Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Thunderbolt - Special Case Number 11!

Thunderbolt #60 is dated November, 1967. The new team is in place. Pat Boyette produced the cover image and there's also a new logo for this final issue of the series. It is noted in the letters page that the cover features fewer captions and more action. "When Flies the Dragon" (Special Case Number 0011 for this report's purposes) is written by Sergius O'Shaugnessy (Denny O'Neil moonlighting at Charlton under a pseudonym) with artwork by Pat Boyette. Dick Giordano is listed as the editor. 

The story begins with a quote from the Chinese sage "I Ching" who is shown on the splash page alongside T-Bolt and his opponent. I get the sense that he is the narrator of sorts for the story. The tale begins in an airplane headed from New York for Australia where Peter Cannon is going for a writing job. He is seated to next to an obnoxious "lady's foundation garment" salesman when the plane is suddenly hijacked and they are flown to a remote location in the Australian bush country. There the passengers encounter The Dragon Master who informs them they are all hostages pending the payment of one million dollars and a hydrogen bomb. The unfortunate salesman gets lippy with the Dragon Master who uses his flame-jet gun to slay him. Peter and the rest are taken to a dungeon where Peter becomes Thunderbolt. He slips into the compound and defeats many of the Dragon Master's men before overhearing a radio message directed to New York, a Fu Street, and specifically a place called the "Rooms of Mist". T-Bolt overpowers the operator and sends an S.O.S. He is then confronted by the Dragon Master himself but escapes the fury of his Dragon Gun. An airplane hears the plea for help and wings its way to assist. 

The sound of the coming plane makes the Dragon Master flee in a helicopter as his henchmen scatter. Later in the safety of his hotel room Peter calls Tabu and tells him of his suspicions about Chinatown and the "Rooms of the Mist". Peter returns home to find Tabu missing and a note saying that he had investigated the clue. Peter surmises Tabu has been captured and becomes Thunderbolt again to save him going into Chinatown. He finds Fu Street and soon finds Tabu and his captors and quickly defeats them. Confronting Dragon Master again he and Tabu are captured and imprisoned in a steam room. T-Bolt uses his great will to tear loose steel struts and uses them to bash open the door. He and Tabu escape and T-Bolt races to the roof to confront the Dragon Master again who is once again escaping in a helicopter. T-Bolt breaks loose a television antennae and blocks the rotors, also causing a leak of fuel. Furious the Dragon Master tries to use his Dragon Gun but forgets the fuel and he and his pilot are caught in a fiery explosion. Later Peter and Tabu discuss the case and remember a cryptic comment made by the Dragon Master of one other he'd met who impressed him, and Peter wonders when if ever he might meet this other person similar to himself. "Thunderbolts" offers up six letters this time in a much smaller font that typically used. Two of the letters are filled with praise for the new Boyette artwork and look forward to the changes. Two letters express extreme disappointment that P.A.M. was leaving his creation. One writer gets confused and thinks that O'Shaugnessy had written the previous issue. And one writer wants the Sentinels replaced. Which the editors say they have all ready done.

"The Prankster" is written by Sergius O'Shaugnessy and drawn by Jim Aparo. The editor again is Dick Giordano. Set in the future city of Ultropolis, the Prankster is the enemy of an oppressive state and the the tale begins with him interfering with an execution using a hot air balloon to rescue the unfortunate prisoner. The balloon is high-tech though and moves very quickly. The Prankster leaves the prisoner in the balloon, instructing him how to land it and jumps out, to encounter and defeat two soldiers with laughing gas before making his escape. In the palace of the Tyrant Bane, a Captain Ludovic Wratt makes his report but instead of getting aid from the leader is forced to beg forgiveness from a robotic computer with which Bane has a fetish. Meanwhile the Prankster slips into the underground of the city to meet Hiram Grave a scientist who gives him the technology he uses to battle the government which has outlawed "love, laughter, art...everything that lends dignity to human beings". Grave gives the Prankster a new device, a magic flute but we do not see its secret. The scene shifts to the streets again where a girl has been caught by the police spraying graffiti and the Prankster disguised as an old man intervenes. The story ends as the police hold the girl and the Prankster at gunpoint. The next chapter is advertised as "The Vengeance of Wratt" but it never is fated to appear. 

Once again the great "Action-Heroes? We Got 'Em!!!" ad appears that closes the book on Thunderbolt at Charlton. This is the end of T-Bolt and the end of the Action-Heroes as well. Despite the teases in both the Thunderbolt and Prankster stories we never find out what will happen. The Prankster was a series with potential and Aparo's artwork was typically excellent. The Thunderbolt series under O'Neil was going to be more problematic. Peter changes under O'Neil, becoming more alienated from his role as Thunderbolt. Whereas Morisi has Cannon show reluctance to don the garb, there was never any doubt both Peter and T-Bolt were the same man. With O'Neil there seems to be the idea planted that Peter hates T-Bolt and wants to reject utterly what he represents. It's a more extreme treatment of the ideas that Morisi dealt with more quietly. But it is a treatment that will ultimately require a change of premise. 

But as it turns out it was a moot point. Thunderbolt was a distinctive series, guided by its creator Morisi and assisted mostly by Boyette, the series offered a hero filled mostly with calm, who spoke quietly but always came through. That's a neat counterpoint to the bombast that dominated Marvel at the time. Of all the Action-Heroes T-Bolt has been spared the changes at DC, because of the undeniable fact that Morisi created and maintained some degree of control of the character. Thunderbolt is still what Morisi wanted him to be for the most part, and that's no small accomplishment in the world of comics. 

No more Thunderbolt to come. 

NOTE: This is a Dojo Revised Classic Post. 

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  1. That looks like an excellent last issue. I have to say I prefer Boyettes art to PAMs (who I also like) on Thunderbolt.

    The Prankster is a new character to me and it looks a pretty interesting read. Aparo's art at Charlton was wonderful I have a few of his Phantom, Nightshade etc strips from this time and they are all stunning.

    1. Aparo's work for Charlton has a power that does go with him to DC but diminishes somewhat as he refines his style. Boyette's T-Bolt is dandy, but the Morisi offers the real deal for this reader.