Charlton vs Mighty MLJ

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

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Courageous Carrot-Tops Week: The Henpeckers

icking up on a theme a couple weeks ago regarding our pals Thunderbolt and the Web, reference was made as to their "significant others" making their lives miserable. All sad sack Web wanted to do was remain a hero, all poor Thunderbolt wanted to do was remain aloof. Which had the stronger will? Definitely the John Raymond who stuck to his guns by keeping his alter ego, not like Peter Cannon who caved in. Which had it better? Pete had the solace of domestic bliss when he did as he was told, while all Johnny got was a bag of potatoes to peel as penance. Rice was Pete's starch of choice, actually.

Their carrot topped domestics, Tabu and Rose, obviously had differing opinions on our blonde bombshells' choice of wardrope. One found matching clothes, the other found it more useful as more kindling.

This often led to some rough times for our pairs of pairs.
I would take Rose any day of the week over Tabu. She could well have thrown a wicked right hook, while he telegraphs his punches too much.

Our carrot tops' styles of pouting was also quite different, yet both of them led to personal torment for our color-splashed gladiators.
If only Rose had practiced the old Asian mantra "I can do it I must do it I will do it" like Pete and Tabu practiced in their old lamasery, she may have just persuaded John to foresake his crime fighting ways.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Courageous Carrot-Tops Week: Weapon Wielders

The Hun was a sociopath raised in Germany and quickly ascending the hierarchy of the Nazi party after obtaining a costume and shield. These items granted him superhuman strength and durability But there was one man, the Shield, who with his sidekick Dusty, proved a challenge.

Doctor Kong was a sociopath scientists from an unidentified country (presumably China) who employed various means to attain power using weapons. During his first clash with the sword and shield clad Son of Vulcan, Kong employed a superstrong Giant Gladiator. Despite superior mighty and an  unrestrained hostility, SoV made short work of the creature while Kong disappeared in disgust. This would be the beginning of an enmity between the two that (during the short run of Son's book) would be a predominant theme through the series.


Even during a period when he was left powerless but another Nazi agent, the Shield was able to maneuver the situation in such away as to defeat the Hun. Using superior tactics and a greater measure of courage, the costumed Joe Higgins proved more than enough to combat the Hun even when the latter used other means at his disposal besides his mysterious artifacts of power given to him by Alexander the Great from centuries ago, after the former dictator observed Hun's tendencies towards evil from his adolescence onward.


During their next meeting, Kong adopts a new alias as the seemingly legendary "Chingchang" coming equip from fully equipped with a special sword that rendered the Grecian guardian defeated on this encounter.  Assisting to evil schemer was several femme fatale hench women that seemed to serve Kong almost in fear. What strange power he had over them we may never know. It only lasted for this tale... may it was his fashion sense or the way he swung his suave sword?
It was quite apropos that two symbols of their respective lands clad in shields would repeatedly clash. Note that this was during the period of time when a particular wing helmeted Captain was gaining some significant fame over at a marvelous competitor of MLJ comics. Kinda of a homage, aye?


Working alongside a red bearded dude named Mars (hmmm I've heard of that guy somewhere), the two attempted to eliminate Vulcan's Son. Mixing technological gimmicks with his allies unique perspective and powers, the two attempted to finally remove the chief obstacle towards their plans. Both seemed to share a common vanity, with an inability to tolerate anyone equal to themselves (how they considered each other would seem to indicate they would've turned on each other in a moment's notice).


The Hun would return decades later to revive his rivalry with his opposite number. While the Shield was preserved young thanks to being transformed into a stone like substance for several years. For the Hun, it was simply a matter of obtaining his special shield from an army base, using special gear provided to him by the organization Delta Three, led by three mysterious masterminds (on this point, Hun's masters were presumably some high placed individuals in the high society).
Both bad guys left the field of battle, licking their wounds vowing to return another day. And this would be the last direct confrontation between the two, as Kong would return to his behind the scenes plans for world domination to battle his armored adversary. Oh, and he ditched the historical duds and went back to being a contemporary methodically manipulating madmen. Meanwhile, his pal Mars left to himself plot anew the down fall of his brother's prized agent and star pupil on the Earthly scene.

Now facing off against a once more powered up Shield, the Hun stood no chance even with Alexander's own shield. Delta Three knew they had to eliminate their captured agent, lest he squeal on their secret operations. They proved unable to do so when both men of the shield worked side-by-side to take care of Delta's troops. Then the Hun was recaptured and presumably taken into custody. Never seen again (since his arch foe lost his comic... he no doubt would've returned to locate his shield left in a garbage truck).

Kong's final scheme was to use artificially induced natural disasters to destroy the set of a movie based on Helen of Troy. Aside from drenching the hairdo and spirits of the prima donna star herself, Kong was unable to do anything more than find himself apprehended by his arch foe, Son of Vulcan, himself playing a modern day Achilles. This was the final blow which left Kong permanently in defeated dejection forevermore.



Our two foreign fiends showed that despite having objects of tremendous power, their resolve could never match their fearless two shield clad foes.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Courageous Carrot-Tops Week: Medical Secrets!

Previously we considered two champions of justice during World War II, the Shield and Judomaster. How did they obtain such abilities beyond those of mortal men? First we consider a young Joe Higgins. Read on...


What was the secret that Joe's father passed along to his son? The secret of S.H.I.E.L.D., strengthening essential bodily organs to peak conditioning.


As for Judomaster, his attributes were from extensive training that harnessed the core abilities inherent in his physique and mental conditioning as a soldier that turned Rip Jagger into much more.


Two colorful legends tied to two countries at war, each  ready to train a new generation to follow their footsteps while they remain timeless!


If you haven't had enough of our Master of Judo, you can find them here. As to the Shield, catch his wacky adventures over there.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Courageous Carrot-Tops Week: Sidekicks Assemble

When last we considered the colorful crusaders of World War II, the Shield and Judomaster, we briefly touched on their junior sidekicks. Dusty and Tiger had motivated the two senior members of their duets to continue their careers despite some adversities that came along the way. How did these two lads themselves become embroiled in costumed conflicts, and what became of them decades later? Let's briefly review their histories:

As happened surprisingly often in the golden age of comics, a young boy loses his parents due to tragic circumstances, arranged by a criminal, and inevitably run into a superhero! This occurred in Pep Comics #11. And the hero in question was the first patriotic clad hero in comics.

Sweet! Shield quickly stitched up a handy-dandy new costume for his little buddy. In an odd twist, he felt it necessary to saddle the kid with a cape which the Shield himself never bothered to wear. Anyway, in yet another coinkydink, Dusty already had full Olympic-level training in judo and acrobatics. Apparently the physical education program in schools back then was exceptional! Oh, and fear not, the gaudy yellow on red-and-blue suit was quickly swapped out for something more aesthetically pleasing.


Dusty quickly made friends with the Wizard's own sidekick, Roy the Super-Boy (yep that was is name!). Now the Boy Detective could swap notes with a fellow lad taken under the wing of a major hero, in Roy's case the Wizard. They had an eleven issue run in Special/Hangman/Black Hood Comics #1-11. And met the Hangman along the way, at least on covers.


When the Shield's lengthy run of appearances petered out in December 1945, so had Dusty's. He next appeared in Mighty Crusaders #4, in the oft quoted (here) tale "Too Many Super-Heroes", which reintroduced several heroes. Dusty was brought back to the future by Zambini's powers for some unspecified reason (Jerry Siegel's wacky plotting, perhaps).Then...

Bye bye, old chum. The perpetual-pup was zapped back to his own time where, according to the Original Shield #2, he "mysteriously disappeared". The operating theory around here is that he was kidnapped by a master criminal named the Keeper, a foe of Thunder Bunny, who had a propensity to keep just upright nuisances of gangland in suspended animation for decades. Dusty reappeared in Archie's Weird Mysteries #14 in April 2001, unaffected by the ravages of time alongside other World War II mystery men turned Mighty Crusaders who (aside for the Shield) inexplicably retained their youthful vigor. Until anexplanation is provided, we'll take it.


Tiger's first appearance was a bit more...unorthodox. While himself an orphan, he resided in a Japanese internment camp...in Wyoming! Even more bizarre, he was the secret servant of the sword wielding assassin know as the Cat who himself was attempting to cause a revolt within the camp. Cat lived right under the noses of the soldiers, and rather than lock him in solitary confinement the military brass send their star agent, Judomaster, to challenge his Oriental opponent in a definitive duel.

Despite some initial reservation of Judomaster's valor and worthiness, Tiger is soon swayed to the Allied side during these turbulent war years. And as seen in the last panel (originally on a later page), Tiger stowed away on board the plane of Rip Jagger (Judomaster), and ends up donning his costumed! The cat is out of the bag (well actually he was thrown off a cliff, but we digress). What next will become of this curious cub?



In the aforementioned adversity that had struck Rip, a blindness keeping him temporarily disoriented, the General devised as scheme whereby Tiger would assume Judomaster's role as a secret agent with the judo skill set. This motivated Rip to resume his alias, and the two decided to join forces in the last panel  that would give the Japs a one-two-punch.

Judomaster's team of Bushiri, Suzikawa and Tiger continued to assist him on several cases, including the last recorded in Judomaster #89.  The kid quickly earned his street cred using his mind as well as his physical attributes. While his training was extensive he had something more, something intrinsic in his nature that could be harnessed...perhaps..to train others. In fact, he did just that decades later with surprising results...

That lass that a much older Tiger is training is wealthy Senatorial daughter Eve Eden, wishing to train herself with the necessary skills to save her brother from another dimension. She would become Nightshade, and whether or not Tiger later became aware of her own dual identity, he would no doubt have been pleased with the good she accomplished thanks in-part to his own mentoring of her. As would his own mentor.

Two adventurous boys added to the long list of superhero sidekicks, using their wits and abilities, each only standing on the sidelines for a short time before jumping into their own legends.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Courageous Carrot-Tops Week: Colorful Crusaders


The Shield was introduced in Pep Comics #1 in 1940, while his counterpart was introduced in 1965 yet existing fictionally in the 1940's. One was G-Man Joe Higgins, an aspiring scientist seeking to avenge the death of his father and discovering a process that gave him super-strength and an invulnerable costume. The other was G.I Rip Jagger, an aspiring ninja seeking to avenge his comrades whom he saw die and discovering a secret society of ninjas on a Pacific Island, gaining super-human skills and a special costume. While looking like walking posters for America and Japan, their costumes gained their color scheme due to a special chemical process (in the Shield's case) and the style-sense of the ninja society (in the Judomaster's case). Both picked up kids sidekicks, Dusty and Tiger.



Due to sabotage on the part of an adversary,  Shield lost his powers for the duration of the war yet continued to fight against evil agents from overseas, while Judomaster himself had to struggle to overcome a handicap of his own imposed on him by a foe, blindness. Both persisted in their heroic careers, thanks to proddings from the boys' own courage.

They faced rogues galleries which challenged their physical dexterity.  The Hun, the Strangler and the Fang plagued Shield; while the Smiling Skull, the Acrobat, and Mountain Storm. None matched the heroes in battle!

 

Each also had other assisting them. For Judomaster, it was Sensei, Bushiri, and his beloved Suzikawa. For the Shield, it was the Wizard, Steel Sterling, Hangman, Black Hood, Captain Flag, Sgt Boyle and Shield's wife Ellie.

Both of our red-haired heroes found themselves lost in time during the 40's, arriving in the 1980's to find individuals clad like them. Both obviously had different reactions given how they were reintroduced into the modern age. Each man stands as a paragon of power in comics.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Character Profiles Week: Captains Adam and Strong

When mentioning classic artists, consideration has to be made for Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Their mark over at a Marvelous early 1960's comic book publisher sparked the start of an era. However, two other publishers attempted to harness their magic slightly earlier enlisting a pair of Joes (Simon and Gill, respectively) to create a pair of energy powered soldiers. Despite their creators' skill, neither caught on and even when revived years later, failed to capture the imagination with their original publishers.


Joe Gill and Steve Ditko had been enlisted by Archie Comics under their Adenture Series (successor to MLJ and precursor to Mighty) in 1959 to create Lancelot Strong, who as an infant had been experimented on by his father Malcolm to access the untapped potential in all humans. As a result, he was able to absorb energy and then emit it into a bio-electrical force, as well as great strength and flight.

Charlton employed the talent of Joe Gill and Steve Ditko in 1960 to create their first super hero. Captain Atom was originally Captain Adam (later N. Christopher), who through a tragic accident while trapped on an experimental rocket was "atomized" and later reconstituted, harnessing atomic energy he could project, also gaining great strength and flight.

Yes, both faced strange aliens early in their career, not surprising considering the American public's fascination for space travel during this period of time. Using innate, almost instinctual, mastery over fundamental forces, allowing them to soundly defeat such threat within the span 8 or 9 pages. Another typical Silver Age trend.

Lancelot had himself faced tragedy an an infant orphan, and was adopted by a loving farm couple who raised him as their own (hmmm). As a young man, he was enlisted into the military under the rank of private. Captain Adam, having a non-descript adolescence apparently, fast tracked his military career, and when first we meet him he is already a captain. Adam adopted a new career as the military's not-so-secret weapon, whereas Lancelot kept his double identity a secret for a time. When they were each revived years, both were Captains.

For Captain Atom, the reason he was placed on the shelf until the mid-60's was the departure of Ditko. For the Shield, it was legal troubles due to some similarities with a certain Man of Steel (no not him or him ).

During his mid-60's revival over at Charlton, Captain Atom was one of their headliners, while the Shield was replaced by a modern-day version of the original Shield. As such, it took a couple more decades for Lancelot to regain his own featured title and then he lost it...once more thanks to a Man of Steel (yes .that one).

Both Captains displayed incredible adaptability to various climates while controlling these fundamental force of nature.This enabled their bodies to be virtually invulnerable, except when plot lines deemed that unnecessary.


Over the course of their careers, they were befriended by a pair of general (General Eiling fo Captain Atom and General Smith for Captain Strong) that aided them both as solo agents and alongside other non-commissioned costumed agents. Eventually, both succumbed to that most deadly of enemies for a superhero, sagging sales figures.

We'll touch on more parallels between these two in a later post. And of a pair of shadowy females that entered their lives during times of need.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Character Profiles Week: Diplomatic Scientists

Twin politicians using their keen scienitific minds to devise destructive weapons to combat foes that bring out the worst in them. Ladies and gentleman, are pair of jet-setting personifications of that famous George Orwell oxymoronic phrase "peace is war".Who are these troubled souls?

Both are definitely older than their peers of the day, although Comet appeared first in 1939's Pep Comics #1, when he sported an entirely different. He was scientist John Dickering, an obsessive compulsive chemist who injected himself with "lighter than air" gases that gave him "leaping" abilities (read: flight) and vicious optical blasts curbed only by the glass visors he had to wear to avoid shooting them indiscriminately.

Christopher Smith also dappled in the sciences, more engineering than chemistry yet with similar results. A career diplomat, he obsessed with the fragile state of world peace or lack thereof, and hence fashioned a costumed in 1966's Fightin' 5 #40, including a jet-pack for flight and a helmet that included a destructive laser from the eye piece. Great minds think alike, it would seem.

Never fear, for after a quick bout with comic book death in the 40's, Comet was revived by an alien princess (who then herself bit the proverbial dust) and Johnny returned as an alien diplomat... resuming his interest in Earthly affairs of state. Christopher himself stepped outside his United Nations' sanctioned role to zap warlords and alien shape changers living under the Earth who stymied the peace process. And meanwhile, both ended up teaming up with a pair of buggy buddies we discussed previously, to fight against evil.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Character Profiles Week: Colorful Crusaders

Today's entry is a comparion of the brief mid-60's runs of two blonde bombshells. Both athletic on a mythically Olympic level that at times dwarf imagination in their feats of fortitude. Both are intellectual giants immersed in scholarly studies that seem to contradict the fisticuffs they invariable are drawn into. Both prefer a similar style in clothing of the jigsaw variety.

We present our two participants:

The Web was first introduced in Zip Comics #27 (July 1942) and had a brief run in MLJ Comics. A criminologist drawn into the life of crime fighting by a wayward sibling, he later retired and married his sweetheart Rose. When they were young and in love, she approved of his dual identities. However, as domesticated blissed settled in for the couple, Rose perpetually insisted that her retired heroic hubby stay retired. Invariably, he was always drawn into crimefighting such as in the above cover appearence in 1966 when his wife gave out his identity over the radio, and an old adversary came a calling on the Web's wife and mother-in-law. In each silver age appearence, John Raymond would have to rationalize the Web's existence to his mate. His favorite mantra to his foes was "you've been caught in a web of your own making". His tales, as were the norm for Mighty (MLJ) of those days, were humour oriented with a splash of action mixed in.


A counterpoint to this approach is that taken by Peter Cannon, the Thunderbolt. The orphan of a heroic couple who gave their lives to save a Himalayan monastary, he was raised by the wise denizens of said monastary until he became worthy of being the "Chosen One". Sent back to civilization (in those days, New York City) to a society he despised for their corruption, he was continually drawn into conflicts thanks to the relentless verbal proddings of his pal Tabu (also from said monastary). Many of his conflicts were orchestrated by the Hooded One, another disciple of Cannon's homeland that felt jilted when he hadn't received the prized scrolls and knowledge contained therein. Thunderbolt first appeared in January 1966, the same year of the Web's reppearence (or first appearence, if you believe a later story that the 1940's Web was actually the father of the current one...which works only when you account for both father and son marrying a pair of Roses). Thunderbolt's favorite mantra was "I can do it...I must do it...I will do it". He hates the lawlessness that fascinates the Web.

Comparisons are aplenty for these two non-powered human dynamos. Both had the aforementioned costume style sense, with neither found of wearing those masks that mat down the hair so common among most hero folk. Both were henpecked, one by a loving companion to quit his career he loved so much, one by a loyal companion to continue a career he hated. Both used their brain as much as their brawn to outwit their enemies. Both were keen on repeating their mantras during tense situations. And both quitely faded into oblivion (until DC purchased/leased them both) after their publishers' abandoned the heroic fad.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Character Profiles Week: Golden-Age Bugs

While the world clamours for a wall-crawling wise cracker derived from a spider bite, insect heroes are nothing knew. Consider our two entries for today, the Blue Beetle (aka Dan Garrett) and the Firefly (aka Harley Hudson). Two red-haired scientists favouring similar color schemes in their clothes, two men who harnessed the power of insects to grant them wonderful strength, agility, and bio-illuminesence. And they made their marks in the golden and silver age (sort of).

Whereas Blue Beetle of the mid-60's added a "T" to his civilian identity and a scarab to his heroic alias, he seemed to be on the surface the same man who pounded a beat as a officer hyped up by Vitamin K pills from the local pharmacy. Except now, he could fly and zap other bugs (poor Preying Mantis never had a chance, either time they clashed). Firefly may not have dug into ancient Egyptian mythology to gain his powers as did the Beetle, but he apparently dug into the right research material to obtain the means to replicate the physically prowess of his namesake. And later, of its brightness to stun foes.

Alas, Firefly lasted only 20 issues in Top Notch and a sole appearence in Mighty Crusaders #4 (attempting to join said group). Blue Beetle didn't do much better in the silver age with only about 10 appearences (11 if you count his death and intoduction of a successor).

Of course they both were brought back in the 80s. One as a coral clone from Atlantis, the other as a resurrected Beetle (who was in some perpetual cycle-thingy where he was continually recycled from police officer to archeologist to secret agent) and later an android replica. Swan songs for trend setters without whom, perhaps we wouldn't have a movie franchise about the trials and tribulations of a common house hold pest.



Oh, and apparently dragons can't stand them.





Nope, not one bit.