Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Spiderman TV Cartoon

I don't remember the original 1960s run of these cartoons, but recall them more from the early 1970s in the afternoon. As you can see, the quality is pretty mediocre, and it would get worse before the end of the run (this was the tenth episode). Most adaptations of comics were pretty cheesy back then; it wasn't until the Superman movie in about 1978 that anybody approached the subject of superheroes with real respect.

Obviously the biggest impact of the Spiderman cartoon series was the theme song, (snipped from this cartoon) which has been incredibly durable. Here it is:

I always liked the part about "In the chill of night at the scene of a crime...."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

DC, The Home of WeirDCrooks

In the Golden Age, it was seldom necessary to give criminals a motivation. They were just crooks, simple as that. Some of them (Luthor notably) also were mad scientists, a bogeyman familiar to youngsters from the TV and radio serials.

But as the Silver Age wore on, establishing a motive for the criminal behavior became more important. Two of the oddest motivations came from Captain Cold and Sonar.

Captain Cold was one of the Silver Age Flash's first villains, appearing in Showcase #8, the second comic to feature the Scarlet Speedster. His weapon was a gun that could freeze things instantly; a rather pedestrian power. But he was an interesting character nonetheless because his reason for pursuing a life of crime was to impress women.

Initially he had a crush on Iris West, Barry Allen's girlfriend, but would later transfer his affections to other women. Along the way, he picked up a supervillain polar opposite named Heat Wave, who frequently was his rival for the affections of women.

Sonar, on the other hand, had the ability to control sounds with a special tuning fork. Again, this is not an ability likely to fascinate readers for long. But Sonar's back story was wild. He came from a small European country named Modora. Frustrated that his homeland was not a player on the world stage, he resolved to make it a major power.

In one of the annoying coincidences that plagued Green Lantern in the early years (see for example, my earlier post about Qward), GL discovers Sonar because he is searching for a stamp from Modora. He searches the mind of an old clockmaker, whose apprentice, Bito Wladon (Sonar) has just quit the job. The clockmaker is worried because Wladon had discussed his dangerous ideas before leaving.

GL battles Sonar twice, but each time the villain manages to escape. The third time turns out to be a charm and in gratitude, the citizens of Modora issue a special stamp for Green Lantern to give to Pie-Face.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Fantastic Four Annual #1

As I have discussed earlier, DC's success with "Annuals" (really 80-page reprint mags) resulted in Marvel looking to add this profitable niche to its line. The problem was that Marvel had not been publishing their superheros long enough to be able to reprint stories and expect them to sell very well, or so they thought. So Fantastic Four Annual #1 featured a brand new double-length story with the FF facing the Sub-Mariner and his Atlantean hordes.

This was the first time since Namor's return in FF #4 that he appears in Atlantis. We learn that the Atlanteans are blue in color, which raises some questions about the claims that he is "a prince of the blood" as one character puts it. We also learn that he has a love, Lady Dorma, and a rival for both the throne and the girl, in the Warlord Krang. He gives a speech to his subjects in which he vows to make the "insolent human race pay for its crimes against our people."

The next sequence shows us the FF in a typical opening, with Johnny and Ben fighting. This time they damage some of Sue's priceless gowns. In an effort to relieve the team's tension while accomplishing some business, Reed suggests a cruise of the Atlantic, where sea monsters have been reported recently.

The sea monsters turn out to be a trap for the FF. Namor advises Reed that he declares the seas and the skies above them as his territory, banning any overseas boating or flights. This of course will mean war with the humans.

There follows a brief bio of Subby; turns out he's the product of a marriage between an human and an Atlantean princess; hence the caucasian skin. The Sub-Mariner's forces quickly take over New York and other major cities on the coast. However, the invasion is thwarted when Reed manages to create an evaporation ray, depriving the Atlanteans of the water in their helmets that they need to survive on land.

Angered, Namor kidnaps Sue Storm. While the boys fight it out above, Dorma, in a fit of jealousy, breaks a window in the undersea room where Sue is being held. Sue, realizing it is her only hope, jumps out the broken window. But she becomes tangled in some seaweed, and nearly drowns. Namor flies her back to the mainland to a hospital. But his act of selflessness has a price, as the Atlanteans feel betrayed and desert him.

In the second feature, the brief encounter between Spiderman and the FF from ASM #1 is retold in an extended version. The book also contains a reprint of the FF's origin from Fantastic Four #1, and a gallery of their most memorable villains.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Ultra, the Multi-Alien

DC introduced a lot of weird characters in the late 1960s, but few of them were weirder than Ultra, The Multi-Alien. Ultra was Ace Arn, a space explorer from the near future, who was accidentally transformed into a freak with the composite powers and body of four different aliens. As was becoming common, some of the conflict in the story was actually internal; the hero was unhappy with being "different". See Ben Grimm (Thing), Metamorpho, the Doom Patrol and others. At first one of the agonies for him was the loss of his girlfriend, Bonnie Blake, but eventually she accepted him despite his strange appearance.

Ultra's powers were pretty basic--he could fly, had incredible strength in one arm, could shoot lightning and had magnetic powers as well. He first appeared in Mystery in Space #103, taking over the cover and feature slot from Adam Strange. There were eight appearances in all, with #110 spelling the end for both the Multi-Alien and Mystery in Space.