Charlton vs Mighty MLJ

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

Friday, October 29, 2010

Foreign Fridays: Zoot-Suit Special in the Up-Above

Bell Features was a  Canadian publisher known previously as Commercial Signs of Canada from 1939-1942. During the golden age they published original material as well as reprints for the Canadian marketplace until 1954.

Among the properities they acquired briefly was Fox's star the Blue Beetle, who was featured in two of their comic anthologies. Initially appearing in 1948's Surprising Adventures #11, the Beetle reappeared in 1950's Zoot #13.

Apparently, Bell Features were more enamored with properties originating from MLJ Comics aka Archie, publishing Archie Comics (six issues), Archie's Girls Betty and Veronica (two issues), Archie's Pal Jughead Comics (one issue), and Archie's Rival Reggie (two issues). They even dipped into the pool of Quality Comics with reprints of Plastic Man and Police Comics.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Whatsitsname Wednesdays: Roly-Poly Comics

In 1945, during a period when MLJ Comics was transforming into the empire that would become known for its red-haired superstar Archie, superheroes were being phased out.

Still, trying to eck out whatever profits they could from their soon-to-be defunct superhero properties, the company authorized little known Green Publishing to reprint select stories from several of MLJ's anthology titles in the format of "Roly-Poly Comics".

However, the series was irregular in production and in number. Issues #2, 3, 4, 5, 7. 8. 9, and 13 were never published. This publisher also dabbled in other properies, mostly funny animals until 1957 when it closed shop.

Whatsitsname Wednesdays: Where Cap Atom Came From

Charlton Comics' Lawbreakers #1-9 became Lawbreakers Suspense Stories #10-14 then Strange Suspense Stories #16-22 transforming into This is Suspense! #23-26 which morphed into Terry and the Pirates #26-28 (two 26s!) then into a separate series Long John Silver and the Pirates until #32 while also reverting in a separate publication back to Strange Suspense Stories #27-77 before finally becoming Captain Atom #78-89.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mainstream Mondays: The Rich Guy/Bug Boys

Continuing our series on the integration of Charlton and Archie/MLJ characters in the DC Universe, we next consider that archetype of the rich industrialist turned vigilante. Relying on his wits and his gadgets as he was not born with natural superpowers, this spunky type hero would exercise a bravado unmatched by his more powerful contemporaries, such as the cornerstones whom we considered last week in the forms of Captain Atom and the Shield.

Blue Beetle was the alias adopted by Ted Kord in memory of his deceased friend Dan Garrett aka the original Blue Beetle. Using science to attempt to replicate the ancient scarabs of their predecessors, each Ted Kord proved to be a more viable Blue Beetle for a modern age. Hence, this character wasn't as reimagined as were others from Charlton.

The Beetle quickly gained prominence when he joined the Justice League, as had Captain Atom, only in Blue's case his jovial nature and a friendship developed between himself and new character Booster Gold would quickly become a defining feature in this hero's legend.

John Raymond became the Web over at MLJ and then Mighty Comics in order to right the wrongs commited by his felonious brother. While not possessing the gadgets of the Beetle, this bug-inspired crimefighter had a sharp mental disposition that aided him in combating the illegal element. Incorporated into the 1960's version was a wife named Rose who dispised this identity. Quickly the character devolved into a joke.

However, the newly integrated Raymond at DC Comics had a more serious edge to him. Now a spoiled playboy instead of criminologist, its John's brother who is the do-gooder and is ultimately murdered. Deciding to use technology to create new line of heroes around the world, wearing specialized Web suits granting the wearer certian abilities, it is John who actually becomes the information broker turned superhero relying now more on his courage then the world wide web.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Foreign Fridays: F.E. Howard Publications

F.E. Howard Publications operated out of Ontario Canada during the early to mid-1940's and quickly became a distributor of MLJ Comic's star features.

Within Super Comics, published intermittently from 1943 to 1944, six issued were published with reprints of the Shield, Archie, Hangman, Captain Commando and others in the MLJ staple. Note the Shield's redisgned logo to reflect a more English-centric fanbase.

Other features picked up included Mister Monster and more obscure characters from other publishers. This was par for the course, as it were, allowing foreign publishers to pickup the rights of various characters from various American-based publishers and repackage them for local markets. Demand evidently wasn't very high as such series had short life spans.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Whatitsname Wednesdays: Hangman-Black Hood-Laugh

MLJ Comics' Special Comics #1 turns into Hangman Comics #2-8 then Black Hood Comics #11-19 graduating into Laugh Comics #20-400. On issue #85 the "Comics" is dropped from Laugh.

Whatsitsname Wednedays: Yellowjac-in-the-box-cowboy-space-western


Yellowjacket Comics #1-10 becomes Jack-in-the-Box #11-16 turns into Cowboy Western Comics #17-39 morphs into Space Western 40-45 then back to Cowboy Western Comics #46  transforms into Space Western Heroes and a swan song of Cowboy Western.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Mainstream Mondays: The Cornerstones

When DC Comics acquired the properties of Charlton and later MLJ aka Mighty/Archie Comics, at first they tucked them away into their own fictional universes and repackaged them in the forms of the Watchmen and !mpact Comic, which we've previously considered.

However, there was another attempt at actually integrating the core characters into the mainstream universe at DC Comics, for the first time exposing these comic creations to a massive audience.

As with every comic book line, there are certain archetypes or niches that have to be filled to justify their existence to the public-at-large. Such was the case here.


Captain Atom was reintroduced to a new generation initially during the Crisis on Infinite Earths along with several of his Charlton Contemporaries. However, once his compartmentalized universe of Earth-Four was integrated into the main DC universe, he was reimagined in a way some considered dramatic and others considered overkill.

No longer an established hero and freelance champion whose civilian identity was attached to the military, Atom or Nathaniel Adam became a tragic figure, losing his family during a procedure which granted him powers yet causing him to lose years of his life. Now his superior General Eiling, a minor supporting character in his original Charlton series, was his boss/major antagonist as the series progressed. Additionally, his rogues gallery such as the Ghost and Doctor Spectrum were also reinvented at their core, and relationships with such characters as Nightshade were changed irreverocably.

Decades later, the Shield aka Joe Higgins was himself brought into the mainstream fold. Now an officer in the military instead of FBI agent, he was bequeathed with nanobytes that granted him his powers and he quickly gained notoreity in the superhero community, including allying himself with the Web. Like Atom, the Shield was reinvented so that only the costume, abilities and alias were the same.

What would become of other assimilated heroes from these memorable comic book companies? We'll investigate further next week.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cancelite - Thy Name is Character Limbo

While not meaning to be a Killjoy, we would like to have a lot to say about this humorous acrobatic vigilante. More is the pity, to dissect the wonderful Ditko would be a wonderful post in and of itself. Regrettably, after only two appearances this character fell into character limbo. Which is tragic in some cases, given the potential, while in other instances it's a merciful reprieve.

A case in point is the 1960's criminal Hangman, also played up to laughs although moreso in a machevellian manner. While we've already considered him and his strong parallel's to Charlton's Punch of Punch and Judy fame, the Hangman has some resonance with Killjoy as well. A seemingly in-your-face vigilante set against a more comical world, or at least one not to be taken of quite so seriously.

Steve Dickering may be a more approp comparison to Killjoy, as Steve's Hangman identity lasted all of two issues of Red Circle's Comet mini-series during the 80's, and then presumably a cameo in Mighty Crusaders #9 assisting in clearing the Shield's name from a murder rap (since the original Hangman died in the Comet series prior to this issue, Steve would be the logical choice for the man behind the mask). Hangman and Killjoy played against such a duo as Batman and the Joker over at DC Comics, the grim and the jovial, each matched well with the other in battles of both wit and brawn.

As for this blog, we're in a bit of a slowdown mode (but we'll pickup the pace later on) to recharge our creative batteries. Maybe we can revisit this topic once more?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fiends of Friday Week: Hot-Tempered Turkeys!

Yep a pair of hot-tempered turkeys. Or, more specifically, hot under the larynx. Inferno and Mister Blaze. Let's introduce both side-by-side.

Inferno was a circus fire breather who seemed to emit from his mouth heat at will. He was lured into crime named Frank Verrano. This brought him into conflict with the man of steel, Steel Sterling.
Another circus performer, known only as Mr. Blaze also turned to a life of crime when his own act proved a dismal failure. And  he met Mr. Smith!
Now in prison, Inferno revealed a softer side despite his gruff demeanor, as he learned a new inmate may have cause the fare Dora Cummings to unnecessary danger. He soon learn that this prisoner is his old enemy, disguised as a fellow captive to ferret out a rumored prison break. Steel begins to realize that Mr. Verrano may have more in common with him than he knows. What will Inferno's future have in store for him?

Now coating himself and his special suit in Chris Smith's compound, Mr. Blaze is about to reveal his trump card, as he had discovered a  hidden race of underground lava men (all the rage in the hip 60's) ready to yield to his will when he displays an invincibility to fire. Still there is one obstacle... ex-diplomat now masked man... Peacemaker.

After Sterling's testimony, Inferno embarks on a heroic career getting one of those neat uniforms. From his initial appearances in Zip Comics 10-13... he then had his own series in Blue Ribbon Comics  13-19.


After drawing Peacemaker back to his hidden lair, Blaze does what all psychotic would-be world conquerors would do as reveals his scheme...to steal his rival's jet as a heat  missile of sort, and topple Washington D.C. 

Coming out of retirement, Inferno joined two other heated heroes, Firefly and  Fireball in Mighty Crusaders #4 in order to join the team. Sent to combat the threat Hangman (himself a former applicant of this team...turned evil on a reverse career path from Inferno). Later on, Inferno fights alongside with former foe and ally Steel, although neither seem to have much to say after all these years. And our hero leaves after his request to join...along with that of the others...is rejected by the Crusaders until later on.

Of course, Smith doesn't take the news of his invention being used as a weapon of war well, and pursues Blaze in his backup aircraft. Fortunately, he knows the flaws of his device well and this proves to be the undoing of Mr. Blaze, who disappears after ejecting. There is a hint that he would return...and had Peacemaker's series continued past issue #5, which was Blaze's debut, our turban tormentor may well have as he had potential. Oh...and the lava men slithered back into the hole they crawled out of. They got burned.


Both Inferno and Mr. Blaze started out in the same career, then followed up as felons. Would Blaze have also eventually repented and become a force for good? Doubtful but who know? Or cares? Meanwhile, Inferno makes one more silver age appearance...and it appears he may have turned back to the dark side! We'll leave that for a future Battling Blondes.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fiends of Friday Week: Ferocious Furry Foes

Hangman and Thunderbolt battled this weeks pair of diabolic deviants, in Mighty Comics #48 and Peter Cannon--Thunderbolt #52. Two men ruling an isolated outpost imprisoning their fellow man, themselves enslaved by the savage pull of a bestial nature that seeks to overwhelm them.

Things start unassuming enough, as we're introduced to two authoritative men, Eric Gore and Warden Meggs. Each resides in an undesirable location that houses a terrible secret that would terrify all men!

Enter our fearless heroes, Peter Cannon in his civies (with his costume packed away during his sea voyage) and Bob Dickerson in his Hangman alias, himself recently reformed from a brief live of crime.

Gore reveals his secret origin, a transformation from research scientist to madman thanks to a transplanted ape hand. Meanwhile, the Prison Phantom appears  to strike down Hangman!

Pete dawns his costume to combat Gore, himself playing a mad game employing his bestial servants to battle T-Bolt. Prison Phantom does not ask his fellow inmates to rid him of his foe,  dealing with Hangman.


And it looks like he has gained the upper hand, preparing a ghastly execution for the gallows guardian.

Will the apes that swarm over T-Bolt continue to side with their master Gore when he shows how inhuman he is? The prisoners at the penitentary where Hangman is battling for his life are rooting for him to defeat the Phantom!

Having conquered the ape hordes, T-Bolt now much face the mad science of Gore himself! Things look dire! On the other hand, things are looking up for Hangman, who finally removes the metalic helmet of his hairy adversary!


Gore's end game leaves himself exposed to his death trap, with his ape saving T-Bolt! Hangman's trap catches the warden retiring who's split personality created Prison Phantom!



While Eric Gore's doom seemed to be permanent, the Prison Phantom would rise again to bedevil a new Hangman and his allies on a parallel Earth. A tale for another day. As is how they handled nasty head lice...ick.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fiends of Friday Week: High-Flying Felons

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.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fiends of Friday Week: Limber Looters

Usually, superheroes face very weak rogues, physically speaking that is. Often they face brain rather than brawn, Perhaps it's easier to engage the reader in a story involving a battle of wits. However, when portrayed by a solid artist, a physical confrontation can be just as engaging. Then mix in a villain that also has a head firmly planted on a solid physique, and you can provide a real challenge.



Our two baddies today show their athletic prowess, going toe-to-toe with Judomaster and the Web. The Acrobat was a Japanese assassin sent by his Imperial masters during the height of World War II to finish Judomaster for  his personal  and national honour

The motifications of the Web's foe is much simpler, he's greedy. In the course of their first confrontation, he instantly gains contempt for the hero and taunts him for a rematch.


Neither hero faired well in the initial confrontation, Never fear! For their steely determination prompted them to pursue these limber larcenists even if it meant getting a little wet! Despite this, our twin terrors were determined that their rematch afford them vicious victories. Keep reading!


Incredible! Even in the 60's, the Tumbler was telling his Facebook buddies to keep track of their Web alerts while surfing the net! Anyways, the short-lived careers of  these Friday Fiends were squashed by some superior adversaries. Probably why we never saw a Acrobat and the Tumbler strip. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fiends of Friday Week: Headache Hubris


Our first Skull debuted in October 1940's Top Notch #9, a mastermind that framed police officer Kip Burland, causing Kip to become the Skull's arch-foe, Black Hood. Rudolph Wolk first appeared in April 1965's Sarge Steel #3, yet a later published case involved Wolk's first chronological appearance as the Smiling Skull vs World War II hero, Judomaster.

The golden age Skull was part mastermind, part fighting dynamo as he took the initiative during battles to knock out his opponent when his gadgetry failed to work properly. Often successfully.
Nazi Germany's Smiling Skull was also proficient in a form of martial arts combat, desiring to match his skill level against the best that America and (in a later appearance) ally Imperial Japan's finest warriors.
Suffice it to say, vanity led to Skull's doom when he  hadobtained a brain control device from the criminal genius, the Abominable Schemer (it wasn't just the schemes, the name itself was very repugnant) and then sent him o a trap. The Schemer found his way out, and left the Skull in a virtual reality from which there was not escape. Yet was this the ultimate finality for the Skull? He seemingly perished back in the 1940's, replaced by a son in Jackpot Comics #6. Either the son adopted his father's features in the 1960's, or papa Skull escaped death's thralls. And found a neat cave HQ.
For the Smiling Skull, it was his vane attempt to obtain a duplicate of his prized silver luger from Sarge Steel and ended of bringing Steel to his secret camp. This led to Skull's downfall (in his own cave!) as his dreams of reigniting his belowed Reich were thwarted and his hostages were freed.

Two Skulls, both devious tacticians framing officers of the law (the Hood and Sarge), retaining their youthful vigor and fighting prowess from two decades after their criminal careers commenced. And both were UG-LEE!