Friday, January 29, 2010

Detective Comics #397

Detective Comics #397 (On Sale: January 29, 1970) has a beautiful Batman cover by Neal Adams.

There is a real difference between the Batman in "Paint a Picture of Peril" by Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano, and the Batman DC has been publishing for decades. I think Denny O'Neil understood where to take the character better than any writer at DC and of course, Neal Adams really "got" who Batman was.

The opening sequence of this story could be used as a crib sheet for writers and artists for years to come on how to portray "the Batman." Sure, he has his "toys," his batarang and in this story a pretty cool undersea sled, but for the most part, his major tools of the trade are that he is a fairly good fighter and he scares the hell out of people.

Great stuff by both Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams. As you can see the story opens with Batman attempting to foil a nighttime robbery of an art exhibit. By the way, there was nothing special going on during Batman's eerie stand against the robbers; he simply tried to dodge the spears by moving his body under his cape. Yeah, tried to dodge; he almost pulled it off, but got hit in the nerve of his right arm, making it all but useless and him unable to follow the underwater robbers. Up top he finds that they took a painting called "The Startled Mermaid," the least valuable item in the exhibit.

Changing back to Bruce Wayne he heads to his mid-town penthouse where he finds his cleaning lady has left the TV on. There is a special documentary on the life of wealthy Orson Payne, a Charles Foster Kane type, who bears a striking resemblance to Orson Welles. He was engaged to opera star Caterina Valance 25 years earlier when she mysteriously vanished and Payne became a recluse in his huge castle home. This is playing in the background while Bruce tends to his wounds and does yoga to "restore circulation."

As he finishes up, his cleaning woman, Cathy, comes back for her forgotten handbag and turns off the TV calling it a "vile thing." As she leaves Bruce remembers that while under water he noticed that the algae was glowing and surmises that the glow came from a submarine with low-yield nuclear engines. So come midnight we find Batman at a deserted pier launching a new underwater bat-sled and following the lingering radiation trail. The trail leads to a small nuclear sub at one of the island estates. Batman recognizes the place, it is Orson Payne's.

Sneaking past Payne's personal guards, Batman finds the man talking to an empty room of statues and paintings. Batman confronts Payne and points out the stolen painting. Payne says that he must have every likeness of Caterina, the woman who spurned him and when owners will not sell, he still acquires the piece. Since he cannot have Caterina, he now consoles himself with images of her.

Batman chases the crazed Payne through his estate, where he is lured into a trap, falling through a trap door into a small cell. Payne pulls a lever that slowly lowers a two-ton deathfall into the cell. Using a batarang on a rope Batman pulls down a chandelier, wedging it between the top of the cell and the lowering deathfall. As he comes for Payne, Payne's grip on sanity finally snaps and he sees his beloved Caterina floating in the air outside his balcony. He reaches for her, stumbling through the crumbling railing and over the edge of the balcony. Swinging out an a bat-rope Batman catches Payne who thinks he is in the arms of his beloved.

The following morning a healing Bruce is watching the coverage of the story on the news when his cleaning woman Cathy comes in and turnes off the TV saying, "You shouldn't be watching such trash." Bruce realizes it is not the TV she hates, but rather Orson Payne, and asks her if she was ever an opera singer. She says that, yes, she was, but she gave it all up to gain her freedom. Bruce says her secret is safe with him, that he sympathizes with people who want to keep secrets. Reprinted in Limited Collectors' Edition C-44 and Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams Vol. 2 HC.

The back-up story is "The Hollow Man," the conclusion of last issue's Batgirl story, by Frank Robbins, Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson. Remember, Batgirl is trying to catch the Orchid Killer, who has been preying on redheads, and is using Barbara Gordon as bait, joining the same computer-dating service as the victims. Mousy Max Tournov brought her an orchid and she tossed him over her shoulder. He crushed the orchid and ran off and she gave chase as Batgirl, only to lose him and be pulled into a dark alley by someone who says, "A red-headed Batgirl will do for now!" So much for the recap!

She tosses this guy and is surprised that he is not Max, but instead is a rather handsome guy. Startled she lets the mystery man get the best of her, knocking her out cold. When she wakes up she is being comforted by Max Tournov, who she thanks before leaving.

Two nights later as Barbara she is back in the computer-dating scene, saddled with a really homely guy named John Milman who meets her at the door with an orchid. When the uneventful date is over, Barbara says she hopes they can see each other again and when Milman presses her on it, he becomes angry. John says he knows she doesn't mean it, that he is ugly and repulsive, "Liars! All of you! You're all fragile blossoms--too precious to touch! Well--I dare to touch! And crush you all!" As Barbara gets ready to attack back, John is accosted by Jason Bard, who with his "darned trick knee" fouls everything up and lets John escape. Jason says he saw them coming out a movie and followed them out of jealousy.

Ditching Jason, Batgirl crashes John Milman's apartment, only to find him packing for a quick exit from town. Only, he isn't John Milman, he is the handsome mugger from the alley and in his possession Batgirl finds rubber masks of John Milman and Max Tournov. When he comes to the man explains that women have always fawned over him for being so handsome, but that he felt his beauty was a barrier to finding the inner beauty of women. So he used a mask to hide his own beauty and dated homely women in order to release their inner beauty. But he found them all hollow and so he needed to crush them. Batgirl says that the hollowness was not within the women but within him, that he is "the hollow man--finding ugliness in everything!"

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Adventure Comics #391

Adventure Comics #391 (On Sale: January 29, 1970) has a Supergirl cover by Murphy Anderson.

This issue begins with our cover-story, Supergirl in "Linda Danvers, Super-Star" by Robert Kanigher and Kurt Schaffenberger. The back-up is Supergirl in "The Super-Exchange Student" by Cary Bates, Winslow Mortimer and Jack Abel.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Action Comics #386

Action Comics #386 (On Sale: January 29, 1970) has a Superman cover by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson.

This issue begins with our cover-story, Superman in "The Home for Old Super-Heroes" by Cary Bates, Curt Swan and George Roussos. The back-up is Legion of Super-Heroes in "Zap Goes the Legion" by E. Nelson Bridwell, Winslow Mortimer and Jack Abel. This story was reprinted in Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 9 HC.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

World's Finest Comics #192

World's Finest Comics #192 (On Sale: January 27, 1970) has a Superman/Batman cover by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson.

This issue begins with our cover-story, Superman/Batman in "The Prison of No Escape" by Bob Haney, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. The back-up is Robin in "Danger in the Hall of Trophies" reprinted from Star Spangled Comics #126 and drawn by Jim Mooney.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Showcase #89

Showcase #89 (On Sale: January 27, 1970) has a nice Jason's Quest cover by Mike Sekowsky and Dick Giordano.

Jason's Quest continues this issue with "The Deadly Chase" written and penciled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by, well, I'm not sure. The GCD says this is Jack Abel, but I don't really see it. Abel has a certain smoothness to his inking, particularly around the eyes, noses and hands of characters, that I just don't see in this inking. He is also credited with inking the next issue, and I sort of see some Abel-like inking in that book. If anyone can point me to particular panels that display Abel's technique I would feel much better about this attribution.

As we left Jason last issue, he had just saved his sister's life, not knowing it was her and is now ahead of her on the road to Paris thinking she must be just ahead of him. Meanwhile, Tuborg sends two more assassins after Jason and his sister. Jason on the other hand sees a blond woman on the side of the road with a flat tire and thinks it is his sister, but when he hears her deep southern accent he knows he is mistaken.

She is "Billie Jo Brock of the Lo'siana Brocks" and is immediately smitten with Jason, but her advances are interrupted by gunshots from the two assassins, who also mistake Billie Jo for Jason's sister. They blow the "petrol tank" of Billie Jo's car and she and Jason high-tail it on his bike, the killers in hot pursuit and Billie Jo firing back at them with her own gun. As they are being chased, Jason sees the car of the woman he saved last issue and seeing her without her wig realizes that she is his sister. He lures the gunmen away from her and loses them in some woods.

There his bike runs out of gas and he and Billie Jo take off on foot finding a large empty house in the woods in which to hide. Later the gunmen find the house as well and while Billie Jo passes the time away in a lip-lock with Jason, he feels a gun against the back of his head. But it is not the gunmen, but rather the owner of the house, who had shut it down but remembered something she left and found the broken window where Jason and Billie Jo had entered and now found them. But it seems she is a widow, from Lo'siana as well and actually loosely related to Billie Jo. She provides them some gas for the bike and some cover fire from the assassins while they make their escape.

They gas up Jason's bike and Billie Jo shoots the tires on the assassin's car. They figure out what the four shots must mean and steal a car from the woman's garage and the chase continues. Jason loses them under a bridge and later in a bike race. Later Jason and Billie Jo barely escape from going off the end of an unfinished bridge, but the assassins are not so lucky. They crash off the bridge and die in a horrible explosion. Jason and Billie Jo make it to Paris where Jason tells Billie Jo the entirety of his story and says he must find his sister before Tuborg's men do. Billie Jo says she understands, "Find her, quick-- then come back 'cause Billie Jo has chosen you for herself!'

We then have one of those great Sekowshy full-page previes of the next issue inked by Dick Giordano.

Edited by Mike Sekowsky.

Justice League of America #79

Justice League of America #79 (On Sale: January 27, 1970) has a nice cover by Neal Adams.

This issue has the book-length by "Come Slowly Death, Come Slyly" by Denny O'Neil, Dick Dillin and Joe Giella. Continuing from last issue, we have Superman and Green Lantern on the desolate planet Monsan seeking a clue to the identity of the Doomsters, while Green Arrow is being forcibly removed from the office of the Star City City manager and Batman, Atom, Black Canary and the Vigilante are being slowly lowered into a vat of something pretty vile. As luck would have it though the two guards escorting Green Arrow are not cops and don't particularly like the City Manager, so they let Green Arrow go.

Racing back to the Doomsters' plant he gets there just in time to jam the machinery lowering his pals into the vat of icky stuff. He revives his teammates just in time to take on a cadre of Doomsters who, when overwhelmed by the JLA, lock themselves into the inner workings of the plant. That ends up being a disguised rocket that the Doomsters use to blast away from the JLA.

Meanwhile on Monsan, Superman and Green Lantern find a survivor who with his dying breath tells the tale of one of their leaders, Chokh, who when the industrial might of the planet so fouled the air came up with a way of altering Monsan physiology so that they could breathe polluted air and thrive of poisoned water. But the alteration not only modified their bodies, it warped their minds, turning them into Doomsters, who want nothing more than to spread the pollution of Monsan to other worlds.

back on earth, Batman radios Hawkman in the JLA satellite and tells him he must stop the alien spaceship above Star City. Using his Thangarian space cruiser, Hawkman is going to use a gravity beam on the flying building when it explodes exposing the sleek battleship hidden inside. The Doomsters jam Hawkman's controls forcing him to abandon his ship which they then blast in half. Realizing the the Earth people are more threatening than they thought the Doomsters drop pollution canisters all around the globe and then send out a warning message to the people of Earth that they have one hour to make peace with themselves, before they are inundated with "total pollution."

The JLA assemble in their satellite just as the returning Superman and Green lantern recover the wounded Hawkman. Once he is safely in the JLA satellite Superman and green Lantern begin a full attack on the Doomsters' spaceship, defeating the aliens. However, Chokh escapes and penetrates the JLA satellite where he captures Black Canary. Batman and Green Arrow try to stall him by telling Black Canary how much they appreciate her and Green Arrow even says that he may be in love with her.

Chokh is finally defeated by the Atom and later Arrow tells Canary that he meant what he said, but she says she is not ready for a new relationship just yet, but is happy that they saved the Earth. Arrow looks at the soot and ash spewing from some plants in the background and says, "Did we? I wonder..." Reprinted in Justice League of America Archives Vol. 9 HC and Showcase Presents: Justice League of America Vol. 4 TPB.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Date With Debbi #8

Date With Debbi #8 (On Sale: January 27, 1970) has a cover by Henry Scarpelli.

This issue Debbi in "A Froggy Day in Buddsville" by Barbara Friedlander and Henry Scarpelli. Debbi saves a frog from several disasters, causing herself some problems at school but getting noticed by a nature-loving boy, which causes all the girls to bring frogs to school.

Next is Debbi in "Everybody Likes Somebody" also by Barbara Friedlander and Henry Scarpelli.  Debbi and Mona have a plan to get Sally and Harold together, but instead injure Harold and cause Sally's mother to punch out Sally's father.

That brings us to Debbi in "Calling Doctor Debbi," a text article with illustrations of the zodiac signs.

We end with Flowers in "The Valentine Date." Flowers judges a valentine contest and chooses Ken Logan for the king, despite the protests of her friends that he is too straight

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Running Behind Again

I'm running behind schedule again. I am being swamped with projects at work that are sapping my strength, leaving me exhausted. On top of that I have 15 books to read this month, and my detailed recaps always take an hour or so to produce. If there is something special about the book, like John Broome's last story or Al Williamson's, John Severin's and Jerry DeFuccio's first DC stories in this blog, then the items take even longer to write.

Well, things could be even worse. I could still own all my Mort Weisinger books and have to reread them as well. That would have put me at rereading 21 of the 28 books DC published this month.

Well, enough complaining from me. To be honest this month has been a goldmine of good stuff so far, from the above mentioned milestones, to Deadman's return, and there are still a few gems to go. Poor me, I have to read great comics.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hot Wheels #1

Hot Wheels #1 (On Sale: January 22, 1970) is based on the Saturday-morning TV show based on the die-cast toy cars from Mattel and features a cover by Alex Toth and Dick Giordano. I loved that Giordano put the kids' faces in a line-up down the left side of the cover like the Justice League of America was doing a this time.

"Wipe-Out at Le Mans" is by Joe Gill, Alex Toth and Dick Giordano. With so much work at Hana-Barbera in recent years, Toth was the perfect guy to draw Hot Wheels and man did he shine on this series, a forgotten gem from DC. We begin in 1959 at Le Mans where driver Mike Wheeler is spinning out of control and about to center-punch another disabled car. He instead throws his car into the wall in an horrific explosion .

Mike's young son Jackie rushes to his burning car and is pulled way. Mike is extracted from the wreckage and taken to the hospital where after agonizing hours of surgery they find that he will live, but his leg is so badly damaged that he will never race again. Weeks later a hobbled Mike Wheeler tells his son that he always planned on opening a garage when he retired, it's just happening sooner than he expected. Wow. six beautiful pages from Toth and Giordano of textbook-perfect efficient and evocative story-telling.

So on to California and Wheeler Motors and Jack growing into a teenager at Metro High and hanging out with Janet Martin and being harassed by rich punk Dexter Carter, the plague of Metro City. Dexter and his gang make it so bad on the street of Metro City that a special town hall meeting is called to revoking all drivers licenses held by those under the age of 21 (which would have been highly illegal in California I would think).

The pencils to a rejected Alex Toth cover
for Hot Wheels #1.
Anyway Mike talks Jack into going to the meeting and defending the teenagers, which he does by pointing out that most teenagers are responsible drivers. like he and his friends, who have formed a club called Hot Wheels to sponsor closed-course races so kids can have there fun, but responsibly.

The club goes on a PR offensive but Dexter and his goons are not to pleased. While out testing a new car at the track, Hot Wheeler Mickey Barnes is run off the track and crashes due to Dexter and his friends. Dexter challenges Jack to a grudge race and Jack accepts, only Mike will only let him use parts from junkers for a grudge race. They build a car as best they can. On race day they find that Dexter has bought two new v-12 Ferrari's to race against Jack and that he and one of his goons will both be racing against Jack.

Same rejected cover inked by Dick Giordano.
Once the race begins Dexter and his goon tray to double-team jack, boxing him in and roughing up his car, but Jack avoids the worst of it. However dexter inadvertently gets caught in the oil slick laid down by his goon and is about to center-punch a pole when Jack floors it and knocks Dexter out of harms way, but knocks himself right into the pole destroying his car. Dexter wins the race but Mike liked what he saw his son do, both in building a competitive car and in saving Dexter's neck and promises that next time he will have his father's full support in building a car.

Next issue promises to be a rematch. Not a bad start for the book. For copyright reasons, this fine series has never been reprinted.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Flash #195

Flash #195 (On Sale: January 22, 1970) has a cover by Neal Adams.

This issue begins with "Fugitive from Blind Justice" by Robert Kanigher, Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson. I think I have said enough times in this blog how much I loved this art team. It's one that you never hear mentioned, but one that clicked on so many levels. This story has an interesting beginning, the Flash is at the Jerry Lewis Telethon and is signing autographs at super-speed for three of the most prolific letter-writers of the time: Irene Vartanoff, Peter Sanderson and soon to be famous writer Mark Evanier. This was a neat touch with which to open the story.

On the way home from the telethon, Flash meets a couple in Central Park and the woman wants a picture taken with the Flash. He complies, but the flash of the camera is blindingly bright and Flash is set upon by a gang of killers out to get him. He tries to fight them, but keeps stumbling over things (why he didn't just vibrate in place until he could see again is beyond me), and if finally saved by a dog who shows up and attacks the gunmen, then scampers off, though not before Flash sees the dog in his returning eyesight.

The next day the headlines in the paper are of millionaire Philip Bentley being killed by his dog Lightning. Barry recognizes the dog as the one who saved his life and doesn't believe that he could have turned killer. At the animal detention center, Bentley's brother is relating the story of how he saw the dog attack his brother. Flash says how he doesn't believe it and arranges for a 24-hour stay of Lightning's execution. However, he searched in vain for any of the killers or the couple who set him up. The next morning the Flash dog-naps Lighting before he can be executed and uses Lightning's nose to try and locate the gang, to no avail, but they do rescue a blind man who had fallen into the water.

Flash leaves Lightning with the blind man and heads to the Bentley estate to see if he can pick up any clues there. There in the greenhouse Flash encounters Bentley's brother and mobster Vic Torrence in an argument. Flash also recognizes Vic's voice as being one of the gang that tried to kill him. Flash gets disoriented by the fumes of a noxious plant and is once again saved by Lightning.

Later at the reading of Bentley's will his entire estate is given to Lightning to be administered by someone of Lightning's choosing. He chooses Barry Allen who sets up an annuity to provide for Lightning and gives the rest of the estate to the Jerry Lewis Telethon.

The back-up story is "I Open My Mouth... But I Can't Scream" by Harlan Ellison fan Mike Friedrich, Gil Kane and Vince Colletta. The less said about the abysmal inks on this one, the better. This is a strange little tale of Barry Allen on a roller coaster and him being paralyzed with fear. Barry relates how his first date in high school had been to a carnival and the girl had talked him into riding the coaster and how frightened of it he was and still was years later when he and wife Iris chaperoned the police athletic league champs to a carnival and the kids wanted to ride the coaster. Once on the coaster Barry sees that the track is damaged but is frozen with fear, but after a gut-wrenching scream he Flashes down the track and repairs it before any tragedy can occur. Barry believes it was the scream that "set him free" from his fear and now can't wait to go back for another ride.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Batman #220

Batman #220 (On Sale: January 22, 1970) has a cover by Neal Adams. Three things about this cover: 1) I don't normally like the multi-panel covers, but this one completely works for me, 2) some attribute the inks on this cover to Dick Giordano, but I just don't see it, particularly in the Batman figure in panel one, and 3) this is the debut of a radically new Batman logo, this after reverting back to pretty much the original logo less than a year ago. Now I liked this new logo, but it would not last very long; within a year they would slip Robin's name into the logo and a year after that they will move to a new logo that is more a throw-back to the logo they are currently replacing.

This issue has the book-length "This Murder Has Been... Pre-Recorded" by Frank Robbins, Irv Novick and Dick Giordano. It opens up with pretty much a rehash of the cover and then shows us how we got there. Bruce is visited by Marla Manning, the woman whose articles on "Victims Anonymous" was the inspiration for Bruce's own Victims Inc. Program. She relates how she has received anonymous threats ever since she hinted in an article that the death of young file clerk in the city contract bids department might be linked to bidder for a certain city contract. Bruce's VIP had provided some financial aid to the victims sister and when he checks his files on the woman, Sandra Sloan, they are missing and in there place is a note to "Lay off...or else!" Bruce says he will call on Batman's help and sends Manning on her way.

Manning floated the name of Nova Demolition Co. and Bruce checks into them and the other companies who bid on the suspected contract. That night Batman visits Sandra Sloan and is given the brush-off at the door. Suspecting foul play Batman crashes in and interrupts an unknown gunman who gets away. Sloan knows who it was, but refuses to tell. Batman heads to Nova Demolition where he breaks in to look at their records. There he fights with owner Zack Nova, ex-military demolition expert. Nova threatens to call the police on Batman if he doesn't leave and tells him to "lay off."

Batman then visits Manning and convinces her to say in her next article that she has evidence of who killed Sloan. When the article hits the paper, Manning gets a call from Nova, saying he knows she is lying about having proof but offers to give her what she needs for $5,000, the money to be left in a phone booth.

In preparation for the meeting Batman goes to the airport for something and then meets Manning near the phone booth where he takes her place for the rendezvous. As soon as the booth door closes a tape plays of Zach Nova confessing to the murder and then the booth blows up. Manning comes out of hiding and is confronted by Zach Nova plans on killing her just in case she heard his confession. Just then his confession starts replaying and Nova freaks out a bit. Batman comes out of hiding and takes Nova out explaining that he used a black box recorder from a plane to capture the confession and put an inflated Batman costume into the booth while he then ran for cover, expecting that a demolition expert was planning an explosion.

Afterward we learn from Sloan's sister that Nova had saved Sloan's life in Viet Nam and used that to get secret information from Sloan so that he could win contracts. When Sloan could bear it no longer and threatened to expose Nova he murdered Sloan.

Once again, I am disappointed by the Robbins' story, yet I recall loving this stuff 40 years ago.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Teen Titans #26

Teen Titans #26 (On Sale: January 20, 1970) has another great cover by Nick Cardy. I know that as a young man, I spent many a hour staring at Wonder Girls' butt on this one.

"A Penny for a Black Star" is by Robert Kanigher and Nick Cardy and continues from the dramatic events of last issue, where the Titans responsible for the death of Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Arthur Swenson, gave up their costumes, vowed to not use their powers and joined Mr. Jupiter's top-secret project.

Continuing really from the cover, they enter into Mr. Jupiter's training facility, a kind of Titans version of the X-Men Danger Room, a gauntlet of lasers, fire and wind. When they come out on the other side, Mr. Jupiter gives them each a penny and tells them the next part of their training will be in Hell's Corner, the toughest neighborhood in the city, where they are to find jobs, a place to live and one other thing, something they will have to figure out on their own. Lilith says that the answer to the last enigmatic task will be found in Hell's Corner, but she knows know more than that.

Donna wonders what they can do with a penny each and Lilith says that perhaps they can "find... a black star," but once again, more than that she does not know. In Hell's Corner they find a young black girl selling lemonade for a penny and buy some, one to see the girl attacked by Storm and his gang, the Hell's Hawks. Don (Hawk) wants to jump in and pound the gang, but he is held back by Dove and the reminder of what happened the last time they went off one someone. Seeing that they won't fight back, the gang go after the girls, groping at Lilith and Donna. Suddenly the gang is attacked by Mal Duncan, the little girl's older brother and once the gang starts beating up on him the Titans do come to the rescue, without using their super-powers.

The gang runs off and the Titans thank Mal, who tells them that they don't belong there and should leave. But they don't heed his advice and continue on through the neighborhood. Donna and Lilith get jobs at a clothing store and the guys get work and room and board at the neighborhood boys club. where they help the kids with baseball, boxing and painting. That night they learn of a monthly boxing match where the youth of the neighborhood let off steam. A week or so later at the match, Mal is pitted against Storm and knocks him out in the ring. Later when the Titans go to congratulate him they find him being beaten by the gang. The Titans put a quick end to that. Afterward the celebrate and reluctantly Mal goes along, where mainly through the efforts of Lilith, he becomes part of the gang, the Titans realizing that recruiting Mal must be the unknown task they needed to perform.

They bring Mal to Mr. Jupiter where Mal learns that his new friends are actually the Teen Titans. Mal goes through the same danger room gauntlet as the rest of the team and over the next few weeks (months?) they all train (for some reason) for spaceflight. Eventually they are taken to a secret launch site where automated rockets are being prepped for a one-way unmanned trip to Venus. That night Mal sneaks out of the facility, though he meets Lilith on the way, and when the spaceship launches the next morning they find out Mal is on board. With Jupiter's help the Titans vow to take another ship to the moon to rendezvous with Mal and save him.

This was not the best of follow-ups to last issue's story, but I don't really expect much from Robert Kanigher. I'm not sure where Dick Giordano thought he could take the unpowered Titans, but he needed someone like Mike Sekowsky to pull this off and Kanigher just didn't qualify. This was reprinted in Showcase Presents: Teen Titans Vol. 2 TPB.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Strange Adventures #223

Strange Adventures #223 (On Sale: January 20, 1970) has an Atomic Knights cover by Murphy Anderson.

We begin with Adam Strange in "The Beast with the Sizzling Blue Eyes" from Mystery In Space #62 by Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino and Bernard Sachs. While waiting for Adam Strange to return to Rann, Alanna is apparently caught in a time-warp, taking her back to a prehistoric jungle. She quickly realizes that she is not in the past, but in a forcefield bubble. Adam arrives inside the bubble and saves Alanna from a dinosaur, but suddenly the bubble disappears, taking the jungle and beasts with it.

Later another bubble appears in the ocean, this time containing a sea-beast. Adam and Alanna are able to penetrate the forcefield, but the bubble once again disappears. Unknown to Adam and Alanna, the bubbles are being made by device created by scientist, Zhoran Tew, to study to past. However, Zhoran’s lab assistant, Mortan, has imprisoned the scientist and is using the device for evil.

Mortan demands that the Ranagarans surrender to him or he will unleash the beasts within a forcefield created around the city. Adam traces the transmission and tracks Mortan to his hide-out. Then he destroys the control device, preventing Mortan from unleashing his monsters. After freeing Zhoran, Adam is drawn back to Earth by the Zeta Beam.

Next is "The Genius Epidemic" from Strange Adventures #21 and created by Gardner Fox, Irwin Hasen and Joe Giella. This is a cute story about a bunch of hillbilly boys, the Herbert Brothers. who came into town one day to join the army. Though they looked like something out of Lil' Abner, they soon prove themselves to have amazing genius minds. In looking for the cause of their brilliance the army finds out that a meteorite crashed near their house on the night they were born. The army puts the bothers to work on one project after another which annoys them so much they make a space ship and leave Earth to get some peace.

We end with our cover-story, the Atomic Knights in "War in Washington" from Strange Adventures #135 and the product of John Broome and Murphy Anderson. Wayne and Hollis Hobard are captured by the Atlantides. Gardner and Bryndon mount a rescue mission with the help of Dalas, a reformed Atlantide prisoner. Dalas leads them to Washington where the Khagan and the Atlantides have established a base of operations.

Gardner and Bryndon stop a plot by the Atlantides to let in ultraviolet radiation over Durvale. Dalas located the Hobards and frees them. The remaining Atlantides escape with the Khagan vowing to conquer Earth.

Adventures of Jerry Lewis #117

Adventures of Jerry Lewis #117 (On Sale: January 20, 1970) has a cover by Bob Oksner featuring Jerry and the new Wonder Woman.

This issue has the book-length "Jerry Meets the New Wonder Woman." I would guess that they would get Bob Oksner to do the insides as well, but who knows. Heck, they might have gotten Mike Sekowsky to write and draw it. Regardless, you have to appreciate the way DC is pushing the new Wonder Woman, here and in The Brave and the Bold a month or so ago.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #127

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #127 (On Sale: January 15, 1970) has a cover by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson.

This issue begins with our cover-story "The Secret Slumlord of Metropolis" by Leo Dorfman, Curt Swan and George Roussos.

The back-up is "When Olsen Changed History" by Leo Dorfman and Pete Costanza.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Phantom Stranger #6

Phantom Stranger #6 (On Sale: January 15, 1970) has another winning cover by Neal Adams. The Stranger appears as a background face for the first time.

This issue contains the book-length "No. 13 Thirteenth Street" written and penciled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by, well, everyone says Vinny Colletta, but that ain't the whole truth., For certain Colletta's unmistakable inks grace (disgrace?) pages 7-12, but the rest of the book, the majority of the book is inked by someone much better. Who I'm not certain, though some of it looks like editor Joe Orlando.

This is yet another story with the four teenagers (really, that is a stretch here) from the previous few issues, who when their car breaks down find two elderly women being haunted in a house on 13th Street. They enter and people and things are flying about. They make a quick call to Dr. Thirteen, just as the Phantom Stranger arrives. The Stranger says the problem is a poltergeist; when Dr. Thirteen arrives he says the whole thing is a fraud perpetrated by the Phantom Stranger. Thirteen says this is just like the case of the haunting of the Deggs house, which he exposed as a hoax.

We cut to Chapter 2, entitled "The Case of the Diabolical Deggs House" which is inked by Vinny Colletta. The Deggs' house is being terrorized by flying objects, moving chairs, ghostly apparitions, etc. Dr. Thirteen is called and finds the culprit is Creepy Conway, a spurned beau of the teenage daughter. He, along with the help of the younger son and his chemistry set, faked all of the strange doings.

The story over, better inking returns for a page as Dr. Thirteen is attacked by a flying vase and the Phantom Stranger tells him he is being foolish to discount the supernatural. He then tells his own story, "The Haunting of Drood Wood -- or -- Give Me Back My Head!" This chapter has a harsher inking style, and if I had to guess at the inker (and I do), I would say Frank Giacoia inked the next five pages. There are actually a couple of really nice, simple but effective panels in this section of the story.

A wife drives her sleeping husband down a lonely read at night. He awakens to find out they are driving through Drood Wood and freaks out, telling her to turn around or he is a dead man due to a family curse. His wife thinks he is being silly, but suddenly they are confronted by a headless horseman of old. This scene is of course depicted so beautifully on the cover. The horseman asks the man, David, if he has found his head yet. David says that his family has searched for centuries and cannot find the man's head.

We then learn how David's ancestor, the Baron of Cheltenham, had found the man in a passionate embrace with his daughter and after trumping up some charges of theft, had the man's head cut off and buried separately. The headless man only wants to be with his beloved, but cannot go to her in death without his head. The Phantom Stranger arrives and shows the man that his head was actually made into the likeness on his tombstone (I almost said "headstone!"). His body once again whole the horseman rides off to finally be with his beloved.

Back in the present and back to Joe Orlando's inking, the Stranger says the story proves that evil exists and then asks Tara to show herself. Tara reveals herself along with a creature thing, but says she is not the cause of the strange goings-on, that it is the work of one of the elderly women, Abigail. Abigail says that she found an old book their father had and used one of the spells in it to conjure up a thing to punish her sister for always eating the pistachio ice cream and leaving her only the chocolate.

When the Phantom Stranger tries to get the book, Tala orders the thing to keep it from him, but the Stranger gets to the book first and throws it into the fireplace. Tala and the thing then disappear. Dr. Thirteen says that the whole thing was a performance by the Stranger, as usual. Abigail's sister invites the teenagers to spend the night and offers them dinner, complete with pistachio ice cream for dessert, but sends Abigail to bed without dinner for causing all the fuss.

However, after dinner all that is left in the house is chocolate ice cream. Upstairs we find Abigail with a home copier and a copy of the book wondering what else she can do to her sister. This story was reprinted in Showcase Presents: The Phantom Stranger Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Joe Orlando.

Green Lantern #75

Green Lantern #75 (On Sale: January 15, 1970) has a cover by Gil Kane, the last of these we will see for a while.

This issue features "The Golden Obelisk of Qward" by John Broome, Gil Kane and Joe Giella and this is the last pure Green Lantern story we will have for a few years as big changes, and I think we all know what those are, are coming next issue.

After a sales meeting Hal Jordan was supposed to have a date with Olivia Reynolds (last seen in Flash #191) but when she doesn't show Hal switches to Green Lantern and finds her in the hospital with some mysterious illness. Hal tries to cure her using his ring, but it is unable to get through to her but does pick up some strange molecular distortion leading towards her. Against his better judgment Hal takes Olivia's doctor with him as he searches back along the line of distortion as it leads to a dimensional aperture that leads to the anti-matter universe of Qward.

The doctor is tow, Green Lantern traverses the barrier to Qward where they are met by a patrol of the Weaponers of Qward. Hal makes quick work of them, but a second patrol gets the better of him. Only the quick action of a member of the resistance movement saves Hal and the doc. Hal surmises that the Weaponers are zeroing in on them each time he uses his ring, so they hoof it instead and eventually find some wandering troubadours who they overcome and from whom they steal their clothes and instruments as disguises.

Quick bursts of ring power keep them on the right track, which ends up being the city of Qwardeen, where everyone seems to be heading for the great town square where the Chief Weaponer, Kimon has promised to open the fabled obelisk of Rengan the Abominable and reveal the secret he left for a worthy follower to find. Many have tried to open the obelisk over the years, but all have failed, but Kimon has a captive who will assist in opening the monument: Olivia Reynolds!

Hal then realizes that Olivia's illness must have been the pre-teleportation effect as the Qwardians zeroed in on Olivia. Using the force of Olivia's mind Kimon crushes the obelisk, only to find it empty. A recording by Rengan explains that the real treasure were the advances in scientific discovery which stemmed from the efforts to open the obelisk. Hal, doc and Olivia return to our positive-matter universe and Olivia recovers. Hal also sees that she remembers nothing of what happened as she must never know of her own great mental powers.

As Hal recharges his ring he realizes that the power of Olivia's mind is so great it could be used to destroy him. Reprinted in Showcase Presents: Green Lantern Vol. 4 TPB.

The letter page has letters from two of my favorite writers back when they were just fans: Mark Verheiden and Alan Brennert.

This issue, for all intents and purposes, marks the end of one of the most honored careers in comics as, except for a most likely inventory Doctor Mid-Nite story in 1972 and an obvious inventory Flash story in 1976, this is the last DC comic written by John Broome, a guy whose career at DC started in 1946 writing the Golden Age Flash, Sargon the Sorcerer and Green Lantern.

I am kind of overwhelmed here in trying to put John's career into a few paragraphs. John Broome started as a science-fiction writer represented by Julius Schwartz, but he soon found his way to comics. He started at Fawcett where he wrote everything from Lance O'Casey to Captain Marvel, but it was at DC that John Broome bloomed.

Besides the afore-mentioned strips, John wrote Hawkman, The Justice Society of America, Ghost Patrol, the Vigilante, Foley of the Fighting Fifth, Jimmy Wakely, Big Town, Captain Comet, Superboy, Adventures of Rex the Wonder Dog, The Phantom Stranger, The Flash (from Showcase #4 onward), Detective Chimp, Hopalong Cassidy, Adventures of Charlie Chan, Green Lantern (from his origin in Showcase #22 on), Kid Flash, Star Hawkins, the Atomic Knights, Batman, The Elongated Man, and dozens of science-fiction stories for Mystery In Space and Strange Adventures. He wrote more than 800 stories for DC in all. and he did it while traveling the world.

John left DC about the same time they were kicking all the old-school writers out, but John actually left on his own accord, having tired of the business. He eventually moved to Tokyo where he taught English. He returned to the states in 1998 to attend the San Diego Comic-Con, and you can find a portion of a panel from that con honoring John on Mark Evanier's site. It was one I sorely missed. John Broome died less than a year later, in March 1999,

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Girls' Romances #147

Girls' Romances #147 (On Sale: January 15, 1970) has a cover by Nick Cardy.

This issue begins with "Too Beautiful to Be Loved" drawn by Jay Scott Pike. That is followed by "I See You in My Dreams," and the issue rounds off with our cover-story, "No Sweetheart for Cinderella," drawn by George Tuska and Vince Colletta.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Young Love #79

Young Love #79 (On Sale: January 13, 1970) has a cover at least inked by Dick Giordano.

This issue begins with "Go to Her, My Darling." That is followed by the continuing saga of "20 Miles to Heart Break" by Barbara Friedlander, Alex Toth and Vince Colletta which was reprinted in Young Love #124. We end with Michelle in "A New Girl in Town."

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Adventure Comics #390

Adventure Comics #390 (On Sale: January 13, 1970) has a Supergirl cover by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson featuring an All-Romance Issue!

This issue begins with Supergirl in"When Supergirl Played Cupid" from Action Comics #289 by Jerry Siegel and Jim Mooney. Supergirl embarks on a campaign to see Superman happily married. Traveling into the past, she unsuccessfully attempts to interest him in Helen of Troy. Her similar effort in the future era of the Legion of Super-Heroes also fails, when she learns that Saturn Woman, the adult Saturn Girl, is already married to Lightning Man, the adult Lightning Lad.

Finally, she locates Superman’s ideal mate on a distant world, where Luma Lynai, a superwoman who resembles Supergirl herself as an adult, falls in love with the Man of Steel. When it turns out that Luma Lynai cannot survive on Earth, however, the couple are focused to part, and Supergirl learns not to interfere in her cousin’s love life.

Next is Supergirl in "The Secret Identity of Super-Horse" from Action Comics #301 by Leo Dorfman and Jim Mooney. Supergirl and Comet visit the planet Zerox to help Superman’s friend Prince Endor. Comet allows Endor to ride him in order to complete a ceremony which allows the prince to retain his rule. In appreciation for Comet’s help, Endor places a spell on the horse, which allows him to temporarily become human, when a comet passes.

When they return to Earth, Supergirl leaves Comet with some other horses. A comet passes by, transforming Super-Horse into a man. He assumes the identity of Bronco Bill, a rodeo star. He later meets Supergirl at the rodeo, but decides to keep his identity secret from her. Eventually the effect of the spell wears off, and Comet is returned to his horse form.

This if followed by "Supergirl's Cowboy Hero" from Action Comics #311 and also created by Leo Dorfman and Jim Mooney. Comet travels back in time to visit his former love Circe in hopes that she may find a way to make him human. Circe creates a potion that will take effect shortly after Comet returns to the present. However, when Comet arrives back in his own time, he has amnesia.

A masked crook called the Hooded Demon finds Comet and uses him to commit a series of robberies. Comet's powers then begin to wear off and both he and the bandit are wounded. Comet's transformation then begins. He becomes human again.

A posse searching for the masked crook believe Comet is the bandit. Comet eludes them and manages to spend some time with Linda Danvers. She thinks he is Bronco Bill, whom she once met as Supergirl. The posse eventually catches up to Comet forcing him to flee.

Supergirl pursues him too, so Comet wishes Circe to reverse the effects of the potion. She complies, and Comet changes back to a horse. The real Hooded Demon is caught clearing Bronco Bill, and Supergirl still does not know that he was really Comet.

Next is "The Great Supergirl Mirage" from Action Comics #256 and created by Otto Binder and Jim Mooney. While secretly performing good deeds as Supergirl, a boy from the Midvale Orphanage, Dick Wilson, takes a picture of her. He suspects Linda Lee is Supergirl, when he sees her turn in a report that she finished at super-speed. Linda makes an excuse that she had a copy of the finished report elsewhere, but Dick is not convinced.

While looking for minerals for Geology class, Dick tricks Linda by throwing a dummy of himself off a cliff. Linda’s X-ray vision ignites chemicals which Dick coated the dummy with. Linda causes lightning to strike the dummy to cover her mistake. Dick is still convinced she is a Supergirl.

Dick tries to trick Linda again with heavy dumbbells. Linda falls for the trick, but her powers allow her to once again cover her mistake and protect her identity. She is distressed over the situation when a Supergirl robot arrives to perform amazing feats at a show. Dick is now convinced that he saw the Supergirl robot sent by Superman, and that Supergirl does not exist.

We end with "Supergirl's Wedding Day" from Action Comics #307 created by Leo Dorfman and Jim Mooney. Tor-An, a criminal from the Phantom Zone, escapes. He takes the identity of a teacher at Midvale High School in order to get close to Supergirl. He reveals his powers to her, but claims to be a survivor of Argo City.

Supergirl falls in love with the criminal and plans to marry him. Supergirl’s telepathic friends Jerro and Comet warn her about Tor-An’s evil intentions, but she does not believe them. When Superman returns from a space mission, he appears to give his approval. However, Tor-An has replaced the Man of Steel with a robot.

The wedding takes place at the Fortress of Solitude. Immediately after the ceremony, Tor-An reveals his true background. Supergirl then reveals herself to be Saturn Girl in disguise, therefore the marriage was illegal. Saturn Girl had been contacted by Jerro, Comet, and Lori Lemaris. Tor-An is taken to the future for imprisonment until he can be returned to the Phantom Zone.

Edited most likely by E. Nelson Bridwell.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Superboy #163

Superboy #163 (On Sale: January 8, 1970) has a superb Neal Adams' cover which seems inspired by Cool Hand Luke.

This issue begins with Superboy in our cover-story, "Reform School Rebel" by Frank Robbins, Bob Brown and Mike Esposito.

The back-up is "The Super-Robot" from Superboy #52 and produced by Otto Binder, Curt Swan and John Fischetti. Two swindlers build a Superboy robot. They then sell the robot to the gullible Pop Peabody who thinks the robot has super powers. Superboy tricks the crooks by posing as the robots and performing super deeds for Pop. When the crooks see that the robot possesses powers they offer to buy it back for twice the price. The crooks then take the real robot back to their workshop where they discover it to be worthless junk. Superboy explains his trick to Peabody and gives the extra money to charity.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff.

Secret Hearts #142

Secret Hearts #142 (On Sale: January 8, 1970) has a cover at least inked by Dick Giordano.

This issue begins with "Reunion." That is followed by the continuing saga of "20 Miles to Heart Break" by Barbara Friedlander, Alex Toth and Vince Colletta which was reprinted in Young Love #125. Next we have "Rendezvous" and we end with "When Love Dies" which is penciled by Ric Estrada.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Our Fighting Forces #124

Our Fighting Forces #124 (On Sale: January 8, 1970) has a Losers cover by Joe Kubert.

This issue begins with The Losers in "Losers Take All" by Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. The Losers sneak in through Nazi-occupied France to another, unnamed Nazi-occupied country to rescue a king from the hands of the Nazis. There is a modicum of action along their way to the castle where the king is being held, but they eventually make it. There they find that the king is only a child.

As the Nazis storm the castle ("Have good time stormin' the castle!"), the Losers escape with the boy-king by making parachutes out of the royal curtains ("No, not the curtains!"). After blowing up a statue of Hitler in the town plaza the Losers turn the boy over to Allied forces. I'm not quite sure I see the purpose in this story existing, but I feel that way after reading many Kanigher books.

There is a nice two-page Battle Album on the "Killer Flying Fish of the North Atlantic" by Ken Barr.

We end with the "find' of the issue: "Parable" by Jerry DeFuccio and John Severin. This is the first of five war stories that Jerry DeFuccio would write for DC and it is wonderful in its richness of character and place. This may be due to Jerry's tenure at EC Comics where he was an assistant editor and researcher for Harvey Kurtzman's war books, Frontline Combat and Two-Fisted Tales, books for which Jerry also wrote stories. But Jerry is mainly known for his long career as a writer at Mad Magazine, where was was also an associate editor for 25 years. Jerry DeFuccio died of cancer in August, 2001.

The "Parable" takes place in British-occupied Kandahar Afghanistan in the 1880s and tells the tale of one Private Shelley, a tightrope walker turned British soldier who fell in love with Afghanistan and after his discharge went to live with one of the local tribes. There he made the tribesmen's lives better, lowering the infant mortality rate and turning the men to a more peaceful way of life. But they believed that Shelley was a saint and as such would serve them better in paradise looking after their black souls, so one day they gutted him and left him on the side of the road for dead while they rushed home to pray for his released spirit in paradise.

But he wasn't quite dead yet and a British patrol finds him and brings him to their fort, where none of them recognize him since his appearance had changed so much since joining the tribe. When they ask him through a translator if his wound is deep he answers with a quote from Romeo and Juliet, "Tis not deep as a well nor wide as a church-door" and they realize that he is an Englishman. As one of the men put it, "He died as an Englishman...without denying his people of the Hindu-Kush!" This story was reprinted in Sgt. Rock Special #3.

This story also marked the first work at DC by John Severin since 1958, his first work with the company being in 1948 on a Boy Commandos story. Severin has had four good runs at DC, the first in 1957-1958 doing war stories. The second begins with this story and continues a year from now when he takes over the reigns of the Losers from 1971-1974. The third begins in late 1980 and really picks up steam in 1981 when he draws Enemy Ace for two years. His fourth run began in 2000 and contains runs on Desperadoes Quiet of the Grave, Caper, and Bat Lash.

John Severin is well known for his stint at EC Comics working on Two-Fisted Tales and of course as one of the five artists who began Mad. When EC folded John worked for years at Atlas/Marvel and was well regarded as an inker for Dick Ayers in Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos and Herb Trimpe on The Incredible Hulk. In the 1970s he worked with his sister Marie Severin on King Kull.

Many people know John Severin from his years of association with Cracked Magazine, where he did countless movie and TV parodies and tons of covers.

Edited by Joe Kubert.

House of Mystery #185

House of Mystery #185 (On Sale: January 8, 1970) has a cover by Neal Adams. For some reason this cover just doesn't work for me. I love the foreground figures, but something about the gaping-mouthed swamp in the background just doesn't register right with me.

Irregardless of my misgiving with this issue's cover, this is a wonderful issue of House of Mystery with good stories all around and more importantly, Joe Orlando brings a legend to DC for the first time and he performs like the legend he is. But that is later on.

We begin with "Boom!" written and drawn by Jerry Grandenetti. I liked this story and the way it utilized Cain. It begins with Cain running back to the House of Mystery being chased by something in the air following him. He makes it back inside when "Boom!," whatever it is lands on the roof of the house.

Deciding to meet his fate head on, Cain runs upstairs and sees something through the open window. It ends up being a man, wearing a parachute. He is an exhibition sky diver named Tony Saunders, who can't figure out how he landed at Cain's house in Kentucky when he jumped out a plane in California. Unable to catch a ride anywhere, Saunders settles down for the night in the house as Cain's guest, when a strange car pulls up to the house and two gentlemen in top hats and suits get out and ask for Tony Saunders.

Saunders goes freely with the two men, saying he "knew you'd come for me." The next morning, listening to the news on his radio Cain hears of the the death of sky diver Tony Saunders when his chute failed to open somewhere in California. Cain rushes to his front door and sees that Tony left him a gift: his parachute.

Next is a Cain's Game Room by Sergio Aragones and a Page 13 written by Joe Orlando and drawn by Sergio Aragones.

These are followed by a short three-pager, "Voice of the Dead" drawn by Wayne Howard and reminiscent to the "true" short stories around this time that were written by Marv Wolfman. A North Carolina farmer dies in 1921 and when his will is read he leaves everything to his third son, Marshall. This leaves his widow and her other children penniless. Four years later his second son begins having a reoccurring dream where the ghost of his father tells him to look inside his old coat for a sewn-up pocket. A note of the art here is that some attribute the inking of this story to Wally Wood, though DC does not. Wayne Howard was such a Wood devotee that it would be hard to say for sure, but I would tend to agree with those who say this is Wood's inks. It really, really looks like Wally Wood.

After nights of having the same dream the son goes to his mother's house finds the coat and a note inside saying to look in the family bible. There they find a later dated will which split his estate evenly.

This is followed by another Cain's Game Room, this one written and drawn by Joe Orlando, but none of these are the reason you should own this book. No, that is the final story in the issue, "The Beautiful Beast" by Joe Gil and the legendary Al Williamson. This is the only story that Al will both pencil and ink for DC and folks, it is just out and out, drop dead gorgeous! This is Williamson in his Secret Agent Corrigan prime. This is the story of Joe Carver, escaped killer who hides out in the swamp and the inescapable justice that lurks there. But the story is superfluous, the artwork is the real story. Handsome men, a beautiful woman, hulking dinosaur-like creatures, a fetid swamp, serpents, lost cities, gnarled moss-laden trees, cavemen-like warriors, exotic birds and flying reptiles; this is a story custom-made for the talents of Al Williamson and he delivers completely.

But there is more to the art in this story than meets the eye. In an interview in Comic Book Artist Michael Kaluta said this:

I never even thought about being an illustrator or comic book artist. I’d just finished my second year of college...I didn’t know what I was going to do, stay in school or join the army. After the next SCARP convention, Phil Seuling contacted me and said that Al Williamson had seen stuff that I did and was interested in talking to me about maybe helping with a story. That flipped me out. At the next New York Convention I went up to Al and he gave me a script that he was having trouble getting in to. He asked me to stretch it out. “Give me plenty of boots, girls, dinosaurs and stuff” he said. I made 7 pages into 12. Al still has my fumbling pencil originals and unless he gets mad at me we won’t tell anyone. They’re really awful, awful stuff. I was so uptight about doing the job that I just rendered and detailed it to death. Later Al did a fine job with the story and let me doodle a bit on a page or two. DC Comics published it under the title The Beautiful Beast.
Regardless of the pedigree of the artwork, it is some stunning stuff and certainly makes you wish Al Williamson could have done more work for DC. Al Williamson was born in New York City but spent his childhood in Bogotá, Colombia. Upon his return to New York, he took art courses from Burne Hogarth, whom he assisted on some 'Tarzan' Sunday pages.

He made his professional debut at the age of 17 with western and adventure series like 'Buster Crabbe' for Eastern Color, 'Billy the Kid' and 'John Wayne' for Toby and 'Outlaw Kid' for Marvel. He was the youngest member of the "EC family," joining when he was only 21 years old in 1952, He was considered "the kid brother," for most of his colleagues were family men. Williamson contributed to EC's Weird Fantasy, Weird Science and Tales of Valor, often in collaboration with the so-called "Fleagle Gang": Frank Frazetta, Roy Krenkel and Angelo Torres. Al especially loved doing pencil work, but was "deathly afraid" of inking, so often Frazetta undertook that task for him.

Al also did comics work for ACG, Charlton, Prize and Dell. In the 1960s, he assisted John Prentice on 'Rip Kirby' and did a 'Flash Gordon' comic book, which was a natural for Al as his fluid style is highly influenced by Alex Raymond's original Flash Gordon work. For King Features Syndicate, he took over the 'Secret Agent X-9' daily, which was retitled to 'Secret Agent Corrigan' which was written by the wonderful Archie Goodwin.

In the 1980s Al drew the Marvel adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back and eventually the syndicated Star Wars newspaper strip. When this strip folded, Al went back to comic books, working for Pacific Comics in Alien Worlds and Summerset Holmes. For Marvel he did the Blade Runner and Return of the Jedi adaptations and a couple of stories for Epic Illustrated. He then transitioned to becoming a full-time inker, working first at DC on Superman and then for Marvel where he inked a ton of stuff off and on through 2003.

Al has worked for Dark Horse and has done occasional inking for DC. His last work for DC was on Green Lantern #146 in 2002.

This entire book was reprinted in Showcase Presents: The House of Mystery Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Joe Orlando.

Binky's Buddies #8

Binky's Buddies #8 (On Sale: January 8, 1970) has a cover by Henry Scarpelli.

This issue begins with Binky in "The Good Skate." Next is Buzzy in "Mr. Muscles." We end with Binky again in "Slappy Birthday" by John Albano, Winslow Mortimer and Henry Scarpelli. This last story was reprinted in Best Of DC #45.

Edited by Joe Orlando.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Wonder Woman #187

Wonder Woman #187 (On Sale: January 3, 1970) has a cover by Mike Sekowsky and Dick Giordano. This is also the splash page for the story as it is the only place the title appears and page one continues from this starting point.

"Earthquaker" is the book-length Wonder Woman story written and penciled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by Dick Giordano. The story begins with I-Ching being shot and the takes us back to how we got to this place.

I-Ching receives a phone call from an old friend in Hong Kong needing Ching's help. Unable to get a normal flight, Ching gets one from another old friend, Patrick McGuire, who runs a freight airline. Diana tags along and they soon find out that McGuire is short-handed and will be piloting the plane. Not only that, but another woman, one Lu Shan, is also along for the flight. That night as the passengers all drift off to sleep, some thugs come out from their hiding place in a crate and awaken the three passengers at gunpoint.

The thugs seem to know Lu Shan and tell her that they will toss her out over the Pacific if she does not tell them where, well, something is. When one of the thugs turns his back on Diana and Ching to watch the other wrestle with Lu Shan, Diana and Ching leap into action. Gunfire brings McGuire out from the cockpit but a stray bullet hits the co-pilot. Most of the bad guys are ejected from the plane when it banks suddenly due to the shot pilot. Diana notices that the one bad guy not to fall from the plane has the eye of a cat tattooed on his hand. Lu Shan says it is the mark of the Tiger Tong who wish to steal something from her employer.

Just then I-Ching feels a broken medallion around Lu Shan's neck and matches it up to a similar medallion around his own neck. He says this means that Lu Shan is I-Ching's long lost daughter. It is that this time that they land in Hong Kong and Lu Shan invites them to go with her to her employer's place where they can discuss the matching coin medallions and her past of which she knows very little. On the way to the employer's they are attacked once again by members of the Tiger Tong. They are able to fend them off. However, when they reach Lu Shan's employer, there are more Tiger Tong waiting so they take once more to the streets of Hong Kong.

There with the help of McGuire they are able to defeat the Tong once again, and they leave McGuire with a promise to meet for dinner that night. When they once again reach Lu Shan's employer, Diana is a little worried by the presence of armed guards. That night finds McGuire at the Hong Kong police as Diana never showed up for dinner. Just then they are informed of an explosion on a junk in the harbor, not far from where they have found abandoned, the truck in which Lu Shan, Diana and Ching were last seen.

We then go back four hours to Lu Shan, Diana and Ching arriving at the junk of Lu Shan's employer, who turns out to be Dr. Cyber (last seen reeking havoc in Wonder Woman #182). While Lu Shan covers them with a gun Dr. Cyber explains that the box taken from the plane contains power sources which shall be used to power her "earthquakers," which she will use destroy Hong Kong as a demonstration of her power and to blackmail the world.

Lu Shan asks Dr. Cyber if she may have her gift, which ends up being I-Ching's life and we are back to the scene depicted on the cover splash. Yes, Ching is her father but he is also the man who murdered Lu Shan's mother. Before things go any farther in that area, Lum Fong, head of the Tiger Tong, and his men show up to steal the earthquakers. Dr. Cyber has them killed, impelled by sharp spears, but one of the men is not yet dead and gets off a blast from his machine gun. The spray of stray bullets hits a brazier of hot coals flinging them onto Dr. Cyber's face.

In the resulting fire and smoke, Diana manages to get Ching up on deck. Lu Shan escapes with Dr. Cyber and the power sources while Diana attends to Ching. As the boat begins to sink they are rescued by McGuire and the police. Ching is taken to a hospital while in a secret hospital outside of Hong Kong and fully-bandaged Dr. Cyber tells Lu Shan to activate the earthquakers then hunt down Diana Prince.

Like in many of the Sekowsky books, there follows a full-page ad for the next issue by Sekowsky and Giordano. This story was reprinted in Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Vol. 2 TPB.

Edited by Mike Sekowsky.

Tomahawk #127

Tomahawk #127 (On Sale: January 3, 1970) has a cover by Neal Adams. This may be the weakest of the Adams' Tomahawk covers.

This issue begins with "The Devil is Waiting" by Robert Kanigher and Frank Thorne. The back-up "Big Anvil's Big Lie" is also by Robert Kanigher and Frank Thorne.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff.

Our Army at War #217

Our Army at War #217 (On Sale: January 3, 1970) has a great Sgt. Rock cover by Joe Kubert. I know the theme is a common one for DC war books, but in this case it is, 1) so masterfully drawn by Kubert and 2) an actual scene from the story. I love the way Kubert splits his cover between the above and below water shots.

This issue begins with Sgt. Rock in "Surprise Party" written and drawn by Joe Kubert. The men of Easy Co. are acting a little strange around Sgt. Rock but before he can get to the bottom of it they are given a mission. The progress into enemy country has been stopped for the last 48 hours by a company of Nazi soldiers on the other side of a river with some big guns waiting for the G.I.s to set foot on the only bridge in the area. Rock and his men are to "surprise" the enemy.

That night they quietly enter a raft and head out across the river. On the other side a group of enemy scuba divers to the same. Rock notices bubbles in the water getting thicker and they hurl grenades underneath them, killing the divers but also blowing up their raft and losing any element of surprise they might of had. They come ashore under the bridge and are met and captured by a platoon of Germans. Rock breaks down and tells the Germans that the rest of their men will be coming over the bridge soon and as they divert their attention solely to the bridge, the rest of Easy Co. comes up from behind them in the real "surprise" attack.

After the battle is over and won by Easy, the men come to Rock and wish him a "happy Birthday" complete with a gift. Noting the seedy nature of Rock's shirt and helmet they give him a bag with new clothes scrounged from "miles behind the lines" to replace his tattered duds. Only the shrapnel from the big guns they destroyed ripped through the bag and Rock's new clothes are in worse shape than the ones he is wearing.

Next is a beautiful one-page Warrior on William the Conqueror by the masterful Ken Barr.

The back-up "Come the Revolution" is by Mike Friedrich and Fred Ray and concerns Davy and Dan two pioneer settlers in early America. Returning home from a day of hunting they find their farms destroyed, burned to the ground. Dan is enraged by the "big city radicals" who think they can disobey the crown. He says when people start destroying what others have worked their lives for, then you have to defend it and he goes off to "get me a few rebels."

Joining up with group of the King's finest Dan is upset when he is not allowed to chase after the rebels. He decides to sneak off and kill a few rebels on his own, only he is shot by a sniper. Ducking behind a rock Dan sneaks up on the sniper and kills him. One of the King's men search the sniper for personal effects to be sent to his family and finds an unmailed letter. He gives it to Dan to see if there is an address to which they can send the body.

Opening the letter he finds it addressed to him and from his friend Davy, who says he has joined the revolution because there is something worth fighting for and that is freedom. Davy says how he was inspired to pick up his musket and use it by Dan.

Edited by Joe Kubert.

Aquaman #50

Aquaman #50 (On Sale: January 3, 1970) has a cover by Nick Cardy.

This issue begins with our cover-story, "Can This Be Death?," (its second chapter has the Harlan Ellison-inspired title of "City on the Edge of Nowhere") by Steve Skeates and Jim Aparo. Aquaman awakens in a strange realm of storage floating geometric pink and purple objects and remembers back to how he came to this unusual place.

Returning to Atlantis from Alaska, Aquaman and Aqualad see Mera outside of the Atlantis dome talking to Ocean Master. Aquaman confronts Ocean Master who says that his mind is now clear and he remembers that he and Aquaman are brothers and that he is there to warn him about something. Just then a strange craft arrives and two aliens emerge and shoot Aquaman with some sort of ray gun, causing Aquaman to black out. When he awakens it is to the madness surrounding him.

Aquaman realizes that he can swim through the strange atmosphere and does so only to come upon a bizarre giant creature with one eye. The creature attacks Aquaman who is forced to retreat from it when the creature is shot with an arrow, delivered by a beautiful woman holding a strange-looking gun. Aquaman tries to communicate with her telepathically to shoot the creature in the eye to no avail, so he takes the arrow-gun away from her and scores a bullseye, or creatures-eye with his shot. The woman abruptly pushes Aquaman away from the creature as it explodes. Now he knows why she avoided the eye!

Aquaman picks up a hint of garbled telepathic communication and follows it. In a neat visual twist from Aparo, the communication takes the form of a large distorted word: GIORDANO.
He follows the communication trail and is in turn followed by the woman, to a city full of people. Once again he attempts telepathic communication with negative results. Continuing to follow the hints, Aquaman is led to a guarded building. Here there are more hints of communication and Aquaman is swimming in a sea of DC staff: ORLANDO, HEATH, PIKE, WRIGHTSON, TOTH, etc.

The guard shoots at Aquaman with a gun that emits green bubbles, which latch on to him sapping his strength. With the last of his energy Aquaman knocks out the guard and swims inside the building, where the guard does not give chase. Inside he finds people sitting around and communicating telepathically. The woman comes up behind him and explains that she too can now communicate with him now that they are in the "sacred place." Apparently the religion of these people only allow communication in there churches or sanctuaries.

Aquaman asks the woman what planet they are on and in what galaxy they are in, but the concepts are unknown to her. She knows only the city and the wilderness beyond. Aquaman realizes that he must be in another plane of existence and asks the woman if there is someone he can talk to. She says only Brother Warnn, but that no one dares talk to him. A voice asks Aquaman what he wants and when he turns around he is confronted by Brother Warnn. Obviously continued, and not just in the next issue, but in the next story, sort of. Reprinted in Adventure Comics #502.

The back-up is Deadman in "Deadman Rides Again" written and drawn by Neal Adams. In Nanda Parbat, Deadman has a meeting with Rama Kushna where Rama says that he will keep his "deal" with Deadman to allow him to attempt to balance the good against the evil of the world. To that end Rama sends Deadman out on a mission to discover the danger in a small deep-sea craft. Chasing down the craft, being driven by Ocean Master, Deadman watches as he places a small glowing device on the ocean floor. Staying with Ocean Master Deadman watches as he rendezvous with an alien space craft. There he learns that Ocean Master has made a deal with the aliens to plant their device for them in return for them killing Aquaman.

As Ocean Master leaves, Deadman attempts to take over his body only to find a portion of his mind blocked off. Needing full control of Ocean Master, Deadman breaks through the barrier, but finding himself weakened, leaves Ocean Master's body to "catch my breath." As he does so, Ocean Master regains control of his body and feels long forgotten memories flooding his mind and realizes that Aquaman is his brother and that he has sent aliens to kill him. He heads off to warn Aquaman leaving Deadman free to find out what the aliens are up to with the strange device.

The aliens converse telepathically and Deadman listens in as they discuss how the device, and others like it, will lower the mental capacity of humans by 25%. Deadman finds that he can take over the bodies of an alien just as easily as a human, but he walks through a restricted area and the other alien takes off as if he knows what is going on. When Deadman goes after his body the first alien says that he has "been under the control of a non-entity" as if Deadman-types are a known issue with them. Unable to control both aliens at the same time they make there way to a hatch where the let loose a "Sddrie," a small cat/rat-like creature with large ears and huge glowing eyes. As the creature looks at Deadman he feels himself slipping into another dimension.

This story, reprinted in Deadman Collection HC, sure had me hooked.

Edited by Dick Giordano.