COVER STORIES for 11/20/2005
COVER STORIES INSTALLMENT #28
Welcome to this 28th edition of "Cover Stories," in which I look at a number of comics covers with a common theme!
This week in the US - unless I've misread my calendar and this is appearing a week too early or too late - we're celebrating Thanksgiving, which means lots of food, and lots of Christmas shopping in the days after Thanksgiving! It also means that, once again, I'm missing out on going to Mid-Ohio-Con, but so it goes...
This Comics Cavalcade was the only Thanksgiving-themed cover that I've got in my collection so far - guess I'd best hunt down some others for next year's column, eh? Who'd have thought that Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and Flash would have any problems catching a turkey? This cover was penciled and inked by the talented E. E. Hibbard.
Inside this packed comic book were Wonder Woman in "The Menace of the Rebel Manlings," by Joyce Murchison and H.G. Peter, some Mutt & Jeff newspaper reprints by Al Smith (as Bud Fisher), Flash in "The Galloping Greenbacks" by Gardner Fox and E.E. Hibbard, a Foney Fairy Tales by Ed Wheelan (of "Minute Movies" fame), "Just a Story" by Howard Purcell (reprinted in Justice League of America #114), Hop Harrigan in "Seek and Hide, or, the Airmail Trail" by Jon Blummer, and Green Lantern in "The Meaning of 'D'", by Alfred Bester and Paul Reinman.
So, since there aren't any other Thanksgiving covers in my collection, how do I fill out this column? Well, Thanksgiving is also known as "Turkey Day," so here's a trio of comic book "turkeys" for your enjoyment!
It must have seemed like a good idea at the time... Dell had done one-shot adaptations of several Universal horror movies, and they sold well... and super-heroes were popular at the time... so why not turn monsters into super-heroes?
Well, this comic shows why not... because they can be really, really bad comics! Now, I'll be the first to admit that I've bought and read a few of these, just to see if they were really as bad as I'd heard they were (and boy, were they!).
Thanks to Don Markstein's Tonoopedia (which you can check out for yourself at http://www.toonopedia.com), here's a mini-synopsis of what this book was about:
"Dell's first Dracula comic was a 1962 Movie Classic, based on the Bela Lugosi feature. Its second came out four years later, and was about a modern-day descendant of the Lugosi character. Dracula #2 (November, 1966) introduced the current Count Dracula, still living in the same old castle, where he spent his days conducting medical experiments on bats. Even as he was freeing his furry-winged little pets, their service completed, he accidentally ingested his own chemical and thereby gained the ability to turn himself into a bat at will. Realizing the superhero potential of such an aptitude, he embarked on a body-building program, had a tailor make him a set of bat-like tights, and bribed the tailor lavishly never to mention the incident."
If you come across one of these issues at a comics convention, you should really buy it and read it for yourself... Dell produced a lot of darn good comics, but when it came to super-heroes, they were completely clueless (although I have to admit, I haven't read all their super-hero books)!
The cover was drawn by Bill Fracchio, with inks by Tony Tallarico. This issue featured art by those two, as well, with scripts by Don Siegall. The stories in this "first" issue were "The Origin of Dracula," "The Peace Conference," and "Dracula's Pledge." The entirety of this book was reprinted as Dracula #6 (there was no #5, however).
Here's another turkey... and in fact, it's several turkeys in one! It's the 1960s MF Enterprises Captain Marvel, who was an android who could split his body parts off, as seen above!
Again, I can refer you to Toonopedia for details, but this Captain Marvel was created by Carl Burgos (creator of the original Human Torch), and... well... it was really, really bad. The character was a hodge-podge of different super-hero elements all thrown together, and the result was a mess. I'm not sure how much Burgos contributed beyond the initial concept, really.
However, as bad as this book is, once again, I entreat you to read one of these issues yourself... you'll at least laugh yourself silly over the plot contrivances, to say nothing of the character names (many of which were taken from older characters, as you'll see).
The cover was by Burgos, with inks by Leon Francho. The kid Cap is about to rescue is named Billy Baxton, believe it or not! In this first issue, the stories are "Introducing the All-New Captain Marvel" by Roger Elwood and Francho, in which Captain Marvel is created on another planet, which is destroyed by Atomic war, and he's sent to earth to be befriended by Billy. In "The Invisible Aliens," he fights aliens from another dimension, and in "The Blue Men of Venus," he not only fights blue-skinned Venusians, but the Plastic-Man character shown on the cover (who's a criminal from Venus and is renamed Elasticman in issue #2).
In later issues, Captain Marvel fights The Bat, who's renamed the Ray when he re-appears.
Oh, and I almost forgot... while he yells "Split!" to split his body apart, he yells "Xam" to re-assemble... yep, "Split-Xam!" and Billy Baxton.
Our final turkey is from 1st Issue Special!
Now, some issues of this title were good and interesting... and others... hoo boy! The Green Team, Boy Millionaires, was a definite turkey! It's about the adventures of, well, a team of boy millionaires, and is kind of a "Richie Rich meets the Challengers of the Unknown" mix.
The team was created by Joe Simon, best known for his work with Jack Kirby during the Golden Age of comics... but let's face it, the stuff he came up with in the late 60s/early 70s was just plain funky! I'd imagine that Brother Power, the Geek was probably the best-known of his latter-day creations, but I've never read the single Geek appearance, so I can't really judge entirely how weird it was. Simon was also behind Prez, the teen-age president of the US, which was also funky, but funky in a fun way, not in a "Who okayed this?" kind of way. Well, your mileage may vary.
This issue began with a two-page intro for each of the characters, Abdul Smith, The Commodore, J.P. Houston, and Cecil Sunbeam, telling how each made their fortunes. Then, the action gets under way with "The Green Room" and "The Great American Pleasure Machine!" This was written by Joe Simon with art by Jerry Grandenetti. A text article on the Green Team's action uniforms wound up this issue.
There was some attempts at humor in this first story... for example, someone goes to the Green Team with an idea to build an arctic research station out of French fries, so that if they run out of food, they can eat the buildings.
I wasn't able to find any websites out there devoted to the Green Team (some surprise there, eh?), although a few mentioned them in passing. A second story was prepared, which appeared in a Cancelled Comics Cavalcade (which you can probably find on the net somewhere), and I believe they made a brief appearance in one of the Ambush Bug mini-series, and possibly during Grant Morrison's Animal Man series, as well.
Anyway... I think you've had enough turkeys for this time around! Join me next time for another installment of "Cover Stories," and in the meantime, you can check out my blog at http://waffyjon.blogspot.com for other musings and ramblings by me, or email me with comments about this column at !