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.

I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl

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.

If you like what you see here on Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do), please consider supporting this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon, or by visiting CC’s Tip Jar. Additional products and projects are listed here.

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.

I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl

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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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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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

Batman in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD (Annotated)

Following up on my recent post The Notebook Notions: Batman in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, here’s a slightly expanded look at what DC superstars would appear as guests in each issue of this imaginary twelve-part series.

When editor Murray Boltinoff and writer Bob Haney planned out what would happen in The Brave And The Bold in the ’60s and ’70s, I would presume they picked a guest star first. My fancies here started out that way for the first seven chapters; for the four final chapters, I switched to story idea first, as I expanded on the notion of all of this as an inter-related serial. Chapter 8 was a last-minute add-on.

I rejected a few ideas along the way. “World’s Finest!” would have been a gathering of the Superman family (Lois LaneJimmy Olsen, and Supergirl, plus the Man of Steel himself) and the Batman family (Robin and Batgirl), a nod to the Superman Family and Batman Family series DC ran in the mid ’70s. “A Piece Of The Outer Space Action” was originally a DC Comics Presents idea, teaming Superman and Green Lantern in a story concocted specifically so the villain could channel Donovan while protesting, “Superman and Green Lantern ain’t got nothin’ on me, see?” I am too cute for casual description, but my mind couldn’t see that as a Batman story. A Justice League of America story called “The Trial Of Dr. Light!” was actually among my many failed DC submissions, and it didn’t fit here, nor did Batman solo stories “Nightmare Resurrection” and “The Day I Met The Batman.” I considered “Bounty Hunter’s Back In Town,” reprising a one-off hired assassin created by Haney for The Brave And The Bold # 101, and “When Gotham Freezes Over,” continuing Mr. Freeze‘s quest for revenge from “The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze.” The latter story would have to be told in this series, but could be chronicled within the events of the later chapters.

Among the other guest stars I considered for this hypothetical B & B exercise: Jimmy Olsen, Blue BeetleThe Crimson AvengerThe Martian ManhunterThe Challengers of the UnknownDolphinKid EternityDoll Man, and The Seven Soldiers Of Victory. Now, let’s have a look at the twelve chapters I decided to include.

BATMAN & AQUAMAN:
“The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze”
The only chapter I’ve ever completed, and I’m crazy, stupid proud of it. I think this can stand alone as a purple prose Batman pulp short, but it also serves as the spark for this series.

BATMAN & WONDER WOMAN:
“Paradise Does Not Believe In Tears”
My satisfaction with “The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze” led me to think about expanding that storyline. Picking up on Steve Trevor‘s cameo in the Mr. Freeze story made Wonder Woman a logical candidate to guest star in Chapter Two, for which I wrote a teaser intro. I also wanted to incorporate the amoral Ruby Ryder, whom Haney created for The Brave And The Bold # 95, one of my favorite issues. Ryder appeared in several subsequent issues of B & B, and I think she’s the only B & B-specific supporting character Haney ever re-used.

BATMAN & SHAZAM!
“Between Arkham And Eternity”
The billing says “Shazam, ” but we’re referring to The World’s Mightiest Mortal, the original Captain Marvel. I became a fan of Captain Marvel in the early ’70s, and ol’ Cap was likely the guest star I would have most wished to see in The Brave And The Bold. In an interview many years later, B & B artist Jim Aparo agreed that he would have enjoyed drawing Captain Marvel (or, even better, Cap’s younger pal Captain Marvel Junior) in B & B, and didn’t know why that never happened. I suspect licensing concerns may have complicated things: DC was still just leasing the character from original publisher Fawcett Comics at the time, and wouldn’t get around to owning the character outright until the ’90s, I think.

BATMAN & THE SANDMAN
“Bring Me No Dreams”
Golden Age comics greats Joe Simon and Jack Kirby reunited for the 1974 one-shot The Sandman # 1, starring a new titular character with no connection to the previous DC hero of the same name. It was very goofy, very out of place in the milieu of ’70s superhero comics, but it had an energy that was sorta kinda fun. From what I’ve read elsewhere, I gather that some glitch in sales reports led DC honchos to the erroneous conclusion that The Sandman # 1 was a smash hit on the spinner racks, prompting an order to series. Neither Simon nor Kirby stuck around for the unexpected second issue, leaving the reins to writer Michael Fleisher and artists Ernie Chua and Mike Royer. Kirby returned with the fourth issue, and Neil Gaiman much later incorporated the character as a tangent to his own acclaimed Sandman series. Writer Len Wein provided my favorite use of the character in 1983’s Justice League Of America Annual # 1.

BATMAN & RIMA THE JUNGLE GIRL
“Welcome To The Jungle”
As comics sales seemed destined to dwindle to a vast and empty void throughout the ’70s, DC publisher Carmine Infantino scrambled to find ways to scrounge up sales, trying different formats, different genres, any damned thing that might stick. One half expected a new DC title called The Kitchen Sink. Jungle girls (particularly the iconic Sheena, Queen Of The Jungle) had been popular in comics in the ’40s; Marvel Comics started its own latter-day Sheena counterpart Shanna The She Devil in 1972. Rima the Jungle Girl was a public domain character, from the 1904 novel Green Mansions by W. H. Hudson. Artist Nestor Redondo rendered Rima as a strikingly beautiful character in the DC comics version, while still avoiding the cheesecake good girl art style of the classic Sheena. Batman and Rima would be an odd team-up indeed, probably involving time travel, and (if I were writing it) definitely featuring Poison Ivy as the big bad.

BATMAN & ?
“The Phantom Of Gotham City”

No, it ain’t The Riddler (though maybe I should make him the villain of the piece, just ‘cuz). The mystery guest-star concept of “Batman And ?” was first used in The Brave And The Bold  # 95 (the same issue that introduced Ruby Ryder), and reprised for The Brave And The Bold # 150. At this time, I have no intention of telling you who my Super Secret Mystery Guest Star would be. I will say that I’m playing fair with the selection itself: it’s a DC Comics character, one who was part of DC continuity in the mid ’70s milieu I’ve chosen for this Brave And Bold project. And ’70s B & B letter columns indicated that there had been requests for this character to appear as B & B co-star, requests that were never answered…until NOW! Sort of. Fans familiar with Silver Age DC continuity might find a clue in the “Phantom” part of this story’s title. That’s all you’re gettin’ outta me about it today.


BATMAN & THE BLACK ORCHID
“Who Is The Black Orchid?”
The Black Orchid‘s three cover-featured appearances in Adventure Comics made her a star in my eyes, and I followed her subsequent appearances as a back-up strip in The Phantom Stranger. The Black Orchid’s true identity was a mystery, to crooks and to readers, and I always figured this had to be a job for the World’s Greatest Detective, Batman. In her original ’70s incarnation, The Black Orchid never interacted with the rest of the DC universe, though I think writer E. Nelson Bridwell, bless ‘im, used her–and Rima the Jungle Girl!–in Super Friends.

BATMAN, OMAC & SGT. ROCK
“Our One Man Army At War”
As noted above, this was a last-minute choice, and I began to second-guess it immediately. OMAC–Jack Kirby’s One Man Army Corps–much, much later became a large part of Batman and DCU continuity, though I would ignore all of that here. But I don’t feel any real affinity for the idea either. “One Man Army Corps” put me in mind of DC’s long-running war book Our Army At War, and its star (and frequent Batman B & B co-star) Sgt. Rock. Rock doesn’t work for me outside of a World War II setting, so the only Batman-Sgt. Rock team-up I really liked was the first one, 1969’s “The Angel, The Rock And The Cowl” in B & B # 84, which was set in WWII. (I didn’t see B & B # 162 until years later; it was published in 1980, during the brief period when this cash-strapped college student stopped buying comics altogether. Its Batman-Sgt. Rock story also went back to the ’40s, but it was written by Bill Kelley, not Haney.)

BATMAN & THE SPECTRE
“The Judgement Of Gotham”
One of my favorite characters since I was a kid, the ghostly avenger The Spectre replaced The Black Orchid as the star of Adventure Comics in a new series of stories by Michael Fleisher and Jim Aparo, stories which became notorious for their grim and gritty revenge fantasies. Brrrr! “The Judgement Of Gotham” was a title in my original notebook notions of half-baked story ideas, and it was intended to introduce my new villain Torquemada, a fire ‘n’ brimstone zealot determined to cleanse Gotham’s sins in a funeral pyre. The Spectre vs Torquemada? A match made in Purgatory!

BATMAN & THE JOKER
“The Death Of The Joker”
One of the many little bits that delighted me in the creation of “The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze” was my idea of The Joker putting himself into a catatonic state at will, allowing himself an opportunity to re-invent himself according to whatever his mad whims dictate. A line early in “Paradise Does Not Believe In Tears” tells us that The Joker had awakened from his slumber, but had been affected by the emotional miasma felt worldwide at that first story’s climax. What if this made The Joker…sane? What if it gave him a soul, a conscience, and an overwhelming sense of guilt over his own murderous actions? What if The Joker felt that, in penance, it was time for him to die?

And what if The Batman disagreed?

BATMAN & HIS GREATEST FOES
“A Superstitious And Cowardly Lot”
The events of both “The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze” and “The Death Of The Joker” would culminate in “A Superstitious And Cowardly Lot,” a free-for-all finding Batman battling alongside some of his enemies, including The Riddler, Poison Ivy, The PenguinTwo-Face, and Catwoman.

BATMAN & 4 FAMOUS CO-STARS
“Hope In Crime Alley”

Writer Dennis O’Neil‘s “There Is No Hope In Crime Alley” (Detective Comics # 457, cover-dated March 1976) is one of the all-time classic Batman stories, a perfect balance of the tragedy that birthed The Batman and the undying hope that belies the story’s title. There is hope, or at least there can be, even in dark circumstances. The original story introduced Leslie Tompkins, a woman who comforted young Bruce Wayne in the moments after he’d witnessed his parents’ murders. Tompkins has been brought back in many, many later stories, but “There Is No Hope In Crime Alley” is the only time her character was ever done right. In my opinion. Harrumph.

I can’t say whether or not my own indirect sequel “Hope In Crime Alley” would render Tompkins correctly, but the story would build on the feeling of hope Gotham needs after all that its citizens have been through in the year since Mr. Freeze attempted and failed to conquer death. The “4 Famous Co-Stars” billing was first used for The Brave And The Bold # 100, then referring to Robin, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Black Canary. Here, our fab four is Wildcat (opening a youth gym in the Crime Alley neighborhood, to help give direction and purpose to the children of its streets), Plastic Man (using his own experience as a reformed criminal to inspire marginal individuals to better themselves), Robin the Teen Wonder (to help his mentor retain the hope he needs), and Wonder Woman (because…well, that would be telling). Challenges would arise. Despair would threaten. Hope would prevail. The Batman, as always, will make damned sure of that.

And there’s my twelve-part fantasy edition of The Brave And The Bold. And though it’s been said many times, many ways, it bears repeating: B & B seeing you!

In this issue, a future blogger identified as “Carl Cafrelli” suggests Batman be teamed with The Shadow. I do not recall making that request. And no, The Shadow is not the co-star in “The Phantom Of Gotham City.”

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Categories
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.

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.

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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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.

Give Me A Head With Hair, Long Quarantine Hair

As quarantine restrictions ease, I am still not in the merest hurry to get a haircut. My hair is now longer than it’s been since the mid ’80s, when I was managing a record store. Actually, it may even be longer than it was back then. If not, it’s close. It’s bushy and cascading, curly, voluminous. I’m still just about bald on top, mind you, but I have an increasingly lengthy mane nonetheless.

My reluctance to have someone go all Delilah on li’l ol’ Samson me has less to do with COVID concerns and much more to do with my…well, I guess with my satisfaction with my current shaggy ‘do. It feels good to have hair, the follically-challenged part of my North 40 notwithstanding. In times like these, any little trifle that can make us feel better is welcome, no matter how superficial that feeling may be.

As a boy in the 1960s, my hair was short. Every boy’s hair was short. Longer hair was for girls, unless you were either The Beatles or The Mighty Thor; the former was a pretty exclusive club, and the latter wasn’t from around here. As The Rolling StonesThe Monkees, and the male contingent within The Jefferson Airplane further modeled and popularized the idea of lengthier locks for the older boys (and The Monkees probably did more for that cause than anyone else, just via the mainstreaming familiarity of starring on a weekly TV show), those of us still in elementary school retained our exposed ears and close-to-the-head styling, and I doubt many (maybe any) of my peers objected. I never had a buzz-cut, but regular trips to the barber were routine, expected. Normal. The thought of having longer hair never even occurred to me.

(That said, I hated going to the barber. Sitting still was not what I did best, but my regular barber got the job done. I remember visiting a different guy exactly once, and he kept getting annoyed with me, and he kept forcefully jerking my head into position. Bastard. A session with any barber, including my regular guy, left my neck and shoulders itchy, as stray bits of short ‘n’ sharp debris nestled under my collar and under my shirt. On the bright side, my regular barber had comic books for me to read while I awaited my turn to be shorn. And afterward, I liked to run my hand against the grain of the hair just above the nape of my neck, the bristly light resistance providing a unique and fulfilling closure to the process of a haircut.)

Things changed in the ’70s. I was still as four-cornered as they come, but even a square such as I wasn’t immune to a shift in prevailing fashion, as longer hair become more and more common for guys. My barber became a hair stylist, a transformation no less remarkable than Clark Kent entering a nearby phonebooth and emerging as Superman. Dad was still not gonna allow me to start looking like a hippie or a rock star, but the accepted look of male grooming evolved anyway. By eighth grade, I decided that I would have long hair and a beard when I grew up. By high school, while still beardless and not much shaggier than Paul McCartney circa ten years prior, I was using a blow dryer regularly. 
Punk rock hit as I transitioned from high school to college. The Ramones had long hair, but the prevailing image for most of the young punks was the short and spiky hairdo. Over time, this replaced my ’70s notion of stylin’ like Haight-Ashbury. I never quite got to looking like Sid Vicious, and settled instead for a power-pop hybrid that aped the pre-1967 Beatles. It always comes back to The Beatles, man.

The jobs I had from 1978 to 1984 did not favor tresses hanging much over my ears. The record store job was different. My hair grew to the point that customers remarked that I looked like Neil Diamond. That ended in 1986 when I got a job in retail sales, which is still what I do today. That gig required shorter locks. The length of my hair has varied in the ensuing decades (as the hair on top gradually vanished), while rarely getting too long before a supervisor reminds me of my need to visit a barber. Stylist.


Until now. New York state has allowed salons to reopen within appropriate guidelines, but I’ve come to dig having my hair longer. My bosses have mentioned a preference for me to return to a somewhat less hirsute style. Still, there’s been no hassle, and my stated intent to remain the walking, talking embodiment of a song by The Cowsills is understood and accepted, at least for now. It’s getting wild, but it’s clean, and it’s mine. I don’t even mind the miles of gray streaked throughout. I run my hands through it, and the feeling is as validating now as it was when I rubbed the back of my head when I was six or seven. Give me a head with hair. Long, beautiful hair. Shining, streaming, gleaming, waxen, flaxen. Here baby, there Mama, everywhere Daddy Daddy. HAIR!

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!

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

Hey! If you buy from Amazon, consider making your purchases through links at Pop-A-Looza. A portion of your purchase there will go to support Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do). Thinking Amazon? Think Pop-A-Looza.

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).

Categories
Boppin'

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…!

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!

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

Hey! If you buy from Amazon, consider making your purchases through links at Pop-A-Looza. A portion of your purchase there will go to support Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do). Thinking Amazon? Think Pop-A-Looza.

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.