Sunday, January 31, 2010

Golden Age Idol--Sidekicks Most In Need Of A Better PR Guy

Really, sidekicks get the short end of the stick. Especially when you're the sidekick of a hero who is, by a total rip-off coincidence, a carbon copy of another, earlier hero. It's like you're a fourth generation photocopy.

Let's start with the Black Terror, who debuted in Nedor's Exciting Comics #9 (1941). Meek pharmacist Bob Benton invents a secret formula which makes him ultra strong. His adolescent pal, Tim Roland, bogarts some of the formula for himself, and becomes the Terror's sidekick.

But poor Tim get short shrift, as his costume is an exact duplicate of Benton's:

At least there's a good excuse why they have the exact same costume:

Man, it's too bad Hair hadn't been playing at that theater...

Meanwhile, a mere 3 months later, in Fox's Fantastic Comics #17 (1941), another hero debuts: The Black Fury! (There were several Black Furies in the Golden Age...this is #3)

Created by Dennis Menville and Mark Howell, dandy big-city gossip columnist John Perry was the Black Fury, who used his newspaper sources to track down and fight crime with his fists...he had no powers.

He even had a sidekick--Chuck Marley was the son of a slain cop.

And by pure sartorial coincidence, they also had identical costumes...

That's so sad. Most sidekicks, at least, had costumes that made them distinct from their mentors. Bucky, Robin, Speedy, Aqualad...they all got to dress differently than the boss. Even Toro's swimming trunks made him distinct from the Human Torch. No such luck for Tim and Chuck, who had to dress up like Mini-Me versions of the grown-up heroes. No respect, I tell ya.

Should we take note that their costumes are pretty damned close to his predecessor, the Black Terror? Except distinctly worse, obviously. At least Tim got the hand-me-down of a good costume. Chuck got the copy of a swipe.

Hmm, Black Terror, Black Fury, both had black costumes with skull motifs...probably just a coincidence, right?

But the coincidences keep on coming. Because poor Tim never got a sidekick name. Not Kid Terror or Terror Jr. or Little Terror, or even Timmy Terror. Nope, he was just "Black Terror's sidekick." That's how the crooks referred to him...that's how the press referred to him. Hell, that's how he referred to himself!!

Poor kid...but at least he was luckier than Chuck. Because Chuck did get a real super-hero name, sort of, in a watered down, fourth generation sort of way:


Yup. His super-hero name was Chuck. Junior partner in "Black Fury and Chuck." Even Black Fury called him Chuck in public:

Pity the poor plight of Golden Age sidekicks who happened to be created by writers and artists with limited imaginations. Apparently spent by the creative effort needed to invent the hero, they said "Oh, my brain is tired. Let's just give them the exact same origins, exact same powers, and exact same costumes as the grown-up. Easier to draw that way, too! And oh, I'm too tired to think up another hero name..." Come on, guys, even a lameoid like Stampy got his own name, at least!

Timmy (a.k.a. The Black Terror's Sidekick) did win in one other fashion: he got his own catch phrase:

Oh, Golden Age, how I love let's give the sidekicks some love, too. Golden Age Idol is now accepting nominations for real super-hero names for Tim and Chuck. Leave 'em in the comments section...

Black Terror and Tim shots are from Exciting Comics #9 and #10 (1941). Black Fury and Chuck panels are from V-Comics #1 (1942).

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Great Breakthoughs In Illicit Drugs

It turns out that crack was actually invented 40 years earlier than we thought:

No, not THAT LoganAnd this was some seriously nasty stuff, apparently:

Fortunately, super-hero The Black Fury was around to stop the spread of that insidious drug, and we were spared the crack epidemic until the 1980s...

From V-Comics #1 (1942). Much, much, MUCH more on the Black Fury tomorrow. Or, rather, more on his poor, poor sidekick.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Night Fights--Long Arm Of The Lawless Style!!

Back in the day, before Marvel decided to transform him into a Warner Brothers-style cartoon character, the Punisher was just an urban vigilante who used guns to kill crooks.

Nowadays, he's a complete badass, Marvel's Batman, the guy who is ready for anything and can take down anyone, from a street punk to the toughest super-villain, who can do literally anything because he's Batman the Punisher, dammit. He's a super-hero now.

Seriously...this is what Rick Remander says about the future of Frank Castle:

Frank has escalated to a different power level, and he's staying there as long as I'm on the book. Frank is going to be dishing out his style of ass-kickery on a different level to a different level of person. I wanted to put him on an even playing field with the type of characters he's been confronting. He's not the guy who shows up occasionally with an AK-47 and tries to shoot a crack dealer or something. When Frank Castle shows up from here on out, he's on an even playing field with the other A-list characters in the Marvel Universe.

Not to my tastes, I guess. Back when Punisher was just the Punisher and not a franchise, he was tough, to be sure. But could Frank Castle really take down a super-villain? Let's check, shall we?

The scene: Punisher has to steal a mysterious ring from a corpse in the morgue (don't ask why). Piece of cake, right? Until someone else takes an interest in that same ring...

Epic fail, Castle.

Now, some of you are saying, "yeah, but he was that he's ready and knows that he's facing Doctor Octopus, he'll have some special weapons and a super brilliant tactical plan and take him down. He's just a pudgy scientist with mechanical arms, after all."

If only. Although this violates Spacebooger's rules that the fight must be from "one consecutive fight scene," I want to show you the rematch, in the same issue (so don't count this next batch o' panels in your voting). Frank Castle, fully prepared, here's your rematch, from the same issue:

Yep, Otto Octavius totally trashes the Punisher--while nonchalantly chatting on the phone. You're out of your league, Frank.

So please remember, as all you kids with your iPads and your baggy pants and your social networking are reading your modern Punisher stories with a Frank Castle who shows up in World War Hulk and fights super-villains and gets super-powers and hangs with legions of monsters: back in my day the Punisher was just a guy with a gun, who killed mobsters. And was much cooler for it, even if Doctor Octopus could kick his ass.

Denny O'Neill and Frank Miller and Klaus Janson showed us the real Punisher in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #15 (1981). And yes, I know this is the second fight in a row I've used a battle from a Spider-Man annual that doesn't actually feature Spider-Man. Again, that's how we rolled in the 80s, dudes.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Quote Of The Week 2--When Reed Richards Says This, You Know It's Weird

From Fantastic Four #575, written by Jonathan Hickman:

Tru dat, Reed...tru dat.

Quote Of The Week 1--Enter The Asgardian Dragon

From Avengers Initiative #32, written by Christos Gage:

I have to admit...I never thought of it that way before. Thor as the "Bruce Lee of Asgard."

Of course, if "most Asgardians are only about as tough as Spider-Man," that sorta kinda belies the premise of Siege, wherein Volstagg "would not know the effect his power would have unleashed upon mortals." I mean, Spider-Man couldn't blow up Soldier Field, even on a good day.

Still, the thought of Thor in Fists Of Fury has me smiling...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bait And Hitch

I'd say SPOILER ALERT here, but since the ending of Captain America: Reborn has already been spoiled for months by Marvel itself, there's really no need.

Anyway, the Bryan Hitch cover for #6 is a triptych, fold out extravaganza. Three covers for the price of one. And it goes a little something like this:

Just for the record:
The Thing does not appear anywhere in this comic.
The Hulk does not appear anywhere in this comic.
Ms. Marvel does not appear anywhere in this comic.
Spider-Woman does not appear anywhere in this comic.
Wolverine does not appear anywhere in this comic.
The Black Panther does not appear anywhere in this comic.
Doctor Strange does not appear anywhere in this comic.
Cyclops does not appear anywhere in this comic.
Spider-Man does not appear anywhere in this comic.*
Quicksilver does not appear anywhere in this comic.
Iron Man doesn't appear anywhere in this comic.
Mr. Fantastic does not appear anywhere in this comic.
The Human Torch does not appear anywhere in this comic.
The Invisible Woman does not appear anywhere else in this comic.
Storm does not appear anywhere in this comic.
Thor does not appear anywhere in this comic.*
The Beast does not appear anywhere in this comic.

*(OK, parts of unconscious Thor and Spider-Man do appear in a flash-forward to a hypothetical future...but it was only one panel, and they were both unconscious or dead, so I don't count it. Sue me.)

So, despite the fact that (as per usual) Bryan Hitch was running so far behind on this series that he bailed on his much-ballyhooed Fantastic Four run before it finished to work on this series; despite the fact that Hitch was running so far behind Marvel published the next two Brubaker-written chapters of the Captain America story because they just couldn't wait any longer...despite that, Hitch DID have time to draw a triptych cover. And not just a triptych cover...a triptych cover jam-packed with heroes, 75% of whom never appear in the issue (or anywhere in the whole damned series, for most of them).

Yeah, I guess that was worth delaying things for.

PRO-TIP: Maybe if Hitch didn't insist on so many unnecessary splash pages in each issue, they wouldn't have had to extend the series from five issues to six. I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Build A Better Mousetrap...

Let's say--hypothetically--that you're Batman, and--also hypothetically--that an alien policeman has demanded that you capture Superman for him, or he'll destroy all of Earth's cities.

Do you


Invent a giant robot that spits kryptonite out of its chest?


Trick Superman (with the old "glowing footprints gambit") into getting close to a wax figure of a monster (from Dimension X!!), the eyepiece of which you've cleverly replaced with kryptonite??


Pull the "Jimmy Olsen," and try to trick him with the old "fake camera that plops out a piece of kryptonite" gambit;


Find a city that somehow believes that a giant statue of Green Arrow makes an acceptable lighthouse; paint that statue with "kryptonite paint" (which you've just invented); make it give off "strange radio waves;" shoot arrows at passing ships, and hope that for some reason they call in Superman; and wait until Kal-El falls for this ridiculous cunning trap;

E) All of the above.

If you picked E, well, then, I guess you know your Silver Age DC comics!!

Oh, and the alien cop turned out to be a bad guy. Quelle surprise!! Again, Silver Age, right??

BONUS: Splash page that was far more disturbing than they intended...

...please don't ask where those stairs lead down to...

Batman never thinks to ask J'onn J'onzz, or Wonder Woman, or the Flash, or Green Lantern, or the entire JLA for help when the Earth is threatened, in World's Finest #122 (1961).

Monday, January 25, 2010

Manic Monday--Damn Yankees

Revealing man-in-the-street interview:

Oh, the hilarity!! And the source of this cutting satire?

Charlton's Hillbilly Comics #3 (1956), featuring:

As opposed to the other, apparently less zany hillfolk.

And starring:

Hmm...I always thought gumbo was cajun, not hillbilly. Is it possible writer penciller Art Gates is confusing his easily-mockable rural stereotypes?? Ahh, they're probably all the same anyway, right?

Also starring:

At least they had a pretty interesting promo going on:

Write a "helpful" letter, get an original panel...damn, that's a pretty sweet deal. I really hope somebody got this panel:

The last page exhorts the reader:

Given that Hillbilly Comics was cancelled after issue #4, it probably was never necessary to reserve copies...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bold Fashion Choices--Blouse Grab Bag!!

Do you know how I like to shop for clothes??

That's right, BLOUSE GRAB BAG!! How's it work?

What a deal!! Who said 1950s housewives had it tough? They just had to plop a coupon in the mail, and TA-DAAA, blouses arrive in the mail!! No shopping, no trying them on, no concerns about styles...just wear whatever they send you!!

And how do we know this system works?

Because 50 million Frenchmen can't be wrong, can they?!? I'm not sure what that has to do with anything...because I'm fairly sure that "the most desirable women in the world" aren't buying their blouses sight unseen via mail order at bargain prices...

But still--BLOUSE GRAB BAG!!!

In a prime example of knowing your audience, this ad appeared in
Space Mysteries #9 (1958)