Monday, January 9, 2012

The Son Of Vulcan Reports #3

Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds Volume 1, Number 48 is dated September, 1965. The editor-in-chief and creator of Son of Vulcan is Pat Masulli. The cover is by regular artists Bill Fraccio and Tony Tallarico, who also provide the artwork on the main story inside. The writer is again Joe Gill. Here is what else was on the newsstands when this issue arrived.

"Fury of the War God" begins with a symbolic splash page showing a chained Son of Vulcan threatened by a disguised Mars, God of War and despairing of getting aid from Olympus.

The story proper begins in the jungles of Vietnam where Mars is checking out the ongoing struggle between the forces of North and South Vietnam. A furious lightning bolt erupts and he is summoned to the throne of Jupiter who voices his displeasure with his son and his warlike ways, and wishes he could be more like the Son of Vulcan.

The scene shifts to the offices of the news syndicate which employs Johnny Mann and who is getting his latest assignment. It is to go to the waters of the Arctic and explore the disappearance of three meteorologists. The waters are the domain of a whaler named Captain Tusk. Johnny thinks a better story is to be found in the Near East where mobs have been attacking embassies, but he is overruled.

The scene shifts again to the Near East where it is revealed that Mars is manipulating the crowds to create the attacks on the embassies, to foment aggression against the Americans. Jupiter though has had enough and punishes Mars for his meddling by casting him down to Earth, and stripped of much of his godly might and power. Ironically he is cast down right into the area of the Arctic into which Johnny Man is headed.

There Mars finds Captain Tusk and his lovely daughter Sally at dinner. Mars then captures the pair of them and makes himself the twin of Captain Tusk, thus taking control of his whaling fleet. He puts his captives in an ice cave where the missing scientists also happen to be.

"Imbalance" is a one-page text piece about a city that suddenly finds that half of it is sinking and other half is rising. It turns out that one side has too many tall skyscrapers and it has created an imbalance. A professor puts forth a dramatic plan to demolish enough buildings on one side to balance the city again. Desperate this plan is used and hence forth any large building on one side will be matched with another on the other.

Part 2 "The New Captain Tusk" begins as Mars disguised as Tusk is leading his whaling fleet on a rampage through the Northern waters attacking vessels and planes alike to establish his claim. News of this violent behavior reaches Johnny Mann who becomes Son of Vulcan and flies to investigate. Following an odd electronic signal he finds the Tusks and the scientists within the ice cave and calls upon Vulcan for aid to help them. Vulcan sends a ball of fire which melts the ice posthaste.

Mars witnesses the release via a remote camera and races to the scene in a rocket-powered snow sled. He finds and attacks Son of Vulcan who soon enough discovers that his enemy is an imposter and has enormous strength. He knocks SoV out and escapes. Son of Vulcan divines that it must be Mars he is battling with and flies after his nemesis, confronting him aboard his ship where once again Son of Vulcan is struck down, this time by a thunder strike. Chained, Son of Vulcan is the fake Tusk's prisoner.

Part 3 "The Villain" has the ship controlled by Mars/Tusk rampaging through the Northern waters with Son of Vulcan chained and held prisoner in the bow. This is seen from Olympus and Jupiter incorrectly surmises that SoV is the culprit behind this latest wave of violence. Vulcan protests, but to no avail. Mars/Tusk continues his attacks until he is confronted by a U.S.Naval vessel armed with nuclear shells.

These shells are fired and the conflagration is ferocious but only succeeds in freeing Son of Vulcan who once again takes after the fleeing Mars/Tusk who tries to use a harpoon gun against our hero. Sally Tusk intercedes and causes him to fire into the ship itself which blows up. Son of Vulcan saves Sally from attacking Killer Whales, but it is left to Mars to save the real Captain Tusk, which he in fact does, proving he is not all bad.

Mars disappears and is presumed dead, but Johnny Mann now safe aboard a naval ship along with both Captain and Sally Tusk is not so sure, and feels he will need to be guarded against the eventual return of the war god.

"Volcano" is a three-page comic story about various real world volcanos throughout the world and history. Mentioned are volcanoes Vesuvius, Krakatoa, Pelee, and Mauna Loa among others. The art is supplied by Rocke Mastroserio.

This is the last issue of Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds by that title. And it was the one issue of the adventures of Son of Vulcan I most wanted since seeing the cover as a boy in early Charlton comics house ads. I mistakenly thought Jim Aparo did the cover for years until I was able to see a copy of the comic firsthand at long last. It's easily the best Son of Vulcan cover aside from the debut issue.

The adventure establishes firmly Mars as the primary opponent of SoV, a similar situation to what Charlton's Hercules will find a few years later under the capable hands of Joe Gill and Sam Glanzman when Ares, the Greek equivalent proves to be his primary menace. We also get a peek at the feud between Jupiter and Vulcan as their sons are compared.

The anti-war theme reappears in this issue, with the conflict in Vietnam described by Mars as not even a proper conflict given its low-tech manner.

It's hard really to understand the nature of Captain Tusk's situation in the Arctic as he seems to claim vast stretches of ocean as his domain. Under what legal right he claims this territory is uncertain and unstated.

Another solid entertainment by rock-solid professionals. With the next issue the amateur fan creators will be making their presence felt on the Son of Vulcan.

The story was reprinted by Alan Class in Secrets of the Unknown #169.

More to come.

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