Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Son Of Vulcan Reports #5

Son of Vulcan Volume 2, Number 50 is dated January, 1966. The editor in chief and creator of Son of Vulcan is Pat Masulli. The artwork is supplied once again by Bill Fraccio and Tony Tallarico. They also supplied the artwork on the cover. The big news this time is that Roy Thomas, a neophyte writer from the fan community offers up the script, Roy "Not-Yet-The-Boy" Thomas begins his comics career here with this story in the final issue of Son of Vulcan. Here's a link to see what else was on the stands when this issue arrived.

"The Second Trojan War" begins with Johnny Mann of World-Wide Correspondents interviewing movie director A.J. Colosso who is making a movie about the Trojan War. Colosso regales Johnny with some background info, essentially laying out some of the more famous details from Homer's epic saga. But then a scream from Lisa Collins, the starlet of the picture sends Colosso running. Johnny takes that chance to transform into Son of Vulcan.

He finds the actress threatened by runaway horses pulling a chariot, and using his strength from the gods, the "Mightiest of Mortals" pulls horses, chariot and all into the sky and out of harm's way. Lisa is ecstatic and gives her hero a big kiss but then is frustrated when Colosso fails to get this moment on camera denying her the publicity. Then the actor playing Achilles quits the movie. Son of Vulcan agrees to play the part and help Colosso out.

The scene shifts to the secret lair of Dr.Kong, the arch-nemesis of Son of Vulcan who is using his defective robot assistant "Adam Klink" to undermine the movie production for reasons that go unstated.

Son of Vulcan starts his movie career but has it interrupted when Lisa is again threatened by a falling wall, but she is saved when Son of Vulcan puts himself between her and the falling debris. But she is unhappy he didn't just sweep her up in his arms out of harm's way. The section closes with Lisa unhappy with Colosso and her hero Son of Vulcan and SoV convinced there's more to her than meets the eye. Dr.Kong threatens to do more mischief.

"Green Goo" is a one-page text story about the sudden and dangerous appearance of a murky green ooze which rises from the ocean's waters and begins to creep across the ground. After much hubbub and speculation about its origins, and some significant damage a military officer suggests that great ditches be cut to allow the goo to follow the path of least resistance back to its origins in the sea. It works for now.

Part 2 "Prisoners of Doctor Kong" begins with Son of Vulcan using a great gladiator's net to throw the stone debris into space. He and Colosso then discover the metal footprint of Adam Klink and suspect sabotage. That night Adam Klink appears and kidnaps Lisa and Son of Vulcan sees and follows. But when Klink drops down a narrow hole in the ground, SoV is forced to change back to Johnny Mann to follow him down. This allows him to be captured by Dr.Kong and he manacled to the wall and gagged.

Kong then introduces his weapon, the Anima-Ray which he plans to use to animate great statues like the Statue of Liberty and the Sphinx and thus conquer the world. Kong leaves to start more trouble for the movie company and leaves Johnny being guarded by the clumsy Klink. But Johnny is at last able to remove his gag and transforms into Son of Vulcan and with one blow demolishes Adam Klink. He then follows Kong and is stunned at what he sees.

Part 3 "The Trojan Horse Walks!" starts as Son of Vulcan is confronted by the enormous Trojan Horse, built for the movie, and the behemoth is walking and promptly attacks Son of Vulcan. The battle rages, as SoV calls down a mace.

Ultimately he uses bow and a flaming arrow to begin a fire in the mouth of the giant false horse but it makes the Horse even more wild and out of control. Son of Vulcan saves the director Colosso from being crushed under the hooves, but then he realizes that Lisa Collins is captive inside the Trojan Horse.

Rushing into the monster, he frees Lisa and the Horse at last burns to the ground. Dr.Kong then animates a local stream of water and sends it against Son of Vulcan but with the water pursuing him wherever he went, SoV is able to turn it against Kong by flying right past him. Overwhelmed by the water, Kong's Anima-Ray is destroyed and the threat is at last over.

The scene shifts several months later to the Hollywood premiere of the movie "Warrior Against Troy" starring Lisa Collins and Son of Vulcan and Lisa Collins is interviewed by Johnny Mann. She is upset and throws a camera at his head when he suggests the star of the movie is Son of Vulcan and not Lisa herself, somehow Johnny interprets to mean Lisa might be interested romantically in the Son of Vulcan.

Dr.Kong plots further trouble from his jail cell in final panel.

"The Strangers" follows several aliens as they arrive one by one across the globe and are confronted by various creatures in various climates. They are startled by a snake, upset by a skunk, bothered by a hornet's nest, assaulted by a snapping turtle, attacked by a bull, and swatted by a housewife before deciding to leave the planet and head home with the words "Go!Man...Go!!". The artwork is by Ernie Bache.

This is the final issue of Charlton's Son of Vulcan series. With a costume redesigned by fan Dave Cockrum last issue and a complete script by fan Roy Thomas this issue, it's clear that Charlton is attempting to tap that base of dedicated comic book readers who have been kindled by the success of DC and Marvel especially. This script by Roy is a bit of a Hail Mary, a last-ditch attempt to generate some interest in Son of Vulcan, a hero who clearly seems not to have found an audience.
The stage is set for a change of editorial regimes as Pat Masulli will give way to Dick Giordano and the era of "Action Heroes" looms.

This particular story is very different from previous issues in that the gods are not present at all. Only Vulcan is referenced at all but he is not seen. Of course there's much mythology present in the shape of the movie about the Trojan War, but the whole feel of this story is different. Ironically in this story about the most famous war in history, the anti-war theme which has been a part of most previous issues is ignored.

One thing though that does alas come through is a change in personality for Son of Vulcan. He sounds more like the perpetual adolescents that populate early comics, the kind who are awkward around girls for no particular reason. That's clearly an attempt to characterize Son of Vulcan, but it's a bit of a cliche and doesn't fit him I fear.

"Adam Klink" is a clear reference to "Adam Link" the creation of Eando (Earl and Otto) Binder who appeared in science fiction stories and in comics tales. It's a clever spin, and the idea of a malfunctioning henchman robot is a neat one.

All in all this is a sturdy enough comic, but it turns away from what made Son of Vulcan distinctive, perhaps with good reason. It's regrettable the series ends with this story, but I imagine Dr.Kong is still in prison to this day. What a wretched little man.

With the next issue, the numbering will continue, but the title will change to Thunderbolt, the action hero created by Pete Morisi. Looking at the house ad above, it seems this was a last minute decision as the ad suggests that Thunderbolt will continue and so will Son of Vulcan. But apparently Thunderbolt's series gets cancelled after a single issue and he takes over for Vulcan's favorite Son.

Charlton apparently was able to get quick results from the sales of its books and the company wasted no time in making moves to maximize sales and the precious shelf space they battled for each and every day.

There is some evidence that Roy Thomas and fan artists Biljo White and Sam Grainger proposed a revised Son of Vulcan to Charlton Comics, but nothing came of it. A single page of this proposal can be found in Bill Schelly's Fandom's Finest Comics. It showcases a sleeker Son of Vulcan, minus the large helmet and the full armor.

Later Son of Vulcan will get sold to DC Comics along with the other "Action Heroes" (how he got grouped with them is anyone's guess)and next time we take a look at his brief time at DC Comics.

More to come.

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