Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Bygone Heroes-A-Go-Go!

Let's lighten the mood. It's a season to look to the light and to the light-hearted for entertainment. And one place one can find all sorts of upbeat comics fun is the shiny silvery age of the 1960's. Superheroes were all the rage for a few white-hot years and many of those heroes had smiles on their faces most of the time. Their missions were to save our world from the despair of our daily lives filled with threats of contentious foreign conflicts, tempestuous race relations, and nuclear annihilation even. 

Perhaps the zaniest "hero" of the era was ACG's Herbie Popnecker. I've had the first two volumes of Herbie's misadventures in my collection for some time waiting for a propitious moment to crack them open. Now's the time to savor some truly offbeat and strange adventures by creators Richard Hughes and Odgen Whitney featuring America's favorite lollipop sucking protagonist. (Take that Kojak!)

Herbie was not alone at American Comics Group (ACG). He was soon joined by Magicman and Nemesis, two heroes who hailed from the supernatural but who appear to want to have fun fighting crime and whatnot. I've never read any of these before, so I'm much looking forward to diving into this silvery pond. 

The Batman TV show was a major driving force in how the public came to understand superheroes and for good and ill shackled the public mind about long underwear types for decades. The movies of the 21st Century have done much to undo that perception but it certainly was rock solid during the swinging 60's. I want to take another look at the Batman TV show and some of the bizarre progeny which erupted from its enormous if momentary popularity. Since the show originally appeared on Wednesday and Thursday nights, I'll be using those two days (and maybe more) for the "Batmania" posts. 

Another DC comic that epitomized the 60's was the sometimes painfully "hip" Teen Titans. The title in which the sidekicks gathered together to fight crime, save the world, and bicker about the older generation. Written by Bob Haney and drawn for much of its illustrious run by Nick Cardy the Teen Titans are of their time. DC lost its hold on the audience because they misjudged the audience and the creators were too old to really catch on. No comic showcases that more effectively than Teen Titans

Among the many wacky superheroes of the era were the many splendid and peculiar defenders of all that is good and right in Riverdale such as Captain Hero, Superteen, Evilheart and Pureheart the Powerful from the folks at Archie Comics. The Archie folks also were unique in that the MLJ outfit had two different sets of superheroes. The firm chose to revive their Golden Age heroes for a Silver Age stab at success with the Mighty Crusaders. Alas they fell somewhat flat in a ferocious attempt to ape the then exceedingly popular Marvel style. 

"Showcase Corner" will also focus on a comic I unfortunately didn't get around to finishing a few months ago -- DC's stunningly strange and bizarre "Dial H for Hero" from the pages of House of Mystery. Robby Reed's many queer ramblings by creators Dave Wood and Jim Mooney are perhaps as peculiar (almost) as ACG's Herbie.  

And for something a bit different I'm beginning a brand-new feature called "Sunday of Stone" which will focus on the surprisingly successful and durable adventures of Dell's and later Gold Key's Turok Son of Stone. Turok and his ally Andar are two Pre-Columbian Indian braves try to escape from a seemingly endless "Lost Valley" teeming with primitive tribes and prehistoric creatures of all varieties. I have long loved the Turok stories and thanks to Dark Horse's archive series I have a good chance to read their earliest adventures by artists such as Rex Maxon, Bob Correa, among others, and writers Gaylord Dubois and Paul S. Newman. 

I'll be consulting as a guide the delightful Twomorrow's tome by Michael Eury entitled Heroes-A-Go-Go which features most of the heroes above among many many others as well. 

And look for a surprise or perhaps two along the way as December rolls on relentlessly towards its festive finale. If I have the time that is, as these months are never quite as long as I imagine them to be when I start.  Looks like we're pushing 2021 out the door with a bang at the Dojo! Wish me luck!

Rip Off


  1. I used to love those Archie Pureheart etc comics and the Mighty Crusaders will always have a special place in my comic book affections with issue 4 being the comic that got me really interested in US comics.

    1. There is a charm to the Archie heroes for sure and the MLJ heroes seem to be unkillable. They keep rising up in all sorts of places and with all sorts of companies.

  2. I got a deal on the three volume Brothers of the Spear set a few years back and I was surprised at what DuBois and Manning could comfortably accomplish in six pages. I was even more impressed by the benign and reassuring world view that was clear enough to get across to the young kids reading Tarzan. I guess you've covered the strip before, but along with books like Turok and various licensed properties, I'm beginning to value as a grown-ass adult many of the positive Dell/Gold Key comics I ignored as an adolescent.

    1. As it turns out I'm sort of planning that trio of Brothers of the Spear books for the beginning of next year. 2022 is a year in which I want to spend focusing at least to some extent on ERB and the adaptations of same in Gold Key and elsewhere and the BotS are a part of that. And I totally agree, I regret more and more not jumping into Gold Key with both feet as a youth. The stuff didn't strike my match then, but it's remained stout through the decades.