Charlton vs Mighty MLJ

Two parallel universes from two silver age comic book publishers examined ad naseum!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dueling Ditko: Bug Bout 1 - Heroes in Crisis

Steve Ditko is a legend for his distinctive artwork, for his creative spark, and for his objectivist plots and scripting. While famous for some other man-bug, for our purposes here we'll be focusing on his treatment of two lesser known insect heroes cut from the same mold...Fly and Blue Beetle.

 

 The Fly is attempting to pursue leads to his latest client's ambiguous state of affairs...with little success. Meanwhile, a mysterious adversary operates behind the scenes to abduct the man caught in the middle, Mark. The Fly's alter ego Thomas Troy.has little success himself, and is knocked out...while attempting to bribe a member of the jury for his upcoming case? How can he be in two places at once?

 

Over at Charlton, the Masked Marauder is breaking into the laboratory of Blue Beetle's secret alias, Ted Cord, and finds Cord's courageous assistant Tracey who saves her employer when he's knocked out. Still, the Marauder escapes and resumes his identity as Count Von Stueben.

 

Troy wakes up to a sobering reality, as he's brought in to meet District Attorney Richard Busee, who is investigating a charge of jury tampering! Suddenly Troy's law practice is in jeopardy, and only the Fly can help him out of this sticky situation. After he resolves his mysterious case! 

  

Things aren't looking much better for Cord, who finds his lovely assistant awaiting the police...only they aren't there to investigate the Marauder. Rather, Homicide detective Sgt. O'Hara (hmm, wonder if he has a cousin over in the Gotham force?) is investigating Cords involvement in the death of...Dan Garrett...secretly the original Blue Beetle who disappeared not to long ago! Yet despite the pressure from the good Sgt. and the persistent worrying of Tracey pulling Cord's heart string, he still feels the need to don his costume to save a plane and later to pursue Count Von Stueben!

 

The Fly discovers that his client Mr. Xbaum is in coherts with a long-armed hitman named Zall, and nearly bites the dust until our hero graps his handy buzz gun. However, it doesn't seem to resolve his long term difficulties as to exactly WHO impersonated him. Hence Troy is disbarred and can no longer pursue his legal profession until he clears his name. Suddenly, his vigilante persona is the only side of Troy approved by local law enforcement. How will he proceed from this point forward?

Ater making short work on the Count and his goons...thanks to the timely intervention of Beetle's remote control Bug vehicle, not to mention using his own specialized gun...Beetle finds that Sgt O'Hara hasn't abandoned his quest for justice. Looking on from a secret vantage point, he observes Tracey's pain at hearing that Ted might be complicit in a murder!

Dueling Ditko Rating:

1.) Story Drama: For both tales, the true drama isn't revolving around the story's primary antagonists nor the main storylines, but rather the trauma faced by our heroes' civilian aliases. Coupled with the mystery as to how Troy was framed and what involvement, if any, Cord had in the death of his predecessor. These compelling plot lines end this stage in a draw.

2.) Imaginative Use of Abilities:We've already considered the unique weapons of our heroic pair. Both have the hovering in mid-air and flying fisticuffs action going for them. The tipping point is in the inventive prowess of the Beetle, and his flying Bug at times had a mind of it own?

3.) Adversary: Masked Marauder aka The Count is...a bwahahahaha bad guy mastermind. Zall has the eye beams from the Ditko-ish helmet and the extendo-arms. Zall gives the Fly this category on a silver platter simply with style in his presentation with very little substance.

4.) Intangibles that Worked: While both heroes faced insurrmountable odds against law enforcement authorities, we have two different approaches here. In Beetle's case, only Sgt. O'Hara, is fellow investigators, and of course dear Tracey suspect something bad of him. For Fly, he has the entire world against him as the district attorney exerts his full wraith against Troy...disbarring him from his profession and leaving him alone. Which is worse...having no one on your side or having a loved one like Tracey next to you feeling tortured, sensing that you are keeping secrets from her? Troy previous to this story arc lost his own girl-Friday, Kimberly Brand aka Fly Girl, although she to was pained at the injustice brandied against him. We give Troy props for not knowing what his happening and still keeping a brave face, while Cord knew what happened and is trying to avoid the consequences of any past actions.

So Fly wins this 2-1-1 in this Bug Bout between the Fly (from Fly #5) and the Blue Beetle (from Captain Atom #s 84-86). Next week we'll dissect the next chapter in this tortured odessey of our bug buddies.

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