Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Lame Criminals of the 1960s--The Polka Dot Man

The only explanation I can think of for this goofy criminal is that some writer noticed the popularity of polka dots at the time (remember this was the era of the song "Itsy-Bitsy Teenie-Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini") and decided to make a criminal with that theme. PD Man is another one of those crooks where you can't help thinking he could make a fortune just selling his inventions.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

More Recycling

Aka the Kendricks of Gotham City. In World's Finest #2, a brave attorney named William Kendrick is appointed special prosecutor in order to stop a gang war. In World's Finest #3, Frank Kendrick is a crooked businessman who hires the Scarecrow to terrorize his partner.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Green Lantern Silver Age: Qward

There's an odd little symetry to Flash #106-108 and Green Lantern #2-4. In both cases the issues are the second through fourth of the respective title for the Silver Age. Flash Comics had been around in the Golden Age for 104 issues, so when DC decided to give the Silver Age Flash (Barry Allen) his own magazine they started with issue #105, although technically the new comic was known as "The Flash". But with Green Lantern DC decided to go with a new #1 issue, even though there had been over 30 issues of the Golden Age Green Lantern.

But aside from that, DC tried something interesting. In Flash #106-108, they presented three consecutive stories featuring one villain, Gorilla Grodd. They also presented a slightly different world--Gorilla City, which vibrated on a different plane on earth and thus was invisible to humans.

In Green Lantern 2-4, DC presented three consecutive stories featuring one villain, or should I say, a new universe of villains. The universe of Qward was organized along evil lines. There were some outlaws who insisted on being honest, but they were persecuted. One of them, Telle-Teg, contacted Hal Jordan, knowing he was a rival of Green Lanterns for the affections of Carol Ferris, to ask him to help the honest citizens of Qward to emigrate to our world. This is accomplished but not before Telle-Teg is killed. The surviving honest Qwardians warn GL that the evil Qwardians are planning on stealing "all the power batteries in this universe".

Sure enough, in the following issue, the Qwardians steal GL's power battery by a clever ruse. They recreate Ferris Aircraft Company and observe where GL has the battery hidden. They steal it from the actual location while Hal is reciting the oath to the phony battery.

But then comes a completely unbelievable plot twist. Pieface, Hal Jordan's Eskimo airplane mechanic, is fixing his landlady's TV antenna when he suddenly tunes in the thoughts of the Qwardians who are transmitting to their homeword about the successful theft of the power battery. The Qwardians succeed in sending the power battery back to Qward, but Green Lantern trails it there and retrieves it.

In the final chapter of the initial Qward saga, Pieface is wounded by radiation from a rocket that was intended to hit GL. In order to save his buddy, GL goes back to Qward to face its champion, a robot who has been designed to destroy Green Lantern. Unfortunately for the Qwardians, the programming was not tight enough, and the robot realized the difference between good and evil, and agreed to fight alongside GL against its evil masters. It gives GL the cure for Pieface and holds off the Qwardians long enough for Hal to save his buddy.

There is at least one mistake in the series. In GL #3, the capital city is given as Qwar-Deen, but in the next issue it's referred to as Qward City.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

ACG Comics: Adventures Into the Unknown #124

This April-May 1961 offering from ACG cover features "The Green Flame".

The opening story concerns the trials of one Michael Terrence O'Toole, a blue-collar guy struggling to get by as a steam shovel operator in Salem, Massachusetts. (Aside: Steam shovels are archaic; they have since been replaced by the backhoe.) So he and his wife have to make do with wishing for nice things rather than having them, even for their daughter Rosie. But Rosie wants a baton so she can be a drum majorette in the local high school band. In the meantime, Mike is having trouble with the foreman over the amount of dirt he moves. So one evening he gets drunk (the men he was with claimed it was NA beer) and goes to the job site and starts digging. And he breaks into a chamber where he finds a giant chest. When he opens it a witch climbs out, released after centuries of imprisonment. She immediately starts doing horrible things, like crashing planes and trains and ruining Mike's steamshovel. He grabs the wand from the witch and angrily wishes she was back where she came from. Of course, she flies back into the chest. He wills everything to be normal, saving the plane and train that the witch had destroyed. He heads home, giving the wand to his wife as a baton for their daughter.

Then comes the twist. ACG's editor/writer, Richard Hughes, always liked a little twist in his stories. Not quite the O'Henry twist that EC was known for a decade earlier, but still entertaining.

It turns out that the daughter wants to be the drum majorette because she likes a boy in the band, and when momma catches them making out, she burns the wand/baton. And Michael and his wife are just a little more satisfied with their life together.

There's a one-page filler called "Mysteries of Nature". Archaeologist discovers a roadside attraction is really a dinosaur skeleton preserved in lava.

The Fan Fare series entry follows. These appear to be reprints of earlier ACG stories. This issue's adventure concerns a fighter pilot who has to abandon his aircraft in the Middle East when it catches fire. He finds a garden where life seems perfect--delicious food, wonderful climate, plenty of water, etc. Eventually he tears himself away from the place to try to get back to civilization. After a long journey he is saved by an Arab on a camel. He realizes afterwards that he had found the Garden of Eden.

Another Fan Fare entry with "Space Probe". An invasion fleet sends the usual one scout craft to earth; when it fails to return the invasion is cancelled.

In the cover story, "The Green Flame", a scientist invents a green flame that appears to hold promise as a military weapon, but it rapidly gets out of control. Worse still, it shows intelligence, apparently burning the scientist's notes to prevent the military from creating a weapon to use against it. Can anything stop The Green Flame?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Covers That Give Away the Ending

Maybe they thought that the Flash being turned into a block of ice wasn't dramatic enough, but how do you then decide to reveal the ending of the story?

And that is in fact how the Flash defeats Captain Cold. One of the worst covers of the Silver Age.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Great Stories of the Silver Age: Virus X

The Virus X story ran from Action #362-366 in early 1968. It starts when Ventor, a stage ventriloquist, tries to get revenge for his brother Bruno, who died in prison after being captured by Superman. Ventor kidnaps Clark Kent and hypnotizes him into hating Superman and being determined to kill him.

In the second story Luthor gives Ventor a test tube of Virus X, which is so powerful that it kills earth creatures almost instantly. It contains just enough Kryptonite to make it effective against Superman. Clark Kent starts to pour the virus on the bed where he knows Superman sleeps, and accidentally gets some on his own hands. As it works out, this restores his memory. Unfortunately it's too late as his hands have turned into green claws, showing he has been infected.

In the third instalment, the worlds best doctors and scientists are unable to cure Superman. Luthor claims to have an antidote, but he turns out to be lying. In the end, Superman places himself into a clear coffin and takes off for the heart of the hottest sun in the universe.

The fourth story is something of a retrospective. As Superman flies through space, the story of the entire Superman legend is retold in his memory. We learn of the death of Krypton and baby Kal-El's raising by the Kents, and his romances with Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris and Lois Lane. Even the Bizarros get into the act, strewing White Kryptonite in the path of his casket.

In the final story, it is revealed that the White K cured Superman by killing Virus X, which was a form of plant life. But when Superman returns to Earth, he discovers that somebody has taken his place. So the mystery becomes who has done it. Unfortunately DC gives it away in the splash page, which features the members of the Justice League of America. In the end, Superman is able to resume his role as Earth's mightiest hero. This leaves the loose end of Ventor, who has never been punished for his effort to kill Superman, as a letter writer points out in Action #369.