Saturday, 22 November 2014

Charlton Comics: Sixties Action Heroes Line

With the release of the latest chapter of Grant Morrison's Multiversity series I thought it time to have a look a t the characters he uses on this version of Earth in the New 52 "multiverse". These are from the short lived but fondly remembered Charlton Comics "Action Heroes line from the mid sixties.

The best known and longest running of their superhero line was Captain Atom created by Joe Gill and Steve Ditko and first appeared in Space Adventures March 1960. He went on to have 12 issues of his own solo title oddly numbered 78 to 89 due to the policy of Charlton to continue numbering from previous and quite often unrelated series in an attempt to avoid postal charges.

 Captain Atom (Charlton) 86

The other hero that caught my attention in particular back in those days was the reinvention of the Blue Beetle.  Revamped by the great Steve Ditko these issues are particularly worth tracking down as the search for the original Blue Beetle leads Ted Kord to take up the mantle of Blue Beetle following the death of the original Blue Beetle, Dan Garrett.

Cover for Blue Beetle (Charlton) #1 (1967)

In the first issue we see the introduction of The Question, a wee bit of an anomaly for the Comic Code controlled era of comics. In his one and only solo book published by Charlton, he leaves the villain of the story to die.

Many see the influence of Anne Rand's philosophy in this particular work. Nevertheless the shock ending does leave an impression on the reader.

The other heroes of the line did not particularly appeal to this young reader at the time, though they are worth a second look if you can find a copy.


The Charlton line of heroes were eventually purchased by DC Comics after Charlton's demise in the 1980's and Alan Moore had intended to use them as the basis for his opus The Watchmen, but after Dc realised how they would be used they made him create his own characters.

If you carefully examine this comic you will see how the various main players are based on the Charlton heroes.

Now that little trip through a small part of comic history is over it's time to read the latest issue of Multiversity.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Superman's Girlfriend: Lois Lane..right?

Cover for Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane #93 (1969)

Lois Lane # 93 (National/DC Comics)

Robert Kanigher (w) Irv Novick (a) Curt Swan (c)

The Superman family of titles was at the heart of National/DC comics publishing programme for many years. Lois Lane is as far as I can recall the only "girlfriend" of any hero to get their own title just because of her relationship with a super-hero.

This particular issue published in 1969 is interesting as it seems to be a prophesy of what is yet to come in the twenty-first century. More on that later. Featuring a Superman/Wonder Woman team, Lois Lane seems out of her depth strength wise as far as this misleading cover shows.

In fact throughout the fifties and sixties DC had a habit of publishing covers that only sort of related what happened in the story. Some are more misleading than others. But great fun and sometimes worth purchasing for themselves!

For those of you not familiar with a little change that Wonder Woman went through here's the cover of the "new direction" the title went through as of issue 178.

Wonder Woman 197 1971

Turns out that that the "Wonder Woman" that Lois finds herself fighting with is not what she seems. She's really a villain from the Phantom Zone and the real deal is being held captive by this evil doppelganger.

Lois and Superman of course are one of the most famous fictional couples of the modern age. But not everything lasts for ever it would seem. Despite years of faithful pursuit and marriage DC comics New 52 reboot put an end to that. For now anyway.


Yup. Superman and Wonder Woman are actually an item. More than that they even have their own monthly team up book.

And the world knows! The secret is out.

Is there hope for Lois? Hints in some of the stories seem to suggest the age old romance will begin once again, but for now whilst Lois Lane remains a strong supporting character, it's Clark and Diana whose romance that enthrals the world.

For now.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Superboy: When Superman were a lad!

Cover for Superboy #175 (1971)

Superboy # 175 (DC)

Leo Dorfman (w) Bob Brown Murphy Anderson (a) 

Growing up in the sixties and seventies one of the comics that I regularly purchased with my limited pocket money was Superboy, adventures of Superman when he was a boy. Living with his parents Ma & Pa Kent in Smallville, Kansas Superboy was already a well established hero before he eventually upped an left for the big city or Metropolis as we came to know it.

This particular issue published in June 1971 contains one major story, Doomsday for a Super-Phantom plus a little two page short which I'll return to later.

One villain, Faustus part of a declining coven brings his declining family together to steal the powers of the boy of steel, but is forced to use modern scientific technology to enhance his (and their) magics to do so.

It fails at first, and off his relatives go leaving behind just one. A young orphan called "little" Asmo who has a bit more of the arcane powers in him than the rest rest of the clan, "uncle Faustus " included.

The story is fairly typical of the era with serviceable art and aimed at the still younger readership of the day and given that Superboy carried on until the mid eighties you can guess who inevitably won.

However the two pager at the back is also worth a read. Superboy first appeared in March 1949 as Dc cashed in on the popularity of the Superman franchise.

This meant of course that Superboy's adventures took place in the late twenties/thirties which caused a wee bit of a continuity problem and eventually they were set in the fifties. Ma and Pa Kent were also made to look younger.

How did this happen? The Superboy Legend we are told how an alien TV producer who uses pictures of real events in Smallville to create his show uses a youth serum to make the Kents younger.

It doesn't work well when his producers ask him to make a show of Superman where he needs erm, older characters. That's show business!

Still this issue and others like it were part of the mainstay of National/DC comics back in the day.

The modern Superman (including the latest "reboot" in the "New 52") doesn't appear in public until his "twenties" and Superboy is no longer part of the DC canon. Shame really.

There are other versions of Superboy, both clones, but they never live up the Boy of Steel himself!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Superman: The first radio show

In June 1938 the first issue of Action Comics appeared on the news stands featuring a new concept. The superhero.

Superman was born and went on to be an iconic fictional character around the world. Only a couple of years later as the rest of the world went to war, Superman became a long running radio show.

What follows is the first ever episode from 1940. As you will learn from the narration the early Superman was not quite as we know him today. He didn't fly, just jumped a fair distance, sometimes over buildings, could outrun a train and so on.

His other powers came later.

So without further adieu is a piece of history

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Justice League 3000

Justice League 3000 (2014) Logo

Keith Giffen (w) J.M.Dematties (a)

Justice League 3000 is one of the more "left field" comics being produced by DC comics as part of their "New 52" universe. Advertised as the Justice League in the 30th century what we actually got was a bizarre group of individuals who thought they were reborn from the 21st century but something wasn't quite right.

Clones was the first though on every bodies minds but it turns out they are something different.

Something requiring a terrible sacrifice to bring in to being.

Justice League 3000 Vol 1 1

The hero's we meet are flawed. "Superman" is an arrogant tosser, "Wonder Woman" a wee bit of a psycho and after he is killed the Flash is a woman and she's actually from the 30th century.

The secret as now revealed (spoiler) is that a pair of ultra-intelligent twins (ones evil it turns out) have used DNA from the dead heroes to overwrite another human being so they become the hero.

In the latest issue Terry the evil twin plots his revenge by raising others on this basis. Bane, Sinestro, Zeus (don't ask), the Mirror Master and err... Lois Lane as a kind of Injustice League.

Cover for Justice League 3000 #11 (2015)

Not a suprise really, well except for the evil Lois Lane, but that's not the real mystery at the core of this story.

But first a recap, of sorts.

This is supposed to be the 30th century but there is no Legion of Superheroes. Earth is a prison planet.

So one asks is this an alternate future? A different dimension?

The mystery deepens as the anticipated return of Blue Beetle and Booster Gold takes place and these are the pre-New 52 versions according to gossip on the net, Blue Beetle is certainly not the alien symbiont of the new DC.

This book therefore suddenly becomes essential reading as the weekly Futures End and Earth 2 War books head towards Convergence next year.

More on that to come.

Back Issue Spotlight: Strange Adventures #122

Cover for Strange Adventures #122 (1960)

Strange Adventures #122

Various (w) & (a)

Back in the early sixties DC published a range of science fiction and "horror" comics that were very much the product of a simpler age. I picked up a "fair" copy of Strange Adventures (Nov 1960) at a reasonable price though due to it being a bit fragile "cover wise" so I chose to read it flat on the table.

This edition contains three quite charming little tales, the first of which David and the Space Goliath was a modern take on the bible story with a twist. Think android with a dodgy stomach and you get the drift. The cure? Delivered by our version of David.

Quite charming.

The second tale loosely based on selling ones "soul" is Star Actor of the Space-ways about an ageing actor and an offer from a bunch of aliens he can't refuse, can he. All he has to do is impersonate an alien leader. But not for a good reason. It all works out in the end though as most stories of DC's family friendly series did in those days.

Finally we are treated to an appearance of Star Hawkins, a Private Detective in the 21st Century! This particular little adventure centres on his robot, Ilda in a little tale called The Case of the Red Hot Robot.

Also of interest are the adverts for other DC titles. An early adventure of the Justice league is given a full page splash and The Flash & Green Lantern are featured in mini-ads. The beginning of the DC universe. Those were the days though a little to early for me, I would have been 3!

Worth tracking down.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Return of the British Annual

The Best of Topper Annual CoverBest of Beezer Annual

With Christmas approaching I just happened to linger by the "Annuals" display in Sainsburys and what a find I made! British Comics annuals!

Long departed favourites are back on the shelves! 

I purchased the Battle Annual, cover price £7.99 but for a knock down price of £3.99 for 70 pages of reprinted adventures from the heyday of Battle! Published by Titan.

I couldn't find an illustration (or any info at Titans various websites) but a search revealed that there are other titles around. The Topper, Beezer and Hotspur are also available so I'll be keeping a lookout for these!

Did someone mention Whizzer and Chips?

Also for the ladies is this and the Best of Bunty. So nostalgia all round this Christmas!

Best of 70s Girls Comics Annual

Go out and buy now! Time to revive a tradition nearly lost.

Or you could give 'em to yer kids..when you've finished reading them that is!