U.K. publisher ALAN CLASS published reprints of American comic books from the 1960s through the 1980s. These black-and-white mags contain stories from Marvel (Atlas), ACG, Archie, Charlton, Tower, and other companies. Although they aren't as inexpensive as they were when I started collecting them, these British comics remain a relatively affordable way to enjoy stories which, very often, have never been reprinted in the U.S.
JOURNEY INTO DANGER #8 was the last issue of a title published in the 1960s. Its John Severin cover is from MARINES IN ACTION #8 [September, 1956]. Most of the stories are set during the Korean War or World War II, but there are two World War I tales and one that takes place in the days when the American frontier was what we now call the Midwest. Most are five pages in length.
Some of these stories are unsettling. Because the Korean War was so recent and the Cold War was getting chillier by the moment, the G.I. heroes of the Korean stories are virtual super-soldiers. Our guys are smarter, tougher, and more determined than the North Koreans. In one tale, an out-of-ammunition squad holds off a North Korean assault with slingshots. I'm all for positive portrayals of our troops, but these stories were absurd.
The frontier story - "The Reluctant Warrior" - was offensive in its portrayal of Native Americans. The "Injuns" are crazy and liable "to do anything." They tire of fighting and submit to the white man. They "never could shoot straight." I dislike stories like this, but it's important to reprint them for their historical and sociological value.
This Alan Class comic reprints all the stories from MARINES IN ACTION #8. Rock Murdock - "The Fighting Gyrene" - appears in two stories drawn by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. "Hold That Front Line" has Murdock's company holding off a full-scale attack by the "Reds" while "Major Fu's Ace-In-The-Hole" has them rescuing the infant son of a Korean guerilla leader. Boot Camp Brady, another ongoing character, stars in "When Boot Days Are Over," an amusing tale by Dave Berg.
Also from MARINES IN ACTION #8:
"Make One False Move" is a World War II tale of an American soldier who hates all Japanese and who learns a lesson about the folly of blind prejudice from a Japanese-American medic assigned to his unit. It's drawn by Bill Benulis.
"The Roar of Battle" is a Korean War story by Paul Reinman. The American soldiers do remarkably clever things while the North Korean forces do remarkably stupid things.
"Ride For Victory" is a two-page text story which I read just enough of to know it takes place during the Revolutionary War. As with many - if not most - such text stories, it ran in other Marvel comics as well. For example, under the title "Leap To Glory," it appeared in COMMANDO ADVENTURES #2 [August, 1957].
Two stories came from NAVY COMBAT #3 [October, 1956], both of them set in the Pacific during World War II. "The Mosquito Fleet," an "Our Fighting Fleet" tale, was drawn by Joe Sinnott and focused on the missions of a PT boat. In "Full Steam Ahead," the focus was on a battleship. It was drawn by Chuck Miller.
Four stories were from BATTLE #46 [May, 1956]:
"Guerilla Pursuit" is a weird Korean War story about a pair of pathologically noisy soldiers who, among other things, root through their commanding officer's backpack and wallet. This one was drawn by Werner Roth.
"Assault Command" is a World War I story drawn by Bob Forgione and focusing on British soldiers in the trenches.
"Counter-Attack" tells of a World War II soldier who doesn't shoot well. Knowing the soldier was a pretty good baseball pitcher in school, the captain makes the G.I. his starting grenade-tosser. The story is a wee bit far-fetched, but it tickled me. At present, no one has been able to identify the artist of this story. Here's a page of his work if you want to try:
The remaining tale from BATTLE #46 is the afore-mentioned "The Reluctant Warrior." It was drawn by Doug Wildey.
The issue's final two stories are from BATTLE #48 [September, 1956]. "Position...Impossible" is the slingshot story I mentioned earlier. The GRAND COMICS DATABASE [www.comics.org] has identified the artists as Bob Forgione and Jack Abel, but qualified that with question marks. However, other comics historians have attributed the art to Forgione and Abel without qualification.
"Under Attack" brings us the World War I story of Mike Tuska, a former truck driver bemoaning his fate. He's come all the way to France to see some combat and, instead, he's still driving a truck. Despite the war setting, this is a fun little tale. It's drawn by Pete Morisi and, given that artist's oft-stated admiration for the work of fellow artist George Tuska, I'm wondering if Morisi didn't write the tale as well. As fans of his later Charlton comics know, Morisi was as good a writer as he was an artist.
That covers the "full 68 pages" of goodness that was JOURNEY INTO DANGER #8. I am indebted to Greg Gatlin's ATLAS TALES website [www.atlastales.com] and the members of the Timely-Atlas mailing list [groups.yahoo.com/group/timely-atlas], especially Dr. Michael J. Vassallo, Tom Lammers and Ger Apeldoorn, for their astonishing and continuing research in this area.
Watch for more ALAN CLASS COMICS commentary in future editions of this column.
COMICS IN THE COMICS
I have no single unifying theme for today's comics strips and panels, save that all of them are from last September, commencing with Dave Whamond's REALITY CHECK from September 9:
NANCY by Guy and Brad Gilchrist is one of my favorite strips. This salute is to super-heroes ran on September 11:
Super-powers were also the subject of Jenny Campbell's FLO AND FRIENDS strip from September 18:
Maybe I have a theme after all. Our last strip for today also involves "super-powers." It's Pat Brady's ROSE IS ROSE strip from September 25:
Space has been tight around TOT, what with all the DCU reviews I've been running, but I will have more COMICS IN THE COMICS coming your way in the near future.
CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS
In last Monday's column, I wrote I wasn't sure if HEAVY METAL was still being published. It is. That's the cover of the March, 2006 issue just north of this sentence.
Every week, I post a brand-new and exclusive edition of TONY'S OTHER ONLINE TIPS on the Comics Buyer's Guide forums. This week's review is DC UNIVERSE: THE STORIES OF ALAN MOORE. You can read the column at:
I read the news every day. In fact, I read three newspapers every day. But I haven't been writing much about the world outside our beloved comics. I'm not entirely sure why.
Certainly the WPE (Worst President Ever) keeps doing dumb and heartless and even arguably evil things in his unyielding support of the wealthy and the powerful to whom he is beholden. But I keep hitting this brick wall when it comes to writing about him, a brick wall whose graffiti asks me what I could possibly write that isn't more damning to the WPE than what's in those newspapers day in and day out. The growing majority of you already know what a mistake he is, and I can't fathom how to communicate with the dwindling few who fetishistically embrace the delusion that he is not a mistake. What are they thinking?
Ohio politics are somewhat more interesting to me of late, if only because my home state will be pivotal in the 2006 elections. But, even there, I think the newspapers are doing a pretty decent job covering the power grabs and struggles of the Ohio Republicans, albeit while giving too little coverage to the misery and ruination the GOP and its nigh-absolute power has visited upon Ohio citizens. Perhaps these are subjects to explore in future TOTs.
In the meantime, I await your responses to my tentative steps back into the fray. Let me hear from you.
ALL STAR SUPERMAN by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely made the "Must List" in EW's March 3 edition. The series was lauded as "a stirringly mythic, emotionally resonant, and gloriously alternative take on the Man of Steel." In the same issue, Jeff Jensen reviewed ULTIMATE AVENGERS: THE MOVIE and gave it a "B".
Several of DC's engaging lesser lights get their chance in the sun when the smart-alecky Green Arrow (voiced by Kim Shriner) leads a pack of heroes against a crazed supersoldier. Not to worry - the brilliant Mr. Terrific, the sassy Stargirl, the noble Shining Knight, and the trick-shooting Vigilante are no pushovers when it comes to saving the day.
Matt Wayne's script for the episode tickled me so much - the Newsboy Legion, for crying out loud - I didn't realize until later that the various heroes were a modern version of the Seven Soldiers of Victory. Not even when the Crimson Avenger and Speedy appeared. There are days I'm glad breathing is an automatic response.
The WPE's war in Iraq is a disaster on many levels. However, for all the cries of liberal bias from the neocons, the media isn't doing a very good job reporting how bad things truly are in that troubled land. For a frightening look at the ongoing cost of the war to both the Iraqi people and the coalition forces, I recommend the LUNAVILLE BLOG:
This is not an easy blog to follow on a regular basis. When it spent a day listing some of the horrific injuries our soldiers have suffered in the WPE's war of choice, I cried...and was unable to read the entire list.
If the mainstream media were doing its job and reporting this stuff, our troops would be returning home sooner rather than later and the WPE would have already been driven from office. We do our brave soldiers no honor by hiding their sacrifices from the public. Those who do so are neither honorable nor patriotic.
ON MY LIST
This new section is where I will vent - briefly - on whatever and/or whoever has most annoyed me on the day I write it. Here's the list for Thursday, March 2:
Online fans who keep posting the erroneous information that I am keeping Black Lightning from appearing outside actual DC comic books. Sad to say, DC can do pretty much whatever they want to do to/with my creation. They just can't do it outside of their comics without paying me a piece of the action. You'll have to ask them why they keep turning down movie and TV offers.
The old hag who glared at the young mother and her crying baby at a local store. Babies cry. Often. You should be glad a sound of life penetrated your calcified brain. Maybe it'll make its way down to the dried-up beef jerky that is your heart.
Me. Because, even though I'm behind on reading and reviewing their comic books, I'm hooked on DC's manipulative INFINITE CRISIS. It's equal parts "optimistic excitement that something good might actually come out of this" and "not being able to look away from a bloody train wreck," but I'm mainlining the stuff. I should know better. Is there a meeting I can go to? Stop looking at me that way. You could end up on my list, too.
Most every Monday, we post a selection of new questions on our TONY POLLS page. They remain open to voting for a week and then we move on to new questions.
Last month, I asked for your help in making decisions on what to read. Here are the results:
I've fallen behind and I can't get up, at least not without your help. I have years of unread issues of these Marvel Comics titles. Which do you think I should catch up on first?
There may or may not be new TONY POLLS questions as you read today's column. At the time I'm writing it, I haven't come up with them. The only way to tell for sure if there are new questions are to head over to:
Sometime later this week, I'll bring you the final results of our three weeks' worth of Academy Awards questions. The plan is to compare what you wanted to win and what you thought would win with what did win. Maybe even with pictures.
We'll close today's TOT with this note from comics historian, indexer, and interviewer RICH ARNDT:
You should do a review on the SHOWCASE PRESENTS volumes from DC, particularly THE HOUSE OF MYSTERY. The reproduction values are much higher than Marvel's ESSENTIAL volumes and the stories often hold up better than the Marvel stories of the same era. I also like that they're not going with their heavy hitters with every volume. Who would have suspected that Metamorpho would be one of their first ones? Plus, they're a huge bargain for the collector. The B&W actually enhances much of the artwork.
I'm hoping for volumes of The Witching Hour, House Of Secrets, more House Of Mystery, a complete volume of the early Swamp Thing stories, some of the 1980s Marv Wolfman/Gil Kane Superman stories, Archie Goodwin's Haunted Tank stories, the Black Canary Archives book done as a Showcase Presents volume, a Jim Aparo Brave and Bold volume and Sam Glanzman's U.S.S. Stevens tales in one volume. And maybe someday, Will Eisner's Spirit stories in big fat 560-page B&W volumes; at least they'd be affordable.
It will be a while before I get to reading/reviewing SHOWCASE PRESENTS, though I did mention the Superman volume in Friday's TOT. Perhaps once I get current with the DCU/IC comics.
In the meantime, here's my alphabetical list of the DC comics I'd most like to see reprinted:
The Newsboy Legion
Sugar and Spike
Thanks to all the loyal legions of TOT readers for spending a part of their day with me.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
Please send material you would like me to review to: