Sunday, August 19, 2018

Dojo Classics - Hercules #10


Hercules #10 is dated April 1969. It features a dynamic cover by Sam Glanzman and the comic is edited by Sal Gentile.


The lead story featuring Hercules is titled "The Ninth Head The Couldn't Die" and it was written by Joe Gill and illstrated by Sam Glanzman. The story opens with Hercules pleading to the gods but when Mars and Hera rain a storm on him he girds up and seeks out King Eurystheus for his next labor. Eurystheus sends him to kill a monster near the well of Amymone in the Argosian Swamp. Hercules is surprised he will be allowed to use weapons and so goes to the Oracle of Plaeceum to find out more about his mysterious task. When he tries to enter the cave of the Oracle he's confronted with horrific fire-breathing monster but he doesn't back down and the creature transforms into a beautiful black-tressed woman but then her hair begins to strangle Hercules and he attacks her with is sword saying "Touche'". She transforms again into a hag and then tells him of the Lernaen Hydra the monster with nine heads, one of them immortal. The scene cuts to Olympus where Zeus enjoys a repast and he learns of the task set before his son. Hercules goes to the swamp and almost immediately confronts the Hydra and begins to cut off its heads only to see each one he severs replaced by two more. Finally he tries to sever the main head and his sword clangs off in futiltiy. Hercules responds with a "Oh, Golly!". Meanwhile an ally of Hercules, a boy named Iolaus shows up with a torch and Hercules borrows it to burn off the heads he severs and this seems to work. Then a giant crab attacks but Hercules dispatches this beast sent by Hera. Turning his attention back to the Hydra he cuts off more heads then climbs a giant boulder and finally is able to cut the main head. He then takes the boulder and crashes it down on the monster defeating it. The story closes with Hercules leaving the swamp triumphant and Mars saying to Hera "Gee, Ma I hate that Kid."


"Mountain Man Morgan in Tornado Trouble" relates a tall tale about the giant Mountain Man Morgan and how he shows up to help the railroad lay tracks by various means using his great strength. Ultimately she stops a tornado by using his lungs to create a counterforce wind. This tale is very similar to the previous text story about Morgan.


Thane of Bagarth is titled "Chapter Ten: From The Future!" and was written by Steve Skeates and illustrated by Jim Aparo. The story begins with fallen form of Hrothelac, the banished Thane of Bagarth, as he is found by Celts and taken to their village and tended to. The scene cuts to the Time Traveler as he lands in England and eludes some warriors. Anther scene shift takes us back to the land of the Swedes where King Beowfulf's man Eadstan discovers his men have left the area, so he finds a horse and takes the beautiful Freahulf and they ride back to the land of the Geats. In that land the traitor Eowand, the current Thane of Bagarth plots to use the absence of Eadstan to further his ambitions.


"Letters to the Editor -- Hercules" features three letters this time. One is from Sam Glanzman himself and he addresses the question of the slanted eyes of Hercules, pointing out that the slanted eyes he gives to Hercules originate from the designs on Greek vases and have nothing to do with Asians and "Asian villains", who by the way don't have "slanted" eyes anyway. He offers up a chart to prove his point. The other letters compliment the book but complain that it's difficult to find back issues of the comic. The editors say they'll pass this on to the distribution guys.

This is a really offbeat issue. Sam Glanzman is clearly exerting himself trying to make the book more exotic in its design. Many of the pages use very baroque and detailed elements to break up the panel structure. The word "Mod" is used by the editors in the letters page at one point and I assume that's what they are trying to do with the comic, make it more hip somehow. The changes are also seen in the dialogue. As noted some of the lines in the lead Hercules story have a very different tone, very modern. It's a bit jarring, but clearly they are trying to pitch this comic to a more sophisticated crowd. The changes in the Thane of Bagarth storyline presumably come from the same motivation. There's not doubt that the comic is changing.


This comic was largely reprinted under the Modern Comics label in the 1970's.

More to come.

Rip Off

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Dojo Classics - Hercules #9


Hercules #9 is dated February 1969. It's edited by Sal Gentile and the cover as always is by Sam Glanzman.

The lead story is titled "Diomedes' Curse" and it was written by Joe Gill and illustrated by Sam Glanzman. The story begins with a splash page with Mars the God of War threatening Hercules as he battles the carnivorous horses of Diomedes. After a summary of the feats of the Man-God from the last few issues, the scene shifts to the forge of Vulcan who is fashioning a new sword for Mars who says he's going to use it to frustrate the godly aspirations of Hercules and Vulcan reminds him he cannot take direct action by rule of Zeus himself. The scene shifts to the court of King Eurystheus who is giving an angry Hercules his next task, to retrieve the ferocious horse of King Diomedes of Thrace. Diomedes is tipped off by Mars that Hercules is coming. A storm is assaulting the ship Hercules is using to get to Thrace as Mars encourages Poseidon to sink it. He refuses but does let free a fire-breathing sea-dragon which does attack the ship only to be repelled by Hercules, much impressing the God of the Sea. After reaching Thrace Hercules is arrested and seeks a sign from Zeus as to what he should do. Zeus lets slip a thunderbolt which Hercules interprets as a sign and he breaks his chains and battles face to face Diomedes the King of Thrace. He defeats Diomedes then proceeds to find the savage horses. These he does find and defeats in quick order by binding their fanged snouts, and taking them to King Eurystheus much to the latter's great regret.

Next up is "The Hero Huang Gho" which is a text story telling of how the great Genghis Khan ultimately failed to defeat the city of Cheng-Tse because it was defended by a forty-foot giant named Haugn Gho who was quite strong and could emit flames from his fingers. Khan sees the giant and decides to move his army around the city. There is speculation that the giant was mechanical.

Thane of Bagarth is again written by Steve Skeates and illustrated by Jim Aparo. The story picks up on a battlefield where King Beowulf's man Eadstan is recoving from being knocked out only to find a beautiful girl standing over him. It turns out to be Freahulf, the daughter of Daeghred the Scholar who had been taken captive by the Swedes but had escaped. Eadstan orders her to follow him and they seek escape from the land of the Swedes. Meanwile the Geats fear Eadstan is dead and retreat. Then the story takes a most unexpected turn as we shift forward in time (and genre) to the year 2147 and meet a Time Traveler and his daughter and her boyfriend John. Despite rules against it, the old man wants to travel to the past using his newly created equipment. Despite warnings he does travel into the past, but his machine explodes leaving it to John and his daughter to repair it. Meanwhile (or earlier in time actually) the Traveller finds himself adrift but headed towards what appears to the Medieval past.

"Letters to the Editor -- Hercules" closes out the comic this time. There are three letters, most complimentary of the comic especially Thane of Bagarth. One writer does wonder what happened to the old Action Heroes, and is told they are cancelled but may return some day. Another wishes Herucles would fight fewer animals in the countryside and spent some more time in cities. The editors say they'll pass the request to Gill and Glanzman.

This is a weird issue. The lead Hercules story is becoming very formulaic. Hercules gets task, completes task after some interference from either Hera or Mars or both, then agrivates Eurystheus by bringing his prize back to court. This is at least the third time this formula has been used. Glanzman's artwork is still exquisite and his panel arrangement is getting more experimental. Thane of Bagarth on the other hand spins completely away from its presumed heading and introduces a science-fiction concept completely alien to what has gone on before. Despite comments that the Hercules book is selling well, changes like that in Thane of Bagarth suggest otherwise. The artwork is superb still though.


One fun thing about this comic is the inclusion of a Joe Weider ad featuring muscle man Dave Draper. Seeing this in a Hercules comic is fun.


The lead story was reprinted in Charlton Classics #9, the last issue of that 1980's run. To my knowledge the Thane of Bagarth story has not been reprinted.

More to come.

Rip Off

Friday, August 17, 2018

Ultra Seven!


After seeing Ultraman for the first time several years ago, I kept running across references to other Ultra series and it seemed that a consensus about the many shows that Ultra Seven was among the very best if not the best of the many which followed on after the first great series. It's last series to have the direct involvement of Eji Tsubaraya who sadly passed away soon after this series aired. So based on the reviews, I too a tumble and picked up a collection as I was in a kaiju mood this summer. I was very pleased and agree that the series is in many ways top notch.


For one thing it is much darker in tone and themes than its immediate predecessor Ultraman. There's a frothiness to Ultraman, but that glee in this follow up but is subdued by a darker atmosphere and a greater reliance on horror tropes. The threats here feel more palpable and the outcomes of struggles feel less certain, or at least as uncertain as serial television of the era can deliver.


One of the details that leaped out at me watching this series was just how much of it was filmed at night, giving the whole series an obviously darker and more mysterious feel. Much kaiju happens in broad daylight for practical reasons, but monsters are always more ferocious under the cover of darkness and Ultra Seven makes good use of that classic tactic.


The more elaborately designed Ultra Seven seems to be at a loss more often it felt to me at how to deal with the myriad threats he encounters. Ultra Seven always felt more alien to me than his predecessor, even when he's in his Dan Moriboshi identity. He felt apart from his comrades and often is lost. It's hilarious sometimes to listen as they repeat the name "Dan" over and over and over throughout an episode. Whatever the case, I really enjoyed watching these vintage shows and look forward to doing it again in the future.

Rip Off

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Dojo Classics - Hercules #8


Hercules #8 is in many ways the most peculiar of the run. The issue is dated December 1968 and the cover is by Sam Glanzman. The comic is edited by Sal Gentile.

The lead story is titled "The Boar" and was written by Joe Gill and illustrated by Sam Glanzman. Hercules goes to Hera's agent on Earth King Eurystheus for his next task and is instructed that he must bring back the giant Boar of Mount Erymanthus and return the beast to the court of Eurytheus, and further Hercules is only allowed to use the strength of his own hands to subdue the the monster. Hercules heads off on this task and climbs into the mountains. There he is attacked by giant monster birds with poisonous talons, creations of Hera, but these disappear when Zeus orders her to cease her attack. High in the snowy mountains Hercules comes across an encampment of warriors, one of whom calls him a fool for taking on the Boar. Hercules cuffs the mocker and then heads higher still to seek the Boar, which he is told will be easy since the monster will be hunting him. He finds the tracks but after following them for a while he gets concerned when it appears the beast is circling around behind. Almost immediately the giant Boar attacks and Hercules wrestles it, finally getting atop its back. Sliding up and down the mountainside Hercules rides the Boar bareback for a week until he at last tames the monster. This newly trained creature he rides back to Eurytheus in triumph.

This lead story is shorter than usual coming in at twelve pages.

Next is the letters page "Letters to the Editor -- Hercules". It features two letters, one asking for original artwork. The response indicates either it's policy not to release the originals or there's a legal liability for doing it, the editors seem confused on that point. One letter writer makes note that Dick Giordano is gone on the DC.

"The Legend of Hercules" is a one-shot feature this issue. It's presumably written by Joe Gill and is certainly illustrated by Sam Glanzman. It relates the classic origin of Herucles, telling the story of how he killed serpents in his crib and how he was trained by the centaurs in warcraft. There's a spectacular full-page shot of Hercules in battle alongside Zeus and Hera against the Titans. Also it says that Hercules was on the voyage with Jason and his Argonauts for the Golden Fleece. It is after this that Hercules seeks atonement, but it's unclear why, save that he seems ashamed he's human at all and not a full god. He goes to the Oracle of Delphi who sends him to Eurytheus. The six-page feature concludes with a summary of the previous seven tasks Hercules had performed (Lion of Nemea, Gerion the Giant, Cerebus the Hound of Hades, Apples of Hesperides alongside Atlas, Amazons, Stymphalian Birds, and the Bull of Minos).

Thane of Bagarth is written by Steve Skeates and illustrated by Jim Aparo. This installment is titled "Chapter Eight: Escape". It begins with the alchemist Mordwain administering a drug to Hrothelac to give him strength, which promptly knocks him out. The scene cuts to Beowulf's man Eadstan who leads the Geats agains the Swedes in battle. The battle is brutal and at last Eadstan is struck down, but is found by a Swedish servant girl. Back in England in the dungeon Hrothelac is awake and full of furious energy as he attacks the door to his jail. The guards enter and Hrothelac attacks them escaping. Mordwain escapes too. Hrothelac heads to the shore where another Viking ship approaches. But he collapses and is found by a band of Celtic villagers.


The lead story was reprinted in Charlton Classics #8.


Now Hercules #8 is unique. In addition to the four-color version I've detailed above, there was issued presumably at the same time a magazine-size black and white version of the comic. It's similar but not identical to the color version. It's also dated December 1968. The cover is developed from a panel by Sam Glanzman inside the story, and added is a figure of Hrothelac Thane of Bagarth by Jim Aparo. (This is the only cover appearance by Thane of Bagarth in its orignal run.) The lead story is titled "The Fantastic Giant Boar" and is largely the same story written by Joe Gill and illustrated by Sam Glanzman from the color comic. The story though is reformatted and the twelve page story is expanded to twenty. This is done by blowing up certain panels and suchlike.


The rest of the contents are comprised of reprinted material from early issues of Hercules. Next is the first Thane of Bagarth chapter followed by the first Hercules story from Hercules #1. Then two additional chapters of Thane of Bagarth (Chapters Two and Three) close out the magazine.

I don't really know what Charlton was trying to do here. I presume they were exploring to see if Hercules would sell in other venues using the material they'd developed. 1968 saw Marvel experiment with magazines, specifically the Spectacular Spider-Man books. And of course there was the relatively ongoing success of Warren's line of books. There is not editorial in the magazine to explain it. Charlton already had a reasonably strong cadre of magazines and perhaps simply wanted to add to that line-up. One small note though is that Sal Gentile is listed as the editor, despite the fact that most of the material in the magazine was produced when Dick Giordano was editor of the line.

I didn't get a copy of this magazine until many years after the fact, though I have a vague recollection of seeing it on stands at the time. It's a curiosity for sure, a real oddball relic from Charlton's oddball history.

More to come.

Rip Off

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Ultraman!


Ultraman is the most famous of the Ultra series. I'm not student of these kaiju TV shows, so I cannot properly put this show in its proper context, but suffice it to say the addition of a colorful superhero to the classic kaiju formula was very successful and as far as I can tell this was the first show to do it.  I've always been struck by how much the Ultraman origin is like Green Lantern's. An alien crashes on earth and bequeaths his powers to a human, who then goes on to use those powers to defend the Earth and his fellow citizens from all sorts of threats, but mostly those from the depths of space.


The show also has the charm of a family unit. The Science Patrol is a gang of adult kids in many ways. There's the smart brother who is a bit goofy, the strong brother who is always reliable, the lovely sister who is sensitive and true blue and the father figure, the authority figure who keeps the others in line. Add to this mix a doughty superhero and it's a pretty good brew for adventure.


Also a big advantage to these shows is the half-hour time frame which gives the yarns a delightful pacing. The stories unwind with alacrity but never feel rushed. We get the characterization, the sci-fi or quasi-mystical set-up and a little kaiju fisticuffs, all in a speedy frame which is reliable but also pliable. The fact that the story actually ends with the season is remarkable to me in an modern era when such story telling has been rediscovered with much fanfare.


Ultraman is a goofy television show, but it's a really well-done goofy television show and a pleasure watch.

Rip Off

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Dojo Classics - Hercules #7


Hercules #7 is dated November 1968. The cover is by Sam Glanzman. The comic was edited by Sal Gentile. The lead story is titled "The Bull of Minos" and was written by Joe Gill and illustrated by Sam Glanzman.

The first story begins with King Eurystheus being confronted by Hera who demands he find a task that will frustrate Hercules in his attempt to ascend to Olympus as a full-fledged god. She suggest he be sent to get the Bull of Minos. Eurystheus commands it so and Hercules heads off, but not before Hera afflicts him with a magic spell that robs him of his strength. Hercules is smacked to the ground by a girl and robbed as he was helpless on the ground. Hercules at last through sheer will overcomes the spell and gets aboard a ship and heads to Minos with the blessing of Poseidon. Before they get to Minos the ship has to make land for repairs and Hercules goes for a stroll. He meets up with Anteus, a giant warrior who challenges the Man-God. Hercules battles the giant only to discover that Anteus only grows stronger and larger when he makes contact with the ground. Finally Hercules knocks him out with a giant column to the noggin and then throws him into the sea. He joins up again with his mates and heads to Minos. King Minos hears of Hercules and sends the Minotaur to intercept him. After making landfall Hercules encounters the Minotaur but defeats him and makes the monster take him to the Bull of Minos. The Minotaur complies and Hercules then confronts the giant bull. He finds he cannot defeat the beast by hand but digs a pit, fills it with water and then gets the Bull into it where he at last can bind it and drag it back to the ship. He takes the Bull to Eurytheus and unleashes the brute to rampage through his court. The story ends with Hercules and Zeus exchanging warm thoughts.


There are three letters in "Letters to the Editor -- Hercules", and ironcially one of them comments on the text stories that have been running in the series. The editors say they are necessary to meet postal regulations, but ironically there is no such story in this issue. One strange comment though is elicited from the editors in response to a criticism that Charlton had cancelled many of their hero books. The comment suggests that matters other than sales had to do with the cancellations. I can only assume the departure of Dick Giordano is the reason, but that's speculation. Another letter objects to the design of Herc's eyes by Glanzman, and after a very politically correct response about Asians, they editors seem to agree that Hercules should not have "slanted" eyes, though based on the comic Glanzman does what he wants in that regard.

Thane of Bagarth is titled "Chapter Seven: The Captive" and it is written by Steve Skeates and drawn by Jim Aparo. The story begins with Freahulf being captured by raiding Swedes as they kill the royal envoy from Beowulf sent to fetch her. We then cut to Hrothelac in a dungeon in England for a moment before cutting back to the Swedes who ride past Garmscio, Thane of Rothfor who hides from the raiders. The scene changes to the castle of King Beowulf who orders an attack on the Swedes to revenge their raids, but before he can make the order specific he collapses in agony. He's not dead, but sorely ill. Meanwhile the scholar Daeghred, father of Freahulf, finds the dead envoy and discovers his daughter is missing. He goes to the Thane of Bagarth, Eowanda but is summarily rebuffed. Eowanda then gets news of Beowulf's illness and begins to plot. The scent shifts again to Beowulf's castle where the sickened King has recovered but cannot lead his soldiers and so orders his First Councilman Eadstan to do so and to also be wary of Eowanda. We are reminded of Beowulf's vision that Eowanda would lead his troops in battle. Eadstan heads off with warriors to complete his mission.

This is a solid issue. The Hercules story has plenty of action in it and some neat humor involving the gods as they look down on Hercules.
The stories do have a certain predictability to them at this point, though the addition of the battle with Anteus was unexpected. Hera's spell was a neat touch and offered up some surprises. The Thane of Bagarth story is rich with plot, but Hrothelac is barely seen. The complexity of the story only grows.


The lead story was reprinted in Charlton Classics #7.

More to come.

Rip Off

Monday, August 13, 2018

Ultra Q!


When kaiju ruled the theaters there was a sensible attempt to translate the phenomenon of giant monsters to the small screen. This was hampered by budgets, already relatively small on periodic films, but tiny on weekly TV. Nonetheless there was Ultra Q the first of the Ultra series which soon gave the world the famous Ultraman. Eiji Tsubaraya's special effects were the key to the success of this show as even some designs from the films made their way onto the small screen, most notably a jacked up rendition of even the mighty Godzilla.


The show though doesn't really succeed in my opinion because of the monsters, though many of them are delightfully odd and even on some occasions scary, but it succeeded because of the tone of the story telling which was brisk (a half-hour is a perfect vehicle for most TV shows to honest) and compelling. We follow a trio of intrepid investigators, two pilots and a girl reporter, who respond to weird and unusual events which crop up on a weekly basis. Apparently the goal was to create a show which captured vibe found in American shows like Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone and the more purely science-fiction show The Outer Limits. The latter is the most comparable to what Ultra Q feels like with a supercharge of kaiju to mix it up a bit.


Ultra Q is a smart bit of television which is helped enormously in my opinion by its black and white status, imbuing the show with an atmosphere ideal to the types of mysteries being explored. There's a garishness to color, especially in regard to many of the kaiju which would make the proceedings feel  less compelling. If you haven't seen Ultra Q I heartily recommend it, as I found I like quite a bit more than the later Ultraman, though that show certainly has virtues of its own. More on that later. I liked Ultra Q so much, I actually am ready to watch it again already, but I'll hold off a little while.

Rip Off
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...