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!

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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!

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!

Jonn Jonzz Martian Manhunter; Mission: Catch a Killer story arc (part two)

The Back Pages: back-up features of the Bronze Age of comic books:

J’onn J’onzz The Martian Manhunter; Mission: Catch a Killer atory arc (read part one here)

***

 

Adventure Comics #451, June 1977

Adventure 451

“Return to Destiny”

Writer: Denny O’Neil

Penciler: Michael Nasser, Inker: Terry Austin

Colorist: Liz Berube, Editor: Paul Levitz

From DC Wikia:

J’onn J’onzz, having eliminated Superman and Green Lantern from his list of suspects, confronts and attacks Hawkman and Hawkgirl in their Thanagarian spaceship and accuses them of R’es Eda’s murder. Hawkgirl rescues her husband and J’onzz from dying in airless space, and they prove their innocence to J’onzz, who apologizes. But N’or Cott has equipped a Superman robot with a bomb and sent it towards Hawkman’s ship, and it is admitted inside.

***

The reader discovers this story line concludes in the pages of World’s Finest Comic #245.

Frankly, even after all these years, this has to be the strangest dialogue to ever create a cliffhanger in comics…

Adventure 451 final panel

Very strange …

Very …

***

 

 

World’s Finest #245

July, 1977

Writer: Bob Haney

Penciler: Curt Swan, Inker: Murphy Anderson

Colorist: Jerry Serpe, Letterer: Debra Schulman

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

From DC Wikia:

After a mysterious Superman Robot attempts to murder J’onn J’onnz, Superman and Batman lend a hand on the investigation and return to Mars II with J’onn J’onzz after they learned that some Martians are trying to conquer a city, unaware that its atmosphere will prove deadly to them.

J’onn and Superman are unable to convince the Martians to stop their efforts, as they all believe J’onn is a traitor and they shouldn’t heed his words. Meanwhile, Batman finds a Martian who has been affected by the city’s deadly atmosphere and takes him to the rest of the Martians, who are finally convinced of the truth and decide to follow J’onn’s leadership.

***

Going from Nasser/Austin’s uber-gritty and realistic art to the legendary work of Swanderson is a jolt. A pleasant jolt, true, but still a jolt. The Nasser/Austin team was present in the Green Arrow/Black Canary tales in this same comic!

Also, O’Neil edited the story but handed the writing chore to WF regular Bob Haney.

***

Jonn Jonzz was, unfortunately, a third-tier (if that) character in the Bronze Age, appearing in a few issues of Justice League of America and in this back-up feature. His fortunes would change in the modern age with his stint in Keith Giffen’s Justice League and his own long-lasting series in the 80s and 90s. He is now also a regular character in the CW/TV series Supergirl.

***

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!

 

J’onn J’onzz Martian Manhunter; Mission: Catch a Killer (part one)

The Back Pages: back-up features of the Bronze Age of comic books:

J’onn J’onzz The Martian Manhunter; Mission: Catch a Killer atory arc (part one)

Adventure 449 cover

Adventure Comics #449, February 1977

“Mission: Catch a Killer”

Writer: Denny O’Neil

Penciler: Michael Nasser, Inker: Terry Austin

Colorist: Carl Gafford

Editor: Paul Levitz

From DC Wikia:

Just as J’onn J’onzz is awarded leadership of Mars II for a second term as popular vote, his friend R’es Eda is cut down and apparently killed by a sniper. Eda’s last words were “was from…was…sol…”, which J’onzz interprets as meaning the killer was from Earth, a world circling Sol (Earth’s sun). Since no one there except the members of the Justice League knew where Mars II was located, J’onzz suspects that, like it or not, one of them may be involved in the murder. Though N’or Cott and other Martians try to stop him from leaving Mars, J’onzz steals one of Mars’s two spacecraft and heads for Earth, with N’or Cott in pursuit.

***

This is the first Martian Manhunter solo story since House of Mystery #173 (April 1968) and his first solo story of the Bronze Age.

***

 

Adventure 450 cover

Adventure Comics #450, April 1977

“Return to Destiny”

Writer: Denny O’Neil

Penciler/Colorist: Michael Nasser, Inker: Terry Austin

Editor: Paul Levitz

From DC Wikia:

Just after J’onn J’onzz breaches Earth’s atmosphere, his ship is blasted by N’or Cott, destroying it, dazing him, and drawing the attention of Supergirl. The Girl of Steel is mistakenly drawn into battle against the Martian Manhunter until she brings him back to his senses. When N’or Cott releases two more torpedoes, Supergirl intercepts and destroys them. J’onn stops her from pursuing Cott, saying that their attacker “is merely doing his duty.” But he tells her that somewhere on Earth is R’es Eda’s murderer, and he is bound to bring him to justice.

***

The 450th issue of Adventure comes and goes with no mention – anniversary issues such as this are celebrated and hyped throughout the Bronze (and later) age.

Also with no cover blurb or any hype, this is the first appearance of Supergirl in Adventure since her own series in #424, 4-1/2 years earlier. At the least that could have been hyped as an anniversary “gift” to the readers.

Adventure 450 splash

To be continued!

***

Nowadays, J’onn J’onnz is an integral part of Supergirl’s life in the current television series on the CW…

***

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventure Comics #446: Aquaman and the Creeper!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#31

Adventure Comics #446

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Published bi-monthly, thirty cents, August

Cover artist: Jim Aparo

Editor: Joe Orlando

            Until its first cancellation in 1982, Adventure Comics was the oldest continually running comic book on the stands (back when there were stands…). Its first issue was called New Comics dated December 1935 by someone calling themselves National Allied Publications. It changed its title with issue #12 (January 1937) to New Adventure Comics. The New was removed in November 1938 and remained that way until its cancellation (although during the Spectre’s run in the early 1970s it was called Weird Adventure Comics, as part of the Weird line: Weird Mystery, Weird War, Weird Western, etc. Weird). Some New Adventure Comics are available for viewing at the online library Comic Books Plus.

            It went from a comic of humorous stories to action/adventure tales during this time – some stories were written and drawn by eventual-Superman creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Seigel.

            At the dawn of the superhero age Adventure dove right in with the debut of the Sandman with issue #40, Hourman (#48, March 1940), Starman (61, April, 1941) and Simon & Kirby’s Manhunter (#73, April 1942).  When More Fun Comics changed formats to humor stories, its characters moved to Adventure, including Superboy, as of issue #103 (April 1946).  In issue #247 (April 1958) the Legion of Superheroes debuted. They eventually shared billing with Superboy during their classic run. They were replaced by a solo Supergirl lead as of issue #381 (June 1969). She starred in the comic until #424 (October 1972)

            The comic switched back to its adventure roots for the next few issues (Captain Fear debuted) before Black Orchid debuted in #428 (August 1973).

            With issue #431 (February 1974), the Spectre began his iconic run of stories by Michael Fleisher/Jim Aparo that were more in the supernatural setting than the superhero one.

            Aquaman (a back-up feature for a time – with Mike Grell’s first DC work – although published after he took over the Legion’s art from Dave Cockrum) took over as the main feature as of issue #441 (October 1975).  This is where our Bicentennial issue comes in…

            During this run the readers were treated to some fantastic back-up features; including the aforementioned return of Aquaman and a “lost” story of the Seven Soldiers of Victory.

            Superboy returned home as of issue #453 (October 1977) until the comic reverted to its anthology roots by becoming a Dollar Comic as of issue #459 (October 1978) and featuring, in various issues, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Deadman, Elongated Man and Aquaman. This lasted for seven issues. As a Dollar Comic, Adventure became a bit of a repository to wrap up story arcs from cancelled comics: the New Gods and the Justice Society of America completed their storylines (most notably the JSA tale featured the death of the Earth-2 Batman, a critical moment in the creation of the Huntress).

            With the new decade Adventure returned to standard size as of issue #457 (January 1980) with a new version of Starman debuting, sharing the bill with Plastic Man (and eventually a three-way bill with the returning Aquaman) through issue #478. Issue #479 (March 1981) featured a rebooted Dial H for Hero, where two normal people turned into fan-created superheroes, until #490 (February 1982).

            The title was revived in September 1982 as a digest-sized comic featuring new tales of Shazam and Challengers of the Unknown. It was mainly a reprint series for the Legion of Superheroes. Those reprints eventually took over the book until its final cancellation as of issue 503 (September 1983).

            Adventure Comics was revived a few more times and in September 2010 was brought back with new numbering through twelve issues, but then resuming the older numbering with #516 (503 + twelve new issues, you see) again as a Legion vehicle until finally put to rest as of issue #529 (October 2011).

***

            This is the only comic of the Bicentennial line that recognizes the Bicentennial on the cover other than the top header. Aquaman, king of a foreign state, is happily waving the Stars and Stripes on the left side of the cover. Atlantis honoring our birthday! Of course, he IS half-American on his father’s side. Was he the first comic book anchor baby? 😉

The Manta-Ray Means Murder”, Paul Levitz/Marty Pasko ( w ), Jim Aparo (a)

 Adventure 466-2

            The splash page shows Topo the octopus strangling Arthur Jr., but the dumb brute was only rescuing the baby – who was crawling to the exit. Robin calls the Sea King to report he has not been able to find Aqualad. Aquaman tells Robin of recent events – his being deposed and banished from Atlantis – and tells Robin to warn Aqualad when found to avoid the undersea kingdom lest he be shot on sight!

 adventure 466-3

            Meanwhile, Aqualad and Tula (Aquagirl) are on a gambling boat in Louisiana to stop a diamond-smuggling ring. Aqualad fights off the smugglers but if finally knocked out. He is revived to discover the ringleader is Black Manta! Manta catches Tula eavesdropping and, not knowing who she is, ties her up and throws her into the sea to her supposed death!

 adventure 466-1

            Interlude: while Aquaman is away, his successor Karshon, plots an assault on Mera and Arthur Jr.

            Aquaman finds Tula and unties her. They raid the gambling boat, rescue Aqualad and beat Manta to a pulp. Black Manta ducks out and escapes, even fighting off a giant squid holding his manta-ship. On board, Aquaman discovers a cache of underwater laser rifles – the kind used by his successor Karshon. Manta was not only smuggling diamonds, but running guns to Atlantis!

            This story was reprinted in the trade paperback Death of a Prince, 2011.

***

Mind Over Murder”, Martin Pasko ( w ), Ric Estrada and Joe Staton (a). Part two of three.

 creeper

            A solo Creeper tale. He first appeared in 1968 in Showcase #73 and in his own comic for a time. He was a creation of Steve Ditko and the art here is reminiscent of his style.

            At the Humbolt Institute for the physically handicapped, the Creeper saved Dr. Joanne Russell from a brutal assault from a giant plastic monster that had already killed one therapist. The four policemen charge into the room and train their guns on our hero – thinking him responsible! The Creeper fights off the police.

            Creeper remembers the plastic killer – he saw it during an interview with Dr. Vernon Maddox in his secret identity as TV reporter Jack Ryder. Maddox could control a mannequin with his telekinetic power.

            As Ryder visits Russell, a sleeping Maddox subconsciously activates the killer mannequin. Russell tells the Creeper that she and Maddox are rivals competing for the same grant money, but is that reason enough to kill her? While they talk, the mannequin attacks!  Russell, on the Creeper’s instructions, calls Maddox and wakes him. Maddoz uses his telekinetic power to force Russell to walk out the window of her high-storied hospital room! To be continued!

 

 

Dateline Adventure: letters for Adventure Comics #444. All positive letters praising the Aquaman series (and rightly so, it was a great run) by Kevin L. Callahan, Brea, CA, Scott Gibson, Evergreen, CO and Scott R. Taylor, Portland, TX.

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #32: Tarzan #251

 

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.