Friday, September 30, 2016

Mirror Mirror!

Mirrors are freaky things. They shows ourselves, but not quite. We become so accustomed to seeing our image reversed that we are sometimes startled when we see ourselves on film or in pictures. That is not the image of ourselves we have in our imagination. In my imagination I'm still slimmer than harsh reality reports. In my imagination the gray hair on my head and in my beard are less profound and evident than my wife sometimes tells me and my barber announces each time the clippings fall. Comics have long loved to use mirrors to reveal rather than conceal and showcase some aspect of character. This month we have a gallery of some of the wackiest mirror covers I could find. Enjoy!

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Golden Derby - September 1966!

Fifty years ago this month was a breakout month for Charlton and for the Action Heroes who for a short time shined so very brightly there. It marked the debut of "The All New" Blue Beetle created by Steve Ditko. Read the story here. The character first appeared as a back up in Captain Atom #83. The Captain Atom story in that issue also was a blockbuster, the first of a two-part yarn that would see a new costume, but perhaps more significantly a change in the Captain's awesome powers. The guiding hand of Dick Giordano is becoming increasingly apparent as he tries to fashion a cadre of heroes who are more human than super, and putting the Captain's powers into some sort of check was key to this approach. The month also saw yet another issue of Ghostly Tales, the spook-filled comic that would show the way forward for Charlton in the years following the demise of the Action Hero titles. I'll have to confess this cover by Giordano and Mastroserio is not among the best which decorated the title. Wild West is an oddball comic, a one-shot which simultaneously revived a vintage comic title from Charlton's early days and the numbering of which was a last-ditch continuation of the venerable horse comic Black Fury. Romance continued as a staple of Charlton as this cover for Teen Confessions can attest. Likewise the generally sturdy war genre featured an above average effort as seen in this cover by Giordano for Marine War Heroes. Charlton has well and truly begun one of its most sterling periods, as we shall see in the months to come.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Dynamic Duo Of Kandor - Part 2

Nightwing and Flamebird were just some Silver Age flotsam until the advent of the delightful Superman Family comic. A blending of the Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Supergirl titles, this comic was a fun, typically light-hearted package month in and month out and its pages gave a home briefly to Kandor's own costumed crimefighers.

The  Dynamic Duo of Kandor make their first appearance in the comic when the original team of Jimmy Olsen and Superman enter Kandor to help out a scientist whose daughter seems to have fallen victim to a life of crime. For a time Jimmy / Flamebird joins her as a plague sweeps through the city and only the most extreme measures can save the bottled city.

Then things change when a new team is introduced. Van-Zee had been a longtime member of the Superman cast, one of the many Superman doubles in the universe, he and his wife Sylvia (an Earth woman) and their two children have a nice life in Kandor. He takes on as his apprentice a young man named Ak-Var who was released from the Phantom Zone after serving his sentence of thirty years. The two of them look enough like the original team of Superman and Jimmy that they become the Dynamic Duo with the populace little aware of the change. We later are witness to the moment when they decide to take on the roles and it pretty much adds up to a simple decision to make use of the costumes and equipment which are unused when the originals are out of town, which is almost all of the time.

Though they rarely got the cover, they had a spot in the comic (which shifted to dollar comic size soon in its run) for several years. To be honest the adventures by writer Paul Kupperberg and artist Ken Landgraf and Romeo Tanghal among others with occasional work by Carl Potts and a stunning finale by Marshall Rogers is for the most part competent journeyman work, typical for the Bronze Age. The stories are not all that compelling but they are interesting as Ak-Var sometimes clashes with his mentor Van-Zee, the latter preferring most of the time a more patient course in dealing with issues. The stories sometimes were mere chapters in larger epics which plowed through the whole comic, which limited their effectiveness when read as stand alone.

But in their careers they battled Brainiac, the mysterious "Crimelord of Kandor", and a host of plagues which beset the tiny city. Below are the covers of the issues which featured the team. They make the cover sometimes, but most times they are small fry indeed.

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