Mr Miracle #19; September 1977

Behold!

Bronze age

Jack Kirby leaving Marvel for DC is held by some (myself included) as the beginning of the Bronze Age. It is arguable, and some of the other dates and events have merit, but everyone agrees Kirby’s work at DC left an impact felt to this day (as was obviously his work at Marvel).

His creations in the early Bronze Age will battle the Justice League in their upcoming movie.

Kirby started the Fourth World mythos with the New Gods, Forever People, (taking over) Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen and Mister Miracle. Mister Miracle was the last surviving Fourth World book by the time of its cancellation in 1974 after 18 issues (Kirby left Jimmy Olsen some time before). By 1977 it was time to revive the super-escape artist with one of the best writers and one of the best artists of this or any age!

I won’t review the Fourth World books in this blog – it’s been done by others (and far better than I) and those reviews are easy to find online. Besides, I tend more toward the second (or third or lower) tier of comic books of the 1970s. By third tier I mean in terms of popularity and sales, certainly NOT quality!

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MrM house ad

Mister Miracle #19.  September 1977

Cover: Marshal Rogers, Managing Editor: Joe Orlando, Editor: Denny O’Neil

“It’s All in the Mine”

Writer: Steve Englehart, Penciler: Marshall Rogers

Inkers: Marshall Rogers & Ilya Hunch (alias Crusty Bunkers: Dick Giordano, Mike Nasser, Al Milgrom, Jack Abel, Alan Weiss, Joe Brozowski, Terry Austin, Neal Adams).

Per DC Wikia:  When Marshall Rogers realized that he was running out of time on the issue, he enlisted the aid of his friends, and assigned each of them a character in the story: Mister Miracle by Rogers, Barda by Giordano, Granny Goodness by Mike Nasser, Kanto by Milgrom, Highfather by Abel, Oberon by Al Weiss, Bedlam by Brozowski, Vermin Vundabar by Austin, and Mister Miracle’s eyes on page 1 by Neal Adams.

Colorist: Liz Berube, Letterer: Morris Waldinger

Per DC Wikia:

Granny Goodness and three of Mister Miracle’s other foes (Dr. Bedlam, Kanto and Vermin Vundabar) kidnap Big Barda from New Genesis, forcing Scott Free to become Mr. Miracle again. To rescue his new wife, he returns to Earth and reunites with Oberon, and the two go after Granny. She forces Scott to enter a deathtrap without his Mother Box, but when he escapes, he finds that his foes have left, and still have Barda with them. He deduces that they are now on the moon and he plans to follow them… continued next issue.

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The letter column gives a brief history of the magazine and waxes philosophically on … escaping. It asks for letters and hypes upcoming DC comics.

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This series is superb and never got the sales it deserved. Englehart and Rogers make a wonderful team – at this time they were also doing their six-issue legendary run on Detective Comics (the run that included the Joker Fish). The story is intriguing for this first issue – picking up where the last issue left off years before with Free’s and Big Barda’s honeymoon on New Genesis.

Marshall’s art is as wonderful as always – the characters look so real you think you are looking at a photograph. Barda never looked so beautiful. Not even the pencils and inks of Crusty Bunkers could hide his style!

An excellent start. This series will last for years!

Won’t it?

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

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With Super Friends Like These …

Super Friends #1.  November 1976.

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

“The Fury of the Super Foes”

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

Colorist: Jerry Serpe

Robin finishes Marvin’s training for the day just as the other Super Friends enter the Hall of Justice. The Troublalert tells them villains are attacking the three locations of Project SR – a robot designed to end war! The Super Friends divide into teams of three – Holy Gardner Fox! – to fight off the villains!

Superman goes to Hudson University (joining Robin, who is a student there) to fight the Toyman and Poison Ivy who are trying to steal the robot’s artificial brain.

Aquaman goes to the underwater lab where scientists are working on the robot’s indestructible steel for its body. His “old foe” the Human Flying Fish attacks the lab.

Batman and Wonder Woman (with Wendy, Marvin and Wonder Dog in tow) go to Gotham City to prevent the Penguin and the Cheetah from stealing the robot’s solar-powered battery.

In each case, the heroes almost get the better of the bad guys, until the villains youthful sidekicks appear!

Honeysuckle ensnares Robin; Toyboy distracts Superman; Sardine squirts squid ink to blind Aquaman; and Chick and Kitten sidetrack Batman and Wonder Woman to allow the villains to escape!

Superfoes

Wendy, Marvin and Wonder Dog do manage to catch Chick and Kitten and take them to the Hall of Justice. The Super Foes’ sidekicks are impressed and think they might be on the wrong side. As the tour continues, Chick sends a secret message to the Penguin – they are in the Hall of Justice, just as planned!

Wonder Dog overheard Chick’s betrayal, but how can he tell Marvin & Wendy of Chick’s betrayal?

To Be Continued…

house ad Kotter and Superfriends

***

The letter page explains briefly why there has been no Super Friends comic up until now and a brief, and convoluted, origin of Wendy and Marvin and their connection to Batman and Wonder Woman: Wendy is the daughter of the man who taught Bruce Wayne detective skills and Marvin is the son of the original Diana Prince – the nurse who allowed Princess Diana to assume her identity [cough Lamont Cranston/Kent Allard cough}.

***

There was (and still is) a lot of debate about whether the events of this comic were “out-of-continuity” with the rest of DC or not. I doubt the intended readers of this comic cared.

It was aimed at younger readers; fans of the TV show. Taken that way, it was a fun first effort. The story was direct without being simple and the art clean and clear without being juvenile. Older and more cynical readers will roll their eyes at this issue, but let their eyes roll. They aren’t the target audience. They never were.

And they still aren’t!

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

Oooo! Ooo-ooo! Oooo! Welcome Back Kotter #1

 

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Welcome Back Kotter #1. November 1976.

Cover: Bob Oksner. Editor: Joe Orlando

“So Long, Kotter!”

Writer: Elliot S. Maggin, Penciler: Jack Sparling, Inker: Bob Oksner

Kotter’s kitchen ceiling starts to collapse when the building next door gets demolished. Putting up with the drunken superintendent/janitor almost makes him late for school. Kotter literally runs into the mailman downstairs. Among the letters flying through the air into Kotter’s hands is one from the City Board of Education approving his transfer to a better school.

The Sweathogs notice Kottter is in a strange mood and see him poring over the letter. When they find out he has scheduled a physical (required for the transfer), they assume he is sick. The TV show would have milked this for the bulk of the show, but Kotter and Vice-Principal Woodman tell the Sweathogs that Kotter is leaving them – to allow his wife to live someplace safer.

The Sweathogs help Mrs. Kotter clean the apartment and shop for groceries to convince her to be happy where she is. She realizes what the students are trying to do and comes up with a better plan. She calls Mr. Pevey, the Social Studies teacher when Kotter was one of the original Sweathogs.

They meet and reminisce. That and Epstein’s practical joke convinces Kotter to stay. He tears up the letter.

***

The text page asks for letters from the readers giving their “ratings” of the comic and contains a biography of Gabe Kaplan.

***

Humor very much reflects the show – you can hear Gabe Kaplan’s voice delivering his Groucho-like Kotter lines.

The art was spot on – all the characters looked like the actors that portrayed them.

Much like the show it began and ended in Kotter’s kitchen. The last panel even had the lyrics to the song played over the closing credits. Truly a DC-TV comic.

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About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

 

DC’s version of the Prince of Power!

Behold!

Bronze age

Hercules Unbound #1, November 1975

“Hercules Unbound!”

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

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

Hercules awakes four weeks after World War III. He broke free of his enchanted bonds to rescue a blind teenager, Kevin, and his dog Basil, who were being terrorized by an enraged sea creature.

Kevin tells Hercules about the nuclear devastation of Greece, the death of his brother and his and Basil’s escape in their family sloop. Hercules decides to accompany Kevin to Rome to find Kevin’s father.

Ares, meanwhile, looks upon the fighting in Rome and laughs. He then commands the military forces back into a hopeless battle.

Hercules and Kevin make it to Rome. Hercules recounts his capture and imprisonment by Ares in aulden days. They fight off minotaur-like demons and battle-crazed citizens. He spots Ares and challenges him to battle. Ares responds by siccing the red-hued Smasher on Herc. Kevin and Basil help Hercules defeat the monster that Ares created.

After the battle – Kevin recognized Smasher as his own father.

***

The letter column gives a brief origin to the classical Hercules and introduces us to Gerry Conway, Jose Luis Garcia Lopez and Wally Wood. It also hypes Claw the Unconquered #4 and Stalker #3.

***

An interesting beginning leaving many questions – which entices us to keep reading obviously… So far we see only a bit of Hercules’ famed strength and not much of his personality (by this time his Marvel doppelganger’s braggadocio is legend). Perhaps DC is avoiding the obvious comparison by pulling back the man-god’s traditional vanity. His shock at being in the modern world is non-existent – perhaps the post-apocalyptic world is more familiar to him.

The mystery of Kevin’s powers is canny for comics of the time (not meant as a criticism). He brings us the only real emotion of the comic – it’s only been a month since nukes flew and destroyed everything! Plus his brother was killed and he discovered his father was made into a nuclear monster! He MUST have great inner strength to handle this!

The art is fabulous – but even Lopez’ art is nearly swallowed by Wally Wood’s stylish inks. Regardless, every page is beautiful.

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

 

 

Shazam #25: Saturday Mornings on CBS

 

Shazam #25. October 1976.

Cover: Kurt Shaffenberger

Isis: “Isis … as in Crisis”

Writer: Denny O’Neil, Art: Dick Giordano, Editor: Julie Schwartz

An old school building is being demolished. Student Cindy Lee is trapped in the rubble as a huge chunk of wall is about to crush her! Andrea Thomas changes to Isis and magically saves her. Captain Marvel swoops down to introduce himself – he was going to save Cindy until Isis intervened. Cindy was tracking two suspicious characters when she became trapped.

We get a brief origin of Isis: while on an Egyptian expedition, Andrea finds a scroll and amulet once owned by Queen Hatshepsut –  the only female pharaoh. She is compelled to put on the amulet and read the scroll. “With this, you shall have the power of the goddess Isis…”. Andrea calls out the name “Isis” and transforms for the first time.

Cindy spots the crooks again – they were retrieving stolen gold coins they had buried on the demolition site. The crooks catch Cindy after a car chase. They put Cindy back in her car and send it careening down a cliff!

Isis rescues Cindy and captures the gold coin thieves.

***

Captain Marvel: “The Bicentennial Villain”

Story: E. Nelsen Bridwell, Art: Kurt Shaffenberger, Editor: Joe Orlando

Through a riddle, the old wizard Shazam warns Captain Marvel about great danger to the country: Listen for a laugh that can bring tears to millions!

Someone is sabotaging Billy’s documentary of young people’s contributions to history. He hears a sinister laugh aboard a sailing ship and runs afoul of Dr. Sivana! Sivana gags Billy and scuttles the ship. Billy works off the gag and says the magic word to turn into Captain Marvel. Marvel saves the ship from sinking, but Sivana gets away.

Sivana leaves a note saying he is going to destroy America city by city! How can Cap stop him when he (Billy Batson) has to work in New York? To be continued!

***

 Letters comment on Shazam #23 (by then a quarterly reprint) and explains the new direction of the comic including a change in editors.

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Thus began the DC-TV line of comics. It was published June 29, 1976, with a cover date October 1976. By June the show had been on for 22 months and was about to start its third season as the Shazam/Isis Hour with only six new Shazam episodes (in addition to repeating Season One’s 15 shows and Season Two’s 7 episodes).

The Captain Marvel tale is a lead-in to eventually change its format to more closely reflect the show. So far there is no big camper or mentor, but it is implied they are coming in the next issue.

The Isis story fits snugly into the television show style. She even gives us a “lesson” at the end of the story as per the TV show – seeking danger to impress someone is just as dangerous: “We should each do what we can as well as we can.”

Plus the art on both stories are wonderful. Shaffenberger has always been a favorite – clean, solid art and very accessible to the young reader.

Giordano’s art on Isis is beautiful – he really brings the characters to life.

The DC-TV imprint is off to a good start!

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

Metal Men #45, May 1976: Welcome Back!

Behold!

Bronze age

Metal Men #45, May 1976

“Evil is in the Eye of the Beholder”

Cover: Dick Giordano; Editor: Gerry Conway

Writer: Steve Skeates; Penciler/Inker/Colorist: Walt Simonson

The Metal Men tour the country’s colleges displaying their powers. This allows new readers some exposition as to who the Metal Men are. Doc Magnus, meanwhile, is held for mental examination after being rescued from Karnia.

To aid in his recuperation, the Feds allow Doc time and equipment to make another Metal Man. He creates Plutonium Man. PM escapes and leaves a trail of mayhem behind. A Karnian spy is exposed among Magnus’ keepers. Magnus and the surviving military hunt down Plutonium Man.

But the Metal Men get their first. Despite all their efforts, nothing works and member after member meet their doom … until Platinum wraps herself around Plutonium Man to cause a mini-China Syndrome, destroying them both.

Magnus, seemingly all better, vows to rebuild the Metal Men.

***

Metal Men’s history by this point is very strange, stranger than you expect from this group: even Gerry Conway admitted so in the letter column. And if the man who brought you Conway’s Corner’s stable of comic books thinks something is strange …

In brief: by 1968 the original Metal Men creative team moved on to other things and the new team made the Metal Men fugitives from justice and hunted by the law. The robots created secret human identities and fought supernatural enemies. Doc Magnus was kidnapped by the dictator of Karnia and brainwashed to evil and hatred as to his creations. The comic ended with a cliffhanger, of sorts, with #42, January 1970.

Three reprint issues in 1973 failed to gain traction. The magazine was revived again in 1976 with this issue.

Rather than start anew, this new creative team wrapped up the storyline from six years before. Perhaps they should have restarted the comic and pretend 1968 – 1970 never happened! If only because it gives the series an awkward grittiness.

But if this comics’ creators insist on grittiness, it picked the perfect team. Walt Simonson’s art (his first DC work since Manhunter) fits in perfectly. His workman-like style is instantly recognizable even at this “early on” stage. It fits well.

And Gerry Conway’s obvious love for the characters is evident. He does a Red Adair-like job of putting out the continuity fires and inevitable clean-up!

Welcome back, guys!

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About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

Kobra #1: Kirby’s DC leftovers, but great pulpy fun!

Behold!

Bronze age

Kobra # 1, March 1976 (remember the cover date of comics is about three months ahead of the actual publication date, blah blah blah…)

“Fangs of the Kobra” written by Martin Pasko and Jack Kirby, art by Kirby and Pablo Marcus. Editor: Gerry Conway, Inkers: D. Bruce Berry and Pablo Marcos, Colorist: Carl Gafford, Letterer: Ben Oda

Cover by: Ernie Chua (Chan)

Synopsis: (why type it all out when someone else has done it for me?)

(the following paragraph courtesy of ReadComicsOnline):

Deep beneath the streets of Manhattan, assassin-for-hire, Horst Buchner, along with two associates, are ushered through secret tunnels, to keep a prearranged rendezvous with Kobra. At the first sign of insult, Buchner’s men draw on Kobra. Put off by Kobra’s arrogance, Buchner declines his offer of employment, deciding, instead, to rob Kobra of several intriguing artifacts. Still held at gunpoint, Kobra leads Buchner and his gunsels into another chamber, one that holds Kobra’s most unique artifact, the Ovoid. Within the confines of the still shimmering meteoroid, Kobra reveals an enormous alien robot, he calls the Servitor. At Kobra’s command, the Servitor steps forward, then murders Horst and his associates, pummeling them to death with its giant metal fists. Sensing that his brother, Jason Burr, is soon to learn of Kobra’s existence, and whereabouts, Kobra sends the Servitor up to the streets, on a mission to slay Burr. The Servitor leaves a swath of destruction in its path, as it makes its way to Columbia university. Despite opposition from New York’s finest, the Servitor moves inexorably to the student union building. Inside, Lieutenant Perez is interviewing Jason Burr. Just as Perez is about to reveal to Burr the existence and identity of his brother, the Servitor crashes through the wall. Lifting Burr up in one of its gargantuan hands, the Servitor, at Kobra’s command, begins crushing him. Suddenly, Kobra, too, feels the crushing force of the Servitor’s grip compressing his own chest. Realizing that he and Burr share a sympathetic bond, Kobra orders the Servitor to release him. The countermand causes the Servitor to self-destruct…

Jason meets Lt. Perez who tells Jason the secret origin of Kobra …

(from Wikipedia): (Kobra) “… was born part of a set of Siamese twins, but was stolen at birth by the Cult of the Kobra god, since a prophecy claimed he would lead them to rule the world. Under their teaching, he became a dangerous warrior and a sadistic criminal mastermind. He led the cult into using advanced technology to menace the world.  … However, unknown to the cult, he had a psychic link to his twin brother, Jason, who knew nothing of Kobra. As a result, one felt what the other felt, including pain. Because of this, his brother was recruited by an international agency to help them combat Kobra.”

Perez convinces Jason to injure himself (holding his hand over a candle flame. Kobra cannot stand the pain any further and confronts Jason for the first time). Perez and his men try to capture Kobra, who slithers through their trap. The police shoot at the terrorist. “No guns!” shouts Jason to no avail. Were they trying to kill Kobra? IF they do, he will be collateral damage! Kobra escapes unharmed …

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(from Wikipedia):

(Kobra was) “… created by Jack Kirby for a proposed DC Comics series called King Kobra, the first issue of which was both written and drawn by Kirby (the letter column discussed Infantino and Kirby wanting to do a take on the Corsican Brothers). This first issue then sat in DC inventory for over a year, during which time Kirby left the publisher to return to Marvel Comics.  Eventually the concept was handed over to writer Martin Pasko with orders to make a series out of it. Pasko was unimpressed with King Kobra, feeling it to be a throwaway idea churned out by Kirby as he was preparing to leave DC, and tried to make the best of the assignment by whiting out all of Kirby’s original dialogue, rescripting the issue, and having Pablo Marcos redraw some of the art (and re-)titled simply Kobra. … Pasko later reflected, “I wrote all of Kobra with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek—it was a preposterous exercise dumped in my lap, and it helped pay the rent on a very nice place in the Village.”

Dumped? Even the letter column introducing the comic said the title was “thrown” into Conway’s Corner. It seemed no in at DC gave much of a damn about the comic.

Pasko was correct about this preposterous exercise, but THIS pre-teen loved every issue of it! I still have every issue of the original run. The comic is great fun straight from the pulps – not a caped crime-fighter in sight! It was akin to Dr. Yen Sin or the Mysterious Wu Fang.  DC did something it did not do often – it took a chance! An unknown villain in the lead and an unknown cast! Very shortly it would launch another villain-led comic: the beloved Secret Society of Super-Villains, firmly entrenched in the DC’s superhero world.

Kirby’s art by the mid-1970s was an acquired taste: exaggerated physiologies, gaping mouths, fingers the size of Snickers bars, women whose eyes were set below the center horizontal line of their faces, etc. Marcos did his best redrawing Jason and Perez, but the redo was glaring and obvious. I would have loved cringing at Kirby’s original dialogue, but Pasko did a fine rewrite with what he had (I kept expecting one of the Cobra Cult to say, in Kirby’s typical expositional shorthanded way, “We must obey!”).

Not an auspicious beginning to only the second DC title to headline a villain (The Joker was first by less than a year). Villains starring in comics was a rarity (and was to remain so for the next several years – nowadays it is somewhat common): the Golden Age had its Yellow Claw and the Sub-Mariner (who was more of an anti-hero than an outright villain). The Silver Age, with its Comics Code, was more cautious about villain-led features. Even the House of Ideas itself – Marvel in the Silver Age – only gave Doctor Doom the lead in an anthology without giving him his own title.

The comic got better in later issues … much better …

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 About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!