It’s a bird … it’s a plane … it’s …. a Bicentennial Banner blog!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#30

Action Comics #461

actioncomics461

Published monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Bob Oksner

Editor: Julius Schwartz

            Action Comics? Really? You need me to give a background of Action Comics? Okay, okay … Issue # 1 was cover dated April 1938 and featured the debut of that literary iconic trope – the superhero. He was and is called Superman. He was not a masked crime fighter inspired by the pulps like Crimson Avenger, but more in line with the pulp’s Doc Savage or Hugo Danner (the prototype superhero from the novel “Gladiator” by Phillip Wylie) in that he was a perfect human specimen. Only a bursting shell could pierce Superman’s flesh; he was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Look! Up in the sky!

            Rather than a Doc Savage clone, he wore a colorful costume and cape ala the pulp detectives of the day. He was a hybrid of these two styles of hero and transcended them both.

            Superman was on the cover of the first issue (in the iconic pose of his smashing a car to bits) and did not appear on the cover again until #7, and then again not until #10.  But based on the sales of the issues on which he WAS the cover feature, the star of this anthology comic was obvious. After #13 he was on the cover (even if it was just a blurb) on every issue until the 1980s, when it changed to a weekly format.

            Action Comics also saw the debut of Lois Lane and Superman bad guys Lex Luthor, Brainiac and the Parasite as well as other DC/National heroes such as Zatara, Vixen (although she should have debuted in her own comic cancelled in the DC Implosion) and Supergirl.

***

“Kill Me or Leave Me”, Cary Bates ( w ), Curt Swan (a), Tex Blaisdell (i)

            This story is continued from the previous issue and continues in the next, concluding in the issue after that (where Superman, with amnesia, witnesses the signing of the Declaration of Independence – the comic that was actually on the stands on July of 1976 as opposed to the cover date). Still, with a little manipulating it could have had the Bicentennial banner, yes?  I owned the next two issues after this when they were published.

 karb-brak

            Villain Karb-Brak is convinced Steve Lombard is Superman and attacks him. Superman, meanwhile, saves a Senator from flame-thrower-wielding terrorists and hies to the Galaxy Building just in time to save Lombard. They battle.

            As in the previous issue, Superman gets feverish around Karb-Brak, who touches Superman and causes the gym in which they fought to explode! Superman saves Lombard and Karb-Brak. Karb-Brak, in his human identity of Andrew Meda (get it?) walks away.

karbbrak

            Karb-Brak reveals his origin: He is banished from his home planet in the Andromeda galaxy because he is allergic to everyone on the planet – a planet of super-powered beings. But the planet of his exile – earth, obviously – has a being whose powers are similar to his own. When Superman approaches, he becomes allergic. If he does not eliminate Superman, he will die.

            With Lombard no longer on his list of Superman’s secret identity, Karb-Brak goes to suspect #2: Clark Kent. Using his psi-machine, Karb-Brak mentally manipulates Clark’s friends and other citizens of Metropolis into falling in love with Kent. They fawn over him, want pieces of his clothing and treats him like a 1970s rock star. Kent is chased into a park and attacked by Karb-Brak, where Clark accidentally hurts bystanders while protecting his identity. His guilt and concern hold him back as Karb-Brak continues the assault.

            The crowd cheers on Clark Kent – they now realize he really is Superman – and he fights back. The psi-machine worked too well. Karb-Brak returns to his psi-machine to make the public cheer him instead of Kent. Superman knocks out Karb-Brak, and uses the psi-machine to make the public forget his dual identity and the fight in the park.

            Karb-Brak is now too weak to fight Superman and gives him an ultimatum: stay on earth and I die or leave earth forever and let me live – which will you choose, hero, which will you choose?

***

The Toughest Newsboy in Town”, Elliot S! Maggin (w), Curt Swan (a), Tex Blaisdell (i)

            This is a solo Perry White story. Perry was the editor-in-don’t-call-me-chief of the Daily Planet – Clark, Lois and Jimmy’s boss. He first appeared in November 1940 in Superman #7. Before that time, Lois and Clark worked for George Taylor of the Daily Star. The explanation of the switch was never given at the time, but retconned in the 1970s as part of the Earth-One and Earth-Two lore.

            After Easter dinner, Perry’s gathers his four grandchildren to tell them of his amazing exploits.

            In 1934 Perry was hawking papers when a man gave him a quarter for a two cent edition! Perry recognized him as missing toy company heir Victor Larson. Perry followed Larson to his office where he kept a man named Doctor Norton hostage. Victor ran up gambling debts with the mob and is in hiding; Norton has designed an atomic bomb and Larson is trying to torture the plans out of him. Perry jumps through the window and eventually knocks out Larson. Poor Norton dies of a heart attack in the meantime. Perry writes his first story (the atomic bomb angle was nixed) and got a job reporting for the Daily Planet instead of selling it.

            One newspapers headline (partly covered) touts “Giordano wins art …” The editor of this Earth-One Daily Planet was not named in this story – was it George Taylor?

 

 

Superman in Action: letter column for Action Comics #457 (which introduced Pete Ross’ son Jon). Brian Scott of Streator, IL (positive), Mike White of Mackinaw, IL (positive), Mark Schneider of Concord, Mass (negative as to the Superman feature, but positive on the Green Arrow back-up), and Dan Cardenas, San Luis Obispo, CA (positive) contributed.

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Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #31: Adventure Comics #446

 

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.

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Detective Comics #461: the Dark Knight Bicentennial Banner blog continues!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#29

Detective Comics #461

Detective_Comics_461

Published monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Ernie Chua

Editor: Julius Schwartz

            The first issue of Detective Comics was published in March 1937 as an anthology comic book specializing in hard-boiled detective stories akin to the pulp magazines that were its inspiration. Despite retooling and renumbering for publicity and sales’ sake, the comic has been in publication ever since!

            It is the comic book that DC Comics took its name from. So really the company is called Detective Comics Comics. I know, nowadays it’s called DC Entertainment. Fine. I still sometimes refer to it as National. I’m old.

            The most obvious claim to fame of Detective Comics was the debut of Batman in #27 (May 1939). But Detective also featured the debut of Robin, Commissioner James Gordon, the Martian Manhunter, Simon and Kirby’s Boy Commandos, Batgirl (the 1960s version), Walt Simonson’s Manhunter, Batwoman, Bat-Mite, the Crimson Avenger, ManBat, and Batvillains the Penguin, the Riddler, Two-Face,  Killer Kroc, the Calculator, and Blockbuster.

            Sadly, despite some incredible stories and art, Detective Comics at the time of the Bicentennial was at its nadir. Within two years there will be serious talk of cancelling their namesake comic. Fortunately it merged with Batman Family into a Dollar Comic and survived the DC Implosion. Batman’s immense popularity in the coming years made the idea of cancelling the magazine laughable. It’s still out there, renumbered as part of DC’s “New 52” publicity stunt, but still one of only six of the thirty-three comics published under the Bicentennial banner still published as an active title.

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“Bruce Wayne – Bait in a Trap”, Bob Rozakis and Michael Uslan ( w ), Ernie Chua/Chan (a), Frank McLaughlin (i)

            This story is continued from the previous issue and concludes in the next. I owned that third issue when it was published.

            Captain Stingaree believes Batman to actually be three different men; as part of a corps financed by Bruce Wayne. He kidnaps Bruce Wayne and alerts Commissioner Gordon and Alfred to that factby exploding a dummy in Wayne’s clothing on the front steps of police headquarters.

bruces clothes

            Batman appears (to the delight of a stunned Alfred) and vows to “rescue” Bruce Wayne. Batman later explains that he easily escaped a holding cell meant to keep in a frivolous playboy, not a dark avenger of the night! Mud from the kidnap scene leads Batman to Gotham’s sewers. Stingaree blocks the exits and unleashes swarms of rats to attack Batman. He escapes, but the next chamber is flooded and he and a scuba-equipped Stingaree fight it out, both falling unconscious and whisked to a drain leading to the Gotham river (eww…).  Stingaree awakes first and hauls Batman off to his lair.

underwater fight

             Bruce Wayne appears at police HQ and tells Gordon and Alfred that Batman rescued him. But … but…

            Stingaree, only now discovering Wayne’s escape, approaches the captive Batman and unmasks him – revealing him to be Batman #2: Robert Courtney! We readers who did not read part one gasp in astonishment and say, “Umm, who?”

            All will be revealed in the next issue. Granted it’s been nearly 40 years but I don’t want to spoil the ending. If you REALLY want to know, email me. Or look up the ending online…

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The Moneybag Caper”, Denny O’Neil ( w ), Pablo Marcos (a), Al Milgrom (i)

Trench Tec 461

            St. Louis private investigator Tim Trench appeared in three issues of the “all new” Wonder Woman (#179-181 – not counting a later reprint issue) helping her and I-Ching during her non-powered Diana Rigg phase. He had two solo stories in Detective Comics (460 and 461) and did not appear again until 2006 when he was killed off in 52 #18. His Wikipedia entry also says he was a member of the Hero Hotline, but the Hero Hotline, nor the Grand Comics Database or DC Comics Database, mention this.

            He was a two-fisted old-school private dick. You could almost hear the saxophone music playing in the background of his two solo stories. He was such a caricature he could only be described in metaphor. If he was a brand of toilet paper he’d be taken off the market – he was rough and tough and wouldn’t take crap off of anyone…

            Tim enters his office to find one of Big Willy Cline’s hired goons. But wait, this isn’t a hit – the goon, Manooch, says Cline has a job for Trench! Since his “bank account is lower than a snake’s belly”, he says he might be interested.  Seems Big Willy tried to double cross the other gangs and got caught. He offers Trench 500 big ones to see him safely to the airport.

            A car tries to run over Trench, Cline, and Manooch. Trench knocks a blind man out of the way but too late to save Cline, who is shot by a man in the car. Trench shoots back – killing the driver and the shooter. He socks it to Manooch, who dove out of the way before the car hit. He was in on it!

            Meanwhile, the blind man walks away with the $500 cash. That’s okay: Trench didn’t earn it anyway…

 

 

Batman’s Hot Line: letter column giving universal praise for issue #457, “No Hope for Crime Alley,” a story that has become a Bronze Age classic. All five letters praised the story – the first three writers calling it a masterpiece. Adam Castro of New Rochelle, NY, David B. Kirby of Richmond, VA, Paul Emrath of Milwaukee, WI, Louis A, Latzer of St. Louis, MO and Elizabeth Smith of Tacoma WA contributed. The latter was the only letter writer to also praise #457’s back-up Elongated Man story.

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Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #30: Action Comics #461

 

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.

Batman #277: my Bicentennial blog continues!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#11

Batman #277

277 cover

Published monthly, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Ernie Chua (Chan)

Editor: Julius Schwartz

            Batman debuted in Detective Comics #27 cover dated May of 1939. The next spring in 1940 he was given his own comic. Batman #1 featured the debut of iconic villains the Joker and Catwoman. For the past 70+ years, renamings and renumberings notwithstanding, there has been a Batman comic book published ever since.

            By the time of the Bicentennial, though, Batman was suffering a lull in sales, if not popularity. The popularity of the television show in the 1960s turned the comic into a campy child-like (or even child-ish) version of the Caped Crusader.  The 1970s turned him back into the dark knight of vengence. The pendulum swung even farther in that direction in the 1980s and has yet to swing back to even a middle ground. That is in the future, however, on July 1976, Batman the character and the comic were somewhere in between…

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            “The Riddle of the Man Who Walked Backwards”, David V. Reed ( w ), Ernie Chua and Tex Blaisdell (a)

            A Black-Lagoon-ish sea creature terrorizes the sitizens of a Florida resort town. A vacationing Bruce Wayne and girlfriend investigate and fight off the beast near a cave on the beach.

 

277-1

 

            The next night Batman stakes out the cave and spots a man land his small boat on the beach and walk backwards into the cave – sweeping away his prints.

 

277 backwards

 

 

            Batman enters the cave and fights off the stranger only to be knocked out by a third man!

            Batman awakes … as Bruce Wayne! His assailant is dead and Wayne arrested. He escapes from the local jail and meets Alfred. Alfred had followed Batman to the cave and quickly removed his costume to protect his identity from the killer and the police!

            Escaping, Batman – back in costume – searches the cave for clues and finds oily goo, that leads him to an off-shore oil rig. He overhears crooks talking about a “drop”. They catch Batman and throw him in a huge tube under the sea.

 

277 tube

 

 

            Escaping again, Batman goes to the new drop point discussed by the crooks in the rig – their old drop point, the cave, is now compromised. He fights the sea creature again – it is one of the crooks in disguise, and stops their drug-smuggling ring.

            Bruce Wayne is released and returns to Gotham City, where an unbelievable naive Jim Gordon believes that he and Batman being at the same Florida resort is entirely a coincidence…

 

 

Letters to the Batman, answered by the Answer Man himself, Bob Rozakis for issue #273. Rod McLaughlin of Ramsey, Mont. (positive), Peter Sanderson of New York, NY (guesses that David V Reed is another name for Julius Schwartz;  Rozakis debunks it), Fred Schneider of New York, NY, Mike White, Mackinaw, IL, & Michael D. Darguy of Royal, MI all contribute with positive comments.

***

            Join me for my next review of DC’s Bicentennial issue #12, a little magazine called PLOP!

 

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.