Charlton vs Mighty MLJ

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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sideline Sundays: Faithful Fake Fauna

Faithful Fake Fauna? Que? Well the silver age of comics was quite literally littered with various animal sidekicks of their heroic masters, yet most times they were actual animals. In the golden age of comics, Robotman created a robotic pet/sidekick named, you guessed it, Robbie the Robot-Dog. The "pets" we consider today weren't typically on the "sidelines", so to speak, like most ficitional supporting characters. Still they never had speaking parts, very rarely displayed any thinking abilities, and were more or less flying devices with cool gadgets that aided their gravity-bound owners. We give you...Blue Bettle's Bug and Black Hood's Nightmare, for your viewing pleasure (or not):


As you no doubt observed, the Bug was a vehicle of vertitable visual delights! Part aircrafter, part laboratory, part lounge for the stressed out scientist needing a break from the anxieties of capturing corrupt criminals.


By way of comparison, Nightmare was rather aaestically dull or outright goofy in its presentation. Looking like a slapped together menagerie of sheetmetal. At least it recovered quickly from attacks before its master went splatts on terra firma below.


In this sequence, after Ted Kord aka the Blue Beetle faces a robotic duplicate of Dan Garrett aka the former Blue Beetle, its the Bug that lashes out using a powerful charge of electricity to destroy the droid. How was it able to accomplish this feet, since it originally operated by remote control? Did Cord accidentally hit the switch activiating it, or did it acquire some rudimentary intelligence?

Nightmare also saw to the preservation of its master, in the only manner it could provide this, by sacrificing itself to save the Black Hood from an alien adversary. And mercifully, despite the Hood's promise to himself, this robotic monstrosity was quickly forgetten. Well..until this post...sorry.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Fiends: Atomic Adversaries

The 20th Century  marked the dawn of the atomic age, an era where the raw power of nuclear fission was accessed by mere mortals with devastating results. While notable heroes have been created in modern fiction from such a source, this has also spawned those who would use such power for evil. Today we highligh two such villains, one errantly turned the power upon himself and the other upon his foe, leading to divergent tales for Captain Adam/Atom and Captain Strong, the Shield!

Our bad guys in question are Professor Koste and Doctor Collins (the Deathstar..young Skywalker. Will our Captains use the force? Fundamental, that is...):














While out two captains battled gangs, the prof and doc had stolen toxic items unleashing deadly radiation!

Atom leaked radiation from his damaged suit, while Collins was exposed to massive radiation from the device he stole. Each of these sinister scientists unleashed new threats to the world...threats the people of this era were scared of since the dawn of nuclear power!

Koste takes this opportunity to gain access to a reactor.Meanwhile Collins seeks Doctor Laureen Smith to help reverse the mutating effects of the negatron device he had unleashed.

Atom  heroically stalled the reactor activated by Koste from going critical mass, at the cost of losing his own powers. Collins as Dreadstar went critical mass and attempted to take Shield and Laureen with him.

Journalist Abby Ladd attempted to discredit Atom during this confrontation, though its obvious that she and Laureen secretly harbored deep feelings for the heroes and their miiltary alter egos.


Atom and Shield dealt their foes a defeat. Atom gained a new lease on life, Shield lost his.



The loss felt by Maureen and the aggravation expressed by Abby shows how ironic things turned out for both potential love interests.


As for Koste and Collins, they weren't seen again...yet in their two encounters with our couple of captains they changed their lives in ways that last to this day. While Captain Atom gained a new costume and greater control over his powers, giving him a new lease on life, for Captain Strong - the Shield - it led to his demise as he has never returned.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Team-Up Tuesdays: Dark Hooded Ones

Revisiting the team of Peter Cannon, the Thunderbolt, and his right-hand man Tabu, we meet a recurring nemesis that they encounter throughout their partnership...the Hooded One! Apparently in the distant past, Hoody performed a noble act of self sacrifice for his masters leading to his facial predicament..which left him embittered as a result. Why the personal anomosity between the Bolt and the Hood? Let's explore this further...


Evidentally, the Hooded One obtained sufficient information from the ancient scrolls...before his opposite number inherited them, to make him a formidable presence in the lives of Team T-Bolt. He repeatedly plagued the duo in Thunderbolt #s 1, 51, 54, 58, and 59 (with a cameo in issue #56). At one point, Pete returned to Asia to find a precious plant necessary in saving the life of faithful Tabu...leading to this encounter with his foe...



On a return trip to the largest continent, the Hooded One launched his most formidable attack against Pete and Tabu...this time with an entire tribe backing him up...and once more came up flat despite his best efforts.


After a subsequent duel in England with similar results, the Hooded One disappeared and so had his rivals. Despite his extensive knowledge and connections with skilled agents like Dum Dum Barnes, Evila and a tribe bent to his will, he only proved his masters' decision correct...Thunderbolt was the one who deserved the knowledge granted him as it led to victory...and justice...concepts Hoody never quite grasped despite his many attributes.

On the opposite side of the coin, another hooded one debutted decades earlier, himself the victim of a noble sacrifice as police officer Kip Burland was framed for a crime he didn't commit by his arch-enemy, the Skull (who we considered earlier). Along the way, he was tricked into a trap that left him literally in limbo for several years by a vengeful foe..



In the intervening years, Black Hood took the opportunity having all the time on his hands to read, read, read...and become a brilliant scientist who could invent cool toys which he never had access to in the 40's.



The weirdest invention he devised was his flying robotic steed, Nightmare. How Nightmare attained altitude despite his lack of aerodynamic features in his design is beyond me. Here we see both meeting the Fly for the first time, in route to their joining the Mighty Crusaders. The Hood had a modest run of solo appearences during the silver age, from Fly Man #35, Mighty Comics #s 42, 43, 44,46, 47, 50. He had a rocky relationship with fellow Crusader, the Shield.

Eventually, Kip had later bequeathed his black hood to his nephew, also named Kip (at which point we learn that the hood had been passed along throughout the Burland family for centuries...or by a hermit). So while one Hood used his knowledge and years of exile from humanity for evil, the other used it for good. While one was resentful for another coming to take his place, the other welcomed it.  Both had limitless potential never fully realized.




As the Hooded One faded into obscurity, the original Black Hood became the victim of these notorious criminal gangs, perishing ignominious.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Why Charton vs Mighty MLJ?

A comment over at Charlton Comics facebook blog stated the following: "Okay, we're not sure we understand the point of this blog (the gist of it appears to be comparing Charlton superhero comics to Archie superhero comics), but it features some pretty cool stuff, so who cares?"

While the description on the page's header: "Two parallel universes from two silver age comic book publishers examined ad naseum!" provide a reader with the gist of its intent, perhaps a few illustrative points can cement the driving force(s) behind this blog. Allow me to bend the rules, a bit, and introduce some non-featured characters from a different publisher which hopefully explains the method behind our madness:

Postulating further that there would be other publishing universes operating side-by-side, with similarites like those season between DC Comic's golden and silver age characters, we see the golden age MLJ and (mostly) silver age Charlton stables of characters had definite parallels as well. This is further hypothezied in this Omniverse Map found at http://www.internationalhero.co.uk/:


In 1986 it was confirmed that previous Charlton Comics' characters were assigned their own universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths #6. Later in 2000, the former MLJ/Mighty/Red Circle characters were also acknowledged as having existed in their own seperate dimensional reality.While never meeting directly, they had other similarities including the Watchmen having been originally inspired by the MLJ's Crusaders and later inspired by the Charlton heroes instead. Whether or not this allegation is valid or not, this was only the first of several cases where the two companies seemed to mirror one another. Consider...

Two military captains that harnessed fundamental forces to become the premier heroes on their worlds. Two heroines that disappear into darkness. Two athletic intellectural blonde haired heroes with similar fashion sense. Two insect heroes weilding special weapons while gliding through the air.  And so on and on...

Plus, you drive twice as much traffic to your blog with twice as many characters and interests...doing so in a non-sequitor manner...

Thank you, Robert, BBC, Victor, Rip and others who have expressed interest in this rather unorthodox approach. Hope you'll continue to be entertained with future posts with our Sunday/Tuesday/Friday/VS features.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sideline Sundays: Steelers' Sultry Sidekicks

Kicking off this season of Sideline Sundays (since Steeler Sunday's concluded last week with the conclusion of the American Football/Gridiron season and our favorite Steelers from Pittsburgh), the best transition to this new featurette is highlighting the gal friday's of our men of Steel, Steel Sterling and Sarge Steel. The first to appear was Sarge's secretary back in his mid-60's self-titled comics run, Bess Forbes:

There was a palpable chemistry between the two characters, a simmering deep romantic tension boiling just under the surface. Alas, Sarge's line of work and wandering eye prevented him from setltling down..and Bess knew it.
Bess took great pleasure in jerking her employer's chains, to get a rise from him . Generally he was a smooth operator, even when facing a daunting opponent during his regular fencing matches. Ah but a picture of some hot foreign babe and he was like butter. Still, they never stood a chance next to Ms. Forbes.Notice how she veigns disinterest when enticing him with the latest dish of the day, while slyly glancing his way.


Eventually, it stood to reason that she would be used as a bargaining chip as in Sarge's File 115, when she was kidnapped by the mean mad man-and-madame duo of P.O.W. (more on them another day). She proved more an asset than a liability to Mr. Steel helping him bring down the fairer foe of the two. And the experience shaped her perception in a way that she seemed to finally understand Sarge's steel veneer and seek his tender yet manly embrace.



While Sarge was a polished ladies' man, his contemporary Steel Sterling, while a lady magnetic, was a bit clueless when it came to the fairer sex. Of these, Gayla Gaynor ranked the top as far as endurance in seeking to claim her man. Here we see her in the early days, looking like a porcupine dressed in pearls as she channels her own inner Mary Tyler Moore. And her sharp quills really sting Sterling's steel hide in a way no other woman's has. Either she had serious mood swings, or this is a different Gayla than the next Gayla...


Thankfully Ms. Gaynor..and her fashion sense...finally arrived in the mid-80's when the object of her affection was still fighting the fine fight. And she is noticably distressed as Steel's lack of settling down and just picking her. These were in the early days of his own comic's run before he gained a veritable fan club of femine wiles drowning him in copious amounts of estrogen. She could sure have quite the extensive internal monologue while in the midst of a conversation, although she could not mask her true feelings if she wanted to.

What exactly IS up with this girl? Now she's a blonde? In Blue Ribbon Comics #4, she had pationately kissed Steel and he had exclaimed internally that she is a "woman of fire". It appears that fire is not enough to capture Steel's full and undivided attention as another pursuer named Rita attempts to conquers Sterling...himself on a quest to attain stardom in Hollywood during a cross-country tour with his gal pals and Young Steelers.

Were we to have a true "VS" comparison between these two ladies..hands down the winner would be Bess Forbes. She had it all...style, substance, and flair. She didn't discourage competion, she invited it! She didn't allow the times to change her appearance and attributes to accomodate her man of steel...she stayed true to herself and was the coolest of cool gal fridays in our book. Gayla was an also-ran. Try a red dye job next time.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Fiends: Greedy Gliding Goons

Ranking high up there on most desired superpowers would have to be defying gravity. Scores of costumed crusaders crowd clouds above their adoring public. Yet heroes aren't alone flying the friendly skies, there are those who would like to make those same skies a bit...fiendish. First up, August 1967's Blue Beetle #2,  Steve Ditko's Banshee debuted. Originally the apprentice of famed acrobat, the Flying Dundo, he saw an opportunity and snatched it to embark on a criminal life away from under the big top.


A similar pair of hovering hoods appeared in March 1985's Mighty Crusaders #11, the Buzzard and an insect man known only as "Sting", were presented.. Recruited by Eraser (whom we considered earlier) to bedevil the assembled heroes as the Riot Squad, there first target was the elder Black Hood from the 1940's which led to his untimely demise...and a drastic personality change in his heir apparent, Kip Burland, Black Hood II:


Immediately gaining the attention of news commentator Vic Sage during the Banshee's Crown City crime spree, Sage's alter ego the Question begins a one-man mission to bring the cruising crook back down to Earth and bring him...not back to the big top...but the big house...to face justice for his felonies and the demise of the fiend's inventive instructor, Dundo.


The Question was not alone in his obsessive drive to use his everyman approach against a seemingly superhuman adversary such as the Banshee, as the Black Hood went after the pair of flying fiends and their leader, despite lacking powers of his own, aided by Fly and the Crusaders:


When he finally had the Banshee in his grasp, the Question's actions led to the former acrobat's exile from the mainland to a deserted island for seven long years! Although reappearing for a rematch against the crusadering crimefighter, Banshee later joined Manipulator's  evil Squad against Question alongside Blue Beetle and the Sentinels of Justice:


 Decades after their seeming demise at the hands of the Comet, Vulture and Sting reappeared alongside a veritable legion of lethal larcenists for a rematch against the dimension traveling Mighty Crusaders, themselves now expanding their own membership to near unmanageable proportions:


Buzzard and Sting as well as Banshee and his mentor Dundo were only a few of the many in comics who made their mark above Terra Firma. Yet for their respective publishers during a handful of appearences, they provided a couple of memorable challenges for their flightless foes.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Team-Up Tuesdays: Bad Boys & Blonde Babes

Mix in two guys in clown suits whipping ropes around, and two gals sporting alien jewelry to dassle friends and foes alike, and you have today's entry. From Charlton Comics, the larcenist pair, Punch and Jewelee:
 


So Punch uses his flight to maneuver above his intended victims, then zap them with his electrical strings to turn them into living puppets? Got it. And Jewelee uses her jewelry (get it?) to mesmerize and stun her adversaries? Yep. Seems their latest ploy is kidnapping poor Alec Rios (whom we met this time last week) while he's entertaining his frienemies Captain Adam and debutante Eve Eden, whom we'll next see in their spandex clad alter egos confronting the diabolic duo of devious deviltry. Lest we forget, let's meet our other...far nobler pair of power players, Hangman and Fly Girl.



So Hangman and his miraculous multi-purpose rope seems to demonstrate their usefulness to the Mighty Crusaders, and along with the Wizard  both seemed to endear themselves to ctress Kimberly Brand, she of the Fly-Girl brand granted insect abilities like the Fly's thanks to a gem ring she wore from another dimension. Decades earlier, Hangman was originally Bob Dickering, kid brother of the Comet who adopted his costumed alias shortly after watching his brother seemingly perish (don't worry, he was revived). How he claimed this rope is a mystery left unexplained.

And what of the origin of Punch and Jewelee with there wonderful gadgets? The devices originated from  the  Sunurians and then landed on Earth:


Returning to the tale, the comedic criminals soon face their stiffest opposition from the Agent of the Atom and the Darling of the Darkness:

 

That sneaky Ghost, snatching away the ill gotten gains of his criminal cronies right from under their nose. And with Punch...that's saying something! Both pairs seem evenly matched thus far.

And all is not peachy keen even in the campyverse of 1960's Mighty Comics, as we soon learn that the temptation of ill gotten gains is to powerful a lure for the newest Crusaders:




Hangman's cancelite was potent indeed! Shortly thereafter he cancelled the entire Mighty Comics line! By we digress, as Hangman and Wizard quarrel amongst themselves (over riches, or perhaps Fly Girls kisses...me thinks?) mustached Comet follows the mustached Rios' lead  by causing things to disappear in mid battle. much to the chagrin of our resident bad guys. This results in recently revived rotten rogues reeking revengence!!!



Back over at Charlton, things are heating up towards a climax as the plundering puppeteers get all they could ask from Capt and Shady:


In another go around with the heroes-turned-villians, Hangman attempts to rope the affections of that fly...girl and take his chief competition out. To bad the Black Hood has a different thought on the matter leading to the painful realization that this is NOT the way to pick up our heroine.


Hangman eventually reformed, and Fly Girl eventually ditched the Fly, yet they never made it back into each other's arms. Punch and Jewelee eventually reunited when their world was figuratively, and quite literally, falling apart. An adventure for another day, perhaps...

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.