Remembering My 100-Page FAKES! (DC Comics Spectaculars That Never Were)

Well over a year after posting my last 100-Page FAKE!, it occurs to me that I probably never made any official announcement that the series was kaput. I did mention their demise here, but otherwise I never really got around to bidding a proper farewell.

The series began in May of 2018, designed as a proudly fannish attempt to concoct a bunch of 1970s DC Comics 100-Page Super Spectaculars that never were. I announced the series’ transition from the original DC Comics-centric 100-Page FAKES! into the less-restricted (but ultimately still DC-centric) Spectacular Comics 100-Page Specials in April of 2020. I then concocted four monthly issues of Spectacular Comics, with the fourth and final issue posted on July 24, 2020.

At that time, I think I still intended to continue slappin’ these things together. But a few factors combined to make me re-think that intent, and ultimately abandon the concept entirely. The fake books were very time-consuming to create, and they became even more time-consuming when I liquidated my digital comics stash entirely. The final efforts were constructed from a mix of public-domain comics pages available on line and scans of comic books in my collection. Even with all of that, I might have continued doing them if a format change at Blogger hadn’t made the process so much clunkier to accomplish. The inconvenience was more than I was willing to bother messin’ with. Sayonara, FAKES! and Spectaculars.

But I’m glad I did them. They were a cool way to connect with my inner adolescent, the 12-15 year-old kid who loved DC’s 100-pagers in the ’70s, and wished there had been more of them. I wrote a history of DC’s (real-life) 100-pagers, and I felt I wanted to expand on the real world a little bit. Here are links to every one those fabrications:

Adventure Comics # 435
The Shadow # 6
Rima The Jungle Girl # 1
Wanted, The World’s Most Dangerous Villains # 4
The Brave And The Bold # 111
Detective Comics # 446
Justice, Inc. # 1
The Sandman # 1
The Phantom # 67
All-Star Comics # 58
Metal Men # 45
DC Special # 16 (Super-Heroes Battle Super Gorillas)

E-Man # 11

Secret Origins # 1

The Six Million Dollar Man # 1

Adventure Comics # 436

Secret Origins # 2

Detective Comics # 447

The Brave And The Bold # 118

Super-Hero Grab Bag # 1 (with The Seven Soldiers Of Victory)

Rima The Jungle Girl # 2

Adventure Comics # 437

DC Special # 14 (Wanted, The World’s Most Dangerous Villains)

Detective Comics # 448

Wanted: The Secret Society Of Super Villains # 1

The Shadow # 5

Detective Comics Special Edition

*MARVEL WEEK [in memory of STAN LEE]:

*Sub-Mariner # 72 [a DC-Marvel hybrid]

*Giant-Size Spider-Man # 3 [with Doc Savage]

*Marvel Feature # 1 [with The Defenders]

*Astonishing Tales # 1

Adventure Comics # 438

Adventure Comics # 439

Adventure Comics # 440

Adventure Comics # 441

Adventure Comics # 442

Adventure Comics # 443

Rima The Jungle Girl # 3

Detective Comics # 449

Detective Comics # 451

Adventure Comics # 444

Detective Comics # 452

Adventure Comics # 445

Detective Comics # 453

Adventure Comics # 446

Detective Comics # 454

Adventure Comics # 447

Detective Comics # 455

Adventure Comics # 448

Detective Comics # 456

Adventure Comics # 449

Adventure Comics # 450

Adventure Comics # 451

World’s Finest Comics # 245

Sensation Comics 100-Page Super Spectacular [starring Wonder Woman]

Green Arrow & The Black Canary 100-Page Super Spectacular

Adventure Comics # 452

Detective Comics # 457

The Brave And The Bold # 119

Batman # 262

Batman # 263

The Sandman # 2

The Sandman # 3

The Sandman # 4

The Sandman # 5

The Sandman # 6

All-Star Comics # 59

The Sandman # 7

Shazam! # 36

The Phantom # 68

Spectacular Comics 100-Page Special # 1

Spectacular Comics 100-Page Special # 2

Spectacular Comics 100-Page Special # 3

Spectacular Comics 100-Page Special # 4

From the Spectre to the Phantom, with a cast of multitudes: BatmanAquamanSpider-Man, the original Captain Marvelthe ShadowSupermanSuperboythe Justice Society of AmericaE-ManDaredevilDoc SavagePlastic ManWonder Womanthe Silver SurferBlue Beetlethe Lone Rangerthe Seven Soldiers of Victorythe SandmanRima the Jungle Girlthe Six Million Dollar ManSpy SmasherDial H For HEROMetal MenCaptain Americathe Bat SquadKa-ZarDick TracyBatgirlTorchyBulletman and BulletgirlDr. StrangeHawkmanBlackhawkBlack Canarythe Vigilantethe Creeperthe DefendersHydromanthe Elongated ManWildcatthe Doom PatrolDoll Man and Doll GirlIbis the Invinciblethe Boy CommandosSub-MarinerHot WheelsCaptain ActionZorroDetective ChimpJonny QuestGreen Arrowthe Secret Society of Super-Villains, and Astra, Girl of the Future, plus many more. It was mostly about DC, but it included properties DC licensed or acquired from QualityCharltonFawcettMattelIdealJerry Lewis, and The Chicago Tribune, and it included MarvelECComicoMighty ComicsFoxMLJLev Gleason, more from Charlton, and other purveyors of four-color fantasy. 

I regret I never got around to using Vampirella. But I did what I could, until the time came to move on. They weren’t real. But they were Spectacular.

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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
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THE EVERLASTING FIRST: The Legion Of Super-Heroes

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.

This was originally posted as part of a longer piece. It’s separated here for convenience.

I’ve posed the rhetorical question before, but it bears repeating: if you’re a kid into superheroes, what could be better than more?
More superheroes! Superman and BatmanThe Mighty AvengersThe Justice League of America! The Justice League of America and The Justice Society of America! Super! More super! In the ’80s, when an inter-company crossover of  The Teen Titans and The X-Men casually mentioned the possibility of calling in every superhero on Earth to deal with a growing crisis, all I could say in response was, Of course!

When I was a kid in the ’60s, The Legion Of Super-Heroes seemed to me to be the ultimate, enormous super-team. More! The Legion was a co-ed group of teen heroes in the far future of the 30th century; the group also included 20th century stalwarts Superboy and Supergirl (and occasionally Jimmy Olsen as Elastic Lad, and even Lana Lang as Insect Queen), who joined in adventures with their pals of tomorrow through the ready convenience of time travel. My first exposure to the Legion was Superboy # 129, an 80-Page Giant which reprinted the first appearance of Mon-El (a then-obscure super character who is now part of the Supergirl TV series). That story’s original conclusion left Mon-El poisoned, on death’s doorstep, his fragile existence saved only by a voluntary exile into The Phantom Zone. A text page accompanying the story updated Mon-El’s saga, detailing how Mon-El spent a thousand years in The Phantom Zone–not aging, not dying, but not living, either–until the 30th century, when the brilliant mind of Brainiac 5 discovered a cure for Mon-El’s terminal condition. Mon-El emerged from The Phantom Zone, and joined The Legion Of Super-Heroes.

As a child of six, I may have skipped the text piece.

But somehow, somewhere along the way, I absorbed the knowledge that Mon-El was a member of the Legion. I liked Superboy a lot, but I preferred Mon-El, and I would have sought him out in Legion stories if I’d been aware of the possibility. The LSH had become the stars of Adventure Comics, but I don’t remember seeing any of their adventures until I was eight. But, before that, I learned a bit about the Legion in the pages of an issue of World’s Finest Comics when I was seven.

World’s Finest Comics was the home of team-ups by Superman and Batman, “Your two favorite heroes in one adventure together!” We’ll be discussing that title in more depth in a future edition of The Everlasting First. In the summer of 1967, my family went on a Vermont vacation, a vacation I recall with fond memories of fishing with my Dad, and of discovering some (I thought) unique rock in the water, a rock I kept for years thereafter. Like all of my vacations, this trip included some comic books, one of which was World’s Finest Comics # 168.

The star villain in this issue was The Composite Superman, a green-faced half-Superman/half-Batman hybrid who possessed the combined power of all of the members of The Legion Of Super-Heroes. If, as I suspect, I didn’t pay much/any attention to that text piece in Superboy # 129, this may have been my first, indirect exposure to the Legion.

Whether this was my introduction to the Legion or a subsequent step on my path to 30th century heroics, I recall studying the pictures of those Legion statuettes in World’s Finest, trying to figure out the names of all the members. Brainiac 5. Ultra Boy. Element Lad. Light Lass. Triplicate Girl. Elastic Lad. Phantom Girl. MON-EL!! Oh, I was hooked on this concept–a veritable army of superheroes! I loved the story at hand, thrilled with its heroics and touched by the pathos of its conclusion, as [**SPOILER ALERT!!**] a reformed Composite Superman sacrificed his own life to save Batman and Superman. Sniff. Still gets me, right here. But my main takeaway was an abiding fascination with The Legion of Super-Heroes.

Fascination notwithstanding, this seven-year-old kid had a finite supply of the twelve-cent increments necessary to buy new comics in 1967. I have a vague memory of waiting for my turn at the barber shop one day, and reading a coverless comic book (possibly an 80-Page Giant) that included at least one Legion story, a story involving the origin of Starboy. I have no idea when this specific haircut occurred, nor can I identify the precise comic book, but I can tell you I asked the barber if he would let me buy the damned thing, and he laughed me off. Adults just don’t understand.

The first actual Legion comic book I could call my own was Adventure Comics # 368 in 1968, an unbelievably sexist story called “The Mutiny Of The Super-Heroines!” I missed the next two issues–a pity, since I would much later discover the “Mordru The Merciless” two-parter contained in Adventure # 369-370 to be one of my favorite Legion stories–but I returned in time for a rip-roarin’ two parter about Colossal Boy betraying the Legion in Adventure # 371-372, and the debut of super-speedsters The Tornado Twins in Adventure # 373.

Adventure Comics # 374 was a coverless purchase for me, and I don’t remember which (if any) of the subsequent issues I managed to grab at the time. I definitely remember buying and adoring Adventure # 378, with the gripping “Twelve Hours To Live!,” featuring the apparent deaths of Superboy, Brainiac 5, Duo DamselKarate Kid, and Princess Projectra, and the story’s thrilling conclusion in Adventure # 379. Adventure # 380 was anticlimactic, but even worse: it was the Legion’s last appearance in Adventure ComicsTheir spot was taken over in the next issue by one of their own, that super-hussy Supergirl. The Legion were relegated to a back-up spot, supporting Superman in the rear pages of Action Comics.

But, like TV’s Star Trek, the Legion refused to go gently into that dark night. Diehard fans begged and pleaded for more of the Legion. The team’s back-up series switched from Action Comics to Superboy, and in those pages in 1972, writer Cary Bates and new artist Dave Cockrum brought a whole new level of pizazz to the proceedings. Cockrum designed eye-catching new costumes for many of the Legionnaires, including some gorgeous, pulchritudinous new styles for the female heroes. This twelve-year-old heartily approved.

A lot of other folks must have also approved of something, as the Legion became the lead feature in Superboy # 197 in 1973. The Legion has generally been one of DC’s A-list features since then. Dave Cockrum left DC shortly thereafter, moving on to Marvel (where he and writer Len Wein tried their hands at reviving an old, failed title called The X-Men. They were, uh…pretty successful with that.)

I was also starting to acquire back issues by then, so I finally got to read some of the great Legion stories I missed the first time around. I’ve resisted the temptation to buy the various reprint collections over the past few years, but I plan to succumb when DC begins a series of trade paperback reprints this summer. Best start buildin’ some more bookshelves….

I continued to follow The Legion Of Super-Heroes faithfully throughout the ’70s, and into a particularly exciting ’80s run by writer Paul Levitz and artist Keith Giffen. But I lost interest after a few too many reboots. I don’t know anything about the Legion of today–or, I guess, the Legion of one thousand years from today–but I hope they’re well, and plentiful. A legion of super-heroes!  If you were a kid like me in the ’60s, and a kid like I still am now in my fifties, then you couldn’t ask for any more than that.

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THE OLD 52: Imagining A New Pre-Crisis DC Comics

I don’t remember any of the details (like whose idea it was or where the idea appeared), but some time back, someone in one of the online DC Comics groups I frequent challenged fellow fans to come up with a Pre-Crisis DC Comics New 52. That is, a hypothetical slate of 52 comic book series set in the DC Comics continuity that existed prior to the 1985-1986 mini-series Crisis On Infinite Earths, a series which wiped out the multiple universes that had been DC’s playground up to that point. Worlds will live! Worlds will die! And the DC Universe will never be the same!

The idea here was to create a new DC line-up based in the old DC continuity. One of DC’s latter-day relaunches was called The New 52, so this would be the new Old 52, drawing on characters and concepts that DC had before the Crisis. I liked the idea, and started jotting down possibilities. I wound up with way more than just 52.

I mean, way, way more than just 52.

Rather than attempt a self-edit–because really, what fun would that be?–I figured I’d just list the whole mess right here:

Action Comics

Action Heroes

The Albatross

Adventure Comics

All-American Western
All-Star Comics

All-Star Squadron

Ambush Bug

Angel And The Ape
Aquaman
The Atom
Bat Lash

Batgirl
Batman

Beowulf: Dragon Slayer
Beware The Creeper

Black Lightning

The Black Orchid

The Black Spider
Blackhawk
The Blue Beetle

Blue Devil
The Brave And The Bold

The Bronze Tiger

Bulletgirl
Captain Atom And Nightshade

Captain Thunder
The Challengers Of The Unknown

Claw The Unconquered

The Crimson Avenger
DC Comics Presents

DC’s Imaginary Stories

Deadman

The Demon

Dial H For HERO

The Doom Patrol

Doorway Into The Unknown

Dr. Fate

Firestorm

The Flash

Forbidden Tales Of Dark Mansion
Freedom Fighters

G.I. Combat

Green Arrow And The Black Canary
Green Lantern
Hawkman

Hercules Unbound

Hourman
House Of Mystery

The Human Target

Ibis The Invincible

Inferior Five

Jason’s Quest

Jimmy Olsen

The Joker

Jonah Hex

Judo Master

Justice League Of America

Kamandi

Kid Eternity

Kobra

Legion Of Super-Heroes

Lois Lane

The Maniaks

The Martian Manhunter

‘Mazing Man

Metal Men
Metamorpho
Mister Miracle
Mystery In Space

Nemesis
The New Gods

Newsboy Legion

Ninja The Invisible

Nubia Of The Amazons

OMAC
Our Army At War
The Peacemaker

The Phantom Stranger

Plastic Man 

Plop!

The Question

Ragman

Rima The Jungle Girl

Robin
Rose And The Thorn

Scribbly And The Red Tornado

Secret Origins

The Secret Six
Secret Society Of Super-Villains

Seven Soldiers Of Victory
Sgt. Rock

Shade The Changing Man
Shazam!

Shazam’s Squadron Of Justice
Showcase

Slam Bradley

Son Of Vulcan
The Spectre

Spy Smasher

Stanley And His Monster

Star Hunters
Star Spangled War Stories

Starfire
Strange Adventures

Sugar & Spike

Suicide Squad
Super-Team Family

Supergirl

Superman

Swamp Thing

Swing With Scooter

The Teen Titans

Thriller

Tomahawk

The Trident

The Unknown Soldier

The Vigilante

Vixen
Warlord

Weird War Tales

Wildcat

The Witching Hour

Wonder Woman

World’s Finest Comics

Young Love

Zatanna


As a Silver and Bronze Age kid, my specific yearning is for the DC Universe as it existed in the ’60s and ’70s, but I also included some ’80s titles, as well as the 1960s Action Heroes that DC bought from Charlton Comics in the ’80s. Given my druthers, this line would also include some licensed titles, from The Adventures Of Jerry Lewis through TarzanThe ShadowHot Wheels, and Captain Action. Plus the former Charlton book E-Man, which DC never published nor had rights to publish, but what can I say? I like E-Man! But that’s all well outside the parameters of this exercise.

In my imagination, these are written and drawn by creators like Nick CardyJim AparoTony IsabellaTrevor Von EedenMurphy AndersonNeal AdamsDenny O’NeilSteve EnglehartMarshall RogersTerry AustinJoe KubertNestor RedondoMichael UslanBob RozakisCurt SwanRamona FradonBob HaneyMike GrellSteve SkeatesDick GiordanoSal AmendolaPaul LevitzMark EvanierDan SpiegleJack KirbyLen WeinGerry ConwayJose Luis Garcia LopezAlex TothMike W. BarrDon HeckWally WoodDon NewtonGray MorrowMike SekowskyDick DillinMartin PaskoRoy ThomasJerry OrdwayKurt SchaffenbergerArnold DrakeIrv NovickGeorge PerezDave CockrumFrank RobbinsRich BucklerBerni WrightsonGene ColanMike KalutaJoe OrlandoBob OksnerE. Nelson BridwellMarv WolfmanJoe StatonWalt SimonsonArchie GoodwinCarmine InfantinoDick SprangMichael NetzerGil KaneSteve DitkoMarvel Comics stalwarts John Romita and John Buscema, latter-day lights such as Steve Rude and Darwyn Cooke, and a long list of more. Many of these creators are no longer with us. But if one is going to fantasize, one should shoot for the stars.

A few points to clarify. Starfire is the ’70s DC sword and sorcery heroine, not the 1980s Teen Titan. The Albatross was an aborted 1975 back-up series that would have been written by Martin Pasko, who hated the idea and did his successful best to sabotage it. Ninja The InvisibleVixen, and Captain Thunder were all era-appropriate DC books that were proposed but never realized, with the latter writer Roy Thomas’ idea for an Earth-1 reboot of the original Captain Marvel as an African-American hero. 

Batgirl, the Black Orchid, Black Spider (a Batman villain), Bronze Tiger, Bulletgirl, Dr. Fate, Hourman, Nemesis, Nubia, the Question, Robin, Rose and the Thorn, the Seven Soldiers of Victory, Shazam’s Squadron of Justice, Slam Bradley, and Wildcat (I’m thinking this would be the Earth-1 Wildcat) were DC properties that never starred in their own pre-Crisis DC books. The pulp-reminiscent Crimson Avenger was chosen here as a substitute for The Shadow.Jason’s Quest and The Maniaks had appeared in DC’s Showcase in the ’60s. There was never a book called DC’s Imaginary Stories, nor a Charlton characters team-up series called Action Heroes, but there should have been. I also wanted to have genres beyond my superhero favorites, hence the inclusion of humor, horror, science fiction, Western, war, and romance titles. If I could have justified throwing in a 100-Page Super Spectacular, I woulda, but even flights of fancy need some sense of tethering.

(The need for tethers didn’t prevent me from listing The Trident, a World War II-set comics series I submitted to DC in the ’80s. The perks of having your own blog. The Trident came about when I asked myself the question, “What if Joe Simon and Jack Kirby had created a two-fisted black superhero in the ’40s?,” and then attempted to answer that rhetorical query. You’re free to ignore the Trident; DC certainly did.)

So that’s the director’s cut of my Old 52, imagining a new pre-Crisis DC Comics. It’s not worth the effort to try to whittle this down to a mere 52, and I betcha everyone from Sargon the Sorcerer to Super-Turtle to the Mind-Grabber Kid is queuing up to expand the line after successful appearances in Showcase. Bigger worlds live. Nobody dies. A new old DC universe. Just imagine.

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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.

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CLOSING ARGUEMENTS: Neal Adams

It is impossible to overstate the impact of artist Neal Adams on American comic books. Whatever grand impact you want to assign to Adams, you can double that, triple it, and keep going to absurd lengths, and you still won’t be able to give Adams more credit than he deserves. 



There have been many tributes written in the wake of Adams’ passing last week at the age of 80. Writers, fans, associates, and pundits have done a wonderful job of recognizing and celebrating his legacy. There is the legacy of his artwork itself, how he revolutionized the way comic book art can be created and appreciated, and how his visual interpretation of The Batman was essential–absolutely essential–in transitioning the character’s image from camp crusader to dark knight; I mean no disrespect to the 1960s Batman TV series (which was also extremely important to me), but there is no way the public’s perception of Batman gets from Adam West to the pop culture dominance of THE Batman without Neal Adams. I recommend a visit to 13th Dimension for further reading on this subject.

Beyond the artwork, Adams was also a tireless and passionate advocate for the rights of creators. His highest-profile battle for truth, justice, and the American way was his role in publicly shaming the publishers of DC Comics into giving credit and (some) compensation to Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in the ’70s. Adams was not the only one involved in this valiant effort, but his voice was the loudest, and he helped get the job done.

That’s the larger picture of Neal Adams and his work, and I encourage you to bop around the web and read more of his story. That would give you a better understanding of just why the comics world is in mourning now.

But I just want to speak for a minute about my own relationship with this body of work. I became more conscious of Adams in the very early ’70s, when I was ten to fourteen years old. I had seen his work before; I have no recollection of where or when I first saw Adams’ dynamic comic book images, though it was probably in DC Comics house ads in the mid to late ’60s. He drew the covers for my first issues of Action Comics (# 356, cover dated November of 1967) and Adventure Comics (# 368, May 1968), and the cover of Batman # 200 (March ’68) in between those. My first Neal Adams interior work was The Spectre # 3 (February-March 1968), followed later that year by World’s Finest Comics # 175 and The Brave And The Bold # 79.

Adams had been bugging regular Batman and Detective Comics editor Julius Schwartz for a chance to draw Batman, but Schwartz was adamantly not interested. Another DC editor, Murray Boltinoff, was more open to the idea. Adams drew a couple of Batman-Superman team-ups in World’s Finest Comics, and Boltinoff assigned Adams writer Bob Haney‘s script for The Brave And The Bold # 79. This was a team-up of Batman and Deadman, a character Adams was already depicting in the pages of DC’s Strange Adventures.

Don’t worry about those two issues of World’s Finest. They’re like the forgotten singles the Kinks did before “You Really Got Me.” Neal Adams really began drawing Batman in The Brave And The Bold # 79.

This issue, this single issue, was Ground Zero for the return of The Batman, the reclaiming of the character’s long-lost pulp roots. It’s no snub to Haney to say this was entirely because of Neal Adams. Adams knew how Batman–sorry, THE Batman–should look. The dark shadows, the visual sense of noir, weren’t in the script; Adams brought all of that in himself.

As Adams continued to draw a few more issues of B&B, legend has it that Julie Schwartz saw letters from readers wondering why that Batman, the REAL Batman, was only appearing in The Brave And The Bold. Schwartz was known to be stubborn, but he was no dummy. Adams was soon drawing Batman stories for Schwartz, usually with writer Dennis O’Neil, who shared Adams’ preference for Batman as a dark knight. In these stories, the definite article in the character’s name was reclaimed after decades of disuse. We caught our first glimpse of The Batman in Adams’ Brave And Bold stories; the stories done by O’Neil and Adams (and Frank RobbinsIrv NovickDick GiordanoJim Aparo, Bob Haney, and others) made the change official. The Batman. THE Batman. 

THE BATMAN!

Within this time frame, very late ’60s into very early ’70s, Adams also did some incredible work for Marvel Comics, notably with writer Roy Thomas in the pages of X-Men and The Avengers. An artist working for Marvel and DC at the same time was a rarity, and certainly something stodgier minds (especially at DC) discouraged and often prohibited. Neal Adams did not care. He made his own rules, and modeled an approach for other creators to follow and expand. His talent was too great for any publisher to even think about blackballing him. Restrictions? Pfui. He was Neal freakin’ Adams. He didn’t draw outside the lines. He redrew the lines.

The Dennis O’Neil-Neal Adams version of The Batman debuted in Detective Comics # 395 in 1970, but I didn’t see that one until a few years later (in the hardcover collection Batman From The ’30s To The ’70s). After Adams’ Brave And Bold run, I started with “Ghost Of The Killer Skies” in Detective Comics # 404 (October 1970), Adams’ single-issue return to The Brave And Bold (with O’Neil) for # 93’s “Red Water, Crimson Death” (December 1970-January 1971), and the return of Golden Age Batman villain Two-Face in “Half An Evil” (Batman # 234, August 1971). That last one thrilled me no end. I was eleven years old. I still wasn’t following creator credits yet (other than Stan Lee and Jack Kirby). I would start to know the names of the writers and artists very soon.

And, by the summer of ’72, I knew who my favorites were. And I knew exactly who knew how to write and draw The Batman.

1972 gave us The Batman’s serialized battle with Ra’s al Ghul, an adversary created by Adams and O’Neil. At the age of twelve, I thought this was the most epic thing I had ever seen. I’m still not convinced I was wrong about that. Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams were absolute superstars to me. The following year, when they brought back The Joker and returned him to his original murderous characterization in “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge!” in Batman # 251, I couldn’t stand the anticipation of waiting for the issue to hit the stands. I read it obsessively, over and over. It will always be among my favorite individual comic books.

“Moon Of The Wolf” in Batman # 255 (March-April 1974) was Adams’ final Batman work for DC Comics, at least until many years later. Other paths beckoned. Other writers and artists continued the work, some of them rivaling or even surpassing what O’Neil and Adams had done. But I say none of that subsequent great stuff–hell, The Batman himself!–none of it would have happened if not for Neal Adams.

I confess I had less interest in much of Adams’ later work. I did absolutely adore O’Neil and Adams’ slam-bang 1978 tabloid Superman Vs. Muhammed Ali, as well as his cover illustrations for Tarzan paperbacks, his illustrations for Harlan Ellison‘s short story “The New York Review Of Bird” (in the 1975 paperback anthology Weird Heroes, Vol. 2 ), and the sublime 1976 DC superheroes calendar, most of which was drawn by Adams. But Adams’ creator-owned material and even his decades-later return to The Batman wasn’t my cuppa. Doesn’t matter. The stuff I loved will always be the stuff I loved, the stuff I love still. I can’t exaggerate the importance of that work to me. It was everything.

1972 was when I made the connection that my favorite Batman stories were created by these guys, Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams. 1972 was also the year I started writing in…well, not in earnest, but maybe in pursuit of earnest. I was twelve. In social studies class, rather than do a boring research project about the Revolutionary War, I scripted a science-fantasy story about traveling back in time to participate in the Boston Tea Party, and corralled classmates to help me perform the piece on video tape. For English class, our study of Bram Stoker‘s Dracula prompted me to write a (terrible) Gothic horror story, performed as an audio tape. By 1973, I was submitting scripts to DC Comics. They were awful, sure, and they didn’t get me anywhere. But I’d made a decision: I was going to create. I couldn’t draw like Neal Adams, but I could write. I’m still doing that.

I met O’Neil and Adams in 1976. It was a brief can-I-have-your-autograph? encounter at the Super DC Con in New York. I felt like I’d met the Beatles.

Neal Adams was the Beatles. He was Babe RuthCharlie ChaplinOrson Welles, and whatever other reference you care to use to indicate he was the best, THE best, at what he did. Nonpareil. It is impossible to overstate the impact of artist Neal Adams on American comic books. That’s not hyperbole. That’s just the way it is. The artist. The crusader. The storyteller. A definite article carries specific meaning.

Just ask The Batman.

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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.

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THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Quick Takes For C

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.

CAPTAIN MARVEL (MAR-VELL)

Yeah, the the original Captain Marvel was long gone by 1967, but continued pop culture references kept that fabled name in the public eye nonetheless. The good folks at Marvel Comics recognized the potential value of that name; realizing the name was not protected by any prevailing copyright, Marvel created its own Captain Marvel, an interstellar warrior named Mar-Vell. Mar-Vell’s alien race the Kree planned to invade Earth, and Captain Mar-Vell was sent to our big blue marble to prepare the planet for Kree conquest. Mar-Vell ultimately rebelled against his own kind, and helped Earth to resist domination by the Kree. This Captain Marvel debuted in two issues of a comic book called Marvel Super-Heroes in ’67 and ’68; I first saw him in Captain Marvel # 1 (May 1968).

THE CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN

I confess that my main attachment to the Challs is that I think they make a really cool name for a trivia team. I also think they would have been a natural for a radio drama series: Four adventurers who cheated death! Four men living on borrowed time! These are THE CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN!! In the early ’70s, I picked up a coverless DC giant that reprinted some early Challs stories drawn by the King, Jack Kirby, and those were cool. But I first saw the Challs face arch-enemy Villo in “Two Are Dead–Two To Go!” in Challengers Of The Unknown # 52 (October-November 1966). (Pop music bonus reference: the Challs are name-checked in the song “Challengers” by The New Pornographers.)

THE DAVE CLARK FIVE

One of my siblings owned a copy of the “Bits And Pieces” 45, so my Tottenham Sound adventure starts there. We also had some kind of DC5/VO5 tie-in, a cardboard Dave Clark Five record promoting VO5 shampoo, but I can’t remember anything about it. (Well, other than the fact that li’l me, at four or five years old, would look at this record and point at the first three members of the DC5, reading left to right, and insist, “That’s Dave, that’s Clark, that’s Five;” I think I was joking.)

I remembered the product as VO5 rather than Pond’s, but this looks about right.

THE CLASH

A 1978 (?) issue of New York Rocker was probably my first exposure to The Clash. At a Flashcubes show that summer, I was chatting with Penny Poser (alias Diane Lesniewski), and she told me her favorite bands were The Who and The Clash. I bought The Clash’s “Remote Control”/”London’s Burning” import single…and, um, wasn’t really all that impressed. The B-side grew on me, though, and I later picked up the “Tommy Gun”/”1-2 Crush On You” 45, and eventually got the domestic versions of The Clash’s first three albums. I came to like The Clash quite a bit, but never quite felt the level of worship for them that I reserved for the likes of The Ramones and The Jam.

THE CREATION

This mid-’60s British Mod group was mentioned in Bomp! magazine’s 1978 power pop issue, with The Creation’s “Making Time,””Painter Man,” and “Biff Bang Pow” cited as prime examples of power pop. So, y’know, I wanted to hear this stuff! But good luck with that effort. I started with a DJ at Tip-A-Few, an oldies bar in Syracuse’s Eastwood section, but he’d never heard of Creation, and even if he had, he wasn’t gonna play anything that was never a hit record in America. I finally found an import 7″ reissue 45, combining “Making Time” and “Painter Man.” It was at Desert Shore Records up on the Syracuse University hill; Arty Lenin, guitarist from The Flashcubes, was workin’ the Desert Shore counter that day, so I bought my first Creation record from him.

THE CREEPER

Beware! THE CREEPER! Oooo–scary! The Creeper’s debut appearance in Showcase # 73 was among a small stack of comics my parents bought for me to take along on my summer travels in 1968. I didn’t know comics creators when I was eight years old, but I’m sure I’d seen DC’s ads promoting this new work by Steve Ditko (along with Ditko’s The Hawk And The Dove); I’m equally sure I didn’t connect this Ditko guy to work I’d seen on Marvel’s Dr. Strange in the pages of Strange Tales, nor Spider-Man reprints in Marvel Collectors’ Item Classics, nor Charlton’s Blue Beetle (the latter of which I didn’t see until after The Creeper’s debut anyway). Still found it all very, very cool.

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THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Quick Takes For B

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.

THE BEAU BRUMMELS

The Beau Brummels: It’s weird to realize that I don’t remember The Beau Brummels at all from the ’60s, even though my sister Denise went to see them at the State Fair on a double bill with the legendary Gene Pitney. You’d think I would at least remember their animated turn as The Beau Brummelstones on an episode of The Flintstones, but no! Instead, I heard “Laugh, Laugh” on an oldies radio show in 1976 or ’77. A rock station in Utica, WOUR-FM, had a flat-out terrific Friday night oldies show called (I think) The Time Machine, and that gave me an opportunity to deepen my affection for The Kinks and The Yardbirds, among others. I heard “Laugh, Laugh” one Friday night on WOUR, and the song has not left my All-Time Hot 100 since then.

CHUCK BERRY

I don’t know if it was WOLF-AM or WNDR-AM that started playing “Johnny B. Goode” in regular rotation in the early ’70s, right alongside your Badfinger and your Temptations. Maybe both stations did it. I didn’t know it was an old song; I just knew that I liked it a lot. Somewhere in there, I learned a lesson that’s an integral part of our format on This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio: it doesn’t matter if a song’s old, or new, or borrowed, or blue, as long as it’s a great song. And great songs should be played with other great songs, without regard for their date of origin. That’s what radio oughtta be.

THE BLACK CANARY

Though a (non-powered) super-heroine from the ’40s, DC Comics revived The Black Canary for sporadic use here and there in the ’60s, and eventually made her one of the line’s core characters. I first saw the name and image in a house ad for The Brave And The Bold # 61 (August-September 1965), which appeared in (I think) an issue of The Adventures Of Jerry Lewis. The ad promised the super-heroic team of Starman and Black Canary, which caught my interest, but the issue was long gone from the stands by the time I saw that ad in ’66. My first true Black Canary adventure came in the summer of ’68, when she appeared with her fellow members of The Justice Society of America in a two-parter running in Justice League of America # 64-65. (But my favorite Black Canary appearance came in The Brave And The Bold # 91 [August-September 1970], when she teamed with Batman and–more importantly!–had the chance to be rendered in pulchritudinous splendor by the incredible Nick Cardy!)

BLACKHAWK

Another character from the ’40s, and a character DC had purchased in the ’50s from a publisher called Quality Comics. DC kept this aviator’s title going until 1968. But I never read it; it wasn’t really a super-hero book, so I wasn’t interested. I picked up the very last issue, Blackhawk  # 243 (October-November 1968), a coverless copy I found at Van Patten’s Grocery in North Syracuse. I (much) later learned that the final two issues of Blackhawk were a back-to-basics attempt, trying to return the character to his former glory; DC’s stewardship of Blackhawk up to that time was and is widely regarded as a waste, at least until those last two issues. I discovered the real Blackhawk via Golden Age reprints in the ’70s, and my favorite run is a revival in the ’80s, written by Mark Evanier and usually drawn by Dan Spiegle; I would buy a trade collection of that run without hesitation.  Hawk-a-a-a!

BLONDIE

Reading about punk rock in Phonograph Record Magazine in 1977, I was taken by Mark Shipper‘s description of Blondie as “like Marilyn Monroe backed by The Dave Clark Five.” Okay, I’m in. I was still reluctant to buy the LP without hearing something first; when I got to college that fall, I pestered WBSU DJs in Brockport to play “X-Offender” for me, and I was hooked at first listen. Plus that Blondie girl, that Debbie HarryMan, she was cute!

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD

Someday I’m going to devote an entire Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do) to my love-hate relationship with The Brave And The Bold, a long-running DC title that went through many phases and philosophies over the course of 200 issues. It had once been a tryout showcase for proposed new comic book series; the most successful B&B tryouts were a pair of concepts called The Justice League of America and The Teen Titans. But B&B was a super-hero team-up book from # 50 through its farewell at # 200, with just one Sgt. Rock World War II tale in # 52 standing as the sole exception. From 1967 through the book’s termination in 1983, it was specifically a Batman team-up book. My first B&B was # 70 (February-March 1967), teaming Batman and Hawkman. I never learned where my copy came from; it turned up one day, alongside an issue of World’s Finest Comics and an issue of Mighty Comics, in a pile of magazines in our bathroom at home.  Did my Dad buy it for me? Did my Mom? Maybe one of my siblings? I still don’t know, but I sure loved this. I’d previously seen the alternate Earth-2 incarnation of Hawkman in the preceding summer’s Justice League-Justice Society team-up, but this issue of The Brave And The Bold was my introduction to the familiar, regularly-published “real” Earth-1 Hawkman.


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You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

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-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe Flashcubes,Chris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins’ BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here. 

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THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Aquaman

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.

This was originally posted as part of a longer piece covering both pop music and comic book characters. It’s separated here for convenience.

I don’t think I was aware of Aquaman before my Dad bought me a copy of Aquaman # 30 (November-December 1966), which cover-featured Aquaman’s funeral. Aquaman would eventually become one of my favorite superheroes, but I doubt that I’d heard of him before getting this issue. But who can resist a cover full of superheroes? Fine, I didn’t know Metamorpho or Hawkman yet, but I sure knew Batman and Superman! The thing is, even if Bruce and Clark had been replaced on this cover by some other superheroes that I didn’t know–Green ArrowPlastic ManMartian ManhunterThe Hooded Halibut, even–I would still have been intrigued: it was a comic book cover full of superheroes! What more could a six-year-old want?! Perhaps it was a cheat that these heroes only appeared in a single panel in the story itself (with Metamorpho entirely hidden, but The Flash bringing up the rear), but I don’t believe that put me off.

Given that the King of the Sea’s comic book lasted another 26 issues in the ’60s (and has been revived again and again since then), and that he became a Saturday morning TV cartoon star in the Fall of 1967 (and did so again as one of the Super Friends in the early ’70s), and that he moved into blockbuster Hollywood feature film stardom with the Justice League and Aquaman movies…yeah, given all that, it ain’t a spoiler to reveal that Aquaman survived his own death in Aquaman # 30. He’s resilient.

I think I saw DC house ads for Aquaman #s 31 and 32, plus The Brave And The Bold # 73 (co-starring Aquaman and The Atom), but my next Aquaman adventure was Aquaman # 36 (November-December 1967), with its cover blurb proclaiming, “The King Of The Sea Is Now The King Of TV!” This would have gone on sale around the same time as the debut of the above-mentioned TV cartoon series, The Superman-Aquaman Hour Of Adventure on CBS. The series continued Superman and Superboy‘s  cartoon exploits from the previous fall’s The New Adventures Of Superman, supplemented by all-new animated action starring Aquaman and Aqualad, plus one additional cartoon each week starring one of a rotating line-up of DC superstars (The Flash, Hawkman, The Atom, Green LanternThe Teen Titans, and The Justice League of America).

These cartoons were terrible–hokey, juvenile, formulaic, and strictly by-the-numbers–but I just loved ’em as a kid. Frankly, the comics at the time weren’t exactly cutting-edge themselves, but there was undeniable energy, and there was artwork by Nick Cardy, who is possibly my all-time favorite comics artist. The TV show added a pair of black boots to Aquaman’s costume, and I don’t think it made much use of the comic-book supporting cast other than trusty sidekick Aqualad; the villains were there–I think I remember seeing Black Manta on TV–but there was no sign of Aquababy or Aquagirl. And there wasn’t nearly enough of Aquaman’s beautiful wife MeraThat was a shame! As drawn by Cardy, Mera was the hottest-looking female character in comics at the time.

But my favorite run of Aquaman stories began in 1968, when Dick Giordano took over as editor with Aquaman # 40. Giordano replaced veteran writer Bob Haney with young turk Steve Skeates, and the series just exploded with imagination, drama, and sensational quirkiness. Skeates’ first order of business was a long, long serial involving Aquaman’s search for Mera, who’d been abducted by unknown assailants. Giordano took Nick Cardy off the main art chores–Cardy retained cover art duties, and proceeded to knock everyone out with some of the finest covers of his long career–but found a more than able replacement in Jim Aparo. Like Giordano and Skeates, Aparo had come to DC fresh from budget-priced-but-brilliant work at Charlton Comics, a low-rent line we’ll be discussing in a couple of days. Aparo’s work on Aquaman was stunning, gorgeous–so much so that I still consider Aparo the definitive Aquaman artist, my eternal allegiance to Nick Cardy notwithstanding. This was just a terrific, underrated run, one of my favorite runs of any character at any time.

Sadly, sales weren’t sufficient to keep Aquaman afloat. The book was cancelled with its 56th issue (March-April 1971), cover-featuring “The Creature That Devoured Detroit!” The book may have been too off-kilter to survive, but it was a blast while it lasted. Aquaman returned a few years later in the pages of Adventure Comics (inspiring a letter of comment from a certain future blogger in North Syracuse), and he regained his own comic book in the mid-’70s. The current Aquaman comic book is pretty cool (and Mera is still a knockout), but no version of these characters could ever top my affection for the Skeates-Aparo-Giordano era.

Splash page of Aquaman # 56
My letter to Aquaman, Adventure Comics # 444

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THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Quick Takes For T (Comics Edition)

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 story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

Robin the Boy Wonder! Wonder Girl! Kid Flash! Aqualad! I was six years old in 1966, and I I was certainly a fan of ol’ Robin from his heroic appearances on my favorite TV show Batman. The others were unfamiliar to me prior to my introduction to DC Comics’ junior superhero group The Teen Titans. I didn’t even really know Wonder Woman or The Flash yet, and I first encountered Aquaman around the same time as my first issue of Teen TitansThat would have been Teen Titans# 6, cover-dated November-December 1966.

But I for damned sure knew Robin. Batman and Robin! I think I saw a house ad for Teen Titans # 1 before ever noticing the Titans on the spinner rack. I was absolutely fascinated by DC’s house ads during this era, colorful come-ons that teased and enticed with glimpses of everything from Batman and Superman to Starman and Black CanaryDial H For HEROThe SpectreBob HopeJerry Lewis, and Scooter. I don’t remember whether or not I ever owned a copy of Teen Titans # 1; I think maybe I did buy it as a back issue in the ’70s, but if so, it’s long gone now. Either way, though, its cover captivated my young mind, and I wanted it.

In this time frame, my parents frequently allowed me to pluck a comic book of my choice from the rack at Sweetheart Corner, a grocery store in North Syracuse. That’s how Teen Titans # 6 came into my possession. Robin was on the cover! Of course. 

And I loved it. This issue guest-starred Beast Boy from The Doom Patrol; my only previous exposure to The Doom Patrol was another irresistible house ad, depicting a team-up of the Doomsters and that Scarlet Speedster, The Flash. My next Teen Titans was # 11 (September-October 1967), which guest-starred The Green Arrow‘s sidekick Speedy (and opened with a scene revealing the Titans’ bulletin board, featuring pinned letters from Earth-One’s version of President Lyndon Johnson and that other Fab Four, The Beatles).

Seeing Speedy with the Titans prepared me for the team’s TV debut in the fall of ’67, as The Teen Titans became one of the rotating guest features on the new Saturday morning cartoon series The Superman-Aquaman Hour Of Adventure. This show aired on CBS, but the Boy Wonder was still contractually obligated to appear with his caped crusadin’ mentor over on ABC, thus elevating Speedy to full Titandom, at least on Saturday mornings.

I bought Teen Titans comics when I could. Writer Bob Haney‘s willful abuse of the English language in pursuit of his outta-touch idea of hip teenspeak can be kinda painful to read now, but I was all in as a young’un. The art by Nick Cardy was terrific, and would become even better as the series continued. Cardy may be my all-time favorite comics artist, and I first encountered his work in Aquaman and Teen Titans

(Even beyond his overall skill as a draftsman and visual storyteller, Cardy drew some of the prettiest girls in comics, including Wonder Girl and early ’70s Titans addition Lilith.)

DC’s Teen Titans comic book lasted 43 issues, succumbing to cancellation at the end of ’72. It was brought back for another ten issues in the late ’70s, but the latter series was not my cuppa. In the early ’80s, writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez managed a popular and critically-acclaimed revival as The New Teen Titans, and that series (which also brought back Beast Boy, renamed Changeling) made the Titans into A-listers from that point forward.

The New Teen Titans was a great book, and it was key to getting me back into comics after I graduated college. The six-year-old superhero fan from 1966 had grown up…but I resisted growing up too much.

1966 was a big year for me and my superheroes. I liked superheroes before actors Adam West and Burt Ward donned capes and masks to bop the bad guys as TV’s Batman and Robin, but it was certainly Batman that knocked that interest into overdrive. My previous affection for Superman comic books grew into a full-blown obsession with all sorts of superdoers patrolling the spinner racks and magazine shelves. I discovered Marvel Comics in there somewhere, starting with Sub-Mariner and The Incredible Hulk in Tales To Astonish

I first encountered The Mighty Thor in the pages of The Avengers # 13, the same time and place where I first met Captain AmericaIron ManGiant-Man, and The Wasp. We were vacationing at my grandparents’ house in Missouri, and my sister Denise and cousin Cheryl came back from a walk with that comic book in hand. It was an old comic book, published at the end of ’64 (postdated February ’65, as comics were wont to do), probably coverless. Okay by me. Any book you ain’t read is a new book.  

This book was so important to me, and I read it and re-read it many, many times. I have no idea of when I next saw the mighty God of Thunder in a comic book–by the time I got another issue of The Avengers, Thor was no longer an Avenger–but even the one appearance was sufficient to instill wonder and awe in this six-year-old. And if I didn’t see Thor in the funny pages, I could see him on TV; Thor joined Captain America, Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, and The Hulk as one of the rotating stars of The Marvel Super-Heroes, a series of (barely) animated short cartoons that aired weekday afternoons, beginning in September of ’66. The year of the superhero!

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS

My introduction to T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents was most definitely second-hand. If there were issues of Tower Comics‘ 25-cent giant T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents on the rack at Sweetheart, I missed ’em, and I didn’t get around to seeing any of them (and their sublime Wally Wood artwork) until snagging a couple of back issues in the ’70s. No, instead I saw two parodies first. The second of the two was from Marvel Comics, as seen in the humor book Not Brand Echh. I didn’t come aboard the Brechh train until its fourth issue, so I missed seeing NBE # 2’s cracked-mirror version of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. facing Dynamo and NoMan of The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents (that would be Knock Furious, Agent of S.H.E.E.S.H. facing Dynaschmoe and Invisible Man of The Blunder Agents). But I did see it when it was reprinted in Not Brand Echh # 10–“The Worst Of Not Brand Echh“–in the summer of ’68. I have all of the Not Brand Echhs in a hardcover collection now.

My first vicarious exposure to T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents was in a DC Comics humor title: the bad guys in H.U.R.R.I.C.A.N.E., as seen in DC’s The Inferior Five # 1 in 1967. We covered that in a previous Everlasting First. I wish there were a hardcover Inferior Five collection I could buy now.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE

The classic TV anthology series The Twilight Zoneended in 1964, so four-year-old me should have had no business watching it. Maybe it was still in reruns a little after that? Not that I would have been any braver to face the show at six or seven years old. I remember that creepy opening, and I remember the show scared the livin’ chicklets outta me. Ooh! I particularly remember one episode where a mystic scarab or something caused some poor geezer to crumble into dust before my terrified eyes. Brrr! This never happened on Batman. Robin! ROBIN! Save me, Boy Wonder!

Or, y’know, you could send Wonder Girl to save me. That would be fine, too.

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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
Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1)will contain 165 essays about 165 tracks, each one of ’em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1). My weekly Greatest Record Ever Made! video rants can be seen in my GREM! YouTube playlist. And I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl

Categories
Boppin'

The Beatles and The Green Hornet for MEESTER TACO

Meester Taco was a taco joint in Brockport, New York in the late ’70s.  As a senior at the State University College at Brockport in the Spring of 1980, I wrote two Meester Taco commercials for the college radio station, WBSU-FM. I booked a studio date for production, but technical issues at the studio forced us to postpone–yeah, just like Westcott Radio today. It was already too late in the semester to re-schedule production, so these commercials were never produced.  But I still have the scripts.  The “Jane” in the Beatles spot would be my pal Jane Gach, who was a DJ at WBSU.  So, let’s hear from our sponsor:

MEESTER TACO 60 second spot

JANE:  We interrupt this program for a special bulletin.  I’m speaking to you from Meester Taco, where The Beatles–John, Paul, George and the other one–have been seen together.  John, you and the others have turned down countless multi-million dollar offers for a reunion. Why have you decided to get back together?

JOHN:  Actually, it wasn’t a PLANNED thing at all. We just bumped into each other on line for beef burritos at Meester Taco.

PAUL:  I was waiting for a soft-shell taco with hot sauce.

JOHN:  Well, taco or burrito, it’s the same existential concept.

JANE:  Paul, what is it you like about Meester Taco?

PAUL:  Oh, the spices definitely. In fact, I’d like to take some of these spices with me to Japan….

JANE:  I see.  And what do you say, George?

GEORGE:  Hare Krishna. Spare change, mister?

JANE:  Ringo?

RINGO:  I want another Apple Gomez.

JANE:  Well guys, I’m really glad that you could just forget your past differences and re-unite.

JOHN:  Yes, the devotion of our fans has, heh, “Please Pleased us,” and we just want to make everyone happy and–HEY! That’s me beef burrito you’ve got, Paulie!

PAUL:  ‘Tis not!

JOHN:  ‘Tis! Take THAT, McCartney!

[Fight sounds, continuing under narration]

JANE:  Well, I guess this just proves that Meester Taco can bring anyone together.  Right, guys?

JOHN:  Right. All you need is love.

PAUL:  Yeah.

GEORGE:  Yeah.

RINGO:  Yeah.

[Fight resumes]

JANE:  Meester Taco, on the corner of Routes 19 and 31 in Brockport–bringing people together.

MEESTER TACO 30 second spot

MUSIC:  “The Green Hornet Theme” by Al Hirt

NARRATOR: Meester Taco presents the adventures of The Green Hornet! You remember last time, the villanous Doctor Smirk had trapped The Green Hornet in a situation which could mean certain death for our hero! Let’s listen….

SMIRK: Aha, Green Hornet! I have you trapped in a situation which could mean certain death for you! What do you say to that?

NARRATOR:  Our hero bravely replies–

HORNET:  Oh God, somebody help me!

NARRATOR:  We pause now for this word from our sponsor.

MR. TACO:  This is Crazy Meester Taco on the corner of Routes 19 and 31 in Brockport, where we’ve got the best deals on tacos, burritos, tostadas and Apple Gomezes in the area. Meester Taco will NOT be undersold!

ORNET:  Wait a minute! I’m in deadly danger, and you interrupt for a commercial?!

NARRATOR:  Suddenly–

DEPUTY:  Okay, Green Hornet, you’re coming with us.

HORNET:   Who are you?

DEPUTY:  We’re from Bellevue and we’ve got a room waiting for you. Your show’s been off the air for fifteen years.

HORNET:  Where’s Kato?

DEPUTY:  Kato’s been dead for ten years. Now come along.

NARRATOR:  And what of the evil Doctor Smirk?

SMIRK:  Hey man, I’m in the middle of a beef burrito!

NARRATOR:  Meester Taco, at the corner of Routes 19 and 31 in Brockport.  For the great American meal that’s really Mexican.

Great. Now I’m hungry.

Categories
Boppin'

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: The Batman Theme

This chapter from my book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) includes bits from a few other previous posts, all remixed into its own unique piece. It was distributed privately to this blog’s paid patrons on September 1, 2020. This is its first public appearance. You can become a supporter of Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do) for just $2 a month: Fund me, baby!

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!

NELSON RIDDLE: The Batman Theme

Written by Neal Hefti
From the 20th Century Fox TV series Batman, 1966
I grew up in a time when TV theme songs routinely entered the public consciousness. The catchy ditties that opened shows like Gilligan’s IslandF TroopThe Beverly HillbilliesThe Patty Duke Show, and Car 54, Where Are You? weren’t hit records in the usual sense, but within our shared pop culture they were nonetheless as big as any 45 spinning on the radio. 

Many theme songs were sufficiently hook-laden to prompt release as a single, sometimes by the original artist and sometimes in cover versions, and sometimes to chart success. The Cowsills‘ swell cover of “Love American Style” wasn’t a hit, but it should have been, and it remains a staple of their live act. The VenturesPerry ComoHenry Mancini, and Johnny Rivers all made the Top 40 with their respective renditions of themes from Hawaii Five-0Here Come The BridesPeter Gunn, and Secret Agent Man. Television tunes continued to maintain a radio presence throughout the ’70s and ’80s. In June of 1995, The Rembrandts‘ “I’ll Be There For You,” the theme from the NBC sitcom Friends, was the # 1 song on radio the week my daughter was born. I thought that was appropriate, and pretty cool.

The campy 1966 Batman TV series had a seismic effect on me when I was six. No other television program could ever equal Batman‘s lasting impact on impressionable li’l me, creating a life-long interest in comic books and superheroes in general, and in the Caped Crusader specifically. I didn’t understand that the show kinda poked fun at the character, because actor Adam West played the title role straight, and to perfection. As West said decades later in a guest appearance on The Big Bang Theory: “I never had to say ‘I’M BATMAN!’ When I showed up, people knew who the hell I was.”

Batman was the most flamboyantly POP! TV show to ever grace the home screen, more so than The Monkees or Laugh-In, more even than essential jukebox shows like Shindig!  Each episode was an explosion of color and attitude, of purposely hammy acting accompanied by on-screen BIFFs, BANGs, and POWs.

But it wasn’t a rock ‘n’ roll show, at least not musically. Its musical direction was charted by bandleader Nelson Riddle, its simple theme song written by Neal Hefti, both of whom were traditional swing/jazz guys who normally eschewed rock. Paul Revere and the Raiders and Lesley Gore appeared as guests on the show, but it was always clear that Batman‘s producers considered themselves above such primitive noise.

(To illustrate this point that Batman‘s higher-ups did not love rock ‘n’ roll, consider the two-part episode guest-starring British pop duo Chad and Jeremy. When Catwoman literally steals Chad and Jeremy’s voices, a character played by Steve Allen [himself a vocal critic of rock ‘n’ roll] quips that maybe that loss isn’t such a bad thing. And we’re talking about agreeably goofy ‘n’ grinning Chad and Jeremy, who were wonderful but hardly hide-your-daughters ruffians on the authority-threatening scale of, say, The Rolling Stones.)

All of this just makes “The Batman Theme” all the more remarkable. It is rock ‘n’ roll; it’s rock ‘n’ roll written and performed by jazz guys who don’t care if you know they’re just slumming, but it rocks anyway. It transcends its secret origin. 

The Who covered it. The Jam covered it. The Kinks included it in their live set. George Harrison appropriated it for The Beatles‘ “Taxman” (which itself inspired The Bangles‘ “I’m In Line” and The Jam’s “Start!”), and Prince incorporated it into his 1989 Batman soundtrack single “Batdance.” The Marketts had a hit with it. Hefti recorded his own version, and it also charted. 

This entry represents the only spot in this book that’s not occupied by an actual record (although the track was finally given an official release on the CD version of the soundtrack to the 1966 Batman movie). The definitive version will always be the compact rumble performed by Nelson Riddle and his orchestra during the show’s opening credits, heard every Wednesday and Thursday night at 7:30, 6:30 Central on ABC. No subsequent recording has ever matched the specific feel, the unique sway of a caped-crusading call-to-arms accompanied by deadly-earnest chick vocals, rolling percussion, and the on-screen cartoon images of Batman and Robin boppin’ the bad guys at the start of another exciting episode. Riddle recorded a full-length version for the show’s official soundtrack LP, but even that fails to duplicate the simple magic of the short little TV version. 

Years ago, when I auditioned for a game show, prospective contestants were expected to dazzle and impress a small live audience. I did some schtick, got some laughs, and then said that I wanted to close with a rendition of  “The Batman Theme,” but couldn’t remember all the words. “Can anyone help me out?,” I asked. The response was tentative at first, then more confident, and soon everyone in the audience was singing with me: Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na, Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na BATMAN!
I whooped my approval. I didn’t succeed in getting on the game show, but I still felt that justice had triumphed. And right now, in your head, I bet you’re singing along with it, too. Thank you, citizen. And thank you, Caped Crusader.

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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
Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1)will contain 165 essays about 165 tracks, each one of ’em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1). My weekly Greatest Record Ever Made! video rants can be seen in my GREM! YouTube playlist. And I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.