It is a great regret of mine that I somehow didn't discover the wonder of Gold Key until later in life. I don't mean I didn't get one from time to time, but despite finding a Russ Manning Tarzan here and there, I mostly was unimpressed by the somewhat somber comics the company produced despite their impressive covers. I cannot honestly say the price of fifteen cents made much difference since soon all comics cost that and more besides when I was an up and coming fanboy. I loved Marvel, fancied DC, and nursed an appreciation for Charlton, but Gold Key not so much. Maybe it was all the Disney and Warner Brothers stuff they published which never struck me as funny as any of the cartoons. Later I learned the error of my ways but by then I'd missed out on Dr.Solar, Magnus Robot Fighter, and Mighty Samson. (Somehow though I did see the virtues in Turok Son of Stone and got that one from the get-go.)I didn't plug into Samson during the middle 70's when the comic was winding down, but we'll get there soon enough.
I want to begin my review of Otto Binder's Mighty Samson at the beginning with the very first issue which hit the stands in 1964 (before I was getting my comics). Apparently Binder had a deal with Gold Key for at least at least twenty-four issues, so he was thinking in epic terms. Drawn by Frank Thorne it presents a post-apocalyptic world filled with radiation and the beyond bizarre results of that radiation, namely deadly hybrid creatures who never existed on this Earth before. It also affected men, most significantly one tow-headed tyke in "New Y'Ark" living among the neo-primitives of the ruined world. Loved by his devoted mother he shows early on he has strength beyond that of normal men and as he grows to manhood his power is essential in maintaining the security of his tribe. When she dies violently in a battle with another tribe Samson is unleashed, but has to confront a "Liobear" and though he defeats the monster it costs him an eye. He is nursed back to health by the ravishing Sharmaine who along with her father Mindor are not "savages". When Samson is recovered Sharmaine suggests he wear the hide of the Liobear to project his power and bravery. The trio then form a team to struggle against the invading savages and later still keep their leader "Kull the Killer" from getting his mitts on some rifles.
In the second issue which doesn't land on the stands until over a year later, we find the status quo as we left it. Samson, Sharmaine and Mindor are looking for leftover bits of tech and knowledge to help the local tribes but as usual must contend with Kull the Killer. This time though Kull is not just helped by dopey warriors but is in league with "Terra of Jerz" who lives across the "Huzon River" in an elaborate bunker built by her forebears. Terra has a flying saucer-like hover vehicle as well as access to the still operable train systems. Using atomic power she needs new batteries and employs Kull and his cronies to help her get them. But Samson stands in the way and despite beasts like the "Titano-Turtle" and the "Fanged Flyers" is able to keep N'Yark safe from Terra's desires for a kingdom.
Samson's problems increase in the third issue when a poisonous cloud erupts from a long neglected chemical plant and threatens to wipe out life in New Y'Ark. Ironically he, Sharmaine and Mindor find a bunker which has escaped detection since the nuclear war which leveled the world and in it a man named "Pitt" in suspended animation who just happens to know about the plant, and who was supposed to shut it down when the missiles dropped. But it turns out he's a man only interested in saving his own skin and must be driven to help. Sharmaine in particular has no trust for the man and keeps him on track. The team make use of a truck and a helicopter to reach the plant and must battle many of the strange creatures which have erupted on and beneath the Earth's surface.
The fourth Samson saga is a dandy with a Viking-like culture led by a bloke named "Thorr" arriving in New Y'Ark with the express mission to steal metal, specifically from the Statue of Liberty which has crashed to the ground during the war. Mindor is fascinated by this company as they capture him and Sharmaine and sail back to "Greeland" (Greenland after nuclear warmth has caused the glaciers to recede). He finds a culture headed out of the stone age and into full-blown iron production with a massive forge. But Samson who had been defeated and left for dead follows to rescue his mates and is instead forced to fight in a deadly arean against three deadly mutant monsters. He of course wins the day and eventually he and his friends head home. This is an especially good adventure with delightfully fine pacing.
The villain in the fifth Mighty Samson adventure reminded me of Eclipso of DC Comics fame. When a stranger named "Vaxar" is found floating down the Hu'zon River on a giant leaf he is rescued by Samson and his allies. But that man it turns out has a secret. The current problem in New Y'Ark is a wave of deadly radioactive geysers and Mindor is desperate to find a way to stop them. At first this stranger seems a strong help in solving the problem but his continuouis disappearances are cause for alarm especially since when he's gone a deadly and immensely strong mutant named "Oggar" appears and confronts Samson and company. We have here a man who must struggle with his dark side and the power that descent into darkness can provide, but at a terrible cost. Again Samson battles some outlandish mutant monsters as Oggar proves able to control many of them.
The sixth and final Mighty Samson issue in this first volume features the return of the sultry Terra of Jerz who seeks Mindor's and Samson's help with her pet project which involves bringing forgotten satellites back to Earth, specifically the area of Jerz where she can pluck out the technology preserved in the vacuum of space for so many years since the war which ravaged the planet. At first she appears reformed but of course that's bogus and her plots end up bringing down deadly space spores which congeal into an enormous "Vacuum Beast" which proceeds to suck up everything and everyone in its path beginning with Terra's underground facility. This immense menace is of course defeated with one of the most hair-brained schemes in the comic yet. The comic closes out with a black and white two-page offering showcasing the history of the Empire State Building, including a certain very special ape who spent time there once upon a time.
These Gold Key adventures are briskly paced and wildly entertaining even with some of the most outlandish creatures very imagined. More Mighty Samson next week.