Kobra #4, September 1976

Behold, the Bronze Age!

bronze-age

“Brother’s Keeper – Brother’s Killer” Written by Martin Pasko, Art by Angel Gabriele. Inker: Lowell Anderson, Colorist: Liz Berube, Letterer: Ben Oda, Editor: Gerry Conway, Assistant Editors: Paul Levitz and Jack C. Harris

Cover by: Joe Kubert

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Kobra 4 house ad

Synopsis: Kobra leaves his New York headquarters to go to Peru to oversee an archeological dig. There his crew find another Ovoid similar to that found in issue #1. As before, the Ovoid opens and a second Servitor attacks! The blast to Kobra’s arm also causes Jason to flee from his graduate school class. Melissa follows Jason, a synopsis of the comic’s plot is given (“I just met my brother … we have a symbiotic link…”) and Jason questions Melissa about her past relationship with Kobra. Melissa runs out before giving any answers.

Meanwhile, the battle with the Servitor ends in the machine’s dismantling. During the battle it carried a metallic cylinder that spoke to Kobra after the battle. It is an alien from the planet Illandus, who came to retrieve the pod that creates the Servitors.  Kobra takes the Illandian to his New York City lair.

Jason returns to his apartment after a late class to find Randu Singh waiting. After a quick confrontation Randu asks Jason’s help in defeating Kobra – Randu fears Kobra will soon declare war against his native India.

The Illandian reveals its physical form to Kobra – a two-headed four-armed alien that shall soon split in two again. Kobra is intrigued by its duel nervous system and plans to examine the alien to eliminate the link between himself and his brother. They discover the first ovoid has again produced a Servitor. The Illiandian wishes to take his probes and Servitors and return to his home, but Kobra says there are forces on our planet that will stop the alien from doing so.

Well, he IS correct …

And convinces the Illiandian to help Kobra stop him! Kobra’s first victim is Lt. Perez – whose outgoing plane is torn apart by one Servitor and Perez crushed by another! Jason and Randu arrive in the midst of the “Chaos at Gate 57”. Jason confronts his brother.

The Illiandian realizes that it is Kobra who is preventing him/them from retrieving the pod and unleashed a wall of flame at the airport. Jason and Kobra continue to fight over what happened to Melissa – Jason is convinced Kobra is involved in the disappearance.

An ovoid appears around the Servitors and the Illiandian and whisks them back into the alien vessel. Kobra is enraged and strikes Jason now that all his plans have been thwarted – even Project R might be abandoned, he says!

Jason awakes to find the airport in chaos, Perez dead and Kobra long gone (but how, he thinks? Kobra would have been knocked out cold, too!). Perhaps he should seriously consider Randu’s suggestion about making the ultimate sacrifice…

***

The letter page explains that the magazine was reprieved from the pending cancellation of #3, but also says its mailbox is almost empty of letters! AND this is the fourth artwork team in as many issues! Bad signs …

This issue had the famous editorial that ran in all the Conway’s Corner magazine:

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Oh how I yearned for a team-up between Kobra and Kamandi!

And as for Jason’s foreboding dread of Kobra being more powerful than he (Jason was knocked out while Kobra escaped). Even when I read this back in 76 my first thought was … “Well, wouldn’t his followers have carried him away … or wouldn’t he still be teleported to his ship…?”

This issue is a nice book-end with issue #1 – explaining some of that storyline while (thankfully) forgetting the super-hero-y aspects of #s 2 & 3. No one was expecting the series to get better.

But it did!

***

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 #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!

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!

Kobra #3, July 1976

Behold, the Bronze Age!

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“Vengeance in Ultra-Violet” written by Martin Pasko, art by Keith Giffen. Editor: Gerry Conway, Inkers: Terry Austin and Dick Giordano, Colorist: Liz Berube, Letterer: Ben Oda

Cover by: Ernie Chua (Chan)

Synopsis: Kobra and Jason Burr plummet to their deaths after the cliffhanger of the previous issue. Perez throws a line to save Jason. Burr grabs the line and watches as his twin plummets to earth. He braces for death, due to the empathic symbio-link between the twins: one feels what the other feels, even, presumably the sweet kiss of death.

But … Jason lives! And is convinced that Kobra is dead!

Until Kobra breaks into Jason’s apartment and enlists his aid in defeating Solaris. Jason agrees, and while he changes into his Gemini suit, Kobra and Melissa share an emotional and mysterious moment (that Jason also feels). Apparently, Melissa and Kobra had a relationship some two years before…

Dig this beautiful Giffen art …

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While invading Solaris’ stronghold, Kobra tells Jason about Natalie, his former love: they met while both were convalescing in a hospital. Kobra quit his Cult to travel with Natalie, who is shot dead by Interpol agents in Picadilly. Seems she was a murderess and jewel thief. He later says he returned to the cult to conquer them and mold them into international terrorists bent on destroying the law enforcers who killed Natalie.

Meanwhile, Kobra stops Solaris’ mechanical guard as Jason negotiates a laser trap by communicating telepathically with his twin who controls Jason’s movements through the maze (we never see the twins use this trick again in the series).

Kobra and Jason attack Solaris and his men. Jason realizes Kobra not only wants to stop Solaris, but also to snag the Heliotron for his own! In the midst of the battle between the brothers Perez blasts his way in with his fellow CIA agents. CIA? Yes, Kobra reveals that Perez is really CIA and trying to get back canisters of cobra venom (stolen by Kobra) – venom that should have been destroyed six years ago!

Burr feels betrayed, punches Perez, rips off the Gemini costume and goes home.

A nice way to conclude the magazine – the letters page says this is likely the last issue, despite the blurb describing issue four on the last panel.

***

This July 1976 DC comic was not part of the “DC Salutes the Bicentennial” collection of issues in which one collected the cigar band upper covers to get a coveted Superman belt buckle. But it was in good company – issues of Flash and Wonder Woman weren’t part of the promotion either.

Look at the people involved in this issue – they should all be part of a comic book hall of fame: Giordano? Terry Austin? Keith Giffen? Martin Pasko? Yeesh! For a C-list comic this has a lot of talent! Granted all but Giordano are early in their comic book careers, but STILL …

Pasko does a fine job showing us Solaris’ insanity. He is almost child-like and we almost pity his demise at Kobra’s hands.

 

***

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 #48. November 1976

Behold, the Bronze Age!

bronze-age

“Who is Bruce Gordon and Why is He Doing All Those Terrible Things to Himself?”

Cover: Walt Simonson; Editor/Plotter: Gerry Conway

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

Colorist: Carl Gafford; Letterer: Gaspar Saladino

Assistant Editors: Paul Levitz and Jack C Harris

Robert Kanigher is given a creator credit.

Doc Magnus and the Metal Men meet Mona Bennett, Bruce Gordon’s fiancé. She needs their help: Bruce Gordon is really the evil Eclipso! He was scratched by a black diamond and anytime he is in the presense of any sclipsed sphere of light he turns into the evil spirit! While trying to destroy his alter-ego, Bruce accidentally releases him instead!

Eclipso finds a letter from Gordon’s father saying the data he seeks can be found in a library in West Germany. Mona tells the Metal Men the “data” is ancient Incan parchment saved from destruction by a Spanish monk. The Metal Men fly to the German library to find Eclipso already there! Eclipse fights off the Metal Men and leaves with the parchment.

A dying librarian points to a Peruvian map. The Metal Men deduce this must be where Eclipso is headed and they go back across the Atlantic.

The apparently beat Eclipso to an ancient abandoned Peruvian city, but not by much… Before they can make a plan Eclipso attacks!

Tin counters with the bright light of a welding torch. Eclipso screams and turns back into Bruce Gordon.

Another clue leads our heroes to Diablo Island – where Gordon first became Eclipso. They find Mophir’s cave (Mophir was the sun-god priest who fought Bruce causing his black diamond scratch …). They find an ancient tablet.

Unfortunately, retrieving the hovercraft causes an “eclipse” as it flies past the sun releasing Eclipso! He snatches the tablet and heads to a cliff overlooking the sea. Before the Metal Men can stop him, Eclipso reads from the tablet and releases the ancient god Umbra from his undersea prison!

***

The letter column explains that Gerry Conway has moved on, leaving Walt Simonson and Martin Pasko to finish the story and printed two positive letters.

***

One writer praised Simonson’s art and said it was an unusual style for the Metal Men. I agree. Although his usual excellent workman-like effort fits Eclipso and this grittier-style of story (it would not work with a lighter style of story). He captures the possibility of a grim apocalypse!

Gerry Conway (with help from Martin Pasko) advance the story of one of DC’s most interesting characters in Eclipso – he makes an unusual villain for the Metal Men which makes the story interesting and exciting. I can’t wait to see what happens next issue! Can you?

***

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!