Charlton vs Mighty MLJ

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

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Fiends: Watchmen's !mpact Beasts

Carrying forward are ongoing our series on Watchman's !mpact and DC's redefinition of MLJ/Mighty and Charlton characters, the penultimate villains in their teams' sagas were a pair of teleporting beasts who terrorized New York City... one leading to tragedy the other to triumph.

A mysterious malefactor, to be revealed later, spawned a monstrous behemoth through decades of genetic research and the physical design from a series of kidnapped artists. Cloning the adept mind of Robert Deschaine to house within the beast, it is teleported into the center of New York City causing massive death and damage, both due to tentacles exploding and a mental shockwave it emitted.

 And while the Watchmen were unable to turn back the clock, ahem, to stop the artificial alien, a real alien sent as part of invasion from another dimension confronted the Crusaders in their two incarnations. The American Crusaders dispatched the beast, at the cost of their good friend Professor Steven Carlson through who's mind the being used during its initial attack. Placed in hybernation for decades, it was eventually freed and it took the combined forces of a younger set of heroes to defeat it once more. Since both creatures had mental powers, tremendous strength, and the sinister intent of those who sent them to attack unsuspecting inhabitants of their respective Earths!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Captain Atoms's Girlfriends: Eve and Shade

Charlton had something going when they introduced their two-in-one gal, Eve Eden aka Nightshade. Whereas poor Archie Andrews had to eternally pick between the blonde and the brunette, the naive and the vain, the girl and the woman. Captain Atom had her all in one in lady!



Rich socialite Eve Eden, blonde daughter of a prominent U.S. Senator, seemed to have it all. An oppulent life, a jet-setting lifestyle, great looks and a charming personality. And the attention of one hunk-a-man in the form of Captain Adam, who could easily benchpress a hundred Archies!

In her secret identity, Eve donned a brunette wig... worn in a ponytail style for maximum effectiveness during battle... and became the fighting femme fabulous known as Nightshade! Oh, and lest you believe she was vain like Veronica Lodge, aka Ms. Vanity, Eve knew how to flaunt her footwear!

The best of both worlds wrapped in one fab package. A sorta reverse version of blonde ponytailed Betty and raven haired Veronica. If only Arch had lived on Earth-Four, he would've had his dream girl right there.
Like she'd give that dork the time of day. You go Atom, boy!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Watchmen's !mpact: Crusaders In Depth - Crimebusters at a Glance - Tale of 2 Teams

Following up on yesterday's introduction to Teams Crimebuster and Crusaders, a picture (and accompanying text) speak louder than words. So we'll start with Team !mpact and the potential that was so fleeting:



And to follow up, the ill-fated Crimebusters' self-imploding origin tale:


Comedian's belch about summed up how most everyone present felt.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Team-Up Tuesdays: Watchmen's !mpact #3


Two second generation teams were formed in the veneer universes based on MLJ/Mighty and Charlton Comics, and these were the characters that readers primarily associated with the Watchmen and !mpact comic series. Each team was composed of very similar elements.


There was the government agent, the eerie animal, the gutsy heroine, the temperamental elemental, etc. While the Crusaders had  a core of four: the flaming Fireball, the superstrong Shield, the flying Fly and the jungle-lass Jaguar, they also had others assisting them including  the faceless Black Hood , the  cosmic Comet and "the Web" team.


The Crimebusters also had a composition of divergent individuals such as Ozymandias, Captain Metropolis, Nite-Owl II, Silk Spectre, Rorschack, Comedian and Doctor Manhattan. Each filled a niche necessary to make their teams interesting. However, while the Crusaders took off to have a modest career, the Crimebusters self-imploded from the start. They were attempting to carry forward the legacy of their predecessors of the Minutemen and American Crusaders. They didn't quite succeed, however.

And yet, these Watchmen persisted and paired off into more manageable teams. And the Crusaders would themselves face a crucible that would challenge their resolve! Which we'll learn more about next week.

Monday, July 26, 2010

History of the Blue Beetle and Fly Comics #2

A couple days ago we reviewed the initial offerings of the Blue Beetle and the Fly, from Beetle's 1940's comicbook run and the Fly's late 50's into the early 60's comic book run. Each introduced us to a pair of individuals who in their civilian identities fought for truth and justice as a police officer and defense attorney, yet were granted powers beyond those of ordinary men becoming extraordinary bugs!

As we delve into the second chapter of their publishing history, we should note that Blue Beetle had a brief resurrugence in the form of a reprint book of four issues from February 1955 to August 1955. However, actual new material would be worthcoming after Charlton completely reinvented their recently acquired fictional property. Gone was Dan Garret, beat cop and drug-enduced superman. In his place was Dan Garrett, archeologist stumbling upon an ancient scarab granting him vast super powers!

Blue Beetle version 3 - Charlton Comics June 1964- February 1966
After the initial five issues had appeared, Beetle fell out of vogue but only briefly, as he was launched in a second run shortly thereafter. In hindsight, the artwork was a bit lackisdasical and the plotting pedestrian at times, yet their were glimmers of imagination scattered throughout. Not much of a supporting cast was developed for the hero, only a revolving door of damsels in distress and some unique if one-off rogues to face (with the exception of the Preying Mantis, of course). However, this character would inspire another up-and-comer to even greater modern day success,much like the hero below!

Fly Man version 1 - Radio/Mighty Comics May 1965 - September 1966
In the Fly's case, the writing was more geared towards what other publishers were offering in their superheroes. In the first edtion of his comic under the moniker of Adventures of the Fly, the brave bug was introduced to a mentor in Turan, a female assistant/love interest in Kimberly Brand aka Fly-Girl, and a rather impressive rogues gallery particularly Spider-Spry. In this series, some golden oldies whom he met such as Black Hood and the Shield were brought in along with the Comet and many of these issues should've actually been labeled the "Mighty Crusaders" as they were team-up tales until the latter part of his run. And then, in a means to salvage slagging sales, Fly Man morphed into Mighty Comics which would highlight various second tier comic properties over at Radio/Mighty Comics.

But the Fly would have one more chance at greatness, although this would take place decades later when a comics veteran was brought in to transform the character into something unique. And coincidently, it was the same writer/artist who had ushered in the new Blue Beetle in the late 60's.  Would lightning strike twice? How successful would he be with each? Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

History of the Blue Beetle and Fly Comics #1

Perhaps no other two characters quite define their respective publishers as had Blue Beetle and the Fly. And their comic book runs... although hit and miss... had remarkable peaks during their various series runs throughout the decades. So we'll dissect their histories:

Blue Beetle version 1 - Fox/Holyoke Publishing 1939-50
Fox Publications hit gold in 1939, shortly after the first wave of masked men had hit the street, by publishing Blue Beetle (and then sold it in 1942 to Holyoke Publshing) The series would feature their premier character, and what was not to love? He had it all, the everyman police officer with the jazzy jumpsuit, the standard repetroire of powers which ebbed and flowed with the  whims of the writer. And that initial writer, possible Will Eisner, set this brand on the road to success... at least until August 1950 when his self-titled publication was finally canceled with issue #60. This was during the period past when most superheroes had become passe and yet there was something natural about this bug man. Funny thing, who would know that bugs would be so marketable? Except for Stan Lee!

Adventures of the Fly version 1 - Archie Adventure Series 1959-64
When Archie Comics finally longed to revisit the niche from which their successful publishing empire had been based in the early 1940s, that being superheroes, they decided to create two brand new properties rather than recycle their older characters. And so with a publishing date of August 1959, the Adventures of the Fly debuted, the creation of the legendary pairing of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Alas, they would only stick around as a duo until issue #4, and then after #8 Archie would enlist staff writers. The first edition of this series would last until October 1964. But, like the Beetle before him, our Flying friend would not lie down for very long! Yet when both returned, they would be produced by two new entities on the comic book scene who would attempt to capitalize on their modest success by building new fictional universes. More soon...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Fiends: Watchmen's !mpact Foes


Indigo and Moloch were the typical bald baddies so much in vogue back in the silver age of the 1960's. And each were retroactively inserted into the new takes on MLJ and Charlton of  the American Crusaders and the Crimebusters as their arch-foes. What made each truly unique was not what they were but what they ended up becoming, as they each realized their ultimate failure as world conquerors in their twilight years in one last encounter with the forces of justice. And how did these two masterminds of menace become the rogues we know and loathe?

Indigo was an unknown scientist who enlisted the premier specialists known as the Magi in various fields to develop state of the art technology, utilizing such devices to paralyze travel and block telecommunication. Edgar Jacobi operated mostly solo as the villain known as Moloch, a faux magician who was actually himself a scientist utilizing solar technology versus civilization. The Crimebusters, successors to the earlier Minutemen, not only repeatedly defeated Moloch but demoralized him. Even after he retired and worked in private industry, he continued to be hounded by some vigilantes. 


Indigo ended up reuniting his fellow fiends in the Magi thanks to a blackmail attempt involving the U.S. President, and left Earth with them in his space vessel. Moloch was murdered by a mysterious assailant for his role in a conspiracy that would overturn trust within the superhero community of his world! And each left as they came, obscurity.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Battling Blondes: Round 7 - Teamup Tribulations!

This week we shift gears away from the solo adventures of our pair of battling blondes, and dissect how well they work with fellow heroes. Actually we had a sneak peak into John Raymond's teammate chemistry, for when  last we saw him the Web worked well with his brother-in-law, Ralph (the Jaguar) Hardy. Only now, we review Web's inter-team dynamics with fellow Mighty Crusaders. And in a first, we consider Peter Cannon's sole documented case alongside the Sentinels of Justice! How well do both fare? Proceed if you dare...

Right from the start, the Web aspired to join the Crusaders, which we've previous joined fellow heroes Captain Flag and the Fox as potential recruits for the team. When that didn't go so well (in part thanks to John's aching back), they decided to go it as the terrific trio known as the Ultra-Men! They were so successful... they never reappeared. At least two of them bonded, that being the Web and Fox, no doubt due to the fact that both were sons of golden agers under the same monikers.


By the time the 1980's rolled around, John's stock had risen much like most of Wall Street, and he was immediately inducted into that decade's incarnation of the Mighty Crusaders. He carried such clout, he brought along good friend Doc Reeves in tow. In fact, he seemed to be the peacemaker in the group, no one had (or at least expressed) ill feelings towards him. However, on one occasion Web displayed some uncharacteristic prejudice towards Thunder Bunny, although he soon learned to trust the rascally rabbit rounding-up rough rogues relentlessly!

During an epic battle to save their allies from the Druid and his mercenary band of supervillains, the Web even faced death plummeting towards the Earth with death-defying fear and a tinge of remorse only for how his beloved Rose would be affected by her loss of her beloved husband! This same pattern of self-sacrifice for his teammates was reflected in his pursuit of evidence absolving his pal the Shield of a murder charge, and of his avenging the death of Reeves at the hands of Sting and the Brain Emperor.

Alas, Peter Cannon's record as a teammate was not quite as sterling! Mister "I can do it I must do it I will do it" was anything but when his world came under the influence of another Earth's Psycho Pirate. While the rest of the Sentinels of Justice were attempting to fight a perceived alien invasion under emotional duress, Thunderbolt uncharacteristically fled into a wall of white anti-matter. Saved by a superspeeding Jay Garrick aka the Flash, Peter was left in the next issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths as a hysterical looking rookie! What caused this change of demeanor for the normally cool/calm/collected hero? No one can say. Bad writing?

Battling Blondes Rating

1.) Story Drama: With more story to draw from and a solid track record of appearances alongside fellow Crusaders, the Web aces this category easily. Poor Thunderbolt needed some better P.R. when he was purchased by DC Comics, which leads to #2...

2.) Imaginative Use of Abilities: While the Web eventually gained exploding "web balls" created by Doc Reeves during the Mighty Crusaders run, it was Thunderbolts unexplained ability to seemingly run at superspeed that earns him a nod. Again, bad writing not referring to the source material when introducing classic characters into today's comics.

3.) Adversary: Thunderbolt faced a faster foe and a more fearsome fiend than had the Web, yet the Web's variety of enemies were varied in their approaches and diverse in their motivations. Attempting to transform humanity into mindless snakes beats out scaring the pants of people such for cheese and grins any old day. Web claims this one by a mile.

4.) Intangibles that Worked: Both in the silver and modern ages, the Web's charm laid in his everyman approach to superheroing, and this was never more clear than how well he worked with other champions possessing greater abilities than he. Had the Pete Cannon we all read and loved in the 60's returned during Crisis, he might have had a chance here.

And so the Web has a clear cut victory in this round, and the score is now 3-2-2 with 3 wins for the Web, 2 for Thunderbolt and 2 ties for the lad. So, as Round 7 is where we finish this epic duel, the Web is the victor but not by much. Hence T-Bolt gains honorable mention.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Team-Up Tuesdays: Watchmen's !mpact #2

Twice DC reinvented acquired properties from defunct publishers and immersed them in revitalized universes. For Charlton, it was in the more mature Watchmen (right) and for Archie's MLJ it was kid-friendly !mpact brand (below).
Each inserted pre-cursor teams to the modern day heroes in the form of America Crusaders and the Minute-Men. One was idealized the other was realistic, both had fatal flaws the led to their downfall.

The American Crusaders had been modeled from MLJ Mighty: From right to left the Shield, Captain Commando, Black Witch (Darkling), Firefly and Doc Strong (Lancelot Strong).

While the Minutemen's Captain Metropolis, Comedian, and the original Nite-Owl were based on Charlton's Judomaster, Peacemaker and golden age Blue Beetle, the other characters were left ambiguous. The Silk Spectre was mother to the silver age incarnation, herself based on Nightshade. However, these character have allusions to the MLJ heroes of the golden age, which we have discussed somewhat previously.

When Spectre was raped, Comedian banished, Silhouette murdered, Bill accidently killed and Mothman rendered insane... the Minutemen ceased to exist. For the Crusaders, it took the death of an old friend to cause them to retire.

However, another generation would soon take their place inspired by these golden oldies' examples. Would their careers fare better than that of their predecessors? We'll learn more next week in our next installment.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sideline Sundays: Noble Novices and Numbering

There was always something almost natural when it came to Archie's gang fitting into a world with superheroes. After all, if a group of teenagers can survive for decades un-aged by the ravages of time, certainly the physics defying feats of meta-humans is not so far fetched?


 






















And speaking of revisiting heroes, that's exactly what Charlton Comics has done through the years, with somewhat mind boggling results as to the actual first issues of several of its mildly successful superhero brands.














For consider  yourself a young comic book collection who picked up Captain Atom #78 and and Blue Beetle #18, and you feverishly look for earlier issues! Not a chance! Somehow, this gimmick was believed by by the Dudes in Derby Connecticut to be the means to circumvent costs entailed in first issues!

Our thoughts exactly, Might Man! Kinda sucks all the joy of buying comics! Never fear, after awhile they learned from this and by the 70's Charlton was on the straight and narrow of comic book publishing etiquette.


And we now return you to your lazy summer weekend to relax and enjoy a good issue of Zap Comics #111. We know it does the trick for Superguy!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Fiends: Anonymous Archie Adversaries

Who knows who these greedy generic goons are, but at least we know something about their heroic opposite numbers... that they fill the roll of a punch line with their knockout punch! Consider a few such examples:


Charlton never seemed to find as much appeal mixing their humor properties nor the others (romance, war, mystery, etc) with superheroics. For Archie, however, even when they were not publishing such characters through their MLJ, Mighty and Red Circle brands, they at least had homages due the hero (and villain) niche that for a brief period in the golden age helped start up their now successful enterprise and thus launched the Archie franchise to global heights of today.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Obscure Character Quiz #1: Answers Await!

Which of these female fitness phenoms took down the lawless with their estrogen power-packed muscles while aiding...

Mr. Muscles' gal Friday was Miss Muscles (this one was really not AT ALL hard). She had the same problem as the Mister... rivals jealous of her bod.






Ms. Samson was a female body builder working out in the same gym as Steel Sterling, and competed alongside him for a role in a Hollywood movie. Turns out they picked Steel AND Samson, and during a drive out west the two fell in lust.



Who was the scientist and who the historian of this "spooky" pair?


Anton Piper was a historian who thanks to a moonstone transformed into the time traveling Spookman (not all that Spooky) and helped burn down ancient Rome!





Paul Morse was a scientist who learned to transform himself into a silver age variant of Mr. Justice. Not at all connected (aside from costume and abilities) with the 1940's version, it would seem.




 

Of these two synthetic humans, which was known as the Shape and which as the Shadow?

The Shape was the yellow and black clad being designed to replicate any... well... shape. He aided lad Kevin Boyd on a tale involving some spies and then disappeared into the night, while hunted down by Kevin's uncle who was Shape's demented creator.







Bonus question: Which of these androids was replicated in the same issue?
 
This would be the answer to question #3 and the bonus question. The Blue Shadow was spawned by the evil organization known as P.E.R.I.L. to defeat the Shield, and almost succeeded until Shield used the same device to create a Red Shadow to combat his Blue Brother. Then both just waded away!