Sunday, August 12, 2018
Dojo Classics - Hercules #6
Hercules #6 is dated September 1968, and is something of a turning point for the series. In the previous issue Sal Gentile had taken over as editor and in this issue Sergius O'Shaugnessy (Denny O'Neil) gives way as writer to Charlton stalwart Joe Gill. Sam Glanzman remains on the the art chores.
The title of the lead story is "Hercules' Choice" and it begins quite literally with Hercules having to choose a path, one leading to pleasure and joy and the other to hardship and duty. These paths are marked on a sign and each has a lovely woman marking its beginning. Zeus and Hera look on while Hercules ponders his choice. But Hera is interrupted by Mars, the God of War who is mad at Hercules because he stopped a war that Mars was sure would last a good long time. Mars hurls a spear at Hercules which brings down a hillside on him. Thinking this the work of Zeus, Hercules chooses the path of duty and hardship. That road takes him to King Eurystheus, who was mentioned in the first adventure but is seen now for the first time. He gives Hercules the task of slaying the Birds of Stymphalus, birds which are the pets of Mars no less. Hercules takes on the task and Mars is most upset looking down from Olympus. Going to Stymphalus, Hercules finds it deserted save for a woman who seeks to warn Hercules of the danger of the Birds. It seems they are giants, and very dangerous. Hercules escapes the talons and falls into a cellar where he finds the villagers cowering from the monsters. Taking his weapons he goes up to fight the Birds but finds them proof agains his spear and his sword. He does manage to break the neck of one of them swinging a giant timber. Then the Birds show another power and fire some of their nigh-metallic feathers like arrows at Hercules who protects himself with a giant rock slab. He then strings his bow, a gift from Vulcan, but the Birds fly out of range. Hercules is at a loss. But in Olympus Aphrodite goes to Minerva who sens a magic rattle to Hercules, which draws in the Birds which he then uses his bow and arrows to dispatch. Triumphant he travels on the road of hardship looking for his next task. Meanwhile in Olympus Zeus invites Hera and Mars to dine with him on a scrumptious meal of Bird gotten he says from the Stymphalus region. They are both nauseated by the invitation.
The text story this issue is titled "Mountain Man Morgan in Sandstorm". It is a tall tale of a railroad crew besieged by Indians who seek help. The get that help from a giant named Mountain Man Morgan who is empowered by Indian magic. He is reluctant to kill the Indians despite the evil nature of their leader, and uses his massive lungs to blow up a sandstorm which drives the Indians away far into Mexico making it possible for the railroad to finish.
There are two letters in "Letters to the Editor -- Hercules". Both are by writers who would make impact in the field. The first from David Singer praises the comic and the second from Duffy Vohland is a broad letter commenting not only on Hercules but three other Charlton books as well.
Thane of Bagarth this time is presumably written by Steve Skeates though for the first time there are no credits. The artwork is by the all-purpose Charlton team of Nicholas and Alascia. The story is titled "Chapter Six: The Queen" and finds Hrothelac captured after escaping his Viking captors in England. He is taken to the dungeon and there is tended by another prisoner named Mordwain who is in jail for speaking out against his Queen. We meet the Queen and the King as they hear news of a possible pact with the Mercians which the Queen rejects. She is clearly the one in charge. Another scene change takes us back to the Land of the Geats and King Beowulf's castle as he gets word the Swedes are raiding the territory. Thane of Bagarth Eowanda, Hrothelac's disloyal brother sends an envoy to get the lovely Freahulf for him. While on their way back to Eowanda's castle, the pair meet a party of Swedes. Back in England Mordwain treats Hrothelac's wounds but the two cannot converse yet. The story closes with the threat of war in England.
This issue as I say is a transitional one. Mars is introduced in the main Hercules story and he will have an increasing role in the trials of Herucles. As drawn by Sam Glanzman, Mars is a vivid character with his exotic armor. Also in this story Hercules seems more a frail man with desires and weaknesses of spirit. It's been hinted at in other stories, but is a focus here. In the Thane of Bagarth the story is pretty static really, as Hrothelac is pretty passive in most of it. In fact that's been something of a flaw in the story all along.
The main story here was reprinted in Charlton Classics #6.
The backup story was reprinted in Thane of Bagarth #25.
More to come.