Charlton vs Mighty MLJ

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

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Crusadering Caps: New Sentinels of Justice

Among the templates upon which Bill Black rebuilt his Sentinels of Justice, after the departure of their original members from Charlton Comics, was that of Captain Atom. Wait... we considered him previously with Stardust... who emulated the more cosmic aspects that made Nathaniel Adam's alter ego his world's premier protector.
Charlie Starrett was a 19th century ranch hand who assumed the identity of the Latigo Kid. After a conflict on the planet Rur, upon which Stardust resided, Starrett was enlisted in the early 20th century to become their protector named Captain Paragon after consuming a Life Fluid and Stellar Erg Implanter. Although under suspended animation for 30 years after his battle in 1952 with the Black Shroad (shades of Atom's arch-foe the Ghost), Paragon became a founding member of the Sentinels.

As for the seeming duplication of the Cap Atom template,  remember that the good Captain became embroiled in conflicts with an alien race of Sunurian warrior women, much like Stardust's own peoples. Perhaps, had the queeen of their race had time to siphon off some of the hero's abilities upon herself, she would've manifested into her world's own variation of sizzling sister. Alas, she was busy squashing the schemes of her planet's monarch, the Ghost, and never had the chance.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Fiends: VS New Sentinels of Justice

Commando D was the last member of the Sentinels of Justice from the Americomics-verse, and followed similar elements to other smart superheroes. Originally, lab technician Kon-Nar of the parallel world of the Altrann was used as a template for a size-shifting super-soldier to combat the equally malleable menace known as the Vardax. These reptilian desired claiming the world as their latest conquest, and after being overwhelmed by their forces, Kon-Nar and his girlfiend Dorna escaped to Earth.

It was there that Dorna perished, bequeathing her ring to young Denny Bryant, a ring that housed a minaturized chamber which actived Kon-Nar's abilities. Using the dual identity of Connor Page the unassuming civilian and in his costume alias, Commando D! Like Earth-Four's Peter Cannon, the Thunderbolt, Commando also harnessed mythical might from the mental magnificence of a secluded civiliztion. And, like John Raymond aka the Web over on Earth-MLJ, he favored the colors green and yellow while having a red head drapped over his shoulder (a lot less nagging than Rose, Web's wife, we would imagine).

As for the Friday Fiends, the serpentile Vardax? They followed their prey to Earth-AC and drew the attention of the then formed Sentinels to retrieve imprisoned teammate Scarlet Scorpion. Yet their loss is Justice's gain in the form of a giant of man, literally and metaphorically.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Brave Bug Boys: New Sentinels of Justice

As with the Blue Beetle from Charlton, and the Fly from Archie's Mighty Comics, the Scarlet Scorpion was the latest incarnation of a legacy. While the golden and silver age Blue Beetles were a police officer on super-vitamins and then an archeologist with a powerful gem, and Thomas Troy was capable to fly by his fly-ring, the Scropions were more grounded in the mundane machinations of modern methods.

Poor Mike McCluskey was a truck driver for a mob operation, caught in the middle of their sinister ways, leaving him with serious injuries. Cured by an injection of a cell regeneration virus by microbiologist Myla Chang, Mike gains a new leash on life when he was presented with the costume of a hero from thirty years previous. As the new Scarlet Scorpion, Mike swiftly gained the trust of local law enforcement. Like his fictional inspirations at other comic publishers, Mike had superstrength and physical attributes far above those of mortal men, whcih would draw him into membership within the Sentinels of Justice of the Americomics universe... of which we'll consider...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dark Damsels: New Sentinels of Justice

From the Phantom Lady, a superheroines published in 1940's Quality Comics, sprung a sub-genre of dark damsels that have been replicated again... and again... and again. Always with similar elements that highlight brave brunettes battling bad guys.

While Charlton Comics presented Eve Eden as Nightshade, a survivor of a shadow dimension with the ability to turn herself into a shadow and teleport between dimensions. Later, Archie's Red Circle Comics revived the concept in Darkling, aka Darla Lang, a dimension traveling heroine whose powers derived from her cloak. Blending all these elements were filtered into the Blue Bulleteer, the World War II costumed alter ego of Laura Wright who acquired a similar cloak providing her abilities on par with her Sentinels of Justice compatriots when the debuted in 1983.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Team-Up Tuesdays: New Sentinels of Justice

Indeed the Sentinels of Justice were not one-hit wonders... although they were pretty close to qualifying. Thankfully, writer Bill Black decided to quickly revive the Sentinels of Justice brand when its members, all Charlton characters about to be assimilated into DC's Multiverse. However, in order to preserve the modest momentum they tried to maintain, they needed heroes that would fill the roles of the original team's members Captain Atom, Nightshade, the Question and Blue Beetle. And so, we present today's titantic team-up.

First thing you'll notice when comparing the twin teams... no faceless man in a fadora. Kinda hard act to follow? However, the Americomic-verse had others to fill the bill of the remaining senior Sentinels, from the energy avenger, the colorful creeper, the darknight damsel, the crusadering captains. We can take this comparison farther...

For instance, just Stardust and the Shield (Lancelot Strong) mimic one another, so to do Scarlet Scorpion and the Fly, Nightveil and Nightshade, Captain Paragon and the original Shield, and Commando D and the Web. In each case, we have heroes that fit specific niches that complement one another. Alas these Sentinels were only a platform to introduce the much more enduring, and successful, Femme Force. But that is another story.

And this one continues as we dissect this do-gooder division...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cosmic Crusaders: New Sentinels of Justice

When Americomics acquired the superhero properties from the then defunct Charlton Comics, the publisher quickly moved to assemble a team to spotlight these heroes as a team, something novel from this group of good guys and gal. So in 1983, the Sentinels of Jusice debutted and appeared exactly once before being shelved until they were integrated into the DC Comics Multiverse in 1985. Meanwhile, the aspiriing publisher guided by editor/writer Bill Black found it a prime opportunity to ride the crest of modest success  of the original Sentinels, modeling a new team after the originals yet with distinct differences.
One such divergent doppleganger in the Americomic-verse was Stardust, which according to  Wikipedia was originally "Dr. Mara, a top scientist and political dissident from the female-dominated planet Rur. Looking for a weapon to use against the invading Kronons, Mara revives the hibernating Earth hero Captain Paragon and attempts to enlist his help in the battle. While trying to convince Captain Paragon to help, Mara accidentally enters the Stellar Erg Implanter, which gives her super powers."
Mixing elements of Captain Atom and Captain Lancelot Strong, aka the silver age Shield over at Red Circle Comics,  Mara empowered superheroines in a manner unheard of either on Earth-Four or Earth-MLJ, making her unique among her peers who mirrored their Charlton and Archie templates. Her teammates would harken back to our featured players here on this blog...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Fiends: Evilhearts of Two Cities

Like all fictional fiends fabled for fabricating felonies ferociously, the vilains of our twin publishers tended to gravitate to burgs with their own superheroes which protected them from the forces of evil.

Over the past year and a half (with some months of inactivity sprinkled within this period) we have considered such foes of fabled fighters of freedom each Friday. This week, we shift the focus to Riverdale's premier criminal mastermind, and subsequently will dissect some of the other bad guys that surfaced to plague its peace loving citizens.

Evilheart was really Reggie Mantle, a spoiled brat attending Riverdale High with two purposes in life, to entice Veronica Lodge (and Midge Klump, from time to time) into a romantic relationship, and to torment his frenemy Archie Andrews. It was this latter agenda that activated the same PH factor as his freckled foe yet decidely opposite, drawing upon the blackness of his being. Summoning this energy to become Evilheart, Reggie had enhanced strength and durability as well as a plethera of gadgets to use against Arch's alias Captain Pureheart the Powerful, and his allies Superteen and Captain Hero.

On a parallel plane (and publisher) another greedy green garbed goon tormented Hub City, whom we previously considered, in the form of Banshee. Himself relying on a gimmick, a glider cape allowing him to defy gravity, the Banshee was ultimately brought back to Eartth by a faceless foe whose fearlessness exposed this felon as a fraud.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Tale of Two Towns: Fictional Focalpoints

Of all that differentiates Charlton from MLJ, nothing separates the two comic lines more than their fictional cities. Oh sure, each publisher had a few psuedo cities wherein their characters visited from time to time, and even a bigger light real metropolis like New York is referenced on occasion. However, when you think of each, you think of Hub City and Riverdale.

The first of the two to appear was Riverdale. Originally referred to in Jackpot Comics #5 (Spring, 1942) in relation to Riverdale High, wherein Archie and his friends attended, this locale soon grew into a life of its own. Reflecting the rather comical but upbeat sentiments of its prominent citizens, this town's actual place on the map has ever been ascertained. Having beaches yet snow, plains and mountains, large buildings and small residential communites... it was a study in contrasts.

While there was a Riverdale both on Earth-MLJ, the world that had a golden age Archie and gang occasionallly rub elbow to elbow with such World War II heroes as the Shield and Hangman, the modern day Archie's Earth also had its own variation of the busy burg, occasionally attracting the attention of Pureheart the Powerful and the Punisher... yes both Riverdales drew the noble champion and grim guardian to its city limits.

As for Earth-Four, Hub City was that planet's Gotham City equivallent with such heroes as the Blue Beetle and the Question protecting it from the vile elements of civil vice. Not as much has been revealed of this population centre aside from its tendency to draw costumed crooks to prey upon the innocents. Eventually, even Captain Atom and Nightshade left the confines of Washington, D.C. to assist their fellow Sentinels in protecting this hub of hubris. Although nothing could protect it from the Crisis that was to come.

An interesting aside... the real cities upon which these two were (undoubtedly) unintentionally inspired by have far more fascinating stories yet to tell...

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Tale of Two Towns: Metropolitan Models

The germs of an idea are spawned from reality, or so it has been said. For Charlton and MLJ, such was true regarding the towns upon which their cities were based.

In Charlton's case, it was Derby, Connecticut. Consisting of  12,391 people, 5,252 households, and 3,245 families, this was where Charlton Comics were produced throughout the decades until finally folding in the early 1980s in a 150,000 square-foot building in Derby city limits. The publishers of this comic line chose this venue as opposed to Manhattan so as to conttrol costs, and such talents as Joe Gill and Steve Ditko resided in Derby hotels rather than purchasing or renting homes. No doubt this was due to the thrifty nature of their employer, and the concern over how stable such work would be in the years to come. If such was the concern, it was well founded.

And for MLJ which became Archie, it was Haverhill, Massachusetts upon which Riverdale allegedly originated. Located on the Merrimack River, the town fathers have attempted to revitalize sections of the community through urban renewal. This nearly cost them the loss of an iconic treasure, the old school building upon which Riverdale High was based. Instead, the structure was rechristened as the new City Hall. However, the actual town wherein Archie Comics are produced is the Village of Mamaroneck, which has  18,752 people, 7,096 households, and 4,874 families residing  residing therein. More prominent, picturesque, and prosperous than Derby, Mamaroneck also reflects how far more successful Archie has been then its one time competitor Charlton.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Fly versus the Blue Beetle Round 3

Now given, we are presenting to you, our readership, in a dancing duel to the death a Thomas Troy as originally imagined by Joe Simon with C.C. Beck and reimagined by the boss of  Joe's partner, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee.
So instead of Blue Beetle versus Silver Spider, we have the more familiar webslinger upon which a movie franchise resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in box office has produced.

Consider how much more they would have made if "So You Think You Can Dance...Bugs?" ever made it to the silver screen. We offer this as fuel for some enterprising Hollywood screenwriter...

(And for more on the history of the Silver Spider concept, as well as other historical gems and factoids on one-half of our favorite subject in these here parts, check out the most excellent Mighty Crusaders network which is a storehouse of infromation on all things Archie and Mighty/MLJ!)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Fiends: Good Guys Getting Greedy

Perhaps the greatest fiends of Charlton and MLJ didn't start out as such. And yet, each became consumed in his own success and dreams of conquest, albeit not on purpose. Honest!

When DC Comics attempted to craft an epic crossover throughout its various series, a new supervillain named Monarch appeared. A vile tyrant of the year 2030 who found his start in 1991, the one thing known about him was that he was a former superhero.

Although originally intended to be Captain Atom adopting this new alias, he was revealed to be another hero known as Hawk. However, Atom eventually adopted this identity after several time traveling machinations of the original, although his criminal career was relatively short and didn't taint his lasting legacy as a larger-than-life legend.

When MLJ Comics tried various means to brand their flagship series Pep a success, a comical lad named Archie introduced his readers to a world of teenage comics from which he would henchforth be king from which other publishers would aspire to imitate.

However, the side effect of this success led to the fall of costumed crusaders such as the Shield and Hangman, who once held sway over their small but significant share of readers. So, in essence, Archie ended up doing what several foes like the Hun and Captain Swastika couldn't... vanquish the underwear set... banishing them into comicbook limbo from which they would not return for nearly twenty years!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Team-Up Tuesdays: L.A.W. = Lame Assemblage of Wannabees

The Action-Heroes were distinct among most creations in the silver age of comics in that they never worked together as a team, aside from Captain Atom and Nightshade, Judomaster and Tiger, and one case featuring Blue Beetle and the Question.

Americomics acquired four of these adventurers to form the Sentinel of Justice, this concept quickly fizzled when a bigger boy on the block bought-out this crop of charcters. Then an issue of Justice League Quarterly threw Thunderbolt and Judomaster into the mix.

The latest attempt at resurrecting the Sentinels of Justice was DC Comics' L.A.W. mini-series, by bringing these legends together to battle a common foe. Alas it fell flat in so far as the individual members were treated as weapons instead of protectors, there was no chemistry necessary to endear readers to such a group, and it turned out one of their own was the malevolent mastermind that was the reason for their forming to begin with (shades of Hal Jordan, anyone?)!

Once the deux machina at the end of the mini-series was executed, leading to the exiled Justice League of America returning to Earth to tackle mastermind Avatar's minions, the purpose behind the Living Assault Weapons (a truly regrettable name) quickly eroded. Which is disppointing considering that former Charlton sfaff members Bob Layton and Dick Giordano were the creative forces behind this tale.

Surprisingly, a crew of less well-rounded characters that lacked the characterization were far more appealing to the reader, in the form of Archie's Mighty Crusaders. While possessing internal conflict between its individual members and the loss of teammates, the second volume of Crusaders in the 1980s and even the !mpact series in 1992 treated its cast as noble-minded and their world's premier team, something that sadly L.A.W. could not as they were already marginalized by their owners' more prominent headliners.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Fiends: Dusty Trails of Mystery

Alas, if only that were true, Dusty. Instead, what became of you all those decades remains a mystery still to be revealed. While your mentor, the Shield, was zapped by a ray by the underworld assassin known as the Eraser and transformed into a statue of iron for over twenty years, the fiend that found you kept you for twice as long. When your partner finally reunited with you in the early twenty-first century, he was now a member of the Mighty Crusaders battling that same foe alongside Pureheart and his super teen pals of Riverdale from a parallel universe. Perhaps it was the same criminal that vanguish both surrogate father and son, given you haven't aged any since the waning days of World War II?

As for Tiger, what became of him depends on what continuity you follow. On Earth-Four, his original plane of existence, he eventually became the mentor of Eve Eden aka the future Nightshade. On that world, at least, he honored his missing partner's legend by training a new generation of hero to take up the call of the costumed crusader.

Sadly, in the reconstituted Earth created following the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Tiger was a disgruntled young man unwelcomed in the country of his mentor, Judomaster. While the duo traveled the globe for years, eventually resentment began to develop between the pair causing and irrepairable split leading them from caring colleagues to aggressive adversaries.

Gaining abilities from ancient devices, Tiger became Avatar, vowing to destroy all those that would implement the tools of war on youths such as he was. However, his misguided attempt led to his path towards supervillany instead of heroism he had aspired to in his early years, although it did lead to the drawing together of Charlton's finest for one final teamup together.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Team-Up Tuesdays: Sentinels of...Justice League?

In Justice League Quarterly #14, an old enemy of Peter Cannon's resurfaced to reclaim what he felt was taken from him by Thunderbolt, the preeminent position in the Vajra. This villian, Andreas Havoc, attempted to psychologically tear down Cannon's mental might but was circumvented from doing so by a quartet of allies he had a strange affinity towards.

With Nightshade, Captain Atom and Blue Beetle assisting T-Bolt on one front, a new Judomaster appeared to aid the heroes on yet another. What was borne from this assemblage of avengers was the aspirations of all fans of Charlton Comics, with *most* of their characters teaming up (notable exceptions being the original Blue Beetle, Son of Vulcan and the Question, while Sarge Steel only made a cameo).

Alas, this potential paragon of protectors never had a chance to thrive as this was a one-shot adventure, much like the Sentinels of Justice had been some sixteen years before this issue.  Why didn't this group gain more traction, given DC Comics' desire to spotlight these recently purchased properties? Perhaps because they felt that individually the charcters had more chance of success being distributed thought this fictional universe's teams and solo titles. Or, more probably, the sales figures didn't reflect strongly on there being a strong enough fan base for such a continuing series.

The harbinger for such an argument is the short-lived 1992 !mpact Comics' Crusaders series. Although a novel concept itself, it languished in its watered down versions of tried-and-true silver age stalwarts from the Mighty Comics era. Still, there was a certain charm in this pairing as there was with the Sentinels of Justice League. Still, there was one more incarnation of Charlton crusaders yet to come...