Category Archives: Comics

E-Man #1

E-Man #1 1978/73 Modern Comics

20141217_112829_HDR

In doing a quick search, I see that E-man, born in 1973, was a pretty short lived character that over the next 30 years or so popped up occasionally only to fade away again.  This is a reprint of issue #1.  E-man, the man, not the comic, was created millions of years ago when a star went nova, throwing off all sorts of fire and gas and star stuff, and in this case a piece of sentient packet of energy.  This energy packet floated around the universe for several million years. It gained knowledge of the universe, and, it turns out, knowledge of a lot of things there’s no way it could have encountered floating out in space, but more about that later.  I guess if you have no one but yourself to talk to for millions of years, and you don’t go crazy, you become a pretty wise and all-knowing spirit.

So after floating around for eons, the packet finds and boards through the exhaust pipe, a space cruiser.  The cruiser is commanded by a giant brain and manned by cool uni-wheeled robots.  The ship is headed for Pluto where it will test a weapon of war.  But the packet is confused by the conversation it hears between the brain and the robots (languages are not a problem for this packet)–”Long live the forces of peace!”  The packet thinks, isn’t peace an end to force?  I told you, it has millions of years of contemplation under its belt.  To investigate further it transforms itself from pure energy to matter in the form of one of the robots.  Unfortunately, this extra weight wreaks havoc on the ship’s delicate navigation system and it veers out of control, ultimately crash landing on earth. (Sometimes you need to build a little wiggle room into your technology.)  I love the packet’s response–Oops!  Then . . .

20141217_112902_HDR

Cut to the dressing room of exotic dancer Nova Kane after her shift.  She says it’s going to feel good getting into clothes, but for the next two pages, she doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to do so.  Anyway, after the crash, the energy packet apparently got caught on some electrical wires and ended up in the one of Nova’s light bulbs.  It explains all this in perfect English from the bulb, and she frees the energy packet by smashing the bulb.  To say thank you, the packet of energy transforms itself into a hunky man.  Him: “I need a place to stay for the night.” (Sure you do.)  Her: “My jeep is just around the corner.” (Of course it is. (She’s still mostly naked.))  Him: “This is perfect.”  (Yep.)  Her: “Get in.” (Yep, yep.)

20141217_112938_HDR

Cue trombone: Waaaaaa Waaaaaaa.

In the morning while the two discuss energy and matter and such there is a knock on the door.  It’s the landlord.  He’s back from vacation up north.  But he doesn’t want the rent; he wants to kill everybody!  He whips out his gun and starts shooting.

20141217_112953_HDR

After the landlord is dealt with, Nova and E-man (he’s named himself now), head north because they’ve figured out the crashed spaceship must be releasing some gas that turns people into homicidal maniacs.  Nova drives. E-man travels by phone line.  Pretty cool.

When Nova gets there the residents of the town all try to kill her.  She escapes and meets up with E-man.  They venture out to the crash site, battle some robots, and just before the brain releases the gas bomb that I guess would make the whole planet into crazed killers, E-man uses his energy powers to destroy the brain

The other story in the book, “The Knight,” is a spy story from the files of CHESS –Command for the Hindrance of Espionage, Sabotage, and Subversion. I mean if you stop it outright, you’ve just spied your way out of a job, so they just hinder the three main threats to society. Typical government workers, right?

Anyway, the spy story has a cool premise. The three-man team, a knight (team leader), rook (muscle) and bishop (intel person) are called in to headquarters where the king and queen give them their mission.  (The pawns are the backup team with guns.)  I guess I’m a sucker for gimmicks. Attempts were made to set up relationships between the characters, and I think it would have been fun to see these characters spend more time with each other.

20141217_113023_HDR20141217_113029_HDR

The story was ok, bit of a twist, kind of fun, reminded me a bit of the old Avengers television show.

Overall, I liked E-man #1, especially the bizarre touches–the townsfolk that go mad and must kill anyone who hasn’t inhaled the leaking gas; the fact that E-man can speak any language he hears, understands the concepts of peace and force, but for the last-panel gag doesn’t know what money is; and of course Nova.  I’m not sure how I don’t remember Nova from my childhood. She’s and ample girl who can’t stand, sit, run or fight any way but sexy.  It’s cute that E-man creates a superhero costume for himself to impress Nova.  But I think the book would be better if it were more alien learning about earth while foiling bad guys type story, rather than trying to be a traditional superhero story.  I know that’s a fine line, and maybe it’s just the suit that makes the difference.  But there are a lot of suits out there, and I didn’t think E-man needed one.

Both the E-man story and the spy story were decent pilot episodes.  I like the characters and in both cases would have been glad for a longer story with more character development.  I understand that that’s what future issues are for, I just don’t think I have any more in my big old cardboard box.

Master of Kung Fu #57

Master of Kung Fu #57, 1977.

20141206_163449

This book should be great. Here’s why. It stars Shang-Chi, master of kung fu. Just like the cover shows, early on in the story he fights the Red Baron while flying through the air. Not only that, the Baron isn’t shooting bullets, he’s shooting some sort of plasma-ray. Not only that, the Red Baron isn’t really the Red Baron, he’s a crazy ex-spy called War-Yore who not only thinks he’s the Red Baron, he also sometimes thinks he’s St. George the dragon slayer with a plasma-ray sword. He’s been living in an old castle where he is keeping a woman captive, the girlfriend of another ex-spy, Leiko, a girl who can clearly take care of herself.

20141206_163521

Shang-Chi is working with a couple ex-MI-6 agents to track down War-Yore. It seems that MI-6 is covering for this crazy man. In order to gather more info, our heroes break into MI-6 headquarters. There they find a ultra modern high-tech situation room with a big map and everything.

20141206_163503

But with all this cool stuff going for it, including some sweet Kung fu fights,

20141206_163550

this comic just didn’t do much for me. I think it partly comes down to stakes. With the exception of getting the girl back, I didn’t understand why I should be concerned about anything that was going on. There were no “oh snap!” moments in the entire story. I think they tried for one at the end when some big wig from MI-6 shows up to deal with all the trouble. His face isn’t revealed until the end, and it’s like, oh no, it’s Sir Denis . . .  a guy I don’t know. To be fair, I think this is part three of a four-part story. But shouldn’t the writers give us enough background to care what’s going on just in case this is where we’re entering the story?

I also didn’t care much about the characters. The crazy War-Yore is as interesting as anyone, but I don’t know what his motivation is except he thinks he’s historical figures because he’s a looney.  Shang-Chi is o.k. He can kick butt, but there’s not much personality presented, and I’m not sure why he’s involved in all this. I think he may be connected to Leiko somehow. And Leiko could be interesting, but we don’t really get to know her much either.  The other spies and ex-spies are all pretty bland and interchangeable.

My English teacher nerdiness may be showing, to talk so much about character motivation and stakes, but those are things you don’t really notice or have to talk much about until they are not there.  Unfortunately, for most of this book I felt like Sir Denis himself.

20141206_163609

Bad Comics

So I think I mentioned during the Batman review that it’s easier to review something that’s good as opposed to something bad or just o.k.  Maybe it’s not that it’s easier, it may be that it’s just more fun.  And if I’m going to write these reviews that no one reads but me, then I want to at least enjoy it.  So a while back it seemed that I was finding one right after the next, comics that I deemed not with the trouble to review. But since I suffered through them, I thought I would present that pain here.
photo 1-43
Millie the Model (queen size) #12, 1975. I don’t know how this got into my collection. I can’t imagine ever buying it. Maybe it came in a stack of comics from a garage sale or something.  Millie and her crew are clearly Marvel’s answer to Archie comics. It seems they are trying to be a bit more hip, after all, Millie and her friends are models, so presumable adults and not high school kids. And there’s this weird pinup page of Millie in various styles of pajamas, although three of the four p.j.s are the kind you’d expect (and hope) to see your grandmother in (if you had  to see her in pajamas) as they look designed for cold weather camping and leave everything to the imagination. There is the fat model that everyone is cruel to, although it seems like they are friends. And most of the humor, as indicated on the cover, consists of catty rivalry and snark.
photo 2-41
Adventure Comics #467. I always liked Plastic Man. He seemed to live in his own weird little universe were people and things were more cartoony in looks and attitude. It was always weird when Plas teamed up with the more standard heroes. And I remembering appreciating that  worlds colliding aesthetic. The problem with this terrible comic is that, to paraphrase an old calculus professor, two half stories does not make one good story. Neither of these stories has what I tell my 8th graders a story needs to be good–conflict. In the Plastic Man story he has to protect some guy from the mob, and he does it by using his stretchy powered to make himself look like other things, and he does it, the end. Starman has to do something in space and he does it, and the end. I was never worried that either of these guys would carry out their task, and tasks were so mundane, I frankly didn’t care I’d they did or not.

photo 3-25
Shazam!  Captain Marvel, or Shazam, is another offbeat hero that I used to enjoy. He also seemed to inhabit his own universe, a universe stuck in a modern version of the 1930s. And he didn’t often mingle with other heroes. But in this comic the Shazam world is just too far out there for me to take seriously. Maybe it’s the tie-in with the Saturday morning live-action tv show which I remember my brother and I enjoying the heck out of, that makes this book not work for me. Briefly, there’s that villain who is a worm that talks through a 1920s radio (you remember him). He’s kidnapped the Detroit Tigers baseball team, and he will kill everyone in the world if they don’t beat his team of aliens, some of the dumbest looking aliens you ever saw. And there’s a friend of Captain Marvel, a talking and upright-walking tiger, who tries out for the Detroit Tigers team. I guess he helps defeat the aliens somehow. It was just too much.

(The missing piece of the cover is where I decided to sell greeting cards for cash and prizes. I remember trying to sell them. I don’t remember a lot of cash or prizes.)

photo 4-18
Finally the worst of the bunch. I don’t know why I have this Flintstones comic, but it may get sacrificed on the Yule fire this year (I’m still working out the traditions of my own little festivus). I don’t think funny comics are funny. For example, I love the Simpsons, still funny after decades. The comic book, not funny. Saturday Night Live, still funny. The SNL/Spiderman comic book I reviewed, not funny. Maybe someone has pulled it off besides Mad Magazine. But this Flintstones book was so not funny it just made me mad. I don’t know what it was. It was just so bad. So bad. Terrible. It stinks.

Batman #306

Batman #306, 1978. Writer Gerry Conway. Artists John Calnan & David Hunt

photo-16

Batman has always been my favorite. I think it started with getting home from school as fast as I could to catch reruns of the 1960’s tv show. Then the comic books.  In the books, it was the classic images of Batman, as much as the stories that captivated me.  He stayed in the shadows, holding back, until it was time to spring into action, and then he did spring, in a fearless, awesome, terrifying way.

photo 1-42

Of course for many who prefer Batman over some of the other superheroes (Superman), it’s the struggle that he has with the darkness inside of himself that’s as interesting, or more so than the struggle he has with his enemies.  In that way we can relate to him, a man that hides behind false personas, neither his true self, afraid to let anyone see him for who he really is.  He’s also someone who see the evil in the world, and does what he can to fight it, although he knows he can never do enough, he can never really change things.  Our world remains a corrupt and heartbroken place, just as Gotham does, despite the efforts of a few good men and women.  And having at his core all that internal struggle of hope and despair, is what enables Batman to work, I think, in the many versions he have of him in the movies, television, cartoons, and of course comic books, from the campy to the overly serious.

Having laid out the basis for my graduate thesis, let’s take a look at Batman #306.  First the verdict.  It’s ok.  That makes it tricky for me to write about.  I’m finding it’s easier to write about good comicbooks.  There are several that were so bland that I just had nothing to say about them.  This one’s not that bad.  It has it’s moments, just some of them are are little disjointed or out of sync. The story involves a rich heroin dealer, Hannibal Hardwicke, who you would think would be the bad guy of the story. But he’s not. Hardwicke is under threat from a vigilante called Black Spider. That’s kind of a weird name as his costume is orange and purple.  Is he Black Spider because he has a dark heart? Maybe. Is it because Orange Spider or Purple Spider aren’t menacing sounding names?  Maybe. Is it because Black Spider is uh, a uh, black man? Yeah, I’m afraid that’s probably the case.  Anyway, Black Spider is an ex-junkie who hates drug dealers and wants to kill them all. That I can understand.  However, that fact that he delivers the worst misquote of Mark Twain that I’ve ever seen in print, I cannot forgive.

photo 3-24

photo 4-17

Yikes

So Black Spider is after drug kingpin Hardwicke. You might think that Batman, kind of a vigilante himself, although he doesn’t approve of out and out murder, could be a bit sympathetic to Black Spider.  But no. In fact, Batman is totally working for the man.  The police don’t want Hardwicke in their jail because they don’t’ want trouble from Black Spider or some legal mumbo jumbo, so Batman puts Hardwicke up at the swanky Wayne Foundation building.  What the flip, right? Batman is pretty cozy with the police in this story.  When they don’t want to conduct an illegal search, Batman is happy to do it for them while they watch.  “It wasn’t us, judge, violating the fourth amendment.  It was that pesky Batman.”

photo 2-40

So he protects Hardwicke and fights off Black Spider when he shows up to kill the drug lord. In the end, Batman shows little pity for the ex-junkie, and delivers one of those little Batman speeches in the last panel that I don’t remember as a kid, but that I find very annoying as an adult.

photo 5-16

For someone who wrestles with his own darkness, Batman is not very sympathetic to the struggles of others.  Those who don’t struggle at all, like Hardwicke the drug lord, he seems to have no problem with, as he doesn’t say a harsh word to him throughout the entire book.

The second story here is one of the “Unsolved Cases of the Batman,” although he clearly solves it in the end.  Some guy is blackmailing Bruce Wayne because he knows he’s the Batman somehow.  Not only that, this guy is walking through the slums of Gotham poisoning poor people with a virus that comes out of cane.

I’m not sure how these two parts of the story are connected.  There’s also a wedding ring with an inscription in it from the Batman.  I don’t know; and I read the story twice.  Anyway, Batman finds him, beats him up, and then the guy poisons himself with his own virus cane, and dies instantly.  Quite the virus.

In both these stories DC appears to be trying to deal with some serious social issues, but doesn’t seem to know what to do with them.  It’s almost like drug addiction and the rich’s disregard for the poor are just thrown in there as window dressing.  Wayne does at one point promise to redouble his efforts to improve the lot of the poor in Gotham.  At the same time he keeps the rich drug lord safe and comfy at the Wayne Foundation.  The struggle continues.

All Star Comics #12

all star comics 61

All Star Comics #12 – 1976 – Writer Gerry Conway – Illustrators Keith Giffen & Wally Wood

I like this one.  When I think about why, it seems that the total is greater than the sum of the parts.  But let’s see what we can come up with.  For one thing, look at that cover.  It’s awesome.  Like most comic book covers, this isn’t a scene from the story, but it’s kind of a few scenes from the story.  And it’s super cool.

Point two is that I like these Earth-2 characters.  I like the fact that I’m not all that familiar with everyone involved–Power Girl, Doctor Fate, Star Spangled Kid, Dr. Mid-Nite, and Wildcat.  And the heroes that I am familiar with are a bit different and their costumes all old timey. As a big reader of The Justice League back in the day, I like how the Justice Society was a slightly off version of the League.

group

Three–the villain in this story–Vulcan is kind of a bad-ass.  He’s not campy.  There’s no winking at the audience or trading quips with heroes.  He is a psychopath with a lot of power and he plans to use it to kill as many people as he can.  That might seem like it would make him a little flat, but we know what happened to him; as an astronaut, he was exposed to something out in space (as astronauts frequently are in comic books) that turned him into Vulcan. And we know why he’s gone crazy; because he  blames the Justice Society for inspiring him to do great things.  They caused his hubris which caused him to become Vulcan.  Now they have to pay.

hour of judgment

Four–the writing is smart.  For the most part, these guys talk to each other like adults, and not adults that know kids are watching them.  There are times when they get a little expainy.  And it’s kind of dumb in the panel above that the Star Spangled Kid is encouraged not to use his power to put out the fire. I guess that’s the problem with giving a superhero a magic stick that can do about anything, which it seems is what the Lad’s cosmic rod is.  But overall, I like a comic that doesn’t talk down to me.

Five–this book is action packed.  The speaks to the writing again I think.  We start in the midst of a fight between Vulcan and Green Lantern and Doctor Fate. Vulcan topples a building onto Dr. Fate and takes off while Green Lantern searches the rubble for the body of his friend.  Meanwhile Carter Hall (aka Hawkman) talks with an archeologist colleague about an ancient evil race, one of which he has encased in amber in his warehouse.  Little to they know the amber is melting or something.  That storyline will have to be resolved in another issue. Meanwhile again, Vulcan in making his escape is exposed to the direct sunlight and  crashes in the rail yards.  He finds cover and begins to regain his strength. Meanwhile yet again, the rest of the team gathers at their burning headquarters, set aflame last issue by Vulcan, and discuss their situation.  Flash runs off somewhere, we don’t find out where, just as the team gets a message from Green Lantern on the cosmic rod (I’m telling you it does everything) asking for help in locating Doctor Fate.  They all go, except Power Girl who had heard a police radio from miles away reporting a landing UFO.  She goes to investigate that and, jumping to conclusions, gets in a brief scuffle with the alien who accidentally turned the astronaut into Vulcan and is how here to fix him. Fate is found, dead?, and is taken to the hospital by Lantern and Mid-Nite.  Hawkman and the Lad go find Vulcan (can you guess how they found him?). During that battle, Power Girl shows up with the alien to help Vulcan.  Vulcan overhears that it was the alien that caused his change, and blasts him to death.  With no other options, Star Spangle Lad kills Vulcan, blasting him into nothingness (yes, yes, with the cosmic rod).  That’s a lot of action and battling, and I liked it.

Six–the art is great.  I don’t know how two artists collaborate on a comic.  However it happens, it worked out in this case. Both Giffen and Wood are known folks in the business, Wally Wood especially.  And he holds a place in my heart as one of the founders of Mad Magazine.  So much of this book is so fun to look at.

in my mind

cromp

I would love to have more of these. Unfortunately, I’m sure this is a one-off purchase I made when I was 10 years old, probably because of the cool cover.  I’m going to look in the junk drawer.  I think I saw a comic rod in there somewhere.

 

Mad House #95 & Secrets of Haunted House #1

I read a couple of horror comics, both from the early 1970s, six stories in all, and a one page joke.  One was o.k.  The other was pretty good.  I though we’d do a compare/contrast to see what the difference is. In this case I believe it comes down to pacing, variety, art, and our hosts.

The first comic is Madhouse #95 from 1974 by Red Circle Comic Group.

madhouse

It contains four stories. That many stories in one book means they’re crammed in there pretty tight. The stories are 4-6 pages in length. And for the most part, those pages have a lot of panels, and those panels are filled with dialogue. There are a couple of sweet exceptions that give the reader a break from all this.

devil

But for the most part these crowded panels made it seem as though the story was being told to me rather than shown to me, and told to me by someone in a hurry.

The second comic I read was Secrets of Haunted House #1 from 1975.

haunted house

It had two stories and a one page joke. The stories were 6 and 8 pages long. This allowed these stories to take their time in unfolding to build suspense.

tictictic

Suspense requires those slower moments, those tak, tik, tak, tiks. If the stories are just fast fast fast, then suspense is never built, and when the kicker or the twist arrives, it can be missed.  I think that two effective stories is much better than four that come up short on suspense or surprise.

The second thing that made the difference between good and ok is the variety of stories. In the Madhouse, three of the four stories [spoiler alert] end with the main character being bitten or eaten to death.

demon bats cats

In the last story, a friendly ghost story, a nice change in tone from the others, I could see where it was going, but part of me still wondered if the dead soldier, after saving his brother on the battlefield, might not eat him just for good measure. The overall feel of this book was much more, um, satanic. I know this was en vogue in the 1970s, but the sameness of this book was a drag.

In Secrets of Haunted House neither story ends with someone being eaten. The feel that this book was not so much 1970s satanism, but more creepy radio program or the old Boris Karloff T.V. Show. One of these stories, about some ambulance drivers could have been a Twilight Zone episode. The other was a monster story, creepy and menacing, like the cover of the comic. (Although nothing even close to this happens in the story (there aren’t even kids in the story).) And of course the one page joke by Sergio Aragones was dumb but fun. So the variety of tones and moods make this one a much more satisfying read.

Thirdly, these are comics, so the art, something I don’t talk about much in these reviews, is important. As you can see in the pictures above, there’s not a lot of variety in the Mad House art. Although my research shows that these artists aren’t nobodies, they’re style in Madhouse is pretty similar.

In Secrets of Haunted House, we not only get some big names, we get variety.

driver monster eve

It’s Alex Nino, the artist of the monster story that really got my attention. Turns out I have a bit of an eye for comic art.  Nino is kind of a famous artist for his work for D.C., Marvel and Heavy Metal magazine. And his style really contributes to the quiet menace of a monster taking his time to take over the world because he knows that can’t be stopped.

Finally, there’s the X factor, or in this case, the X factors. That’s Cain. Abel, and Eve.

cainableeve

I was first introduced to these folks in Plop magazine, a comic I loved. Neil Gaiman has since done interesting things with them in the Sandman books. They have an interesting (if you find such things interesting) history, which you can find on the web. Anyway, having this likable, if twisted, family hosting our time at the Haunted House makes the time there much more enjoyable.  The book is not just a collection of stories. We are guests of these creepy folks. It worked for Hitchcock, Serling, and Karloff; and it works here.

I didn’t read many horror comic books as a kid. I was always intrigued by the big black and white books, Eerie, and the like, and spent some time in my local Alco Duckwall store reading them. But there was something just a bit too subversive about them to bring them home–especially Vampirella.   Secrets of Haunted House makes me wish I had sought them out a bit more.  I will keep an eye out for them as I work through my big cardboard box.

Super Team Family #8

superteamfamily8

There’s a fine line sometimes between stupid and amazing. Super Team Family number 8 from 1976, lands squarely in amazing, especially the feature story starring The Challengers of the Unknown. This story and this team harken back to the pulp action heroes, before the days of Superman and super powers. The team is made up of four action men–a wrestling champ, a hunky scientist, a fearless pilot, and a circus acrobat. Any of these jobs could have made my top ten coolest professions when I was a kid.  Heck, they still would. As the team is introduced, we see them investigating Sasquatch and the gill-man and such.

Their mission in this story though is based a bit more in reality. Henry Kissinger, on his way to some very important peace talks, is lost in the Bermuda Triangle.  President Ford has no choice but to call out The Challengers. They take their sweet new high-tech plane into the triangle while their sexy girl assistant monitors them from their yacht.  The team is immediately sucked through the same rift in time and space that caught Kissinger. They crash land on an island that is inhabited by men from a variety of times and places (I noticed there were no women on the island. Hmmm.). There are Vikings, Mongol Huns, ancient Greeks, and soldiers from the 20th century. I think the idea is that over the centuries these guys all got taken through the mysterious rift. What the Vikings and Mongols were doing in the Caribbean I have no idea.  Anyway, the Challengers are immediately attacked by the guys who are ridding, get this, triceratops with sonic powers. The Challengers are nearly able to defend themselves, but the dinosaurs use their powers to knock everyone out.
The Challengers wake up in a cell with Kissinger. They are about to be taken before the judge where they will be given the option of agreeing to never leave the island or to accept the death penalty. Wrestling champ Rocky Davis tells the judge, “We choose to escape . . . even if it is against you’re stupid rules!” Sweet.  Unfortunately, they are overpowered and thrown back in jail. Fortunately The Challengers aren’t just adequate fighters, the are smart as well. Using the supplies they had hidden in their boot heels and belts they build an electric jail door opener. They then escape to their plane where they put together a device to counter act the triceratops’ sonic powers. In the process they see that their girl has driven the boat through the rift. A plan is devised. One of them makes his way to the boat (not the girl) while the rest, including Kissinger, fight their way to the plane past the paranoid island dwellers.

paranoid

Cuz you know, when have white American men ever given native peoples anything to worry about.

There are a number of fun fights in this story. The Challengers may not win every fist fight they’re in, but that doesn’t stop them from using their fists when they have to.

fight

Meanwhile, the boat horn is used to simulate the triceratops’ mating call, drawing them into the sea.

Faaart

Apparently the mating call is a giant fart.  Don’t ask why they didn’t all just go to the plane and fly away; these guys are scientists and know what they’re doing. As the fastest swimming dinosaur begins to make sweet love to The Challenger’s boat, the last Challenger is whisked away in the plane.

loveboat

Yeah. That dinosaur is doing that. To a boat. Sorry.

In the end, the challengers rescue Kissinger, who, as they fly away tries to say something poignant about the island men working together and if only the people of the world could do that, yada yada yada. Meanwhile The Challengers are thinking, yeah then we’d kick the people of the world’s ass just like we did those islanders.

The other story in this book stars The Doom Patrol and is a reprint from 1964. This story also stands firmly on the amazing side of stupid. The Doom Patrol is made up of a metal man, a shrinking/growing woman, a radioactive man, and the chief, a genius in a wheelchair who runs the show. Those are all cool powers, even if the chief is a little overused nowadays.
The Doom Patrol is fighting The Brotherhood of Evil (communists), led my an evil little person. Their plan is to use a ray that grows small things into large things to make war toys into full sized tanks and robot soldiers. Amazing. It’s a cool and corny story.
My problem with team books is they can get too soap-opera-y. That happens a little bit in Doom Patrol. I get it. You tend to develop feelings for people you spend a Iot of time with, but if I wanted a romance comic, I’d read one.  However, for the most part, these teams are about kicking butt, and keeping America in control of the world. Two uppercuts to the jaw, up.

Lois Lane #136

What do you get when you cross a romance comic with a superhero comic?

lois lane

Superman’s girl friend Lois Lane is a comic that I guess ran for over 10 years as this issue 136.  From the cover you can see that in this issue, Lois is in danger of losing Superman to Wonder Woman. In the second and third panel of the book, you can see why he might look elsewhere.

not now

In two seconds she goes from “Not now!” to save me for the hundredth time.  Coincidentally, what Superman wanted to share was that he and Lois are over and he’s with Wonder Woman now.  You know how it is, baby. Playas gotta play.  Lois goes through some of the stages of grief. I think. (I’m not really sure what they are.) First she can’t believe it. Then she cries and tells Superman she never wants to see him again. And then she uses a race car driver and basic adventurer to fulfill her romantic needs. But after dating Superman, even this guy is pretty bland. Finally she decides that Superman’s new romance is some kind of secret plan. So she creeps on the super lovers with zoom lenses and zoom microphones, and it appears that their love is real.

One day, while the new super couple are romancing in the sky, Superman leaves to to save a plane miles away, and Wonder Woman is attacked by three dudes on flying machines.  She makes quick work of capturing two of them. The third escapes back to his master who has set up a hideout in an underground lair. After he reports his failure to his master, a mysterious figure in a robe and hood, he is launched into the sky which of course kills him.

death by catapult

Make me rethink riding the detonator at Worlds of Fun.  Also, isn’t Wonder Woman’s lasso there to make such snipers talk.  How do these superheros so easily forget what their gadgets are for.  Anyway, as Lois continues to creep on Superman and Wonder Woman, she is hit on the head and kidnapped by the mysterious figure.  When she wakes up, the mystery figure reveals that a lie detector test has been administered to Lois, and the kidnapper now knows for sure that Lois is indeed no longer dating the man of steel. This of course saves Lois’s life because the mystery villain is . . . dah, dah DAH! . . . some crazy woman who has recently escaped from the mental hospital and who has the warmies for Super Man.  Crazy goes off to kill Wonder Woman.  Lois escapes from the hideout with the help of her friend Melba.

a sisters help

Let’s be real.  We could all use a sister’s help along the way.  Wonder Woman sure could, as Lois and Melba arrive just in time to tackle the crazy woman and remove a poison necklace from the amazon. And in the last panel Lois and Super Man smooch.

This was kind of a fun and stupid story. It was never explained how an escaped mental patient was able to afford an underground lair, three henchmen, and futuristic flying machines.  But you know what they say about a woman scorned. What made the story fun was the romance story/superhero mashup.  We tend to ignore dumb superhero tropes because we’re used to them.  Same with dumb romance tropes.  But when the stories are put together, the silliness becomes more obvious. And with so much dumb, I can let it go and just enjoy it for what it is. The film Warm Bodies worked for me the same way, combining romance with zombies. So I enjoyed this issue of Lois Lane, the only one I have.

Finally, while not a regular reader of romance comics, I was intrigued by this ad for Young Romance.

you know what I mean

Because, you know, lesbians love to paint.

 

Action #461

action461

I’m pulling these comics from a big cardboard box that I think makes up most of my childhood collection. (My brother my have some from back then; I’m not sure how many.) Almost half of those in my big box are of the Batman variety, mostly Detective, my favorite back then. Second and third go to Superman and the Justice League, maybe in that order. And then I have a bunch of strange bits and bats that I’ve pulled from so far. Well, it’s time for one of the big boys, in this case, Superman in Action Comics #461, from 1976. I remember liking this cover a lot, maybe partly because it’s not a typical heroes-flying-into-action cover. Reading this book, I didn’t remember the story. I probably blocked it out as it is one of the dumbest stories ever. It’s so full of holes it’s ridiculous.

Follow this if you can. A fellow from a planet far far away, a planet where everyone is essentially a super man, gets the bad news from his doctor that he is allergic to everyone else on his planet. After searching the galaxy, his doctors send him to earth where he will be safe from his allergy. On earth he discovers the unfortunate fact that he is allergic to Superman. So whenever Superman is near, this guy, Karb-Brak aka Andrew Meda, breaks out in a fever and gets week. The obvious answer for an alien just trying to get along on earth disguised as a regular human? Move away from Metropolis. Right? Wrong. He decides to kill Superman. But he can’t wait until Superman is out of his secret identity, so he attacks the sports reporter for the Dailey Planet, Steve Lombard. Never mind that throughout the entire fight with Steve, Karb-Brak doesn’t suffer any of the symptoms of fever or weakness that hit him when he’s near Superman–like he does for the entire rest of the book! Wouldn’t it occur to him that if he’s near this guy who causes fever, and he doesn’t have a fever, maybe he’s not the guy? Eventually Superman arrives to save Steve, and Karb-Brak escapes. He escapes to his magic psi machine that somehow gives him power over the entire human race. Realizing that since Superman isn’t Steve Lombard, he must be Clark Kent, Karb-Brak hatches this brilliant plan. He uses his psi machine to make all of Clark’s friends, in fact, everyone that comes in contact with Clark, to love and idolize him, and then, get this, get in the way and distract Clark when Karb-Brak attacks him, thereby giving the evil alien an advantage.

hubbahubba

It almost works, but then the crowd starts chanting for Clark to win. (They also chant fight, fight, fight, like back in middle school.) This stupid turn of events gives Clark the advantage.

fight

He beats up the bad guy, and chases him back to his apartment where Karb-Bark tells Superman if he doesn’t leave earth, Karb-Bark will die of allergy related illness. And that’s the cliffhanger. What should happen is Superman would say, “I know, move to Gotham, or California, or Europe, then you’ll be safe from you allergy of me.” My guess is that won’t be how this story ends. And no, if you were wondering from the cover, no gang of kids created a Clark Kent fan club and threw tomatoes at a Superman poster.

That was painful, but we’re not done yet. There’s a one page public service announcement where Superman puts the hammer down on showing up to a party uninvited.

Meanwhile all kinds of horrible things are happening around the world, but thanks Supes for keeping American kids from having too much fun.

And there’s the short story Amazing Exploits of Perry White, where editor White gathers his children around him after dinner and tells the story of when, as a newsboy during the depression, he follows a missing toy company heir only to find that he is holding hostage a toy maker who has somehow invented the atomic bomb before Einstein. The heir has gambling debts and wants to sell the super weapon to the highest bidder so he can pay back the mob so they don’t rub him out.

wastehim

(I’ll admit, that part was pretty great.)

Young Perry beats the guy up, saves the day, writes the story, and is promoted from newsboy to reporter.

You know, I kind of enjoyed those first few comics that I reviewed. And I’m a little sad at how bad the last Spiderman and Superman were. Here’s to an end of this trend when next time we go back to a Marvel team up.