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The Notebook Notions: Batman in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD

In the words of some guy who went to China and later claimed he wasn’t a crook, let me make this perfectly clear: I realize I’m never going to write for DC Comics, and that I’m almost certainly never going to write comics at all. I’m not that delusional. Just, y’know, almost. This reluctant concession to real-world common sense doesn’t prevent me from flights of fancy, imagining what I’d do if I had the opportunity and the talent to pursue such dreams. In the early-to-mid ’70s, when I was in my teens, I started jotting my notions down in notebooks. Nowadays, I got a blog.

One of my persistent fantasies has been to write a year-long, twelve-part out-of-continuity DC series. Well, not exactly “out of continuity,” but basically set in the DC Universe as it existed circa 1972 through 1975 or so, when Carmine Infantino was in charge. I was twelve to fifteen years old in this time frame, and I have a fond, lingering attachment to the comics of that era. My favorites were the 100-Page Super SpectacularsAdventure ComicsBatmanDetective Comics, and Justice League Of America.

And then there was The Brave And The Bold.

One of these days, I’ll write an extended song and dance about my love/hate relationship with The Brave And The Bold. At one point B & B was my favorite comic book, a series teaming my favorite hero Batman with various other characters from the DC Line Of Superstars. The artwork in these books was often nothing short of gorgeous, from late ’60s runs by Neal Adams and Nick Cardy into the wonderful Jim Aparo‘s long stint commencing in the early ’70s. Bob Haney‘s stories were imaginative and well-told, but I grew tired of them over time. Haney didn’t change; I did. Haney and editor Murray Boltinoff were determinedly unconcerned with continuity, and in retrospect I realize they were probably correct in that approach. But the B & B Batman didn’t quite seem like the same Batman starring in Batman and Detective, and it bugged me as a teen. I stopped buying The Brave And The Bold.

Eventually. And I came back eventually, too.

And I always wanted to write the book. My original notebook notions contain frequent scrawled story ideas for B & B, notably the germ of my idea for a Batman-Aquaman adventure originally called “The Undersea Crimes Of Mr. Freeze,” later amended and much later completed for this blog as a pulp prose short story called “The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze.” I’m silly-proud of that story, and I hope you’ll check it out.

Getting back to the fantasy: in this scenario, I’ve signed a contract with DC to write The Brave And The Bold as a twelve-issue limited series set in a modified version of DC’s continuity circa 1974 or ’75, thereabouts. The modifications allow me to use Paul Dini‘s version of Mr. Freeze from Batman: The Animated Series, and to refer to Sub Diego from circa 2003 issues of Aquaman. I can use whatever DC characters I want, though I’d likely keep to characters that appeared in DC books during that time; the temptation to use the Charlton line of Action Heroes (which DC purchased in the ’80s) would be resisted here, but Blue Beetle and company would inevitably see…um, action in a companion Justice League Of America 12-issue series in this same continuity. The Carlverse. The Boppinverse! If one’s gonna dream, one should dream big.

So here’s a list of the proposed titles for each issue in this series, beginning with the already-written “The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze,” continuing into the partially-written “Paradise Does Not Believe In Tears,” and barreling forth thereafter. The fantasy ends here; I doubt I’ll bother to flesh this out any further, but ya never know with me. never know with me. I’ll leave it to the DC Faithful to guess who Batman’s guest stars might be in each issue (though some of my chosen illustrations will presumably provide another clue for you all). In my mind, the artwork on all of these stories is by either the late Nick Cardy or the late Jim Aparo. Or Norm Breyfolgle. Or Jerry Ordway. Or, or….

Anyway. Enjoy this glimpse of what will never be. B & B seeing you!

1.   “The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze”
2.   “Paradise Does Not Believe In Tears”
3.   “Between Arkham And Eternity”
4.   “Bring Me No Dreams”
5.   “Welcome To The Jungle”
6.   “The Phantom Of Gotham City”
7.   “Who Is The Black Orchid?”
8.   “Our One Man Army At War”
9 .  “The Judgement Of Gotham”
10. “The Death Of The Joker”
11. “A Superstitious And Cowardly Lot”
12. “Hope In Crime Alley”

This one’s not a clue; just a chance to see Jim Aparo’s renditions of more DC superstars.

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Birthdays

George Reeves

Born on this day in 1914, in Woolstock, Iowa, actor George Reeves. Reeves will forever be remembered for his portrayal of The Man of Steel, in the TV series, The Adventures of Superman.

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Boppin'

Amazing Heroes: My Secret Origin As A Freelance Writer

My first sales as a freelance writer were to a magazine called Amazing HeroesAH was published by Fantagraphics, and it catered to a mostly traditional superhero comics fanbase. This was in contrast with Fantagraphics’ better-known publication The Comics Journal, which generally took a more cerebral approach in its celebrations of more artistically ambitious comics outside of the costume-strewn mainstream.

Me? I was a fanboy, and I loved superhero comic books. Writing about ’em for Amazing Heroes was a great way for me to break into freelancing.

I don’t recall all of the specifics of my path to Amazing Heroes freelancerhood, but I think it was as simple as reading in the magazine that the editor was accepting submissions, and appropriate hijinks ensuing thereafter. It was 1984. I was a 24-year-old wannabe writer, four years out of college, working as an assistant manager at a late-night fast-food restaurant. I was trying to write, with little to no success. I submitted some pretty terrible proposals to DC Comics, attempted some pop journalism intended for either Creem or Trouser Press, and presumably poked at some non-starting short story notions. My writing career was getting nowhere, and not even getting there fast.

The idea of trying to write about comics may not have even occurred to me prior to learning of the opportunity in AH. It was a paying market, albeit a very modest one, and I was a less-than-choosy beggar. By whatever sequence of events–pitch? cold submission?–I wound up writing “The Call Of The Mockingbird,” a history of the 1960s DC title The Secret Six, which was accepted by AH editor David W. Olbrich and published in Amazing Heroes # 58, cover dated November 1, 1984. The check cleared. It was a pittance, sure, but I was now officially a published, professional writer.

Meanwhile, I lost my fast-food job, but got a job working in a record store–upgrade! Seeking to be more than a one-hit wonder with Amazing Heroes, I quickly turned around to write and sell “When Worlds Collide!,” a speculation about a shared DC-Marvel Comics superhero universe, which appeared in AH # 61 (December 15, 1984). 

I didn’t appear in AH again for a while after that. “Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This,” an attempted history of the Sandman character created for DC by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, was rejected. My next AH sale was “Positive Energy,” a history of the great Charlton Comics character E-Man, in AH # 88 (2/1/86). This was followed by “Up, Up And…Oh, Well,” an article about comedy superheroes (AH # 92, 4/1/86). 

Olbrich had left the magazine some time back, and the editor by now was future superstar comics writer Mark Waid. Waid bought my short blurb “The Camp Knight Returns,” a collection of quotes about actor Adam West‘s evolution from never wanting to play Batman again to wishing he could return to the role for a then-upcoming major motion picture. My final AH sale was “Who’s…Who?!,” an A-Z of actual DC comics characters too obscure to receive entries in the company’s official Who’s Who In The DC Universe series. The piece appeared in AH # 109 (1/1/87), and it was very well received. DC’s Robert Greenberger wrote a letter of appreciation, so…yeah! The original article was exhaustively re-typed for an appearance right here at Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do).

Alas, my Amazing Heroes affiliation ended there, though I didn’t know it at the time. Waid had accepted my history of The Joker (“The 53rd Card In The Deck”) to appear in an unspecified future issue, but it was trashed when his own stint with Fantagraphics came to an abrupt, unpleasant, pyrotechnic conclusion. I, collateral damage. The folks at Fantagraphics didn’t know me, didn’t know about the Joker piece I’d written, and couldn’t get off the phone quickly enough when I called them to ask wha’ppen. 

At least Fantagraphics wasn’t my sole freelancing gig by then. I’d made a sale to Krause Publications‘ Comics Collector in 1985, when that magazine’s editors Don and Maggie Thompson bought “Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel,” my retrospective of the 1966-68 Batman TV series and its effect on the character and the comics (Summer 1985). This entry point with Krause eventually led to the twenty years I spent freelancing for the company’s music tabloid Goldmine.

Although my Amazing Heroes stint sputtered to a halt quickly and badly, it’s where I got my start: my secret origin, who I am and how I came to be. From a history of The Secret Six to Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do), I still have a few amazing things I’d like to write about.

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COMIC BOOK RETROVIEW: Marvel Super-Heroes #12-20

As a practicing square peg, I have a long history of digging stuff that is…well, not so much outside the mainstream necessarily, but perhaps just slightly under the radar. A TV show like The Guns Of Will Sonnett, a film like Brain Donors, a terrific local band like The Flashcubes, for example–while none of these essential (to me) pop entities has ever enjoyed massive success and adulation, there are still many who share my enthusiasm for each of them.

But Marvel Super-Heroes, the late ’60s mostly-reprint anthology title from The House Of Ideas? Face front, True Believer: no one will join me in singing the praises of this minor comic book. Perhaps I shouldn’t even sing those praises myself, because it really wasn’t all that great, nor even all that good. But I tell ya: when I discovered this comic as an eight-year-old kid in 1968, it meant almost as much to me at the time as an Avengers King-Size Special or a Justice League-Justice Society team-up.

Marvel Super-Heroes was a follow-up to an earlier Marvel reprint book called (in Stan Lee‘s typical fluent hype) Fantasy MasterpiecesFantasy Masterpieces had begun in 1966 as a regular-sized 12-cent book, reprinting monster and science-fiction stories from early ’60s Marvel titles like Journey Into Mystery and Strange Tales. With its third issue, it expanded to a 25-cent giant format, and added Captain America reprints in front of bogeyman tales like “Beware The Uboongi!” and “I Am Prisoner Of The Voodoo King!” Unlike Marvel’s other ongoing 25-cent superhero reprint anthologies (Marvel Tales and Marvel Collectors Item Classics), Fantasy Masterpieces reached back all the way to the 1940s for Cap reprints, as well as for reprints of Golden Age Human Torch and Sub-Mariner sagas in subsequent issues. Its final issue was Fantasy Masterpieces # 11 in ’67, at which point it changed its title to Marvel Super-Heroes.

Although Marvel Super-Heroes continued the series numbering from Fantasy Masterpieces (commencing with Marvel Super-Heroes # 12), there had been a previous Marvel Super-Heroes one-shot in 1966. That was another all-reprint book, starring The AvengersDaredevil, and a Golden Age Human Torch versus Sub-Mariner story, but the new ongoing Marvel Super-Heroes series would differentiate itself from its predecessors with its embrace of that very word: new. While the back pages of Marvel Super-Heroes would still be filled with reprints, each issue would cover feature a brand-new Marvel adventure.

Marvel Super-Heroes # 12 and 13 offered the debut appearances of Captain Marvel, a new character created to capitalize on (and trademark!) the familiar name of the original Captain Marvel. The original Captain Marvel had been the most popular comic-book superhero of the ’40s, outselling even Superman and drawing the legal ire of DC Comics, who successfully sued the World’s Mightiest Mortal out of the comics biz entirely. Marvel Comics had no connection whatsoever to that original Captain Marvel, but Stan Lee and writer Roy Thomas recognized the potential value of the name, and ran with it. Marvel owns the trademark to this day.

After two issues starring new Captain Marvel adventures, Cap soared off into his own new title. Spider-Man starred in Marvel Super-Heroes # 14, the only time Marvel Super-Heroes would ever feature a new story with a character already starring in its own ongoing series. By now, we were approaching the summer of 1968. And that’s where I came in.

I’ve written extensively in my Singers, Superheroes, And Songs On The Radio series about comics I bought off the rack in the ’60s, and particularly of the comics I read while on vacation during that summer of ’68. I recall seeing Marvel Super-Heroes # 15 on the spinner rack at Ramey’s grocery store in Aurora, Missouri, staring back at me with its beguiling Gene Colan cover of the female Inhuman called Medusa. This was a book I perused at the store, but couldn’t quite bring myself to purchase. It was already a back issue by then–it wasn’t uncommon to see the occasional (slightly) older comic mixed with the new, depending upon how vigilant a store’s staff was at policing its comics rack–and I was drawn to the newer issue: Marvel Super-Heroes # 16, starring a brand-new World War I hero, Phantom Eagle.

Okay. This I couldn’t resist. Twenty-five cents later, it was mine.

Hey, watch yer language Phantom Eagle; the Comics Code Authority is watching you!

I didn’t know that Phantom Eagle had previously been the name of a World War II hero published by Fawcett; with the success of the new Captain Marvel in Marvel Super-Heroes, maybe someone at Marvel figured, hey, why not scoop up some more discarded Fawcett names from the dustbin? If Marvel Super-Heroes had lasted longer, would we have seen new Marvel characters named Mr. ScarletBulletmanSpy Smasher, or Ibis the Invincible?

Well…probably not.

Nonetheless, I loved this only starring appearance by Marvel’s Phantom Eagle, written by Gary Friedrich and featuring what’s probably my favorite work from veteran Marvel artist Herb Trimpe. I was disappointed that The Phantom Eagle never got another shot. The character did pop up subsequently in a time-spanning issue of The Incredible Hulk (with more outstanding artwork from Trimpe), but I was apparently The Phantom Eagle’s only fan, and further appearances were not to be.

I was just as taken with the reprints in Marvel Super-Heroes, mostly 1950s stuff starring Captain America, The Human Torch, and The Sub-Mariner, and often just drenched in the Cold War. There was also a reprint of the ’50s Arthurian hero The Black Knight, and a ’40s tale starring The Patriot. The stories from the ’50s were so different from Marvel’s contemporary comics in ’68, but I still dug them. I was especially fond of the Sub-Mariner stories; this was the first time I’d ever seen Prince Namor drawn by his creator, Bill Everett, and these stories were so energetic, so over the top, so great. I recall playing at my grandparents’ house in Missouri, and swimming at the public pool in Aurora, and repeating the line I’m Professor Zumbar, fool! in my head. Years later, I would learn a bit more about Bill Everett, and discover that my favorite Sub-Mariner stories were Everett stories (both from the ’50s and when he returned to the character in the ’70s). Everett drew the wildest action scenes, and some of the sexiest comic-book women this side of a Nick Cardy page.

I went back to Ramey’s and picked up Marvel Super-Heroes # 15, with the new Medusa story, backed by more ’50s reprints and a 1940s story starring The Black Marvel. Back home in Syracuse, I bought Marvel Super-Heroes # 17 (starring the Silver Age version of The Black Knight in his first solo story) as soon as it came out.  Reprints in that one included the first few chapters of a story starring The All Winners Squad, Marvel’s short-lived (only two appearances!) attempt to copy the success of DC’s Justice Society of America. The All-Winners Squad reprint was continued into Marvel Super-Heroes # 18, cover-featuring the debut of something called The Guardians Of The Galaxy–wonder whatever became of those guys?–but I wasn’t able to find that issue until years later. I bought a coverless copy of Marvel Super-Heroes # 19 (with the jungle hero Ka-Zar), and finally Marvel Super-Heroes # 20, starring The Fantastic Four‘s evil arch-enemy, Dr. Doom. The concept of a villain starring in a solo story knocked me out, man. This was why Marvel called itself The House Of Ideas, right? Right…?

Alas, Dr. Doom was the final new feature to appear in Marvel Super-Heroes; the last page of that issue promised a new feature called Starhawk to star in Marvel Super-Heroes # 21, but that feature never appeared. The title went all-reprint with its 21st issue. Now, I loved reprints–I still do–but it was the end of a very brief era for me. Still, I continued to pick up issues of Marvel Super-Heroes when I could. The focus in its reprint selection shifted away from the ’40s and ’50s, and concentrated on the dawn of The Marvel Age Of Comics in the early ’60s. My Mom gave me a copy of Marvel Super-Heroes # 22 as a Christmas gift in 1969, and I was thrilled to read these early adventures of The X-Men and Daredevil.

Looking back, though, my allegiance to the memory of Marvel Super-Heroes clearly stems from that brief run in the late ’60s, mixing new trial features with, frankly, a goofy selection of reprints from before I was born. I eventually tracked down the earlier issues I’d missed, the ones with Captain Marvel, and Spider-Man, and The Guardians Of The Galaxy, and I even picked up a few issues of Fantasy Masterpieces, one of which included the first All Winners Squad story. Marvel Super-Heroes still holds a cherished place in my memory, even if I’m the only fan who thinks so.

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Boppin'

UNFINISHED AND ABANDONED: The Comic Book Telephone Pitches, Part 2

YOU REMEMBER LAST TIME, when I talked about my aborted telephone pitch to write for Harvey Comics. Let’s pick up that story with my second and final attempt to sell my writing via a phone call to a comics publisher….

Revolutionary Comics was a comics publisher begun in 1989 by Todd Loren, commencing with its first (and initially only) series Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics. Each issue of Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics was an unauthorized biography of a rock or pop performer, beginning with Guns N’ Roses in Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics # 1. Eventually billing itself as “unauthorized and proud of it,” Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics survived attempted lawsuits and continued to cover acts ranging from New Kids On The Block to The Sex Pistols.

Rock ‘n’ roll. Comic books. Well! I figured I could write that!

It was probably 1990 or ’91 (no later) when I called Todd Loren to pitch him on the idea of humble li’l me writing for Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics. My writing resumé was a tiny bit fatter than it had been when I pitched to Harvey Comics a few years before, and while it still didn’t include any fiction sales, it did include nonfiction rock writing. And I knew just the band I would most want to cover in Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics. I’m sure you know it, too.

The Monkees.

Loren was not interested in that.

This was a few years after the MTV-fed resurgent Monkeemania of 1986. By the dawn of the ’90s, most folks figured that The Monkees had fully used up their fifteen minutes of fame, and then used it up again, with little likelihood of a third quarter-hour looming. I knew better, at least on an artistic level. I believed that The Monkees’ recorded and pop cultural legacies were underrated, and well deserving of examination and exploration. On those grounds, The Monkees would have been ideal candidates for study in an issue of Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics.

But on a commercial level, in the early ’90s? I have to concede that Loren was probably correct in his decision to pass on the idea. It would have sold in 1986 or ’87; it was, at best, an uncertain prospect in 1990 or ’91. 

With the pitch shot down, I never did any work on the idea of a comic-book biography of The Monkees. If I had been able to do it, I would have wanted it to read in a more compelling manner than the actual issues of Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics I’d seen up to that point. My ability to pull off such an ambition is in question, but I would have hoped to tell the story in a way that somehow incorporated the quick cuts and absurdity of the TV series and recreated them on the printed page, to convey the notion that The Monkees were more than a mere prefab four, that The Monkees were important, that The Monkees mattered.

Loren was a bit more open to my secondary idea of a comic-book biography of The Ramones, but not interested enough to commit to it. We parted amicably, but there was clearly no path there for me to get work with Revolutionary Comics.

Todd Loren

Todd Loren’s own life came to a tragic, lurid end, as he was stabbed to death at home in 1992. Loren was 32 years old, born three days before I was. Loren was gay, and he was (per Wikipedia) “well known in San Diego’s gay social circles.” Those circles included Andrew Cunanin, who later became infamous for committing five (known) murders in 1997, including the murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace. Some have speculated that Cunanin could also have been Loren’s murderer. Loren’s murder case remains unsolved. Cunanin committed suicide before he could be captured, and is now presumed to reside in Hell.

The Revolutionary line (including Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics) continued for a short time after Loren’s death, finally closing up shop in 1994. I had no further contact with Revolutionary after that single phone call to Todd Loren. 

I do still think there’s a market for a Monkees comic book. It may be a niche market, or it may be larger than that, but the market exists; I’m certain of it. The Monkees’ fabulous 2016 album Good Times! was a # 1 hit, fercryinoutloud. Monkees fandom is under-served. We deserve better.


The Monkees’ only latter-day comic-book appearance was a guest spot in The Archies # 4 in 2018, a welcome tribute to the benevolent vibe of Micky, Davy, Peter, and Michael. I wish for an ongoing Monkees comic book series, even if I’m not the one who gets to write it. There should also be a Batman Meets The Monkees story. And I have a specific idea for a Monkees mini-series that I’m a little surprised no one’s proposed yet. I probably won’t have any plausible opportunity to write any of this, but a guy can dream.

Decades after all those failed attempts to break into comics, I’ve finally made my first sales, with three prose short stories sold to AHOY Comics. One of ’em is a rock ‘n’ roll story. I’d still like to write some comics. I have ideas. Some may be worth developing. Some, alas, will remain unfinished and abandoned.

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Fans of pop music will want to check out Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, a new pop compilation benefiting SPARK! Syracuse, the home of This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & CarlTIR’N’RR Allstars–Steve StoeckelBruce GordonJoel TinnelStacy CarsonEytan MirskyTeresa CowlesDan PavelichIrene Peña, Keith Klingensmith, and Rich Firestone–offer a fantastic new version of The Kinks’ classic “Waterloo Sunset.” That’s supplemented by eleven more tracks (plus a hidden bonus track), including previously-unreleased gems from The Click BeetlesEytan MirskyPop Co-OpIrene PeñaMichael Slawter (covering The Posies), and The Anderson Council (covering XTC), a new remix of “Infinite Soul” by The Grip Weeds, and familiar TIRnRR Fave Raves by Vegas With RandolphGretchen’s WheelThe Armoires, and Pacific Soul Ltd. Oh, and that mystery bonus track? It’s exquisite. You need this. You’re buying it from Futureman.
Hey, Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) will contain 100 essays (and then some) about 100 tracks, plus two bonus instrumentals, 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)

Our most recent compilation CDThis Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4 is still 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 FlashcubesChris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins’ BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the CyphersYou gotta have it, so order it here. A digital download version (minus The Smithereens’ track) is also available from Futureman Records

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Boppin'

THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Kid Eternity

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.

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 SpecsWanted, 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?

Duh.

ETERNITY!

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THE EVERLASTING FIRST: The Easybeats

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.

Building upon our influences plays a large role in shaping who we are, and what we become. As a kid in the ’60s, and as a teenager in the ’70s, my personality, and my likes and dislikes, were molded in part by the pop culture I absorbed via TV, comic books, movies, and AM radio. A Hard Day’s Night. BatmanThe Monkees. Pulp paperbacks. Jukeboxes. DC ComicsMarvel ComicsGold Key Comics, all kinds comics. WNDR-and WOLF-AM in Syracuse. Throw in some baseball, some random 45s, some more TV (from Gilligan’s Island to The Guns Of Will Sonnett to Star Trek to Supersonic), some books on World War II, some DisneyMarx Brothers, and Jerry Lewis flicks, and some surreptitious glances at Lorrie Menconi and Barbi Benton in Playboy, and you have a partial portrait of the blogger as a young man.

Y’know, it ain’t polite to stare, mister!

And throw in some rock ‘n’ roll magazines, too. I’ve already written at length about the importance of the ’70s tabloid Phonograph Record Magazine, and I will still have more to write about PRM in future posts. I saw an issue of Circus some time in the mid-’70s, and I fell in love with Suzi Quatro when I saw her on the cover of the Rolling Stone. Later on, I’d immerse myself in Trouser PressCreemNew York RockerRock ScenePunkThe Pig Paper, and also a little thing called Goldmine, for which I freelanced for almost twenty years. But the most important single issue of any rock mag I ever read? No contest; that was the February 1978 issue Bomp! magazine: the power pop issue.

The way I read and re-read and re-re-read that issue, it’s a miracle its cover is still attached. I was 18. I was a fan of The BeatlesThe MonkeesThe KinksThe Raspberries, and The Ramones. I’d just seen The Flashcubes for the first time, so I was already a fan of theirs, too. The power pop issue of Bomp! was Heaven-sent, a manifesto for what I already believed, but couldn’t yet articulate. And its pages contained scores of recommendations for more acts I should check out as a nascent power pop acolyte, bands like The Flamin’ Groovies (whom I’d already heard, but needed to hear more), The CreationThe Dwight Twilley Band, and The Nerves; and there was quite a bit of coverage of some band called Big Star, and some group from the ’60s: an Australian band named The Easybeats.

Greg Shaw and Gary Sperrazza!, the auteurs behind Bomp!‘s power pop extravaganza, cited The Easybeats alongside The Kinks and The Who as power pop’s founding fathers. That’s pretty heady company to keep, so I certainly wanted to learn more about The Easybeats. If there were any Easybeats records in print in the U.S. in ’78, I wasn’t aware of them; I don’t think I could even find an Oldies 45 reissue of the group’s lone American hit, “Friday On My Mind.” So Easy Fever had to be deferred for me.

It may seem odd in retrospect that I’d never heard “Friday On My Mind,” but I don’t think I had. I finally heard it in–I think–the summer of ’78. Tip-A-Few, a bar on James Street in Eastwood, specialized in playing oldies while thirsty patrons tipped a few (or, sometimes, more than a few). The DJs at Tip-A-Few were armed with a massive collection of 45s–no need for LPs, because they would only play hit oldies–and I was there with decent frequency, tippin’ a few while requesting singles by Gene Pitney, The Beau BrummelsThe Knickerbockers, and The Fireballs. And, one night, I requested “Friday On My Mind” by The Easybeats.

I liked it, of course, It wasn’t immediately revelatory, but it was catchy rock ‘n’ roll music, and that was fine by me. That fall, I picked up a used copy of David Bowie‘s covers album, Pin Ups, which contained the former Mr. Jones’ take on “Friday On My Mind.” That track was, in fact, the very thing that prompted me to buy my first Bowie album, so yes indeed, thank you, Easybeats! I did eventually score an Oldies 45 of The Easybeats’ “Friday On My Mind,” a record which I grew to love more and more with each easy spin.

It took me a while to expand my Easybeats stash beyond that one 7″ single. In the mid-’80s, Rhino Records‘ The Best Of The Easybeats rewarded me with a glimpse into the true and enduring greatness of The Easybeats. “Friday On My Mind” was their only Stateside hit, and on some days I’ll agree it was their best track. But most days, I’ll dig in my heels, and I’ll insist, Yeah, “Friday On My Mind” is great, but “Sorry” is better!  “Sorry” struck me as the perfect melding of The Monkees and the early Who, so sign me up for a new religion based on those Australian pop gods, The Easybeats. “Good Times.” “Made My Bed (Gonna Lie In It).” “St. Louis.” “She’s So Fine.” “Sorry.” “Friday On My Mind.” Scripture. Chapter. Verse. Easy!

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FAKE BANDS! Professional (and also amateur) Liar Creates Rock ‘n’ Roll Groups

For someone who can’t sing, write songs, produce records, or play any instruments, I’ve created a fair number of musical acts. I’m not talking about fantasy air guitar combos–though I have a bunch of those, too–but fictional musicians I’ve used or intended to use in stuff I write. Yeah, I’m a regular Raybert (and only Monkees fans will get that reference). Here are a few of the musicmakers I’ve created: 

GUITARS VS. RAYGUNS

After decades of nonfiction freelancing, my first fiction sale was my short story “Guitars Vs. Rayguns,” purchased and published by the good folks at AHOY Comics. The story namechecks a number of real-life acts, from Chuck Berry to the Ramones, but the planet-hopping group at the center of it all is never identified. Well, folks, they call themselves Guitars Vs. Rayguns. Obviously. This was intended as a one-off story, until an AHOY fan wrote a letter to the editor wishing for more. So, I’m working on it. I’ve had no discussions with AHOY about this yet, and I may never get around to writing it. Keep watching the skies.

COPPER 

Other than (presumed) shared reference points, my character of Copper has nothing to do with this Jaime Hernandez illustration from the great Love And Rockets comics.

Copper is a 17-year-old punk bassist in the mid 1980s, and she’s the star of my most recent short story sale, “Chaos At The Copperhead Club.”  That story has been purchased but not yet published by AHOY, and is in the same shared continuity as my previous stories “The Last Ride Of The Copperhead Kid,” “The Copperhead Strikes!,” and “The Copperhead Affair.” Copper’s band is not named in the story, so let’s name ’em now: please welcome to the stage Copper and the Pit Vipers!

THE DUST BUNNYS

Fabricated power pop group the Dust Bunnys kicked bassist Jenny Woo out of the band–and through the window of a high-rise building–at the start of Eternity Man!, my proposed rock ‘n’ roll time travel superhero novel. Don’t worry! She’s one of the stars of the novel, so it’s no spoiler to say that she’s immediately saved by Eternity Man himself. I wrote the first five chapters of Eternity Man! before setting it aside. It’s not necessarily abandoned, as I often sketch out ideas, leave them alone, and then return to them weeks, months, or years later. Hell, Eternity Man!‘s fourth chapter includes my first public mention of the Copperhead Kid, long before I wrote and sold “The Last Ride Of The Copperhead Kid.” Some ideas have an expiration date; some do not.

In that first chapter of Eternity Man!, our Jenny mentions previous stints in some other fictional combos: Elegant Cream Vehiclethe Lemming PipersAttica’s Finch, and Warriors of Romance. A friend of mine came up with the name “Elegant Cream Vehicle,” and I came up with the others. 

Elegant Cream Vehicle and Daddy’s Soul Donut (a name also suggested by a friend, taken from an episode of The Simpsons) turned up (alongside Archie’s Band, who were from  Queens, not Riverdale) in this trifle. And Warriors of Romance well predate Eternity Man! What was the action-packed, pulse-pounding origin of Warriors of Romance? Face Front, True Believer:

WARRIORS OF ROMANCE

In the ’80s, when I was scrambling to try to write professionally, one of my many, many stillborn concepts was Marvel Girl, intended as a new character with a familiar name. Marvel Comics‘ original Marvel Girl had been Jean Grey, a founding member of the uncanny X-Men; Jean had been upgraded to a new identity as Phoenix, so I figured Marvel might need a new Marvel Girl to retain its trademark. Helpful? That’s me! I also tried to concoct a new Supergirl for DC Comics for the same reason. Neither notion even got as far as a draft proposal, both existing only as figures in my sketch book.

Marvel Girl would have been Debbie McCullagh, aka Debbie Mack, drummer for a struggling psychedelic group called (you guessed it) Warriors of Romance. Memory suggests I intended her to have Superman level powers, but with the powers only manifesting either as needed or sporadically (a notion possibly inspired by the Hulk or the original SHAZAM!-shouting Captain Marvel). The idea was not thought through, and was never executed. ‘Nuff said.

WILLINGTON BLUE, SKIP KELLER

Willington Blue and Skip Keller were characters in my unsold short story “Home Of The Hits” (formerly “Hitcore”). I had high hopes for this one, and I was surprised that it was rejected. The story references a previous group that included auteur Blue, and songwriter/record label contractor Keller is mentioned as having been in a boy band, but neither act is named.  

THE SHAMBLES

Yeah, I’m aware that there is a terrific real-life recording act called the Shambles, but I hope Bart Mendoza will forgive me for coming up with the same name independently in 1979. My set o’ Shambles was concocted for a lackluster entry in the journal I kept for a college class called Fantasy And Science Fiction. It was terrible. The actual Shambles are much, much better.

BEN ARNOLD AND THE TURNCOATS

Aw, this one never had any chance in hell of happening, but I wish it did. Ben Arnold and the Turncoats were the mid ’60s American rock ‘n’ roll group at the heart of The Beat And The Sting, my idea for a comic book mini-series based on the 1966 TV version of The Green Hornet. I particularly like Kato‘s line that the Turncoats’ hit “You Won’t Get Me” is derivative of the Kinks, and Britt Reid‘s preference for being more of an Al Hirt man. I posted a blurb for the idea, and the first few script pages, but it doesn’t make sense for me to continue it as fanfic. Another challenge for the Green Hornet? Sadly, not this time.

AND THE REST!

Those are the ones I’ve used in…something. There are others attached to projects too embryonic to discuss here: the Frantiksthe Ragtagsthe Limey FruitsButterscotch Peacemongersthe Terry Legendthe Broken ThingsRock Lobster, and Bright Lights. Those all require more rehearsal and woodshedding before they hit the stage. If they ever hit the stage.

And a-one, and a-two…!

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THE LOVEABLE LUNKHEAD RETURNS

This was originally distributed privately to patrons of this blog on December 1st, 2018. This is its first public appearance. You can become a patron and support Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do) for just $2 a month.
A recent online exchange about DC Comics Silver Age characters, cosmic crisis crossovers, and a popular real-life entertainment figure who starred in his own long-running DC Comics title inspired this flight of fancy. 

It was yet another crisis. You’d think such things would be rare, but they seemed to happen every summer, sometimes even more frequently. The world, the universe, multiple universes in danger, and the superheroes must save us. Worlds will live. Worlds will die. The universes will never be the same. Again. And again. And again.

But this crisis was different. This time, they invited me.

I’m usually excluded from these things. I used to be as big a star in our four-color world as any of the big guys. I don’t mean just my (if you must) “real” world counterpart, the comedy legend with the telethons and the movies and the temper, the adoring fans in France, the gurgled cries of LAAAAAAAAAYdeeeeeee! I mean me–the comic-book me–mingling with the Caped Crusaders and the Man of Steel, the Amazon Princess, the Scarlet Speedster. I was the Lovable Lunkhead. I met the prettiest girls. I had amazing, silly adventures, and the kids kept coming back for more, every other month. I did all right: Forty issues with my martini-guzzling ex-partner, and then 84 more–that’s 84!–without him, a total of 124 issues from 1952 to 1971, That was a longer sustained success than most of the superheroes in the freakin’ League, man. I was a king of comedy in the funnybooks.

Funnybooks. Nobody calls ‘em that anymore. No one wants any comic in their comic books. They just want another crisis. The real me was celebrated. Comic-book me was forgotten.

I don’t know what made this crisis du jour unique from the infinite previous crises. Maybe because all the heavy hitters were taken off the table before the action even started, out of commission at the hands of a mysterious grandmaster pitting champion against champion for the fate of all reality. Or something like that—I’ve never really understood the macguffins tossed around in these secret superwar things. I only knew that I’d been called to battle, as had dozens of presumably lesser heroes. It was like sending in the walk-ons during an NCAA basketball tournament. The bench was empty; we were the last hope standing.

I’m not a fighter. I’d tell you I never shied from a fight, but one look at my flailing panic in desperate situations would expose that lie. We chosen champions (such as we were) were supposed to fight each other—God knows why—in order to save the multiverse or some such mishigas. Most of the others were bona fide superheroes and adventurers; they expected me, a comic-book avatar of a popular film comedian, to compete with that? Oy….

My pesky nephew Renfrew and my housekeeper Witch Kraft accompanied me, though Renfrew disappeared immediately—knowing him, I figured the little monster was probably working up a high-stakes gambling pool—while Witchy zeroed in on some hero’s sturdy sidekick to flirt with. Everyone presumed I’d be dusted in the first round; presumed I’d be dusted in the first round. This never happened to Buddy Love, man.

My first opponent was a superhero, a stalwart member of a whole Legion of such people, but get this: his super power? He could eat anything. That’s it, I swear, hand to God. He could eat metal bars, walls, and plants and birds and rocks and things. Especially rocks. Man, even I wasn’t afraid of that. He charged at me, and I bent down to tie the loose laces of my sneakers. Safety first. Mr. matter-eatin’ boy overshot, and went careening into our picnic table, landing face-first into Witch Kraft’s Super Secret Recipe mocha, jalapeño, and sardine potato salad á la mode. Even an ability to eat anything wasn’t enough to spare my opponent the gastronomic indignity of that concoction, and I had won my first round.

Then I won my second. And my third. My fourth…?! Crazy. I would trip and my opponent would knock him- or herself out. Slapstick is my super power. I made it to the final round, and I knew that would have to be the end of the line for me.

Why? Because my opponent in the final was the daughter of that badass Dark Knight guy and the buxom cat burglar who used to cause strange stirrings in his utility belt. Trust me; it was a thing that led to a fling, and a second-generation superhero. Little Miss Batcat was one of the fiercest hand-to-hand fighters ever known. My luck had run out for sure.

She whispered something in my ear before the battle. At first, I was thinking to myself, You smooth Don Juan–if only Dean could see you now! But then I heard what she was saying, and I understood my role.

I came out fuming. Bellowing! Beating my chest and swaggering the swagger of the clueless and doomed. She remained tightlipped, all business, making it look good. I tried to make it look good, but my sheer haplessness hampered my façade. I nearly decked myself, not once, not twice, but three times, oh LAAAYdeee! She rolled her eyes behind her mask, but managed to keep saving me from myself. Finally, I seemed to have gotten in a lucky shot, and she crumpled to the ground, apparently defeated.

I had won.

I HAD WON!

The crowd was speechless, dumbfounded. From behind a cosmic curtain, the hidden orchestrator of this contest emerged, masked and hooded, hopping mad. YOU?!, he cried in anguish. YOU won this double-bag super-duper crossover crisis mega event? YOU? He was much shorter than I would have expected a cosmic criminal mastermind to be. I lost a friggin’ FORTUNE in bets on this! YOU WERE AT A BILLION TO ONE ODDS! The only way I can maybe break even is to destroy the universe and do a reboot…ULP!

The miscreant’s dastardly soliloquy was cut short by a savage blow from my former opponent, the Batcat chick. Yeah, she’d thrown the game, but for noble purpose, giving herself the opportunity to play possum and then get close enough to bring the bad guy down. With the dramatic flourish of a true comic book champion, she unmasked the mastermind as…

…Renfrew? MY NEPHEW RENFREW…?!

That kid just ain’t right in the head. Another get-rich gambling scheme. Ponzi had nothing on Renfrew, lemme tell ya. And rest assured: after Witchy and I got Renfrew home, he wasn’t able to sit down for a solid week.

The crisis was over. The vanquished champions recovered, and even more champions from across the multiverse showed up for the after-party. Hell, I think Dean was there, which was my cue to exit. Always leave ‘em wanting more.

I don’t get to participate in crises. Maybe that’s best. I’m a hero—no, scratch that, not a hero. I’m a comic book star from a different time. Fans look back and think because people laughed I must have been a joke. But I wasn’t a joke. I was an A-list star. Readers loved me, and my comic book ran for almost twenty years. They were good comics, too. It’s a shame so few will ever read them again. So I fade away. There’s no dark and gritty revamp of me. There’s no back-to-basics retread, no breathless hype that everything you thought you knew about the Lovable Lunkhead is wrong. There’s just the memories. I’d thank you for those, but that line belonged to another comedian turned comic book star. Instead, I sing: When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high. You’ll never walk alone.

Oh. And I have a hot date tonight with the Batcat chick. The ladies still dig a guy that can make ‘em laugh. The Lovable Lunkhead rises. The Lovable Lunkhead returns.

***

Thanks to Michal Jacotfor providing the spark.

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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-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. A digital download version (minus The Smithereens’ track) is also available from Futureman Records.

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THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Doc Savage, Man of Bronze!

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 wish I could remember where or how I first heard of Doc Savage. In the early ’70s, even before reading about The Man of Bronze in Steranko‘s History Of The Comics, I somehow already knew Doc was a precursor to Superman. But I hadn’t had any exposure to the character, and I knew nothing at all about him.

When I was 11 or 12, maybe as old as 13 or thereabouts, I would occasionally help my Dad when he worked in the visitors’ clubhouse at MacArthur Stadium. MacArthur was the home of our AAA baseball team the Syracuse Chiefs, and Dad ran the clubhouse for the visiting team’s players. Dad was responsible for keeping the place clean and stocked, unpacking the players’ uniforms and arranging their individual lockers, and making sure there was an ample supply of food and beverage. Dad did this for years and years, and it was something he loved doing. This connection also gave me an opportunity to meet Mickey MantleJoe DiMaggio, and Whitey Ford, among others. My older brothers had helped Dad at the clubhouse in previous years, so I also gave it a shot when I grew old enough to try.

God. I was inept.

My recollection is that Dad was pretty patient with my woeful efforts to do the damned job. I tried, but I was just too slow. Still, I spent a lot of time at the ballpark, and I unearthed a few treasures in my spare moments. I found an old Detroit Tigers uniform, which I combined with a skull mask one year to create a Halloween costume as The Ghost Of Ty Cobb. And one day, I found a paperback novel: specifically, a Doc Savage novel, The Land Of Terror by Kenneth Robeson.

I had never read a pulp novel before. My heroes were the heroes of comic books, with strict codes against killing. So I was surprised to read this early Doc Savage adventure, and to see our hero Doc dispense with a bad guy. Permanently. Clearly, this was not how The Justice League of America would handle things!

Subsequently, I learned that the character of Doc Savage would himself regret this early use of fatal force, and would later eschew killing entirely. This copy of The Land Of Terror was missing a page, but it served as my initiation into a whole new world of heroic fiction, a world in which I would immerse myself through much of the ’70s.

Doc Savage had flourished originally in the 1930s and ’40s, the star of his own pulp magazine. Each issue of Doc Savage featured a complete purple-prose pulp adventure novel, credited to the Kenneth Robeson pseudonym, and usually written by main Doc Savage scribe Lester Dent. In the ’60s, Bantam Books began a very successful line of Doc Savage paperback novels, each book reprinting one of Doc’s old pulp adventures, generally wrapped in a stunning new cover painted by James Bama. Bama’s chiseled, gritty rendition of Doc looked nothing like Doc’s original likeness in the pulps, but it was irresistible, and it sold a lot of paperbacks.


I couldn’t tell you the name of my second Doc Savage novel, but I sure read a bunch of ’em. My parents even got me a box of them as my Christmas gift one year, and that was really cool. As noted above, I read more about the history of pulp magazines in Steranko’s History Of The Comics, and learned about just how much Doc Savage influenced the creation of Superman, right down to both characters having the same first name (“Clark Savage, Jr., meet Clark Kent. Kent, Savage. Savage, Kent.”). The Man of Bronze and the Man of Steel even shared a fondness for Arctic retreats, which they both referred to as a Fortress of Solitude. Doc’s fightin’ entourage, which Bantam hype referred to as “The Fabulous Five,” was also a big influence on both Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, especially on their earliest work with The Fantastic Four.

Given how much Superman and Batman lifted from Doc Savage and The Shadow, it’s amazing Street & Smith never sued DC Comics  for copyright infringement. I mean, DC sued Fawcett Comics with less justification, claiming Fawcett’s hero Captain Marvel copied Superman.

Doc Savage’s paperback success was sufficient to prompt Marvel Comics to license the character for his own comic book series in 1972, and a feature film, Doc Savage: The Man Of Bronze, was released in 1975. I liked the comic books, and really wanted to see the movie (starring Ron Ely, who had been TV’s Tarzan in the ’60s), but I don’t know if it even played in Syracuse. My cousins in Florida saw it and loved it, but reports that it was a campy take on the character dimmed my enthusiasm. I have yet to be able to sit through the film in its entirety.

I never exactly lost interest in Doc Savage, but I did kind of move on. The Shadow became my favorite pulp character, manifested in a terrific DC Comics series and some paperback pulp reprints courtesy of Pyramid Books. Bantam’s Doc Savage books had those gorgeous James Bama covers, but Pyramid’s Shadow books offered equally eye-popping cover paintings by Steranko. The ’70s were a golden age of vintage paperback pulp, with Doc and The Shadow joined on drugstore spinner racks by the likes of The AvengerTarzan(with cover art by my then-favorite comics artist, Neal Adams), The PhantomFlash GordonThe Lone RangerOperator 5, and G-8 And His Battle Aces. I can’t tell you how much I loved this stuff at the age of 15. I wanted there to be new Batman pulp novels, and I wanted to write pulp novels. In high school, I wrote two short stories starring The Shadow for publication in The NorthCaster, and I even started writing a pulp novel called The Snowman. (The only decent, original pulp work I ever finished writing remains The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze, which was completed for this blog.)

But it all started with a Doc Savage paperback, a battered little book I discovered when I probably should have been cleaning or sweeping or unpacking a visiting player’s bag. That was my Fortress of Solitude.

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