Saturday, October 31, 2009

"The Witch of Metropolis" Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #1

I didn't realize that was spelled with a "W". Oh! Ha-ha! Witch!!

Lois Lane gets her own title (although it's pretty clear that she only got it by dating Superman) in this spectacular, debut issue.

Being the hard-hitting, investigative journalist that she is, Lois is sent to cover the opening of the new Museum of Superstition. Which, by the way, has like three exhibits; a taxidermied cat, a ladder, and two portraits. The portraits are of a young woman named Molly Todd in puritan garb and a scary hag named Mad Molly in the same clothes. Legend has it that Molly turned into a witch every night and cast evil spells.

Lois scoffs at the exhibits and begins to powder her nose before leaving. Upon accidentally dropping her compact and breaking its mirror, she jokes "...I suppose I'm doomed to 7 years bad luck! HA,HA!". The curator warns Lois that she shouldn't scoff and gives her a booklet of ancient legends.

Lois then hurries on to her next assignment, interviewing a scientist who is working on a "youth serum". Lois sniffs at the "odd fumes" which are coming out of the test tubes which hold all the scientist's trial batches -like she's Jimmy Olsen or something- and then goes home to write her articles.

As Lois begins to type, a change comes over her. She has transformed into a twisted, old crone! Grabbing up the booklet of ancient legends, she discovers that "...any maiden breaking a mirror before the witch's picture would also turn into a witch nightly for seven years!". Isn't "witch" more of an occupation?

Lois then does what any woman who suddenly found herself transformed into a horrible, old hag would do... she goes for a walk. And since the last person she'd want to see is Superman, he arrives right on cue.

Superman tells the "old lady" to be careful as two felons have just escaped from prison and he's searching for them in this neighborhood.

Two seconds later, Lois runs into said felons. The crooks get rough and start shooting. In desperation, Lois tries casting a spell on the bad guys and Lo! it works! Their bullets turn aside.

When Lois wakes up the next morning, she's back to normal. Of course, when the sun goes down that evening, poof!, witch time!

Lois starts abusing her newfound powers right away, scooping other reporters and feeling tempted to use her spells to learn Superman's secret ID.

Turns out, Lois wasn't cursed at all. She inhaled some of the fumes from a bad batch of youth serum that made her age (at sunset??). All this spell mumbo-jumbo has just been Superman following Lois (whom he recognized all along) and using his powers to simulate her "magic". Superman is spared from looking like a dick in all this, due to the Scientist's advice that the shock of learning about the age formula (which wore off on it's own) could harm Lois. Yeah, 'cause thinking you'll turn into a hideous crone every night for the next seven years isn't stressful at all.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Jimmy Olsen as "The Wolf-Man of Metropolis!" Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #44

I guess it was no real surprise how this happened. I mean, you leave an ancient, werewolf potion around where Jimmy can get to it and you know he's gonna drink it. Yeesh!

Best part is, Jimmy is turned into a wolf-man and the only cure is a kiss from a pretty girl. While he's a wolf-man. Good luck, Jimmy. That's a tall order for Jimmy, even if he wasn't a wolf-man. That bow tie alone has to repel chicks like mad.

Jimmy even tries offering a girl in the park money in exchange for a kiss. Yeah, I bet that's not the first time.

Luckily, Jimmy is Superman's Pal. The Man of Steel does Jimmy a solid and gets Supergirl to give him a little smooch. Of course, the kiss has to happen in the dark, since nobody knows there IS a Supergirl yet (I'll explain that one next week). It would have been far kinder to put a lead blindfold on Supergirl.

Of course, once you've kissed the Maid of Might, you're ruined for all others.

On a side note: How come any story on TV (I'm looking at YOU, Dark Shadows)or in comics where someone gets cursed to be a werewolf, the moon is full for like weeks on end? I mean, doesn't everybody know the full moon only lasts three days? Heck, technically it's only really full on day 2 of that.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Poll Results are In

Well, the people have spoken, and Aquaman is the winner! I will bring you a double dose of Aquaman's origins (with my ever-insightful commentary) this coming Tuesday. Maybe even a few more Aqua-goodies, we'll just have to see. In the meantime, if you just can't get enough of the Sea King, check out one of my favorite blogs, The Aquaman Shrine at:

Blogger Rob Kelly is the "World's #1 Aquaman Fan" and he writes a fantastic blog about it.

A Salute to Gentleman Ghost

Hawkman isn't exactly known for his great rogues gallery of villains (sadly, these days, Hawkman is mostly known for being confusing, constantly revised and cancelled.) but, nevertheless, I think one of Hawkman's baddies is absolutely awesome: Gentleman Ghost!

He's so SPOOKY!

"What's so great about Gentleman Ghost? ", you might ask. Go ahead, ask. I'll wait. What's so great about Gentleman Ghost is this: He's a freakin' GHOST!

Take a look around the comics world. Most of the bad guys with ghost in their names have some sort of ghostly powers. They can walk through walls or become invisible, etc. But that's just their villain schtick. This guy is a ghost. The ghost of a criminal ("Gentleman" Jim Craddock) who was hanged by a past life version of Hawkman (That may be retconned; who can tell any more where Hawkman is concerned? It's still cool, though.) and now does everything he can to make life miserable for the Winged Wonder.

He's also the only Golden Age Hawkman villain to have been on both Batman: The Brave and the Bold AND the Super-Friends!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tales from the U.S. Senate. America VS. EC Comics.

There was a time when horror comics were actually scary. And the best of those scary comics came from a wonderful publisher called EC Comics.

Originally founded by publisher M.C. Gaines as "Educational Comics", they specialized in comics with stories from the Bible and other subject matter of social and educational benefit. When Gaines turned the company over to his son, William M. Gaines,

the younger Gaines changed the company's name to "Entertaining Comics" and began publishing titles like The Haunt of Fear, Vault of Horror, Tales from the Crypt, Two-Fisted Tales, Shock Suspenstories , Weird Science and Mad (yes, that Mad).

And believe me, these ARE entertaining comics. Problem is, some folks decided that these comics weren't appropriate for children. Which is funny, because they were never aimed at children. EC's titles were singled out, over and over again in a Senate Subcommittee hearing on the supposed connection between comic books and juvenile delinquency. I have reprinted a portion of the hearing transcript (Which I culled from Wikipedia) for your amusement:

  • Chief Counsel Herbert Beaser: Let me get the limits as far as what you put into your magazine. Is the sole test of what you would put into your magazine whether it sells? Is there any limit you can think of that you would not put in a magazine because you thought a child should not see or read about it?
  • Bill Gaines: No, I wouldn't say that there is any limit for the reason you outlined. My only limits are the bounds of good taste, what I consider good taste.
  • Beaser: Then you think a child cannot in any way, in any way, shape, or manner, be hurt by anything that a child reads or sees?
  • Gaines: I don't believe so.
  • Beaser: There would be no limit actually to what you put in the magazines?
  • Gaines: Only within the bounds of good taste.
  • Beaser: Your own good taste and saleability?
  • Gaines: Yes.
  • Senator Estes Kefauver: Here is your May 22 issue. [Kefauver is mistakenly referring to Crime Suspenstories #22, cover date May] This seems to be a man with a bloody axe holding a woman's head up which has been severed from her body. Do you think that is in good taste?
  • Gaines: Yes sir, I do, for the cover of a horror comic. A cover in bad taste, for example, might be defined as holding the head a little higher so that the neck could be seen dripping blood from it, and moving the body over a little further so that the neck of the body could be seen to be bloody.
  • Kefauver: You have blood coming out of her mouth.
  • Gaines: A little.
After the hearings, the majority of comics publishers formed a self-governing body called the Comics Code Authority which dictated the standards and practices of comics publishers from the mid-1950's to the beginning of the 21st century. Not too surprisingly, most of the rules and regulations were things that would have made it all but impossible for EC to continue publishing their titles as they were. For example: Comics titles could no longer contain words like "horror", "crime", etc. I get the feeling a little professional jealousy was involved.

By 1955, EC went out of business as a comics publisher, converting MAD into a magazine.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Never Fear, the MONSTERS are here!

I don't have these and have never read them. But boy do I WANT to!

In 1966 Dell Comics thought it would be a great idea to do a line of superhero comics based on the old Universal monster movies. Apparently, they were wrong as none of these comics lasted more than 3 issues (although Dracula and Frankenstein were each numbered 2 through 4 as Dell treated their previously published movie adaptions of Dracula and Frankenstein as #1 for each series).

Dracula is the medical-researcher descendant of Count Dracula who accidentally gives himself bat-like superpowers while working on a cure for brain damage.

And speaking of brain damage, Frankenstein is- well, he's Frankenstein. More or less. When he's not fighting crime with the strength of 50 men, he puts on a rubber mask and poses as millionaire playboy Frank Stone.

Werewolf is the least exciting. He's just some secret agent who lived with wolves for a while. Oh! and he can change his features.

Happy Hallowe'en

For the rest of the week, I'll be highlighting issues and titles with a Hallowe'en flavor. More or less. A lot less, in some cases. Anyway, enjoy.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Love. Metropolis Style.

Today is my 13th wedding anniversary, so I'm treating you all to a gallery of the MANY weddings of Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane. Enjoy

Happy Anniversary, Amy!

My lovely wife, Amy and I were married thirteen years ago today. And while I may very well be every bit the pompous ass that Mr. Fantastic is, I can assure you-Amy-you are not invisible to me. :)

I love you, Kitten. Here's to many, many more wonderful years together.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Saturday Morning 1967- The Fantastic Four

In 1967, Marvel Comics licensed most of its comic book superheroes to animation company Grantray Lawrence Productions. Captain America, Iron Man, The Hulk, The Sub-Mariner, Thor, Even Spider-Man (the animated version of which debuted the same day as the Fantastic Four). But for some reason, Marvel licensed one of their hottest properties to Hanna Barbera- the Fantastic Four. As far as I'm concerned, it was a brilliant move.

The Hanna-Barbera FF were redesigned for TV animation by Alex Toth, who somehow manged to simplify the Thing's lumpy, rocky hide and still make him look like the Thing. The scripts were lively and pretty dead-on, many of them adaptations of FF stories from the comics. There are a few oddities -like an episode where the Fantastic Four travel to Atlantis and deal with a "King Triton". Triton looks suspiciously like Namor, The Sub-Mariner, who was licensed to a different animation company.

Sadly, although this still airs on Cartoon Network and Boomerang occasionally, this series has yet to come to DVD.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Jimmy Olsen- What's Your Deal? a rant

"Superman's Pal" Jimmy Olsen you will- simply put- touch, handle, wear, taste, sniff, lick, eat, or drink ANYTHING.

I mean seriously, Jimmy, didn't your mom ever tell you not to put stuff in your mouth? Do you chew gum you find under tables in restaurants? It's like every issue you're becoming an alien or a monster or fat or giant, all because you can't keep your hands and mouth to yourself.

When Superman tells you not to touch something, DON'T TOUCH IT! It's like dealing with my 4-year-old!

No wonder you can't make time with Lois Lane's sister Lucy. Who knows where your hands, mouth, tongue have been?

I've lost count of the number of times you have undergone a crazy transformation and then, too embarrassed to go back to your job at the Daily Planet, joined a freak show. You're probably the only reporter with a circus union card.

Oh, Jimmy! Through your ceaseless, impulsive touching, how you've touched me!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thank The gods Tis Thor's Day!- Journey Into Mystery # 83

As the good folks at Marvel Comics began to crank out a line of superhero comics, one question was hanging at the backs of their minds: "How can you top Superman?" I mean, for any hero to be more powerful than Superman he'd have to be... well, a god.

Enter The Mighty Thor, Norse god of thunder, hero of legend, scion of Asgard, user of leave-in conditioner.

While on a walking tour of Norway, "lame Doctor Donald Blake" (I LOVE how they describe him like that. He has a severe limp and walks with a cane, but it always makes him sound like he's a sub-standard physician.) is witness to a terrifying invasion by Stone Men from Saturn.

Seeking shelter in a nearby cave, Dr. Blake finds himself trapped in a cave-in. After stumbling through the dark, looking for an alternate exit, Don finds an old, gnarled walking stick laying on a stone slab. Don tries to use the stick as a lever to pry away a large rock blocking a potential exit, and in his struggles bangs the stick against the stone. Suddenly, lightning crashes within the cave and frail Dr.Blake is transformed into Thor.

The stick, it seems was the mighty hammer of Thor, Mjolnir, in disguise. Inscribed on the head of the mystical hammer are the words "Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of THOR".

Using his new-found super strength, Thor hefts the boulder out of the way of the exit and leaves the cave. Setting his hammer down, Thor discovers that, after sixty seconds away from the magic of the hammer, he reverts to Donald Blake. He soon discovers that the hammer returns to his hand when thrown, is indestructible and can control the weather.

Thor quickly routs the alien invaders and transforms back into Lame Doctor Donald Blake.

The Hammer turns back into a walking stick. The story ends with the promise of further Thor adventures to come.

For anyone familiar with this comic from its later incarnations, I would like to note a few points of interest. Firstly, it seems pretty obvious (to me, anyway) that at this stage of the comic, Doctor Don Blake is really Doctor Don Blake and he only summons the power of Thor. The Hammer Mjolnir sort of functions like an Aladdin's lamp. Secondly, that being said, Thor reminds me very much of Fawcett Comics' Captain Marvel, who was secretly young Billy Batson. Batson would say the magic word "Shazam!" and transform into the super hero Captain Marvel.

Next Thor's Day will be a Hallowe'en-related post, but after that, I will pick up with Journey Into Mystery #84.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"The Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Menace" Doom Patrol #89

The DP get some much-needed, cooler superhero togs in this issue (Well, Negative Man and Elasti-girl do, Robotman doesn't wear clothes, just black trunks. And I suspect they're just paint.), and a really funky new villain. The Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Menace or AVM Man for short.

Once a friend and rival of the Chief's, the AVM Man is a brilliant scientist who has unlocked the secrets of the prime material from which all life developed. Staging an accident during a laboratory demonstration (do these really happen? I've never been to one of these, but they happen in old comics all the time. I mean, I've been to COSI -the science museum, not the patisserie- many times and NEVER have I witnessed any scientists, mad or otherwise seeking the origins of life, or irradiating helpless spiders or anything. ) Sven Larsen turns himself into the AVM Man with the power to change his form into anything animal, vegetable or mineral.

Bent on revenge for a wrong he believes the Chief has done him, AVM Man attacks the members of the Doom Patrol. Turning into a giant man of lead, he attempts to encase Negative Man's radioactive energy form. Robotman saves negative man, but AVM Man turns into a giant dandelion and blows away. Later he turns into a swarm of gnats and attempts to enter Robotman's ear canals in an effort to reach his human brain.

In a final showdown, AVM Man becomes a giant tiger and launches himself at Elasti-girl, only to be zapped by the Chief's "Anti-Decay Ray" which "halts all changes in living cells." It freezes the AVM Man as a tiger and prevents his ever-fluid form from continuing to move and change. I don't know why he can't just continue to attack as a giant tiger, but whatever. Irony-of-ironies, the ray is the very idea which Sven Larsen accused the Chief of stealing from him years ago, and is the very reason Larsen is seeking revenge.

A few notes: This issue contains one of the very few instances in which the chief involves himself in front line combat. Personally, I think any comic book in which a bad guy turns into a dandelion and blows away to escape capture is awesome. One more thing... should Robotman's brain really be accessible directly from his ear canals?? Shouldn't he have died in a much earlier issue if that were the case?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pretty Pictures.

I'm too tired and too busy to write anything today. But I don't want to leave all of you dedicated readers without anything to do when you're supposed to be working, so here are some pictures to get you through.

These were used mostly as filler, when a story ran short or there was unused ad space. I especially like how many of these heroes have signed their picture for you with their secret identities.