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 J (Music 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.

JAN & DEAN

In the mid-’60s, “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena” was a song that everyone on my block knew, like it was a part of the landscape. I remember playing on my neighbor Steve’s swing set one day, and my friend Willie singing (in a falsetto) I’m the little old lady from Pasadena! Close enough, Willie. I don’t remember any of Jan & Dean’s other hits contemporaneously–knowledge of “Surf City,” “Dead Man’s Curve,” and even Jan & Dean Meet Batman would come much, much later–and I didn’t hear them singing “From All Over The World” until I caught The T.A.M.I. Show on a cable broadcast outta Canada in the mid-to-late ’70s. Jan & Dean have never been nominated for induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE

I knew “Somebody To Love,” which was a big hit on the radio in 1967. I saw the Airplane lip-sync the song on American Bandstand. I may have made disparaging remarks about the length of the hair on those boys–I was an unenlightened 7-year-old–and I may have fallen in love with this vision of loveliness called Grace Slick. In the pages of Marvel’s Not Brand Echh humor comic book, I giggled at the comments of a window-washer (who looked suspiciously like Ringo Starr) hailing the arrival of Stuporman by exclaiming, “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a gooney bird! It’s a Jefferson Airplane!” As a young teen in the ’70s, I would fall hard for “White Rabbit,” and borrowed my brother Rob’s copy of the Surrealistic Pillow LP for further enlightenment. Never developed a taste for the Starship, though.

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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 I

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 IDES OF MARCH

This Chicago group’s only real hit was “Vehicle,” which made it to # 2 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 in early 1970. I’m sure I knew it from during its hit reign. I guess I kinda liked it then, but I have no use for it now. Plus, the lyrics seem…well, creepy. In the mid ’80s, when I was investigating ’60s garage groups with the intensity of Lois Lane trying to figure out whether Clark Kent maybe possibly had a secret of some kind, I purchased a copy of the various-artists sampler album Pebbles Vol. 10; that LP contained a 1966 Ides Of March track called “Roller Coaster,” which just floored me with its confident, soaring rockin’ pop goodness. That wonderful record allowed me to forgive The Ides Of March for the sin of “Vehicle” (though I’m still not hopping inside your car, ya “friendly stranger” pervert).

THE INVADERS

The roots of my interest in this ’70s comic book about the adventures of Marvel’s World War II-era heroes should be traced to the vintage reprints I’d read years before in the pages of Marvel Super-Heroes and Fantasy Masterpieces, and to my general interest in superheroes of the ’40s. I also read The Invaders’ first appearance in The Avengers # 71 (December 1969), when three time-tossed Avengers found themselves battling Captain AmericaThe Human Torch, and The Sub-Mariner in Nazi-occupied Paris circa 1941. Writer Roy Thomas returned to his Invaders concept in 1975 with the one-shot Giant-Size Invaders, followed immediately by The Invaders ongoing series. I was enthusiastic initially, but I confess I lost interest before long. (I was a bigger fan of Thomas’ All-Star Squadron in the ’80s, which attempted to do for DC’s WWII heroes what The Invaders had done for Marvel’s WWII heroes.)

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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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THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Quick Takes For F

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 FANTASTIC FOUR

No idea! I first saw images of The Fantastic Four in Marvel’s house ads in (I’m guessing) 1966, the year I developed my life-long mania for superheroes. I watched the 1967 Saturday morning TV cartoon when I could, and I picked up a Fantastic Four comic book in there at some time. I do remember trying to figure out the characters’ names; I got The Human Torch, I think I figured out The Thing and Invisible Girl, but I couldn’t suss out the name of the elastic fantastic guy who seemed to be the boss. The other characters called him “Stretcho,” so it took me a while to realize he was supposed to be Mr. Fantastic. Although it definitely wasn’t my first issue, I vividly remember a 1968 FF with guest-stars ThorDaredevil, and Spider-Man. Artist Jack “King” Kirby made those pages come alive! A couple of years ago, I re-read the mid-to-late ’60s run of Fantastic Four, and it held up as just incredible, well-done comics done by creators at the top of their game. Writer Stan Lee always billed this as “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!” He was right. And Lee and Kirby were fantastic.

THE FLASH

I first saw The Flash near the end of Justice League Of America # 55 in the summer of ’67; this was also my very first issue of JLA. The story continued into the next issue, and The Flash was also featured in JLA # 57’s “Man, Thy Name Is Brother!” I saw The Flash cover-featured with The Spectre in an issue of The Brave And The Bold, but didn’t get to read that comic until many years later. The Flash was one of the revolving guest stars on the Saturday morning cartoon show The Superman-Aquaman Hour Of Adventure that fall. My first Flash comic book was Flash # 174 in 1967.

FOOLS FACE

Because I spent so many summers visiting my grandparents in Southwest Missouri, I took special notice in the early ’80s when Trouser Press magazine mentioned Fools Face, a great band from Springfield, Missouri. Much later, I’d also discover The Morells/The Skeletons, who were also from Springfield, but I learned about Fools Face first. Trouser Press also provided me with my first opportunity to hear Fools Face; TP subscribers like me used to receive an exclusive flexi-disc with each new issue of Trouser Press, and one month that flexi-disc was Fools Face’s “L5” and “Public Places.” While I wasn’t blown away, I was blown away soon enough. In ’82 or ’83, rummaging in the used bin of a record store at University Plaza in Buffalo, I found a copy of Tell America, the second album by Fools Face. “L5” was the only song I knew on the album, but I was transfixed on first spin of the LP.  My copy of Tell America remains the only copy of it that I’ve ever seen. I searched for years and years to find the rest of the Fools Face catalog, but these prizes were elusive. In the ’90s, a new online pal named Keith Klingensmith gifted me with a copy of the band’s first album,Here To Observe, some other friend–I forgot who!–made me a cassette copy of the Public Places album, and later someone made me a CD-R of Fools Face’s extremely hard-to-come-by cassette-only release The Red Tape. I eventually scored a copy of Public Places at a record show, and was thrilled when Fools Face reunited for a brand-new (and terrific) eponymous album. There has also been a vintage live Fools Face performance issued on CD, but the original studio material remains long out of print, seemingly never to be reissued. That’s a shame; Tell America remains one of my all-time Top 20 albums, probably Top 10.

THE FOUR SEASONS

“Big Girls Don’t Cry.” That falsetto was all over AM radio in the early ’60s. I was two, and I remember it!

THE FOUR TOPS

It surely seems like I must have heard The Four Tops’ cavalcade of Motown hits in the ’60s, but my first conscious memory of them is “Are You Man Enough” from the film Shaft In Africa. “Are You Man Enough” was an AM radio hit in the ’70s; I later went back to rediscover The Four Tops’ Motown treasures, and The Four Tops remain my favorite Motown group.

FUNNYMAN

Someday I will write at length about my trip to New York City in 1976, when Iattended the Super-DC Con. For now, suffice it to say that I met Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and I bought an issue of their late ’40s creation Funnyman in the dealer’s room. No one ever seems to have a positive word to say about Funnyman, but I loved The Daffy Daredevil, who was kinda like a superhero Danny Kaye. I did not have an opportunity to ask Siegel and Shuster to autograph my copy of Funnyman # 5, but I did get their autographs in my Super-DC Con program book.

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

Our new compilation CD This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin’ pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe Flashcubes,Chris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins’ BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here. 

THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Quick Takes For E

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.

ECLIPSO

My sister’s boyfriend gave me all of his old comic books in the summer of 1970. Eclipso had been featured in DC’s House Of Secrets in the early ’60s; the character was a sort of Jeckyll and Hyde, as good-guy scientist Bruce Gordon transformed into the evil Eclipso whenever an eclipse occurred (an event I’m guessing is more commonplace in the DC universe than it is in our boring ol’ universe). Shortly after reading these early Eclipso adventures, I read a Batman giant devoted to the women in the Caped Crusader’s life; that giant included a few panels from The Brave And The Bold # 64, which told the tale of a spoiled hussy named Marcia Monroe. Ms. Monroe stole Batman’s heart, but then jilted him, and teamed with Eclipso in some evil attempt to do evil things. Evil! Decades later, a talented musician–also named Bruce Gordon–decided to embrace his evil namesake; Bruce called his rockin’ pop act Eclipso, and released a stunningly good pop record called Hero And Villain In One Man. DC’s legal representatives then demonstrated their superhuman lack of any sense of humor, so Bruce changed his nom du bop to Mr. Encrypto, and shortened his first album’s title to Hero And Villain.  Mr. Encrypto released a second album called Secret Identity Crisis, and Bruce told me this weekend he’s working on some new material right now. Whatever name he uses, Mr. Encrypto makes terrific records, so go buy ’em both: Mr. Encrytpo. Evil must not win!

EDDIE & THE HOT RODS

Another Phonograph Records Magazine discovery, though I believe I also read about them in Playboy. The 1976 Live At The Marquee EP was their initial jolt of rock ‘n’ roll greatness (with a smokin’ cover of Bob Seger‘s “Get Out Of Denver”), but I probably didn’t hear it, or the debut LP Teenage Depression, until much later. The Flashcubes covered “Get Out Of Denver” in their live shows–‘Cubes guitarist Paul Armstrong credited Eddie & the Hot Rods, but introduced it as “a song Bob Seger wrote ten years ago, when he was still cool”–so thatwas my intro. The ‘Cubes also covered an Eddie & the Hot Rods original called “Do Anything You Wanna Do,” and that was sufficient motivation to pick up the Hot Rods’ 45 of that incredible power pop tune. I soon added the Hot Rods’ second album, Life On The Line, to my collection as well. I love Eddie & the Hot Rods, but The Flashcubes’ version of “Do Anything You Wanna Do” is definitive.

ELLERY QUEEN

I was born in 1960, so I don’t know of a world without The Everly Brothers. That said, I don’t have any specific memories of the Everlys, either. We had the A Date With The Everly Brothers LP in the family record collection, with “Cathy’s Clown” and “Love Hurts,” but none of this made an impression on me in the ’60s. It would fall to TV ads for oldies records in the early ’70s to introduce me to “All I Have To Do Is Dream” well after the fact, but no matter; great pop music has no expiration date. I’m delighted that I had a chance to see an Everly Brothers performance at the New York State Fair many years later. My favorite Everlys track is “Gone, Gone, Gone,” but there is just so much great stuff in their catalog, including some wonderful records they were making in the ’80s. A world without The Everly Brothers? Not this world, not ever.

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THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Aquaman

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Quick Takes For A

Everything’s gotta start somewhere. Before it becomes your favorite food, your favorite movie, or the love of your life, it’s just something you’ve never tasted, something you’ve never seen, or someone you haven’t yet met. And it’s also true of favorite musical performers, and of favorite fictional characters.  For The Everlasting First, we’ll take a series of looks back at my first exposures 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. Each entry in this 26-part series will be devoted to a single letter of the alphabet, and will include my reminiscence of both a rock group or singer and a comic book or comic book character (or other print-related topic) whose name starts with the letter of the day. Yes, it’s Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do)‘s answer to Sesame Street

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.

ABBA: First ABBA song I ever heard was “Waterloo,” on WOLF-AM.

ACTION COMICS:  First issue I owned was Action Comics # 356 (November 1967), starring Superman in “The Son Of The Annihilator!,” plus Supergirl in “The Girl Of Straw!”

ACTION SWINGERS: I don’t think I’d even heard of them before coming across a used copy of the group’s Decimation Blvd. CD at a shop in Lake George, NY. Bought it on a whim–the album title’s sly reference to Sweet‘s Desolation Boulevard was a positive factor–and subsequently enjoyed it at a rather loud volume. “No Heart & Soul” became an early favorite on This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio.

ADVENTURE COMICS:  Adventure Comics # 358 (May 1968), starring The Legion of Super-Heroes in “The Mutiny Of The Super-Heroines!”
THE ADVERTS:  “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” on Brockport’s college station WBSU.

ASTONISHING TALES: A Marvel split-book, published after the era of split-books–Tales To AstonishTales Of SuspenseStrange Tales–had passed with the end of the ’60s. Nonetheless, Marvel tried it again 1970, and I came in with Astonishing Tales # 2 (October 1970), starring the jungle hero Ka-Zar in “Frenzy On The Fortieth Floor!” and the evil Dr. Doom in “Revolution!” The Ka-Zar story was pencilled by Jack Kirby, and Dr. Doom was drawn by Wally Wood–two legendary comics artists under one cover, for a mere 15 cents! Picked this up off the spinner rack while on vacation in Pensacola.

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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: The Green Hornet

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.

Another challenge for The Green Hornet, his aide Kato, and their rolling arsenal, The Black Beauty! On police records a wanted criminal, The Green Hornet is really Britt Reid, owner-publisher of The Daily Sentinel, his dual identity known only to his secretary and to the District Attorney. And now, to protect the rights and lives of decent citizens, rides The Green Hornet!

Oh yes–the 1966 TV series was absolutely my introduction to The Green Hornet and Kato. But first, a little background information is in order.

The Green Hornet was originally one of the most successful radio heroes of the 1930s. Created as a contemporary follow-up to the success of The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet’s modus operandi was to make everyone–the public, the authorities, the underworld itself–believe he was the biggest, baddest supercriminal of them all. The Green Hornet and Kato would move in on some crook’s evil scheme, ostensibly to cut the Hornet in on a piece of the ill-gotten profits, but really to work secretly in smashing that scheme and bringing the crook to justice. The parallels between The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet were many: just as The Lone Ranger was often mistaken for an outlaw because he wore a friggin’ mask, fercryinoutloud, The Green Hornet posed as an outlaw to accomplish his crimefighting goals; each had an ethnic assistant–The Lone Ranger’s faithful Indian companion Tonto and The Green Hornet’s Asian chauffeur Kato–but neither was really played as the comic relief or stereotype that could have been expected in Depression-era pulp entertainment (Tonto’s broken English speech patterns notwithstanding); both had distinctive modes of transportation–The Lone Ranger’s fiery horse Silver and The Green Hornet’s supercar The Black Beauty; both eschewed killing, obeying a strict moral code, even when dealing with a murderous criminal element; and both had telltale signature weapons (The Lone Ranger’s silver bullets and The Green Hornet’s nonlethal gas gun). It was even revealed that the two characters were blood relatives: John (The Lone Ranger) Reid’s nephew Dan, who appeared in some of The Lone Ranger’s adventures, would grow up to be the father of Britt (The Green Hornet) Reid.

While The Lone Ranger’s success survived the demise of the golden age of radio, leading to a classic TV series (and a pair of feature films) in the late ’40s and ’50s, The Green Hornet could not duplicate that success in other media. Both characters appeared in movie serials, and both appeared in licensed comic book series, but The Green Hornet was really long gone from the spotlight by the time he returned in 1966.

The Green Hornet’s return was prompted by the success of Batman, the campy, twice-weekly ABC TV show that had been the breakout hit of ’66.  Batman producer William Dozier wanted to return to the four-color well, hoping for another comics-related hit. He shot an unsold pilot for Dick Tracy. He shot test footage for a legendarily awful sitcom approach to Wonder Woman. And he sold The Green Hornet series to ABC.

Actor Van Williams was cast as crusading publisher Britt Reid and his alter ego, The Green Hornet. A then-unknown Chinese-American actor named Bruce Lee became Kato. And they were both just outstanding in their roles. We all know of Lee’s subsequent fame and acclaim as a martial arts expert and movie star in the early ’70s, and much of his raw talent and charisma was already evident here. But one shouldn’t ignore Williams’ easygoing charm and believable authority as the titular hero; this show wouldn’t have worked without the talents of both Williams and Lee.

Unlike BatmanThe Green Hornet was played relatively straight; there were few truly outlandish villains, very little campy humor, and a sense of action and adventure that was never really present in the exploits of our Caped Crusaders over in Gotham City. It was a crime drama, a detective show, where the leads happened to have secret identities and high-tech crimefighting gear. Even when the shows crossed over, as The Green Hornet and Kato tangled with Batman and Robin on a two-part episode of Batman, Williams and Lee still seemed to play things straight amidst all that campy silliness (versus the exaggerated, comedic “straight” required of Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin).

Where Batman was a colorful, incandescent explosion of self-conscious pop-art exuberance, The Green Hornet was cool. Taking a partial cue from Peter Gunn, each episode was propelled by jazzy, uptempo music, with Al Hirt‘s “Green Hornet Theme” (itself a jazzed-up version of “Flight Of The Bumblebee”) setting the tempo at the beginning of each show. Lee’s impressive skill with gung fu was simply dazzling, and the show delivered tight-lipped thrills with panache and style.

It was doomed from the start.

Batman‘s mass popular appeal had been as a self-aware joke. The American viewing public was not in the mood for super-heroics played straight, and The Green Hornet lasted but one season. After Bruce Lee’s death, as anything he’d done became a potential box-office bonanza, three episodes of The Green Hornet were badly stitched together, fattened up with extraneous and nonsensical Bruce Lee fight scenes from other, unrelated episodes of the show, and released to movie theaters as a feature film in 1974. The film has been variously referred to as The Green Hornet and as Kato And The Green Hornet. I saw it (as Kato And The Green Hornet) at The Biograph Theater in downtown Syracuse, an old-time movie house (originally called The Eckel) that was in its death throes, and would be a parking lot before long. A DVD version of Kato And The Green Hornet remains the only legitimate home-video release of anything from The Green Hornet TV series.

During the show’s original run, there were a handful of tie-in products. Gold Key Comics published three issues of a Green Hornet comic book, the hero’s first comics appearances since a one-shot in 1953.  There was a set of Green Hornet playing cards, a paperback novel called The Infernal Light, a Green Hornet Halloween costume (which my Dad tried to get me to choose, insisting it would be more distinctive than the Batman costume I went with instead), a Green Hornet costume for the Captain Action action figure, and a Green Hornet Better Little Book. Al Hirt released an LP of (mostly) TV theme songs, The Horn Meets “The Hornet,” with a proud cover of Hirt standing next to Van Williams, in costume and in character.

The Green Hornet largely faded from pop culture after that. There have been sporadic attempts to license the character for comic-book revivals, and there was a simply horrible feature film version starring Seth Rogen a few years back. I’m thankful that didn’t catch on! I’ve heard some of the original radio episodes, and I’ve watched the first movie serial from the ’30s, and enjoyed them. But my Green Hornet remains Van Williams, with Bruce Lee at his side, charging forth in The Black Beauty with gas guns, Hornet’s sting, and gung fu, set to kick the bad guys’ asses and elude the police while jazz plays in the background and foreground. Another challenge for The Green Hornet? Yes, please.

Oh. And release the TV series on Blu-ray awready!


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THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Hoppy The Marvel Bunny

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.
My 50+ year love affair with comic books is based primarily on my fondness of superheroes. But I’ve dabbled in other comic-book genres at times. Carl Barks‘ Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck stories are recognized classics, Sheldon Mayer‘s Sugar & Spike deserves wider recognition, and I’ve been known at various points in my life to follow the four-color sagas of ArchieEnemy AceBat LashGroo the WandererMs. TreeTomb Of DraculaLove And RocketsFish Police, and Fission Chicken.

Although it was never a specific interest, I’ve occasionally had some affection for funny-animal superheroes, too. My first such passions were Mighty Mouse and Underdog on TV, followed by Henry Boltinoff‘s single-page (or less) Super Turtle fill-in strips in various DC comic books in the ’60s. And I also dug Super Goof, a Gold Key Comics title, which starred the familiar Disney character Goofy; whenever our dear Goofy gobbled down one of his secret supply of Super Goobers, he’d upgrade into the costumed, super-powered Whatever-The-Hell-Goofy-Was Of Steel, Super Goof. Sure, you can laugh, but it was the closest Disney comics ever came to an ongoing superhero book. Er, unless you count Zorro….

But neither Underdog nor Super Goof was the first anthropomorphic critter to don a cape and fly through the sky to punch evil in the eye. One of the first–if not the first–was Captain Marvel Bunny, better-known as Hoppy The Marvel Bunny.

In the 1940s, the original Captain Marvel was so popular that Cap’s real-life masters at Fawcett Comics figured that spin-off characters would be well warranted. Cap gained a younger counterpart, Captain Marvel Junior, and a sister, Mary Marvel; each of these characters was popular enough to star in separate cover-featured series (in Master Comics and Wow Comics, respectively), and to appear in his/her own solo comics, as well. The three teamed up (often with non-powered, non-starring supporting character Uncle Marvel) in the pages of The Marvel Family, too. Someone at Fawcett must have decided that a funny animal version could sell to even younger readers, so Hoppy the Marvel Bunny was born.

Hoppy’s first appearance was in Funny Animals (aka Fawcett’s Funny Animals# 1 in 1942. His debut revealed that the soon-to-be-magic bunny rabbit was a big fan of Captain Marvel–wasn’t everyone?–who discovered he could also become the World’s Mightiest Lagamorph by speaking Cap’s magic word, SHAZAM! In a flash of lightning, Hoppy became Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, and adventure was afoot. (A rabbit’s foot! See what I did there?)

Hoppy remained the star of Funny Animals for years, and also starred in 15 issues of his own comic book. In the early ’50s, the Captain Marvel connection was dropped, as Hoppy became a more traditional funny-animal feature. When Fawcett folded in the mid ’50s, Charlton Comics picked up the rights to Hoppy, and reprinted some of the Marvel Bunny tales under the name Magic Bunny.

Hoppy was never much on my radar; he was gone from the comics racks long before I was born, and never had sufficient pop-culture oomph to merit a nostalgic revival. I probably first heard of Hoppy while studying comics history in the books All In Color For A Dime and Steranko‘s History Of The Comics, tomes that I devoured in the early to mid ’70s. Even when DC Comics acquired Captain Marvel and company, Hoppy was certainly the lowest of priorities.


Well, at least until DC Comics Presents # 34 in 1981. For the second and concluding chapter of a team-up between Superman and The Marvel Family, writer Roy Thomas pulled Hoppy the Marvel Bunny out of his hat as a climactic surprise guest star. This was clever, unexpected, and so cool. Hoppy saved the day, and even told Superman that he was his favorite comic book hero.

Heh. I thought Hoppy was supposed to be a Captain Marvel fan! Traitor. Just can’t trust a rascally rabbit.

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

Our new compilation CD This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin’ pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe Flashcubes,Chris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins’ BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here.