Hercules Unbound #6, September 1976

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“Even a God May Die!”

Excellent, excellent cover: José Luis García-López, Editor: Joe Orlando

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

***

While carrying poor Basil away, Kevin, Hercules, Jennifer and their friends are attacked by Ares’ soldiers. Durok Malloy and his animal army help in the battle – which includes five cavalrymen in the second wave of attack.

Hercules explains that Ares has the power to restore life – perhaps there is a way to bring back the beloved Basil

Ares and his army encamp at Stonehenge with his hostages David Rigg and Simon St. Charles. Rigg escapes and finds Hercules and company.

Ares meanwhile confesses why he started World War III – after thirty thousand years he seeks the sweet oblivion of death – something denied to a god. Hercules appears and says he will oblige Ares by helping him fulfill his wish. The battle commences!

In the spectacular fight, Ares admits why he hates Hercules so – daddy issues. “We were both his sons yet, it was you he loved, while I … I was ever despised!”

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Showing some of the gorgeous art in this issue!

Ares is eventually worn down and surrenders after the stones of the henge are toppled on him.  He capitulates: truces are called and bargains made, including the resurrection of faithful Basil in exchange for his freedom. Ares flees, but both he and Hercules swear that should they ever meet again, one will die!

***

The letter column “Myth Mail” tells us the sales of Hercules Unbound are very good!  Odd that there are only two letters published – one of praise and the other echoing the HU/Wonder Woman mash-up. There is a small pin-up of the Man-God. If it is such a success, where are the letters?

The editor mentions that writer Gerry Conway is considering some “century shifting”. Is he already tired of Earth After Disaster?

 ***

Hercules Unbound ended its first year of publication on a high note. A unique idea with a unique hero. The creative staff was unchanged to date (a good sign) and was top level (Garcia was the only “newbie” in the group and even then was gaining gravitas with his Batman pencils).

It was a very good year!

The issue even got it’s own “article” in DC’s house ads! Another good sign!

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Hercules 6 house ad

The blurb on the last panel promises a new menace and a new direction for the man out of myth.

Uh-oh … that’s never a good sign…

***

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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Hercules Unbound #5, July 1976

Behold, the Bronze Age!

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“War Among the Ruins!”

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

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

Despite his ability to disintegrate animate objects, Hunter Blood merely dissolves the ground beneath Hercules’ feet – dropping him into a London Underground tunnel and knocking him out. Kevin shows more mysterious skill – leaping over the Herculean hole to battle Blood only to also be knocked out while Hunter escapes with Jennifer Monroe in tow.

Interlude: David Rigg and Simon St. Charles are tied up in Ares’ ship which is just now entering London via the Thames. Ares admits they are being used as bait for Hercules!

The Man-God, meanwhile, comes to and confronts a group of animal men, led by a gorilla named Durak Malloy. They discover they are allies against Hunter Blood. Surfacing, Hercules meets up with Kevin and Basil.  We learn how the animals in London got their intelligence:

London was blasted to rubble during the initial bombing of World War III. Humans were disintegrated in the blast (leaving their clothing) and a neuro-toxin from a medical lab was released. A gorilla in the lab was exposed and gained human-level intelligence.

Presently, Hunter Blood’s pack of intelligent animals attack Kevin and Basil – Hercules comes to the rescue in some beautiful fight scenes. He is challenged to combat by Hunter Blood!

Blood disintegrates Big Ben. Before it can topple, Hercules flings Blood to the ground.

Some of the rubble of Big Ben fall on Basil, killing him!

Realizing that Blood’s actions would have killed them – that they are merely slaves to Blood and he feels no loyalty to them – Blood’s animal army pummel Blood to death!

***

The letters in Myth Mail mostly praise issue #3 – only one writer says the storyline is going in the “wrong direction” and there is one letter directed to Basil. But everyone agrees that the artwork by Lopez and Wood is spectacular. They are right!

***

Hercules Unbound was probably not the best-selling comic in DC’s stable. Would it not have benefitted a little by being one of the “DC Salutes the Bicentennial” comics – in which one stripped off the special cigar-band logo to win a precious Superman belt buckle?  Well, it couldn’t have hurt anyway …

“I am an honorable man!” Hercules says. This issue we get a look at the man inside the god. Hercules admires loyalty and honor. He is a hero as well as a god! Although the comic book reader has always been on his side – we are starting to like and enjoy his personality too!

***

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 #4, September 1976

Behold, the Bronze Age!

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“Brother’s Keeper – Brother’s Killer” Written by Martin Pasko, Art by Angel Gabriele. Inker: Lowell Anderson, Colorist: Liz Berube, Letterer: Ben Oda, Editor: Gerry Conway, Assistant Editors: Paul Levitz and Jack C. Harris

Cover by: Joe Kubert

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Kobra 4 house ad

Synopsis: Kobra leaves his New York headquarters to go to Peru to oversee an archeological dig. There his crew find another Ovoid similar to that found in issue #1. As before, the Ovoid opens and a second Servitor attacks! The blast to Kobra’s arm also causes Jason to flee from his graduate school class. Melissa follows Jason, a synopsis of the comic’s plot is given (“I just met my brother … we have a symbiotic link…”) and Jason questions Melissa about her past relationship with Kobra. Melissa runs out before giving any answers.

Meanwhile, the battle with the Servitor ends in the machine’s dismantling. During the battle it carried a metallic cylinder that spoke to Kobra after the battle. It is an alien from the planet Illandus, who came to retrieve the pod that creates the Servitors.  Kobra takes the Illandian to his New York City lair.

Jason returns to his apartment after a late class to find Randu Singh waiting. After a quick confrontation Randu asks Jason’s help in defeating Kobra – Randu fears Kobra will soon declare war against his native India.

The Illandian reveals its physical form to Kobra – a two-headed four-armed alien that shall soon split in two again. Kobra is intrigued by its duel nervous system and plans to examine the alien to eliminate the link between himself and his brother. They discover the first ovoid has again produced a Servitor. The Illiandian wishes to take his probes and Servitors and return to his home, but Kobra says there are forces on our planet that will stop the alien from doing so.

Well, he IS correct …

And convinces the Illiandian to help Kobra stop him! Kobra’s first victim is Lt. Perez – whose outgoing plane is torn apart by one Servitor and Perez crushed by another! Jason and Randu arrive in the midst of the “Chaos at Gate 57”. Jason confronts his brother.

The Illiandian realizes that it is Kobra who is preventing him/them from retrieving the pod and unleashed a wall of flame at the airport. Jason and Kobra continue to fight over what happened to Melissa – Jason is convinced Kobra is involved in the disappearance.

An ovoid appears around the Servitors and the Illiandian and whisks them back into the alien vessel. Kobra is enraged and strikes Jason now that all his plans have been thwarted – even Project R might be abandoned, he says!

Jason awakes to find the airport in chaos, Perez dead and Kobra long gone (but how, he thinks? Kobra would have been knocked out cold, too!). Perhaps he should seriously consider Randu’s suggestion about making the ultimate sacrifice…

***

The letter page explains that the magazine was reprieved from the pending cancellation of #3, but also says its mailbox is almost empty of letters! AND this is the fourth artwork team in as many issues! Bad signs …

This issue had the famous editorial that ran in all the Conway’s Corner magazine:

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Oh how I yearned for a team-up between Kobra and Kamandi!

And as for Jason’s foreboding dread of Kobra being more powerful than he (Jason was knocked out while Kobra escaped). Even when I read this back in 76 my first thought was … “Well, wouldn’t his followers have carried him away … or wouldn’t he still be teleported to his ship…?”

This issue is a nice book-end with issue #1 – explaining some of that storyline while (thankfully) forgetting the super-hero-y aspects of #s 2 & 3. No one was expecting the series to get better.

But it did!

***

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!

 

Hercules Unbound #3, March 1976

 

Behold!

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“Within the Pit Below”

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

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

Synopsis from DC Wikia: “Cerebus captures Jennifer Monroe in order to lure Hercules to a battle in Pluto’s realm.”

Most modern comics can use 15 words to describe over 18 pages of story and art, true, but a Bronze Age comic?

Going through the entrance to Hell, Hercules, Kevin and Basil meet a minstrel and Charon at the shores of the River Styx. Our heroes are attacked by one of Pluto’s Shadow Beasts. Kevin begs the minstrel to help them save Jennifer. The minstrel plays his lyre to weaken the Shadow Beast. Hercules quickly dispatches the ethereal monster.

The minstrel, Orpheus, joins Hercules on his quest.

Cerebus meanwhile takes Jennifer to Tartarus, the palace of Pluto and his lady Persephone.

Meanwhile again, back in Paris, Jennifer’s friends David Rigg and Simon St. Charles are captured by Ares – their fate to be determined in a later issue!

Orpheus reveals why he is in hell: as with the “real” legend. This son of Apollo lost his bride Eurydice when she died from a snake bite. He went to Tartarus to confront Pluto. Pluto allowed Eurydice to follow Orpheus out of hell as long as Orpheus did not turn around to look at her. Nearly at the gate, Orpheus was overcome by his curiosity and turned to make sure his bride was still there. She was, but instantly disappeared back into hell.

Cerebus and Jennifer talk quietly – here he seems to pine for his former bride-to-be, whereas last issue he was filled with rage as to her betrayal. Hercules finally tracks down the Nubian and calls him out to battle! The gods clash! Hercules knocks a wall on Cerebus, crushing him. Jennifer speaks to Cerebus while he is in his death throes. “It is the woman who betrayed you that caused your death,” she says. “No, it was my hatred and need for vengeance,” Cerebus says.

Pluto releases Jennifer. Orpheus reveals he is a ghost and reunites with Eurydice just as Cerebus was released from his hatred.

Finally reunited with Jennifer; Hercules, Kevin and Basil leave Hell.

 ***

The letter column is filled with missives praising the first issue – the art, the story and Hercules quiet (compared to his Marvel counter-part) power.

***

In a few panels Cerebus shows more depth than Hercules. But this was a fun issue and a nice way to complete the first story arc.

But in three issues we still do not know much about our main characters – neither Kevin nor Jennifer despair over the losses of WWIII. Hercules – although there is no question that he is loyal and heroic – is still a mystery. He hates Ares, true, but what about his loves? What makes him smile? Laugh? We know his persona, what about his personality?

***

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!

Hercules Unbound #4, May 1976

Behold, the Bronze Age!

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“Within the Pit Below”

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

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

While sailing in the channel heading for England, Hercules and his troupe are attacked by a U-Boat filled with … cat people! They are under orders by their leader Hunter Blood: destroy any ship heading for the Sceptered Isle! Herc defeats the cat people and tows their boat to shore.

They are going to England because their friends David Rigg and Simon St. Charles left a note saying they are headed there. Readers from last issue know this is not true! Jennifer also has her suspicions.

After another battle, Hunter Blood captures our heroes and bound Hercules and Kevin to church bells in the tower of his cathedral headquarters.

Hunter, by the way, has the ability to turn anything in his gaze to dust. A sad and ironic power to someone who collected works of art before the war – he can no longer see and admire the collection he loves!

The bells of the cathedral toll and Hercules is given extra power through Kevin to break his bonds and destroy the bell tower!

Hunter believes Hercules and Kevin dead, but Hercules appears in the doorway and calls Hunter to battle in a final-panel cliffhanger!

***

The letter column has two letters again praising the first issue and recommending connections with Wonder Woman and Hippolyta while asking NO links to Kamandi. With this issue that might be too late!

***

The cat-people brings this comic very close to the world of Kamandi. We will have to see what future issues bring.

And we finally see a glimpse of Hercules’ adaption into the modern world – something the comic has ignored for three issues. Although the nuclear holocaust of World War III gives the creators a way around modern-era issues, our hero is STILL 2,000+ years from his time. The brief encounter with “woman’s lib” has been the only characterization of the Son of Zeus in the magazine! We learn a little more of Kevin’s bizarre mental powers, but nothing else.

***

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 #48. November 1976

Behold, the Bronze Age!

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“Who is Bruce Gordon and Why is He Doing All Those Terrible Things to Himself?”

Cover: Walt Simonson; Editor/Plotter: Gerry Conway

Writer: Martin Pasko; Penciler/Inker/Plotter: Walt Simonson

Colorist: Carl Gafford; Letterer: Gaspar Saladino

Assistant Editors: Paul Levitz and Jack C Harris

Robert Kanigher is given a creator credit.

Doc Magnus and the Metal Men meet Mona Bennett, Bruce Gordon’s fiancé. She needs their help: Bruce Gordon is really the evil Eclipso! He was scratched by a black diamond and anytime he is in the presense of any sclipsed sphere of light he turns into the evil spirit! While trying to destroy his alter-ego, Bruce accidentally releases him instead!

Eclipso finds a letter from Gordon’s father saying the data he seeks can be found in a library in West Germany. Mona tells the Metal Men the “data” is ancient Incan parchment saved from destruction by a Spanish monk. The Metal Men fly to the German library to find Eclipso already there! Eclipse fights off the Metal Men and leaves with the parchment.

A dying librarian points to a Peruvian map. The Metal Men deduce this must be where Eclipso is headed and they go back across the Atlantic.

The apparently beat Eclipso to an ancient abandoned Peruvian city, but not by much… Before they can make a plan Eclipso attacks!

Tin counters with the bright light of a welding torch. Eclipso screams and turns back into Bruce Gordon.

Another clue leads our heroes to Diablo Island – where Gordon first became Eclipso. They find Mophir’s cave (Mophir was the sun-god priest who fought Bruce causing his black diamond scratch …). They find an ancient tablet.

Unfortunately, retrieving the hovercraft causes an “eclipse” as it flies past the sun releasing Eclipso! He snatches the tablet and heads to a cliff overlooking the sea. Before the Metal Men can stop him, Eclipso reads from the tablet and releases the ancient god Umbra from his undersea prison!

***

The letter column explains that Gerry Conway has moved on, leaving Walt Simonson and Martin Pasko to finish the story and printed two positive letters.

***

One writer praised Simonson’s art and said it was an unusual style for the Metal Men. I agree. Although his usual excellent workman-like effort fits Eclipso and this grittier-style of story (it would not work with a lighter style of story). He captures the possibility of a grim apocalypse!

Gerry Conway (with help from Martin Pasko) advance the story of one of DC’s most interesting characters in Eclipso – he makes an unusual villain for the Metal Men which makes the story interesting and exciting. I can’t wait to see what happens next issue! Can you?

***

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 #47

Behold!

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Metal Men #47. September 1976

“The ‘X’ Effect”

Cover: Walt Simonson; Editor: Gerry Conway

Writer: Gerry Conway; Penciler/Inker: Walt Simonson

Colorist: Carl Gafford; Letterer: Gaspar Saladino

Assistant Editors: Paul Levitz and Jack C Harris

Robert Kanigher is given a creator credit.

A cadmium robot attacks McMurdo Sound (Antarctica) Army Base but then suddenly disappears! For the next six days the base is attacked by a robot representing a different element:  tungsten, barium and chromium and others.

Searching for the robots, the army finds the Metal Men wandering the polar wilderness, looking for Doc Magnus. The army attacks, thinking the Metal Men to be among the culprits! The army blast the robots’ de-freezing devices on their arms and capture the frozen (or in Mercury’s case, shattered) bodies.

HQ contacts the base and prevents the Metal Men’s destruction. The soldiers thaw out the robots who tell the military why they are in the Antarctic: last issue, Chemo hurled the safe containing Doc’s ten-million-dollar-ransom money into space. Doc’s computer calculated the safe landed somewhere in Antarctica.

As their hovercraft approached McMurdo Sound, the Metal Men and Doc Magnus were shot down and attacked by a giant Liquid Oxygen robot – destroying Tin and kidnapping Magnus! The Metal Men went in pursuit but were captured by the army.

Meanwhile, Doc Magnus confronts his kidnapper – it is Plutonium Man disguised as Doc Magnus! The evil robot explains how he came back to life after his previous battle with the Metal Men – he was able to split himself in two, causing his physical bodies to be below critical mass and reform. One robot retained Plutonium Man’s abilities, the other a drone who could change into any elemental robot. The robot harassed the army base, ensuring the soldiers would blame and attack the Metal Men when they were found!

Because of its rising radiation due to his hatred of Magnus, Plutonium Man unintentionally destroys the cash in the safe!  The Metal Men and the army burst into PM’s hideout and attack! PM turns his drone into Liquid Helium who immediately freezes the soldiers and destroys Platinum. Plutonium Man destroys Lead, as Doc realizes that PM is headed for a chain reaction.

Lead covers the drone and melts it into slag – destroying it in much the same way Platinum destroyed PM back in issue 45. Gold flings Plutonium Man into a glacial fissure that seals itself shut due to PM’s excessive heat. It causes a massive earthquake, crushing the evil robot.

***

The letter column contains the mini-soapbox found in all of Conway’s Corner comics in summer/fall of 1976 asking for ideas and suggestions (how I longed for a team-up between Kobra and Kamandi!).

The letters on the Metal Men revival were very positive!

***

Hmm, was this a fill-in issue? It filled some of the holes left from the story arc from its final first-run issues. The only thing left was Magnus’ money.

I love the work of Gerry Conway. I do. In this storyline of the Metal Men conflict and eventual rapprochement with the army was excellent; but the Plutonium Man portion was … not. The science was silly and baseless. Oh, I know these are comic books and not a JPL thesis, but Gerry is better than this. PM’s return and his ability to control his drone isn’t even Star Trek-ish mumbo jumbo. Gerry doesn’t just make up science and hope we don’t giggle or roll our eyes.

I love the work of Walt Simonson. I do. Both he and Gerry Conway would be on the first inductees in any Comic Book Hall of Fame – on the first ballot (well, maybe behind Kirby and Kubert, but I think even THEY would agree with that…). But the art here was rough – even for Simonson’s gritty style.  Was this a rushed fill-in issue? Should I ever meet either artist, I … well, I wouldn’t waste my time discussing THIS issue, I would be gushing about the exemplary work they have done elsewhere…

Even Babe Ruth struck out a few times…

***

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!