nephew met Jason David Frank, one of the Power Rangers, last year. He showed the star his Tai Kwon Do moves and a video of their meeting was on Frank’s Facebook page and website! He got a picture with Jason and brought that picture back to be signed. Unfortunately he would not be available until 4:00, so we decided it would be our last thing before leaving.

While waiting, at different times of course, Robin Lord Taylor and the quite pretty Naomi Grossman walked past with their entourage. My sister said hello to Robin Lord Taylor and he stopped, very briefly, to thank her. Same with Naomi Grossman.

Both were very friendly and neither of then stood higher than my mid-bicep! Short people, these stars…

While the family was in line for Jason David Frank, I saw actress Tara Reid at her autograph booth. She was between signings and sitting with her aide and I thought, “why not? When am I ever going to meet Tara Reid again?” I walked up to her booth and offered my hand. I said I was a big fan and enjoyed her work. She smiled and shook my hand and said, “Thank you.” I turned away and she resumed her texting. I wasn’t going to buy a picture or pay for an autograph or picture so she certainly wasn’t going to spend a lot of time chatting with me. That’s okay, I don’t blame her. But she was polite about my wanting to meet her and that’s all that matters, isn’t it? I didn’t make any of the stars any money, but I didn’t bug them either. Fair trade. She was also very small, even sitting high up in her booth.  I doubt she would have come up to my elbow standing next to me.

There were two artists I wanted to meet. I talked with Michael Golden for a few minutes as he signed a Star Wars comic I brought and a Marvel print I bought. I told him I had that poster on my college dorm wall. I also told him what I thought of the comic – after that issue the comic had better stories and art than in the issues before. I said it was all his doing. He laughed and thanked me.

I brought a Ghost Rider book for Gary Friedrich, its creator to sign. He was scheduled to appear at Wizard Con in 2013 but had to cancel. He has had health problems. He cancelled this year, too. I was disappointed but not angry – still I could have done without lugging that thick paperback compilation around.

That was my only “meeting of the stars” I did this year.

***

               With fewer vendors, it was easier to take my time in artists’ row. They had local authors this year and I enjoyed talking to them. Who did they use to self-publish? How long have they been doing it? What were their books about? I did not spend too much time talking to them as they were there to hawk their books, not talk shop. But they did in between shilling to the other customers and I thanked them. I might even buy their books!

One author spread his debut science fiction novel into five parts. No one is going to buy a thousand-page book from a first-time author, he said, which is true. We discussed the trend of writing stories in series to bring in fans to your work. I mentioned some authors I’ve met had written a few short stories set in their fantasy worlds and gave them away from free online or as chap books to draw readers into the rest of their line. He liked that idea – maybe we’ll see some short fiction from him soon!

***

               I not only got to chat with authors but also some of the vendors and employees. I asked one local comic shop owner if he knew why the low vendor turn out. He did not know, except for perhaps the Con in Detroit. I asked if the rental space was too high. “No,” he said, “we pay $(blank) for this and we have a pretty big spread.”

“Is that per day?”

“No, the whole weekend.”

“That’s pretty good. You’ll make that back just today.”

“Yep.”

While my family was waiting in line an employee (I will not say who or where in case he gets in trouble for telling me) told me that stars have to give a cut of their autograph and photo op money to the Con. I asked if the guests get paid for attending. Not a lot, although they do get their rooms free. They make their money from the autographs and photo ops – what they don’t give to their Wizard Con overlords. That is why the stars have a few “attendants” the young man told me, “to make sure they don’t pocket the cash for themselves.” That’s another reason some stars need line tickets – not just for crowd control, but to keep a rough account of money made…

Hearing about the dark business side of the Con was almost as fun as hunting for comic books.

Comic books? Oh, yes …

***

               The main difference in this year’s Wizard Con was the focus on the one item that was shoved aside in the previous two years.

This year the comic book convention was about comic books.

With the thinner crowds and less vendors came more opportunities to shop for comics. Perhaps to make the weekend worthwhile, the vendors were more willing to negotiate and barter. Some of them. But I found some beauties and some comics to finally plug some holes in my collection.

I spotted a Superman from the 1970s and he charged me more than I was willing to pay. But he made me such a deal on other comics I bought I accepted it. When I got the comic home and saw was great condition it was I realized what a bargain he gave me.

There were some comics I bought for less than cover price. I can name four that I paid only twice the cover price. The rest of the silver age comics I bought (mostly Green Lantern) were within my purchase comfort zone. Since I did not have to plunk down eighty bucks to shake hands with William Shatner and Adam West, I could spend it on comics I was looking for.

Since the crowds were thinner I was able to get the comics I was looking for and not leftovers.

Since the vendors were fewer I was able to get back to the booths that I found the comics that were still there and that I could afford. In prior years I would try to go back to a booth only to “lose” it. “I think it was by this store …  no … it was by a t-shirt place. Now, which t-shirt place…”

What I mean is that I subscribe to Nihilistic Shopping. I see something I want but then go away to get it later. If I still want the item an hour or more later I will go get it. If the thing is there I will get it; if it is gone it was not meant to be. At a place like Wizard Con that usually means I do not get it – someone else snapped it up. We even joked about that waiting in line to enter the convention hall. “NO! They are all in there buying everything I wanted!”

But this year: more money, thin crowds, and fewer vendors. I was able to find the vendor that had the golden age issue of World’s Finest within my purchasing comfort zone AND it was still there. Ditto the three Green Lanterns at a silver age booth across the convention floor. This guy near the entrance still has those tabloid-size comics.

By the time the family was in line to talk to the Power Ranger my bag was full and my back was aching. Later that weekend I swam with my daughter and spent Monday walking around the St. Louis Renaissance Festival. My back, hips and thighs have not said a kind word to me yet.

Fortunately I have some sweet comics to read while I mend.

***

               You can’t talk about Wizard Con without talking cosplay. Lots of great superheroes and gamers on this day.

Aaron Rabe, who does a pitch-perfect Captain Jack Sparrow, won Best in Show for the first two years of the Con. He was on a panel this year and helped to judge – like Carol O’Connor with the Emmys you get tired of winning all the time. We met him on the convention floor and he asked us the time. He stopped long enough to take his picture with my nephews – one is a huge Captain Jack fan!

As we left we saw this group:

 Princesses

They gave us a card and said they are available for birthday parties and other events. One friend asked for several cards to give to her Girl Scout troop families. I said they will inevitably be doing my daughter’s birthday party as soon as she sees the picture.

My wife hinted that she might go with me next year. She will be less likely to stand and wait for me while I troll the comic boxes if there is a bigger crowd of friends and family there. She can visit or look around the vendor booths herself.

Some of the vendors sold age-appropriate items. For every Walking Dead bobble-head there were Annas and Elsas and Olafs…

Obviously it all depends on our five-year-old Master-of-All-Time-and-Space.

She gets scared during the climactic scenes of Sophia the First. She would be SO excited to see Captain America or Thor or Batman and faint at any Disney Princess. But then she would see a man with an axe through his neck and we will have to go home. I call this picture “this is why I don’t bring Abby to Wizard Con”…

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Although my sister took her son, who is only about two years older; I don’t think mine will be able to handle it. Even my nephew got a little skittish at that clown-puppet.

There were plenty of kids there, though. Some even younger than mine. But as I said last year and the year before; my daughter would freak out too much at some of the more gruesome cosplayers.  Hence why I wanted to slap George Romero…

But we’ll see. Now if you will excuse me, I have some comics to read…

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Copyright 2015 Michael Curry

 

 

Blackhawk #247: the Bicentennial Banner blog continues!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#25

Blackhawk #247

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Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist: Dick Giordano

Editor: Gerry Conway

            This paragraph is a repeat of my blog on Freedom Fighters #3. 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).

            Blackhawk debuted in Military Comics #1, August 1941 as ace pilots fighting the Nazi menace. Note this was before the US involvement in WWII. The group was given its own comic published in Winter 1944 beginning with issue #9 (retitled from Uncle Sam Quarterly – this was commonly done even as late as the 1970s to avoid postal fees and registrations, etc.). They still starred in Military Comics (renamed Modern Comics) until it was cancelled with issue #102 (October 1950).

            At one point the Blackhawks outsold every other comic book character other than Superman.

            DC Comics continued the series when it bought Quality and continued publishing the comic until 1968, canceling it after issue #243. During the mid-1960s the Blackhawks became costumed superheroes rather than ace pilots.

            The title was brought back with #244 in January 1976. Although still ace pilots, the series was set in modern times fighting modern menaces. This run ended with #250 (January 1977) and was successfully revived in later years (picking up with the original numbering) and also appearing in the anthology Action Comics Weekly in the 1980s.

***

 “Operation Overkill”, David Anthony Kraft ( w ), Ric Estrada and Al Milgrom (a), Liz Berube (c), Gaspar Saladino (l)

            I think this synopsis will take longer to read then the comic itself, as is usually with the masterful David Anthony Kraft, his comics are chock-full of plot and details!

            While debriefing their workout in their private training course, the Blackhawks are interrupted by the Duchess Ramona Fatale, also called Patch. She introduces her own team of lady commandoes and asks the Blackhawks to help her raid the HQ of Anton Vibrax – who murdered Patch’s troops in issue #244. Blackhawk allows only Andre to go with them, as he has worked with Patch’s commandos before.

patch

 

            Meanwhile, Blackhawk receives a message from their CIA contact asking them to escort a secret cargo from Greenland to Great Britain. They agree and take off – except for Hendrickson, who stays behind with his daughter, as he is getting too old for such adventures.

            The CIA contact reveals himself to be the villain Bio-Lord. The Blackhawks are flying into a trap!

biolord

            And indeed cyborgs blast two of the Blackhawks out of the sky (Olaf and Blackhawk himself) and capture the others mid-air. Blackhawk and Olaf are eventually also overcome and captured.

            Andre and Patch’s commandoes invade the headquarters of Vibrax’s master. Andre chastises the women warriors for using real bullets to kill instead of subdue. They find the HQ empty – it was a decoy. Andre again chastises them for taking lives for nothing!

            Andre learns of the other Blackhawk’s fate from Hendrickson and heads to Greenland. Hendrickson’s turns around to find his daughter, Elsa, pointing a gun at him and threatening his life!

            The Biolord explains to Blackhawk his evil scheme: he will detonate an anti-matter bomb and decimate Great Britain as part of his plot to destroy the human virus. Blackhawk breaks his bonds and rescues his troops, but not before the Anti-bomb is launched!

            To be continued…

            I started collecting Blackhawk with the next issue until its cancellation with #250.

 

Blackhawk By-lines: Letter discussing mostly issue #245. Assistant Editor Jack C. Harris introduces us to new writer David Anthony Kraft with a lengthy bio. Letters by Brian Dyke of Goodlettsville, TN (very positive) and Carlton McDaniels of New York, NY (negative – bemoaning that these new Blackhawks carry guns and kill their adversaries.

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #26: World’s Finest Comics #239

 

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.

 

 

Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter #10: Bicentennial Fu!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#24

Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter #10

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Published monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Dick Giordano

Editor: Dennis O’Neil

            During the early to mid-1970s everybody was kung-fu fighting. The craze was fast as lightning. Both DC and Marvel jumped on the bandwagon – Marvel with its excellent Hands of Shang Chi, Master of Kung-Fu (which actually began as Marvel Special Edition #15 from December 1973) and its various spin-offs (Giant Size …) and magazines; and Iron Fist, martial arts set firmly in the superhero mode.

            Although a little slow to catch on to the craze, DC Comics jumped in with Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter. The character debuted in the 1974 novel “Dragon’s Fists” by Denny O’Neal and Jim Berry.

 dragon's fist

            They adapted the character into the comic book. The first issue was dated May 1975. Richard Dragon was a thief caught burglarizing a dojo. Its sensei trained him to use his talents for good. Literally, GOOD (the Global Organization of Organized Defense).  Good group, bad anagram.

            The comic ran for 18 issues through December 1977 and for a time was published monthly. In 1976 DC continued the craze with Karate Kid – martial arts set firmly in the superhero mode. Karate Kid’s Bicentennial issue (#3) has already been reviewed…

            By the time Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter ended, so had the Kung Fu craze. Good thing, too, I suppose: it was a little bit frightening…

***

“The Human Inferno”, Denny O-Neil ( w ), Ric Estrada and Jack Abel (a)

            The letter column admits this is a fill-in issue. This is one of the four Bicentennial issues I owned when they were new on the stands.

        Ben Turner (who would eventually become the Bronze Tiger) inherits a thousand acres of timber land. The lumberjack foreman is a murderous brute named Hatchett and vows to kill this new owner, as he did the previous owners, lest he cut into the lumberjack’s vast profits!

 hatchett 2hatchett

   

        Richard, Ben and Lady Shiva travel to the property and are promptly attacked by lumberjacks. Dispatching them, Ben meets his namesake nephew, who has been in hiding since Hatchett murdered his parents.

            Again attacked that night in their hotel, the quartet go to Hatchett for the final face-off. Our heroes make it to a log cabin which is set ablaze by the loggers. Ben, Benjamin and Shiva go through the front door to face a chainsaw-wielding maniac while Richard, badly burned, battles Hatchett.

 

The Dojo: letters answered (presumably) by Assistant Editors Jack C. Harris and Bob Rozakis. Letters by Bart Casey of Dayton, Ohio (very positive), Jim Humm of El Monte, CA (asking if Richard Dragon exists on the same earth as Superman and Batman – yes) and Judy Newton of Thompkinsville, RI (praising Shiva as a more liberated woman than Wonder Woman). Texts introduce us to Jack Abel and tells us that this is Denny O’Neil’s last issue as editor – Gerry Conway will be handling the editorial chores (at least for the next issue) and the writing will be taken over by David Anthony Kraft.

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #25: Blackhawk #247

 

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.

Tarzan Family #64: the Bicentennial blog continues!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#23

Tarzan Family #64

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Published bi-monthly, fifty cents, August

Cover artist and Editor: Joe Kubert

            Tarzan Family began as Korak, Son of Tarzan from Gold Key Comics and first published in January 1964 until issue #45 in January 1972. DC Comics bought the rights to the Korak character as well as his more famous father and continued the son’s comic with the original numbering (#46) beginning in June 1972 until #59 (October 1975). The book was renamed Tarzan Family while continuing the sequential numbering until it was cancelled with issue #66, December 1976. This was part of a “Family Series” DC launched in 1975 as companions to Superman Family (which had debuted the year before – an amalgam of the Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Supergirl titles): Tarzan Family, Superteam Family and Batman Family. They were “Giant” comics containing mostly reprints for fifty cents, with the lead story (and sometimes a second feature) as a new piece.

            Tarzan Family featured Korak in a new tale and reprints of a Tarzan Sunday strip as well as reprints of the comic book adventures of other Edgar Rice Burroughs creations such as Carson of Venus and John Carter of Mars from earlier issues of Korak or other DC comics.

burroughs-with-characters

            Korak the character, the son of Tarzan and Jane Porter, appeared first in the Tarzan novels and movies (although in the popular Johnny Weissmuller movies he was replaced by the adopted “Boy”).

***

            “The Gigantics”, Robert Kanigher ( w ),  Ruby Florese (a).

            Korak is still searching for his lost love Meriem, his search takes him to the peak of a high mountain where he is snatched up by giant Roc. The bird flies him to a hidden kingdom of giants. The King orders Korak be sacrificed, but his daughter is charmed by the little “doll” and wants him for her own. If the priests agree, she may have him.

korak

            Korak watches as a Vestal is sacrificed to the gods. If it rains, Korak may live with the princess; if it does not, he must be sacrificed.  There is much thunder and lightning, but no rain. Guards come to carry away Korak, but with the help of the princess’ diamond, he escapes. The princess puts Korak back into his cage and escapes with him into the wilderness.

            To be continued…

***

            “Lights of Doom”, Robert Kanigher ( w ), Noly Zamora (a)

            A John Carter of Mars tale. John Carter and Tanna, Princess of Barsoom are transported aboard an alien spacecraft. The aliens heal Carter and tell him to be their spokesman as they promise to cure all Barsoom of their ills in exchange for their fealty. He refuses, breaks free of their force field, takes command of the ship and crashes it back to the surface of Mars. As he and Tanna leave the ship, an ominous shadow covers them; they turn to face their new adversary …

            This was a new tale continued from the previous issue and to be continued … but never concluded … the storyline was never finished!

***

            “Battle with Bu-Gash”, Russ Manning (w/a)

            A reprint of a Tarzan Sunday newspaper strip with Joe Kubert art and story bookending the tale. There is no indication of where each week’s strip begins or ends; is it one strip per page? Heavily edited to fit the standard comic book page? Perhaps, perhaps not, but the storylines jump without much explanation…

            Tarzan rescues a bull elephant from the Sahara desert, leading it back to the jungle. He then rescues a baby gorilla from a Pangolin (a lizard). Tarzan fights off the baby’s father Do-Ag. While they battle, a rogue gorilla named Bu-Gash swings off with the baby and his mother. The baby falls and breaks its leg – certain doom to a species unable to heal one another. Tarzan mends the leg and Do-Ag and Bu-Gash do battle. Bu-Gash is defeated and flees the tribe.

            Meanwhile, Korak helps Nubilia become chieftess of a human tribe, having helped oust the tyrant chief Imbaza (the coup is never shown; presumably it was in a previous strip not published here). Korak questions how a supposedly peaceful ruler commits murder to obtain a throne.  Leaving the village, Korak watches a hippo save an antelope from the jaws of a crocodile – animals helping each other out of instinct? Can man learn this? Korak then swings into the midst of a battle between two apes vying to be king of their tribe. “Tarzan is coming, Leave us,” says one ape. “That is what I intend to do,” says Korak. 

***

            “Pirates of Venus”, Len Wein ( w ), Mike Kaluta (a)

            Carson of Venus tale reprinted from Korak, Son of Tarzan #50 (February 1973). Descending from the Venusian trees, Carson bids farewell to his dead friend Kamlot. But Kamlot is NOT dead – merely paralyzed from the spider-beasts venom! Together they kill a basto – a gigantic boar – for their meal! They are then both captured by Klangan – bat-winged creatures – and flown as captives through the forest to a vast Venusian sea.

 

 

The Ape Vine: a half-page letter column discussing mainly issue #62. Letters by Steve Kalaitzidis of Toronto, Ontario (spotting an error – John Carter fights a race from Edgar Rice Burrough’s Carson of Venus tales), Mark Schneider of Concord, Mass (positive, but criticizing the sameness of the Carter/Carson stories – the editor says considering the previous letter, that makes sense!) and David L Klees of Newton Centre, Mass (asking for a tabloid-size edition of the Hal Foster Tarzan strips – I would have agreed! They did a tabloid of Dick Tracy, why not a Tarzan reprint? Alas, it was never to be…). E. Nelson Bridwell answered the questions and announced this was Joe Kubert’s last issue as editor. Joe Orlando takes over with the next issue. After that, there would be only one issue left before cancellation.

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #24: Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter #10

 

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.

 

Superboy starring the Legion of Superheroes #218

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#22

Superboy starring the Legion of Superheroes #218

Superboy_Vol_1_218

Published 9 months of the year, thirty cents, July

Cover artists: Mike Grell

Editor: Murray Boltinoff

            Superboy, the adventures of Superman when he was a boy, debuted in More Fun Comics #101, January 1945.  It was the first new comic book character to have a measure of success after the initial Golden Age/pre-WWII rush of superheroes – the fact it was a spin-off of one of the most successful comic book characters before or after World War II helped its success a bit, I would imagine.

            The character moved to Adventure Comics in April 1946 with issue #103.  Three years later he was given his own magazine starting with issue #1 dated April 1949 while still headlining Adventure Comics.

            Flash forward to April 1958 and Adventure Comics #247 (good things happen in April, it seems…). In the 30th century, youthful superheroes, all inspired by the adventures of the previous millenium’s Superboy, formed a club called the Legion of Superheroes. Three members went back in time and asked Superboy to join their ranks. The group returned in issue #267 of December 1959. By issue #300 (September 1962), the Legion grew so popular they were given their own series, although usually always with Superboy in attendance.

            The Legion continued in Adventure Comics, Action Comics and Superboy until 1973. In issue 197 of Superboy the Legion became part of the comic’s title, as Superboy starring the Legion of Superheroes (although it would be still categorized as just Superboy for some time). By #231 the title became Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes, then Legion of Superheroes with #259 when Superboy was booted from his own magazine.  Comics starring the Legion have been revived several times and their continuity endlessly changed and rearranged in the decades since.

            The fans of the Legion are … well, legion. Facebook pages, APAs, fanzines and other fan-based appreciation societies flourish. At the time of this blog, DC is slowly bring back the Legion after the cancellation of two of their comics from the “New 52” line-up. I’ve loved the Legion since my first issue (#209) and try to catch most of their revived titles. Overall the stories have been very good – some of them even excellent – but nothing seems to recapture the glory days of their Adventure Comics run; although to be frank, the run in which this Bicentennial issue is a part is my personal favorite…

            Nearly every Legion story are available in reprints – either in comics form, trade paperback or hardback. This comic was reprinted in Legion of Super-Hero Archives #12.

            Long Live the Legion!

***

“The Secret Villain the World Never Knew”, Cary Bates ( w ), Mike Grell (a)

            This is Cary “Mr. Surprise” Bates at his best, so this will take a while…

            Three rejected Legion applicants leave the Legion HQ. Quake Kid learns the hazards of flirting with Infectious Lass (who I always found to be incredibly sexy .. perhaps it is the charm of forbidden fruit…) while the third is still in shock that he was rejected.

Tyroc  

          Meanwhile, the applicant that was accepted, Tyroc, prepares to land on the HQ roof. Inside, Brainiac 5 recaps Tyroc’s origin and first meeting with the LSH from issue #216 to Light Lass, Colossal Boy and Element Lad who were on mission in space (again with the mission in space…) and have yet to meet Tyroc. Tyroc joins his new teammates…

218_1

            … only to be attacked by Zoraz, who burns his way into the headquarters. Zoraz activates and uses the four Legionaires’ powers against them (Colossal Boy grows so fast he smacks himself unconscious against the ceiling, etc.).  Tyroc causes an explosion that Zoraz absorbs, sets fire to the HQ alarm and escapes while Tyroc is recovering from the sonic onslaught.

            Superboy and Cosmic Boy arrive and explain Zoraz’s origin to Tyroc. He once raided the Legion Cell Bank (our second lesson in cloning – Secret Society of Supervillains #2 also gave us a footnote-lecture on cloning this month) and stole samples from each Legionnaire! Thus, as the new member, Tyroc has the only power Zoraz cannot counteract!

            While patrolling theie headquarters, Tyroc and Shrinking Violet pass an air vent in which sits a shadowed figure – who vows to find a way to wipe out the new guy!

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            That evening, Zoraz attacks Star Boy and Dream Girl during a romantic interlude and defeats them. Tryoc tries to save them, but Zoraz creates a vacuum in the gymnasium voiding Tyroc’s sound-based powers. Tyroc escapes by smashing a hole in the wall to sweet air and freedom! Zoraz gets away, but the shadowy figure in the air vent returns and says he now knows how to finally defeat Tyroc!

            Tyroc is called to a meeting where the defeated Legionnaires are now fine and dandy! What gives? Zoraz was actually Sun Boy and (alternately) Superboy! It was one last test for Tyroc (the LSH trick/test new applicants a lot – look at Superboy and Star Boy’s initiations …)

            But then Zoraz appears! The Legionnaires think it is Sun Boy and tell him the joke is over. Zoraz unmasks – it is the rejected applicant! Absorbency Boy! He can absorb residual energy left behind by superheroes. So in the Zoraz costume, he has the powers of Sun Boy AND Superboy! Yikes!

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            Absorbency Boy/Zoraz challenges Tyroc to a battle for Legion membership (one hopes the Legion would still reject AB if he won…). Tyroc blasts him with a pitch only Superboy can hear. The inexperienced Absorbency Boy reels at the painful sound and Tyroc knocks him out. Later that day, Tyroc is sworn in as the newest member of the Legion of Superheroes. Presumably Absorbency Boy goes back to testing paper towels. Not quite – they turned him into Earth Man, one of the Legions deadliest villains and eventually joining the Legion. He died in the Legion’s last pre-New 52 book as heroically as this modern comic age allows…

Tyroc joins

            The “morgue” of the clone bank contains the names of several Legionnaires, and also Cary Bates, Allen Ladd and John Boy.

            This is one of the four Bicentennial issues I owned when they were new on the stands.

            This story is reprinted in Legion of Superheroes Archives #12 and Showcase Presents the Legion of Superheroes Vol. 5.

 

Supertalk: the letter column was handled by Jack C. Harris but still done in the Boltinoff “sound bite” style (see The Brave & The Bold) for issue #215. Mike White, Mackinaw, IL (positive, but disliked some of the new costumes). The following letter writers out and out hated the new costumes: Marie Munas of La Mesa, CA, Katie Raisler of East Lansing, MI and “A Worried Fan”. Scott Gibson of Evergreen, CO liked the costumes and the current stories, Sarah Finnegan of Washington DC spotted a story flaw regarding Ultra Boy’s powers, Barry Charles of Louisville, KY asked for a return of the Fatal Five (and they would in the next issue, per JCH) and David Hanson of Swartz Creek, Michigan finished off the letter page with the ubiquitous “Long Live the Legion”!

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #23: Tarzan Family #4

 

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.