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!

 

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Hercules Unbound #3, March 1976

 

Behold!

bronze-age

“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!

Metal Men #51; May, 1977

 

Behold, the Bronze Age!

bronze-age

 

Cover: Walt Simonson

“Killing Me Softly With His Scream!”

Writer: Jack C. Harris & Martin Pasko; Penciler/Inker: Joe Staton

Colorist: Liz Berube

Story editor: Paul Levitz; Managing editor: Joe Orlando

#50 had new material book-ending the excellent reprint of MM#6. Remember, this is a blog about the Bronze Age – there is no place for even an excellent Silver Age story here!

The new story in #50 (Consisting of only just over two pages) was as follows: Magnus and his robots are ordered to a secret military base wherein lay “Project Automaton”. When they arrive, they are informed the Metal Men are now in the custody of the US Army!

The robots are locked into a chamber while Colonel Craven tries to convince Doc Magnus to use his robot building technique for Project Automaton. An attack on the Metal Men by unknown armed terrorists is foiled by our friends, and one of the unspeaking attackers kills himself during the interrogation.

We meet Vox – a man with a mechanical jaw and voice box whose scream can kill and who is building a cyborg army for America’s enemies. Vox and his cyborg army invade the army base to capture Magnus and the Metal Men. The robots fight off the cyborgs, but Vox manages to make off with Magnus, Iron and Colonel Craven! Vox demands the secret on how the Metal Men can alter their forms – with this knowledge his own cyborgs will be invincible!

Magnus refuses to tell his secret – but Craven tells Vox in exchange for a mechanical heart to replace his pacemaker! Craven tells Vox about the Metal Men’s responsometers, that allows them to change their form. Vox refuses to honor his end of the bargain and his heart gives out in his rage.

The Metal Men trick the Cyboriginals (Vox’s cyborg army) into leading them to where Vox is keeping Magnus and rescues him.

***

The letter pages ranged from complimentary to scathing in their reviews of issue #49, which the editor says is the start of their new “tongue in cheek” version of the Metal Men. Did I read the same issue? That was part two of the Eclipso story … tongue in cheek? Wha…?

***

I suppose this issue shows the “tongue in cheek” direction of Metal Men. A strange villain, true, but not in the goofy mode of, say, Plastic Man.

The eclectic story is magnified by the dual writers. The prior issue said Harris came in to help with Pasko’s plot.

The artwork is fine and solid – a good description of the style of Joe Staton. His fluid style complements strange plottings of the story in addition to the Metal Men themselves. Staton captures their powers and abilities cleanly and clearly. By this time, he has already become the Bronze Age artist for all things Earth-2 and will shortly become THE Green Lantern artist. He is currently doing his usual thorough workman-like job for the Dick Tracy comic strip.

***

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!

bronze-age

“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 #49. January 1977

 

BEHOLD!

bronze-age

“The Dark God Cometh”

Cover: Walt Simonson; Editor: Joe Orlando, Story Editor: Paul Levitz

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

Colorist: Carl Gafford; Letterer: Ben Oda

Robert Kanigher is given a creator credit.

The god Umbra increases Eclipso’s power and he unleashes it on the Metal Men, turning Lead to molten slag! Eclipso captures Mona, but Gold and Iron mold Lead into a magnifying glass and aims him at Eclipso. The bright intense light changes Eclipso back into Bruce Gordon.

We learn that ancient aliens landed in Peru and were considered gods by the prehistoric natives before being banished by white magic. Generation after generation of witch doctors kept the alien cult alive until the last servant/priest Mophir died battling Bruce Gordon. Mophir scratched Gordon with the Black Diamond – a segment of the jewel in Umbra’s forehead – used in their Umbra worship, turning him into the Umbra’s new servant, Eclipso.

Back in the cave where Gordon first fought Mophir, the Metal Men find another parchment, this one a Spanish translation of the Incan scrolls. Magnus reads what he cans, reviving Umbra who attacks!

Umbra sends death bolts to kill off the human companions – bolts that criss cross to get to their intended targets and … eclipse each other. Gordon changes to Eclipso who joins the Metal Men in battling Umbra. Magnus orders the Metal Men into specific configurations to create a giant laser beam emitter to focus Eclipso’s Black Diamond beam into Umbra’s forhead jewel and shatters it. Umbra explodes and sloughs back into the ocean.

The bright light from the explosions turns Eclipso back into Bruce Gordon. Doc Magnus uses the parchment to recreate Umbra’s undersea prison and, with the Metal Men’s help, trap Umbra again.

***

The letter column explains that Gerry Conway has moved back to Marvel with most of his books going to Joe Orlando and a series of assistant editors. The letters were positive with suggestions of guest heroes and villains.

***

Walt Simonson’s dark and gritty style was perfect for Umbra and his brethren – Cthulhu-esque kaiju but of mezzo-American design. Pasko did a fantastic job finishing this semi-revival of Eclipso.

The comics really is getting better and better! This is Simonson’s last issue as the series artist …

***

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 #27. January, 1977

 

“Fear in Philadelphia”

Cover Artist: Ernie Chua (Chan)

Writer: E. Nelson Bridwell, Penciler: Kurt Schaffenberger, Inker: Vince Colletta

Managing Editor: Joe Orlando

Sivana uses his Reincarnation Machine to bring Blackbeard, Benedict Arnold and a bevvy of other baddies from 18th-century America back to life! They rob, steal and plunder to distract the Big Red Cheese from Sivana’s real purpose.

Billy Batson asks the Elder Mercury for help and the Messenger of the Gods send Kid Eternity to help.

Kid Eternity goes after the historical bad guys while Captain Marvel tracks down Sivana.

Billy is caught by Sivana after discovering his plot: Sivana has turned the Liberty Bell into an atomic bomb – when Captain Marvel rings it at a special ceremony tomorrow, it will destroy him and the city!

Kid Eternity captures most of the historical bad guys with the help of his conjured heroes – including Ethan Allen, Ben Franklin, Daniel Boone, and others. Kid Eternity chases Benedict Arnold to Sivana where he is also captured! Sivana will detonate the bomb by remote control and destroy them both!

Benedict Arnold, seeking redemption, frees Billy who turns into Captain Marvel and stops Sivana.  Unfortunately, the World’s Wickedest Scientist gets away!

***

The letter column praised the new DC/TV format, with only one letter saying he preferred Golden Age reprints.

The final panel teaser and the letter column tells us the next issue will feature Black Adam as the villain!

***

If Sivana wanted to stir up trouble with cutthroats and murderers why did he go to the trouble of using the Reincarnation Machine? He could have just used the line-up of the 1976 Flyers…

This was Kid Eternity’s (and Mr. Keeper’s) first appearance in new material since the Golden Age and his first DC appearance.

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

 

 

Timba! Ungowa! Tarzan read Bicentennial blog! Blog good!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#32

Tarzan #251

 tarzan 251

Published monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

Editor: Joe Orlando

            Do I really need to tell you about Tarzan? You know all about the King of the Jungle … Lord Greystoke, parents marooned, raised by apes, you Jane …

            I will say he debuted in the 1912 novel (the first of 24) “Tarzan of the Apes” by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

            There have been Tarzan comic books as long as there have been comic books – even during the so-called “Platinum Age” when companies would reprint his strips into comic book format. From February 1948 until August 1962 Dell Comics published the adventures of the Ape Man for 131 issues. Gold Key took over the comic from #132 (November 1962) until #206 (February 1972).

            DC Comics published the character from #207 (April 1972) through #258 (February 1977), when Marvel Comics bought out the rights and published their own comic beginning with new numbering.

***

            Another missed opportunity – with a scheduling version of three card monte, the 250th anniversary issue of Tarzan could also have been a Bicentennial Banner comic…

***

“Jungle War (part two)”, adapted from the novel Tarzan the Untamed, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Gerry Conway ( w ), Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (a). This serial will conclude in issue #256.

 untamed

            It is 1914 in British East Africa. Tarzan carries Major Schneider of the Kaiser’s army to the top of a ravine and, after a struggle, kicks him into the waiting paws of a hungry lion (hungry, Hun, get it?), thus avenging Jane’s (supposed) death. Still, mourning, he kills an antelope for food and viciously fights off a pack of jackals intent on stealing his meal.

            Later, he attacks a German machine gun nest, turns their guns on the German army and escapes unseen.  He informs the general in command he will not rest until every German in Africa is driven out or dead. Tomorrow he vows to empty out the German trench without firing a shot.

            Tarzan shoos off a pack of hyenas eating a boar to skin it. He returns to the ravine where the lion is sleeping off his Germanic meal from two days before. Tarzan uses the skin to cover the lion’s head and paws – rendering it helpless. He unleashes the lion into the German trench. The Boche flee into No Man’s Land and and thus shot down by the English. The lion finally ends by killing Lieutenant Von Goss – who was at the moment bragging about burning the Greystoke plantation to the ground.

            Tarzan chases the other commanders into No Man’s Land. They beg for mercy, please do not kill us as you did Schneider’s brother, they say.

            Brother? Yes, Tarzan killed the brother of Captain Fritz Schneider. Not Schneider himself.

            “Jane’s killer still lives?!” Tarzan bellows in rage.

            To be continued…

 

Ape Mail: letters commenting on issues #247 and 248 by Mark Schmeider, Concord, Mass (mostly positive, but wants more details as to the artists involved – it is explained that the Redondo Studio does some of the art and it is hard to track – whoever came in that morning did the art!) and Don Vaughn of Lake Worth, FL (positive and requests they continue the Fantastic Creatures of Edgar Rice Burroughs feature – the editor says the feature will resume in Tarzan Family and hypes that companion title, telling us all new stories are on the way (for two more issues …).  The column also contained a list of the first ten Tarzan novels, their dates of release and the issues of Tarzan that adapted the stories so far! The editor also asks for more of your letters!

***

Join me next time for the last DC’s Bicentennial issue #33: DC Super-Stars #5

 

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.