Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Thunderbolt Reports - Special Case #0005

Thunderbolt #54 is dated October 1966. Again Pete Morisi using his pseudonym P.A.M. is responsible for the story and art for most of the issue including the cover.

Special Case Number 0005 from T-Bolt's Personal Files is titled "This One's for Tabu!". The story begins in Peter Cannon's secluded mansion where he and friend Tabu are discussing the Peter's role as Thunderbolt and the current whereabouts of the Hooded One. Peter is still reluctant to become T-Bolt. The two get into the boxing ring yet again and spar but Tabu using Savate knocks Peter onto the canvas for a change. But before Peter can retaliate Tabu collapses.

A doctor then informs Peter that Tabu has contracted African Tryanosomiasis better known as "Sleeping Sickness". The doctor regrets that there is no cure. But Peter knows of one from his days in the Himalayas and immediately takes a trip back to the land that gave birth to Thunderbolt. He consults the High Abbot of the lamasery and discovers that the plants he needs have been destroyed by the winter snows. But then Peter remembers the "Cave of the Peaks" a dangerous location where the Mongols patrol, but where all things exist. He immediately heads off on horseback to find it.

He is confronted by Mongols and his horse is killed by gunshots. But when the Mongols attack in close quarters Peter overcomes them and they then tell him of the location of the Cave of the Peaks. He again rides into the snow and eventually discovers the cave. Inside he changes his wet clothes but finds only his Thunderbolt costume which Tabu persistently packs in his supplies. Putting it on he explores the cave and finds dinosaurs frozen in ice. He is then confronted by the Hooded One and the pair exchange threats. Put Peter leaves the Hooded One and explores the cave further and discovers an opening into a hidden jungle region seemingly from the prehistoric past.

He starts his search for the plants he needs and encounters many types of dinosaurs even getting charged by a Styrachosurus (a one-horned dinosaur similar to the more famous Triceratops). He avoids the beast which gets its horn stuck in a tree. Taking to the trees, Thunderbolt explores the jungle further before he is struck down by tiny arrows fired by pygmy warriors. Using his vast will power he overcomes the effects of the arrows and charges into his small attackers overcoming them when they suddenly run away. The reason is all too obvious as a Tyrannosaurus Rex appears. T-Bolt takes a spear and launches it puncturing the beast on its nose. It dies and the pygmy warriors are impressed enough to help T-Bolt find the plant he needs.

Quickly he retraces his steps and is soon flying back to America. At the hospital he arrives with only an hour to spare as the cure awakes Tabu. Peter tells a grateful Tabu that he only went on this quest so that they could have a return boxing match and Peter could repay Tabu for his kick to the head.

"Behold...The Sentinels" is a new back up feature created and written by Gary Frierich and drawn by Sam Grainger. The story begins in a smoke-filled Greenwich Village nightclub where a trio of folk singers called "The Protesters" are performing. They are Rick Strong, a 21-year old college graduate, Cindy Carson, a 19-year old beauty with a future in Hollywood, and Crunch Carson a beefy fellow with a potential future as a professional football player. After the performance in their dressing room they are arguing with Rick indicating that unless they find some financial success relatively soon he might have to take a job as a teacher. The keep bickering for some time when a small boy opens the door and asks them to come see his uncle Mr.Jones their landlord. The go to see him and he reveals that his real name is Kolotov and he's an exiled Russian opposed to Communism. To that end he has invented some great weapons that he wants to share with the trio, who he has been watching for two years preparing for this moment. He gives Rick a power pack that straps to his back which will make him lighter than air and he dubs him "Helio:, he gives Cindy a headband which will give her ESP and dubs her "Mentalia", and finally he gives Crunch a pair of gloves which will make him super-strong and he dubs him "Brute". Crunch demonstrates the power of the gloves by punching through a solid oak door. Kolotov makes the trio swear a pledge to use the devices only to combat evil and promptly dies. The three agree to stay together and become Sentinels of Justice.

"Thunderbolts" is the name of the letters page and this time offers up four letters. The lackluster cover design of Charlton books is mentioned. One fan thinks that P.A.M. is actually editor Pat Masulli, but is disabused of that notion. One fan regrets that P.A.M. has left the westerns and Dick Giordano, the editor who did these pages informs us that P.A.M. does comics part time only. The Sentinels back-up feature is mentioned and a new policy is announced that all of Charlton's Action-Hero books will feature back-ups and fans should certainly let editorial know what works and what doesn't.

And that wraps another Thunderbolt issue. With this installment the book is fully ripened. The T-Bolt adventure is a dense one filled with good action, and the concern Peter has for Tabu gives us an insight into this aloof hero. The addition of the Sentinels completes what will be the format of the book for several months. I found the bickering between the trio a bit hard to take since it had so little background to support it as relevant characterization. It seemed forced like Friedrich wanted to ape the Marvel style which was becoming dominate in the comics of the time. Mighty Comics was the worst offender of this habit of creating bickering heroes, but sadly losing the deep context which made it work so well for Marvel. The Sentinels is a very Marvel-feeling strip, especially with Grainger's artwork. I really like Grainger though I know many folks don't. He's got a lively line and there's a real energy to his work. The strip is a very neat visual counterpoint to the more austere Thunderbolt lead.

More to come.

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