Super Friends #3, February, 1977

“The Cosmic Hit Man?”

Cover: Ramona Fradon and Bob Smith

Writer: E. Nelson Bridwell, Penciler: Ramona Fradon, Inker: Bob Smith

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

As two separate teams, the Super Friends defeat Spectrum and Anti-Man while Wendy and Marvin safely watch from the sidelines. But after their defeat, the villains disappear.

They were captured by Dr. Ihdrom along with a hundred other intergalactic villains. He atomizes all the villains and coalesces them into one being: the World Beater!

World Beater quickly dispatches the Justice League and then appears in the Hall of Justice to battle the Super-Friends. Wonder Woman whisks Wendy, Marvin and Wonder Dog and tells them of her mother’s prophecy (from last issue) that they are earth’s only hope!

World Beater defeats the Super-Friends with ease (we the readers learn that Dr. Ihdrom has been captured and jailed for his murderous crimes) leaving only Wendy, Marvin & Wonderdog.

They come up with a cunning plan: they assume if he has all the super-villains powers, perhaps he also has their weaknesses. They trick World Beater into using Spectrum’s x-ray powers (Anti-Man’s weakness – that is how Superman defeated him in the earlier pages of the story). World Beater is weakened and passes out.

Wendy and Marvin revive the Super-Friends and the Justice Leaguers and receive their thanks.

***

The letter column explains why these five heroes were given the job of training their young recruits: through some inventive reimagining of their origins, it is explained that Superman, Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman and Aquaman were all trained to be superheroes in their youths. Thus, having been trained as children, they know how to train children.

Ah, yes.

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***

The story here is still oriented to the younger audience, but still keeps a cosmic scale to it. Plus it guests most of the Justice League, whetting the appetites of the young TV-show fans who picked up the comic to read the adventures of other DC stars!

Ramono Fradon’s art is pitch-perfect for this comic. Her style is easy on the eyes and accessible to young fans who might be overwhelmed by … say … Mike Grell if he did the book. She would have been my pick for the book, too. And Kurt Schaffenberger…

***

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

 

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Happy 80th Birthday, Superman!

Action Comics #1 was published 80 years ago today.

Action Comics #1000 is now on the stands.

Wow.

Happy Birthday, Man of Steel. I’ve loved and hated the changes you’ve been put through. You were always my favorite, especially when helping the downtrodden and oppressed – THAT is the real truth, justice and the American way!!

MC

 

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)

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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!

 

Super Friends #2. January, 1977.

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“Trapped by the Super-Foes”

Cover by Ernie Chan & Vince Colletta; Editor: Joe Orlando

Writer: E. Nelson Bridwell, Penciler: Ric Estrada, Inkers: Vince Colletta

A recap of the previous issue leads into Wonder Dog playing charades to warn Wendy and Marvin about Chick’s radio transmitter in his umbrella. Too late! The Super Foes invade the Hall of Justice and capture Wendy and Marvin. Wonder Dog escapes with Cheetah chasing after him.

He avoids Cheetah by running through a dog show (the entrants quickly start chasing Cheetah) and Wonder Dog re-enters the Hall of Justice secretly and uses the transporter to materialize up to the Justice League Satellite headquarters. The on-duty Flash beams up the Super Friends (and Krypto to translate) and they learn of Wendy and Marvin’s plight!

Penguin uses floating umbrellas to lift Wendy and Marvin in to the sky. Toyman uses toy hummingbirds to attack the balloons. Toyboy and Kitten worry – they do not want to take part in murder!

Fortunately, a batarang, heat vision and a golden lasso smash the mechanical birds just in time: the Super Friends save the day!

But it was all a distraction: during the rescue, the Super Foes stole all the parts to the Super Robot. Emergencies across the globe leave only Batman and Robin to track own the stolen robot parts.

The Junior Super Foes capture Batman and Robin. Penguins orders the Juniors to kill off the dynamic duo. The Juniors refuse. Just as Penguin is about the pull the trigger himself, he is knocked out by Marvin – he and Wendy snuck aboard the Batmobile in the best Spritle and Chim Chim fashion!

Wendy and Marvin convince the Juniors to help them catch the Super Foes, but Penguin activates the Super Robot to stop them all!

Superman swoops in and is nearly crushed by the robot, but finally defeats it with his mightiest blow. The Super Foes are captured, and our heroes promise to put in a good word for the Juniors.

Afterward, Queen Hippolyta the Amazonian mother of Wonder Woman looks into the Magic Sphere – the earth faces destruction unless it can be saved by three heroes: a girl, a boy and a dog (no, not Trixie, Spritle and Chim Chim)!

***

The letter page give brief origins for each of the Super Foes and hypes the next issue.

***

The story was again aimed at younger readers and the fans of the TV show – although with more violence (punches thrown, etc.). The art was not cartoonish – although the Juniors had wide eyes and Wonder Dog was drawn in a typical cross-eyed cartoon animal way.

Estrada and Colletta did a good and serious job.

***

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!

DC’s the Human Target (part 2)

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

Continuing the stories starring the Human Target as the back-up feature in Action Comics! Read part one here!

Action 423

Action Comics #423. April 1973.

“The Deadly Dancer Contract!”

Writer: Len Wein, Penciler/Inker: Dick Giordano, Editor: Julius Schwartz

Christopher Chance poses as a man named Hyram Walsh, an accountant informing on the mob, to draw out a hitman named Dancer – that man who killed his father. He knocks out two thugs trying to collect the price on Walsh’s head and leaves them in an alleyway. Tracking the killer down to an abandoned movie theater, Chance confronts Dancer. It is an intensely physical struggle, with a single gun between them. After a number of exchanged blows, Chance grabs the weapon. Chance points the gun at his assassin and reveals his true identity. Before he can kill him, Chance watches decades of mental illness finally catch up with Dancer. The man descends into madness before Chance’s very eyes, and he begs and pleads Chance to spare his life.  The killer by now has completely snapped and begins hallucinating – seeing his father. Christopher takes pity on the villain, and stays to comfort him until an ambulance arrives to take him away.

***

Action Comics 425, July 1973

“The Short-Walk-to-Disaster Contract! Part 1”

Writer: Len Wein; Penciler: Neal Adams

Inker: Dick Giordano, Editor: Julius Schwartz

Let’s let Christopher Chance describe this issue: “It started as a favor for a friend, for Luigi, my landlord, whose cousin, Antonio, had wagered his half-share of a circus that he could walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls … only someone was trying to make sure he didn’t live that long. Easily, Luigi convinced me to impersonate his cousin … . Luigi tucked the real Antonio away as I became a reasonable facsimile … now I was the would-be killer’s intended victim … and it di not take him very long to strike! But surviving that kind of “accident” is what I do for a living. Within seconds, Id regained my feet, then pursued my unknown attacker across the silent circus grounds, around a blind corner, and ran straight into the tunnel-like muzzle of an angry gun … held by … Antonio!” (from the splash of Action Comics #426.

***

Action 426

Action Comics 426, August 1973

“The Short-Walk-to-Disaster Contract! Part 2”

Writer: Len Wein; Penciler/Inker: Dick Giordano, Editor: Julius Schwartz

How Antonio came out of hiding and ended up confronting Chance was never explained, but Chance deduced Antonio was NOT the killer he had been chasing (he was not winded, etc., and must have happened between Chance and the killer he was chasing) and Chance subdued him and convinced him to stay hidden until his killer is flushed out. Antonio agreed.

Chance, as Antonio, was half-way across Niagara Falls as the tightrope snapped! Suspended in mid-air Chance flew down to the crowd and knocked out his assistant – his partner Martin in disguise. Chance revealed he was suspended by wires from the news helicopter -hence his “flying” when the tightwire broke.

Chance was betting his partner wanted it to be an accident as opposed to a sniper shooting at him. If Martin had used a rifle, even Chance admits he might not have lived through it!

***

Action Comics 429, November 1973

“The Rodeo Riddle Contract”

Writer: Len Wein; Penciler/Inker: Dick Giordano, Editor: Julius Schwartz

Someone is trying to kill rodeo star Rick Ryan. Chance ducks attempts on “his” life – by a thrown branding iron and a bucking bronco while keeping tabs on three suspects. Chance corners the three hoping one of them would snap. He did! Chance chases down the would-be killer and hog-ties the varmint. But he wasn’t supposed to kill Ryan – just scare him into marrying his girlfriend – so says his girlfriend in a twist confession!

***

Action_Comics_432

Action Comics 432, February 1974

“The Million Dollar Methuselah Contract”

Writer: Len Wein; Penciler/Inker: Dick Giordano, Editor: Julius Schwartz

From DC Wikia: Christopher Chance is hired by millionaire oilman Henderson Repp, who suspects his nephew is trying to kill him.

While riding a motorcycle through an oil field, disguised as Repp, Chance is attacked by an unknown assailant with a bazooka but only pretends to be dead to trick the assassin into believing he has succeeded. Chance is picked up by Repp’s secretary Deedee and visit an oil well to congratulate the workers as Repp would.

That night, Deedee is kidnapped and held captive at the same oil well seen earlier as Chance heads to the scene disguised as Repp again. The assassin fires on a dummy riding the motorcycle and that allows Chance to shoot the gun out of his hand. As Chance begins to climb the tower, the assassin threatens to explode a grenade and kill them all. Chance appears to lower his gun but fires a shot that dislodges the well cap. The oil shoots up and knocks the gunmen off the tower as the grenade explodes harmlessly.

The next day, Chance tells Repp that he should be safe as the assassin has provided enough information to arrest Repp’s nephew.

***

Thus ended the Human Target’s Action Comics run. We hear nothing else from Christopher Chance until he turns up in Brave & Bold in the midst of the greatest comic event of all time: The DC Explosion!! Why are you laughing? Then he appeared for several issues in the Dollar-Comic era of Detective Comics.

I hope you enjoyed this stroll through the Back Pages of DC’s Bronze Age. Go to my home page and type “Back Pages” for more Bronze Age goodness!

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!

 

The Back Pages: The Human Target (part 1)

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

419

The Human Target

From Wikipedia: “Christopher Chance, first appears in Action Comics #419 (December 1972), and was created by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino. This character, a private investigator and bodyguard who assumes the identities of clients targeted by assassins and other dangerous criminals …”

In the Bronze Age he appeared in Action Comics, Brave & Bold, Detective Comics and Batman. He was given a one-shot comic based on the 1991 TV show, and a six-issue miniseries based on the woefully ignored 2010 TV show. A Vertigo imprint title ran for 21 issues and a Special.

***

action 419

Action Comics #419. December 1972.

“The Assassin-Express Contract!”

Writer: Len Wein, Penciler: Carmine Infantino

Inker: Dick Giordano, Editor: Julius Schwartz

From DC Wiki: “Christopher Chance practices his skills on a private sound-proofed shooting range inside his Boston apartment. His close friend Luigi brings in a Mr. Smithers who wants to hire the Human Target for a case. Smithers works for Horizon Chemical Corporation and has accidentally hired a killer to murder his boss T.C. Newman, although he only intended to engage in some industrial espionage. He is hiring the Human Target to get the murder off his conscience. Chance takes the executives place on a train to California where he knows the assassin will strike, and figures out that his assailant is posing as the conductor. After dealing with a bomb in his compartment, he gives chase to the man and they end up fighting on the top of the car. Chance activates the emergency break with a gadget in his cufflink, and the hitman goes flying off to his death. Later, Smithers is relieved that they were successful, but he also loses his job when his boss discovers what happened.”

Infantino’s art, sometimes an acquired taste, is fantastic here! Giordano smooths the sharp edges for which Infantino’s art is most criticized. And the story sets the stage for future Human Target stories. A great beginning!

Plus this story has the honor of being reprinted in the special edition of Action Comics #1000!

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Action 420

Action Comics #420. January 1973.

“The King of the Jungle Contract!”

Writer: Len Wein, Penciler/Inker: Dick Giordano, Editor: Julius Schwartz

From DC Wiki: “Christopher Chance is hired by famous hunter Gunther King, who believes that his rival Ernest Holoway is trying to kill him. The Human Target travels around disguised as King on safari in Kenya, dealing with traps that have been set for him. After fighting a lion and a buffalo, he gets into a gunfight with the hidden Holoway, but King steps in and apparently kills his nemesis before he can shoot Chris. Chance examines the body and realizes that Holoway had been murdered beforehand, the whole thing was an elaborate plot for King to get rid of his competition. The two men struggle, and Gunther King fires his muddy rifle which explodes into his face. The hunter falls backwards into a river, and his body washes away.”

***

Action 422

Action Comics #422. March 1973.

“The Shadows-of-Yesterday Contract!”

Writer: Len Wein, Penciler/Inker: Dick Giordano, Editor: Julius Schwartz

From DC Wikia: Christopher Chance takes on Hyram Walsh as his client, a man who is being pursued by a ruthless killer with ties to Chance’s past. The assassin is the same man who killed Chance’s father. He takes on the case for nothing because the man can’t pay, and reflects on his origins.

Many years ago, when Christopher was a young child, his father Philip Chance struggled to provide for his family. In his desperation, he took out a loan from local gangster Amos Sharkey to invest in the stock market, but lost it all and was unable to pay. To send a message to others who couldn’t settle their debts, Sharkey sent a hitman named Dancer to kill him. One night while the two were walking home from school, they were cornered by Dancer in an alleyway. Chris leapt to defend his father, but was swept aside. His father sobbed and begged for his life, but was shot without hesitation. Strengthened by his own rage, Christopher tackled the murderer to the ground and nearly choked him to death before police sirens came. On his deathbed, Philip Chance told his son that he had to make something of himself, and be successful, like his dad never could. Christopher Chance watched his father die before his own eyes, and felt terrible that he couldn’t save him. He swore that as long as he could prevent it, nobody would ever have to suffer that kind of fear and humiliation again. That night, something changed inside of him, and he found himself completely unable to experience fear. He spent the rest of his life training himself to the peak of physical perfection, preparing himself for the dangerous path that lay ahead. Christopher Chance would become the Human Target.

(The flashback about Chance’s origins is reprinted as part of another Human Target story in Brave and the Bold #143 featuring another appearance by Amos Sharkey.)

The annual statement says that issues of Action Comics were selling around 542,000 copies!

The Human Target’s other Action Comics appearances are detailed here.

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

Super Team Family: the great comic with the lousy name…

Behold! The Bronze Age

bronze-age

Super Team Family #1 debuted in November 1975 (cover date). To this day the fanbase (and creators) dump on its unusual name.

It was part of four comics with (what we would now call) an imprint of “Family” from DC Comics.

DC family of comics

In May 1974 Superman Family debuted, combining three Superman related books into one – Supergirl, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen. The numbering picked up where Jimmy Olsen left off. One of the stars would feature in a “full-length” new story and the other two would be a reprint. Three low-selling comics combined into one fair-selling comic.

DC decided to create three more “Family” comics containing some new material but chocked full of reprints to save costs. The comics could be larger-than-normal size with an increased cost.

Korak morphed into Tarzan Family (with the same numbering) and Batman Family also debuted.

Super Team Family was to be a comic of new team-ups not featuring Batman. He was holding court in Brave & Bold.

Unfortunately, the first issue contained only reprints. A scheduling problem; so said the debut letter column. This would be the case through issue #8 – with only two new stories published until the magazine was given to new Challengers of the Unknown stories.

Fortunately, those reprints were pretty good – covering DC’s Golden and Silver Age!

That first issue featured reprints from World’s Finest (Superman and Batman with a cameo of the Flash) Teen Titans and Flash (in which Heat Wave and Captain Cold team up to duke it out with the Fastest Man Alive – hey, they didn’t say only heroes teamed up!). Later issues in this reprint era featured the Doom Patrol, Captain Marvel and his “family” (one assumes the idea of publishing a “Shazam Family” comic was nixed) the JSA and two Brave & Bold team-ups starring Batman & Deadman and Batman & Eclipso.

Issue #3 reprinted the cross-over of Green Arrow and Aquaman in each other’s stories from Adventure Comics #267.

#5 had a reprint from Superboy #47 in which the Boy of Steel dreamt he met his adult self. That’s pushing the team-up thing in my book, but … eh … it was a good story.

I will recap the new stories in Behold: The Bronze Age from Super-Team Family in future blogs, but not the reprints. It makes little sense to review Silver and Golden Age stories in a Bronze Age blog, yes?

Not that they weren’t good issues – they were! The comic (along with Wanted, Four-Star Superhero Spectacular and other reprint comics) were a great way to read these older stories without draining the wallet. Maybe I will get back to them someday. But for now, let’s concentrate on the new material.  Well, new for 1974 …

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