The Bronze Age: Metal Men 46

Behold!

Bronze age

Metal Men #46. July 1976

“The Chemo Conspiracy”

Cover: Dick Giordano; Editor: Gerry Conway

Writer: Gerry Conway; Penciler/Inker/Letterer: Walt Simonson; Colorist: Carl Gafford

The rebuilt Metal Men try to find Doc Magnus’ cash store received when Magnus blackmailed the world in his evil phase, but the hiding place was empty. Magnus eventually joins the search and finds a chemical trail leading away from the hiding place. The trail leads to the home of the two keepers of the vault who once worked for Magnus and the vault’s guard – Chemo!

Meanwhile, in Washington DC, someone claiming to be Doc Magnus destroys a mugger …

The Metal Men attach Chemo! They drill through his ankle to drain the monster of his chemical innerds and then smash his glass exterior. Gold, Lead and Mercury give their artificial lives to achieve their victory.

***

There are still a few loose ends to clean up in the Metal Men’s strange late-silver-age continuity. Gerry mops it up while re-introducing one of the MM’s popular villains. Add that it is defeated simply by draining it and smashing its glass container. Except for the environmental disaster that would result, it seems a pretty simple way to get rid of it!

Metal Men 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 …

Once again the art and story fit perfectly with the mood of the book. The Metal Men are still finding their way in this revived continuity – they are no longer hunted and Doc is on their side, a complete reversal from prior issues. And their personalities are coming back: Lead is slow, Mercury is argumentative, Gold is the leader and Iron his (near) invincible back-up. Tin is meek and Platinum is hot.  The fun of the comic continues!

***

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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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!

***

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 …

***

(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 …

***

 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 Bicentennial banner comics by the numbers: lies, damn lies and statistics!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

Tale of the Tape

 This is for all the number crunchers …

 Tally:

Of the 33 Bicentennial comics …

 

 July issues: 12

August issues: 21

 50-cent issues: 5

35-cent issues: 28

 

Bi-monthly issues: 20

Monthly issues: 11

9-times-a-year: 2 (Superboy/Legion and World’s Finest)

 ***

             Comic books were “required by law” to publish an annual sales statement, including individual issues sold closest to the reporting month. Here are the comics I have during that reporting month from 1976 that stated their individual sales figures.

Brave & Bold 151,000
JLA 193,000
World’s Finest 132,185
Adventure 104,309
Superman 216,122
Superman Family 156,636

***

 Editors:

 Denny O’Neil edited one comic

Nelson Bridwell two

Gerry Conway, five

Joe Kubert, three

Julius Schwartz, seven

Murray Boltinoff, seven

Joe Orlando led them all with eight comics

 ***

Cover artists:

 Bob Oksner

Dave Manak

Keith Giffen

Ricardo Villagran

Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, two including one with Bob Wiacek

Mike Grell, two

Jim Aparo, two

Luis Dominguez, three

Joe Kubert, four

Dick Giordano, five issues, including one with Terry Austin

Ernie Chua drew an astounding ten issues

 ***

 Writers: keep in mind there are more than 33 writers here, that’s because obviously many comics had two (or three or sometimes more) stories per issue. Some comics, such as Ghosts, did not list the writers, and neither Grand Comics Database nor DC Comics Database list authors for that issue.

 Barry Jameson

Bart Regan (two)

Bob Haney (three)

Bob Rozakis (two, including one with Michael Uslan)

Cary Bates (three)

Dave Wood

David Anthony Kraft

David Michelinie

David V. Reed

Denny O’Neil

Don Cameron & Joe Samachson

Elliot S! Maggin (three)

Gardner Fox (two reprints)

George Kashdan (two)

Jack Oleck 

John Broome (two reprints)

Len Wein

Martin Pasko (two, NOT counting two more with Gerry Conway and Paul Levitz)

Michael Fleisher

Russ Manning

Sheldon Meyer (a reprint)

Steve Skeates

Weshley Marsh (Murray Boltinoff)

Gerry Conway (seven, including one with Marty Pasko)

Robert Kanigher (our leader with nine total stories written in the 33 comics)

Did I miss any? Wouldn’t surprise me… 

***

 Artists: as with the writers category there are more than 33 artists here, that’s because obviously many comics had two (or three or sometimes more) stories per issue

 Buddy Gernale

Carmine Infantino (two reprints)

Chic Stone and Mike Royer

Curt Swan (three, including one with John Calnan)

Dick Dillin & Frank McLaughlin

Don Perlin

ER Cruz

Ernie Chua (two including one with Tex Blaisdell)

Nestor Redondo (and/or his studio)

Franc C Reyes

Fred Carillo

Gene Ureta

George Evans

George Molintorni

Gil Kane & Sid Greene (reprint)

Irv Novick (two, one with Ted Baisdell)

Jerry Robinson (reprint)

Jess Jodloman

Jim Aparo (two)

Jim Mooney (a).

José Delbo

Jose Luis Garcia Lopez (two, one with Bob Oksner)

Keith Giffen & Wally Wood

Keith Griffin, Ricardo Villagran and Oscar Novelle & Luis Dominguez

Mike Grell

Mike Kaluta (reprint)

Noly Zamora

Pablo Marcos

Pablo Marcos  & Bob Smith

Paul Kruchner and Tex Blasdell

Ricardo Villamonte

Rich Buckler

Rico Rival

Romana Fradon & Juan Canale,

Ross Andru & Mike Esposito

Rubeny

Ruby Florese

Russ Manning

Sam Glanzman

Sheldon Moldoff (reprint)

Terry Hensen

Ric Estrada (an amazing 8, which includes 2 with Joe Staton and one with Al Milgrom – with that many comics I can imagine he would need the help!)

 ***

             Comics, especially from the Big Two, rarely have letter columns in these days of email and Instant Messaging. I think that’s a shame. But letter columns made up an integral part of a comic book – it’s how fans kept in touch with one another. Some fans became professionals simply because their letter writing gave them name recognition at hiring time (Bob Rozakis for one) – it helped that the letter writers (Bob included) were also talented! One wonders how many hacks were turned away – “but I had 46 letters published!” “Your letter writing skill is good, that’s true, but as a comic book fiction writer … you stink.”  The only future comic book talent from the letter writers of these July 1976 comics that I recognize is Bob Rodi (from Karate Kid #3).

            “Hey!” I write for comics and I’m on that list! Oops, sorry I didn’t recognize the name. What comics do you write/draw/etc. for? I’d love to read them!

            I left out anonymous and obvious fake names. Here are, I think, all of them:

            The most prolific writers were Mike White, who appeared in 7 issues (nearly one third of the comics) and Fred Schneider in 5 issues.

 Adam Castro of New Rochelle, NY (3 letters total)

Arthur Grance of Staten Island, NY

Arthur Kowalik of Wilmington, DE

Barry Charles of Louisville, KY

Bart Casey of Dayton, Ohio

Bob Robinson, Lincoln, NE

Bob Rodi of Columbia, MO

Brian Dyke of Goodlettsville, TN

Brian Scott of Streator, IL

Burt Fowler of Jacksonville, FL

Cadet Captain Ruby S Nelson of Jacksonville, AL

Carlton McDaniels of New York

Clifford Gerstman of New York, NY

Craig Kenner of Massillon, OH

Damian Brokaw of Denver, CO

Dan Cardenas, San Luis Obispo, CA

Dave Wilcox, Arlington Heights, IL

David A Jones of Horse Cave, KY

David B. Kirby of Richmond, VA

David Hanson of Swartz Creek, Mich.

David J. Brown of Hammond, IN

David L Klees of Newton Centre, Mass 

David Trenton of New York, NY

DK Thomas of Brunswick, ME

Doil Ward of Ardmore TX

Don Vaughn of Lake Worth, FL

Drury Moore of Springfield, IL

Edward Wojcik of Detroit, Michigan

Elizabeth Smith of Tacoma Washington

Eric Ehrlich of North Platte, NE

FL Watkins, Champaign, IL

Fred Schneider of New York (6 issues)

Gerald Duit of New Orleans, LA

Glenn Rowsam of Oakland, CA

Hugh J. Leach, Mason, MI

Charles Backman of Sterling Heights, MI

Jack Gregotz, Mayfield Heights, OH

James Parker of Clarksville, TN

Janet Fadel of Hollywood, CA

Jeff Sporn of Bethesda, MD

Jerry Rosen of New York, NY

Jim Dever of Philadelphia, PA

Jim Humm of El Monte, CA

Jim Planack of Poughkeepsie, NY

Jimmy Holcomb of Mesquite, TX

Joe Peluso, Brooklyn, NY

John Baker of Baltimore, MD

John Elliot, New York, NY (3 letters)

John Jesse of Hobart, IN

Jonathan Kuntz, Los Angeles, CA

Judy Newton of Thompkinsville, RI

Katie Raisler of East Lansing, MI

Ken Kemble of San Antonio, TX

Ken Regalado, South Pasadena, CA

Kevin L. Callahan, Brea, CA (3 issues)

Kirk Anderson of DeForest, WI

Linas Sabalys of Laval, PQ, Canada (3 issues)

Louis A, Latzer of St. Louis, MO

Marie Munas of La Mesa, CA

Mark McIntyre of Atlanta, GA

Mark Schmeider, Concord, Mass (5 issues)

Mark Wannop of Camden, NJ

Mark Zutkoff, Timoniom, MD

Mary E. ReCasino, Vernon, CT

Matthew Elyosin, Madison, CT

Michael D Dargay of Royal Oak, MI (3 issues)

Michael Lapsley of Morrow, GA

Mike Karvalas of Chicago, IL

Mike Thompson of Lockemup Prison

Mike White of Mackinaw, IL (the most: 7 issues)

Paul Emrath of Milwaukee, WI (3 issues)

Paulo Mariorann of Parma, Ontario

Peter Sanderson of New York, NY

Robert Gustive of Grand Island, Neb

Robert LaChine of Chicago, IL

Robert Vias, Dover, NJ

Robert W. Chan of Edmonton, Canada

Rod McLaughlin of Ramsey, Mont.

Roger Thomas Enevoldesen, North Augusta, SC

Ron Lindsey of Augusta, GA

Ronald M. Fitz, Valparaiso, IN

Sam MCHendley of Berkeley, CA

Sarah Finnegan of Washington DC

Scott Gibson of Evergreen CO (5 issues)

Scott R. Taylor of Portland, TX (3 issues)

Steve Kalaitzidis of Toronto, Ontario

Teddy Arnold of Houston TX

Terry Chadwick of Phoenix, AZ

Thomas Edward Bigham of Matt, Mass

Thomas Russon of Mt. Kisco, NY

Tim Corrigan, Rochester, NY

Tom Kelleher of Norwalk, Conn.

Tom Weyandt of Broadtop City, PA

Wade Sears of Calgary, Alberta

Walter Green of Wading River, NY

 ***

 Thanks for reading the blog series. It was as much fun to read (and re-read) these comics as it was to comment about them.

 My father would bring home stacks and stacks of DC comics for me. He worked for the Air Force, but some of his staff’s spouses worked for Sparta Printing – where they used to give away comics to the employees by the truckload. It was literally, “your boss has a kid? Here!” {thud}

Doing this blog series reminded me of that. I had a stack of comics next to my chair. I also had a notepad and pen to make notes. But at times I imagined my dad bringing home these 33 comics for me to enjoy.

This blog series is dedicated to him.

 

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

 

            Images used are copyright their respective holders and and reproduced here under the “fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.

Blackhawk #247: the Bicentennial Banner blog continues!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#25

Blackhawk #247

Blackhawk_Vol_1_247

Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist: Dick Giordano

Editor: Gerry Conway

            This paragraph is a repeat of my blog on Freedom Fighters #3. Quality Comics was a successful comic book company during the medium’s golden age. It introduced Kid Eternity, the Blackhawks, the much-lauded Spirit and Plastic Man to comics. The company closed shop in the mid-1950s and the catalogue of characters was bought by DC/National. They continued only four of Quality’s titles: GI Combat, Plastic Man (although DC would not publish a Plastic Man comic until the 1960s), Blackhawk, and Heart Throbs – all but the latter were still being published by the time of the Bicentennial (Plastic Man would get much more popular in the coming decades).

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

patch

 

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

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

biolord

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

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

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

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

            To be continued…

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

 

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

***

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

 

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.

 

 

Secret Society of Supervillains #2 – Bicentennial Bad Guys!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#21

Secret Society of Supervillains #2

SSOSV2

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?

  ssosv

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.

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

jsa alex

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#17

All Star Comics #61

All-Star-Comics-61_00

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…

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“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”.

vulcan2

            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

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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.