The Fightin' Five # 38 (Charlton Comics) Joe Gill (w) Montes & Bache (a)
Charlton Comics were one of several major publishing companies churning out comics in the sixties. They were renowned for low quality production values, poor distribution and paid a pittance to their creators. Nevertheless they did churn out of number of good titles, the horror comics probably being the best especially with Steve Ditko contributing a large amount of work.
In the sixties with the relaunch of Superheroes and action adventurers by both DC and Marvel, Charlton did turn their hands to producing it's own line of action heroes. Some were complete duds such as Son of Vulcan, remembered only because the last issue was the first professional work of a very young Roy Thomas.
Other comics in their line included the more famous Captain Atom and Blue Beetle (now owned by DC) and Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt.
There was one comic that does get overlooked even now. That of The Fightin' Five. These were a small group of elite fighting men who fought for the free world against all threats not just of super-villainy (S.A.T.A.N., D.E.A.T.H) but also communism.
Well this was the cold war.
Frankly although the stories are rather corny I did get a certain joy by reading these. There's not much in the way of characterisation and villains have absurd motivations. Add some wooden dialogue and you get pretty much the idea of what to expect.
In the following issue we meet Zeru. He's a commie and wants to wipe out the USA. Who do you call....
The Steam Man #1 (Dark Horse Comics) Joe R. Lansdale & Mark Alan Millar (w) Piotr Kowalski (a)
It's War of the Worlds "Steampunk" style, well sort of. The Martians have invaded Earth in 1895 and mankind has built giant steam powered robots to fight back against the blood suckers. Trouble is they were only the foot soldiers. Somethings worse has followed them.
The driving force of our fightback is inventor William Beadle who also seeks vengeance for his wife Matilda taken from him in front of his eyes. He won't rest until he has his revenge.
The enemy he seeks took her blood and left her for the bugs.
William won't rest until one them is dead.
That's the basic background to this entertaining little mini-series from Dark Horse, a much overlooked publisher these days. With a story by the very imaginative Joe R. Lansdale, script from Mark Millar and the gorgeous art of Piotr Kowasksi this a comic not to be missed.
The Shield (Dark Circle) Adam Christopher Chuck Wendig (w) Drew Johnson (a)
The reinvention of the old MLJ/Archie superheroes has arrived under the Dark Circle Imprint. The Shield, one of the earliest patriotic characters rebooted for the modern age.
Opening in 1776 during the War of Independence, this new version of the Shield has lived and died many times across American history and is a woman this time round. A confused character at the beginning but one with plenty of potential for the future as Victoria Adams tries to find her place in the world and remember who she is.
The reason for her re-appearance is more than just fighting purse snatchers and house robbers as we glimpse the villain of the story who seems to revel in chaos.
With great art and a good pace Dark Circle certainly should have a hit on it's hands.
The Shield first appeared in Pep Comics way back in 1940 sporting a patriotic costume based on the American flag a whole year before Captain America came on scene.
The character reappeared in the late fifties in a new form but I didn't come across The Shield until the short-lived age of the Mighty Comics Group which Archie tried to compete with Marvel in the sixties. That revival didn't last long.
A further attempt was made with the Red Circle line of comics, a revamp that I enjoyed back in the eighties but didn't last long and didn't catch on. The last attempt was with the New Crusaders where the old heroes were killed off except for an ageing Shield and their kids became the new generation.
Archie did make an effort with this version which was too short-lived but this time I think they've got it right. The new versions of The Hood and The Fox have been excellent updates though no collected editions have yet been released to enable the new reader to catch up.
So back to today's Shield. Here's some preview pages.
I highly recommend this one and it's on sale now. Don't miss out.
The 1980's saw the gradual decline of the British comics industry though one title continued to stand out, the Eagle. With the long running and well known Dan Dare as it's lead character it was strong enough to continue and became the place other titles merged with.
And so in 1985 that famous slogan "Great news inside" saw the end of the long running sports orientated comic Tiger.
Eagle and Tiger was born.
The new comic promise 9 great stories inside and most of them were depending on your tastes. Kicking off with Doomlord, a major feature of the relaunched Eagle under Fleetway we see our hero impersonated by an escaped prisoner Zyn, one of the villains sent to destroy Earth. A "zombie plague" seems to begin.
Followed by the inevitable football story Billy's Boots (which I skipped over having no interest in sport whatsoever) you then get to a rather charming little adventure Star Rider about an alien youth riding one of those "Mountain Bikes" that were popular at one time. Trouble is spaceship is hidden in two power station chimneys due for demolition....will he be too late to save his ride home?
The Ultimate Warrior seems to have been inspired by those early computer games and the film Tron. Not bad, but Dan Dare takes the centre pages with an adventure involving flesh eating blobs in the shires of England. Charming.
The other stories included a Transformers clone Robo-Machines and Death Wish about a chap with a rather deformed face and some ghosts looking for vengeance.
Golden Boy features athlete Jamie Speed playing some kind of suicide game in a South American banana republic but I was pleased to see the last remaining feature from the short lived but much loved Scream comic absorbed by Eagle earlier in the eighties. The Thirteenth Floor featuring Max the Killer computer killer, now installed in a department store. Great fun.
This is turning out to be a good run to collect. Like all anthologies this has varied contented depending on ones interests but I'd recommend it.
Betty and Veronica #278 (Archie Comics) Dan Parent (w) & (a)
Following the relaunch of the main Archie series and it's companion title, Jughead it became pretty obvious that the remaining old style Betty and Veronica comic would come to an end and prepare to join the new re-vamped line published by Archie comics.
The two girls fighting over Archie Andrews have had this joint title since 1951. Relaunched in 1987 the two volumes combine to an amazing 625 issues, hence the two numbers on the front cover. This isn't the last issue of course, Betty and Veronica is just going on hiatus to be relaunched in the near future.
And what way to go out? A school dance and a squabble over Archie Andrews affections once again.
Here's a couple of preview pages for your enjoyment:
Readers of this blog will notice I have a bit of a soft spot for Archie Comics. They always were good wholesome fun. Here's another couple of covers for old times sake.
Planet of the Vampires (Atlas) Larry Hama (w) Pat Broderick (a)
One of my favourite short lived and never to be seen again series was Planet of the Vampires published by the equally short-lived Atlas line of comics from the mid-seventies. I managed to purchase all three issues when this first came out out but on recollecting as an adult number two has thus far eluded me.
Planet of the Vampires is your very basic apocalyptic story set in a future where a crew returning from a space mission return to find not only is Earth in ruins but is now ruled by "Vampires". The twist in this being that the vampires are a techno-creation rather than a supernatural phenomenon.
Unlike most groups of adventurers nearly all of them are dead by #3 and only two remain for the promised #4 that was never to see the light of day. The editors also promised to show us more of the new planet as our remaining astronaut mourning the death of his wife heads off into the distance in a wilderness dominated by blood sucking insects.
A very good series with great potential. I understand that Dynamite Entertainment has purchased the rights to Atlas comics and I sincerely hope this this title is one of their forthcoming projects.
When Odhams finally gave up publishing their line of "Power Comics" in 1969 there was only one title left, Smash!. This comic had absorbed it's four siblings (Wham! Pow! Fantastic and Terrific) but obviously IPC thought the title had some life left in it and took the comic over.
Smash! was originally a mix of anarchic humour and Marvel reprints. Most of these features (including all Marvel reprints were discontinued) and the comic was completely revamped to bring the comic into line with their other titles such as Lion and Valiant.
Relaunched in March 1969, Smash! was a bumper 40 page more traditional "boys" paper. Even the cover indicated a change of direction with it's series of "Warriors of the World" feature. Gone too were Alf and Cos the "Power" equivalent of Stan Lee who were replaced by "Mike" a fictional 15 year old host heralding the dawning of a new age.
Kicking off with Master of the Marsh, Nutt and Bolt, the men from W.H.E.E.Z.E., Jason Stark and the great Cursitor Doom, Smash! did show great potential.
Some humour features were familiar, particularly The SWOTS and the BLOTS, Percy's Pets, Bad Penny and Wiz War.
Also featured was a para story about Sergeant Rock (no not the DC fella).
This was a period of change for British comics and Smash was eventually merged with the stronger selling Valiant comic. There were two Summer specials and a few Annuals which were published until 1975.
In my opinion Smash was a great comic under both publishers even if the formats were widely different and are a great read even for this ageing fan!
One of the longer running British comics was Tiger, launched in 1954 and was the usual mix of adventure and sports stories. My memories of Tiger were in it's merged era with Hurricane and always thought it a good read though given pocket money limitations this wasn't a priority buy. As time moved on my occasional forays into Tiger were somewhat limited due to my lack of interest in sport.
In March 1969 a short lived comic called Jag was merged in to Tiger giving us the handle Tiger and Jag.
As far as I can recall I only ever purchased Jag the once, which was originally published in an over-sized format though this didn't last long, eventually shrinking to a normal sized comic.
Tiger and Jag was indeed a sports fixated comic as the copies I picked up showed, though there were a number of good adventure strips such as Saber King of the Jungle, Mactavish and O'Toole ( the inevitable World War Two story with a twist), Custer (yes the fellow with long yellow hair as an injun might put it!) and Triton Jones Undersea Adventurer.
Tiger and Jag also continued to run the tongue in cheek adventures of Typhoon Tracey who originally starred in the long lost Hurricane comic.
What most people will remember though are Johnny Cougar, Skid Solo and of Course Roy of the Rovers. Wrestling, motor racing and football.
Tiger went on to last well into the eighties absorbing Scorcher and Speed along the way, eventually merging with the Eagle in 1985.
There aren't that many comic magazines around these days with the advent of the Internet, let alone a British one but I'm pleased to report the high quality Comic Heroes magazine is back.
I have to say if wasn't for a piece on face Book about a British Graphic Novel I wouldn't even know mores the pity. A reflection of the sad decline of our hobby.
With high production standards and covering a wide variety of tastes from Indie to the "big two" Marvel and DC this 144 page mag was well worth reading. For me the highlight was the interview with Dark Circle Editor Alex Sequra promoting their new revamped titles as well as celebrating their 75th anniversary!
Marvel fans eat your hearts out. Captain America wasn't the first star spangled hero, that honour went to MLJ publications creation The Shield! Published a full year before the better known Timely/Marvel Captain came on the scene.
And he's she's back...soon!
Along with the Hangman and in 2016 The Web!
All owned by Archie Comics who are making major waves in the industry these days!
There's all the regular stuff about 25 cool heroes (in their opinion), the "new" or "rebooted Marvel Universe and reviews and because it's from a local creator (a Fulham lass apparently) here's Jessica Martins new graphic novel:
You can pick up Comics Heroes (published quarterly) from WH Smith's and all good (large) news agents!