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Superheroes On TV

Batman was not the first superhero I saw on TV. That honor belongs to the Man of Steel, the Metropolis Marvel, Kal-El, the one ‘n’ only Superman. Everyone knew Superman, and in the early ’60s, everyone had watched Superman on TV in reruns of The Adventures Of Superman, the venerable ’50s series starring George Reeves. Concurrent to this, all of the kids in my neighborhood also watched chapters of the old Flash Gordon movie serials, as well as Astro Boy cartoons, both of which were shown every afternoon on The Baron And His Buddies, the popular kids’ show hosted by Syracuse’s own local vampire, Baron Daemon. If you also include the Mighty Mouse and Popeye cartoons we all watched, like, everywhere, then it’s safe to say that all the kids in North Syracuse had plenty of exposure to televised superheroics well before the debut of the Batman TV series in January of 1966.

Nonetheless, it was the success of Batman that paved the way for more superheroes on TV. Prior to Batman, nearly all of the super adventures we saw were old–second-hand entertainment, already enjoyed previously by our elder siblings, or even an earlier generation. Superman was from the ’50s; Popeye from the ’30s through the ’50s; Flash Gordon from the ’30s. Astro Boy was roughly contemporary, but a syndicated import, not, y’know, fresh Amurrican entertainment. At the beginning of 1966, Batman was really the only superhero starring in brand-new televised exploits; he would have plenty of company by the end of that year.

(This new superhero fad had its first effect on advertising. I recall seeing superhero motifs in TV commercials for Bactine and Lucky Stripes chewing gum, and I loved ’em. The images of Stripeman and a flying, bat-caped Bactine container were as much a part of my TV experience in ’66 as The Monkees were.)

Almost all of the new superhero shows would be animated. In September, the new Saturday morning cartoon schedule on CBS included The New Adventures Of SupermanSpace GhostFrankenstein Jr. And The Impossibles, and even The Lone Ranger, starring another character we all knew (like Superman), but who couldn’t be called a superhero because he was, y’know, a cowboy. On weekday afternoons, we were treated to The Marvel Super Heroes, a series of serialized adventures starring a rotating roster of Captain AmericaThorIron ManSub-Mariner, and The Hulk. These were shown in Syracuse on a show called Jet Set, alongside a collection of whatever other cartoon goodies Channel 5 could get its hands on (including Sinbad Jr And His Magic Belt, in which our seafarin’ hero gained super strength via the wonder of his titular magic belt).

There were live action superheroes, too. Most notable of these was The Green Hornet with Van Williams and Bruce Lee, though there were also two comedy superhero shows, Captain Nice and Mr. Terrific. I was aware of Captain Nice, and even owned a Captain Nice comic book, but never managed to see an episode of the show. I did watch both The Green Hornet and Mr. Terrific, but not many people did; all three series were short-lived.

More animated superheroes followed: Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man on ABC, The Superman-Aquaman Hour Of Adventure on CBS (the latter including additional heroics from The FlashGreen LanternHawkmanThe AtomTeen Titans, and The Justice League of America), and a variety of other super-doers created for the small screen: Mightor! Super 6! Mighty Heroes! Birdman! The Galaxy Trio! Super-President! Surely, evil must tremble before this assembled might of right!

The cancellation of the prime-time Batman in 1968 signaled the ebb of the public’s interest in superheroes. Although Batman quickly returned in a new cartoon series in the fall of ’68, the costumed hero fad had run its course.

With the plethora of superhero movies and TV shows available now, it’s odd to look back and realize that it did once seem like a fad that had ended. In the early ’70s, Superman and Wonder Woman made (perhaps incongruous) guest appearances on a Saturday morning cartoon series based on the kids from The Brady Bunch; an ABC Saturday Superstar Movie called “Popeye Meets The Man Who Hated Laughter” teamed the super sailor-man with other characters from the King Features stable, including Flash Gordon, The Phantom, and Mandrake the Magician; and Superman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Batman and Robin united in a new cartoon series called Super Friends.

Me? I was 13 by the time Super Friends debuted in 1973, and it wasn’t at all what I was looking for in televised superhero entertainment. I wanted a gritty new Batman series–no, not “Batman,” “THE Batman!” I wanted something that would reflect the perceived (by me) maturity of the 1970s Batman comics stories by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams; in my mind, Medical Center star Chad Everett was born to play The Batman in a serious crime drama, with British actor Christopher Lee as the megalomaniacal Ra’s al GhulThat’s what I wanted, not kids’ stuff like Super Friends.


Alas, I never really liked any of the live action superhero TV fare of the ’70s. Well, at the time, I confess I did kinda like the atrocious Wonder Woman TV movie starring Cathy Lee Crosby, and the awful late night TV adaptation of the musical It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s Superman. The original Captain Marvel had become one of my all-time favorite comics characters, but I couldn’t warm to his banal escapades in Shazam! Lynda Carter was a freakin’ knockout, but I found her Wonder Woman series to be too campy, and this young man had outgrown camp, see? IsisSpider-ManThe Incredible Hulk? None of these was ever quite what I had in mind.

It took decades before there would be a superhero TV series that would captivate me. I loved Smallville, the tale of the boy who would be Superman, from the moment of its debut in 2001. Nowadays, I have all the superhero TV entertainment I could ever want, from all those DC Comics shows on The CW to Marvel shows on Disney + and Netflix. From feast, to famine, to an endless bounty, all within my lifetime. Up, up, and away.

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Comics And LP Cover Cavalcade Supplement # 2: Superpulp Paperbacks And Rock ‘n’ Roll 45s

Normally, this is a lightly-annotated but otherwise random collection of images of comic book and rock ‘n’ roll album covers. A previous supplemental edition dealt with rock magazines and paperback covers, and today’s edition shifts just a little more for a cavalcade of superhero pulp paperbacks and rock ‘n’ roll 45 picture sleeves.

Another challenge for The Green Hornet! This was kind of my Holy Grail among superpulp paperbacks for a few years (a position now held by the elusive Blackhawk novel by William Rotsler, or cheaply priced copies of Ron Goulart‘s Vampirella novels). I passed up a chance to buy it in 1978 at a collectibles shop in Brockport (read “passed up” as “cash-strapped college freshman conceded he couldn’t spare the cost of a collectible paperback”). I don’t remember where, when, or how I finally assumed ownership of a copy of this coveted prize. I may have received it as a gift from my pal Fritz, who definitely scored me a set of Green Hornet playing cards, or I may have located a copy on one of my many used bookstore burrows. The Infernal Light and one other tie-in to the 1966 Green Hornet TV series–a hardcover juvenile novel called The Case Of The Disappearing Doctor–were the first Green Hornet novels ever published. Well, I guess you could count the three Green Hornet Big Little Books published in the early ’40s, but given the character’s massive popularity on the radio, one wonders why there was never a Green Hornet pulp magazine. My specific memories of both The Case Of The Disappearing Doctor and The Infernal Light have grown as cloudy as the asphyxiating fumes from The Green Hornet’s gas gun, but I believe I was disappointed by the former and relatively satisfied by the latter. Three Green Hornet prose anthologies have been published within the last decade or so, but no more full novels as of yet.

I liked The Dead Boys. The Cleveland punk group was never quite among my very favorites, but I bought both Dead Boys LPs (Young, Loud And Snotty and We Have Come For Your Children) and particularly liked their songs “All This And More” and “3rd Generation Nation.” Later on, I quite liked the first album by The Lords Of The New Church, with former Dead Boys lead singer Stiv Bators. In between The Dead Boys and the Lords, Stiv Bators briefly tried his hand at power pop, with Frank Secich from Blue Ash adding genre credibility and punch on guitar. The overt power pop moves were downplayed a bit by the time of Bators’ 1980 album Disconnected, but were on full display in the two non-LP Bomp! singles that preceded it. All four of these sides are incredible, but even the sheer splendor of “The Last Year,” “Not That Way Anymore,” and “Circumstantial Evidence” must yield the crown to Stiv’s cover of “It’s Cold Outside.” The 1967 original by The Choir (who were essentially the roots of The Raspberries pre-Eric Carmen) is a garage pop classic, and I think I heard it on a Pebbles collection before I heard the Stiv Bators version. But man, Stiv’s cover just POPs, with aggressive drums and slashing guitars propelling a track which I consider one of the defining singles of power pop.

Writer Otto Binder was a key figure in science fiction and comic books from the ’30s into the ’60s. Binder is best known for his Adam Link series (credited to Eando Binder, a pseudonym originally shared by Otto and his brother Earl Binder) and his extensive resumé of work in comics. Binder was one of the most prolific and important contributors to the adventures of the original Captain Marvel, and later made significant innovations to the Superman mythos, including the introductions of The Legion Of Super-HeroesBrainiacSupergirlKryptoJimmy Olsen‘s signal watch, and the bottle city of Kandor. It pains me to note that Binder displayed no affinity whatsoever for Marvel Comics‘ ’60s style in this 1967 Avengers novel, which I picked up in the dealers room at New York’s Super DC Con in 1976.

I’ve long promised a complete blog post about my all-time # 1 rock ‘n’ roll crush Suzi Quatro, and we’re getting closer to that. No, really. For now: this was nowhere near my first Quatro record, but it was probably the first Quatro record I ever heard. The lovely Suzi appeared on a 1975 episode of a British rock ‘n’ roll TV show called Supersonic, carried in New York by WPIX and available via the magic of cable TV for this lovestruck fifteen-year-old in the Syracuse suburbs. Suzi lip-synced “I May Be Too Young,” but I didn’t catch the song’s title, initiating my fruitless search for a mythical Suzi Quatro song called “Little Susie From Baton Rouge” or “I’m Just Waitin’ For You” or whatever the hell it might be called. To make matters worse, it was a non-LP single, so its identity remained a mystery even after I started accumulating Quatro’s albums. I finally, finally tracked it down as a 45 purchase at Jack Wolak‘s much-missed Knuckleheads in the early ’90s. I still didn’t know the title of the song I’d heard nearly two decades before on Supersonic, but an eager spin on the home turntable confirmed that my search had finally reached its end. (Then, of course, I got it again on a Suzi Quatro CD anthology, and ultimately sold my 45 to Ronnie Dark, host of the fab radio show The Wax Museum With Ronnie Dark. Fickle? Not me, man. I’m still true to you, Suzi.)

Yeah, my copy of this novelization of the 1966 Batman movie is signed by the film’s star, Adam West. The benefits of being a good citizen. West appeared in costume at a car show in Buffalo in either ’86 or early ’87. I was already freelancing for Amazing HeroesComics Collector, and Comics Buyer’s Guide, so I wanted to set up an interview with West, but it was not to be. It was still a thrill to meet ‘n’ greet the one TV star that had the most impact on the development of my pop culture sensibility. I think I’d picked up the paperback on a visit to my once and future homeland in Syracuse, at Twilight Book And Game Emporium on North Salina Street, a great store run by my friend Bob Gray. I don’t know if the pseudonymous Winston Lyon is the same “Winston Lyon” (aka William Woolfolk) who had ghost-written the previous Batman novel Batman Vs. 3 Villains Of Doom.

I sometimes claim to have had a love/hate relationship with The Knack, but I never really disliked them, and I occasionally liked them a lot. I must have purchased this single before I got around to buying the Get The Knack LP; it would have been unusual for me to buy a single if both sides were on an album I already owned. Either way, this picture sleeve of the lovely Sharona herself was certainly a factor. I also picked up the “Good Girls Don’t” single, which didn’t have Sharona on the sleeve, but featured a radio edit of the familiar album track (with the lines “Wishing you could get inside her pants” and “Until she’s sitting on your face” replaced by the less-rude “Wishing she would give you just one chance” and “Until she puts you in your place”). “That’s What The Little Girls Do,” an album track on Get The Knack, was my favorite Knack cut at the time, though it’s since been replaced by “Your Number Or Your Name.”

I adored superpulp paperbacks in the mid ’70s, grabbing as much as I could of the pulp adventures of The ShadowDoc SavageThe AvengerThe PhantomFlash GordonThe SpiderOperator 5The Lone RangerTarzanConan, and whatever other grim avatar of justice could be found in bookstores or on drug store spinner racks. I accumulated ’em far faster than I could read them–there are many I bought over forty years ago that are still awaiting my attention–but they don’t expire, and I’m still adding to the stack. I devoured the first two volumes of editor Byron Preiss‘ Weird Heroes anthology immediately upon their publication in 1975. I was a fan of what Preiss was doing, both here with this “New American Pulp” and also his digest-sized graphic novel series Fiction Illustrated. The second volume of Weird Heroes was like an all-star shindig to me, with stories by Philip José Farmer (whom I knew from Tarzan Alive and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life), Ted White (who wrote my cherished Captain America superpulp paperback The Great Gold Steal), and comics veterans Steve Englehart (then at Marvel, later to write the definitive Batman serial in Detective Comics) and Elliot S! Maggin (one of my DC Comics Fave Raves, later to write a pair of terrific Superman novels), with illustrations by SterankoEsteban MarotoRalph ReeseTom Sutton, and Alex Niño. I didn’t know writer Charlie Swift or artist Stephen Fabian at the time. The big star attraction for me was my favorite writer Harlan Ellison working with my favorite artist Neal Adams on Ellison’s character Cordwainer Bird–The Shadow’s nephew! TRIPLE PLAY! For all that, this was probably the final Weird Heroes I owned in the ’70s, though I much later tracked down all of the six subsequent volumes and Preiss’ own Guts, a full-length novel continuing with his character from the first Weird Heroes book.

After The Sex Pistols collapsed, this first single by John Lydon (the former Johnny Rotten) and his post-Pistols group Public Image, Ltd. was intriguing and captivating, and it seemed a good sign that I would enjoy the music of PiL nearly as much as I’d revered the Pistols’ “God Save The Queen” and “Pretty Vacant.” There was an announcement that PiL would play a 1979 or early ’80 date at a Syracuse club called The Slide-Inn, a former disco where I’d seen 999David Johansen, and The Flashcubes, but if that date was ever really booked in the first place, it never happened. I woulda traveled across glass to see that. Nothing I ever heard of PiL’s music after the debut single ever appealed to me a fraction as much as this song, “Public Image,” which could have been a Sex Pistols track as far as my ears were concerned. Still love it. I should check further, to see if there is anything else in the PiL canon that might appeal to me more than “Death Disco” or “This Is Not A Love Song.”

Here’s one of those superpulp paperbacks I own but haven’t read yet. Armageddon 2419 A.D. reprints the original Philip Francis Nowlan pulp novel that later served as the basis for the first science-fiction comic strip, Buck Rogers. Like Edmond Hamilton‘s Captain Future novels, I fear this may be something I should have read when I was much, much  younger. I think I snagged my copy at The Book Warehouse, a former warehouse on Syracuse’s North side that was filled with old books and magazines. I lived within walking distance of The Book Warehouse when I moved back to Syracuse in 1987, and it was a frequent stop for me until it finally closed years later. It was my source for so much cheap backdated print, from rock ‘n’ roll reference books and comics retrospectives through old Playboys, countless novels, crossword puzzle collections, children’s books (for my wife, a teacher), and lotsa pulp. Man, the sheer mass of James Bond (by Ian Fleming and John Gardner), John IrvingMickey SpillaneEllery QueenMax Allan CollinsSue GraftonSara ParetskyAlan Brennert, et al. I scored at The Book Warehouse…! We are fortunate to still have a few terrific second-hand booksellers in Syracuse, and Books End and Books & Melodies (both on James Street in Eastwood) remain my go-to book shops. Still miss The Book Warehouse.

It’s a slight puzzlement to me that I don’t have any recollection of Paul Revere & the Raiders from when I was a little kid in the ’60s. I know we used to watch Where The Action Is! occasionally, so I must have seen the Raiders there. I later knew their only # 1 hit “Indian Reservation,” but knowledge and appreciation of the freakin’ motherlode of the Raiders’ splendid ’65-’68 recordings wouldn’t come until my deeper dive into the wonder of  the rockin’ pop of the ’60s when I was a teen in the ’70s. 45s of “Him Or Me–What’s It Gonna Be” and “I Had A Dream” were, I think, my first Raiders records, purchased from my friend Jay (along with “Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl” by The Barbarians). I was not immediately impressed. That would change. And how!

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This Mask, This Candy Bar

I don’t remember all of my Halloween costumes. My trick-or-treat years began some time in the early to mid ‘60s, and I retired from door-to-door costumed begging around November 1st of 1972, by then an eighth grader and forced by societal expectations to give up this annual grab for free candy. Stupid societal expectations.

The earliest costume I can remember wearing was my Ben Cooper Superman suit, probably in either ‘65 or ‘66. The costume puzzled me. What was with the eye mask? Superman doesn’t wear a mask! And how come the costume didn’t have red shorts over blue tights, like the Man of Steel wore? Whoever this Ben Cooper guy was, he clearly had no proper eye for detail.

The next year, I was Batman. Of course. My Dad tried to talk me into being The Green Hornet instead, trying to tell me that there’d be tons of Batman wannabes prowling North Syracuse that Halloween night, but The Green Hornet would be unique. I would not be dissuaded; years before Michael Keaton or Christian Bale made it a catchphrase, I was already insisting, “I’M BATMAN!”

The third and final store-bought costume I remember is Birdman, a Hanna-Barbera cartoon hero later subverted into a comedy figure as Harvey Birdman. Hmf. I take my superheroes seriously, thankyouverymuch. And never mind that my Birdman garb was supplemented by a less-than-intimidating pair of cardboard wings I made; criminals may be a superstitious and cowardly lot, but I think my disguise would only strike scornful laughter in their hearts.

I remember three subsequent homemade costumes. One may have just been used for a Cub Scout party rather than actual trick-or-treating. That was my get up as Dworn, the super-weakling from space. I remembered ol’ Dworn from a cherished Superboy 80-Page Giant a few years back, though my look was my own, accomplished with a torn ‘n’ tattered cape and a pretend barbell marked “10 LBS.,” with super-weakling me bent over struggling to carry it. Like Jon Lovitz, I was ACTING…!

Dworn, we hardly knew ye

I did go out one Halloween as the ghost of Ty Cobb. Yeah, top that, you poseurs. I got an old Detroit Tigers uniform from my Dad, and I added a skull mask to make it special. No one was impressed with my creative ingenuity, but I liked me. The costume for my farewell Halloween rounds in ‘72 was Charlie Chaplin. I was a huge Chaplin fan when I was 12, and I was SO proud of that costume. It was a triumphant end to my career as a trick-or-treater.

Although I was now done with soliciting candy from friends, neighbors, strangers, and assorted riff raff, I still wanted to get dressed up the next couple of years, as I took over the role of handing out the sweet treats to the masked kids knocking at our door. As The Shadow, I accidentally terrified one youngster (who got extra candy as compensation for his trauma), but no one knew what to make of me as Groucho Marx.

(Wait. Come to think of it, no one ever knew what to make of me as myself either.)

My interest in Halloween kinda faded away. As a freshman in college, I went to a costume party as a generic glitter rocker I called Satan Starr, Superstar. As a senior, I slapped together a decent Supergirl costume. I wound up reprising that one for two subsequent Halloweens.

For God’s sake, put your red shorts on, buddy!

And I only remember three more Halloween costumes, worn to parties hosted by co-workers. In the late ‘80s, I finally took Dad’s suggestion and became The Green Hornet, with lovely wife Brenda poised to kick ass as Kato. There was also a party where Brenda wore my old McDonald’s uniform, and I have no recollection of what I wore. And finally, one Halloween night in the ‘90s, I raided my knickknack drawer for props and tchotchkes to throw together an impromptu disguise as Freelance Generic Batguy (Not Affiliated With DC Comics, A Time-Warner  Company). I slay me.

Now, all of my costumes have been permanently relegated to storage. I mean that figuratively; the costumes themselves are long, long gone. I won’t say I outgrew the urge to play dress-up–I’ve never shown any evidence of outgrowing anything–but really, the only thing I miss about Halloweens of the past is all that free candy. I do dig free candy.

I betcha that Ben Cooper still gets free candy, damn him. Even if his Superman doesn’t wear his red shorts on the outside, where they belong.

Wait…what?!

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

(And you can still get our 2017 compilation This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4, on CD from Kool Kat Musik and as a download from Futureman Records.)
Hey, Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) will contain 100 essays (and then some) about 100 tracks, plus two bonus instrumentals, each one of ’em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1).