Monday, November 27, 2006

Dr Jerry Bails, RIP

One thing I don't get into much around here is the fan aspect to comic book publishing. I liked comics but only attended one comic convention (around 1971 in New York), and only knew of a couple other kids my age who were into them as well. I only wrote one letter to the editor (pointing out a mistake in a Thor issue), which went unpublished. I pretty much was out of comic collecting by 1977, and the only comics I bought from about 1979-1998 or so were Spirit reprints, Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns and the final issue of The Flash.

But Dr Jerry Bails' passing does deserve mention, because he was the young man who pushed for the return of the Justice Society of America with letters to Julius Schwartz and Gardner Fox in the 1950s, and thus may have been a partial inspiration for DC's Silver Age heroes. And considering that it was sales of the (renamed) Justice League of America which inspired Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to create the Fantastic Four, it's not hard to see that this man had a huge impact on Silver Age comics.

Here's a terrific interview with him from a couple years back, hitting on a theme I've returned to on occasion here:

A culture passes on its values through stories, and I credit comics with shaping many of my values. I noticed when I wrote a book on the impact of technology on the environment, I made lots of references to the morals in famous children's stories, and classical stories. My view of the moral world was shaped by comics, radio drama, movies, storybook time at the library, as well as the traditional Sunday school. All these sources conveyed values by telling stories. It's part of humanity's oldest tradition. Comics were just the best visual method for the mid-20th century.

The lighter moments when we are reading for fun are not trivial. They are part and parcel of the mortar that strengthens our character by providing both stress relief and reaffirmation of cultural values. I don't personally get into the study of this function of pastime reading, but I'm aware of it.

Frankly, I think readers tend to be more empathetic and less aggressive than people who prefer aggressive sports for the cathartic effect. Unfortunately the mass media today sell more advertising and admissions by playing up caustic, vituperative and downright antisocial values. I can't believe that's good for any of us, but especially kids. Stories, even crime stories, can and should have a redeeming value. I guess that's why horror for its own sake never interested me. I prefer heroic behavior in my stories, even if the hero is a slow learner.

I especially liked his tale of hunting down the All Star issues back in those pre-comic store, pre-Ebay days. I didn't buy a whole lot of back issues by mail back then because they were expensive and so my experience was pretty much the same; slowly finding back issues by checking around here and there--used bookstores, somebody's older brother, etc. I had one great score around 1970 when an antiques show came to town with a big batch of 5 cent comics including a nearly complete run of the Legion issues of Adventure.

Batman was probably the easiest to locate, as everybody had bought issues back during the TV show craze, and I quickly assembled a fairly long run (although I did have to break down and buy one "filler" issue). Which resulted in my fascination with the character that continues to this day.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Howling At Hitler

In the early 1960s, the World War II generation began to come into power. This was reflected in both politics, where Navy veteran John F. Kennedy was elected to the White House over fellow Navy vet Richard Nixon, and in pop culture, where the theatres were filled with WWII features like The Longest Day, The Great Escape and The Guns of Navarone. On TV, there was Combat, the Rat Patrol and McHale's Navy.

So it's not surprising that as Marvel was casting about for new ways to wrest 12 cents out of the nation's youth, that they hit upon the idea of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos. As is de rigeur in such series, there is an ensemble cast:

This was a tradition dating back to the Boy Commandos (also co-created by Jack Kirby) and Blackhawk, and movies like Destination Tokyo. But this group was a little more integrated than most. Although it isn't obvious in the portrait above, Gabe Jones was a black man, and Izzy Cohen the first explicitly Jewish heroic character that I can remember in comics.

The Howlin' Commandos typically get the suicide mission assignments with big stakes. In SFAHHC #1, they have to rescue the resistance leader who knows the planned date of D-Day, while in #2 they are assigned the task of destroying Hitler's attempt at an atomic bomb. By the standards of the time, these were incredibly violent comics, although Kirby avoided the gore with some clever tricks:

There are many memorable moments in the first few issues, such as when the Howlers intentionally get themselves imprisoned in a concentration camp:

As always with Marvel, there were frequent crossovers. For example Reed Richards appears as a young major in #3, while Baron Zemo, Captain America's nemesis, pops up in #8. Cap and Bucky themselves fight side by side with the Howlers in #13.

As with most war comics, the bullets hit all around the Howlers but seldom were stopped by them. However in Sgt. Fury #4, that changed suddenly:

We have already discussed how Sgt. Fury #6 tackled the subject of racism. In retrospect, it is obvious that Stan was using the backdrop of World War II to talk about issues that were on the front burner in 1964.

Of course, another issue that was moving to the front burner that year would eventually doom the war comics: Vietnam. For the times, they were a-changing.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Getting Smaller, Getting Bigger

Following the Fantastic Four, the next super-powered hero to appear in the pages of a Marvel comic was the Ant-Man (technically, anyway). Hank Pym was introduced in Tales to Astonish # 27, January 1962, in a short story entitled The Man in the Ant-Hill.

Hank is a scientist interested in pursuing his own line of study. He creates a pair of serums that will shrink and later expand objects. He decides to test it on himself, but unfortunately he forgets that he will be too far away from antidote to expand back to normal. The ants are after him, but he manages to elude them with the aid of one friendly ant. Eventually he makes his way back to the serum that restores him to normal size. He decides that the method is too risky, and throws away the twin potions.

But in Tales to Astonish, #35, Hank returns, this time in full superhero garb and with additional powers: he has learned how to communicate with the ants.

At first, Ant-Man changes sizes by pouring liquid on himself from a test-tube. In TTA #36, this changed to a gas that he could inhale; later still it became just a matter of swallowing a pill.

In TTA #44, things changed dramatically for Ant-Man. He had been thinking that he needed help in his fight against crime, an assistant to take some of the load off his shoulders. In a flashback, we learn that Hank had been married to a woman named Maria, whose father had defected from Hungary. She wants them to visit her homeland for their honeymoon, but when they arrive the commie rats kidnap and kill her. In a way, she had led to Hank becoming the Ant-Man, by telling him jokingly that he should "go to the ants".

Back in the present, Hank meets a fellow scientist and his attractive but young daughter, Janet Van Dyne. She reminds him of his wife, but he insists she's too young for him. Meanwhile, she's thinking that she doesn't want a scientist, she wants a man of action.

When her father is murdered, she turns to Hank Pym. However, the Ant-Man answers her summons. She expresses a desire for revenge and Hank wonders if she might be the one he's been looking for. Yep:

He discloses his secret identity to her and outfits her with a small pair of wings and antennae that only appear when she shrinks down to tiny size. However he maintains a strictly business attitude towards her, not wanting to be hurt again with the loss of a lover. But in the end, we see she is determined to win his heart.

Comments: I confess I did not remember these stories having the charm and entertainment value that they did.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

More Relevant Comics--Payola?

The Payola scandal involved (as this cover implies) the effort by record companies to bribe deejays to play their records. It hit the newspapers in November 1959; this is the April 1960 issue of Archie. In something of a rarity for Archie at the time, the cover actually refers to a story inside, where the kids at Riverdale High pay Archie to spin their records.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Classic Stories of the 1960s: Super-Menace

A friend of mine suggested I review this terrific story from Superman #137 (May 1960):

It starts with a brief retelling of Superman's origin, with one striking new detail: The rocket which Superman came to Earth in had hit an alien space ship which bathed the rocket in a duplicator ray. The second rocket also landed on Earth, but this time near the hideout of a gangster and his moll. At first they worry that the super-infant inside has been sent by their enemies to kill them, but then they discover that he's actually friendly. They decide to pretend to love the boy, whom they dub Super-Brat so that when he grows up, he will help them with crime.

In the second act, both Superboy and his doppelganger, now referred to as Super-Bully, are teenagers. Super-Bully despises Superboy, and dreams of defeating him. This seems quite possible when he discovers that unlike the real Kal-El, he's immune to Kryptonite. In a bit of irony, Super-Bully actually helps out Clark. While Superboy is busy, he changes into Clark's clothes and visits Lana Lang, who tries out some Kryptonite to find out if Superboy is secretly her neighbor. Super-Bully also tries imitating his rival with Krypto, but this turns out badly as the super-dog recognizes that this is not his master.

The final sequence tells us about Super-Menace's adulthood. His crime boss father wants him to go kill Superman, knowing that this will result in his daddy becoming the leader of the crime syndicate. But the gangster mistakenly admits that he never really loved Super-Menace, and the latter overhears this.

The battle between Superman and Super-Menace initially starts out pretty even, but of course with the latter's invulnerability to Kryptonite, it isn't long before he brings down some meteors of Green K. They both discover that Super-Menace is actually a "force manifestation" and not really alive.

But as he watches his enemy dying, he wonders if the mobster and his moll never really loved him, perhaps the other things he was taught by them were untrue as well. He saves Superman, then rushes off to confront the couple who raised him. He converts himself into pure energy, ending his life as well as theirs.

Comments: A terrific story with many entertaining features. For example, this was a precursor to the Reverse Flash; a character exactly like a hero but evil. In addition, the sad ending echoes Frankenstein in some ways (the movie, of course, not the book). It also includes a brief retelling of Superman's origin.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Journey Into Mystery #91-94

Overall, these stories don't move the character forward. Stan still seems to be struggling to find someone tough enough to fight Thor to a standstill, and when he does find a worthy foe, he simply lets the Thunder God appeal to Odin for assistance. This is of course Deus Ex Machina writ large.

In JIM #91, Thor faces Sandu the Sorceror, whose normal powers of ESP and levitation have been enhanced a thousand times by Loki. He starts by robbing banks by teleporting them to a location where he can take the money at leisure. But he quickly realizes that the world is helpless against him and decides to become its ruler. However, when it appears that Thor is about to be killed Odin sends him a belt that makes him even stronger. Sandu at one point transports Thor's hammer to another dimension, and seemingly has him helpless. But he foolishly tries to take control of the hammer and in his attempts he expends his magical power, resulting in the hammer returning to Earth.

Loki battles Thor personally in JIM #91. But, amusingly, there is a subplot involving a wounded gangster who needs Don Blake to operate on him, just as in JIM #89, only two months earlier. Once again a major part of the plot involves separating Thor from his hammer. This time, Thor travels to Asgard and fashions different hammers from wood and stone around him to defeat his enemy. However, there is one odd thing; despite being separated from his hammer for a long time, he does not revert to his Don Blake identity. Perhaps the 60-second limitation only applies on Earth?

In JIM #92, Thor again battles the communists. Are we seeing a pattern here? Aliens and commies and Loki, oh my! Chen Lu, a Chicomm scientist, turns himself into the Radioactive Man. He hypnotizes Thor and forces him to discard his hammer. However, this actually works to Thor's advantage as when he reverts to his Don Blake identity he is no longer under the Radioactive Man's control. He locates the hammer at the bottom of the Hudson and (somewhat unbelievably) swims down to the bottom to retrieve it. With his hammer back he sends the Radioactive Man back to China inside a tornado, causing a nuclear explosion there.

It's Loki's turn once again in JIM #93. He manages to turn Thor evil by distracting him so that the hammer conks the Thunder God on the noggin, resulting in a personality change. Thor comes to Asgard and frees his evil brother. Then they return together to Earth, where Thor destroys many famous landmarks, like the Golden Gate Bridge, the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. A delegation from the United Nations comes forward offering mankind's surrender, but Loki wants control of Asgard. The delegation turns out to be Odin and other gods in disguise, who manage to restore Thor's original, good, personality, and he defeats Loki.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Thor Prototype at DC?

It's well-established that prototypes for many Marvel characters appeared in the horror mags the company specialized in prior to the release of Fantastic Four #1. But it also appears that Stan Lee wasn't above lifting a hero or two from his competitors as well. I had always known there was a Batman story featuring the Mighty Thor out there, what I did not realize is that it so clearly presaged Marvel's later character.

Here's the cover of the issue in question:

Let's trace the elements of similarity. Hammer flies back to him automatically? Check. Refers to his opponents as "mortals"? Check. Winged helmet? Check.

Secretly a meek, unassuming man? Changes back into Thor when he touches the hammer? Check, check.

Obviously there are dissimilarities as well; this Thor has red hair and a beard, and the man who changes into him has no memory of his Thor persona when he changes back. But overall, it's pretty obvious where Stan got the inspiration for one of his major characters of the Silver Age.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Batman II & Robin II.

Although Batman did not have imaginary stories per se in his comics, there were many stories that served the same function--dream stories, most notably. Along the same lines were the Batman II and Robin II stories. They were stories that Alfred, Batman's butler, wrote about a possible future time when his employer had retired from crime-fighting and been succeed by Dick Grayson as Batman, while the new Robin was none other than Bruce Wayne, Jr., the offspring of Batman and Kathy Kane, the former Batwoman.

The series debuted in Batman #131, the April, 1960 issue. Batman has just retired in favor of Dick Grayson, and Bruce, Jr., wants the job of Robin. Over time, he proves his mettle, although typically for a youngster he is impulsive and prone to not thinking things through. However, in a noticeably weak ending the new Batman and Robin are about to be killed when Batman I and Batwoman show up to save them.

The duo return in Batman #135. This time they are faced with a criminal bent on revenge against the original Batman. They are captured, but fortunately the original Batman saves them.

Are we beginning to see a problem here? These are supposed to be tales of the new Batman & Robin team, and yet every time, just as they are about to be killed, the old Batman shows up and saves them. Ditto with Batman #145's third entry in the series, The Son of the Joker:

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Brave & The Bold

One of the more interesting DC magazines of the Silver Age was the Brave & the Bold. The first issue hit the stands in Aug-Sept 1955. Perhaps inspired by the movie The Black Shield of Falworth, it featured the adventures of warriors from the past: The Golden Gladiator, the Viking Prince, and The Silent Knight. The features, drawn by Russ Heath, Joe Kubert and Irv Novick were terrific reads with some famed covers:

But after issue #24, DC decided to take the magazine in a new direction. Showcase, another DC magazine, had been churning out new characters (or revamps of old ones) on a regular basis. With issue #25, Brave & Bold became another tryout magazine for new features that DC hoped would catch on with the public.

The first effort was called the Suicide Squad, a Mission Impossible-type force that did not seem to catch on with young boys. After three issues, Brave and Bold came up with a winner as the 28th issue featured the Justice League of America. The JLA was an organization of superheroes, including (at first) Aquaman, Flash, the Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern. Batman and Superman were also members, but at first they were usually kept in the background, probably for fear they would dominate the group.

This series succeeded quite memorably, but oddly that turned out to be the exception rather than the rule. After three JLA tryouts, Brave & Bold tempted youngsters with Cave Carson's Adventures Inside Earth. No sale. Then came three issues of Hawkman drawn by one of his GA artists, Joe Kubert. These also failed to fly off the shelf, so DC came back with three more tryouts for the Suicide Squad. When the kids failed to drink the Kool-Aid, the Brave & the Bold went back for two more issues of Cave Carson, followed by three more of Hawkman.

None of those features graduated to headliner status. Particularly troubling to DC must have been the Hawkman failure; this was the first superhero mag put out by DC in the Silver Age which failed to catch on (although it did later after a third trial run in Mystery in Space).

Brave & Bold did try something different with #46-49: Strange Sports Stories. These were oddball adventures mixing science fiction with sports. Drawn by Carmine Infantino, they also included something unique; the narrative captions were given illustrations too:

But once again, the sales did not justify creating a new title, so with #50 they again tried something different: A teamup of two of DC's existing superheroes, in this case the Martian Manhunter and Green Arrow. B&B #51 featured Aquaman and Hawkman. Then, in a surprise manuever, DC teamed up several of its top war comics features: Sgt. Rock, Johnny Cloud, and Jeb Stuart for #52; this was the first crossover for the war heroes, although there would be more. Issue #53 featured a teamup of the Atom and the Flash.

Finally, DC hit the jackpot again in B&B #54, with the Teen Titans (although they were not referred to as that in the story or cover). Kid Flash, Aqualad and Robin teamed up to help some of their fellow teenagers. There followed two more teamup issues before Metamorpho debuted in B&B #57 and #58. Batman hooked up with Green Lantern in #59, followed by another Teen Titans tryout.

In Brave & Bold #61 and #62, DC tried bringing back some more Golden Age heroes, with Starman and the Black Canary. Although the series did not take, the stories in those issues are particularly gorgeously drawn by Murphy Anderson and are well-worth reading.

B&B #63 features a meeting of Wonder Woman and Supergirl. The story concerns Supergirl's desire to be more like a normal girl. She decides to abandon fighting crooks in favor of being a fashion model in Paris, where she falls for a young Frenchman. Wonder Woman, dispatched by Superman to talk her out of it, finds herself enticed by the simple life. The story does reveal one major drawback of teamup stories. Because they are created by people other than their usual writers and editors, there are frequent goofs. For example, consider this embarrassing flub:

Of course, it was well-established in the Superman books that only lead could block Kryptonite radiation.

The next three issues featured more of the seemingly random teamups--Batman/Eclipso, Flash/Doom Patrol and Metamopho/Metal Men. By this point (mid-1966) it was obvious that the Batman show was a major hit, and for the next six issues (a full year), the teamups featured Batman and another DC character. Batman did not appear in B&B #72, which featured the Spectre and the Flash, or #73, with Aquaman and the Atom.

After that, though, the teamups always featured Batman, I believe all the way to #200, the final issue for this interesting title.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Journey Into Mystery #87-90

As remarked by Thelonius Nick in the comments on the earlier Thor post, Stan Lee seemed unsure as to what to do with the Mighty Thor at first. The Thunder God was far too powerful and cosmic a character to waste against the usual crooks & mobsters. In Journey into Mystery #87 he defeats a plot by the communists to kidnap American scientists.

Loki returns in #88. Having learned of Thor's secret identity, he forces the Thunder God to choose between recovering the hammer and saving Jane Foster. Then Loki surrounds the hammer with a force field, preventing the now helpless Don Blake from recovering his powers. Fortunately Don tricks Loki into removing the force field and sends Loki back to Asgard.

In #89 Don and Jane are kidnapped by mobsters to operate on a wounded crime boss. In a classic example of Deus Ex Machina, he prays to Odin to intervene when he and Jane are about to be killed despite saving the mobster's life. Odin sends down a thunderbolt to save them. We also get a new power for Thor (that is never again mentioned); that of super-ventriloquism.

In #90, Thor again fights aliens. Ho-hum.

Lee still had not found the right format for the Mighty Thor in these issues. Nobody really seems able to handle the Thunder God, and so the plot often revolves around him somehow losing control of his hammer, despite its well-established tendency to return to him.

This is similar to the problems that DC had with Superman in the 1940s. DC had solved it by using deceptive villains like Mxyzptlk, the Prankster and Wolfingham; even Luthor was usually operating behind the scenes. But of course, this had the tendency to diminish the value of the powers that Superman possessed, which, after all, was what made the character different.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I've talked briefly about Thor in the past, but now it's time to discuss him in a little greater detail. Thor is the Norse god of thunder. His initial appearance in Marvel was in Journey Into Mystery #83. JIM was one of Marvel's horrible "horror" mags, which featured stories like "I Unleashed SHAGG Upon the World!" and "I Found RRO... The Thing from the Bottomless Pit!"

Don Blake, a lame physician, was on vacation in Norway when he discovers a plot by alien invaders from Saturn. He is spotted by the Stone Men, and runs into a cave. There he discovers a small staff, which is fortunate because he has lost his cane. But when he strikes the cane against a boulder blocking his way, he transforms suddenly into the Mighty Thor!

Thor has many powers. He is virtually invulnerable and fantastically strong. But even more important is his mighty hammer (the staff transformed), which makes it possible for him to fly and which destroys almost anything it's thrown against and returns automatically to his hand like a boomerang. It can also cause lighting and storms.

But of course with this power comes a weakness. If the hammer leaves Thor's hand for 60 seconds, he reverts to Don Blake, the lame physician. As always in the Marvel universe, there is also a love interest. Nurse Jane Foster secretly loves Dr Blake, and he adores her but worries that she could never love a weakling like him.

Initially Thor battles fairly traditional enemies for superheroes: Aliens intent on a hostile takeover, communist dictators and assorted crooks. But quickly a supervillain worthy of Thor's interest was discovered; his evil brother, Loki, the God of Mischief. Loki first appeared in JIM #85, and was returned quite often in the early issues: He is featured in JIM #88, 91, 92 and 94 as well as Avengers #1.

The characterization of Nurse Jane Foster in these early issues stinks. She's the typical 1960s Marvel eye-candy airhead. We see her thinking about how much she loves Don Blake, but she has an eye for Thor (not realizing that they are actually one and the same). And the first time Loki shows up, he's quite a prize as well:

This is all too typical of Marvel at the time. Girlfriends/love interests existed mostly as potential hostages for villains and were generally placed in traditional women's occupations: nurses like Jane Foster and secretaries like Karen Page, Betty Brant. Compare that with DC, which had Lois Lane as a reporter, Vicki Vale as a news photographer, Jean Loring a young attorney and Carol Ferris running an aircraft factory.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Robby Reed Unveiled!

In the final (for now) post on Dial B for Blog. His blog is incredible; undeniably the finest comics blog on the net.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

More DC Scientofascism

As we have discussed in the past, if there was a religion in the DC Universe back in the Silver Age, it was science. In a way, this is probably a natural outgrowth of the postwar era, as it seemed that technology, government and industry were forging ahead to move us into the glorious future. But it looks just a tad creepy with the benefit of hindsight.

For example, consider this bit from Flash #153, the June 1965 issue. Professor Zoom, aka the Reverse Flash, aka Eobard Thawne has apparently reformed thanks to the "electro-reeducation" provided by prison authorities in the year 2465:

Of course as often happens in these stories, there is something wrong with the machine. In fact, Professor Zoom has tampered with the Cerebro-Scanner to make sure that he will pass the test despite not having gone straight at all. As was the case in Superman #132, once the machine is repaired, nobody stops to think, hey, maybe we shouldn't be setting murderous crooks free just on the basis of them passing a test.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Challengers Part II

I didn't have the time or the inclination to read all of the Challengers series at this point, so I thought it might be entertaining to jump ahead five years and check the changes.

Challengers of the Unknown #31 contains a retelling of the Challengers' origin with new details. We learn that before the fateful flight, Rocky had defended his wrestling championship despite an attempt by the mob to influence the bout.

More unbelievably, Prof Haley was reintroduced as a rich delinquent. Uh, how did he get the nickname "Prof" then? He reforms after helping rescue an ancient statue from the deeps via his skin-diving ability.

Red Ryan, who had originally been introduced as a circus daredevil (only to have Kirby ignore that aspect of him), was now reincarnated as a mountain climber, and electronics expert. He builds a radio tower on a mountain with the money of a rich patron to educate the poor people of a valley in South America. However, it turns out that the patron really intended to use the tower to transmit propaganda and become a local dictator, fortunately prevented by Red.

Ace Morgan was a pilot who had contracted to carry high explosives for miners in his plane, but was forced to toss them out when they broke loose. He manages to hit the mountain in a place that reveals a vein of ore, so the miners are happy.

However, as the four men fly in Ace's plane, they feel like failures for one reason or another, especially when the plane conks out and they must crash land in a forest. Given a second chance, they feel like they are living on borrowed time, and resolve to do something more with this second chance at life.

This origin retelling is contained within a larger story where a mysterious stranger claims to have rescued the Challengers from their plane. Thus they were not really saved by "fate" as they had long believed. Their rescuer, a Mr Clayton, presents evidence. He is in a jam and needs the Challengers to help him reassemble an ancient statue. It turns out the statue's actually a giant robot that has two arms missing which when assembled will give him incredible power. But the Challengers eventually realize Mr Clayton did not really save them and defeat his robot.

Comments: Interesting but uneven origin retelling by DC.

Challengers of the Unknown #32 contains two stories. The first one features Volcano Man, who had previously appeared in Challengers #27. In the second story we learn that the Challs had picked up an alien pet whom they called Cosmo. He seems to have almost unlimited mental powers, so much so that he dwarfs the rest of the team. Looking back I see that Cosmo first appeared in Challengers #18, and had made a couple intermediate appearances. In this story, they discover his original alien owner, who is happy to let them keep the pet since it is proving of so much use. Perhaps typically for DC, this ended up being the last time Cosmo appeared in the Silver Age Challengers; probably for the reason noted above; he was just too powerful and made it too easy for them to get out of tight scrapes.

My previous article on the Challengers is here.