Secret Society of Supervillains #2 – Bicentennial Bad Guys!



Secret Society of Supervillains #2


Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artists: Dick Giordano & Terry Austin

Editor: Gerry Conway

            I loved Secret Society of Supervillains. I frickin’ loved it!I got a late start on collecting the series – My first issue was #6 after the Darkseid/Manhunter introductory story arc finally ended. By now it was 1977, when I started seriously collecting comics instead of getting the odd issues from friends and family. But I got every issue after that and was very sad when it was cancelled with issue #15 during the DC Implosion. Over the years I trolled the back issue markets until I completed the collection. Two more issues were written and drawn and reproduced in the famous Cancelled Comic Cavalcade, and the finale of this story arc (started in #15) that would have concluded in #18 was written and discussed in Back Issue #35. The Amazing World of DC Comics #11 reprints the original first issue with a different line-up and direction. 

            I told you I loved this series…

            A mysterious benefactor formed an “anti-Justice League” led by a clone of the original Manhunter. Founding members included Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd, Sinestro, Star Saphire and others. In issue #2 more intrigue is revealed…


“No Man Shall I Call Master”, Gerry Conway Robert Kanigher ( w ), Ric Estrada (a)

            Captain Comet returns from obscurity a 20-year mission in space (what IS it this month with missions in space? See Superman and Justice League of America…). While noting the change in clothing styles, Comet comes across a battle between Green Lantern, Gorilla Grodd and Hijack (a former member of the Royal Flush Gang, but still with the card motif).

            Since Lantern attacked first, Comet assumes he is the bad guy in the brawl and knocks him out and saves Grodd and Hijack. He reveals to Grodd that he can read his thoughts.

            At the Society’s headquarters, Grodd (who has in turn read Comet’s mind) reveals to the SSOSV Comet’s origin, recapping Strange Adventures #9 & 10 from 1951.   Since Comet knows nothing of superheroes, the SSOSV ask him to join their group as a dupe in their fight against good!

            Later, Comet finds the graves of his parents and friends. Manhunter approaches and reveals that the SSOSV are criminals. Comet knows. Grodd’s mental block is good, but not THAT good. Manhunter reveals he is ALSO fighting on the side of the angels. They are both attacked by Mantis of Apocalypse! They fend off Mantis, who escapes before he completely runs out of power.

            Manhunter takes the SSOSV to the underground laboratory of their benefactor and reveals him to be Darkseid! Mantis attacks again! To be continued…


            The Superman Hostess ad appears in this comic rather than the Joker ad. Don’t they put ANY thought into these things?


The Sinister Citadel: Gerry Conway’s soapbox asking for suggestions appears (see All Star Comics #61). Also, there is text of the publication history of Captain Comet, a bio of Sinestro and new writer David Anthony Kraft.


Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #22: Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes #218


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.

Blitzkrieg #4 – one of DC’s best ideas…



Blitzkrieg #4

Blitzkrieg 4 

Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist and Editor: Joe Kubert

            Blitzkrieg was a unique idea in comics and a bold move for DC. It ran for five issues (from February 1976 until October 1976) and was a war anthology focused on the Nazi’s view of World War II. Some stories (such as the main story in this issue and in the first) – featured a soldier aghast at the atrocities of war amongst his more leering, villainous comrades. Other stories’ themes included evil Nazis getting their come-uppance, a common theme among DC’s horror books. The Nazis as a whole were never shown in a sympathetic light, although showing the humanity in individual soldiers was common.

            I hope Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert were proud of the series. They should be. In a few months these co-creators would team again for the equally excellent Ragman book.

            The series was cancelled with the next issue.


“The Tourists”, Robert Kanigher ( w ), Ric Estrada (a)

            Three Nazi soliders tour Paris. While riding a tour boat on the Seine, they are shot at and subdue a sniper. They shoot down another sniper pair on the Eiffel Tower – a young couple caught in the slow elevator. At a cafe near Notre Dame Cathedral they invite local ladies for a meal. The brother of one of the ladies shoots at them, killing even his own sister. They return fire and kill him. They visit the Louvre. While walking through the Jewish quarter and watching citizens being removed, a woman throws a grenade hidden in a loaf of bread. They give chase and she throws herself in front of an ongoing train rather than be captured (an image depicted on the cover). There are more assassins at the Arc de Triomphe are defeated, but not before they replace the Nazi flag with their French colors. Why do they take such risks with their lives for such foolhardy things, one of the trio asks. Franz, the thoughtful and bookish member of the trio, who is only interested in seeing the sights for likely the only time, says, “Perhaps we must convince them first … that they ARE defeated.”


The Souvenir” same creative team.

            The Afrika Korps’ Feldwebbel named Wasser (we never learn his first name) collects souvenirs from every battle to send to his wife. But the British on the road to Cairo have been slim pickings (a watch that has been burning in the sun for days, for example). His company raids a fort and he finds a framed picture of Churchill. Perfect! Not really: the picture is booby trapped and explodes. His comrades joke that he has collected his last souvenir.


Battle Album by Sam Glanzman gave us a brief history and overview of the Chance Vought Corsair during WWII and Korea.



Blitzkrieg Briefs: letters for issue #1 from Craig Kenner of Massillon, OH (positive, and gave the letter column its name); Cadet Captain Ruby S Nelson of Jacksonville, AL criticized anachronistic mistakes on weapons and uniforms; Drury Moore of Springfield, IL told us the German Army was quite democratic among their officers and enlisted while the US Army, who fought for our freedom, was strictly autocratic; and Thomas Edward Bigham of Matt, Mass said the magazine was fair-minded in its portrayal of the Nazis.


Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #21: Secret Society of Supervillains #2


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.

Brave & Bold #128 – a Bicentennial team-up!



The Brave and the Bold #128


Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Jim Aparo

Editor: Murray Boltinoff

             I beg your pardon in advance for this crass hype, but I’ve already done the work on this one.

            All information gleaned from my new ebook: The Brave and the Bold – from Silent Knight to Dark Knight, an index of the DC comic book. Available at Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords websites.


            The Barnes and Noble link is here:

            The Brave & the Bold ran for 200 issues from 1955 through 1983. During its run, the best writers and artists in the business introduced us to comic book icons, some of which are still published today: the Justice League of America, the Teen Titans, the Suicide Squad, the Outsiders, The Viking Prince, the Silent Knight, Metamorpho, Katanna, Nemesis, Wonder Girl/Donna Troy, the silver age reboot of Hawkman, the revival of Green Arrow (he changed costumes and grew his beard). Those were just the good guys. Starro, Amazo, Bork, Copperhead, Shadow Thief, Matter Master and the Manhawks also made their villainous debut in B&B.

            It began with swashbuckling features such as the Viking Prince, Silent Knight, the Golden Gladiator and Robin Hood. Five years later it changed to a Showcase-style try-out anthology featuring the Justice League of America, the Suicide Squad, Hawkman and others. Next came something new in comics – regular team-ups of characters throughout the DC Universe: war comics characters, established superheroes, even a meeting of the various youthful sidekicks from the superhero line. The aforementioned Teen Titans were one of their many successes.

            By the time of the Batman TV show any comic graced with the Caped Crusader on the cover outsold any other comic, Brave and Bold included. It wasn’t long before the dollar signs in front of the eyes of National Comics’ owners and editors helped them decide to keep Batman as the permanent star of the comic.

            As a third Batman title, it was criticized even then for being out of the regular Batman continuity. Regular writer Bob Haney wrote in his own continuity bubble – he was even jokingly given his own “alternate earth” where events of his comics happened; events that were mentioned nowhere else in DC’s comics. Bruce Wayne had a brief stint as a Senator. Wayne adopted many more wards than just Dick Grayson (most of them were either killed or sent to prison as criminals…). Wayne’s chief financial rival was the femme fatale Ruby Ryder – who continuously planned the demise of Wayne Enterprises! And she appeared no where else – only in the pages of B&B.

      By its Bicentennial issue the comic was coasting on its once vast popularity.  Quoting From Silent Knight to Dark Knight: “B&B still had good sales* and loyal readers from years past (the sales drop was proportionate to the industry as a whole), and the marvelous Aparo art was always spectacular, giving B&B its distinct look. … It wasn’t the best comic book in terms of sales, story and originality, but it was still good!” Before this point in its history, B&B was at the very top. But once you are at the top, there is only one place to go.

       This issue in some ways reflected that problem…

This is one of the few Bicentennial issues I owned when they were published.


Death by the Ounce, starring Batman and Mister Miracle, Bob Haney ( w ), Jim Aparo (a).

            The Shah of Karkan, the world’s richest ruler, is landing in Gotham (of all placed) to sign a peace treaty. Gotham’s finest and Batman scour the city for spies and assassins. While searching a condemned sports arena, Batman sees a body being dumped from the rafters. He is beaten by the shadowed killers, only to discover it is Big Barda and Oberon – the body being “dumped” was Mr. Miracle practicing an escape for his big comeback.

            Things get worse for Batman – his idea of smuggling the Shah in a laundry truck backfires and the Shah is kidnapped by someone called “Gigi”.

 b&b 128-2

(dig this beautiful Aparo art!)

            Via a tapped phone to the president, they fool the kidnappers into thinking they only have a decoy and the Shah is safe in his hotel room.

            Batman enlists the help of Mr. Miracle by besting him in an escape routine.

 b&b 128-3

            Batman, disguised as the Shah, is kidnapped in his bed and taken to an underwater derelict redesigned as a headquarters for Mr. Miracle baddie Apokolypsian Granny Goodness (G.G. – “Gigi” – get it?). She agreed to kidnap the Shah in exchange for one ounce of a youth-restoring potion created by a Dr. Kiev.

            Mr. Miracle, hiding all this time under the bed on which the Shah/Batman slept (the kidnappers lifted the bed through he skylight while the “Shah” slept) frees Batman and the real Shah. They escape and Mr. Miracle detonates left-over gun powder in the derelict ship – destroying Granny Goodness once and for all … yeah right…

 b&b 128-1

            The second of only three appearances by Mister Miracle, and the only issue of B&B that gave even a small nod to Kirby’s Fourth World with an appearance by Granny Goodness (a bit out of character and out of place here, I think) and a few mentions of Darkseid.

            Using Granny Goodness seemed an afterthought – something to link with Mr. Miracle. Any super villain could have been used. Any non-powered villain could have been used. Come to think of it, any guest star could probably have been used. Anybody can hide in a bed – you don’t have to be the World’s Greatest Escape Artist to stow away. The Marx Brothers could stow away.

            Now that would have made a fun comic…

            See what I mean by coasting?


Brave and Bold Mailbag (letter column): comments mainly on issue #125 and as always peppered with team-up suggestions, edited and answered by Jack C Harris. B&B’s letter columns read more like movie posters than actual letters – “Fantastic,” says Bob Rozakis of Elmont, NY; “Fair,” Keith Griffin of Mobile, Ala. writes; “Blows!” Michael Curry of St. Louis, MO shouts. This way the editors can mention twenty or more letter-writers in one issue.

            David A. Jones of Horse Cave, KY (positive)

            Jim Dever of Philadelphia, PA, Robert Gustive of Grand Island, Neb., “Hackman” of Santa Martia, CA and Joe Peluso (he contributed five total letters to the comic during its series) all ask for Aparo to draw Flash in his regular series.  I would add Aparo should draw EVERY DC series. JCH says Aparo’s schedule will nor permit it.

            Burt Fowler of Jacksonville, FL thinks Aparo’s Barry Allen looks too much like Aquaman…

Jim Planack of Poughkeepsie, NY, Scott Taylor of Portland, TX, Jerry Rosen of New York, NY, Thomas Russon of Mt. Kisco, NY and John Jesse of Hobart, IN are mentioned.


Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #20: Blitzkrieg #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.



* Here is a sample of sales figures published in DC’s annual “required by law” financial statement for 1976:

Brave and Bold: 151,000

Justice League of America: 193,000

World’s Finest: 132,185

Adventure Comics: 104,309

Superman: 216,122

Superman Family: 156,636

Claw the Unconquered #8! Bicentennial weirdness …



Claw the Unconquered #8


Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover Artist: Keith Giffen

Editor: Joe Orlando

            Claw was part of DC’s Adventure Line of comics from 1975. The implication that “Adventure Line” was some sort of imprint is my own invention and I have published many a blog on that line of comics. Claw’s is here:

            A house ad in 1975 hyped seven comics as part of DC’s new Adventure line of comics – as opposed to their superhero and horror line. Claw the Unconquered, Tor, Kong the Untamed, Warlord, Beowulf Dragon Slayer, Justice Inc. and Stalker were advertised. Of the comics, only Warlord eventually met with success – going well past a hundred issues into the 1980s. But Warlord was put on hiatus after its second issue for several months. It quickly succeeded upon its return, but during August of 1976, only Claw survived: in that respect, it was the most successful of the “Line” and at that point it lasted longer than the other six.

claw ad

            For its first seven issues, legendary artist Ernie Chua (Chan) did the excellent artwork. With this issue, a new art team debuted. And they did an excellent job, too – good thing, they had some huge shoes to fill. With the new art I noticed was Claw looked more like a Native American than a certain Cimmerian he previously resembled. The artwork certainly fit this excursion into weird worlds. In the letter column, writer Michelinie calls the Villagran/Novelle/Dominguez combination of artists contributing to this issue “the South American Crusty Bunkers” (a name given to a core of artists who occasionally helped out Neal Adams and Dick Giordano at deadline time…).

            It is a beautiful cover – Claw in all his faux-Cimmerian glory about to slice a trans-dimensional worm-man in twain, all while spouting neo-Shakespearean pomposity!  Even the issue’s villain’s name evokes Howard and Lovecraft – lots of oddly-placed consonants and apostrophes without a vowel in sight!

            This issue is Part Four of Five. This background is a recap from issue #6 near the beginning of this epic quest: N’Hglthss (geshundheit) is “unleashed upon an unwary world … N’Hglthss, whose vile passage brings naught but death and decay … yet who cannot himself be touched by death … it had taken Avistar, the Burning Man, to reveal the only weapon effective against N’Hglthss :a silver sword called Moonthorn, whose origins lie buried deep in Claw’s unknown past … a blade attainable only by uniting the three facets of an arcane talisman known as the Grimstone …”. Issues #4 introduces the menace of N’Hglthss (geshundheit), #5-7 depict Claw collecting the talismans (talismen?) in excellent stories. In #7 Claw links the three talismans together and he and his companion disappear into the void! And on to…


Master of the Seventh Void”, David Michelinie ( w ), Keith Griffin, Ricardo Villagran and Oscar Novelle & Luis Dominguez (Luis is mentioned in the letter column, but not in the splash-page’s credits) (a), Liz Berube (i).

            Claw and his companion, Ghilkyn – a devil-horned extra-dimensional traveler – enter the seventh void. By page two Ghilkyn is thrust back to … well, who knows where, leaving Claw on his own.

            Tell you what; let me use the author’s own synopsis from #9. I’m lazy that way: “traversing that demonic plane alone, Claw had come upon the object of his worlds-spanning search – the enchanted silver0hued blade called Moonthorn. But Moonthorn had a guardian – the malevolent politician-cum-sorcerer (snicker) Mahan K’Handa … a creature whose corrupt soul lay captive in a crystal egg about his waist … a vulnerability Claw’s twisted right have had somehow sensed and had crushed into oblivion allowing the elusive prize to fall into Claw’s grasp and allowed the Grimstone quest to at last end in success.” I will give my collection of Claw comics to the first reader who successfully diagrams that sentence. Now it is on to defeat the evil N’Hglthss (geshundheit)!

            The readers are promised Claw’s origin next issue!


 Of Swordsmen and Sorcerers (letter column); neither of the positive letters are about a specific issue, just praising the series in general. Paul Emrath of Milwaukee, WI and Kevin Callihan of Brea, CA contribute.


            Claw had one more issue to go before cancellation. DC was about to launch their DC/TV line-up (Shazam, Isis, Welcome Back Kotter and Superfriends), so something had to go to make room. One of those somethings was Claw.  The yearning lust of DC fanboys to get the Bicentennial Superman belt buckle was not enough to keep the title going.

            The character appeared in a cameo in Star Hunters #7 (October 1978) along with fellow-David Michelinie-creation Starfire (Star Hunters was also a Michelinie creation).

            Claw was revived for three issues in early 1978 but was again cancelled at the beginning of the DC Explosion. Issues #13 & 14 were in the Cancelled Comic Cavalcade – that little-seen shelter in which hid the remains of the DC Implosion. The character had a brief stint as a back-up feature in Warlord #s 48 & 49 to wrap up the storyline from its issue #12.

claw by hembeck

            Claw has appeared in modern times: in a cross-over miniseries with Dynamite’s Red Sonja, and in his own revived title as part of DC’s Wildstorm imprint for six issues. Earlier, he appeared in Swamp Thing (with Adventure Line alum Stalker), the 2008 Wonder Woman story arc Ends of the Earth, along with Stalker and Beowulf, and in issue #1 of the series Time Masters Vanishing Point. His demonic gauntlet appeared in Justice League: Cry for Justice as that comic’s villain’s artifact.



Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #19: The Brave and the Bold #128


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.

All Star Comics #61 – the Justice Society & the Bicentennial

jsa alex



All Star Comics #61


Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist: Ernie Chua

Editor: Gerry Conway

JSA logo

            All Star Comics debuted in summer of 1940 as a quarterly comic book in the genre’s golden age. It was an anthology series and its first two issues featured the best strips from other comics published by All American Publications, a subsidiary-yet-separate-but-equal partner of National Comics/DC.

            It changed format with Issue #3. It also changed the history of comic books. Issue #3 was the debut of the Justice Society of America. It was still an anthology of separate stories, but the stories were framed by the first meeting of the JSA – all the heroes together swapping tales.

            With issue #4 the comic featured one story told in separate chapters – each chapter featuring an individual member of the JSA typically written and drawn by his (my choice of gender is intentional) usual team. Each issue was bookended beginning with the heroes meeting and identifying a crisis and ending with their uniting to finish off the bad guys once and for all.

            For example – the JSA learned of a fifth column spy ring. Then each chapter starred one hero defeating part of the ring. In the final chapter the heroes united to crush the leader of the ring. Later issues (because of cuts in page count), the heroes teamed up two or three to a chapter.

            It was the first time individual heroes met and fought together – as opposed to heroes who were teams at their inception. The Justice League, Suicide Squad, Avengers, Defenders, Teen Titans, The All-Winner’s Squad, The Mighty Crusaders, etc. all owe their existence to the Justice Society.

            And if for no other reason, All Star Comics would make history in issue #8 with the debut of Wonder Woman.

            The fun lasted until issue #57 February 1951 in a tale ironically called “The Mystery of the Vanishing Detectives”.  Superheroes were on the outs and thus the title of the comic was changed to All-Star Western and the JSA replaced with a western anthology. All-Star Western ran until #119 in 1961, when it was finally cancelled due to the Silver Age revival of superheroes. In a sense, the guys in capes got their revenge… The last features in the comic were superhero-y characters like Superchief.

            All-Star Comics was brought back in February 1976 with issue #59 – ignoring the numbering of its western incarnation. It starred the JSA but also introduced a new team within the group – the Super Squad. This featured the trio of the now-adult Robin, the Star Spangled Kid (who was trapped in time and rescued in Justice League of America #100-102 and was once in the golden age team Seven Soldiers of Victory or Law’s Legionnaires), and a new character Power Girl – Superman’s cousin, the Supergirl of Earth-2.

            This revival lasted until issue #74 and was cancelled as a result of the DC Implosion. By then the character Huntress was introduced. Stories slated for subsequent issues were published in the dollar-sized Adventure Comics.

            As a kid the idea of an alternate earth with alternate versions of my heroes – and some I had never heard of – enthralled me. I anxiously awaited the annual summertime JLA-JSA team-ups in Justice League of America. The first issue of the revived All-Star Comic I owned was the one after this Bicentennial issue. I thereafter followed the series through to its cancellation. It took some years to get the prior issues and their last few tales in Adventure Comics. I loved every issue! Still do. I regret that I do not have any issues of the golden age run. Perhaps someday…


“Hellfire and Holocaust”, Gerry Conway ( w ), Keith Giffen & Wally Wood (a)

            As is usual in comics in those days (and these days, too), this is a continued story. Although this story concludes with the defeat of the main villain, it still ends on a cliffhanger and there are enough threads leading to upcoming issues to prevent this issue from being called “done in one”.


            Astronaut Christopher Pike was transformed into Vulcan during a trip around the sun (the Star Trek references are obvious and intentional). Vulcan, Green Lantern and Dr. Fate battle. Vulcan escapes after causing a building to explode leaving Dr. Fate’s … er … fate in the balance. Lantern digs through the rubble as best be can (lots of wood in the rubble, you know) looking for his friend. While fleeing, Vulcan briefly and mysteriously loses, and then regains, his powers when the sun comes out from behind a cloud.

            Meanwhile, archaeologist Carter (Hawkman) Hall is showing a friend his latest find – a citizen of the lost continent of Lemuria encased in amber. We see the amber casing slowly dissolving unbeknownst to our heroes…

            Cut to other JSAers Power Girl, Star Spangled Kid (hereafter SSK) Flash and Wildcat stand by as firemen put out the JSA headquarters set ablaze by Vulcan in the prior issue. Flash’s wife Joan appears and begs him to leave with her, fearing for his safety. He does. SSK calls other JSAers for help. Dr. Midnite and Hawkman respond just as Green Lantern send out an SOS. They finally find Fate in critical condition.

            Power Girl left earlier, hearing a police bulletin about a UFO landing in Gotham. She confronts the alien and learns Vulcan’s secret. The alien, Xlk-Jnn “saved” Pike when he crashed into the sun by transforming him into a creature that absorbs heat. PG and the alien confront Vulcan, already in battle against Hawkman and SSK. Vulcan destroys the alien that turned him into a monster.

            Power Girl tells the JSA of Vulcan’s weakness (told to her by the alien): sunlight! SSK feeds Vulcan enough sunlight with his cosmic rod to destroy him.

            Meanwhile, the team learns Dr. Fate is dying and only a miracle can save him now…


All Star Comments (letter column): comments on issue #59. The bulk of the letter column is made up of Gerry Conway’s editorial (dare I say soapbox) asking for suggestions. I remember this editorial even to this day – what do you want to see? A team-up between Kobra and Kamandi? We are reminded this is the team that brought us Superman vs Spider-Man so anything is possible. Too bad the Kobra/Kamandi thing never happened…

            Mike White of Mackinaw, IL (positive) and Scott Gibson of Evergreen, CO (positive, but is confused by the long title of the comic and asked who is on what team: “The Justice League of America in All Star Comics with the Super Squad”) contributed letters.


            This issue is reprinted in the trade paperbacks “Justice Society #1” (2006) and “Showcase Presents: All-Star Comics #1” (2011)


justice society #1 2006showcase


Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #18: Claw the Unconquered #8


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.

Karate Kid #3: my DC Bicentennial blog continues!



Karate Kid #3

kk3 movie 

Sorry, wrong Karate Kid 3 …


there, that’s better …

Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist: Mike Grell

Editor: Joe Orlando

            Karate Kid ran for 15 issues from March 1976 until July 1978 – cancelled during the DC Implosion. It was one of my favorite comics at the time – I collected every issue beginning with #4 – the issue after its Bicentennial one.

            The comic was released near the tail end of the Kung Fu craze that started in 1973 and 1974. While everybody else was kung fu fighting with kicks as fast as lightning, Marvel released Hands of Shang Chi Master of Kung Fu, Giant Size Master of Kung Fu,and Iron Fist as well as the magazine Deadly Hands of Kung Fu. By May 1975 DC entered the fray with Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter. As with Marvel’s Hands of Shang Chi …, Dragon (at the time) skirted the superhero world. Karate Kid, along with Iron Fist, fully embraced it. 

            This is because Karate Kid was, in fact, a superhero. He was a member of the Legion of Superheroes in the (then) 30th century. Val Armorr was the master of every martial art and first appeared in Adventure Comics #346 (July 1966).  He was created by Jim Shooter.


            To apparently make him more palatable to comic book readers, Val was whisked to the twentieth century where, if he proved his worth to the father of his lady friend and fellow Legionnaire Princess Projectra, said father would give Karate Kid his daughter’s hand in marriage. I suppose going toe-to-toe with the Fatal Five and Mordru wasn’t enough…

            In the twentieth century, he would meet Robin and fight established DC baddies the Lord of Time and Major Disaster. In a wonderful twist, in his last issues his time traveling machine accidentally took him in the past to battle Superboy and the pre-Karate Kid Legion and in the last issue into an alternative future to meet Kamandi, a great two-parter concluding in Kamandi; by now continuing stories was the norm at DC, but doing it across more than one magazine was still rare.


The Revenger” Barry Jameson ( w ), Ric Estrada & Joe Staton (a).

            Dr. Norman Grimes found work at Universal Concepts, where he could tend his pigeons on the company roof and develop his super-hard metal that would make permanent homes and eliminate slums.

            Universal Concepts’ three board of directors had other ideas – they wanted to use his metal to make weapons. Dr. Grimes goes bonkers! Oh, he will use his metal to make weapons and armor all right, but use them to become … the Revenger. He goes after the three board members.

            The first is a bank president. Unfortunately, Karate Kid happens to be at the bank making a deposit from a reward given to him for defeating Major Disaster! KK is knocked out by the Revenger, who kills the first board member.

            The second board member is a jeweler. Karate Kid is distracted stopping looters and is too late to save his death at the Revenger’s hands.

            The Revenger enters the office of the third board member. Karate Kid is waiting for him, as connecting the two other victims was fairly easy. Karate Kid follows the Revenger to Universal Concepts’ roof. As they battle, the Revenger accidentally knocks down the company billboard and is killed saving his only friends – the pigeons trapped in their cages under the falling billboard.



Karate Comments (letter column for issue #1). The editor said they received 80 letters on the debut issue and 80% of them were positive – letters by Scott Gibson of Evergreen , CO and Bob Rodi of Columbia, MO (both positive).


            Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #17: All Star Comics #61


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.




Four Star Bicentennial Comic blog!



Four Star Spectacular #3


Published bi-monthly, fifty cents, forty-eight pages, August

Cover artist: Ernie Chua

Editor: E. Nelson Bridwell

            Four Star Spectacular ran for 6 issues from March 1976 until February 1977. It was a reprint series, although some of the stories were redrawn to appease our modern sensibilities. Superboy and Wonder Woman appeared in each issue. As the title suggested, each issue starred four superheroes: half the issues featured four stories and half had three stories with heroes “teaming up” – Hawkman and Hawkwoman in one, Superboy and Krypto in another (although I think that’s cheating a bit: that’s like the Lone Ranger teaming up with Silver…) and in this Bicentennial issue.


Undersea Trap” starring Wonder Woman, reprinted from Wonder Woman #101, October 1958, Robert Kanigher ( w ), Ross Andru & Mike Esposito (a).  


            Wonder Woman saves Steve Trevor from crashing his airplane into a burning pylon during a race. Steve bets her that if she rescues him three times in the next 24 hours she will have to marry him. The Amazon accepts.

            Aha! Steve reveals he is scheduled to test pilot aircraft all the next day. All’s fair …

            Aha! Then Steve is reassigned to desk duty all that next day. All’s fair …

            During lunch, Wonder Woman saves Steve from being crushed by space debris … one…

            During a dance, Wonder Woman foils a robbery and saves Steve from a bullet … two …

            Steve ferries a general to an aircraft carrier. He crashed into the ocean and is attacked by a shark! Wonder Woman rescues him. Three? Nope! It is 15 minutes after the 24-hour deadline! Doh!

            One presumes the plane crashed after the delivery of the general to the carrier; otherwise he would have been left in the plane in the briny deep and left to the mercy of a hungry shark. So long, old chum!

            This story is also reprinted in the trade paperback “Showcase Presents: Wonder Woman #1”.

WW showcase 1


Superboy’s Workshop. Cut out the provided clown figure, get a little cardboard, a little glue, a pencil and the ability to make a miniature parallel bars and you can make a toy tumbling clown!  Destroying the value of the comic (such as it is) is definitely worth this experiment in perpetual motion.  Whether this one-page craft is a reprint or new for this series is unknown. Art and writing unknown.


Superboy in Argo City” starring Supergirl (her logo is at the top of the first page – proving this was published originally as a Supergirl feature, but in this comic Superboy is touted as the star) reprinted from Action Comics #358, January 1968, Cary Bates ( w ), Jim Mooney (a).

action 358

            Superboy heads back to earth after a mission in space (this must be the month for missions in space – both Superman and Justice League of America mention various space missions in its issues…) and stops by a crystal asteroid to create a jewel for a necklace for his mother. He is knocked cold by a space probe gathering mineral samples. How is that possible?

            The probe takes him and the samples to Argo City. Ah! It was a Kryptonian probe – that’s how it could knock out the Boy of Steel. Argo City was blown into space intact from Krypton when the planet exploded leaving survivors, including Superman’s uncle, aunt and cousin – Kara Zor-el! Tweenie Kara races to her father’s probe to find Superboy unconscious. When revived, Superboy has lost his memory!

            Zor-el names him after his deceased nephew Kal-el. Superboy and “Supergirl” fly around Argo City on their jet packs rescuing lost birds and other adventures. A weight ray makes objects weightless: Kal lifts heavy machinery as if he has super-strength!

            Zor-el flies Argo City to a system with a habitable planet. But it is protected by an alien who will accept one sacrifice as penalty for their trespassing. That is the law. Zor-el, blaming himself, offers to go as the sacrifice and walks to the pod that will whisk him to his judgment.

            But Kal-el beats him to the pod! As he leaves with the transport vessel, the alien wipes all memories from the Argonians as the City leaves the system – memories of their trespass AND of Kal-el!

            Somehow, being transported returns Superboy’s memory!  He escapes by flying through the sun to avoid the alien. The last thing he remembers is forging a crystal jewel for his mother.

            “Presently” Supergirl shows the jewel to Superman – who remembers making the jewel but not what happened to it. How did it end up with Supergirl?

            The biggest hole in this story is Superboy’s powers returning. How? If this system had a yellow sun ALL of Argo City would have been imbued with superpowers (this was before Superman became a “solar battery”…), right?

            Superboy’s memory returning to the point at which he lost it is likely, though. That happens with real amnesia victims.

            And this being a “team-up” with Supergirl is a bigger stretch than Superboy and Krypto… hmmph…

            Still, a fun story, which is the point. And it is nice to see Jim Mooney’s art again. His Supergirl was always a cutie!


            “Power Ring Peril” starring Green Lantern, reprinted from Green Lantern #32, October 1964, Gardner Fox ( w ), Gil Kane & Sid Greene (a).


            Tyrant Vant Orl conquered the planet Thronn and entombed its united league of heroes – Energiman, Magicko, Golden Blade and Strong Girl, among unnamed others – in a crystal monolith on the planet’s moon.

            Energiman’s powers work on the same frequency as Green Lantern’s ring. Every time Hal Jordan recharges, Energiman draws a bit of power. Eventually, he sucks GL through his battery and to Thronn’s moon at the cost of Energiman’s life. With his last bit of … er … energy, Energiman tells all to Green Lantern. GL flies to Thronn to confront Vant Orl.

            But Vant Orl also can manipulate the power ring’s energy – he is also on that frequency! Green Lantern covers his ring with a yellow leaf (the ring has a “necessary impurity” and does not affect anything colored yellow, remember…) to regain more control over his ring, defeat Vant Orl and release Thronn’s heroes!

            This story was also reprinted in “Green Lantern Archives #5”, “Showcase Presents: Green Lantern #2” and “Green Lantern Omnibus #2”. 

GL Archives 5GL showcase 2 GL Omnibus 2


Four Thought (great title to their letter column for issue #1). Gerald Duit of New Orleans, LA, Arthur Kowalik of Wilmington, DE, David J. Brown of Hammond, IN, and Fred Schnieder of New York, New York all had positive comments and suggestions for reprints. They were especially glad to see solo Superboy since him comic was now a permanent vehicle for the Legion of Superheroes.


            Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #16: Karate Kid #3.


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.




Weird War Tales #47: DC’s Weird Bicentennial Salute!



Weird War Tales #47


Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist: Joe Kubert

Editor: Joe Orlando

WWT logo

          The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups of comic books. “You got your horror comic in my war book!” “You’ve for your war book in my horror comic!” I loved this comic book, just LOVED it! It combined the two genres at which DC excelled!

            Weird War Tales debuted in September 1971 and lasted 124 issues until June of 1983. It was an anthology of supernatural stories set during a war. Any war. Vikings, Nazi’s, Yanks & Rebels and post-apocalyptic tales were represented.

            Although not a “personality” such as Cain, Abel or Destiny, the comic was “hosted” by death – a skeleton dressed in a uniform appropriate for the story.

            By the 1980s, regular features or “stars” were introduced – alternating between GI Robot, the Creature Commandos and the War that Time Forgot (dinosaurs) – sometimes alternating between features, sometimes teaming with each other. By that time, though, it had lost some of its horror pedigree in favor of more quasi-superheroics.


Bloodbath of the Toy Soldiers”, George Kashdan ( w ), Rubeny (a)

            In a post-apocalyptic world, despotic General Arax’s son Zeron plays with toy soldiers, exactly matching both sides’ moves in the next day’s battle. Arax’s aides, secretly loyal to the opposing force’s democratic leaders, change Zeron’s next battle plans, leading to a huge defeat.

            In a fit of pique, Arax destroys the toy soldiers. When Arax finds Zeron playing with one last toy soldier the boy kept hidden, the general, Arax throws it in the fire.

            Arax melts along with the toy replica.


            “The Day After Doomsday”, Steve Skeates ( w ), Paul Kruchner and Tex Blasdell (a)

            The sole survivor of the Great Atomic War hears a cry for help in the rubble. He digs and digs and finds a tape recorder accidentally turned on in the shifting debris replaying a radio soap opera, “Help! Help! Unhand me you brute!” In frustration, he bashes the tape recorder against a wall, causing the fragile masonry to give way and crush him.

This two-page tale is reprinted in the trade paperback “Showcase Presents: the Great Disaster featuring the Atomic Knights”.





The Warrior”, Jack Oleck ( w ), Ricardo Villamonte (a)

            Hulgar, the elderly Viking, duels Godfred to prove he still is a warrior. Eric, son of their leader Ottar, begs for mercy for Hulgar. Ottar grants it.

           During his first raid, Eric panics and is branded a coward. Holgar gives Eric the Shield of Thor that will make him invincible! With the shield, Eric defeats Godfred to earn his place in the next raid. Eric fights bravely against the British, but is killed.


WWT Viking 2 WWT viking


             Holgar mourns and begins forging another ordinary “Shield of Thor” in case anther youngster needs to find his courage from within…


APO Weird War Tales, letter column for issue #44:

            Linus Sabalys, Lavel PQ, Canada; positive comments on some stories, negative for others.

            Mark Schmieder, Concord, MA; the editor points out that Mark has the opposite view as Linus Sabalys on every story.

            John Elliott, New York, NY, positive, but requests novel-length tales instead of serializing stories over multiple issues.

            The column has a plus for Star Spangled War Stories #200 starring the Unknown Soldier and Enemy Ace.  ), but with no mention of any Bicentennial connection (see my previous blog about the missed opportunity to hype a 200th issue during the Bicentennial)


            Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #15: Four Star Spectacular #3.


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.

Our Fighting Forces starring the Losers #168



Our Fighting Forces #168




Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist: Luis Dominguez

Editor: Murray Boltinoff

            Our Fighting Forces ran for 181 issues from October 1951 until September of 1978, a victim of the DC Explosion/Implosion. In the previous year of this Bicentennial issue (1975), Jack Kirby left the magazine after eleven issues.

            It was a typical war anthology in the 1950s and by the 1960s featured specific characters or “stars”, including Gunner and Sarge, Lt. Hunter’s Hellcats and the Fighting Devil Dog Lt. Larry Rock (Sgt. Rock’s brother). The Losers became the star feature in January of 1970 with issue #123.

            The Losers were four DC Comics war heroes from other defunct series or cancelled magazines:  Capt. Storm (Navy) from his own series Capt. Storm which lasted 18 issues, Johnny Cloud (Army Air Corps) from All-American Men of War, and Gunner & Sarge (“Mud”-Marines) who also appeared in All-American Men of War and earlier issues of Our Fighting Forces.

            The Losers “formed” in GI Combat #138 (October 1969) as POWs rescued by the crew of the Haunted Tank – the lead feature of GI Combat. DC (National) kept them together in best “Dirty Dozen” fashion as a strike force or task force with each issue a special mission (somewhere in between the straight-forward military adventures of Sgt. Rock/the Haunted Tank and the espionage/saboteur tales of the Unknown Soldier). In between they resumed their duties in their individual branches as back-up solo stories.




            The Losers were killed off during the Crisis on Infinite Earth … twice: once by the Anti-Monitor’s troops and again, the publisher’s blood lust still unsatisfied, Losers Special #1 by the Nazis. They were brought back briefly in the year 2000 as part of the Creature Commandoes. Don’t ask…


“A Cold Day to Die”, Robert (this issue called “Bob”) Kanigher ( w ), George Evans (a)

            In Norway, the Losers are captured and will be hung if they do not reveal their mission. Their accomplice, sometimes Loser Ona Tomsen, a leader of the Norwegian underground, will hang with them!

            Flashback to the beginning – the Losers parachute into Norway fighting off Nazis shooting at them as they land. Gunner is hit. Ona takes them to the plant that they are ordered to destroy – a plant making “heavy water” used in atomic bomb research.

            They plant the explosives but are captured and walked to the gallows. Captain Storm asks for one last cigarette and detonates the explosives with a devise in his wooden leg. The Losers escape the Nazis and rescued by the underground.


Navaho Ace Johnny Cloud in “Death Knocks 5 Times”, Ex-Lt. Bart Regan ( w ), ER Cruz (a)

            One kill shy from making Ace, Ben lands his fighter while Johnny Cloud waits. Cloud finds Ben dead in his ship – even dead he brought it down safely.

            The base is strafed by Nazis, Cloud takes Ben’s plane up with Ben still in it and dispatches the Nazi. Lying in wait in the clouds is Ben’s real killer! The Nazi shoot Ben’s plane and Cloud jumps for safety. The Nazi is about to kill the parachuting Cloud when Ben’s plane, with Ben still clutching the stick in a death grip, collides with the Nazi. His fifth kill. Ben made ace after all…



Mail Call: Jack C. Harris answered the letters of … Eric Ehrlich of North Platte, NE (positive, but spotted a few gaffes), Edward Wojcik of Detroit, Michigan asked for the return of Gunner and Sarge’s dog Pooch (and we were so promised) as well as other unused DC battle stars to join the Losers), and Teddy Arnold of Houston TX asks for a Losers/Blackhawk team-up. The last paragraph is a plug for GI Combat.


             The Losers were brought back as a gritty modern commando group for 32 issues in the 2000s. 

 new losers

             Remember the movie they made based on the comic? Neither do I…


 losers movie


            Was the Bicentennial numbering of Our Fighting Forces (unlucky 13) intentional? Doubtful, it seems DC didn’t put much thought into this Bicentennial promotion (going back to the Superman #300 or Star-Spangled War Stories #200 potential…). Too bad. Can you imagine the reaction of this self-deprecating group of characters? “Leave it to the Losers to be Bicentennial Banner #13…”


            Join me for my next review of one of my favorite comic series: DC’s Bicentennial issue #14: Weird War Tales #47


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.


Bicentennial Plops!!



Plop! #22




Published bi-monthly, fifty cents, 48 page “Giant”, August

Cover artist: Dave Manak

Editor: Joe Orlando

            Plop!? Plop!? I’ve dreaded this moment ever since I decided to do a blog series on the comics that made up the “DC Salutes the Bicentennial” event. How on earth am I going to do an issue synopsis on Plop!?

            Plop! was DC’s attempt at copying the underground comics common at the time. It started as a small humor strip in House of Mystery, but that didn’t quite fit the genre. Well, why not take the strip and similar ideas by (at the time) new young hipster writers like Steve Skeates and put them all into their own comic?  Horror comics have had their skeletal fingers in the western genre (Weird Western Tales), war titles (Weird War Tales), even romance books (Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love), so why not humor?

            Thus was published the first issue of the Magazine of Weird Humor on October 1973 through 24 issues ending in November of 1976.

            Legend, or in this case Steve Skeates, says it was originally going to be called “Zany”. Skeates, Orlando and Carmine Infantino discussed the title. Skeates said it could be called anything as long as it was funny. Carmine Infantino made the snarky comment that they couldn’t call it, for example, “Plop!” They could. And they did. 

            Plop! contained mostly single panel or single page strips. A few strips ran for several pages.  Jokes and puns were written in the blanks between panels – right-side-up, upside-down, sideways, etc.  What city is made out of hard stone? Flint. In what city do people wander? Rome.

            The illustrated gags were simple and silly but always done in the macabre or horror vein. A doctor walks into a waiting room to tell a vampire, “It’s a bat!” That sort of thing (and using “vampire” and “vein” in a paragraph together is another example. Hey, this stuff writes itself!)

            Our hosts for all this frivolity were Cain from House of Mystery, Abel from House of Secrets and Eve from Secrets of Sinister House (and other comics – she moved around a lot…).


            The Table of Ploptents {sigh} for the issue is as follows (the creators – writers and artists are unknown unless otherwise noted):

The Kicking Man – John Albano. An abusive man kills the father of a beautiful girl to mary her. He kicks things when he is angry – including his new bride. The bride asks a witch to curse him. He has his leg amputated because of the curse. Does that stop his kicking? Kind of – now he whacks people with his severed leg…


 plop kicking man


Prison Plops

People Plops

The Plopular Person of the Month – by Basil Wolverton. This was a regular feature in the comic by this legendary artist!

Maybe I Just Have Big Bones – John Albano & Bill Draut. A fat man takes enough pills to lose several hundred pounds to please his wife. Now he has too much loose skin! A face lift makes him handsome! It even shows off the striking cleft in his chin! No, that’s his navel…

Prescription Plops – Ford Button

Peter Pureheart – Joe Orlando ( w ) – Orladno? I like when the management gets their hands dirty! & John Albano (a)

The Dirty Thief – Steve Skeates ( w ) and the legendary Sergio Aragones (a). A husband tired of his wife’s compulsive cleaning tries to rob a bank to make enough money to divorce her. He creates a formula turning him into micro-size particles so he can sneak under the bank vault. Before he can leave the house, his wife vacuums him up and throws him in the trash…

Animal Plops – Don Edwins ( w ) & Dave Manak (a). An experiment to see why elephants are afraid of mice. Ends up they swallow elephants in one gulp!

Plopular Poetry – written and drawn by the incomparable Wally Wood! One creation was the Mangaroo!

  plopular poetry


The Cross-Eyed Pussycat – John Albano ( w ) and Scarpello (a). I remember this strip from other comics – usually a one-panel fill-in to complete the page. An internet search cannot find any other appearances other than Plop, but this strip was used as fill-in elsewhere in the DC Universe…

Historical Plops – Don Edwins ( w ) & Dave Manak (a)

A Tale Before Sunrise – Steve Skeates ( w ), Vincent Alcazar (a). A vampire hunter sees a caped figure rounding a corner. He attacks it with a stake! In the last panel he is arrested for murdering Batman! Plop was one of the stranger team-up suggestions in an issue of The Brave and the Bold. The editors in that comic may have published it to “prove” the reader was randomly naming DC “characters” to try to humiliate him, but a comic filled with Batman-themed gags would definitely be one for the history books! This strip was reprinted in the Best of DC digest #63 (an all-Plop issue).

Hunting Plops

Monster Plops – Ron Edwards ( w ) & Dave Manak (a) – in one gag a vampire hunter opens a coffin and hammers in a stake. In the last panel the vampire is leaping in pain with a stake out of his rear end. How was I to know he slept on his stomach, the hunter asked.

Spaced-Out Plops – Dave Manak

The Final Plop – Robert Johnson

            Gee, a plot synopsis was possible…



Plop Drops, letter column. The letter were something straight out of “Catcher in the Rye”: kids complaining about how awful the magazine was … all in fun, supposedly…

Jimmy Holcomb of Mesquite, TX asked why they started putting ads in the comic; Anonymous (Plop is infesting his favorite store and chases customers away), Linus Sabalys of Laval PQ, Canada predicted Plop will burn out soon (he was right! It lasted only two more issues!), Ron Lindsey of Augusta, GA (Plop will make you sick, scare away cockroaches and can be used as a weapon in the next war), Ken Kemble of San Antonio, TX lists Plop’s good qualities: (a blank paragraph), in a separate paragraph the editor asks that anyone submitting jokes and gags needs to provide a return envelope, Mike Thompson of Lockemup Prison enjoys Prison Plops the most, Mott the Hobbit of Middle Earth asks simply … why? Unsigned has a long letter describing his prison life and the effect the magazine has on him and his cell mate at the insane asylum, Mike White of Mackinaw, IL says Plop is the worst, by that he means the best … etc.,  Anonymous of Glutton, VT wants more sergio Aragones – although he asks why Aragones would leave MAD to work at this rag… and the editor announces they will no longer publish anonymous/unsigned letters. The person answering/commenting is likely Paul Levitz.


            The truly sad thing? After almost 40 years there will still be ten-year-olds reading this issue and wetting themselves from laughing so hard…

            I kid. Truthfully? Kudos to DC for trying to honestly do something different. Even Marvel’s attempt at humor was stuck firmly in the MAD vein or comics such as Not Brand Echh, a satire with its toes still dipped in the superhero genre.  Plop lasted for three years. The reprints in various “Best of DC” digests in the late 1970s are some of the most sought-after of that series. Plop is not too expensive on the secondary markets (but not cheap either) yet devilishly hard to find!

            You might say even after all these years the comic is still very Plopular.

            You knew I had to end this on a bad pun, right? …


            Join me for my next review of DC’s Bicentennial comics! Who else would be issue # Unlucky 13 except the Losers of Our Fighting Forces.


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.