Friday, March 31, 2023

The Space Ace!

I adore this 1951 classic comic by Bob Powell. When I first came in contact with Major Inapak The Space Ace in 1971, I was thrilled to actually have in my boyish hands a comic of such vintage. I well remember thinking that twenty years was a impossibly immense time and that such gems must be valuable. I treasured it, but would learn some years later that apparently a great cache of these were discovered around the time I got mine and were flooded onto the market.

The comic ain't worth much as a collectible, save in the hearts of fanboys like me. I'm happy to make this comic book a part of my blog. If you've read it before online enjoy it again, if you haven't ready yourself for a surprisingly well-crafted treat. For a comic with such small ambitions as selling some chocolate drink this is a gem.

NOTE: This is a Dojo Revised Classic Post. 

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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Showcase Corner - Rip Hunter...Time Master!

It's all about the art. Like so many delightful features, Rip Hunter Time Master debuted in the late 50's when DC Comics was exploding with new concepts and fresh revivals of vintage ideas. The Flash was reborn and could run faster than ever, Green Lantern was given a mission from wise men in space, Hawkman with Hawkgirl by his side used ancient weapons to fight modern enemies, and the Atom could shrink into the very matter beneath his feet. The Challengers of the Unknown were using their precious borrowed time to help fend off weird threats to the world's security. Adam Strange and Space Ranger defended mankind and other kinds across the depths of space. And likewise, Rip Hunter and his three allies used a time machine to solve secrets make solutions in the modern world. All of these characters have one thing in common, they all debuted in Showcase. 

( Alex Toth)

In the case of many of the characters I mentioned above, they were treated to great art from the hands of DC's excellent talent pool. In the case of Rip Hunter, the artwork kept changing and seemed only to go from strength to strength. The list of talents who drew the earliest adventures is most impressive. Ruben Moriera kicks things off, then he's followed by Mike Sekowsky. The great Joe Kubert is around for the follow up two issues a year later. When Rip Hunter gets his own title Ross Andru and Mike Esposito are the regular team. They are followed for a few issues by Nick Cardy, and he was followed by Alex Toth. Finally a regular artist named Bill Ely took the helm, but even his work was in a class with what had come before. 

The Rip Hunter stories remind me of Dr. Who tales. Rip Hunter stories are not content to have the team of Rip, Jeff, Bonnie and Corky travel to the distant past, but they have to find some weird menace as well. Aliens are good bet, but just as often it is magic. (Like the TARDIS, Rip's "time sphere" apparently had a device that enabled translation.) The quartet is maintained as in the Challs, the Suicide Squad, and so many other teams of this time. The writer of these offbeat adventures was Jack Miller, a mainstay talent at DC who also gave the world Sgt. Rock. He didn't create Rip Hunter, that was Dave Wood (at least according to the GCD), but he wrote almost all of the subsequent stories. Other sources give the creation nod to Miller. 

Below are the covers of the comics contained in this Showcase Presents tome. 

It's of note that Rip Hunter and his colleagues will get snappy green uniforms in the very next issue of the series, which alas is not included in this Showcase Presents volume. 

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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Irwin Allen's The Time Tunnel!

Science fiction on television in the 1960's was largely the work of one man, a man named Irwin Allen. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea ran for four seasons, Lost in Space ran for three seasons, Land of the Giants ran for two. The least successful Irwin Allen show was The Time Tunnel which lasted only a single season. But it was a season packed with lots of different takes on the classic science fiction gimmick of time travel. 

In this 1966 television show time travel was accomplished with the assistance of a vast underground complex hidden in the depths of the American desert called "Project Tic-Toc" There scientists constructed an enormous device, the time tunnel, which could transport people forwards or backwards in time. The project had been under way for at least ten years when a grizzled congressman threatened the funding, prompting Dr. Anthony Newman (James Darren) to make a desperate attempt to prove the validity of the tunnel. He does but gets himself lost in time, and to rescue him fellow scientist Dr. Douglas Phillips (Robert Colbert) follows him back to the time of the sinking of the Titanic. The two cannot change history, but they do save some people before they are whisked away to another time and place. 

They are not under the control of the Time Tunnel complex, and it takes the nigh constant vigilance of Dr. Raymond Swain (John Zaremba) and Dr. Ann McGregor (Lee Meriwether) under the leadership of General Haewood Kirk (Whit Bissell) to save them time after time after time. The stories involve both our two time-lost heroes and the Time Tunnel staff as well who often come under threat as well. The show whisks us off to the Krakatoa, the Civil War, Pearl Harbor, Troy, D-Day, and many other famous periods in history. The meet famous folks like Napolean, Cortez, Billy the Kid, Mussolini, Ulysses, Custer, Machiavelli, and many more. Tony and Doug always seem to arrive on the eve of some dreadful event and though they often try to affect the events they never can ultimately. Lots of footage from countless Fox movies is used to give the stories a grand scale at time. 

The show even goes into the future on some occasions and the boys are often confronted by classic Irwin Allen-type aliens. In fact the show began to rely on aliens more and more often as the series progressed. This is an indication to his viewer that the creators were already running out of gas in terms of times they wanted to plunder for adventure. So perhaps a single season is all that The Time Tunnel could have been. But that one season is a memorable one indeed. 

The show generated a few novels by Murray Leinster and two Gold Key comic books. The DVD set I enjoyed also included a failed 1980's reboot called Time Travellers starring Sam Groom who had been a semi-regular on the original show, and a failed 2002 pilot for a new version of the show. Frankly I rather liked the more recent one, it had virtues. The 1980's show was pretty tepid despite some good acting. 

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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Marvel's Space-Born Super-Hero!

This little volume called out to me from the shelf, demanding to be purchased and brought into my home, to be read, read again, and cherished. I simply adore the Captain Marvel character. That adoration is no doubt to a degree the result of nostalgia. Captain Marvel was my first "favorite" comic book character. I started reading him with his debut issue and continued to do so for decades.

Those earliest episodes though, the more solidly science fiction ones are my favorites. The later cosmically aware hero is dandy, but the sci-fi warrior from the distant planet Kree, a secret agent among Earth's humans, here to take our measure and deciding ultimately to fight for us against his own people, that's the guy I fell for, that's the hero I admire.

The stories in this trade paperback Masterworks volume collect pretty much all of Cap's first wave. Here is merely a Kree warrior sent to Earth in wake of the Fantastic Four encountering the Sentry and then Ronan the Accuser. For more on the Sentry see this link.

He finds himself hidden in plain sight as Dr.Walter Lawson, a man with plenty of secrets whose identity gives Mar-Vell access to some of the most powerful weapons at an American rocket base. He struggles to fulfill his mission of espionage and battle threats from the likes of the Super Skrull, the Sub-Mariner, the Metazoid, Solamm, Quasimodo, and others, all the while surviving the manipulations of his devious commander Yon-Rogg. And there's his girlfried Una too to attend to.

Mar-Vell is a man, a soldier in a faraway land who wants to be loyal to his society, but finds himself torn as the orders he is often given make little sense, seem callous and needlessly cruel. He begins to identify with the population he has hidden himself among, finding a kinship with the enemy as it were. He is a soldier in crisis, on a mission he doesn't understand, fighting a foe he doesn't hate. If that sounds screwy in 1967 and 1968 it is, and for a whole American generation being commanded to fight a spurious war in a faraway land, such ideas were potent. There's a lot to grok in the early days of Captain Marvel, that's for sure.

The series features the work of some of Marvel's best, starting with scripts by the big man himself Stan Lee, who created the character under direct orders from Martin Goodman, to monopolize the most logical name for a superhero the Marvel Universe could have. Gene Colan was tapped as artist and was inked by Frank Giacoia, Paul Reinman, and Vince Colletta. Colletta stayed on board as Don Heck stepped in to take the artistic reins. Roy Thomas had taken over the writing, but gave way to Arnold Drake after several issues. Lots of diverse hands were certainly involved in this alien saga.

It's pretty clear that Captain Marvel was a character who did not find the sales success they wanted as they began to tinker with his premise pretty quickly. The original set-up pretty much dwindles away by the end of the stories in this volume. In this one we see the alien soldier try to remain true to his oaths as well as to the basic decency this warrior of the Kree feels for us mere humans.

Roy Thomas in his introductory essay admits to the quiet echoes of Superman, an alien come to Earth and  getting some powers and living secretly among us. It's a great premise and this variation is intriguing in many ways. It's too bad it didn't yield better sales. Roy also admits to giving Cap his distinctive green and white color scheme, an offbeat look I love. Roy hates it and soon as we all know he'll ditch it for the more common blues and red and yellow.

But in this volume it's all the green and white soldier born in space. Good stuff!

Here's a gallery of the covers of the comics inlcuded included.

NOTE: This is a Dojo Revised Classic Post. 

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