THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Quick Takes For J (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 love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

THE JOKER

JUSTICE, INC.

My mid-’70s fascination with paperback reprints of 1930s Doc Savage pulp adventures led me to The Shadow, and to The Avenger, a lesser-known pulp hero also credited to Doc Savage’s presumed creator, Kenneth Robeson. Robeson was a house name at Doc’s publishing company Street & Smith, a pseudonym used by any writer working on Doc Savage’s adventures, including Lester Dent, the writer recognized as Doc’s main scribe. Dent, along with The Shadow’s creator Walter Gibson, are said to have been involved with The Avenger’s creation in an advisory capacity, but the origin and subsequent stories in The Avenger were mostly written by Paul Ernst, writing as Robeson. The Avenger‘s stories were exciting–even better than Doc Savage, as I recall–featuring the exploits of Richard Benson, a hero with the ability to change his appearance. In the wake of a devastating tragedy, Benson transformed from a wealthy prick into The Avenger, and formed Justice, Inc., his own little crime-fighting combo. Unique among pulp series of the day, Justice, Inc. included a black couple–Josh and Rosabel Newton–who were portrayed as intelligent, courageous, capable members of The Avengers’ team, rather than as the derogatory racial stereotypes prevalent at the time. In the ’70s, DC Comics licensed The Avenger for a comic book series; to avoid confusion with rival Marvel Comics‘ superhero book The Avengers, DC released these new Avenger adventures under the title Justice, Inc.

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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. 

THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Quick Takes For H

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.

HELLCAT

I was reading The Avengers regularly in 1975-76, when writer Steve Englehart brought the character of Patsy Walker into the mix. I don’t think I’d read any issues of Marvel‘s Patsy Walker teen humor comic book in the ’60s, nor had I seen Patsy’s more serious appearances as a supporting character in The Beast (starring in Amazing Adventures). I had seen Marvel’s short-lived Claws Of The Cat book, so I recognized the costume Walker donned in The Avengers # 144, which was Patsy Walker’s first appearance as Hellcat. Decades later, I was several episodes into Marvel’s Jessica Jones TV series on Netflix before I realized that the character “Trish Walker” was Patsy Walker, albeit without the Hellcat identity.

THE HOLLIES

“Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress” was yet another of my many favorite songs on the radio in the early ’70s. I didn’t remember any of The Hollies’ ’60s hits from when I was younger, but I sure loved this song. My interest in The Hollies expanded as I began to explore more oldies radio, and I picked up a copy of The Very Best Of The Hollies outta the cut-out bin at Gerber Music in Penn Can Mall. Granted, it didn’t include “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress,” but it did have “Bus Stop,””Look Through Any Window,””Stop, Stop, Stop,””I Can’t Let Go,” and “On A Carousel,” among others, so I was in Heaven. I also picked up the soundtrack to the David Essex movie Stardust out of the dingy basement at Record Revolution in Cleveland Heights, and that contained The Hollies’ “Carrie Anne.” And, after all these years, I still don’t care about The Hollies’ 1974 hit “The Air That I Breathe.”

HOLLY & THE ITALIANS

In 1981, Creem magazine described Holly & the Italians’ debut album The Right To Be Italian as something like Lesley Gore or The Angels backed by Leave Home-era Ramones. Well, was sold! I first heard Holly & the Italians on a CBS Records various-artists collection called Exposed II, which included “Rock Against Romance” and the group’s signature tune, “Tell That Girl To Shut Up.” A Holly & the Italians flexi-disc was also included with one of my subscription copies of Trouser Press magazine, and I bought a copy of The Right To Be Italian (with a water-damaged cover) from a record store in New York. The Right To Be Italian remains one of my all-time Top 25 albums.

HOT WHEELS

I was a big fan of Mattel‘s Hot Wheels cars–my first Hot Wheels car was Splittin Image–and I liked the 1969 cartoon TV series on ABC. DC Comics licensed the rights to adapt the TV series, and these were some really well-done comics, with stunning artwork from Alex Toth and (in its final issue) Neal Adams.  DC’s Hot Wheels comic ran for only six issues, and the daunting prospect of trying to navigate the Sargasso Sea of licensing complications will likely prevent it from ever being reprinted.

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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
Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio:  CD or download

I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.

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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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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Boppin'

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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Double Take

Michael B. Jordan / Nick Cannon

We’ve always thought that actor Michael B. Jordan, whose film credits include Red Tails, The Fantastic Four and Black Panther, looks more than a bit like professional host, Nick Cannon.