Hercules Unbound #7, November 1976

“To Slay a Legend”

Cover: Rich Buckler, Wally Wood & Tatjana Wood, Editor: Joe Orlando

Writer: David Michelinie; Pencilers: Walt Simonson & Wally Wood

Letterer: Milt Snapinn; Colorist: Jerry Serpe

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At the shores of Loch Ness, Hercules and friends are greeted by three beautiful women who invite them for a dinner and a peaceful repast. Naturally, Hercules is suspicious, but relents when the others see nothing wrong here.

Surprise! The parties are drugged into unconsciousness! When they awake, they are bound and Kevin is staked at the shores of the loch. The villain is revealed: Casper Zedd – given magical powers by a Cthulhu-esque insectoid who appeared at Loch Ness days after WWIII began.

Zedd was ordered to capture Kevin and imbue the new and weakened god-thing with Kevin’s more-than-mortal power!

Hercules recognizes the god-thingie as Oceanus the Titan! Hercules … unbinds and attacks Zedd, knocking him out and stopping Oceanus’ recharge.

Per Hercules, only Zeus’ lightning can destroy Oceanus. Our heroes decide to use the nearby hydroelectric dam to generate a large enough charge to destroy Oceanus – who felt the destructive power of WWIII and came to investigate the end of the world, but became too weak in transit.

Oceanus attacks the heroes at the dam, and is joined in battle once again with Hercules. Hercules wields the electrical bolts of “lightning” and knocks Oceanus back to his nether realm.

Zedd’s scepter explodes when Oceanus disappears and his followers leave him. He is now as he was before the war – alone.

***

The letter column “Myth Mail” thanks legendary writer David Micheline and legendary artist Walt Simonson for this “fill-in” issue. Gerry Conway, we are told, is gone forever, and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez will be back next issue.

Simonson’s art is also hidden by Wood’s dominating pencils and/or inks, but it still makes for a dazzling combination!

And thank you, David, oh thank you for NOT having Nessie pop up anywhere in the story. Oceanus the Titan was enough of a Loch Ness Monster for all of us!

***

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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Hercules Unbound #6, September 1976

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“Even a God May Die!”

Excellent, excellent cover: José Luis García-López, Editor: Joe Orlando

Writer: Gerry Conway; Penciler: José Luis García-López; Inker: Wally Wood

***

While carrying poor Basil away, Kevin, Hercules, Jennifer and their friends are attacked by Ares’ soldiers. Durok Malloy and his animal army help in the battle – which includes five cavalrymen in the second wave of attack.

Hercules explains that Ares has the power to restore life – perhaps there is a way to bring back the beloved Basil

Ares and his army encamp at Stonehenge with his hostages David Rigg and Simon St. Charles. Rigg escapes and finds Hercules and company.

Ares meanwhile confesses why he started World War III – after thirty thousand years he seeks the sweet oblivion of death – something denied to a god. Hercules appears and says he will oblige Ares by helping him fulfill his wish. The battle commences!

In the spectacular fight, Ares admits why he hates Hercules so – daddy issues. “We were both his sons yet, it was you he loved, while I … I was ever despised!”

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Showing some of the gorgeous art in this issue!

Ares is eventually worn down and surrenders after the stones of the henge are toppled on him.  He capitulates: truces are called and bargains made, including the resurrection of faithful Basil in exchange for his freedom. Ares flees, but both he and Hercules swear that should they ever meet again, one will die!

***

The letter column “Myth Mail” tells us the sales of Hercules Unbound are very good!  Odd that there are only two letters published – one of praise and the other echoing the HU/Wonder Woman mash-up. There is a small pin-up of the Man-God. If it is such a success, where are the letters?

The editor mentions that writer Gerry Conway is considering some “century shifting”. Is he already tired of Earth After Disaster?

 ***

Hercules Unbound ended its first year of publication on a high note. A unique idea with a unique hero. The creative staff was unchanged to date (a good sign) and was top level (Garcia was the only “newbie” in the group and even then was gaining gravitas with his Batman pencils).

It was a very good year!

The issue even got it’s own “article” in DC’s house ads! Another good sign!

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Hercules 6 house ad

The blurb on the last panel promises a new menace and a new direction for the man out of myth.

Uh-oh … that’s never a good sign…

***

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!

 

 

 

Hercules Unbound #5, July 1976

Behold, the Bronze Age!

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“War Among the Ruins!”

Cover: José Luis García-López, Editor: Joe Orlando

Writer: Gerry Conway; Penciler: José Luis García-López; Inker: Wally Wood

Despite his ability to disintegrate animate objects, Hunter Blood merely dissolves the ground beneath Hercules’ feet – dropping him into a London Underground tunnel and knocking him out. Kevin shows more mysterious skill – leaping over the Herculean hole to battle Blood only to also be knocked out while Hunter escapes with Jennifer Monroe in tow.

Interlude: David Rigg and Simon St. Charles are tied up in Ares’ ship which is just now entering London via the Thames. Ares admits they are being used as bait for Hercules!

The Man-God, meanwhile, comes to and confronts a group of animal men, led by a gorilla named Durak Malloy. They discover they are allies against Hunter Blood. Surfacing, Hercules meets up with Kevin and Basil.  We learn how the animals in London got their intelligence:

London was blasted to rubble during the initial bombing of World War III. Humans were disintegrated in the blast (leaving their clothing) and a neuro-toxin from a medical lab was released. A gorilla in the lab was exposed and gained human-level intelligence.

Presently, Hunter Blood’s pack of intelligent animals attack Kevin and Basil – Hercules comes to the rescue in some beautiful fight scenes. He is challenged to combat by Hunter Blood!

Blood disintegrates Big Ben. Before it can topple, Hercules flings Blood to the ground.

Some of the rubble of Big Ben fall on Basil, killing him!

Realizing that Blood’s actions would have killed them – that they are merely slaves to Blood and he feels no loyalty to them – Blood’s animal army pummel Blood to death!

***

The letters in Myth Mail mostly praise issue #3 – only one writer says the storyline is going in the “wrong direction” and there is one letter directed to Basil. But everyone agrees that the artwork by Lopez and Wood is spectacular. They are right!

***

Hercules Unbound was probably not the best-selling comic in DC’s stable. Would it not have benefitted a little by being one of the “DC Salutes the Bicentennial” comics – in which one stripped off the special cigar-band logo to win a precious Superman belt buckle?  Well, it couldn’t have hurt anyway …

“I am an honorable man!” Hercules says. This issue we get a look at the man inside the god. Hercules admires loyalty and honor. He is a hero as well as a god! Although the comic book reader has always been on his side – we are starting to like and enjoy his personality too!

***

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!

Hercules Unbound #3, March 1976

 

Behold!

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“Within the Pit Below”

Cover: José Luis García-López, Editor: Joe Orlando

Writer: Gerry Conway; Penciler: José Luis García-López; Inker: Wally Wood

Synopsis from DC Wikia: “Cerebus captures Jennifer Monroe in order to lure Hercules to a battle in Pluto’s realm.”

Most modern comics can use 15 words to describe over 18 pages of story and art, true, but a Bronze Age comic?

Going through the entrance to Hell, Hercules, Kevin and Basil meet a minstrel and Charon at the shores of the River Styx. Our heroes are attacked by one of Pluto’s Shadow Beasts. Kevin begs the minstrel to help them save Jennifer. The minstrel plays his lyre to weaken the Shadow Beast. Hercules quickly dispatches the ethereal monster.

The minstrel, Orpheus, joins Hercules on his quest.

Cerebus meanwhile takes Jennifer to Tartarus, the palace of Pluto and his lady Persephone.

Meanwhile again, back in Paris, Jennifer’s friends David Rigg and Simon St. Charles are captured by Ares – their fate to be determined in a later issue!

Orpheus reveals why he is in hell: as with the “real” legend. This son of Apollo lost his bride Eurydice when she died from a snake bite. He went to Tartarus to confront Pluto. Pluto allowed Eurydice to follow Orpheus out of hell as long as Orpheus did not turn around to look at her. Nearly at the gate, Orpheus was overcome by his curiosity and turned to make sure his bride was still there. She was, but instantly disappeared back into hell.

Cerebus and Jennifer talk quietly – here he seems to pine for his former bride-to-be, whereas last issue he was filled with rage as to her betrayal. Hercules finally tracks down the Nubian and calls him out to battle! The gods clash! Hercules knocks a wall on Cerebus, crushing him. Jennifer speaks to Cerebus while he is in his death throes. “It is the woman who betrayed you that caused your death,” she says. “No, it was my hatred and need for vengeance,” Cerebus says.

Pluto releases Jennifer. Orpheus reveals he is a ghost and reunites with Eurydice just as Cerebus was released from his hatred.

Finally reunited with Jennifer; Hercules, Kevin and Basil leave Hell.

 ***

The letter column is filled with missives praising the first issue – the art, the story and Hercules quiet (compared to his Marvel counter-part) power.

***

In a few panels Cerebus shows more depth than Hercules. But this was a fun issue and a nice way to complete the first story arc.

But in three issues we still do not know much about our main characters – neither Kevin nor Jennifer despair over the losses of WWIII. Hercules – although there is no question that he is loyal and heroic – is still a mystery. He hates Ares, true, but what about his loves? What makes him smile? Laugh? We know his persona, what about his personality?

***

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!

Hercules Unbound #4, May 1976

Behold, the Bronze Age!

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“Within the Pit Below”

Cover: José Luis García-López, Editor: Joe Orlando

Writer: Gerry Conway; Penciler: José Luis García-López; Inker: Wally Wood

While sailing in the channel heading for England, Hercules and his troupe are attacked by a U-Boat filled with … cat people! They are under orders by their leader Hunter Blood: destroy any ship heading for the Sceptered Isle! Herc defeats the cat people and tows their boat to shore.

They are going to England because their friends David Rigg and Simon St. Charles left a note saying they are headed there. Readers from last issue know this is not true! Jennifer also has her suspicions.

After another battle, Hunter Blood captures our heroes and bound Hercules and Kevin to church bells in the tower of his cathedral headquarters.

Hunter, by the way, has the ability to turn anything in his gaze to dust. A sad and ironic power to someone who collected works of art before the war – he can no longer see and admire the collection he loves!

The bells of the cathedral toll and Hercules is given extra power through Kevin to break his bonds and destroy the bell tower!

Hunter believes Hercules and Kevin dead, but Hercules appears in the doorway and calls Hunter to battle in a final-panel cliffhanger!

***

The letter column has two letters again praising the first issue and recommending connections with Wonder Woman and Hippolyta while asking NO links to Kamandi. With this issue that might be too late!

***

The cat-people brings this comic very close to the world of Kamandi. We will have to see what future issues bring.

And we finally see a glimpse of Hercules’ adaption into the modern world – something the comic has ignored for three issues. Although the nuclear holocaust of World War III gives the creators a way around modern-era issues, our hero is STILL 2,000+ years from his time. The brief encounter with “woman’s lib” has been the only characterization of the Son of Zeus in the magazine! We learn a little more of Kevin’s bizarre mental powers, but nothing else.

***

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!