Charlton vs Mighty MLJ

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

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Steeler Sundays: Inaspcious Introductions

One had a history of previous stories chronicled for their grandparents and parents in the 40's and 60's to read. The other was a brand new product in those very same late 1960's. Essentially, both Steels were brand new characters where Sarge Steel appeared the 60s and Steel Sterling reappeared in the 80's (we're ignoring his more superhero-type adventures of the 60s as they've been covered in some of our Friday Fiends posts previously). In each we see that our heroes reflect the times in which the writers attempt to market them in.

So Sterling was nothing more than a dime-store Ferrigno or Schwarzenegger? Not much respect for the original "Man of Steel". And apparently not much acknowledgment by his new writers Stan Timmons and Rich Buckler as to his legacy. He was being approached as a notable figure yet with his superhero persona downplayed almost the point of non-existence. Fair enough if the tales are strong enough to stand on their own. Alas, this first one is definitely NOT!

In the course of events we meet Steel's main squeeze (for now at least) Gayla Gaynor, she of the remarkably divergent hair styles/colors. Then we get a quick battle between protagonist and antagonist, in this case the man-monster known as Humongous. Truly a one-hit wonder if ever there was one, all brawn no depth, and despite our knack for scrapping the bottom of the barrel at times to highlight various Fiends... he simply doesn't merit further mention. Nor did his creators feel he had any redeemable value as he was quickly scrapped as a character in favor of more "human" tales of daring do by our hero. Nevertheless, if nothing else we have our hero's courage and might measured in appropriate context to frame future storytelling possibilities around Sterling. On that score and the Hollywood premise they wisely setup, this leads to some memorable yarns to come (although by another more legendary writer who himself aspired to write  of strong champions clad in red and blue from a Distinct Competitor to Red Circle Comics).

The setup for Sarge Steel contrasts that of Sterling only in the sense of what was "in" for movies of that era. While Sterling was featured in the action hero era where might-made-right, Sarge hit his peak during the secret agent phase in Hollywood. While initially a private investigator that dipped his hand in covert affairs only when it suit him, there would be a definite shift toward the latter in subsequent issues. In this initial outing we meet Sarge's fine (and only) supporting character in Bess Forbes, and his chief antagonist in Ivan Chang. Also added to spice things up is the distinctive steel plated left hand which he would use to great advantage repeatedly as a bulletproof shield. The finest component to this finally crafted tale was the use of first-person narrative, and Sarge's distinct personality literally jumping off the page.

Next week we'll dissect more of this pair of pretty potent playboys...

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