Thursday, July 30, 2020

First Issue Plus One: Warlord

It's a simple enough finds incredible land...a jungle paradise with an eternal sun...a beautiful woman...and more dinosaurs and other menaces to shake a sword at for a score of lifetimes....that is the saga of the Warlord!

But, that's the overall story....time to take a look back at the first couple of issues that featured Travis Morgan, and his time in Skartaris!

Land Of Fear

The saga of the Warlord begins in 1st Issue Special #8 (November, 1975; by Mike Grell), starting where most barbarian sagas start...., on June 16th, 1969, with Air Force pilot Lt. Colonel Travis Morgan, piloting his SR-71 over Russia, to take pictures of a secret installation, then being followed by the Russian Air Force, damaging his plane over the tundra, forcing him to make a desperate attempt escape over the North Pole as his fuel was leaking out...wait....what?

Yes, this starts a sword and sorcery book.  As Morgan goes over the North Pole, his compass becomes useless, and he follows the horizon....until he spots a cloudy land in the water, and figures that's where he can safely eject, but he had no idea that he'd end up in a tropical jungle. 

Even bigger surprise as he checked his supplies in his survival vest....that of a beautiful young barbarian woman fighting a dinosaur!  Morgan joined the fight, distracting the dinosaur enough for the woman to finish it.  Times didn't get any easier, as the pair were set upon by armed soldiers, whom Morgan used most of his ammunition against, but the two eventually were took to King Baldur of Thera and his high priest, Deimos, where Morgan used his last bullet against a sphere of Deimos' that was probing Morgan's mind. 

The two were kept together as prisoners, and Tara (the young barbarian woman) taught Morgan their language, and of Skartaris, the world of the eternal sun, while Morgan tried to explain to her his plane, and that this world likely was inside his, where he came through an opening over slowly sloping ground (crazy, right?).  After assassins tried to kill the pair, Tara and Morgan escaped, planning to go to Tara's land of Shamballah....and into the next issue!

This Savage World

Warlord #1
(January-February, 1976 by Mike Grell) continued the saga of the Warlord, as he and Tara continued the trek to Shamballah, with Tara teaching Morgan swordplay along the way as the pair grew closer (Tara was quickly becoming the love of Morgan's life).

Along the way, they had to avoid dinosaurs and slave traders, seeking refuge in a cave.  There, Tara showed Morgan a crude compass she had. 

As they rested for the night, Tara was hypnotically taken by a satyr.  Thankfully, Morgan was awoken by the music, followed her trail, and ended the menace.  But, when they returned to their cave, the slave traders had found it, and, after a fierce battle, captured the duo to take them to the slave markets.  Using his titanium dog tag chain, Morgan started to work on breaking Tara's bond, eventually being discovered, but still being able to free her.  Putting her on a horse, Morgan sent her off as he faced the slave traders.  Eventually, Morgan succumbed to the superior force.  In revenge for the lives he cost them (as well as Tara and what her sale would have made them)....they left Morgan to die.....and readers waiting for the next issue!

Yes, the next issue did resolve that cliffhanger, and started a trend of Morgan fighting for freedom, and his making friends, starting with the warrior king, Machiste, who helped him train in the slave pits, and the two found freedom.  More friends came, including Russian archeologist and spy Mariah (who was a saber champion), and even Shakira, a woman who could turn into a cat (or is that a cat who could turn into a woman?) with knowledge of ancient Atlantis (the source of the advanced technology found all around Skartaris).  Morgan even found his plane wreckage, and a gun with an incredible amount of ammunition!

Morgan reunited with Tara, and fought Deimos (many times), and even had his daughter from the surface, Jennifer Morgan, come look for him....and, after Morgan's last encounter with Deimos, Jennifer learned real magic from Ashiya (who used real magic for Deimos, as he mostly used Atlantean technology before his encounter with Morgan).

The Warlord saga would unfold over 133 issues and 6 annuals in its original run, the first 50 written and drawn by Mike Grell, (and well after Grell left, touching the Crisis on Infinite Earths and more of the DC Universe, though not meeting other 1st Issue Special alumni like Atlas, Lady Cop, Manhunter or the Dingbats; though Dr. Fate , Power Girl and even Orion and the New Gods might fit in). 

With plenty of swords, sorcery and science all mixed together, and starting with the second issue, a two-page spread to start the issues, then later, along with a motto that should serve you well anywhere, anytime..."In the savage world of Skartaris, life is a constant struggle for survival.  Here, beneath an unblinking orb of eternal sunlight, one simple law prevails:  if you let your guard down for an instant you will soon be very dead.".

Monday, July 27, 2020

Happy 80th Anniversary Bugs Bunny

Happy 80th Anniversary to Bugs Bunny!

While in more recent years, he's appeared with some of his "super friends" as a part of the greater Warner Brothers universe....Bugs Bunny has had quite the history!

While Bugs had appeared a few times with Porky Pig starting in 1938 as Happy Rabbit, the first feature starring Bugs Bunny (as such) was in Tex Avery's "A Wild Hare" that came out on July 27, 1940, with Bugs voiced by Mel Blanc, facing off against one of his most persistent foes.....Elmer Fudd!

Bugs Bunny had his first foray into comics back in the 1940s, as one of many features in Dell's Four Color Comics, where he continued well into the 1950s, when he got his own series starting with issue #28 in December-January 1952/1953 (starting there because he had 27 Four Color issues!).

Gold Key/Whitman kept the Bugs Bunny title running from the 1960s to the 1980s, running issues #86 (October, 1962) to the title's end in 1983 with #245.

Still, this wasn't the end for that rascally rabbit!

DC started some Bugs Bunny tales with a 3 issue series starting in June, 1990, continuing on with specials, one-shots and Looney Toons comics.....

....and the party will likely be going on well into the future!


Sunday, July 26, 2020

Archie's Baseball Trouble

Baseball has returned for an abbreviated season, but it couldn't be short enough for Archie Andrews!

He's already in trouble with Veronica Lodge and Betty Cooper in this Betty and Veronica Summer Fun cover from Bob White for Archie Giant Series Magazine #28 (September, 1964).

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Request For Injustice Society Collections

One of the most persistent foes of the Justice Society of America has been the Injustice Society of the World.  Premiered in All-Star Comics #37 (October-November, 1947) by writer Robert Kanigher and artists Irwin Hasen, Joe Kubert, Carmine Infantino, John Belfi and Alex Toth, this group of villains has unleashed havoc across the world, as well as having grown in size (here by George Perez)....

...and while the group's Golden Age appearances have been reprinted a few times, many individual members are far from having their appearances visible since their first printings.

That needs change....and, here's a way to do that in three tradepaperback volumes!

ISW Volume 1

The first volume should include:

Wizard (William Asmodeus Zard)
All-Star Comics #34 (April-May 1947):  "The Wiles Of The Wizard"

Brainwave (Henry King Sr)
All-Star Comics #15 (February-March 1943):
"The Man Who Created Images"

Gambler (Steven Sharpe)
Green Lantern #12 (Summer 1944):  "The Gambler"
Green Lantern #20 (June-July 1946):
"The Gambler Comes Back"
Green Lantern #27 (August-September 1947):
"The Gambler Bets His Life"

Per Degaton
All-Star Comics #35 (June-July 1947):  "The Day That Dropped Out Of Time"

Thinker (Clifford DeVoe)
All-Flash #12 (Fall 1943): 
"Tumble Inn To Trouble"
All-Flash #14 (Spring 1944): 
"The Man Who Unleashed The Past"

Vandal Savage
Green Lantern #10 (Winter 1943):
"The Man Who Wanted The World"

...and the team appearance from All-Star Comics #37, "The Injustice Society of The World", for a wonderful collection of 319 pages (with appropriate covers, with sadly, the Thinker not appearing on any, and the Gambler only making one of his cover), with many All-Star Comics issues, and a few Golden Age Flash and Green Lantern tales.

Still, this does collect all of Per Degaton and Vandal Savage's Golden Age appeaerances, and at least the first two appearances of every charter ISW member except for Brain Wave.

Leaves some Brain Wave, Thinker and Gambler stories uncollected, on!

ISW Volume 2

The second volume should include:

Icicle (Joar Makent)
All-American Comics #90 (October 1947):
"The Icicle"
All-American Comics #92 (December 1947):
"The Icicle Goes South"

Fiddler (Isaac Bowin)
All-Flash #32 (December 1947-January 1948):  "Duet Of Danger"
Flash Comics #93 (March 1948):
"Violin Of Villainy"
Comic Cavalcade #28 (August-September 1948):
"The Flash Concerto"

Sportsmaster (Crusher Crock)
All-American Comics #85 (May 1947):
"The Rise And Fall Of Crusher Crock"
Green Lantern #28 (October-November 1947):
"The Tricks Of The Sportsmaster"
All-American Comics #98 (June 1948):
"The End Of Sports"

Huntress (Paula Brooks)
Sensation Comics #68 (August 1947):
"Wildcat -- Former Crime Fighter"
Sensation Comics #69 (September 1947):
"Follow The Leader"
Sensation Comics #71 (November 1947):
"The Count That Never Ended"
Sensation Comics #73 (January 1948):
"Murder Masquerade"
Sensation Comics #75 (March 1948):
"The Snare That Backfired"
Sensation Comics #76 (April 1948):
"The Wildcat Ride"
DC 100-Page Super-Spectacular #6 (1971):
"Crime Wore A Costume"

Harlequin (Molly Mayne)
All-American Comics #89 (September 1947):
"The Harlequin"
All-American Comics #91 (November 1947):
"The Wedding Of The Harlequin"
Green Lantern #29 (December 1947 - January 1948):
"The Challenge Of The Harlequin" and "The Harlequin Haunts Green Lantern"

All-American Comics  #93 (January 1948): 
"The Double-Crossing Decoy"
All-American Comics #94 (February 1948):
"Partners In Peril"
All-American Comics #95 (March 1948):
"The Unmasking Of The Harlequin"
Green Lantern #31 (March-April 1948):
"The Terror Of The Talismans"
Green Lantern #32 (May-June 1948): 
"The Case Of The Conscience Fund"

....and, with the Wizard's gathering of these villains from All-Star Comics #41 (June-July, 1948), this gives all the Golden Age appearances of these villains from the various Flash comics, Green Lantern comics and even Wildcat appearances (though he never made the covers of Sensation Comics).

Except for some of Harlequin's appearances, all of these characters Golden Age tales are here (about half of all of these stories hadn't been reprinted), with this being the largest volume, at 330 pages.

ISW Volume 3

The third volume should include Golden Age tales of the Bronze Age additions:

Shade (Richard Swift)
Flash Comics #33 (September 1942):
"The Man Who Commanded The Night"

Solomon Grundy (Cyrus Gold)
All-American Comics #61 (October 1944):
"Fighters Never Quit"
Comic Cavalcade #13 (Winter 1945):
"And Then There Was One"
All-Star Comics #33 (February-March 1947):
"The Revenge Of Solomon Grundy"
Comic Cavalcade #24 (December 1947-January 1948): "The Case Of The Withered Flower"

Missing stores of other ISW members from the Golden Age:
Brain Wave (Henry King Sr)
All-Star Comics #17 (June-July 1943):
"Brain Wave Goes Berserk"
All-Star Comics #30 (August-September 1946)"
"The Dreams Of Madness

Gambler (Steven Sharpe)
Green Lantern #30 (February-March 1948):
"The Fatal Chance"
Green Lantern #35 (November-December 1948):
"Perfect Crimes For Sale"
Thinker (Clifford DeVoe)
Flash Comics #65 (June-July 1945):
"Adventure Of The Thinking Cap"
All-Flash #27 (February-March 1947):
"The Thinker Cooks With Gas"
Comic Cavalcade #22 (August-September 1947):
"Beware The Ice Age"
Comic Cavalcade #23 (October-November 1947):
"The Sleeping City"
All-Flash #32 (December 1947-January 1948):
"Crime, Incorporated"
Flash #214 (April 1972):
"The Tale Of Three Tokens"

Harlequin (Molly Mayne)
Green Lantern Vol. 1 #33/3 (July-August 1948): "The Harlequin's Leap Year"
Green Lantern Vol. 1 #34 (September-October 1948): "Harlequin's Secret Revealed"

Other villains, who joined even later or were related to the ISW:

Rag Doll (Peter Merkel)
Flash Comics #36 (December 1942):
"Tale Of The Treasure Hunt"

The Mist (Kyle)
Adventure Comics #67 (October 1941):
"The Menace Of The Invisible Raiders"

The Shade joined during a JLA/JSA adventure, Solomon Grundy during the 1970s run with Star-Spangled Kid and Power Girl, Rag Doll VERY much later, in JSA All-Stars, and the Mist, because his second appearance was in the Wanted collection, and this gives more than Flash and Green Lantern (and JSA stories) with a Starman story, giving 328 pages (and hope that a collection with Hawkman's Gentleman Ghost and Monocle and a few others can materialize somewhere).

A fanciful wish from someone who knows the Flash, Green Lantern, Wildcat, Hawkman and Starman stories reprinted from the Golden Age, and would like to see more, with Wizard, Brain Wave, Per Degaton, Vandal Savage, Gambler, Thinker, Icicle, Sportsmaster, Huntress, Fiddler, Harlequinn and the rest serving as a nice conduit to a forgotten era!

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Celebrate National Ice Cream Day With Jughead

Better bring your own ice cream for National Ice Cream Day, because I wouldn't want to get between Jughead Jones and his ice cream....

....Jughead has a love for ice cream like no other, as shown on this cover to Archie's Pal Jughead Comics #69 (June, 1995) by Stan Goldberg and Mike Esposito.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Wanted Prankster Nightshade Catwoman Black Canary Mars

Here it is, the end of the run for E. Nelson Bridwell's Wanted: The World's Most Dangerous Villains, with villains for Superman, Sandman (these two under a Nick Cardy cover), Batman, Johnny Thunder and Wonder Woman in Prankster, Nightshade, Catwoman, Black Canary and Mars.

The series that ended in the 1970s because no one wanted Wanted (a line attributed to publisher Carmine Infantino at the time)  The last issue of #9, and the tenth issue....

...wait, what?

Well, read on!

Crime's Comedy King

First up for the last issue of Wanted, is a Superman reprint from Action Comics #57 (February, 1943) by Jerry Siegel and John Sikela (with original cover by Sikela), featuring the return of the Prankster...

...who had debuted all of 6 issues ago!

The Prankster returns by punking crime boss King Ruggles on his birthday, tormenting him with bad puns and even worse gimmick gags, but getting the King to give him $100,000 for the promise of over a million in a month.  The Prankster goes to withdraw $50,000 and promptly goes to the police station, and gives himself and the money up!  This gets a call in to Clark Kent and Lois Lane, with Clark changing to Superman to confront King Ruggles, then returning to police HQ to see Prankster leaving....where he stops the villain.

But, Prankster had been released, as he was donating the money to the preservation of ostriches, gaining favor with their supporters, who bailed him out (and turned on Clark Kent....and Superman!).  King Ruggles pulled the bailed Prankster in again, planning to rough him up, but gave him another $25,000.  Clark's editor assigned him to cover Prankster's new endeavor, Appreciation, Inc., that would show people gratitude that had made large donations to charity.  Prankster then got to meet and go to the homes of these wealthy individuals.  Oddly, these people then all saw major thefts.

Prankster reported back to King Ruggles with his million (his scheme fulfilled, as he got to be around the rich, he found ways to rob them).  Of course, Prankster only showed Ruggles the money, as he planned on taking it from him as well.  Superman shows up to stop all of them, but, a quick maneuver takes out Superman (!!!).  The King then plans to dispose of Superman and the Prankster, but Superman wakes up, saves himself, and captures Ruggles (but, the Prankster gets away....).

Prankster would return, with many more gimmicks to make fun of the Man of Steel!

The Adventure Of The Magic Forest

The last story reprinted in Wanted is from World's Finest Comics #6 (Summer, 1942) by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, featuring Sandman and Sandy (though the issue has a Fred Ray Superman/Batman/Robin cover), featuring the debut of a new villain, Nightshade!

A married couple called the Tuckers and an unlucky explorer have problems in a forest, all observed by a lonely mobster.  This mobster goes back to the home of the Nightshade, who, now that someone knows his value, readies his plan to make criminals wealthy.  Meanwhile, back at young Toby Tucker's birthday party, the lad misses his parents who were suppose to be coming home, and tells his friend, Sandy Hawkins (ward to Wes Dodds, the Sandman).  Sandman and Sandy go off in search of the Tuckers, finding Nightshade's deadly forest, and are attacked by the plants there.  They also find some natural illusions, that lead people (like the Tuckers) to drive off the road.  Thankfully, the Tuckers survived, and the heroes have the police take them home.

Sandman and Sandy go further into the jungle, facing more menaces, as well as mobsters, who were bringing Nightshade money (as he offered his home as a sanctuary to criminals, as the police wouldn't follow them in).  Sandman and Sandy fight the thugs in Nightshade's home, barely escaping with their lives....then the house blows up!  Nightshade planned to kill the thugs for their cash, and now plans to kill the heroes....until his forest seems to turn on him and kill him!  The heroes return to the Tucker party in their alter egos as the forest burns down.

Oddly, Nightshade survived, and returning during World War II during the Crisis, in a few issues of All-Star Squadron (though he got a name change when he joined the Monster Society of Evil to face Dr. Fate and Hourman and more!  Even worked with a fellow Wanted alumni in Mr. Who!).

Thus ended the original run of Wanted, the World's Most Dangerous Villains....but previous issues had promised stories with Catwoman and Wonder, as DC collected the original issues, they included a few "newer" reprints as well, including a mock-up cover as well (sadly, Nick Cardy is no longer with us, as he drew Black Canary, Wonder Woman and Catwoman all too rarely....).

The Sleeping Beauties Of Gotham City

First up is a Catwoman story from Batman #84 (June, 1954) by David V. Reed, Sheldon Moldoff and Stan Kaye (under an original cover by Win Mortimer)... Selina Kyle returns to face the dynamic duo of Gotham City.

In Gotham, it just rains Catwoman lets Batman and Robin know she has a new crime scheme.  Batman reviews Catwoman's career with the police (thinking that she has abandoned her good life as Selina Kyle).  But, Bruce and Dick find Selina entered into a five woman beauty pageant sponsored by the W. Ross Cosmetic Company.  Finding Selina's address their, Batman and Robin go to confront her, to find Selina ready for them (planning to sue for false arrest, as the duo have no proof she is Catwoman).

Catwoman tries a violin heist that night, and thwarts Batman and Robin's attempt to capture her working through the giant instruments.  Then, the duo discover Selina Kyle is now a "modern sleeping beauty",  having gotten a virus, that leaves her comatose (with the cosmetic company putting her in a glass case to use the suffering woman as a marketing ploy).  Catwoman goes to rob two more contestants (who then also fall to the sleeping sickness), all the while with Selina Kyle on full view (and faces Batman one more time), then only Selina remains for the beauty she awakens. 

As Batman smells the perfume she is to get as a prize, he realizes her plan....that she had European agents place valuables in the exotic perfume (which got past customs) so she could get her prize (and her ill-gotten booty).  She created a film duplicate of herself to fool the guards watching her sleeping body (having only dosed herself with a bit of the sleeping sickness)

Catwoman would return to face Batman again and again (and she even faced the next villain a few times as well....)

The Black Canary

Next up, a Johnny Thunder tale from Flash Comics #86 (August, 1947) by Robert Kanigher, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella (under an original Flash cover by Lee Elias and Joe Kubert) that introduced the villainess (yes, that's right) Black Canary!

Say, you wouldn't think Johnny Thunder would be dumb enough to climb a ladder and rob a thug's apartment for a pretty lady, wouldn't you?  (You'd be wrong).  Johnny does, getting a special mask for the pretty lady (who steals the ladder as Johnny throws her the mask).  Johnny calls his Thunderbolt, but is pulled inside by the thugs whose mask he took.  Black Canary needed the mask to get into a special party thrown by Socks Slade (where special masks are the identification for admission).  There, she takes a jewel Socks stole, as Johnny and the T-Bolt wipe up the gangsters.  Black Canary escapes in the confusion (having also stolen Johnny's heart.....).

Black Canary would return, team up with Johnny, eventually replacing his thunderbolt, then Johnny himself in these comic pages, as well as taking his membership in the JSA!

The Girl Who Saved Paradise Island

Last, but certainly not least, a story featuring Mars, the god of war, from Wonder Woman #36 (July-August, 1949) by Robert Kanigher and H. G. Peter (with original cover by Irwin Hasen and Bernard Sachs), adding to Wonder Woman's mythology.

Wonder Woman starts this tale with her mother and tales from ancient Sparta, where soldiers would leave baby girls to be eaten by wolves...yet Diana's mother, Hippolyte, and her amazons were there to rescue the girls, including Astra (who, even as a baby could defend herself).  The Queen took the babies to Infanta, the child planet, where the girls could grow up (a little, retaining eternal youth, yet also having powers as well, with Astra becoming Infanta's child Queen). 

Mars, tired of the amazons, took the young boys of Sparta as his troops on the planet Duxo, and with the help of Lord Conquest, training them to hate the amazons.  Mars then launched his forces from Duxo, which Steve Trevor detected, seeing an invasion fleet coming to Earth (and notifying Wonder Woman), but that their target was the middle of the ocean (but Wonder Woman knew that to be the home of Paradise Island, so she went to defend it).  Mars' boys were able to defeat Hippolyte and her amazons, but Wonder Woman, Queen Astra and her girls were able to turn the tables on the boys of Duxo....freeing them from Mars, and taking them to learn the ways of peace on Infanta.

Astra, Conquest and Mars would return (in fact, all of them did in Sensation Comics #92!).

While the collection did not include the two DC Specials which led to the Wanted series, DC's Wanted the World's Most Dangerous Super-Villains recent collection did include the nine issues of that series (including the Trickster, Solomon Grundy, Dr. Light and Captain Cold (and more).

A wonderful tribute to lasting villainy.....and the love of comics had by E. Nelson Bridwell.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Remembering Joe Shuster

Remembering the late Joe Shuster  (July 10, 1914-July 30, 1992) on his birthday.

Joe Shuster was the artistic half the team that brought us the man of steel, drawing his debut in Action Comics #1 (June, 1938), and continuing work well on in that series, as well as in Superman, starting with Superman #1 (Summer, 1939).

It took a little while for Superman to start taking the covers of Action Comics....

...but he was always the main feature of Superman comics...

...and Joe even got a couple of covers for Superboy in Adventure Comics!

While Joe Shuster didn't draw Superman as much as Jerry Siegel wrote him, he still helped create the hero who would stand for truth, justice and the American way!