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!

***

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.

***

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

***

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!

 

 

 

Advertisements

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 Comics Right in your Mailbox!!

DC COMICS RIGHT IN YOUR MAILBOX!!

Over the July 4th weekend I binge-read DC’s “Ghosts” (don’t judge). I came across the house ads asking readers to subscribe to their favorite issues.
I noticed something.
I had seen it before in my comics from the early 1970s, but since I had a stack of comics ranging over a seven year period, I decided to compare the ads.
Each comic had a number. Action Comics, for example, was #1. And it stayed at #1 through the decade. Say that in a Casey Kasem voice…
Where did the numbers come from? Apparently it was divided into genres and listed alphabetically; except for Forever People and Flash. Perhaps Forever People was just slid into the line-up replacing a comic that started with a D, E or F.
Superman’s titles were first. Those were the single-digit comics.
DC’s other stable of stars made up the tens, starting with Batman (hard as it is to believe in this day and age, Superman outsold Batman for many decades – vastly outsold Batman, in fact…).
Horror titles made up the 30s and love stories were the 40s (how the Shadow snuck into that number scheme …).
War titles were in the 60s and adventure or other the 70s.
Whither the 50s? Was it their comedy or teen line? Titles that they stopped publishing in the 70s like Jerry Lewis, Scooter, Binky and Debbi?

It interested me in my own OCD way. What were the numbers of other comics and why weren’t they listed? Were comics that only lasted two issues (like Man-Bat) given a subscription number at all? Anyone know?

I left some blanks on my numberings to keep Word’s Auto-numbering from making me do more work. I’m lazy that way…
Most of this information is from the ads taken from my “Ghosts binge”. If I took ads from a Google search, I will so note.

February 1972 (Google search):

ad 1972

Comics that were mailed as a subscription from the Silver and Bronze Age are easy to spot in the secondary markets – they were folded in half long-wise before mailing. Collectors still cringe at the idea…

Note these are gathered into sections by genre. The Superman titles are gathered into their own section.

1. Action
2. Adventure
3. Jimmy Olsen
4. Lois Lane
5. Superboy
6. Superman
7. World’s Finest

10. Batman
11. The Brave & the Bold
12. Detective
13. The Forever People
14. Flash
15. Green Lantern
16. Justice League
17. Mister Miracle
18. The New Gods
19. Teen Titans
20. Wonder Woman

30. Ghosts
31. House of Mystery
32. House of Secrets
33. Phantom Stranger
34. The Unexpected
35. Witching Hour

40. Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love
41. Sinister House of Secret Love
45. Falling in Love
46. Girl’s Love Stories
47. Heart Throbs
48. Young Love
49. Young Romance

60. GI Combat
61. Our Army at War
62. Our Fighting Forces
63. Star Spangled War Stories
64. Weird War Tales

70. All Star Western

75. Tarzan
76. Korak

July 1973: The cancellation of Kirby’s Fourth World books accounted for some of the holes. There were also some title changes, but the list is essentially the same. What a selection!
Notice Shazam and Wanted were given single digits to fill in the gaps. However, this was accompanied by an ad for Prez, and Prez himself is making the offer in the ad. Prez the comic book is not available as a subscription.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

1. Action
2. Adventure
3. Jimmy Olsen
4. Lois Lane
5. Superboy
6. Superman
7. World’s Finest
8. Wanted
9. Shazam
10. Batman
11. The Brave & the Bold
12. Detective
13.
14. Flash
15.
16. Justice League
17. Mister Miracle

20. Wonder Woman
21. Supergirl
22. Secret Origins

30. Ghosts
31. House of Mystery
32. House of Secrets
33. Phantom Stranger
34. The Unexpected
35. Witching Hour
36. Demon
37. Swamp Thing

40. Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion (a change in name but not number)
41. Secrets of Sinister House (ditto)
42. Weird Mystery Tales
43. The Shadow
44.
45. Falling in Love
46. Girl’s Love Stories
47. Love Stories (a change in title lasted for six more issues)
48. Young Love
49. Young Romance

60. GI Combat
61. Our Army at War
62. Our Fighting Forces
63. Star Spangled War Stories
64. Weird War Tales

70. Weird Western Tales (Jonah Hex changed the format and title)

75. Tarzan
76. Korak
77. Weird Worlds
78. Kamandi
79. Sword of Sorcery
80. From Beyond the Unknown
81. Strange Adventures
March 1974: Note the ad says the 100-pagers are wrapped flat. It presumes the other ones are still folded.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

1. Action

2. Adventure
3. Superman Family
4. .
5. Superboy
6. Superman
7. World’s Finest
8.
9. Shazam
10. Batman
11. The Brave & the Bold
12. Detective
13.
14. Flash
15.
16. Justice League
17.
18.

20. Wonder Woman

30. Ghosts
31. House of Mystery
32. House of Secrets
33. Phantom Stranger
34. The Unexpected
35. Witching Hour
36. .
37. Swamp Thing

42. Weird Mystery Tales

60. GI Combat
61. Our Army at War
62. Our Fighting Forces
63. Star Spangled War Stories
64. Weird War Tales

75. Tarzan

78. Kamandi

Where was Weird Western Tales?

February 1976: the subscription ad only offered 16 comics, but the numbering is unchanged. And note the old-fashioned-even-at-the-time illustrations of the Caped Crusaders; I’ll bet they are over a decade old at this point.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

1. Action
3. Superman Family
6. Superman
7. World’s Finest
8.
9. Shazam
10. Batman
11. The Brave & the Bold
12. Detective
13.
14.
15.
16. Justice League
17.
18.

31. House of Mystery
32. House of Secrets
33.
34. The Unexpected
35. Witching Hour

48. Young Love

61. Our Army at War

75. Tarzan

Why just these 16 comics? There were dozens more being published – the war comics from the 1973 and 1974 lists were still being published, as were Weird Western Tales and, at this time (early in the year) the six “Adventure Line” comics.

December 1978: Just after the massive DC Explosion guaranteed DC’s place of dominance in the comic book field (who’s giggling?) Note some of the new titles – Warlord, the excellent Men of War. Interestingly, Superfriends – with its notable inclusion of Superman – was given #8, replacing Wanted. Note also the lack of Detective Comics as a choice. At the time, it was facing the chopping block of cancellation!

(from a Google search)

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

1. Action
5. Superboy/Legion (note the addition of the Legion)
6. Superman
8. Superfriends
10. Batman
11. Brave and Bold
14. Flash
16. Justice League
18. Green Lantern (by now GL is back but given #18 instead of its old #15)
20. Wonder Woman
22. DC Comics Presents
30. Ghosts
31. House of Mystery
34. The Unexpected
35. The Witching Hour
44. Secrets of Haunted House
45. Jonah Hex
61. Sgt. Rock (renamed from “Our Army At War” but with the same number)
62. Our Fighting Forces
63. Unknown Soldier (renamed from “Star Spangled War Stories”, same number)
64. Weird War Tales
66. Men of War
69. Warlord
70. Weird Western Tales (this title’s first appearance in a subscription ad in many years)

The Dollar Comics were listed separately …

2. Adventure Comics
3. Superman Family
7. World’s Finest
52. Batman Family
60. GI Combat

So … where are all the titles from the DC Explosion … ? What did they know that we didn’t? Well, at least what did we not know for another month or two?

I wonder who decided which comics went into the ads. Would it have helped a flailing title to include it? Or would it be too much trouble for the sales department to keep track of subscriptions to cancelled comics?

I found a subscription ad from the 1960s on Google. This was from 1966-1968, as Superhip debuted in 1965 and both Bob Hope and Fox & Crow were cancelled in 1968. Note some of the wonderful comics available – Metal Men, Blackhawk …

ad 1960s

And notice Showcase is no where to be found on any of the ads. Not a one. Why?

I searched a few comics from the 1980s and did not find many subscription ads except for things like this (these are Google-found ads, btw). Note these ads do NOT list comics available from DC, but focus only on one or two specific comics.

superman subscription detective subscription
So maybe subscription numbers was purely a Bronze Age thing …

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry
Artwork and Layout from the ads are copyright their respective holders and used here under the Fair Use Act as commentary and critique.

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

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#19

The Brave and the Bold #128

B&B128

Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Jim Aparo

Editor: Murray Boltinoff

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

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

 brave-and-bold-cover

            The Barnes and Noble link is here: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-brave-and-the-bold-michael-curry/1120872264?ean=2940046443011

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

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

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

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

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

       This issue in some ways reflected that problem…

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

***

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

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

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

 b&b 128-2

(dig this beautiful Aparo art!)

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

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

 b&b 128-3

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

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

 b&b 128-1

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

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

            Now that would have made a fun comic…

            See what I mean by coasting?

 

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

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

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

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

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

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #20: Blitzkrieg #4

 

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

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

 

 

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

Brave and Bold: 151,000

Justice League of America: 193,000

World’s Finest: 132,185

Adventure Comics: 104,309

Superman: 216,122

Superman Family: 156,636

Our Fighting Forces starring the Losers #168

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#13

Our Fighting Forces #168

 

OFF168 

 

Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist: Luis Dominguez

Editor: Murray Boltinoff

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

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

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

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

 

 Losers

 

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

***

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

*** 

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

 new losers

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

 

 losers movie

 

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

 ***

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

 

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry

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

 

Kamandi #43: DC Bicentennial issues continued!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#4

kamandi

Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth #43

Published monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Ernie Chua (Chan)

Editor: Gerry Conway

            In 1970 Jack Kirby left Marvel to work at DC. To Marvel fans, it was akin to Eisenhower defecting to the Soviet Union. To DC fans, it was as if Chairman Mao sought US asylum at Disneyland.

            Jack Kirby is to comics what Babe Ruth is to baseball – he affected everything that came after him and even non-fans have an idea who he is (Stan Lee fits that analogy better, most likely, but it fits Kirby, too!). He created or co-created Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, the X-Men, Darkseid, the Forever People, Mister Miracle, the New Gods, the Challengers of the Unknown, the Eternals, Devil Dinosaur, the Demon, Machine Man (to name a few) … and Kamandi.

            Kamandi ran for 59 issues from November 1972 through October 1978 and was cancelled during the DC Implosion – a line-wide cancellation of dozens of titles during a major sales slump. Unfortunately it happened only a few months after DC’s advertising blitz hyping new comics, format and price they called the “DC Explosion”.

            Jack Kirby was the writer/artist/creator of the series through #37 and continued as artist until issue #40 (these were issues already penciled when he left).

***

            DC comics tried to obtain the rights to a Planet of the Apes comic. Marvel won that battle and turned it into a successful magazine for a few years and an unsuccessful color reprint comic for a few months. But Kirby had another idea – in fact he had a similar Apes story in an Archie Comics science fiction anthology magazine even before the original POTA novel! A Great Disaster decimated humanity. It was not a nuclear war per se, but did involve lethal radiation inundating the earth.  The humans remaining became bestial –with intelligence and reason at animal levels.

            Just before the Great Disaster, a drug was developed that gave animals human-level intelligence. The experimental animals were released and the drug dumped into the water supply. The resultant radiation and “poisoning” of the water supply gave rise to animal civilizations. They use the remaining humans as slave-labor and beasts of burden.

            A young boy did survive, though, locked in a bunker labeled Command D. He was raised by his grandfather (who was later retconned into the original OMAC) and learned of pre-Great Disaster civilization of humans. When his grandfather was killed by a wolf, Kamandi (his real name, if he had one, was never disclosed) left the bunker to discover the fate of humanity.

***

            By the time of issue #43, Kamandi befriended mutant Ben Boxer – the closest thing the series had to a superhero. With his “atomic power”, Boxer can transform his skin into solid metal. With his formidable natural strength, he is a powerful ally. Dr. Canus is a bipedal intelligent dog with extra-ordinary intelligence. Arna becomes Kamandi’s love interest as of this issue. She (and presumably all humans of her “tribe”) age quickly and her character dies of old age in issue #51.

***

            “A Connecticut Mutant in Great Caesar’s Court”, Gerry Conway & Marty Pasko ( w ), Chic Stone and Mike Royer (a).

            A hot-air balloon takes Kamandi, Dr. Canus and Arna from California to the remains of Nashville, TN – home of a clan of tigers! Upon landing, Dr. Canus (apparently) betrays the two humans who are nearly captured. They escape and hide in a jewelry store.  A romance between Kamandi and Arna begins…

            Mutant Ben Boxer is condemned to death by Great Caesar, so he transforms into his all metal form and battles his way out of the compound. He runs past the jewelry store and escapes with Kamandi and Arna out of the city. They are then attacked by leopards! To be continued…

 

            “Tales of the Great Disaster: Homecoming”, Gerry Conway ( w ), Pablo Marcos (p), Bob Smith (i).

            20 years after the Final War, Urgall the gorilla returns to New York City and is attacked and bitten by rats before finding his home tribe.

            He has been in Washington, where apes call themselves “Representatives” and enslave the humans still clinging to life in the “Capital Dome”. Urgall helps a human and is himself enslaved as punishment. They dig up old relics, including the Lincoln Memorial.

            Urgall is inspired by the newly-discovered remains and he escapes and becomes convinced that “all men are created equal” – including rats and humans. Urgall tries to free one of his tribe’s human slaves and is banished from his tribe and home.

 

 

The Time Capsule (letter page): comments for Kamandi #38 – shortly after Jack Kirby went back to Marvel leaving only penciled pages behind: Tim Corrigan, Rochester, NY (positive), Mike White, Mackinaw, IL (positive) and John Elliot, New York, NY (positive)

 

***

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.

 Next: Batman Family and the debut of the Joker’s Daughter!