Monday, January 23, 2017

The MLJ Companion!

The MLJ Companion from Twomorrows Publishing is another in their handsome line of tomes dedicated to vintage comic publishers. They have several out there, but the one this mostly reminds me of is their earlier volume dedicated to Quality Comics. We have scuds of articles on the early days of the MLJ company (named after its trio of original owners Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit, and John Goldwater - what a lack of imagination!).

1960's Revival
The company has more than a few distinctions as one of the earliest comics publishers, among them offering up The Shield, the first flag-wearing superhero (pre-dated Captain America by many months) and  killing off one of their heroes - The Comet, whose brother then becomes another - The Hangman. That's not insignificant, but when a red-headed teen named Archie showed up in Pep Comics, the fortunes of the company were changed for all time as the superheroes were disappeared and the teen adventures of the Riverdale gang became dominant and continue even in the modern day. Some folks don't even imagine that Archie Comics (they changed their name) even ever had supeheroes (aside maybe from Captain Pureheart and his lot).

1980's Revival
Well those heroes are on display here - The Shield, The  Fly, Mr.Justice, The Fox, The Hangman, The Comet, Blackjack and many more. The heroes of the MLJ company have been revived more often than any other group of heroes I suspect, maybe even more than the THUNDER Agents. It seems each decade sees a new attempt to make these guys relevant and all of those sometimes hapless and sometimes awesome efforts are on display in this book, which also features some downright signficant stories from MLJ's earliest days. I personally immediately read the story which featured the death of The Comet, a yarn I've read about all my life but never actually read. It was pretty good and to imagine it was part of the Golden Age, which truth told could offer up some pretty tarnished efforts, was even more impressive.

1990's Revival
So I recommend this book, even if the sticker shock is a bit painful. There's real value here.

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  1. To say I have a soft spot for these MLJ characters (well more to their Mighty Comics and to a lesser extent Red Circle versions) is an understatement. I attribute "The Mighty Crusaders" issue 5 (1960s) as the comic that got me really hooked on US superheroes and I have been following them in their various “paper copy” incarnations since then, For me the “Mighty Comics” version was the best (in many ways it was so bad it was good). In the UK the MLJ characters were regularly published under the various “Alan Class” black and white reprint titles for many years up until the 1980s. I would love to see them resurrected and given one more chance as “fun read” characters. I will certainly look that book out if I see it in Glasgow.

    1. I didn't find any of the Mighty Comics when they were around and I don't know when I first discovered Archie did superheros (aside from the Riverdale type) but it's for sure I liked the Red Circle Bronze Age push, arguably at first the most Marvel-like competitor we'd seen to that time expect for the all-time champ Atlas-Seaboard.

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