Tuesday, June 30, 2009

End of the Fiction

For almost 30 years Bob Kane's little namebox had appeared in every issue as the principal artist on Batman, although it was an open secret at DC that a succession of then-unknown but talented artists like Jerry Robinson, Dick Sprang and Sheldon Moldoff were actually doing most of the work.

But in the late 1960s, things changed. As the Batman TV series collapsed like all fads, the circulation for Batman dropped alarmingly. In Batman #200, DC reported average issue sales of 806,000 for that mag for the prior year. In Batman #210, DC reported average issue sales of 533,000, and by Batman #220, it was all the way down to 356,000.

Apparently sometime around 1968, DC finally bought out Bob Kane for good. At any rate, in Batman #203, a giant issue, Julius Schwartz announced that a new artist would be getting credit for the next issue of Batman:

Moldoff's last original Batman story appears to have been in Batman #199; of course he would appear many times in reprint issues. Chic Stone (another contractor for Kane) did the last few stories, including issue #200.

It took a long time before proper credit started showing up in Batman reprints. In this I don't entirely blame Julius Schwartz, the editor for Batman. It's one thing to know that Kane hadn't drawn all those stories; it's another to affirmatively state that someone else did. I have looked through quite a few reprint books from around then, including Batman #203, #208, #213, #218, #223, #228 and #233-238 (#234-237 featured one Batman reprint per issue in the 25 cent, 52-page format).

The first time an artist other than Kane is given credit in one of the reprint stories is in Batman #233. The opening story, The Death Cheaters of Gotham City, is (correctly) identified as the work of Jim Mooney. But the rest of the stories in that issue are all Moldoff, and none of them are tagged as such; it's just the usual Bob Kane box.

In Batman #234-235, Schwartz reprinted a pair of New Look tales which were obviously Infantino and were properly credited. In #236, he reprinted a 1940s Batman tale called While the City Sleeps, a Dick Sprang tale that is not credited.

Finally, in Batman #238, Dick Sprang's name was mentioned:

Note that the Kane namebox there is pretty blandly filled in (reportedly not by Sprang, who refused the chore); the stuff that Kane submitted as his own but was really done by Moldoff has a much more stylized look as you can see at the top of the post, with the "O" overlapping the two "B"s (not usually that dramatically) and the underlined KANE).

So Sprang gets his first mention in Batman, about 219 issues after he first appeared. However, at this point the crediting was still rudimentary. Batman #239 included a reprint of an early Christmas story that is clearly Jerry Robinson, but there are no credits other than the Kane box. Batman #240 has a New Look Batman story from #164 that is obviously penciled by Moldoff; it is credited to Kane/Giella.

So when did Moldoff get his first credit? I'm still looking for the answer to that one. After Batman #242, the magazine reverted to the normal 36-page format for a year with no reprints. Then from 254-262 the issues were 100-pagers with loads of reprints, but as far as I can see, no stories are credited to Moldoff. After that, reprints moved over to Batman Family; unfortunately my collection peters out around then as well.

Update: See also this post of Bill Jourdain's for the first writing credit to Bill Finger, the scripter of most Batman stories prior to 1964.

Update II: This article on Batmania (the Batman fanzine of the 1960s) contains some tantalizing details:

Jerry [Bails] detailed how Bob Kane had hired the unassuming Finger to write his (Kane's) feature "Rusty and His Pals" and then "Batman." With Batman's success, Bill soon began working directly for DC, co-creating such famous strips as "Green Lantern" and "Wildcat." He was noted for his ability to "adapt the freewheeling style of the pulps to the four-color panels, and break down the action of a Douglas Fairbanks-type adventurer into a panel-by-panel description for the artist."

The K-a article was probably the first anywhere to publicly state that "Bill is the man who first put words in the mouth of the Guardian of Gotham." By Finger's account, Jerry went on, "The cowl and cape, the utility belt and gauntlet, were all Bill's contribution to the dialogue that gave rise to the final form of Batman's famous costume"-along with the Joker and "all the other principals and supporting characters of the early strip: Robin, of course, but also Commissioner Gordon (who appeared in the first Batman story), Alfred, the Penguin, and the Catwoman, as well as the many unusual and sympathetic characters that made the early Batman so popular."

Update III: Jerry Robinson gets a credit in Batman #255:

Update IV: Commenter Lee notes that he read all the Batman books in the 1970s and that Moldoff's name never came up. He suggests that the book, The Greatest Batman Stories ever told (published in 1988) is probably where Shelly got his first credit for the Caped Crusader:

Note the credit at the bottom of the page, just underneath the artwork. I don't know if this is really the first mention of Moldoff, but at least it's a place we can try to walk backwards from.

Update IV: Check out this post of mine to learn where the first Easter Egg with Sprang was located.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Checking the Ad Claims: GT Energy Chamber

This ad appeared in Tales of Suspense #92. For only $5.95 you could save a bundle in gas costs. Was it true?

Back then you'd have to really poke around to figure out if it was worth the price, but today thanks to the wonders of the innertubes, I located a review of the product from Jim Dunne and Charles Bishop, back in the 1960s.

#1, get the car they tried all the products on; wow:

He installed the gadgets on our test car, a '68 Olds Cutlass S with a 310-horsepower, 350-cubic-inch V-8, four-speed manual transmission, 3.23:1 final drive ratio, and F70-14 tires. The engine was properly tuned and timed, and we never altered the settings.

Which should explain the baseline mileage and power numbers:

Gas mileage: 10.755 m.p.g. From 25 to 70 m.p.h.: 8.4 seconds.

That's right, under 11 miles per gallon. Ouch! But when they tested the GT Energy Chamber:

This unit is inserted in the gas line between the fuel pump and carburetor, where it is supposed to level out pressure waves in the fuel flow. The ads claim that it enables your engine "to extract more raw, blazing energy and more gasoline economy." The car ran normally in the consumption test but power flattened out at 60 in the acceleration test, with all the symptoms of fuel starvation.
Gas mileage was 10.9 m.p.g. From 25 to 70 m.p.h.: 9.6 seconds.

It got slightly better mileage, but at an obvious cost in terms of acceleration onto the highway. If we assume that gas was running about 35 cents a gallon back then, it would take you 13,000 miles to pay for the device. And the idea of going 30 days on a tank of gas... well, only if you'd previously been going about 29.875 days on that same tank.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Iron Man Run Part 7

If you don't understand Pepper Potts' relationship with Tony Stark and Happy Hogan, just stick around for ten minutes; it'll change. In the last set of stories, it looked like Pepper was firmly in Tony Stark's corner, but in Tales of Suspense #89, he saves both her and Happy from being killed by an overloaded crane and:

Where's the gratitude? At any rate, Stark realizes that Hogan has won this round and consoles himself with the international playboy routine for a few pages before the story really gets started. The Mysterious Melter (last seen in an Iron Man story in ToS #47) escapes from prison and captures Stark, ordering Tony to make a smaller version of his melting gun, which now can melt anything, including human flesh. When Tony's finished, the Melter turns the ray on him, but fortunately he survives because of the armored chestplate under his shirt.

Meanwhile the cops have arrived, so the Melter battles it out with them in the parking lot. Tony quickly changes into his original Iron Man suit, not wanting to risk taking the time to go back to his office and get the modern armor. At first this seems a crucial mistake, as his old armor just isn't quick and nimble enough to avoid the Melter's blasts. But Tony has sabotaged the gun and it quickly overloads, making it possible for the Melter to be taken into custody.

There is an amusing sidebit with Tony's many girlfriends getting in the way of the police:

The next issue is a one-off with The Crusher, a steroid-crazed freak from Cuba whom Iron Man blasts with a ray that makes him too heavy for the Earth's crust to support. (Why do I get the feeling he'll pop up in a Mole Man story?)

But the big news in this issue comes on the personal front:

In the following issue we get a brief mention of Tony's childhood:

The fact that he has a dissolute gambler as a cousin hinted that Tony came from money, but this is the closest we've come to getting any further details.

Iron Man is in Vietnam, and in the story he agrees to help out the US Army with a local villain:

The warning is that the guy's named Half-Face and considered the local equivalent of Tony Stark. But they should have told him that the weapon Half-Face is working on is one that Iron Man has faced before:

The new, improved Titanium Man proves too much for Iron Man and it is only by feigning death that he manages to survive long enough for Half-Face to send TM on a new mission. The US bombers are approaching legitimate military targets in North Vietnam, but Half-Face plans a propaganda coup for the commies:

Iron Man thinks, "For the sake of my country--I've got to stop him!" It's kind of interesting that he doesn't phrase it, "For the sake of those peaceful villagers--I've got to stop him!" I have to admit it feels strange to be criticizing a Marvel character for excessive patriotism; one would certainly rarely do that these days.

Anyway, as Iron Man and Titanium Man are battling, Half-Face is horrified to discover that the village he has ordered destroyed includes his wife and child. As Iron Man saves them, Half-Face decides to change sides and work against the communists in his country.

Comments: This was getting towards the end of the anti-communist stories; both DC and Marvel largely avoided mention of Vietnam as the battle over the war raged on the home front from 1968-1972. I was pleased to see a resolution finally of the Happy/Pepper/Tony love triangle. Senator Byrd also drops his demand that Stark reveal Iron Man's secrets during these issues as well, and we see a mysterious stranger gain entrance to Tony's factories in the final issue, a foreshadowing of a new long-running character in the series.

We are nearly to the end of the Tales of Suspense Iron Man stories; only five more issues to go!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Skeptic

DC published any number of backup features during the Silver Age. One of my favorites was Roy Raymond, TV Detective. Raymond was the host of a TV show called Impossible But True, and the focus of the stories was how he managed to keep from being hoaxed by people wanting to get on the show for one reason or another.

The stories were always tight, as was the artwork by Ruben Moreira, who handled the feature from its debut in Detective #153 (November 1949) (where it bumped the long-running Slam Bradley) to its last appearance in Detective #292 (bumped in the next issue by the arrival of Aquaman).

Just to give you the flavor of this series, I'm going to present the supposed impossible but true thing, and Roy's solution for a few issues in a row:

Detective 255
Impossible But True: A man from Saturn arrives and shows Roy that it is safe for earthlings to live on his planet. A murderer arrives and plans to hijack his way aboard the alien ship.

Roy's solution: It was all a plot for the murderer to make his getaway on Earth, secure in the knowledge that everybody would think he had departed for Saturn. Roy suspected the man from Saturn was a phony because of a mistake he made in drawing Roy:

Detective 256
Impossible But True: A native African can protect people from attack by animals with special branches from a tree he has blessed.

Roy's solution: It's a plot by one of the partners in a diamond mine to convince his partner to go out in the jungle with little protection other than a useless branch:

Detective 257
Impossible But True: An actress in a movie drinks a potion that is supposed to be able to turn her into Cleopatra. After drinking the potion, she suddenly is able to locate ancient ruins that only Cleopatra would know.

Roy's Solution: The whole think was a scheme by the Egyptian government to flush out an illicit dealer in rare antiquities. He knew the actresss didn't really turn into Cleopatra because:

Detective 258
Impossible But True: An auditor is hexed after touching a stone idol hundreds of years old, with pearl eyes.

Roy Raymond's solution. The whole thing was a plot to prevent the auditor from checking the books of two companies whose bosses have been embezzling funds. He knows the idol is fake because:

The World's Finest Fan Letter Ever

I don't blame Julius Schwartz for making that call. By way of background in the spring of 1968 the communist satellite country of Czechoslovakia (now know as the Czech Republic and Slovakia) experienced a wave of democratic reforms from their new leader, Alexander Dubcek. This raised hopes that perhaps there might be cracks in the Iron Curtain, but in August the Soviets responded in much the same way as the Chinese did at Tianamen Square (and as the Iranian regime is responding to the current unrest); they rolled the tanks in and started killing.

From Batman #213 (July-Aug 1969). The book that the unnamed Czech patriot raves about is indeed one of the finest comics in the entire Silver Age, and probably deserves a good look:

One of my all-time favorite covers ever; the use of a B/W negative really makes that last panel, where Batman suddenly unmasks himself, pop out.

That's the opening story, certainly on any Bat-fan's short list. The second story, the Jungle Cat-Queen, is my personal choice for the finest Batman story of the Golden Age. It's a great story, features the Catwoman, has multiple death traps and beautiful Sprang artwork.

The highlight of the rest of the issue is the terrific Sunday strip where the Penguin's real name of Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot is revealed.

So overall the dad of Vasik, Lidunka and Evicka definitely scored a classic comic. What a shame that it would be another two decades before Batman became generally available in the Czech Republic.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tales of Asgard

As Marvel changed its focus from monsters to superheroes, the new characters quickly took over the featured spot in some of the line's existing comics. The Human Torch quickly became the headliner in Strange Tales, while Tales of Suspense picked up Iron Man and Tales to Astonish (initially) featured Ant-Man, while Journey into Mystery became the flagship of the Mighty Thor.

However, those comics did not drop their monster/horror stories entirely. At least, not at first. Journey into Mystery #95 (the 13th issue featuring Thor) included a Steve Ditko thriller called The Tomb of Tut-Amm-Tut and Save Me from the Lizard Men, in addition to the cover feature, The Demon Duplicators. Stan was hedging his bets at least slightly on the costumed crimebusters. But with JiM #97 he made it clear that he was going to push Thor in that magazine, by adding a five-page Tales of Asgard feature, which ran for several years. The stories were clearly intended to give us more background on the supporting characters of Thor.

The problem, back then, is that the feature ran a relatively brief five pages, and seldom tied into current events in the main Thor stories, so that it was hard to get excited about reading each one. Plus even with a friend's pretty good collection of Marvels to read back then there were always missing issues to contend with, so I never really took a hard look at the series.

I'm going to rectify that a bit starting today; I'll do it like the Iron Man run where I'll tackle several issues in a row so that I can hit on larger themes than just plot points.

In the first story we just get the who begat who stuff. Odin was the grandson of the first god, who's name was Buri. The gods battled constantly against the Frost Giants; one suspects that those from Scandinavia might have special concerns about the cold. The only signicant negative I see to the opening tale is that it is told completely by narration and not dialog.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but one of the singular reasons why comics have been so successful is because all readers instinctively hate long narrative passages and love dialog. The art obviates the need for the boring descriptions and thus we can get to what we really like, which is the interaction between characters.

However, by the second story Stan is more on his game, as he lets Odin and the Frost Giants exchange some insults before the former disposes of the latter. I do have to chuckle a bit at Odin's throne:

I can only think of one kind of throne that a ruler should be on where his knees are higher than his stomach. ;)

The third story is back to the narrative style. Odin battles Surtur, king of the fire demons. In the course of the story, we learn it was this battle that causes the earth to rotate on its axis and also resulted in the creation of the Moon. Note that many religious systems originated in attempts to explain the nighttime sky and other observed cosmological phenomena.

By the fourth story, Thor as a boy (and his vile brother Loki) have been introduced. They collaborate to recover some apples stolen by three storm giants. And in the end:

That's an interesting little detail that I didn't know before; earlier in the story I noticed that Thor was using a sword instead of his famed hammer.

The fifth story returns to the form of the prior one, where Loki plots to get the hammer rather than Thor, but fails, when his brother delays an invasion of Asgard (that Loki had orchestrated) long enough for reinforcements to arrive.

We continue with the story of Thor rescuing Sif from Hela, Goddess of Death; IIRC this was one of Sif's only appearances before she became Thor's official girlfriend at the end of Thor #136. Thor offers his life for hers; the nobility of this (offered but not accepted) sacrifice is what finally wins him the hammer.

In JiM #103 we learn that Thor had a key part to play in the Norse version of Adam and Eve:

Interesting stuff; I wonder if it caused any controversy at the time. You know how it is; if you present the Norse myths as real aren't you denying the myths of other religions?

It is announced at the end of this story that the next episode will feature bios of the major characters in Asgard, starting with Heimdall, so this seems like a good breaking point.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Silver Age Comics Blog Mentioned In Podcast from Heroes Con!

Wow, I was pretty blown away to hear our old buddy Bill Jourdain mention the blog and me by name in a podcasters' panel at Heroes Con. The context was whether Bill would eventually decide to move on to discussing Silver Age Comics, but (no particular surprise) he said no, the Golden Age of Comic Books is his specialty, but that maybe his son might decide to do one on the Silver Age. The questioner asked if there was a Silver Age podcast and Bill said not to his knowledge, but that there was an excellent blog by Pat Curley.


The sequence begins about 23:20 into the podcast that you can find linked at the bottom (under Update) of this post. The rest of the panel is interesting as well, which is why I stumbled on the mention of the blog--I was still listening 23 minutes in. I have listened to a few episodes of Comic Geek Speak, and from the discussion I should listen to more. And I would certainly be remiss if I didn't mention Bill's most recent podcast on Marvel Comics #1 and the 70th Anniversary of the Timely/Atlas/Marvel colossus. If you've never listened to one of Bill's podcasts, they're a terrific half-hour discussion of some of the great comics of the Golden Age, and perfect for your IPOD or MP3 player.

Thanks for the shout out, Bill!

Update: So I decided to download and listen to the Silver Age Batman episode of Comic Geek Speak, and Silver Age Comics got another mention in that episode as well! I'm famous!

Trivia Quiz #26: Iron Man Answers

1. Name Tony Stark's two alliterative assistants.

Answer: Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan

2. Name Tony Stark's ne'er-do-well cousin.

Tony Stark's cousin Morgan Stark liked to spend his time gambling.

3. Which of Iron Man's villains reformed and ended up working for Stark Industries?

While several of Iron Man's villains reformed, the only one who received a regular paycheck from Tony was the original Crimson Dynamo, Professor Vanko.

4. Which of the following villains was never on the communist payroll: the Black Widow, the Crimson Dynamo, Hawkeye, or the Titanium Man?

Hawkeye did it for love:

Or for the cause of international peace.

5. Why did Tony Stark paint his Iron Man costume yellow (later adding the red bits)?

A girlfriend named Marion suggested that Iron Man would be less frightening if he were in a suit of golden armor, like the knights of old. Well, that's what she said, so don't blame it on me! ;)

Michael Rebain gets #1 and #4 correct. James Murton rings the bell with all five correct, and Hube concurs and even adds the detail to #5 that the color change was suggested by a woman. Dan from Nashville Beat hits all but #3 out of the park and gets the last question even tighter by observing that the suggestion for the gold color came from Stark's girlfriend. Jacque from Sequential Crush gets 1, 2, and 4 correct.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Worst Dad of the Silver Age?

There are only a couple of real contenders, partially because fathers were as scarce as hen's teeth in the Silver Age.

Odin certainly qualifies for the short list. Let's see, you've got two sons. One's handsome, valiant, noble and the other's ugly, cowardly and base. And you can't choose between them?

Odin constantly interferes in his son's life, regularly (and at convenient moments for the plot) removing or reducing Thor's powers:

And interfering in his son's love life:

But on the other hand, he is a god and so maybe it's unfair to judge him by human standards.

Both Jor-El and Jonathan Kent both were good fathers for Kal-El/Clark, but they were also capable of being jerkwads when the situation called for it. In one memorable story (from Adventure #240), Jor-El sent a robot to test Superboy's suitability as a hero, with instructions to remove the lad's powers if he failed any part of the test. And Kent was capable of a little super-dickery himself:

But these minor transgressions are nothing compared to the world's worst dad, Pincus Popnecker. The father of Herbie Popnecker had no redeeming qualities. Consider:

Faithless. The last thing a son needs is a dad who's got a roving eye:

Abusive. Pincus Popnecker wrote the book on verbal abuse:

Tyrannical. Hate-filled. Egotistical. Raving.

Put them all together, you have, by a rather large margin, the worst father of the Silver Age:

BTW, I should mention that I gleaned some of the Herbie pictures from this amazing website that covers just about everything Herbie. Terrific resource for all Popnecker fans!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Trivia Quiz #26: Iron Man

1. Name Tony Stark's two alliterative assistants.

2. Name Tony Stark's ne'er-do-well cousin.

3. Which of Iron Man's villains reformed and ended up working for Stark Industries?

4. Which of the following villains was never on the communist payroll: the Black Widow, the Crimson Dynamo, Hawkeye, or the Titanium Man?

5. Why did Tony Stark paint his Iron Man costume yellow (later adding the red bits)?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Single Issue Review: Jimmy Olsen #46

Although nobody would think of it today, these were DC's top teen stars of the time, the only minors holding down featured spots in the superhero pantheon as of July 1960, when this issue was published. Jimmy gets the assignment to cover a flood in Midvale, the hometown of Linda Lee (Supergirl, although this was during those few years when her existence was not yet known to the world. We see some evidence of his heroic side here:

Unfortunately, Jimmy also conks his head on a log in the process and finds himself in the Midvale Orphanage, considered just another waif of the flood. Of course, Linda Lee recognizes him, but as Superman is away she cannot solve matters quickly without revealing herself. At first she limits herself to preventing a couple from adopting Olsen (as they'd just be heartbroken to learn that he was secretly an "adult"), but then he regains his memory and things get even dicier for her:

But she still can't resist "helping" Jimmy out:

Let me tell you, anybody adopting a teenaged boy had better assume that he's going to suck down food in amazing quantities, whether he's chubby or not. When I was 16, my dad would always ask me if I wanted five or six hamburgers from the grill, and I could not gain a pound; I think my first driver's license showed me as 6'1" and 139 pounds.

Eventually Superman returns and convinces Jimmy that Perry's about to hire another young man for his cub reporter position.

The second story is The Irresistable Jimmy Olsen. Jimmy gets what seems like a dream assignment: To cover the opening of a swanky resort with lots of actresses and models flown in to help promote the gala. What's more, Lucy Lane will be there too, but Jimmy soon finds himself playing the usual second banana routine:

However, a mix-up results in all the gals believing that Jimmy is secretly a VP of a major film studio, out to discover new talent, and so there becomes something of a competition for Jimmy's attentions:

Indeed, Lucy remains the only gal unimpressed with Mr Olsen, perhaps because she knows he's really just a cub reporter. But note this rather odd and somewhat bitter comment from Lois:

Yes, and if only Angelina Jolie loved me half as much as Roseanne Barr loves you.... Note also the non-committal signature on the portrait of Supes; "As Ever?" How about "Still Here," or "Not Destroyed by Green Kryptonite Yet," Okay, maybe Lois does have something to gripe about.

But in the meantime, we do get some more rather amusing situations:

Jimmy eventually gets even with Lucy by declaring her the least attractive woman at the hotel. But she turns the tables on him by pretending to be a real gone gal:

The final story features Elastic Lad and the Jimmy Olsen Fan Club. This latter group often appeared in the early 1960s, expressing their appreciation for the cub reporter. Superman decides that he'd better stick around in case Jimmy gets overconfident in his powers. He helps the youngster out of a couple of jams, but does not reveal himself so that Jimmy can get credit from his fanboys:

It's a cute little story and both Superman and Jimmy are portrayed in a positive light.

Overall comments: The issue is 100% Swan (with Forte on inks), and it's the usual mix of wacky but entertaining stories that you find in Jimmy Olsen.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Other Comics Bloggers Report

The Other Murdock Papers tells the story of how being a Daredevil fan helped her become a better worker. I'd love to put some anecdote forward here about Batman getting me over the hump on a business transaction, but for once I don't have a good one handy. Great job, Christine!

Happy 70th Anniversary, Batman! If you're wondering why you didn't hear much of that outside of a few comics blogs, it's probably because of news like this:

Then in "Detective Comics," which was one of our mainstays of Batman, there's actually going to be no Batman in it -- it's going to feature the character Batwoman.

Simply amazing. DC has a hot property in Batman with two very successful movies in the last few years, and yet in the comics they've effectively killed off the character, and given his signature magazine over to his (as yet un-introduced in the new movie series) sidekick while his long-running spot in Detective is given to a character who just returned 3 years ago after 42 years in exile. How the heck does DC figure they're going to pick up readers from the Batman movies?

Since we're on the topic of how comics companies can screw up great properties, Four Color Media Monitor has a solid post on Marvel's tentantive reintroduction of Mary Jane in the comics (but not as Peter Parker's spouse, but as an "ex" (ex-what being unspecified but apparently meaning ex-girlfriend). It's funny, because I spent all those years from 1977-1997 hardly ever reading comics, I tend to think of MJ as Peter's bride as a bit weird, but I certainly understand the anger at the "oh, that never happened" aspect. And here's a detail I didn't want to hear about:

At least it tells why there's no reason to waste time on the 600th issue, which probably furthers that shock tactic affair between Aunt May and JJJ's father.

Bill Jourdain covers the problem with the Famous First Editions of the 1970s often being sold as the original comics they were based on. As I noted in the comments on that post, I often see copies of the FFE Action #1 posted on ebay (without the outer cover identifying it as a replica) as "something I found in my grandfathers attic." The replica is actually inexact; One of the ways you could tell an original from a reprint was that the original had some white "glare" on the front fender.

I continue to be impressed by Jacque Nodell's approach to the romance comics genre, although now that I see she has mentioned that her occupation is as a museum curator it fits. In this post, she covers the fashions for bridal gowns in the 1970s. You know how it is; being a guy I seldom stop to look at the clothes people are wearing as cultural indicators, unless it's something really outre like Harry Osborne's Nehru jacket.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Iron Man Run Part 6

We pick up again with Tales of Suspense #84. Tony Stark is set to tell all to a Senate committee, when we are suddenly reminded of what makes him different from other heroes; that he's secretly an invalid. After he collapses during his opening remarks:

Note again the layered characterization of Senator Byrd. He may at times be an antagonist in the plot, but he's not a villain. Overall I find him a much more nuanced and sophisticated version of J. Jonah Jameson.

Anyway, they open Stark's shirt and discover his metal chestplate (although, conveniently for the plot it's not the distinctive yellow and red armor of Iron Man). Still some reporters make the obvious connection and in the hospital later, Tony denies that he's Iron Man. He was all set to admit it, but after his heart attack he's changed his mind.

Pepper once again is all lovey-dovey:

Happy, having recovered from his amnesia, now remembers that Tony Stark is secretly Iron Man. When he learns that the media are reporting the rumors to that effect, he tries on one of Tony's Iron Man costumes to quell the talk. Although he performs somewhat ineptly, he is successful enough to fool the Mandarin, who transports him to China.

Tony must go after him, but after checking himself out of the hospital, we see him creating stronger armor. And we see that he appreciates Senator Byrd's trust in him:

I like the characterization there a lot. Iron Man then rides a rocket to China, and interrupts the Mandarin just as he is about to execute Happy. Iron Man and the Mandarin battle it out, and in the end, a missile that the latter had sent towards the USA is diverted by Iron Man to return to the Mandarin's castle, destroying it and with it the villain as well. Fortunately Happy has already been saved.

In Tales of Suspense #87, Iron Man faces one of Marvel's more ubiquitous villains of the 1960s, the Mole Man. Stark is working on a new earth-boring machine, but when several buildings disappear into the ground spontaneously, the public begins to mutter that perhaps he is behind it. But when his factory is sucked hundreds of fathoms underground, Iron Man discovers who's really responsible. Unfortunately Pepper was in the factory as well, which means that she's ready for hostage duty.

The Mole Man plans to use the earth-borer to launch the invasion of the surface world he's long planned (since FF #1, actually). But he doesn't realize that the machine has not yet been fully tested, and it explodes as Iron Man jets with Pepper out of the subterranean area.

Comments: A good set of stories with strong characterization; what's not to like? Well, for starters, the battle with the Mandarin only lasts a few pages. And there's still the annoyance of realizing that Pepper's returned affection for Tony Stark was never explained. But aside from those problems, this is another solid run of stories.

Giant Green Ring Things, Part IV

Starting with Green Lantern #7, we encounter Green Ring Thing #29:

This is the second green wave that GL has created (and both were used against the Qwardians), but again I have to rule against its giant qualities despite the text to the contrary. It's a big wave, to be certain, but not so big as to qualify as "comic-book giant".

Note there are a couple generic-type ring things that aren't really worth mentioning in this issue; some sort of green spikes intended to keep Sinestro pinned against a wall, and a green bubble in which Sinestro is imprisoned. Since these are generic objects, I don't think they count as real green ring things.

It's a shield and ridiculously big enough to qualify as a Giant Green Ring Thing, but dull enough to only get one Star Sapphire.

GL does some chemistry with a retort in #8, qualifying easily as a Giant Green Ring Thing. Since he goes on to give us a little chemistry lesson about Aqua Regia or royal water being the only acid that could dissolve gold, it's educational, so we'll give it four Star Sapphires.

After mixing up the Aqua Regia, he puts it in a test tube, with a cork and a test tube holder. This would be the trifecta of Giant Green Ring Things, except for one thing:

Arggghhh! None of it's green! We have not addressed what to do at this point, and the referees are huddling at midfield trying to figure out the call. And we have a decision. They are going to count the test-tube holder as it's arguably a coloring error. But the test tube itself and the cork appear to have been intended to have regular coloring. So GRT #32 is a test tube holder and since it appears in a pretty cool scene (and qualifies as giant), we'll give it four Star Sapphires.

Green Ring Thing #33 is a shield, not quite big enough to qualify as giant:

But GRT #34 rings the bell:

A giant fist that knocks them all out with one bop on the noggin? Five Star Sapphires!

GRT #35 is a parachute:

This is from the first Jordan Brothers story, which series was mostly remarkable for the antics of Hal's brother Jim's girlfriend (later wife) who became convinced over the years that her boyfriend/hubby was secretly Green Lantern. As I remarked when covering that series, Hal was a rare Silver Age DC character in that he actually had siblings. However nice the tie-in to an old post, I must conclude it's not a giant parachute.

GRT #36 is the every popular Green Prison Cell:

Always cool, seldom giant.

Running Tally:

Giant Green Net: 2
Giant Green Bird: 1
Giant Green Springs: 1
Giant Green Test Tube: 1
Giant Green Ice Tongs: 1
Giant Green Hand(s): 4
Giant Green Lock Wrench: 1
Giant Green Umbrella: 1
Giant Green Chiller Diller Menace: 1
Giant Green Stethoscope: 1
Giant Green Old-Fashioned Shopping Bag: 1
Giant Green Broom: 1
Giant Green Shield: 1
Giant Green Chemistry Retort: 1
Giant Green Test Tube Holder: 1
Giant Green Fist: 1

Nine issues into the main series and still no Giant Green Boxing Gloves!