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.

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