Hercules Unbound #8, January 1977

“Game”

Cover: Walt Simonson & Wally Wood, Editor: Joe Orlando

Writer: David Michelinie; Pencilers: Walt Simonson, Inker: Wally Wood

Story Editor: Denny O’Neil

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While rafting across the Irish Sea, our heroes are strafed by jet fighters, destroying their raft and killing Dave Rigg! Herc dispatches three of the jets, and he, Kevin, Jennifer and Basil follow the fourth to a strange citadel. They are again attacked, this time by gorgeous Wally- Woodish women in spandex and metal hats! Discovering they are androids, our heroes quickly destroy them.

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They are invited into the compound and meet Miss Agatha Simms: a paraplegic military and scientific genius who built the compound (and the androids) to further her “game”. Game? She and her unknown opponent, who also has a military compound, have been hammering at each other for weeks. She mistook our heroes for agents of her opponent, hence her jet fighter and android attack. She explains she plucks her weapons from earth’s past, going back only as far as World War II. As an example, she tries to bring forward PT-109, but instead a … slight miscalculation … brought in the Bismark

Dave Rigg comes ashore, alive and well, and finds his way to a small village. He finds a robotic army recruiter and is knocked unconscious!

Simms promises to restore Kevin’s sight if Hercules helps her with the Game. With the Bismark laying down diversionary fire, Hercules, Kevin, Jennifer and a troop of androids fight their way to the Enemy’s Control Center on the Isle of Man.

Finding a hidden door, they batter their way to the control room to find Dave Rigg in the Commander’s chair!

To be continued!

***

The letters page announces that Michelinie, Simonson and Wood will be the permanent creative team under the editorial guidance of Denny O’Neil!

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Simonson’s art is once again nearly hidden by Wood’s dominating inks, but it this is still cracking good story and art!

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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!

 

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Isis #5. July 1977.

“Perilous Pyramid Power”

Cover Artists: Mike Vosburg & Vince Colletta

Writer: Jack C Harris; Penciler: Mike Vosburg

Inker: Vince Colletta; Editor: Dennis O’Neil; Managing Editor: Joe Orlando

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From DC Wikia: During a class field trip to the observatory, the astronomer spots a UFO in Earth orbit. Andrea slips into another room and becomes the Mighty Isis. When she reaches the alien spacecraft, she finds that the air is too thin, so she cannot utter a spell to stop it. She is stunned by a force beam and plummets back to Earth. She lands near the highway and, unconscious, changes back into Andrea.

As Rick starts to look for her, Andrea awakens and begins to doubt why she has to put up with the pressures of being, “The World’s Only Human Goddess”. Andrea comes back to her apartment where Rick is waiting for her. When he demands an explanation, she says that where she goes is none of his business. Rick then has to tell her she’s been laid off by the school board. After throwing Rick out of the apartment, Andrea decides that this is the last straw and says, “Oh Mighty Isis — FOREVER!”

The next day, Isis shows up at the high school to take Andrea’s place. She is appalled when the students ask her about the secrets of nature and she walks out.

Meanwhile up in orbit, the alien observes Isis as she flies back to Egypt. Isis brings forth her sacred dwelling from its hiding place, near the Great Pyramid at Giza. The alien, having landed nearby, declares that he is Aten, the Sun God of the Egyptian heretic, Akenaten. He tells Isis how thousands of years ago he was forced to land his damaged spacecraft in Egypt. He came to be worshipped by Akenaten and his Queen, Nefertiti. He taught them Astronomy and other sciences. The Egyptians taught him the powers of the Gods and their pyramids. When Akenaten died, Aten knew the people would soon revolt, so he buried a signal device to warn him if the Gods of Egypt returned and left for his home planet. The planet’s high council then banished Aten for interfering with Earth’s development. Now, to gain revenge on the council, he returns to use the power of the Great Pyramid; the same one that Isis receives her powers.

Isis tells Aten that she would destroy the pyramid before letting him use it, so Aten attacks Isis with a power bolt. She replies with a power bolt of her own, but Aten absorbs it and hurls it back at her. True to her word, Isis then destroys the source of her power, the Great Pyramid. Aten marvels at the Goddess who gave up her powers to stop his plans for revenge and leaves the Earth. Isis smiles a knowing smile, then uses Andrea’s knowledge of geometry to magically reshape the pyramid.

Back in the United States, Rick and Cindy discuss Andrea’s disappearance and Rick decides to go look for her. However, Andrea Thomas no longer exists. The Mighty Isis has returned — forever.

***

The letter column promises us a new direction: is Andrea really gone forever?

***

A great story – we see that Isis and Andrea really are two separate individuals who share the same space! At times in this comic it seems they disagree on issues – they might not even like each other!

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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!

 

Super-Team Family #2: January 1976

Behold, the Bronze Age!

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Creeper and Wildcat: “Showdown in San Lorenzo!”

Writer: Denny O’Neil, Artists: Ric Estrada & Bill Draut, Editor: Gerry Conway

Wildcat agrees to fight contender Japhy Shim for charity but also to drum up publicity for Shim and the resort paradise San Lorenzo. Jack Ryder of WHAM is there doing the play-by-play.

A gas grenade interrupts Wildcat’s interview. In the chaos, thugs grab Shim and Jack Ryder changes into the Creeper! Creeper’s old enemy Proteus is standing in the ring and Creeper attacks!

Creeper eventually realizes he is fighting Wildcat and not Proteus; deducing that Proteus used hypnotic gas to fool Creeper to get him and Wildcat out of the way. Creeper and Wildcat decide to rescue Shim together.

Their hunt leads them to San Lorenzo. General Pedro Lobo (who lost the recent national elections), demands to be put back into power or Shim will not fight the champion! The financial loss to San Lorenzo will bankrupt it! The readers discover Lobo is really Proteus using his power of disguise.

Wildcat agrees to take Shim’s place during the big fight.

Jack Ryder/Creeper spots one of the thug from the charity match and follows him. He discovers Proteus intends to off Shim by dropping him to the ring from the ceiling of the arena!

Creeper captures Proteus and his thugs, but not before Proteus hurls Shim from the rafters to the boxing ring. Wildcat, knocked flat by the champ, sees Shim and breaks his fall. Through the thugs’ confession, Creeper confronts the President of San Lorenzo – who orchestrated the entire kidnapping plan to consolidate his power and ensure his reelection!

***

The text feature gives brief origins for Wildcat and Creeper.

***

“Track of the Hook” (Batman and Deadman) from Brave and Bold #79 (September 1968)

Even in 1976 the Deadman saga from Strange Adventure was considered a comic book classic. Part of the saga was told in the pages of Brave & Bold. In fact, the two Batman/Deadman tales (of which this was the first) book-ended B&B’s greatest run: #s 79-86. Unabashed plug: for more check out my free ebook, Brave & Bold: from Silent Knight to Dark Knight).

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Green Arrow: “Mystery of the Vanishing Arrows” from Adventure Comics #266 (November 1959).

Superman appears to help solve the mystery.

***

The Batman/Deadman story was not an odd choice to reprint in this issue, but it certainly overshadowed the “new” tale that fronted the magazine. This story got top billing on the cover.

So why “debut” the team-up format with (to be kind) C-grade heroes? Did they think a comic starring Wildcat and the Creeper would fly off the shelves? It even got second billing on the cover!

Why not team more popular heroes that did not have their own magazines – like Green Arrow or (at that time) Green Lantern? GA could have been deftly inserted over Wildcat (whose only appearances in the past twenty years were in the pages of Brave & Bold).

The story and art were good, but not great. The exercise was fun, but forgettable.

For a new team-up book, this is Strike Two (Strike One being the debut issue promising but not delivering no new material)…

***

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!

Super Friends #4, March, 1977

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Cover: Ramona Fradon and Bob Smith

“Riddles and Rockets”

Writer: E. Nelson Bridwell, Penciler: Ramona Fradon, Inker: Bob Smith

Editor: Dennis O’Neil, Executive Editor: Joe Orlando

From the Superfriends Wiki:

The SuperFriends must deal with the dual crimes of the Riddler and Skyrocket. The Riddler hacks the Trouble Alert with a riddle: “When does a WonderDog cause his master the most worry?” This sends Wonder Woman and Superman to the Museum of Music where they find Skyrocket robbing the place. Together they successfully thwart the crime, but Skyrocket escapes. “Meanwhile, in the Hall of Justice”, the Trouble Alert sounds off again and this time its Commissioner Gordon. He tells Batman and Robin that the Riddler has been spotted at the West Side Kennels. The Dynamic Duo rushes to the high-end kennels fearing that the Riddler will hold these dogs ransom for money. But have no fear, the crime is prevented, the henchmen are captured but the Riddler does escape.

(and by the way, the answer to the riddle is: ‘when he wonders where his dog is’. No one said Riddler was FUNNY …)

“Meanwhile, in the Hall of Justice”, the Riddler successfully infiltrates the Trouble Alert system again and provides another riddle: “Why is Wendy an unusual name?” Robin guess that its because the ‘end’ comes in the middle. This leads the SuperFriends to one of two locations: [1] Since a day ends at midnight, this may be a reference to Jeannine Gale’s performance at the Castle Theater that evening where she’ll perform her latest hit, ‘Midnight in the Andes.’ Or this could refer to [2] the performance of Romeo and Juliet that evening as well and specifically the murder of Mercutio (played by Sir Harvey Arden) who is killed in the middle of a five-act play. His end comes in the middle.

Robin and Wonder Woman head to the Castle Theater. And sure enough, Skyrocket appears. It is clear now that he nothing more than a petty thief. His crimes are prevented, but he escapes. Batman and Superman head to the performance of Romeo and Juliet and this time they capture the Riddler. They find out that he considered Skyrocket a rival, so he tried to put the SuperFriends on his trail so he could get away with his crimes. The heroes realize that he probably knows Skyrockets next criminal outing. He does. He answers them with yet another riddle: “Where does Marvin have a green thumb?”

Robin believes this is a reference to ‘Marvin Gardens’ from Monopoly Game. Wendy chimes in and say that ‘Marvin Gardens’ is in the same group as Atlantic Ave., Ventnor Ave., and the Water Works. Batman adds that there is a ship named Ventnor on the Atlantic at the water front docking in the water. Its cargo is the valuable Chromium. And their off…

They rush to the water front. This time they have plan. As Skyrocket flies over the water, several whales shoot up and out of the water effectively dousing him with several gallons of water. This renders him unable to fly and he plunges into the water, where Aquaman easily captures him.

***

Kurt Busiek mentioned the Superfriend’s version of Skyrocket in the notes detailing his own creation: “Power Company: Skyrocket” #1, March 2002.

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The letter column reviews of issue #1 range from positive to scathing!

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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!

Super Friends #3, February, 1977

“The Cosmic Hit Man?”

Cover: Ramona Fradon and Bob Smith

Writer: E. Nelson Bridwell, Penciler: Ramona Fradon, Inker: Bob Smith

Editor: Dennis O’Neil, Executive Editor: Joe Orlando

As two separate teams, the Super Friends defeat Spectrum and Anti-Man while Wendy and Marvin safely watch from the sidelines. But after their defeat, the villains disappear.

They were captured by Dr. Ihdrom along with a hundred other intergalactic villains. He atomizes all the villains and coalesces them into one being: the World Beater!

World Beater quickly dispatches the Justice League and then appears in the Hall of Justice to battle the Super-Friends. Wonder Woman whisks Wendy, Marvin and Wonder Dog and tells them of her mother’s prophecy (from last issue) that they are earth’s only hope!

World Beater defeats the Super-Friends with ease (we the readers learn that Dr. Ihdrom has been captured and jailed for his murderous crimes) leaving only Wendy, Marvin & Wonderdog.

They come up with a cunning plan: they assume if he has all the super-villains powers, perhaps he also has their weaknesses. They trick World Beater into using Spectrum’s x-ray powers (Anti-Man’s weakness – that is how Superman defeated him in the earlier pages of the story). World Beater is weakened and passes out.

Wendy and Marvin revive the Super-Friends and the Justice Leaguers and receive their thanks.

***

The letter column explains why these five heroes were given the job of training their young recruits: through some inventive reimagining of their origins, it is explained that Superman, Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman and Aquaman were all trained to be superheroes in their youths. Thus, having been trained as children, they know how to train children.

Ah, yes.

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The story here is still oriented to the younger audience, but still keeps a cosmic scale to it. Plus it guests most of the Justice League, whetting the appetites of the young TV-show fans who picked up the comic to read the adventures of other DC stars!

Ramono Fradon’s art is pitch-perfect for this comic. Her style is easy on the eyes and accessible to young fans who might be overwhelmed by … say … Mike Grell if he did the book. She would have been my pick for the book, too. And Kurt Schaffenberger…

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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!

 

Jonn Jonzz Martian Manhunter; Mission: Catch a Killer story arc (part two)

The Back Pages: back-up features of the Bronze Age of comic books:

J’onn J’onzz The Martian Manhunter; Mission: Catch a Killer atory arc (read part one here)

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Adventure Comics #451, June 1977

Adventure 451

“Return to Destiny”

Writer: Denny O’Neil

Penciler: Michael Nasser, Inker: Terry Austin

Colorist: Liz Berube, Editor: Paul Levitz

From DC Wikia:

J’onn J’onzz, having eliminated Superman and Green Lantern from his list of suspects, confronts and attacks Hawkman and Hawkgirl in their Thanagarian spaceship and accuses them of R’es Eda’s murder. Hawkgirl rescues her husband and J’onzz from dying in airless space, and they prove their innocence to J’onzz, who apologizes. But N’or Cott has equipped a Superman robot with a bomb and sent it towards Hawkman’s ship, and it is admitted inside.

***

The reader discovers this story line concludes in the pages of World’s Finest Comic #245.

Frankly, even after all these years, this has to be the strangest dialogue to ever create a cliffhanger in comics…

Adventure 451 final panel

Very strange …

Very …

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World’s Finest #245

July, 1977

Writer: Bob Haney

Penciler: Curt Swan, Inker: Murphy Anderson

Colorist: Jerry Serpe, Letterer: Debra Schulman

Editor: Dennis O’Neil, Executive Editor: Joe Orlando

From DC Wikia:

After a mysterious Superman Robot attempts to murder J’onn J’onnz, Superman and Batman lend a hand on the investigation and return to Mars II with J’onn J’onzz after they learned that some Martians are trying to conquer a city, unaware that its atmosphere will prove deadly to them.

J’onn and Superman are unable to convince the Martians to stop their efforts, as they all believe J’onn is a traitor and they shouldn’t heed his words. Meanwhile, Batman finds a Martian who has been affected by the city’s deadly atmosphere and takes him to the rest of the Martians, who are finally convinced of the truth and decide to follow J’onn’s leadership.

***

Going from Nasser/Austin’s uber-gritty and realistic art to the legendary work of Swanderson is a jolt. A pleasant jolt, true, but still a jolt. The Nasser/Austin team was present in the Green Arrow/Black Canary tales in this same comic!

Also, O’Neil edited the story but handed the writing chore to WF regular Bob Haney.

***

Jonn Jonzz was, unfortunately, a third-tier (if that) character in the Bronze Age, appearing in a few issues of Justice League of America and in this back-up feature. His fortunes would change in the modern age with his stint in Keith Giffen’s Justice League and his own long-lasting series in the 80s and 90s. He is now also a regular character in the CW/TV series Supergirl.

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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!

 

J’onn J’onzz Martian Manhunter; Mission: Catch a Killer (part one)

The Back Pages: back-up features of the Bronze Age of comic books:

J’onn J’onzz The Martian Manhunter; Mission: Catch a Killer atory arc (part one)

Adventure 449 cover

Adventure Comics #449, February 1977

“Mission: Catch a Killer”

Writer: Denny O’Neil

Penciler: Michael Nasser, Inker: Terry Austin

Colorist: Carl Gafford

Editor: Paul Levitz

From DC Wikia:

Just as J’onn J’onzz is awarded leadership of Mars II for a second term as popular vote, his friend R’es Eda is cut down and apparently killed by a sniper. Eda’s last words were “was from…was…sol…”, which J’onzz interprets as meaning the killer was from Earth, a world circling Sol (Earth’s sun). Since no one there except the members of the Justice League knew where Mars II was located, J’onzz suspects that, like it or not, one of them may be involved in the murder. Though N’or Cott and other Martians try to stop him from leaving Mars, J’onzz steals one of Mars’s two spacecraft and heads for Earth, with N’or Cott in pursuit.

***

This is the first Martian Manhunter solo story since House of Mystery #173 (April 1968) and his first solo story of the Bronze Age.

***

 

Adventure 450 cover

Adventure Comics #450, April 1977

“Return to Destiny”

Writer: Denny O’Neil

Penciler/Colorist: Michael Nasser, Inker: Terry Austin

Editor: Paul Levitz

From DC Wikia:

Just after J’onn J’onzz breaches Earth’s atmosphere, his ship is blasted by N’or Cott, destroying it, dazing him, and drawing the attention of Supergirl. The Girl of Steel is mistakenly drawn into battle against the Martian Manhunter until she brings him back to his senses. When N’or Cott releases two more torpedoes, Supergirl intercepts and destroys them. J’onn stops her from pursuing Cott, saying that their attacker “is merely doing his duty.” But he tells her that somewhere on Earth is R’es Eda’s murderer, and he is bound to bring him to justice.

***

The 450th issue of Adventure comes and goes with no mention – anniversary issues such as this are celebrated and hyped throughout the Bronze (and later) age.

Also with no cover blurb or any hype, this is the first appearance of Supergirl in Adventure since her own series in #424, 4-1/2 years earlier. At the least that could have been hyped as an anniversary “gift” to the readers.

Adventure 450 splash

To be continued!

***

Nowadays, J’onn J’onnz is an integral part of Supergirl’s life in the current television series on the CW…

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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!