Thursday, November 30, 2017

King Of The West!

Jack"King" Kirby did more westerns than I thought when I first looked into it. While it's not a genre he's famous for, he seemed to have a good handle on the elements of showcasing the western landscapes and staging the action of gun play.  Up top is the very first western cover featuring the King's artwork that I could locate, an issue of Prize Western. Below we have covers for Boys' Ranch, Bulls Eye, Wyatt Earp, Rawhide Kid, Kid Colt, Two-Gun Kid and more. Enjoy some vintage Kirby!

Historical Accuracy Update: Thanks to loyal Dojo reader Britt Reid I learned of an earlier Jack Kirby cover than the Prize Western cover which leads off this gallery. Here it is in all its glory.

Here is Hillman's Western Fighters #1 from 1948 -- it's a good one too.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Golden Derby - November 1967 & Beyond!

The "Action Hero" line from Charlton ended in 1967 and 1968 with a whimper and not even remotely a bang. With the kind of resolute editorial changes the small publisher was capable of, the titles Captain Atom, Judomaster, and Thunderbolt were cancelled. Soon thereafter Peacemaker joined them when its fifth and final issue hit the stands fifty years ago this month. In another distinctively drawn issue by creator Pat Boyette, the somewhat redesigned Peacemaker attempts to qell an uprising in a volcano of all places and in the back pages the Fightin' Five end their long and venerable run with some vintage spy fighting. And that was the end...almost. A few months later  in a month which proved to be quite the significant transition for Charlton as it moved away from heroes into the more and more ghosts and such, we get a highly strange but attractive one-shot tale in Charlton Premiere by artist Henry Scarpelli in which the wannabe villain Sinistro Boy Fiend battles Peacemaker, Blue Beetle and some heroes not seen before nor seen since. Many months later  in the shank of 1968 we get a final issue of Blue Beetle, the most pure expression by Steve Ditko in this particular comic of his political philosophy of "Objectivism". This issue had the feel less of a new issue of Blue Beetle and more a sense of a new installment of Mr.A. But with this comic, the Action Heroes closed up shop at Charlton for good.

Charlton would produce some of the best horror comics ever in the coming years and they would bring fascinating spins on myth (Hercules) and westerns (Wander, Man Called Loco). Eventually the superhero would return, but by then Nicola Cuti and Joe Staton wrought something fresh and fun in the shape of E-Man.

The Action Heroes themselves would pop up at Charlton in the middle 70's only in the pages of the Charlton Bullseye, a fan-created zine making use of unused pages from Charlton's vaults. This kept the fires lit briefly but even that  faded.

Several years later as the 80's hit, the heroes would be revived a final time by Charlton in a different Charlton Bullseye, one published by the company itself, but that was it. AC Comics had the contract for a year and brought out a few comics dedicated to the fondly remembered Action Heroes.

But the real sea change came when as a present for editor Dick Giordano, DC Comics picked up the Action Hero line-up and incorporated them into the DC Universe during the famous Crisis on Infinite Earths.

That proved to be a new beginning for the heroes with new series kicked off for Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, Peacemaker and Thunderbolt for time. Only Judomaster didn't get the nod, but he did join those others in a 1999 book by "Action Hero" editor Giordano and CPL Gang alumnus Bob Layton called L.A.W. (Living Assault Weapons)

The Action Heroes continue to be part of the DCU, with new iterations appearing from time to time, but for this fan, the "Action Heroes" will always be part of a golden time when a little company called Charlton tried to do super heroes in a different way. While the heroes  failed to find lasting sales success, they did find the kind of lasting power that lingers in the imagination. Thanks to those creators  (Frank McLauglin, Pete Morisi, Steve Ditko, Joe Gill, Jim Aparo, Pat Boyette, and many others) who made it possible. And finally thanks to Dick Giordano, the editor who kicked it all off.

This feature will suspend at this point -- after several years of tracking the monthly doings of the Action Heroes, this is the final tip of the Golden Derby. What will  come is still open to speculation, but it's been a hoot folks. Thanks for riding along.

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