Thursday, January 18, 2018

Happy Winnie The Pooh Day

Oh, bother.  Something a little different and lighthearted today, celebrating the work of English author A. A. Milne (January 18, 1882 to January 31, 1956), covering Winnie The Pooh!

Alan Alexander Milne wrote stories in the 1920s about his son's (Christopher Robin Milne) teddy bear (Winnie The Pooh), and other of his stuffed animals, such as Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga and Roo (and added characters of the Owl and the Rabbit).

Though A. A. Milne had passed long before, Gold Key/Whitman published 33 issues of a comic book based on those works under the title of Walt Disney's Winnie The Pooh from January, 1977 to July, 1984, with the bear and his friends having adventures (including looking for honey) through the Hundred Acre Wood.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Secret Origins 6 and 7 of 1974

Want even more Secret Origins?

Fulfilling your wish, pulling stories from the far future, to the past of World War II, from the joys of the circus to the depths of the oceans, it is the last of the run of the 1970s Secret Origins issues, with the sixth and seventh issues of that series from January-February and March-April 1974 with covers by Nick Cardy and edited by E. Nelson Bridwell, and the origins of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Blackhawk, Robin and Aquaman.

Legion of Super-Heroes

Starting off issue #6. was "The Origin Of The Legion" from Superboy #147 (May-June, 1968) by E. Nelson Bridwell and Pete Costanza, where three youths (Rokk Krinn, Imra Ardeen and Garth Ranzz) from other planets (a little earlier than 1000 years from now), used their diverse powers to stop an attack on a wealthy financier, R. J. Brande, who then gathered these kids together as a force to fight evil and unify the galaxy as the Legion of Super-Heroes (giving them their uniforms, headquarters, and code names of Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad), with new recruits Triplicate Girl (Luornu Durgo) and Phantom Girl (Tinya Wazzo) joining very soon after.  Whereas the original story had a final panel with the original Invisible Kid entreating readers to read more of the important stories presented in that 80 Page Giant, the Secret Origins reprint wanted readers to follow the current Legion's adventures in the Superboy magazine.

The Legion would quickly add many members after that, including one of their inspirations, Superboy, the story of which happened in Adventure Comics #247 (which was the Legion's first appearance, where the Legion founders traveled back in time to get Superboy, then put him through tests to join their team).

Blackhawk

The second reprint from that issue was the origin of Blackhawk from Quality Comics' Military Comics #1 (August, 1941) by Will Eisner, Bob Powell and Chuck Cuidera, detailing how Blackhawk first took flight to fight the Nazi menace (and since it was before Pearl Harbor, he was a Polish citizen at the time, since the United States had yet to enter the war).  While Blackhawk was a menace to the Nazis, his fight with Captain Von Tepp leading back to the farmhouse where Blackhawk lived with his brother Jack and sister Connie, with Von Tepp bombing the farmhouse.  Blackhawk pledged to find Von Tepp, tracked him down, saving a nurse from his clutches, and taking the Nazi Captain back to Blackhawk Island (where the aerial ace had a headquarters so he and his fellow pilots could fight the Nazi forces).  Blackhawk and Von Tepp had a duel in the air, with Blackhawk eventually winning, but also vowing to continue the fight.

In the letters' page, E. Nelson Bridwell told of how he wrote the Legion's origin, taking a few facts gathered over the years and integrating the different versions of Lightning Lad's origin (one having his brother, another his sister), and talking about how Blackhawk's origin changed as well (with a text page origin in DC Comics' Blackhawk #164, with American citizen Blackhawk living in Poland, and sidekick Stanislaus, trying to join the Royal Air Force to fight the Nazis, but being unable to because they weren't British, so they formed the Blackhawks; then another origin from Blackhawk #242, where Blackhawk had a name...that of Bart Hawk, and his brother didn't die in a Nazi attack, but later joined their forces! 

Letters from readers also covered the Kid Eternity and Vigilante origins from issue #4, noting that Vigilante later had a page long origin in Action Comics #52.

Robin

Starting off issue #7, was "the sensational character find of 1940"..."Robin the Boy Wonder", with his first appearance and origin from Detective Comics #38 (April, 1940), by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson.  Young acrobat Dick Grayson of Haly Circus overhears thugs threaten the owner of the circus, who then carry out a threat for not getting payment, by killing his acrobat parents, John and Mary, by sabotaging their trapeze.  Bruce Wayne was witness to this, changes to Batman, and takes the boy to Wayne Manor to keep him safe, saying that he also lost his family to criminals, then offered to train Dick to fight crime, with the lad taking on the identity of Robin, the Boy Wonder.  After much training, Batman and Robin go out to bring down Boss Zucco, who orchestrated the death of Grayson's parents, bringing him to justice after a battle on a skyscraper.

Aquaman

Last, but not least, was the first appearance of Aquaman from More Fun Comics #73 (November, 1941) by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris, wherein the submarine strikes.  The majority of this tale was Aquaman fighting against a Nazi submarine and its crew, but there were a few panels of Aquaman relating his origin, how his father was an undersea explorer, who found Atlantis, and used documents he found there to turn his son into a water breather...who grew up to be Aquaman.  This issue also advertised how Aquaman was soon to have a series of his own again in the current Adventure Comics (and did not quite reprint the story as originally presented....for his early days, Aquaman had yellow, not green gloves, a later idea used by Roy Thomas in All-Star Squadron to differentiate between the Earth-2 and Earth-1 Aquaman; though you could never tell by the covers, poor Aquaman never made it onto the early More Fun Comics or Adventure Comics' covers.).

The seventh issue of Secret Origins was its last, and it's letters' page detailed a little of the changes in Robin's origin, including how E. Nelson Bridwell wrote an origin for Robin for Batman #213, which included many facts from Robin origins over the years, as well as Batman's time as Robin.  

Aquaman got a little more detail as well, as his origin had been updated as well, with Adventure Comics #260 explaining how Aquaman had been born of a lighthouse keeper and a lady from Atlantis (more details from the origin reprinted in the More Secret Origins' 80 Page Giant, but...

....more improved Secret Origins would follow!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Secret Origins 4 and 5 of 1973

This time, it is a few weird Secret Origins for you...

...with tales of revenge, and the dead.  These dead didn't stay that way, instead returning to life to mete out justice, with the origins of the western Vigilante, Kid Eternity and the Spectre, all under covers by Nick Cardy, from the fourth and fifth issues from September-October and November-Decemeber of the 1973 Secret Origins series edited by E. Nelson Bridwell.

Vigilante

"The Origin Of The Vigilante" was the first story in issue #4, which was originally presented in Action Comics #42 (November, 1941) by Mort Weisinger and Mort Meskin, but that really wasn't the focus of the first tale of the prairie troubadour.  Greg Sanders was the son of a sheriff, who took to the ways of the law, becoming a masked Vigilante who used old western tricks to beat modern criminals, while hiding behind a mask, allowing him to make money as a country singer by day.

The origin was only a few panels, but the majority of the story started with Vigilante already established as hero, witnessing the execution of Killer Kelly, a noted notorious criminal, in prison (except that Kelly planned ahead, and faked his death, so he could  go on a crime spree).  Killer Kelly took blues singer (and friend of Greg's), Betty Stuart, and even captured Vigilante, but old fashioned horse sense and cowboy ways got him free.

Vigilante continued on as a back up feature in Action Comics until #198 (though he only made one cover), opened the first few issues of Western Comics, and even joined the Seven Soldiers of Victory in Leading Comics...and at the time of the issue of Secret Origins, had just completed being a backup feature in Adventure Comics (which would soon feature an untold tale from the Golden Age, featuring the Seven Soldiers, including Vigilante).

Kid Eternity

Next up was "The Kid Who Died Too Soon" from Hit Comics #25 (December, 1942) by Otto Binder and Sheldon Moldoff, with a real origin, that of Kid Eternity.  The kid was on a boat with his grandpa, which was sunk by a Nazi torpedo, and survivors shot in the water.  Mr. Keeper took the boy to the heavenly gates, but the bearded man at the door said it was not yet the boy's time.  So, Mr. Keeper took the kid's spirit back, to reunite it with his body, and using the word "Eternity" the lad would be able to call upon the greatest figures in history, possessing them to fight evil in their forms (which later changed to just being able to summon them to help), as well as being able to become invisible and intangible....all of which, as long as Mr. Keeper was around.

Kid Eternity (and Mr. Keeper) fought evil through Hit Comics #60, including foes such as Master Man, Silk and Her Highness, as well as 18 issues of his own magazine, before disappearing for a while, even after this issue of Secret Origins came out, until E. Nelson Bridwell revived him in the Shazam! series in the 1970s, finally giving the lad a name and a tie to the Marvel Family in World's Finest Comics #280.

The letters' page of the issue was mostly praise for issue #1, as well as requests for other characters, including villains, which never really showed up here, but instead were in the nine issues of Wanted: The World's Most Dangerous Villains, which included Master Man and the Vigilante's foe, the Dummy, as the series was also edited by E. Nelson Bridwell.

One other request was for the following issue's hero....

Spectre

The fifth issue of Secret Origins was unique, as it featured the origin of only one hero, the Spectre (which fell over two issues from the Golden Age), starting with More Fun Comics #52 (February, 1940) by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily with police detective Jim Corrigan planning to attend a ball with his girlfriend, Clarice Winston, but instead, being late as he followed a tip from stoolie Louis Snipe, so Corrigan could chase mobster "Gat" Benson's men...eventually, Jim caught up with Clarice, but so did Benson, who took Corrigan, put him in a cement filled barrel, and dumped him off the dock into the water.

This wasn't the end of the story, as a voice revived Corrigan and sent him back to Earth to battle evil, as he planned to do after rising out of the water...using his powers as a ghost (to become invisible, intangible and fly).

Then, to end his battle with "Gat" Benson, Jim Corrigan had his second story in More Fun Comics #53 (March, 1940) by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily, taking on his thugs, and even showing off some additional supernatural powers, torturing the thugs with eerie visions and changes, even saving Clarice from a fatal bullet wound (as they shot her as he came into the warehouse).  But, Jim realized he had to end his relationship with her (as while she came back to life, he was still dead).  Jim fashioned a cape and costume, and planned to continue to fight evil as...the Spectre, with this origin being timed to lead into his new series in Adventure Comics, that lasted in the 430s to 440.  Spectre's original run went to issue #101 of More Fun Comics (many, but not all reprinted), then after 3 issues in Showcase in the 1960s, he had a ten issue run of his own, until this 1970s Adventure Comics run, which was reprinted in the Wrath Of The Spectre.

The issue also had a letters' page, with requests, including hope for a Wildcat series after seeing his origin here, by letter writer and future Answer Man, Bob Rozakis, and for more origins, including Blackhawk and the Legion of Super-Heroes...who would feature in the next issue.


This issue also featured a page long article on the Legion of Super-Heroes by Paul Levitz (who would take the LSH to new heights!).


More on the Legion of Super-Heroes (and Secret Origins) to come....

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Meet The Legion Of Super-Heroes

The Legion of Super-Heroes is a group of heroic youngsters from 1,000 years in the future...who first appeared in Adventure Comics #247 (April, 1958) in a story titled "The Legion Of Super-Heroes" by Otto Binder and Al Plastino, under a cover by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye, though the kids' costumes got a little closer to their regular look in their second appearance, in Adventure Comics #267 (December, 1959) with cover by Swan/Kaye, and story by Jerry Siegel and George Papp.

But, who were these three founding members, and what did they want with Superboy as a member?

Cosmic Boy

Rokk Krinn of Braal became the first leader of the Legion, perhaps because of his magnetic personality.

Rokk possesses the power of magnetism, native to Braalians, but his ability was stronger due to being born on Earth, with its stronger magnetic fields.

Rokk was on a spaceship headed for Earth, when he met two other teenagers who would change his life forever.

Saturn Girl

Imra Ardeen of Titan was a bit aloof when she boarded a spaceship headed to Earth, but she had a right to be, as she was a telepath, one of the strongest of the moon of Saturn, planning to come to Earth to use her power for good by joining the Science Police, to stop criminals.


Imra came aboard the ship headed to Earth, where she got an early chance to use her powers to thwart the assassination of industrialist R. J. Brande, as well as drawing the attention of the third charter Legion member. 

Lightning Lad

Garth Ranzz of Winath was leaving home, and his twin sister, Ayla, coming to Earth to look for his brother Mekt.  The three youths had had an ill-fated spaceship trip before, landing on Korbal, where they were charged with electricity by the Lightning Beasts, gaining lightning powers themselves.

This act also unhinged the untwinned Mekt (Winath residents were usually born as twins), who left home, with his brother, Garth, heading to Earth to enlist the help of the Science Police to find the missing boy.

Garth got distracted, meeting Rokk along the way, and noticed a beautiful young girl board the flight (Imra) at Titan (while Rokk hoped he could get a job with R. J. Brande).

While disembarking on Earth, two assassins planned to kill R. J. Brande, except they hadn't counted on a telepath picking up their plans, and two boys using their respective powers to stop the assassins.

R. J. Brande had the three youths report to his office afterwards, with the financier giving the kids the idea that they could work together to combat crime and injustice, using the 20th Century Superboy and Supergirl as role models, and that he would be willing to fund their enterprise.  The three youths agreed, getting code names, costumes and a headquarters, picked Cosmic Boy to be their leader, drafted a constitution to guide membership enrollment (such as each member having a unique power, and all members having to have a power), then, after a little side adventure wherein they convinced the United Planets to grant the members of the Legion citizenship to all worlds, set about to get more members, starting with Triplicate Girl and Phantom Girl (the Legion origin was finally revealed in Superboy #147 of May-June, 1968 by E. Nelson Bridwell and Pete Costanza, with a little addition to the story happening in DC Super-Stars #17 of November-December, 1977 by Jack C. Harris, Juan Ortiz and Robert R. Smith).

All this (and a little bit more), and it is time to catch up to the story presented in the Legion's first appearance, where they enroll the young Kryptonian from Smallville.

Superboy

Kal-El of Krypton came to Earth, sent their as his planet exploded by his parents, Jor-El and Lara, with his ship landing on the outskirts of Smallville, where he was found by farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent, who took the boy as their own (naming him Clark Kent), raised him to learn how to use his incredible alien powers, such as flight, strength, speed, invulnerability and vision powers, but also gave him the heart of humanity, inspiring the lad to grow up to fight for truth, justice and the American way, eventually leaving Smallville to go to work for the Daily Planet, a major metropolitan newspaper, and become the hero of the world, Superman.

But, it was his adventures as a boy, that started in More Fun Comics #101 (January-February, 1945) by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, (with a rare time that Green Arrow took the cover over Superboy) that continued on through a few issues of More Fun Comics, before transferring over to Adventure Comics, where Superboy was the main feature, learning how to get along, hiding his identity from the prying eyes of Lana Lang...and, where the charter members of the Legion of Super-Heroes came back to recruit Superboy as their 13th member in Adventure Comics #247.

But, after Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Triplicate Girl, Phantom Girl, who joined next?  (A little spoiler, it was Chameleon Boy, Invisible Kid, Colossal Boy, Star Boy, Supergirl, Brainiac 5 and Shrinking Violet....).  But, where did these new members come from (some of them were in the shadows back in Adventure Comics #247), and how did Superboy's friend, Mon-El, end up as a member as well?  When time permits, more facts of the Legion will be revealed....

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Secret Origins 2 and 3 of 1973

Even more Secret Origins for fans of comic history....

...this time around, the second and third issue of the 1970s series of reprints, this time around, featuring Supergirl, Green Lantern, Atom, Wonder Woman and Wildcat from April-May and July-August of 1973 with covers by Nick Cardy.

Supergirl

First up in the second issue of Secret Origins, was Action Comics #252 (May, 1959)  by Otto Binder and Al Plastino, with "The Supergirl From Krypton", with the story of how Kara survived the explosion of Krypton on a city sized fragment that had headed into space with a pocket of air, until a later calamity forced her father, Zor-El, to send her to Earth (with a costume similar to Superman's made by her mother, as they had chosen Earth for the lass based on his appearance and deducing that he was Kryptonian).  The rocket landed with Superman appearing to help, figuring out she was his cousin, and helping to place her in an orphanage in Midvale, where she would live as Linda Lee, training secretly to use her powers to later help Superman.

Many details were added to the origin, such as the name of the city (Argo City), her mother, (Allura) and much of Supergirl's later movements to become a credited heroine (as well as her adoption by the Danvers, and even finding her original parents alive....many details also covered in the Supergirl giants of Action Comics).

Green Lantern

Next, there was an "SOS Green Lantern", sent in Showcase #22 (September-October, 1959)  by John Broome, Gil Kane and Joe Giella.  That SOS was sent by Green Lantern Abin Sur, who found test pilot Hal Jordan, determining that Hal was of good character and born without fear, Abin gave him some details of being a Green Lantern, bestowing upon him his ring as Abin lay dying in his spaceship, so that Hal Jordan would take on the Power Ring and Lantern of the interstellar Green Lantern.

Hal soon adopted a mask, and even an oath for recharging his ring (which gave him the power to create green constructs, fire beams of energy and fly, with a weakness to yellow), but details of other parts of his origin (such as why he made the mask, the reason for the oath, and those who administered the Green Lantern Corps, the Guardians of the Universe), came later, as show in the Secret Origin reprinted in the 1961 Secret Origins (as well as how there was a previous Green Lantern, Alan Scott, but these details came in later issues, and a few details were given about them in text in this issue by E. Nelson Bridwell).

Atom

The "Birth Of The Atom" came in Showcase #34 (September-October, 1961) by Gardner Fox, Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson, with Ray Palmer, finding a fragment of White Dwarf Star material, using it to build a ray to shrink items (but being unable to regrow them without the items exploding), and needing to be successful to get his girlfriend, lawyer Jean Loring, to accept his proposal of marriage. 

Ray and Jean took some students spelunking (to take Ray's mind off his failing experiments, though he took along the White Dwarf lens), getting trapped in cave with no way out....Ray used the lens and sunlight from a small hole to shrink, then climbed the wall (smooth to a normal sized human) to cut a bigger hole, for Jean and the students to escape, but Ray safely regrew after accidentally walking under the lens again (which had cave water dripped upon it).

This led Ray to become the hero, the Atom (and the letters' page gave a little more detail, as well as a little more history of the other, Golden Age Atom, and this tale had been previously presented in the More Secret Origins Giant of 1965).

Wonder Woman

Starting off the third issue of  Secret Origins with the fuller origin of the Golden Age Wonder Woman from Wonder Woman #1 (Summer, 1942) by William Marston and Harry G. Peter, summing up the story from All-Star Comics #8 and Sensation Comics #1, of how Paradise Island was founded to escape Hercules, how Hippolyte made Diana from clay and was given life by the Greek gods, how military pilot Steve Trevor found the island and was rescued by Diana, who then participated in a contest (masked, as Hippolyte forbade Diana to participate, or leave the island), with Diana winning, and taking the costume and lasso to take Steve Trevor home to the United States, and remain as its protector, Wonder Woman (staying by Steve as nurse, Diana Prince).

More details were given over the first few issues of Sensation Comics and All-Star Comics #8 of how Diana became Wonder Woman (and got her lasso), but this was all condensed here to make one flowing story. 

Wildcat

Last but not least was the story from Sensation Comics #1 (January, 1942) by Bill Finger and Irwin Hasen of "The Origin Of Wildcat" (though you can see he didn't make the cover of Wonder Woman's second appearance).  Wildcat was Ted Grant, who was born a sick child, but his dad, Henry, got him to fight, to not be picked on as he was, eventually being mentored by Socker Smith, to learn to box...then, Ted faced Socker in a heavyweight championship fight, which crooked management had rigged, so Socker died in the ring, with Ted being framed for his murder. 

Ted, now on the run, hear a kid talk of the heroic Green Lantern (the original) and his origin (from a comic), and decided to become a hero himself, somehow making the Wildcat costume, finding the framers, and clearing Ted Grant's good name.  Ted Grant still fights crime as Wildcat, sometimes alone, or with the rest of the Justice Society of America, of which he became a member.

Check back here for more of this run of Secret Origins with Nick Cardy covers and facts by E. Nelson Bridwell, including origins for Vigilante, Kid Eternity, Spectre and the Legion of the Super-Heroes.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Strange Adventures In The Cold

As it gets colder, it is hard to image it getting worse, but it could.

In Strange Adventures #149 (February, 1963), scientist Bill Travis had to fend off an invasion from another dimension that was going to extinguish our sun in the story of "Raid Of The Rogue Star" by Gardner Fox and Sid Greene, under a Murphy Anderson cover. 

This tale was so warm, DC reprinted it in From Beyond The Unknown #21 (February-March, 1973), this time with Nick Cardy providing the cover of Earth's chilly doom.

Doesn't that make you feel warmer?


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Secret Origins 1 of 1973

To be fair, the title was Secret Origins, and boy did it deliver.

With issue #1 from February-March, 1973, you got the origins of Superman, Batman and the Flash, as well as the first story of Gentleman Ghost (but, to be fair, no origin at the time for the supernatural foe of the Golden Age Hawkman and Hawkgirl).

All this under a beautiful cover by Nick Cardy, and edited by E. Nelson Bridwell.

Where did these tales come from, and how did they fit them all in one normal sized issue?

Well....


Superman

The origin of Superman was first up, and it was all of one page from Action Comics #1 (June, 1938) by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, detailing how a boy rocketed from a dying alien planet to land on Earth, where he possessed powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men, and would use them to fight the forces of evil...

....pretty straight forward and simple, and the first time this story had been seen in its original form in over 30 years!

So much more would later be added to this story, but everything you needed to know was on that page, even an explanation of how this man from another planet had super powers!

 

Batman

A little longer was the origin of Batman, detailing how young Bruce Wayne's parents were killed by a mugger, and that changed the boy's life, filling full of resolve, giving the rich young man an obsession to track down criminals, striking fear in their hearts by being dressed as...

...a bat!

This was two pages, the first two from Detective Comics #33 (November, 1939) by Bill Finger and Bob Kane.

Another origin that had so much added to it over the decades, but a strongly written and drawn beginning, sure to capture the imaginations of readers for years to come, as later telling of Batman's origins proved!


Gentleman Ghost

Now, the Ghost (later called Gentleman Ghost) didn't really get in origin in this tale from Flash Comics #88 (October, 1947) by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert, but instead started a mystery of whether or not this thief really was a ghost, as he faced off against the original Hawkman and Hawkgirl (though this cover was not the one they usually alternated with the Golden Age Flash), so likely this tale's reprint was included more at the behest of this book's editor, E. Nelson Bridwell (who was also working on a book called Wanted: The World's Most Dangerous Villains at the time, which reprinted classic confrontations of heroes and their greatest foes.....).

Still, it took quite some time, and a bit of travel over multiple Earths, but readers did get an answer to whether Jim Craddock was really a ghost (and, along the way, he even got to act the hero for a time!).


Flash

It was the origin of the Silver Age Flash which ended this book, though Barry Allen did read the adventures of Flash (Jay Garrick) from the Golden Age, with Barry's first appearance as the Scarlet Speedster from Showcase #4 (September-October, 1956) by Robert Kanigher, Carmine Infantino and Joe Kubert.  This details how police scientist Barry Allen was struck by lightning in front of a batch of chemicals, which gave the man super speed, which he used to keep his fiance, reporter Iris West safe, and, in this story, defeat the Turtle Man.

Best of all, editor E. Nelson Bridwell summed up a little of the additions to Superman and Batman's origins, as well as giving a little detail on Gentleman Ghost and the Flash, starting what would be a seven issue run of issues giving the origins of DC's greatest heroes (along with covers by Nick Cardy, where he would sometimes summarize the origin in one iconic image), all to get you excited about reading reprints (as had been done when DC collected many origins in 1961 in that Secret Origins book).

As a reader, who could ask for more?