Friday, July 30, 2010

Super-Swipes #5

There are swipes and then there are SWIPES, and this is one of the latter. I talked awhile ago about the first appearance of Sun Boy from the Legion of Superheroes, and how large parts of that story were swiped from an earlier tale, but at least in that case the ending was significantly different.

Not so with this story, which introduces Legion member Star Boy:

The plot and most of the dialog are swiped from Adventure #195:

It would be tedious to point out all the similarities in the two stories, so I will settle for just highlighting the major plot points. In each case, Lana is annoyed that Superboy ignores her new dress. She gets an idea how to make him pay more attention to her from a movie:

Meanwhile, Superboy is surprised when he receives a summons to meet another super-powered youth outside of town. It's Marsboy/Star Boy. There's a brief discussion of how the youth gained his super-powers (in each case from a passing comet). In each story, there are two escaped criminals, one of which has been caught while capturing the other requires Superboy's help due to a super-power limitation:

In each case Lana Lang overhears the conversation and threatens the other super-powered lad with secret identity exposure unless he agrees to help her make Superboy jealous. Lana gets permission from her mom to visit the homeworld of the other boy with a demonstration of his ability to protect her:

In each story, the other super-lad takes Lana to his home planet, where he lavishes gifts upon her, including weaving a special cloth. In each case, Superboy, who is secretly aware of her plot, gripes about how odd it is that these heroes give her so much attention:

In each story, Superboy returns with a beauty in tow, explaining to Lana that she was indeed right: Girls from another planet are far more fascinating. Seeing her plans go awry, Lana pretends that the air on the other super-lad's world is affecting her, but:

This leads Lana to admit that she had blackmailed Marsboy/Star Boy into pretending to be wild about her. There is a slight difference in the two stories here, as in the Star Boy tale Superboy admits that he knew Lana's scheme all along and only pretended to be interested in the other gal. But in the end of both stories, Lana decides that while he may not be any closer to her, at least he's farther away from that interplanetary hussy.

A couple of notes: Marsboy had appeared a few times prior to Adventure #195, but as far as I know, this was his swan song. And Star Boy is shown as having dramatically different powers than the making objects heavy ability he would have during his Legion appearances. Indeed, his powers here virtually mimic Superboy's.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


For some reason, these stories appeared to be popular with readers in the Silver Age, because there were several. In this particular tale, Pa Kent doesn't really gain super-powers. He is struck by a bolt of lightning while wearing a Superman outfit that a tailor had designed as a gimmick, and becomes convinced that he is a Man of Steel. The story features one of the more convenient comic cliches of the Silver Age:

Thus the tale revolves around Superboy helping his dad perform super-feats until he can recover. In the course of the plot, Pa Kent becomes something of a laughingstock of the town. But everybody is surprised when:

However, it turns out that Pa Kent had eventually realized he wasn't really super-powered and pulled a fast one on the townspeople and his son:

Comments: I particularly like the twist ending to this story; Pa Kent seldom got the last laugh in the Silver Age.

The next example of this type of story came exactly a year later, in Adventure #236:

This story starts with Jonathan Kent questioning his usefulness as a parent:

Of course, if he really wanted to help his son, he would have suggested that the lad stop bringing back strange objects from alien worlds, a frequently disastrous practice that Superboy continued as an adult. And so it is with this story, as the Lad of Steel brings back a rod from outer space that has an unexpected effect:

So Pa Kent becomes Strongman, and "helps and guides" Superboy in his patrols of Smallville. Of course, not being used to super-powers he frequently makes mistakes, and indeed is more of a hindrance to his son.

An amusing subplot involves Lana Lang's mother, who becomes Pa Kent's secret identity snoop just as her daughter had been for years to Superboy:

I don't think Lana's mom made many appearances in the Silver Age; I can't recall another story featuring her prominently.

Anyway, Pa Kent soon finds out that super-powers and a secret identity are a mixed blessing, and when his abilities wear out eventually he decides to leave the heroics to his son. There is a touching moment at the end:

Comments: The sweet ending redeems this tale. The Kents didn't get enough credit in the Silver Age. Sure, Superboy got his super-powers from his Kryptonian parents, but he got his moral upbringing from Jonathan and Martha, and that was easily more important in making him a superhero.

But Super-Dad was far from finished:

No surprise, it's our old friend the alien object that gives Pa Kent his powers:

This time Jonathan has no intentions of allowing his son to even share the glory:

And indeed it seems like Pa has been jealous of his son's abilities all along. But then Superboy discovers the truth when his "dad" meets one of his robots:

It turns out that the Super-Dad in this case is actually Jax-Ur, an escaped Phantom Zone prisoner, making his first, but by no means last, appearance in the Silver Age.

I suspect that there were more Super-Dad appearances in the Silver Age, but those are the three I know. I don't know of any cases where Martha Kent became Super-Mom. Anybody?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lord Haw Haw

Commander Benson had a recent post which centered on this story and several others involving Sgt. Fury's romance with a British noblewoman named Pamela Hawley. As it happens, I thought it would be interesting to talk about Hawley's brother in the story, described as Lord Ha Ha.

Of course there really was a Lord Haw Haw; he was a propagandist for the Nazis during World War II. He broadcast messages to the British calling for their surrender. Here's part of one of his radio messages from 1941:

However, the rest of the story is pure fiction from Lee and Kirby. For starters, Lord Haw Haw was not the son of an English lord; rather he was William Joyce, the son of an Irish immigrant to America. Joyce's family moved back to Ireland when he was still quite young, and to England during the Irish war for independence in the teens. Joyce joined the English fascists in the 1930s and later fled to Germany just before the outbreak of WWII.

In the story, Hawley's family is convinced that he has been tortured into making broadcasts for the Nazis, and request Fury's help to spirit him back to England. Fury succeeds in kidnapping Hawley, but the traitor escapes and is ironically shot by the Nazis who mistake him for an enemy.

Given that this appears to take place in the early 1940s, it is clearly another bit of artistic license. The real Hawley made his final (drunken) radio broadcast in 1945 as the Allies were about to end the war in Europe:

And he died at the end of a British rope, executed for treason.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Still More Schiff Recycling

I've talked a few times in the past about how editor Jack Schiff would take a story from Batman and run it in Blackhawk (or vice-versa). Here's another good example.

Consider these two covers:


Not hard to see the similarities; in this case the Batman story was the earlier one, appearing in the March 1959 issue of that mag, while the Blackhawk version comes from December 1960. Both tales are "dream" stories; that is to say that they did not really happen, but were a dream of one of the characters; Robin and Lady Blackhawk. Both dreams end with disaster. In the Batman tale, Batwoman's identity is exposed, thus indicating to the world that Batman must be Bruce Wayne. And the marriage of Blackhawk and Zinda ends up causing the dissolution of the team.

At the end of the Blackhawk story (after Zinda has awoken from the dream), Blackhawk asks her to go out to the movies with him, but she has a better idea:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Anthro #1

I confessed in the last post that I wasn't really familiar with this series, and decided to rectify that problem. A friend of mine had this issue and I borrowed it for today's post.

As you can tell from the cover, the story takes place in caveman days. It begins with Anthro and his brother, Lart, returning to the place where he has killed a mammoth (apparently in the Showcase #74 tryout issue). As they prepare to cut up the animal for its meat, they are attacked:

Anthro chases after the girl, leaving his brother behind. He has a little fight with her, in the course of which she bites him, proving to his dismay that she is a cannibal, but:

She explains that she attacked him because he killed the mammoth. She had raised the animal as her pet when its mother was killed by hunter. Anthro begs her forgiveness:

Meanwhile, his little brother is trying somewhat ineffectively to ward off scavengers trying to get the mammoth's meat. However, the carrion-eaters suddenly vanish, intimidated by a new presence:

Lart manages to kill the beast, but not before his leg is mangled in the battle. Anthro, forgetting all about the girl, carries his brother back to their camp, where the medicine woman heals his wounds as best she can. Unfortunately:

When Anthro explains that he was distracted by the girl, his father decides it is time for the young man to take a wife. He sends him to the camp where Anthro's mother came from, telling him to win the daughter of the chief.
Sure enough:

The tests he must pass include demonstrating his spear-throwing ability and his bronco-busting skills. It takes some effort:

But in the end he is victorious. However, Anthro forgot to read the fine print:

Of course, that's a bit of a wink at the modern audience; there's no particular reason to suppose that cavemen preferred skinny blondes. However, Anthro obviously does, and he takes off, with a warrior of the other tribe (and the girl) in hot pursuit. To be continued!

Comments: Wow! What a terrific comic! Excellent art, interesting characters, exciting situations and even a few moments of comic relief. What's not to like? I confess I found Post's inks a little overwhelming at first, but his style really grew on me. Incidentally, the cover scene is a bit of artistic license, as nothing like that ever occurs in the book.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cancelled Comics Cavalcade

DC did very well during the Silver Age, although the seed were sewn that would result in their well-documented struggles in the 1970s. But life for DC, as for all of us, was a process of death and regeneration, and so it might be interesting to look at the comics that dropped by the wayside in the Silver Age.

1955: Congo Bill. Short-lived effort to graduate the Action Comics feature to his own magazine.

1956: Frontier Fighters. DC's attempt to make money off famous Old West characters like Davy Crockett, Buffalo Bill and Kit Carson fails.

1956: It's Game Time. DC's bizarre entry into the puzzle magazine line lasts only four issues.

1956: Legends of Daniel Boone. Another Old West character fails to make a successful transition to comics.

1957: Dodo and the Frog. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, DC's funny animal series all crashed and burned with the exception of the Fox and the Crow.

1957; Nutsy Squirrel. Another funny animal series reaches its expiration date.

1957: Raccoon Kids. Bad year for funny animals.

1958: Big Town. One of DC's licensed series. Big Town featured the adventures of a crusading newspaper editor named Steve Wilson. The radio show lasted for 15 years, with the first five seasons featuring Edward G. Robinson in the leading role. The TV series picked up the tales in 1950 and lasted until 1956. The comic thus outlasted the TV series by well over a year.

1958: Buzzy. DC's long-running teen title comes to a close.

1958: Gang Busters. Another licensed series that had bit the dust a year earlier on the radio.

1958: Jackie Gleason and the Honeymooners. A licensed series that actually started after the TV show had gone off the air, although it would remain in syndication for many years and skits often appeared on Gleason's variety show in the 1960s.

1958: Leave it to Binky. Another teen title ends its run (it was brought back in the late 1960s for another brief series).

1958: Mutt and Jeff. DC's long association with the original comic strip characters comes to an end.

1958: Peter Panda. I talked about this funny animal series here.

1958: Robin Hood Tales. Public domain characters were even less successful than licensed characters.

1959: Adventures of Rex, the Wonder Dog. I commented on why comics featuring dogs were so popular in the 1950s; the cancellation of this title (after 46 issues) is a sign that the bloom was off the rose.

1959: Hopalong Cassidy. The film series ended in 1948, while the TV show disappeared in 1954.

1959: Mr District Attorney. Licensed title, dead show.

1959: New Adventures of Charlie Chan. Yet another licensed title.

1960: A Date With Judy. Another licensed title that had outlived the radio and TV shows it was based on.

1960: Flippety and Flop. Another DC funny animal comic drops by the wayside. This one was basically a rip-off of Sylvester and Tweety-Pie.

1960: Pat Boone. A teen idol for whom the hits stopped coming. I talked about the Pat Boone series here.

1960: Peter Porkchops. Another funny animal comic ends.

1960: The Three Mouseketeers. No, not Annette Funnicello and two of her buddies; this was a funny animal comic featuring rodent versions of Athos, Porthos and Aramis. (Corrected)

1960: Sergeant Bilko and Sergeant Bilko's Private Doberman. Two more licensed titles end after the TV show.

1961: All-Star Western. The comic that had early on been the home of the Justice Society (and featured the first Wonder Woman story), found its grave on Boot Hill, along with the rest of the Westerns.

1961: TV Screen Cartoons. Last issue of this variety funny animal title, which usually featured the Fox and the Crow on the cover.

1961: Western Comics. DC's Western variety series comes to a close, leaving Tomahawk as DC's only arguable oater (although the series was set in the Revolutionary days it shared many attributes with Western-style comics).

1962: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. These comics were Christmas annuals, intended as stocking suffers.

1964: The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Yet another licensed series that had outlasted its original inspiration.

1965: Rip Hunter, Time Master. First failure of a Showcase-launched comic.

1966: All-American Men of War. This long-running magazine (originally derived from All-American Comics) never established a strong lead feature. Johnny Cloud, a Navajo pilot, seemed like a natural, but his series also ran into Batmania.

1966: Mystery in Space. Science fiction wilts from the pressure of Batmania.

1967: Captain Storm. Another of DC's war titles strikes out. I talked briefly about Captain Storm here.

1967: Sea Devils. The skin-diving fad exemplified by shows like Sea Hunt had faded.

1968: Adventures of Bob Hope. Another licensed title that had gotten a little long in the tooth. Hope's long and successful movie career was ending; it was getting hard for a 65-year-old man to credibly play the horny single guy that Hope had been typecast as at that point. Many of the Bob Hope comics are an absolute hoot, including some by Mort Drucker. I reviewed Bob Hope #85 here.

1968 Blackhawk. DC had inherited this title from the Quality Comics line, and basically ran it into the ground, with an ill-advised attempt to turn the Magnificent 7 into 007.

1968 Bomba the Jungle Boy. A short-lived effort to bring back a Tarzan knock-off from the 1920s.

1968: Doom Patrol. DC's version of the Fantastic Four turns out not to have staying power.

1968: Fox and Crow (last four issues named Stanley and his Monster). DC's longest-running and most successful funny animal strip finally meets its maker.

1968: Hawkman. Briefly continued in Atom-Hawkman. DC's flying hero is grounded.

1968: Inferior Five. DC's effort at a humorous knock-off of their superhero teams proves unfunny at the cash register.

1968: Metamorpho. DC's version of the tormented superhero/freak lasts only 17 issues.

1968: Plastic Man. DC's failed revival of the hugely popular and influential Golden Age classic probably ran into the revolt against camp.

1968: Teen Beat/Teen Beam. DC's ill-fated venture into teenybopper mags. I talked about these two issues last year.

1969 Angel and the Ape (last issue titled Meet the Angel). A platinum blonde and an ape try to make their detective agency work. A silly effort at humor, although I remember that at least one issue had Wally Wood art.

1969 Anthro. Howard Post's caveboy vanishes into history. I have not read any Anthro although it's been recommended to me a few times. (Note: The original post credited Joe Kubert; I should have remembered to look that one up, especially since I knew I wasn't familiar with the feature.)

1969 Atom and Hawkman. With sales of the two titles dwindling, DC hit on the novel idea of having the two share a magazine; in several of the issues the stories were teamups, while in others they were separate.

1969 Bat-Lash. A hippie in the old West? I've enjoyed the few Bat-Lash issues I read; they're funny and well-drawn by Cardy.

1969 Captain Action. DC's first foray into a comic based on an action figure. The comics actually weren't bad.

1969: Beware the Creeper. DC's short run with Ditko ends.

1969: Hawk and the Dove. Another Ditko title, this one exploring the lives of two brothers, one a ruffian and the other a peacenik.

1969: Metal Men. DC's offbeat robot title had been very successful in the mid-1960s, actually selling almost 400,000 copies per issue in 1966. But it crashed and burned to only 230,000 copies the following year, a staggering decline, which led to the inevitable (in the late 1960s) effort to turn it into a spy-oriented title.

1969: Secret Six. Yet another spy title fails to find its readership.

1969: Spectre. The last revival of a GA character comes to a close.

1969: Windy and Willy. DC updated some Dobie Gillis stories to try to cash in on the Archie teen craze inspired by the TV cartoon.

1970: Showcase. The launching pad had mostly sputtered lately.

As you can see, the 1968-69 period was a very bad one for DC. In mid-1969, DC raised its cover prices from 12 cents to 15 cents; this resulted in steep declines in circulation, which led to many of the titles being canceled or dramatically revamped.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Fantastic Four Fridays: Ant-Man and Doom

Another mediocre cover. Yes, the general image of Doom holding the FF in his hand is pretty dramatic, but the details are boring. The Thing is shaking his fist at Doom and that's about the most interesting reaction. Sue's doing the "hands in the air" surprise thing, and Johnny, having forgotten, he can fly is climbing up Doom's index and middle finger. Reed just looks askance at the Metal Monarch. And who's conveniently holding that magnifying glass so we can see Ant-Man?

As the story opens, Johnny is startled to find his teammates much diminished:

So he welds the duct closed and the other members of the FF regain their normal size. It turns out that all of them had experienced the same thing briefly a day or so before, but were worried that the other members would think them nutty if they revealed their experience. Because, you know, it's too fantastic even for the Fantastic Four.

Reed brainstorms and comes to the conclusion that maybe Ant-Man could help them. But how do they get in touch with him? Well, little do they know that ants in the room send out a message that Hank Pym receives and responds to:

He gives them a reducing liquid and an enlarging liquid to use to discover who's changing their sizes. Reid even wonders for a moment:

Of course, we have the benefit of having seen the cover, and those who had been around for FF #10 remember how it ended with Dr. Doom apparently shrinking away to nothingness.

But the story meanders on for another couple of pages. Reed tries another formula to change the Thing back into Ben Grimm, Johnny shows the kids how he can sear a hot dog with his flame-balls, Sue tries some perfume to deaden the scent of dogs (who are apparently the only things that can sense her presence). Then a voice warns them all to flee because Dr. Doom is on the loose again. So they take the shrinking solution, and descend down into the miniature world:

Well, it's certainly convenient that the FF happened to end up that close to Doom. But when they try to attack him, he shrinks them further. Then follows the madman recap of how he came to the micro world, gained the trust of the King and his daughter, then shrank them down and took control. And now he's going to turn the FF over to the Tok people from another world. The Toks will press the FF into service in their army. Well, all except one of them:

That's a pretty harsh assessment of Sue's value as a member of a fighting force; surely they could show her slipping past guards and opening the gates to a major invasion?

Anyway, the FF are imprisoned along with the King and his daughter, whom Johnny has his eye on. The prison is under an acidic sea, so they can't just bust out. But Sue (!) has an idea:

So they construct a small pod out of the material used to construct the walls, then bust loose. Meanwhile, Ant-Man has shrunk down to join them, but is also imprisoned by Doom. Sue once again comes through:

Doom, realizing that the FF free endangers him, flees back to the normal world. Johnny has a tender parting with the princess:

That plot thread was never picked up in the Silver Age, although Pearla did return much later.

And we learn that this story (although reasonably self-contained) will be continued in the next issue.

Comments: Although the story takes a long time to get going, and although there are no real battle scenes with Doom, I do like the sudden emergence of Sue as a valuable member of the team; perhaps the bit about making her a scullery maid lit a fire under her. The coloring is somewhat inconsistent; Pearla's hair is gold and brown earlier, and then green at the end.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Trivia Quiz #39: Answers

1. What did Dick Grayson and Kathy Kane have in common? (No, not that!)

Both Dick and Kathy were circus performers before they teamed up with Batman.

2. Who was Bat-Boy?

Bat-Boy was Midge Merrill, a circus performer who took up crime-fighting to avenge his acrobat pals who were killed in a fire set by mobsters to cover their stealing of the gate receipts. He teamed up with Robin in Batman #90 to catch the murderers of his pals. His "shtick" was that he used baseball bats filled with unusual items (including webbing) to thwart his enemies.

3. Who was Batman Jones?

Batman Jones was a youngster whose parents had named him after the Caped Crusader. This was first mentioned in Batman #92 (June 1955):

The thread was later picked up in Batman #108 (June 1957). It turned out that young Master Jones, inspired by his namesake, was studying detecting as a career and was actually pretty good at it:

But his threat to become a permanent addition to the cast ended with that story as well, as Batman Jones decided that what he really wanted was to become a stamp collector.

4. Who was Mr. Marvel?
Mr Marvel was an alien gambler who had wagered that he could lure Robin away from Batman, and who posed as the new superhero in Gotham City. At first it appears that he has succeeded, but then at a critical moment Robin disarms MM and reveals that he only joined the new guy because Batman's life was threatened.

5. Who was the Eagle?
The Eagle was Alfred, the butler.

In one of Dick Sprang's last stories in Batman #127, Alfred trips over some wires, shines a light on one of those alien jewels that Superman was always bringing back from outer space, and gains (temporary) super-powers.

6. What did Commissioner Gordon like to have every evening? (Golden Age reference).

Commissioner Gordon liked to have a rub-down (massage) every night, which his son, Tony, gave him. Permission to say "Ewwwww!" granted.

Darius Smith got #3 right. Michael Rebain correctly answered #1. Blaze Morgan got #1, #2, #4 and #5. Ed was on the money for #1 and #5. The Strange Sr. Mulder hit the target with #1, #3, #4 and #5.