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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Metal Men #52; July, 1977

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Cover: Walt Simonson

“Doctor Strangeglove and the Brain Children”

Writer: Martin Pasko; Penciler/Inker: Joe Staton

Colorist: Liz Berube

Story editor: Paul Levitz; Managing editor: Joe Orlando

Doc’s friend Johanna, tells the story of Happyland – an amusement park turned into a pre-natal laboratory. Johanna’s sister was killed at the facility when the nuclear reactor powering the plant exploded, also killing her sister’s unborn baby. Yet, lately Johanna has been getting letters from her nephew…

At first, she asked for General Caspar’s help, but she hasn’t heard from him in weeks.

Magnus and the Metal Men split up – Iron, Tina and Doc will find Caspar; the others to Happyland.

Approaching Happyland, Gold, Mercury, Tin and Lead are blasted out of the sky by soldiers guarding the Happyland facility!

Meanwhile, Doc, Tina and Iron discover the General’s notes about Babylab, located at Happyland. They are shot at by guards, but safely escape after knocking them out.

The other Metal Men have also survive their crash and head into Happyland.

Throughout the story we see the shadowy Dr. Strangeglove and his super-intelligent infants. Strangeglove confronts Johanna’s nephew, Dennis. Dennis shoots a mental blast at Strangeglove – who reveals the secret to his name – his right hand (shaped like an old typewriter) emits power blasts of its own! Dennis manages to escape.

Dennis is killed by the mental blasts of the other Brain Children and Johanna and the Metal Men are captured by Strangeglove. The evil doctor and his children watch Magnus, Platinum and Iron fly to Happyland to the rescue.

If they can survive the Helix Ray!!! To be continued!

***

The letter column printed only one missive – and asked the readers for more input! The letter and the answer explained the “tongue-in-cheek” approach to the comic announced in the previous issue.

***

Tongue in cheek? It was deadly serious to me at the time! I enjoyed this run of Metal Men, and now I can see the parody that Marty Pasko wrote into the series. The writing is more than silly and less than serious.

Joe Staton’s art is looking less like Simonson’s and more like his own familiar style. And still Wonderful!

***

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

 

 

Shazam #28, April, 1977

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Cover Artist: Kurt Shaffenberger

“The Return of Black Adam”

Writer: E. Nelson Bridwell, Penciler & Inker: Kurt Schaffenberger

Managing Editor: Joe Orlando

I still have my original copy I bought from the stands. I love this issue so much I can write the synopsis without re-reading the issue:

Sivana again uses his Reincarnation Machine, this time to bring back Teth Adam. Adam says the magic word and becomes Black Adam. Before Billy Batson, Shazam picked Teth Adam to wield the power of Shazam 5,000 year before. But Black Adam used his powers for evil. He was banished but returned to fight the Marvel Family. Tricked into saying “Shazam” Black Adam reverted to his mortal self and crumbled to dust.

Black Adam confronts Cap in Boston. Their battle nearly destroys the USS Constitution and the statue of Paul Revere before Cap loses track of Black Adam.

Billy Batson seeks the advice of Shazam, who recaps Black Adam’s origins and his first meeting with Captain Marvel.

Meanwhile, Sivana convinces Adam to get revenge on the old wizard – hoping that if Black Adam destroys Shazam, he will also destroy himself AND the Big Red Cheese!

Captain Marvel spots Black Adam and gives chase into eternity. Cap pitches Adam in the wrong direction and they end up in America’s past during the Boston Tea Party! The battle resumes and Black Adam collides with Captain Marvel, shouts “Shazam” and moves away at super-speed. The lightning bolt hits Cap instead and turns him back into Billy Batson.

Black Adam ties up Batson and tosses him into Boston Harbor. Billy swims to the surface and is rescued by Paul Revere disguised as a Native (on their way to dump crates of tea).

Black Adam, realizing Sivana’s trickery, abandons his plan to seek revenge against Shazam and returns to 1976 to confront Uncle Dudley/Mentor, who tricked Adam originally to revert to Teth Adam. Magic lightning strikes twice – Dudley again tricks Black Adam into saying the magic word and revert to Teth. Captain Marvel uses an amnesia punch to make Teth forget about his dual identity!

Billy receives a note from Sivana – his next target is Niagara Falls! The final panel says he will be helped by Ibac and Aunt Minerva!

***

This was only the second appearance of Black Adam; the first was Marvel Family #1 (Dec. 1945)

***

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 #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!

Mister Miracle #23. April 1978.

Behold, the Bronze Age!

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Cover: Marshall Rogers, Managing Editor: Joe Orlando

“As Ethos is My Judge”

Writer: Steve Gerber

Penciler: Marshall Rogers, Inker: Joe Giella

Colorist: D. R. Martin, Letterer: Ben Oda

Story Editor: Larry Hama

Ethos shows Mister Miracle that to be a secular messiah to the Lowlies, he must embrace the light and the darkness be both of New Genesis and Apokolips and not of New Genesis and Apokolips. In other words, human. He is also shown that the war between the light and the darkness can never be won and cannot avoid the destruction of life. Whatever Steve Gerber was on when he wrote this … I’ll take two!

***

The letter column tells us Steve Englehart has left comics and wishes him luck. Who could replace such a legendary writer? Another legendary writer in Steve Gerber!

***

Dear Mr. Oda; When you write the word “flick” in a comic book (blue box, upper right corner), please be very careful. You made me do a double-take here … if you know what I mean … With utmost respect, …

MM Flick***

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

Super Friends #3, February, 1977

“The Cosmic Hit Man?”

Cover: Ramona Fradon and Bob Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Ah, yes.

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***

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

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

***

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!