Rich Buckler – RIP to a comic book great!

… and on Gardner Fox’s 106th birthday, I also honor a Golden & Silver Age great!

***

I was very sad to hear of the death of comic book artist Rich Buckler today.  Here is his Wikipedia entry (note his death had yet to make the page):

Rich Buckler (born February 6, 1949) is an American comic book artist and penciller, best known for his work on Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four in the mid-1970s and for creating the character Deathlok in Astonishing Tales #25. Buckler has drawn virtually every major character at Marvel and DC, often as a cover artist.

As a teenager in Detroit, Buckler attended the initial iterations of the Detroit Triple Fan Fair, eventually running the convention along with originator Robert Brosch in 1969–1970.

Buckler’s first comics work was as a teenager with the four-page historical story “Freedom Fighters: Washington Attacks Trenton” in the King Features comic book Flash Gordon #10 (cover-dated Nov. 1967). At DC Comics, he drew the “Rose and the Thorn” backup stories in Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane #117-121 (Dec. 1971 – April 1972).

Buckler drew the first three issues of writer Don McGregor’s Black Panther series in Jungle Action vol. 2, #6-8 (Sept. 1973 – Jan. 1974), a run that Comics Bulletin in 2010 ranked third on its list of the “Top 10 1970s Marvels”. He fulfilled a decade-long dream in 1974 when assigned to draw Marvel’s flagship series, Fantastic Four, on which he stayed for two years.  During this period, Buckler created the cyborg antihero Deathlok, which starred in an ongoing feature debuting in Astonishing Tales #25 (Aug. 1974). Also during this period, Buckler hired the young George Pérez as his studio assistant.

Buckler collaborated with writer Gerry Conway on a “Superman vs. Shazam!” story published in All-New Collectors’ Edition #C-58 (April 1978). He drew the newspaper comic strip The Incredible Hulk for approximately six months in 1979. A Justice League story by Conway and Buckler originally intended for All-New Collectors’ Edition saw print in Justice League of America #210-212 (Jan.-Mach 1983). Buckler and Roy Thomas then created the World War II superhero team the All-Star Squadron in a special insert in Justice League of America #193 (Aug. 1981) which led to the team’s own title the following month.

Buckler worked for Archie Comics in 1983 and 1984, when that publisher briefly revived its Red Circle Comics superhero line, and he recruited Cary Burkett to write the Mighty Crusaders title. In 1985, Buckler returned to Marvel and briefly drew The Spectacular Spider-Man with writer Peter David, where they produced the storyline “The Death of Jean DeWolff”. He also served as editor for a short-lived line of comics by Solson Publications, where in 1987 he created Reagan’s Raiders.

He is the author of two books: How to Become a Comic Book Artist and How to Draw Superheroes. In 2015, he became an Inkwell Awards Ambassador.

 

I remember his covers of the comic books I collected during the Bronze Age, but as I searched for his comic book covers on the internet I was stunned at how prolific he was; at least with the comics I collected. He was everywhere! He, Jim Aparo and Ernie Chua seemingly accounted for 75% of DC covers in the 1970s! I may only slightly be exaggerating! Here are some examples of the man’s work. I still have all these issues …

***

Today also marks the 106th birthday of Gardner Fox, prolific comic book author whose writing helped create the Golden Age and whose creations still exist in one form or another. He was the creator or “… co-creator of DC Comics heroes the Flash, Hawkman, Doctor Fate and the original Sandman, and was the writer who first teamed those and other heroes as the Justice Society of America. Fox introduced the concept of the Multiverse to DC Comics in the 1961 story “Flash of Two Worlds!” …” (from Wikipedia).

 

Two comic book great are being remembered today. Thank you both for your wonderful bodies of work. You and your talent are both missed very much!

 

DC Comics Right in your Mailbox!!

DC COMICS RIGHT IN YOUR MAILBOX!!

Over the July 4th weekend I binge-read DC’s “Ghosts” (don’t judge). I came across the house ads asking readers to subscribe to their favorite issues.
I noticed something.
I had seen it before in my comics from the early 1970s, but since I had a stack of comics ranging over a seven year period, I decided to compare the ads.
Each comic had a number. Action Comics, for example, was #1. And it stayed at #1 through the decade. Say that in a Casey Kasem voice…
Where did the numbers come from? Apparently it was divided into genres and listed alphabetically; except for Forever People and Flash. Perhaps Forever People was just slid into the line-up replacing a comic that started with a D, E or F.
Superman’s titles were first. Those were the single-digit comics.
DC’s other stable of stars made up the tens, starting with Batman (hard as it is to believe in this day and age, Superman outsold Batman for many decades – vastly outsold Batman, in fact…).
Horror titles made up the 30s and love stories were the 40s (how the Shadow snuck into that number scheme …).
War titles were in the 60s and adventure or other the 70s.
Whither the 50s? Was it their comedy or teen line? Titles that they stopped publishing in the 70s like Jerry Lewis, Scooter, Binky and Debbi?

It interested me in my own OCD way. What were the numbers of other comics and why weren’t they listed? Were comics that only lasted two issues (like Man-Bat) given a subscription number at all? Anyone know?

I left some blanks on my numberings to keep Word’s Auto-numbering from making me do more work. I’m lazy that way…
Most of this information is from the ads taken from my “Ghosts binge”. If I took ads from a Google search, I will so note.

February 1972 (Google search):

ad 1972

Comics that were mailed as a subscription from the Silver and Bronze Age are easy to spot in the secondary markets – they were folded in half long-wise before mailing. Collectors still cringe at the idea…

Note these are gathered into sections by genre. The Superman titles are gathered into their own section.

1. Action
2. Adventure
3. Jimmy Olsen
4. Lois Lane
5. Superboy
6. Superman
7. World’s Finest

10. Batman
11. The Brave & the Bold
12. Detective
13. The Forever People
14. Flash
15. Green Lantern
16. Justice League
17. Mister Miracle
18. The New Gods
19. Teen Titans
20. Wonder Woman

30. Ghosts
31. House of Mystery
32. House of Secrets
33. Phantom Stranger
34. The Unexpected
35. Witching Hour

40. Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love
41. Sinister House of Secret Love
45. Falling in Love
46. Girl’s Love Stories
47. Heart Throbs
48. Young Love
49. Young Romance

60. GI Combat
61. Our Army at War
62. Our Fighting Forces
63. Star Spangled War Stories
64. Weird War Tales

70. All Star Western

75. Tarzan
76. Korak

July 1973: The cancellation of Kirby’s Fourth World books accounted for some of the holes. There were also some title changes, but the list is essentially the same. What a selection!
Notice Shazam and Wanted were given single digits to fill in the gaps. However, this was accompanied by an ad for Prez, and Prez himself is making the offer in the ad. Prez the comic book is not available as a subscription.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

1. Action
2. Adventure
3. Jimmy Olsen
4. Lois Lane
5. Superboy
6. Superman
7. World’s Finest
8. Wanted
9. Shazam
10. Batman
11. The Brave & the Bold
12. Detective
13.
14. Flash
15.
16. Justice League
17. Mister Miracle

20. Wonder Woman
21. Supergirl
22. Secret Origins

30. Ghosts
31. House of Mystery
32. House of Secrets
33. Phantom Stranger
34. The Unexpected
35. Witching Hour
36. Demon
37. Swamp Thing

40. Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion (a change in name but not number)
41. Secrets of Sinister House (ditto)
42. Weird Mystery Tales
43. The Shadow
44.
45. Falling in Love
46. Girl’s Love Stories
47. Love Stories (a change in title lasted for six more issues)
48. Young Love
49. Young Romance

60. GI Combat
61. Our Army at War
62. Our Fighting Forces
63. Star Spangled War Stories
64. Weird War Tales

70. Weird Western Tales (Jonah Hex changed the format and title)

75. Tarzan
76. Korak
77. Weird Worlds
78. Kamandi
79. Sword of Sorcery
80. From Beyond the Unknown
81. Strange Adventures
March 1974: Note the ad says the 100-pagers are wrapped flat. It presumes the other ones are still folded.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

1. Action

2. Adventure
3. Superman Family
4. .
5. Superboy
6. Superman
7. World’s Finest
8.
9. Shazam
10. Batman
11. The Brave & the Bold
12. Detective
13.
14. Flash
15.
16. Justice League
17.
18.

20. Wonder Woman

30. Ghosts
31. House of Mystery
32. House of Secrets
33. Phantom Stranger
34. The Unexpected
35. Witching Hour
36. .
37. Swamp Thing

42. Weird Mystery Tales

60. GI Combat
61. Our Army at War
62. Our Fighting Forces
63. Star Spangled War Stories
64. Weird War Tales

75. Tarzan

78. Kamandi

Where was Weird Western Tales?

February 1976: the subscription ad only offered 16 comics, but the numbering is unchanged. And note the old-fashioned-even-at-the-time illustrations of the Caped Crusaders; I’ll bet they are over a decade old at this point.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

1. Action
3. Superman Family
6. Superman
7. World’s Finest
8.
9. Shazam
10. Batman
11. The Brave & the Bold
12. Detective
13.
14.
15.
16. Justice League
17.
18.

31. House of Mystery
32. House of Secrets
33.
34. The Unexpected
35. Witching Hour

48. Young Love

61. Our Army at War

75. Tarzan

Why just these 16 comics? There were dozens more being published – the war comics from the 1973 and 1974 lists were still being published, as were Weird Western Tales and, at this time (early in the year) the six “Adventure Line” comics.

December 1978: Just after the massive DC Explosion guaranteed DC’s place of dominance in the comic book field (who’s giggling?) Note some of the new titles – Warlord, the excellent Men of War. Interestingly, Superfriends – with its notable inclusion of Superman – was given #8, replacing Wanted. Note also the lack of Detective Comics as a choice. At the time, it was facing the chopping block of cancellation!

(from a Google search)

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

1. Action
5. Superboy/Legion (note the addition of the Legion)
6. Superman
8. Superfriends
10. Batman
11. Brave and Bold
14. Flash
16. Justice League
18. Green Lantern (by now GL is back but given #18 instead of its old #15)
20. Wonder Woman
22. DC Comics Presents
30. Ghosts
31. House of Mystery
34. The Unexpected
35. The Witching Hour
44. Secrets of Haunted House
45. Jonah Hex
61. Sgt. Rock (renamed from “Our Army At War” but with the same number)
62. Our Fighting Forces
63. Unknown Soldier (renamed from “Star Spangled War Stories”, same number)
64. Weird War Tales
66. Men of War
69. Warlord
70. Weird Western Tales (this title’s first appearance in a subscription ad in many years)

The Dollar Comics were listed separately …

2. Adventure Comics
3. Superman Family
7. World’s Finest
52. Batman Family
60. GI Combat

So … where are all the titles from the DC Explosion … ? What did they know that we didn’t? Well, at least what did we not know for another month or two?

I wonder who decided which comics went into the ads. Would it have helped a flailing title to include it? Or would it be too much trouble for the sales department to keep track of subscriptions to cancelled comics?

I found a subscription ad from the 1960s on Google. This was from 1966-1968, as Superhip debuted in 1965 and both Bob Hope and Fox & Crow were cancelled in 1968. Note some of the wonderful comics available – Metal Men, Blackhawk …

ad 1960s

And notice Showcase is no where to be found on any of the ads. Not a one. Why?

I searched a few comics from the 1980s and did not find many subscription ads except for things like this (these are Google-found ads, btw). Note these ads do NOT list comics available from DC, but focus only on one or two specific comics.

superman subscription detective subscription
So maybe subscription numbers was purely a Bronze Age thing …

Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry
Artwork and Layout from the ads are copyright their respective holders and used here under the Fair Use Act as commentary and critique.

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.

***

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.

World’s Finest Comics #239: Bicentennial banner blog continues!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#26

World’s Finest Comics #239

World's_Finest_Comics_239

Published nine times a year, thirty cents, July

Cover artist: Ernie Chua (unsigned – very unusual for him). Inked by John Calnan

Editor: Murray Boltinoff

            World’s Finest Comics began life as 1939 New York World’s Fair Comics and 1940 New York World’s Fair Comics. Those were one-shot anthologies released by National Comics featuring their star attractions – in 1939’s issue that meant Superman, Slam Bradley, the Sandman and Zatara. 1940 starred Superman and Batman (and Robin, don’t forget Robin) in the same book, although in separate stories, along with stories of Hourman, Slam Bradley, Johnny Thunderbolt and Red, White & Blue. The comics were so successful the company decided to make it a continuing quarterly comic called World’s Best Comics with #1 dated Spring 1941. As another company already was publishing a Best Comics, National changed the title to World’s Finest Comics with #2 (Summer 1941) to avoid their getting a taste of their own litigious medicine.

            It was a successful anthology featuring separate tales of Superman, Batman (and Robin, don’t forget Robin), Johnny Thunder, Red, White & Blue, the Crimson Avenger, and others; but always featuring solo tales of the company’s Big Two: Superman and Batman (and Robin, don’t forget Robin).

            Sales in superhero comics slumped over the years, causing cancellations of most magazines and cutting of page counts in the survivors. There was only room for one feature in World’s Finest now, who should it be? Should either Superman or Batman (and Robin, don’t forget Robin) be relegated to a back-up strip? Or ousted altogether?

            The powers-that-were came up with a brilliant idea – team up their two biggest stars in one story! Thus the Superman/Batman Team (and Robin, don’t forget Robin) was born in issue #71 (July 1954).

            Except for a brief time in the early 1970s (issues #198 – 216) – where Superman instead teamed up with other DC characters in an imitation of The Brave and the Bold, the magazine remained a vehicle for the Superman/Batman team. Robin? By this time Robin had grown and was more or less on his own. Robin appearing in World’s Finest after the switch back to Superman/Batman was rare. He did team with Superman in one of the non-Batman issues: #200 in fact…

            With issue #244 (May 1977) World’s Finest returned to its anthology roots by becoming a Dollar Comic and featuring additional stories starring, among others, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Wonder Woman, the Creeper, the Vigilante and Shazam/Captain Marvel.

            The comic reverted back to “normal” size with issue #283 (September 1982) and lasted until issue #323 (January 1986).  By this time Batman was budding into his “brooding sociopath” persona with which came a dislike of Superman, his “old friend”. The editors and writers gleefully took advantage of the rift between the two characters for the next twenty years.

            World’s Finest was revived as a mini-series in 1990 and the title Superman/Batman ran from 2003 – 2011 for 87 issues. Batman/Superman – the flip made quite likely to boost sales – is a “New 52” title. World’s Finest itself became a “New 52” title with DC’s reboot of their line featuring stories of the Power Girl/Huntress (and Robin, don’t forget … oh never mind) team.

            As an anthology in its Golden Age, World’s Finest featured the “best” of National Publications, so no new heroes or supporting characters of note debuted. The comic did introduce two durable villains: the Scarecrow and the Composite Superman (a man with Superman’s costume on the right side and Batman’s on the left, with all the powers of the Legion of Superheroes … you read that correctly…).

***

“The UFO That Stole the USA”, Bob Haney ( w ), Curt Swan and John Calnan (a), Jack C Harris (Asst. Ed.)

            People who started reading comic books only since the 1980s missed out on the glorious writing of Bob Haney. I regret never having had the chance to meet him and shake his hand and tell him how much I enjoyed his work – especially his long runs in The Brave and the Bold and World’s Finest Comics. He died in 2004. Websites are devoted to his range of work.

            Oh sure he has his detractors – even his biggest fans (like me) cringe at some of his quirks – his apparent hatred of Plastic Man, for example. But mostly he is criticized for his utter lack of continuity. His work stood so much in its own bubble it was designated as being in its own alternate universe – designated as Earth B. Haney’s job was to tell a story – and if regular continuity or character canon had to be changed or ignored, it was. If a factoid had to be put in that only appeared in that issue and never again to appear in that character’s history, so be it. Bruce Wayne was a US Senator for a time. He had more wards after Dick Grayson (most of them were imprisoned or killed) and never mentioned again. These were called Haney-isms.

            But they were fun, and kept the story going. Face-palm moments? Oh to be sure. But I’d rather read a comic written by Bob Haney than most anything released today. He made comics fun to read. That was the whole point, isn’t it?

***

            Superman and Batman investigate a rural farm outside of Gotham City. Where one half of the farmhouse stood is now a huge smoking pit, the house neatly cut in two. The farmer and his wife hysterically babble about their horse and someone stealing fish and are taken to a hospital. Superman investigates the pit – it goes down for miles and before he can reach bottom notes that the tunnel is hotter than the core of the sun (Wait, wouldn’t that turn the earth to a cinder? Shut up.)!  Whatever did this is obviously of extraterrestrial origin (Well, not necessarily … I said shut up.).

Worlds-Finest-239-03

            Batman enlists a police sketch artist to draw the farm couple’s rants. He draws a spaceship destroying their house and stealing their fish pond and horse.

            They return to the farm to find a crowd of UFO “crackpots” including a boy who finds a clue – a map identifying other possible targets. Also in the crowd is Gold of the Metal Men, disguised as a human. The heat from the pit melts his disguise and the crowd, thinking him an alien, pushes him into the pit! (Wait, if it’s hot enough to melt Gold’s disguise, why aren’t the crowd blistering and getting hot? Because gold melts at a lower … I said shut up!). Superman rescues him before he melts away.

            Why is Gold there? He is a UFO buff, you see. A fact never revealed before or again in Metal Men lore. It is this issues’ Haney-ism.

            ( What kind of bull– … Shut up, I said!)

            Since the map the young boy discovered is made of a metal not found in this solar system, Superman heads to space to find the planet of its origin. Batman discovers that the metal did NOT come from the aliens’ home planet, but was mined elsewhere.  Batman drives to a nearby space observatory to radio Superman – if he finds the metal’s home planet, he will be accusing the wrong planet’s inhabitants!

            But the aliens shoot at the Batmobile from the sky, knocking Batman out. He is saved by Gold and taken to a hospital. Superman and Gold, aware that the aliens may be watching and listening, pretend to Kervorkian Batman by pulling his plug and killing him (ala the cover)!

Worlds-Finest-239-14

 

            Actually Superman substituted a dummy Batman, threw Gold into the atmosphere where as thin gold foil he could block the alien scanners (but Gold wouldn’t have the mass to cover the entire … I’m warning you!) and whisked Batman to his Fortress of Solitude where they compare notes.

            They find the alien spy satellite and triangulate the home planet. Superman takes off to exact revenge. After he leaves, the house, the pond and the horse are returned intact (But how could the house be made whole if it was sliced … That’s enough!) The aliens meant no harm, but how to tell Superman that? Gold spins into space where Batman sends a message via Morse code to Superman (but the mass thing again … Zip it!).

            Meanwhile, Superman has already deflected a deadly beam shot from the alien planet. When he gets Batman and Gold’s message, he confronts the aliens. No, they meant no harm to Earth – they were merely testing their weaponry for their attack upon their enemies on the planet of Pyra. Oh well, that’s okay then, says Superman. He flies into space and redirects the deadly beam back to Pyra. He explains that the beam is now so diluted it will only stun them. This is also apparently acceptable to our heroes…

            He warns the aliens never to experiment with weapons meant to destroy another civilization on Earth again. The aliens cheerfully agree: “You are an intelligent and all-powerful being. We bow to your wishes!”

            Ah Bob Haney, god rest your saintly soul…

            (But … sorry, story’s over!)

            And while we’re at it, it is always good to see Curt Swan art … he is never anything less that perfect! (I agree … it’s too late to suck up now)

 

From the World’s Finest Fans: letters for WF #236, guest starring the Atom. A positive letter from David Trenton of New York, NY, J. Charles Backman of Sterling Heights, MI criticized the incorrect use of Morse code in that issue, John Baker of Baltimore, MD asked about where the headshots on the cigar-band cover came from (from various back issues and promo drawings) and Fred Schneider of New York, NY wrote a positive letter.

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #27: GI Combat #192

 

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.

 

Celebrating the 200th issue of … every comic book ever!

200 and counting!

My 200th blog. That may not be a big deal for writers who blog every day – they’d hit 200 by July of their first year of blogging. But it’s a big deal for me! That’s a lot of writing!

Ironically I am in the middle of a blog series commemorating the comic books released by DC comics during the US Bicentennial of July 1976. If you collected 25 of the 33 comics published with the Bicentennial banner cover and you will get a free Superman belt buckle.

A comic book reaching its 200th milestone is a big deal. Probably more so nowadays with the constant rebooting and relaunching of titles, it is not likely we’ll see many comics go all the way to number 200. It still happens, though: Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man released its 200th issue on June 2014.

#200 anniversary issues were usually a larger-than-normal-sized comic (with a larger price tag of course) and a special story or the rip-roaring conclusion of a story arc. But that was usually in the bronze age and beyond. Earlier comics (before 1970) usually didn’t care about their 200th issue.

Some of these comics didn’t even mention their 200th anniversary issue other than their standard numbering:

Action_Comics_200

Action Comics: January 1955

Adventure_Comics_200

Adventure Comics: May 1954

Detective_Comics_200

Detective Comics: October 1953

House_of_Mystery_v.1_200

House of Mystery: May 1972. Great cover by Neal Adams here.

Strange_Adventures_200

Strange Adventures: May 1967

300px-Star-Spangled_War_Stories_Vol_1_200

Star Spangled War Stories: July 1976.

This in particular was a real shame at a missed opportunity. Dated July 1976, the 200th anniversary of the USA and this landmark was not even mentioned in a cover blurb. Compare that to Captain America #200 with an August 1976 cover date:

 Captain_America_Vol_1_200

Others included:

Blackhawk_Vol_1_200

Blackhawk: September 1964

Millie_the_Model_Vol_1_200

Millie the Model: February 1973

and Superman: October 1967 and Wonder Woman: June 1972 (reprinted below)

Older Archie comics were not known for celebrating their 200th issues:

Archie: June 1970

Betty & Veronic

Archie’s Girls Betty & Veronica: August 1972

Laugh Archie

Laugh: November 1967

Pep

Pep: December 1966

Jughead

Jughead: January 1972

Life with Archie

Life with Archie: December 1978

betty-and-me

Betty & Me: August 1992

               Again, this could be a Bronze Age or later thing … in fact, only Betty & Me from 1992 gives the anniversary even a cover blurb.

Harvey comics? I didn’t want to troll the internet looking for the hundreds of titles they published to see how many made it to 200. The main characters Richie Rich and Casper each had dozens of titles between them. I only checked their eponymous comics – both of those reached 200.

Richie RichCasper

But other Harvey comics? Wendy the Good Little Witch made it to the 50s in number of issues, Little Dot over 100, but Richie Rich and Casper were the only ones I found that made it to #200. Keep in mind I didn’t look very hard…

The big two – Marvel & DC – being mostly in the superhero vein, were the ones who celebrated 200th anniversaries the most. Three characters – Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash – had two eponymous comics hit #200.  Wonder_Woman_Vol_1_200Wonder_Woman_Vol_2_200

Superman 200Superman_v.2_200

Flash_v.1_200Flash_v.2_200

 

Other DC comics that hit #200:

Batman_200

Batman: March 1968 (note this early celebration, but this was at the end of the Batman TV show craze …)

Green_Lantern_Vol_2_200

Green Lantern: May 1986

Our_Army_at_War_Vol_1_200

Our Army At War: December 1968

Superboy_Vol_1_200

Superboy starring the Legion of Superheroes 200: February 1974. Featuring the marriage of Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel and starring all members, the Substitutes, the Wanderers and others!

GI_Combat_Vol_1_200

GI Combat: March 1977

Hellblazer_Vol_1_200

Hellblazer: November 2004

Superman_Family_Vol_1_200

Superman Family: April 1980

 Unexpected_200

Unexpected: July 1980

World's_Finest_Comics_200

World’s Finest: February 1971

Young_Romance_Vol_1_200

Young Romance: August 1974

(note these last two also had no real focus on their 200th issue)

***

 Marvel comics had their share of 200th anniversaries, too; aside from Captain America in August 1976:

Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_1_200

Amazing Spider-Man: January 1980

Avengers_Vol_1_200

Avengers: October 1980

Fantastic_Four_Vol_1_200

Fantastic Four: November 1978. This issue featured the “final” battle between Mr. Fantastic and Doctor Doom. Doom was killed at the end of this issue, true, but came back (as nearly all comics villains do) some issues later.

Incredible_Hulk_Vol_1_200

Incredible Hulk: June 1976

Kid_Colt_Outlaw_Vol_1_200

Kid Colt Outlaw: November 1975

Thor_Vol_1_200

Thor: June 1972

ConantheBarbarian200

Conan the Barbarian: November 1987

Daredevil_Vol_1_200

Daredevil November 1983

Iron_Man_Vol_1_200

Iron Man: November 1985

Marvel_Tales_Vol_2_200

Marvel Tales: June 1987

SavageSword200

Savage Sword of Conan: August 1992

The_Spectacular_Spider-Man_Vol_1_200

Spectacular Spider-Man: May 1993

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_1_200

Uncanny X-Men: December 1985

What_If-_Vol_1_200

What If: February 2011

X-Factor_Vol_1_200

X-Factor: February 2010

X-Men_Vol_2_200

X-Men: August 2007

Other publishers: Looney Tunes: September 2011

 Looney_Tunes_Vol_1_200

And let us not forget one of the longest running comics of all time…

 Adventures of the Big Boy

In my internet searching on this comic I’ve not been able to find a cover date.

And finally …

cerebus_200

 

 

My personal favorites?

 JLA_v.1_200

Justice League of America: March 1982. This comic featured all members of the JLA – the original team members were hypnotized into assembling pieces of a mcguffin that will bring one of their original villains back to full power. The subsequent members try to fight off the originals. Each battle is its own chapter with a different artist. In beautiful art by Joe Kubert, for example, Hawkman fights Superman. The Phantom Stranger/Aquaman/Red Tornado battle is the only artwork by Jim Aparo in Justice League of America. Lots of great art throughout.

 Brave_and_the_bold_200

Brave & Bold: July 1983. The final issue of my favorite comic of all time. Let me cheat and use the review from my free ebook: The Brave & the Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, a Guide to the DC Comic Book.  Available here.

Batman & Batman (Earth Two), Smell of Brimstone, Stench of Death” Writer: Mike W. Barr, Art: Dave Gibbons.  …

               Earth-Two, 1955 (the year B&B began): After a series of robberies, Batman and Robin finally defeat Brimstone. Earth-Two 1983: Hate is all that has kept Brimstone alive. His hatred of Batman is so great; when he hears of Batman’s death, his mind passes into his Earth-One counterpart where another hated Batman still lives! Earth-One 1983: Brimstone causes riots in Gotham and eventually traps Batman in the same lava “hell pit” Batman escaped 28 years before! Can Batman escape – er – again – in time to save Gotham, catch Brimstone and find out who the heck Brimstone is? Well of course he can, but he never figures out Brimstone’s Earth-Two secret. And he never will.

               “Batman and the Outsiders”, Writer: Mike W. Barr, Art: Jim Aparo. Batman and the Outsiders protect Mikos from his own terrorist subordinates – who vow to kill Mikos (under his own orders) for the glory of the cause!

               Oft-requested Batmite finally appears in Brave & Bold in a one page comic.

               For the first time since Nemesis, new characters were introduced – Halo, Geo-Force and Katana.  They are the first new B&B superheroes since Metamorpho, who is also a member of the new Outsiders.

               One last team-up and one last try-out.  The try-out was a success: the Outsiders going on to their own series (replacing Brave & Bold on DC’s roster along with New Talent Showcase) and lasting for several years afterward. Later incarnations link the Outsiders (still featuring the resurrected Metamorpho) as a splinter group of the Teen Titans.  Appropriately, both groups began in Brave & Bold. The third incarnation harks back to the Batman-formed play-by-their-own-rules meta group.

               It was trendy at DC for a while to introduce new groups by mixing new characters and old. At times it worked brilliantly (the Teen Titans); at times it was an utter failure (the Justice League of America). The Outsiders were another success.

 ***

Have I missed any? Most assuredly: Dell 4-Color, other Looney Tunes comics, etc.  I hope I didn’t leave out your favorite! But Happy 200 everyone!

 ***

Excerpt from The Brave & the Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, a Guide to the DC Comic Book copyright 2014 and reprinted here with the author’s permission.

Otherwise, original material copyright 2015 by 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.

Superboy starring the Legion of Superheroes #218

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#22

Superboy starring the Legion of Superheroes #218

Superboy_Vol_1_218

Published 9 months of the year, thirty cents, July

Cover artists: Mike Grell

Editor: Murray Boltinoff

            Superboy, the adventures of Superman when he was a boy, debuted in More Fun Comics #101, January 1945.  It was the first new comic book character to have a measure of success after the initial Golden Age/pre-WWII rush of superheroes – the fact it was a spin-off of one of the most successful comic book characters before or after World War II helped its success a bit, I would imagine.

            The character moved to Adventure Comics in April 1946 with issue #103.  Three years later he was given his own magazine starting with issue #1 dated April 1949 while still headlining Adventure Comics.

            Flash forward to April 1958 and Adventure Comics #247 (good things happen in April, it seems…). In the 30th century, youthful superheroes, all inspired by the adventures of the previous millenium’s Superboy, formed a club called the Legion of Superheroes. Three members went back in time and asked Superboy to join their ranks. The group returned in issue #267 of December 1959. By issue #300 (September 1962), the Legion grew so popular they were given their own series, although usually always with Superboy in attendance.

            The Legion continued in Adventure Comics, Action Comics and Superboy until 1973. In issue 197 of Superboy the Legion became part of the comic’s title, as Superboy starring the Legion of Superheroes (although it would be still categorized as just Superboy for some time). By #231 the title became Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes, then Legion of Superheroes with #259 when Superboy was booted from his own magazine.  Comics starring the Legion have been revived several times and their continuity endlessly changed and rearranged in the decades since.

            The fans of the Legion are … well, legion. Facebook pages, APAs, fanzines and other fan-based appreciation societies flourish. At the time of this blog, DC is slowly bring back the Legion after the cancellation of two of their comics from the “New 52” line-up. I’ve loved the Legion since my first issue (#209) and try to catch most of their revived titles. Overall the stories have been very good – some of them even excellent – but nothing seems to recapture the glory days of their Adventure Comics run; although to be frank, the run in which this Bicentennial issue is a part is my personal favorite…

            Nearly every Legion story are available in reprints – either in comics form, trade paperback or hardback. This comic was reprinted in Legion of Super-Hero Archives #12.

            Long Live the Legion!

***

“The Secret Villain the World Never Knew”, Cary Bates ( w ), Mike Grell (a)

            This is Cary “Mr. Surprise” Bates at his best, so this will take a while…

            Three rejected Legion applicants leave the Legion HQ. Quake Kid learns the hazards of flirting with Infectious Lass (who I always found to be incredibly sexy .. perhaps it is the charm of forbidden fruit…) while the third is still in shock that he was rejected.

Tyroc  

          Meanwhile, the applicant that was accepted, Tyroc, prepares to land on the HQ roof. Inside, Brainiac 5 recaps Tyroc’s origin and first meeting with the LSH from issue #216 to Light Lass, Colossal Boy and Element Lad who were on mission in space (again with the mission in space…) and have yet to meet Tyroc. Tyroc joins his new teammates…

218_1

            … only to be attacked by Zoraz, who burns his way into the headquarters. Zoraz activates and uses the four Legionaires’ powers against them (Colossal Boy grows so fast he smacks himself unconscious against the ceiling, etc.).  Tyroc causes an explosion that Zoraz absorbs, sets fire to the HQ alarm and escapes while Tyroc is recovering from the sonic onslaught.

            Superboy and Cosmic Boy arrive and explain Zoraz’s origin to Tyroc. He once raided the Legion Cell Bank (our second lesson in cloning – Secret Society of Supervillains #2 also gave us a footnote-lecture on cloning this month) and stole samples from each Legionnaire! Thus, as the new member, Tyroc has the only power Zoraz cannot counteract!

            While patrolling theie headquarters, Tyroc and Shrinking Violet pass an air vent in which sits a shadowed figure – who vows to find a way to wipe out the new guy!

218_3

            That evening, Zoraz attacks Star Boy and Dream Girl during a romantic interlude and defeats them. Tryoc tries to save them, but Zoraz creates a vacuum in the gymnasium voiding Tyroc’s sound-based powers. Tyroc escapes by smashing a hole in the wall to sweet air and freedom! Zoraz gets away, but the shadowy figure in the air vent returns and says he now knows how to finally defeat Tyroc!

            Tyroc is called to a meeting where the defeated Legionnaires are now fine and dandy! What gives? Zoraz was actually Sun Boy and (alternately) Superboy! It was one last test for Tyroc (the LSH trick/test new applicants a lot – look at Superboy and Star Boy’s initiations …)

            But then Zoraz appears! The Legionnaires think it is Sun Boy and tell him the joke is over. Zoraz unmasks – it is the rejected applicant! Absorbency Boy! He can absorb residual energy left behind by superheroes. So in the Zoraz costume, he has the powers of Sun Boy AND Superboy! Yikes!

218_6

            Absorbency Boy/Zoraz challenges Tyroc to a battle for Legion membership (one hopes the Legion would still reject AB if he won…). Tyroc blasts him with a pitch only Superboy can hear. The inexperienced Absorbency Boy reels at the painful sound and Tyroc knocks him out. Later that day, Tyroc is sworn in as the newest member of the Legion of Superheroes. Presumably Absorbency Boy goes back to testing paper towels. Not quite – they turned him into Earth Man, one of the Legions deadliest villains and eventually joining the Legion. He died in the Legion’s last pre-New 52 book as heroically as this modern comic age allows…

Tyroc joins

            The “morgue” of the clone bank contains the names of several Legionnaires, and also Cary Bates, Allen Ladd and John Boy.

            This is one of the four Bicentennial issues I owned when they were new on the stands.

            This story is reprinted in Legion of Superheroes Archives #12 and Showcase Presents the Legion of Superheroes Vol. 5.

 

Supertalk: the letter column was handled by Jack C. Harris but still done in the Boltinoff “sound bite” style (see The Brave & The Bold) for issue #215. Mike White, Mackinaw, IL (positive, but disliked some of the new costumes). The following letter writers out and out hated the new costumes: Marie Munas of La Mesa, CA, Katie Raisler of East Lansing, MI and “A Worried Fan”. Scott Gibson of Evergreen, CO liked the costumes and the current stories, Sarah Finnegan of Washington DC spotted a story flaw regarding Ultra Boy’s powers, Barry Charles of Louisville, KY asked for a return of the Fatal Five (and they would in the next issue, per JCH) and David Hanson of Swartz Creek, Michigan finished off the letter page with the ubiquitous “Long Live the Legion”!

***

Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #23: Tarzan Family #4

 

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.

 

Four Star Bicentennial Comic blog!

DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL

#15

Four Star Spectacular #3

fss3

Published bi-monthly, fifty cents, forty-eight pages, August

Cover artist: Ernie Chua

Editor: E. Nelson Bridwell

            Four Star Spectacular ran for 6 issues from March 1976 until February 1977. It was a reprint series, although some of the stories were redrawn to appease our modern sensibilities. Superboy and Wonder Woman appeared in each issue. As the title suggested, each issue starred four superheroes: half the issues featured four stories and half had three stories with heroes “teaming up” – Hawkman and Hawkwoman in one, Superboy and Krypto in another (although I think that’s cheating a bit: that’s like the Lone Ranger teaming up with Silver…) and in this Bicentennial issue.

***

Undersea Trap” starring Wonder Woman, reprinted from Wonder Woman #101, October 1958, Robert Kanigher ( w ), Ross Andru & Mike Esposito (a).  

WW101

            Wonder Woman saves Steve Trevor from crashing his airplane into a burning pylon during a race. Steve bets her that if she rescues him three times in the next 24 hours she will have to marry him. The Amazon accepts.

            Aha! Steve reveals he is scheduled to test pilot aircraft all the next day. All’s fair …

            Aha! Then Steve is reassigned to desk duty all that next day. All’s fair …

            During lunch, Wonder Woman saves Steve from being crushed by space debris … one…

            During a dance, Wonder Woman foils a robbery and saves Steve from a bullet … two …

            Steve ferries a general to an aircraft carrier. He crashed into the ocean and is attacked by a shark! Wonder Woman rescues him. Three? Nope! It is 15 minutes after the 24-hour deadline! Doh!

            One presumes the plane crashed after the delivery of the general to the carrier; otherwise he would have been left in the plane in the briny deep and left to the mercy of a hungry shark. So long, old chum!

            This story is also reprinted in the trade paperback “Showcase Presents: Wonder Woman #1”.

WW showcase 1

***

Superboy’s Workshop. Cut out the provided clown figure, get a little cardboard, a little glue, a pencil and the ability to make a miniature parallel bars and you can make a toy tumbling clown!  Destroying the value of the comic (such as it is) is definitely worth this experiment in perpetual motion.  Whether this one-page craft is a reprint or new for this series is unknown. Art and writing unknown.

***

Superboy in Argo City” starring Supergirl (her logo is at the top of the first page – proving this was published originally as a Supergirl feature, but in this comic Superboy is touted as the star) reprinted from Action Comics #358, January 1968, Cary Bates ( w ), Jim Mooney (a).

action 358

            Superboy heads back to earth after a mission in space (this must be the month for missions in space – both Superman and Justice League of America mention various space missions in its issues…) and stops by a crystal asteroid to create a jewel for a necklace for his mother. He is knocked cold by a space probe gathering mineral samples. How is that possible?

            The probe takes him and the samples to Argo City. Ah! It was a Kryptonian probe – that’s how it could knock out the Boy of Steel. Argo City was blown into space intact from Krypton when the planet exploded leaving survivors, including Superman’s uncle, aunt and cousin – Kara Zor-el! Tweenie Kara races to her father’s probe to find Superboy unconscious. When revived, Superboy has lost his memory!

            Zor-el names him after his deceased nephew Kal-el. Superboy and “Supergirl” fly around Argo City on their jet packs rescuing lost birds and other adventures. A weight ray makes objects weightless: Kal lifts heavy machinery as if he has super-strength!

            Zor-el flies Argo City to a system with a habitable planet. But it is protected by an alien who will accept one sacrifice as penalty for their trespassing. That is the law. Zor-el, blaming himself, offers to go as the sacrifice and walks to the pod that will whisk him to his judgment.

            But Kal-el beats him to the pod! As he leaves with the transport vessel, the alien wipes all memories from the Argonians as the City leaves the system – memories of their trespass AND of Kal-el!

            Somehow, being transported returns Superboy’s memory!  He escapes by flying through the sun to avoid the alien. The last thing he remembers is forging a crystal jewel for his mother.

            “Presently” Supergirl shows the jewel to Superman – who remembers making the jewel but not what happened to it. How did it end up with Supergirl?

            The biggest hole in this story is Superboy’s powers returning. How? If this system had a yellow sun ALL of Argo City would have been imbued with superpowers (this was before Superman became a “solar battery”…), right?

            Superboy’s memory returning to the point at which he lost it is likely, though. That happens with real amnesia victims.

            And this being a “team-up” with Supergirl is a bigger stretch than Superboy and Krypto… hmmph…

            Still, a fun story, which is the point. And it is nice to see Jim Mooney’s art again. His Supergirl was always a cutie!

***

            “Power Ring Peril” starring Green Lantern, reprinted from Green Lantern #32, October 1964, Gardner Fox ( w ), Gil Kane & Sid Greene (a).

GL32

            Tyrant Vant Orl conquered the planet Thronn and entombed its united league of heroes – Energiman, Magicko, Golden Blade and Strong Girl, among unnamed others – in a crystal monolith on the planet’s moon.

            Energiman’s powers work on the same frequency as Green Lantern’s ring. Every time Hal Jordan recharges, Energiman draws a bit of power. Eventually, he sucks GL through his battery and to Thronn’s moon at the cost of Energiman’s life. With his last bit of … er … energy, Energiman tells all to Green Lantern. GL flies to Thronn to confront Vant Orl.

            But Vant Orl also can manipulate the power ring’s energy – he is also on that frequency! Green Lantern covers his ring with a yellow leaf (the ring has a “necessary impurity” and does not affect anything colored yellow, remember…) to regain more control over his ring, defeat Vant Orl and release Thronn’s heroes!

            This story was also reprinted in “Green Lantern Archives #5”, “Showcase Presents: Green Lantern #2” and “Green Lantern Omnibus #2”. 

GL Archives 5GL showcase 2 GL Omnibus 2

 

Four Thought (great title to their letter column for issue #1). Gerald Duit of New Orleans, LA, Arthur Kowalik of Wilmington, DE, David J. Brown of Hammond, IN, and Fred Schnieder of New York, New York all had positive comments and suggestions for reprints. They were especially glad to see solo Superboy since him comic was now a permanent vehicle for the Legion of Superheroes.

***

            Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #16: Karate Kid #3.

 

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.