Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.
A young boy with access to amazing power, power that’s his to command whenever he utters one magic word: ETERNITY!
You were expecting “Shazam?”
In 1971, I hadn’t yet read my first Captain Marvel story. Before I discovered the original Captain Marvel, I discovered Kid Eternity.
In a previous post about DC 100-Page Super Spectaculars, I mentioned first seeing Kid Eternity in the pages of the seventh Super Spectacular, aka Superman # 245. I had never even heard of this character before, but I was taken with the concept: a young boy is killed by Nazis in World War II, but when he arrives at the pearly gates, he is denied entrance into Heaven. He was a good kid, so the problem wasn’t that his immortal soul was supposed to be shipped south to the pits of damnation; no, he wasn’t supposed to be dead at all. It was a clerical error! The Kid–I don’t think we ever learned his name in the original ’40s comics–was originally destined to live a long life. Goddamned Nazis! They ruin everything!
Well, Heaven prides itself on its efficiency, so such a serious error could not be allowed to stand. To compensate, the kid would be allowed to return to Earth at will, but with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. He couldn’t change the course of mighty rivers, nor bend steel in his bare hands, but he could fly, and he could become intangible. And, merely by speaking the word Eternity!, the kid could summon figures from history and literature to help him fight for justice in an unjust world. With the angel Mr. Keeper (or “Keep”) at his side, the boy became Kid Eternity.
I didn’t read Kid Eternity’s full back story until 1973, when the character’s first appearance (from 1942’s Hit Comics # 25) was reprinted in Secret Origins # 4. The Kid Eternity story in this Superman Super Spec (taken from Kid Eternity # 3 in 1946) gave but a thumbnail view of Kid Eternity’s genesis, and then jumped right into the action.
Listen: if you’re a champion of justice, and Rembrandt himself pleads for you to take his case, you take his case. Kid ‘n’ Keep intervened to prevent the theft of The Night Watch. Realizing he needed a little help with these miscreants, Kid Eternity called upon the services of Inspector Javert from Les Miserables, and hijinks ensued.
Nasty fellow, that Javert. And a fat lotta help Nostradamus was. Let’s see how the rest of the adventure turned out:
Awrighty. Kid Cafarelli was hooked. Great concept, gorgeous Mac Raboy artwork, and rousin’ Golden Age comics fun. Kid Eternity became an instant favorite for me.
I next caught up with Kid Eternity the following Spring, in the twelfth Super Spectacular (Superboy # 185), possibly a coverless copy. After the Super Specs were cancelled at the end of ’72, the Kid popped up in the fourth issue of Wanted: The World’s Most Dangerous Villains, one of a passel of regular-sized reprint titles DC threw on the stands in this time frame. I loved the lead story of the Golden Age Green Lantern‘s first tussle with Solomon Grundy, I adored the tale of Kid Eternity’s first meeting with his evil opposite number Master Man, but I was really and truly blown away by a DC house ad that appeared in that issue:
My fondness for kids whose magic words granted them super powers was about to really take off.
As noted, the Kid’s origin story was reprinted in Secret Origins # 4. When the Super Specs returned in 1973, Kid Eternity found his way into the 21st and final issue of that series, another collection of young hero adventures toplined by Superboy. The Super Spec format was then adopted by a number of ongoing DC titles; I’m not sure how many more Kid Eternity reprints appeared, but I know there was one in the awesome Detective Comics # 439, a comic which featured a new Batman tale called “Night Of The Stalker!” (still my all-time favorite Batman story).
In spite of Kid Eternity’s impressive presence in DC reprints, there was no attempt to revisit the character in new stories. When the annual epic Justice League/Justice Society team-up in 1973 revived a bunch of characters from Quality Comics, the 1940s publisher from whom DC had purchased Kid Eternity, Plastic Man, and Blackhawk, among many others, Kid Eternity was not among the heroic freedom fighters assembled in those pages.
Kid Eternity’s return would have to wait until the early ’80s. Writer E. Nelson Bridwell was obviously fond of our Kid; after all, Bridwell had been the DC staffer in charge of selecting reprints for the Super Specs, Wanted, and Secret Origins, and ENB had certainly demonstrated a fondness for reprising Kid Eternity’s Golden Age exploits in those pages. In 1982, Bridwell was chronicling the new adventures of Captain Marvel in the Shazam! strip, which appeared in World’s Finest Comics. In WFC # 278, an unseen benefactor rescued The Marvel Family from a dire predicament; in the following issues, we learned that benefactor was Kid Eternity, and we learned of his heretofore-unknown connection to the Marvels:
Well…of course! The revelation that Kid Eternity was Captain Marvel Junior‘s long-lost brother made sense, and it linked the two grand magic-word heroes of the Golden Age in fitting fashion. Kid Eternity continued to appear in Shazam! until the strip ended in Adventure Comics # 492.
I don’t think the original Kid Eternity ever appeared again after that. The name and general concept were revived for an edgy series in DC’s Vertigo line, and it was so far away from the charm of the Kid Eternity I loved that I never even read anything past its debut issue.
But if I never had any use for dark ‘n’ gritty re-imaginings of Kid Eternity, I’ve never let go of my fondness for the original. How long should you expect me to retain my love of this character?
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Our new compilation CD This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin’ pop, starring Pop Co-Op, Ray Paul, Circe Link & Christian Nesmith, Vegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie Flowers, The Slapbacks, P. Hux, Irene Peña, Michael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave Merritt, The Rubinoos, Stepford Knives, The Grip Weeds, Popdudes, Ronnie Dark, The Flashcubes,Chris von Sneidern, The Bottle Kids, 1.4.5., The Smithereens, Paul Collins’ Beat, The Hit Squad, The Rulers, The Legal Matters, Maura & the Bright Lights, Lisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here.
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The Brothers Steve
Dose (Big Stir)
Having floored folks from Kalamazoo to Kyoto with their delightful debut effort #1 – which was released in 2019 and reissued by the Big Stir label a year later – The Brothers Steve are back in action with their greatly-anticipated second album. Titled Dose, the ten track collection not only meets such standards head on, but proves to be even more exhilarating and electrifying than #1, if you can imagine that.
Composed of lead singers and guitarists, Os Tyler and Jeff Whalen, guitarist Dylan Champion, bassist Jeff Solomon and drummer SW Lauden, the Los Angeles band brazenly flaunts their influences without sacrificing their own creative impulses. These guys are bright, fun and wildly passionate about the music they write and play.
The curtain rises with Get On Up, which is torched by delicate piano notes and a splash of acapella before evolving into a party hearty power pop rocker. Pearled with droplets of psychedelia, Next Aquarius glimmers with just the right amount of mystique and moodiness, while the lolling swing of Mrs. Rosenbaum, is set to a semi-dance hall arrangement, that summons apparitions of both The Kinks and The Monkees.
Buzzing with chattering guitars, ripping rhythms and snagging hooks, the Redd Kross-styled Griffith Observatory, further catches The Brothers Steve in amazing synergized vocal form. The thoroughly infectious Sugarfoot, rests upon a teetering toe-tapping shuffle tucked in the vein of T. Rex, compounded by Archies-inspired bubblegummy seasonings, involving juicy fruit melodies, handclaps and a bouncy sing-along chorus.
Bracing licks, killer drumming, racing piano trills and a dreamy break rule the show on the fast-paced Wizard Of Love, which possesses a noticeable resemblance to Freddy Cannon’s Palisades Park, and then there’s the gorgeously textured Love Of Kings, modeled on the close harmonies of the early Beatles.
Dose bids farewell with the fist-pumping, foot-stomping Better Get Ready To Go, but you won’t want to go anywhere, because you’re bound to hit the repeat button and listen to these rock ’em, sock ’em, knock ’em dead tunes all over again!
This will eventually appear as a chapter in my long-threatened book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1). If that becomes a book. Some day.
An infinite number of songs can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!
MANNIX: Highway Lines
Written by Joe Mannix
Produced by Caleb Southern
From the album Come To California, mannixrock.com 2001
Hitting 95 and I’m feelin’ half-alive
But I had to get things straight again
My engine’s cryin’ and my tranny she is dyin’
And the radio is my only friend
There are times when the songs on the radio seem to know us better than we know ourselves. That’s why we still need the radio.
Started seein’ double, but no time to check the trouble
I see two of him kissin’ two of you
Another saga ’bout another love gone wrong
And the DJ knows what I’m goin’ though
How much can it mean to spin a few records on the radio every Sunday night?
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ll tell you that the opportunity to share a passion for pop music means a lot to me. That appeal is part of the reason why I first wanted to write about rockin’ pop music decades ago as a teen in the ’70s. Wait, wait–“write about rockin’ pop music?” No. I wanted to write on behalf of rockin’ pop music, to serve an agenda, to spread a freakin’ Gospel of jangle and buzz, hooks, harmonies, guitar, bass, drums, heart and soul, verse and chorus, amplified sounds, life itself played to the rhythm of a tambourine. I wanted to tell people about the music I liked. I figured there had to be someone else out there that liked it, too.
So I wrote. I wrote in my high school newspaper. I wrote unsold, unpublished articles for magazines, failed submissions to CREEM, unfinished notions intended for Trouser Press. Later, I wrote reviews and articles and interviews that I sold to Goldmine, The Syracuse New Times, DISCoveries, and a handful of others. I wrote liner notes. I wrote pieces published in books. I wrote letters. I wrote internet posts. I testified. And it was true.
The same need to share this passion led me to radio. There was never, ever any place for me in commercial radio. I didn’t want to play what someone else told me to play; I knew what records needed to be played. In the ’80s, I met a friend named Dana who also knew what records needed to be played. Together, we invented a format. It’s nominally a power pop format, but it isn’t really that. It’s not any strict format defined from the outside. The format is called This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio.
We spin a few records every Sunday night. We spin old tunes and new tunes, stuff you know, stuff you might not know. How much can it mean to spin a few records on the radio every Sunday night? To me, man, it means more than words can say.
Mannix‘s “Highway Lines” is probably the most obscure song discussed in this book. It’s less heralded even in comparison to a local Syracuse hit single like Baron Daemon‘s “The Transylvania Twist,” or the occasional cult act or lesser-known gem exalted elsewhere within these pages. Hell, even my favorite why-ain’t-these-guys-stars?! underdog combo the Flashcubes have at least received some positive ink somewhere. But Mannix? Many of you don’t know Mannix at all. But by God, you should.
When a song hits us–really hits us–on first exposure, it doesn’t make a damned bit of palpable difference if the song goes on to be a # 1 smash that everybody loves, or if it remains a cherished secret that never reaches the ears of the many. We react in the moment. I felt that immediate sensation of delighted discovery when I first heard “Five O’Clock World” by the Vogues, a # 4 hit in 1965 (thought I didn’t know the record until 1977; any record you ain’t heard before is a new record). I felt it again when I first heard “Empty Hangers” by Anny Celsi, a fantastic record from 2003 that has never commandeered space on any Billboard chart (though it absolutely should have). Most music fans know the feeling quite well, and quite often. That’s why we’re fans.
I’m a fan of Mannix. Dana had the group’s 2001 concept album Come To California, and I first heard “Highway Lines” at the same time that our listeners first heard it. I was blown away. That feeling again. Listening to Joe Mannix sing of driving across the country, his engine crying and his tranny dying, passing Delaware, Baltimore and Philadelphia in a last-ditch desperation play to salvage an already-lost love, the radio his only friend…man, it’s like “Radar Love” given depth and heartbreak.
Yes I got your letter
And I guess you thought it better
Just to tell me there was another one
But I can’t make a stand
With a pen or phone in hand
So baby here I come
Gonna get me back home to you
Gonna have to get me through tonight
This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio listeners loved it, and they still do. The radio’s on, with another saga ’bout another love gone wrong. Joe Mannix says the DJ knows what he’s going through. We say Mannix knows what we’re going through. How much can that mean? Everything. Listen.
(Oh, and Joe Mannix is no relation to the TV detective played by actor Mike Connors. Or so we’ve been lead to believe.)
That other Joe Mannix
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This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.
The many fine This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin’ pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:
Volume 1: download
Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio: CD or download
I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.
Released as a single in 1963, The Ronettes, with their international smash, Be My Baby. The song would be their biggest hit, and is often cited as one of the greatest pop songs of the 1960’s.
Released in 1979, Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall.