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Right around the transition from the Silver Age to the Bronze Age, comics loved to start getting into some real serious shit, both in regular series and non-canon PSA comics presented by third party organizations. Marvel cranked out more of these than anybody so a crazy amount of these involved your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. A lot of these PSA comics managed to score some industry greats too, what with Danny Fingeroth telling us about epilepsy awareness, Bill Rosemann getting kids to respect power tools, and Howard Mackie and Al Milgrom warning us about proper tooth brushing habits (yeah, all of these are real books).

But forget those stories. This is far and away my favorite of all the bizarre Spider-Man PSAs, Spider-Man Vs. The Prodigy, in which he faces his most heinous villain yet: teenage boners!

In 1976, Planed Parenthood decided that there were way too many kids running around, fucking the bejeezus out of one another. One call to Marvel later and we end up with one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever read, written by Ann Robinson (who I’m pretty sure wasn’t normally a writer, but the lady in charge of Marvel’s licensing) and penciled by the legendary Ross Andru.

Our PSA starts with Spider-Man climbing the Pan Am building and talking smack on Dr. J when he notices a bunch of teenagers filing into a helicopter. Immediately, Spider-Man gets suspicious. These kids don’t look upper class and look more like “they should be home listening to their new Henry Gross albums.” It’s worth noting that Ann Robinson was married to record producer Tommy West, the guy who produced Henry Gross’ albums around this time. Promoting your husbands’ albums in a quip made by Spider-Man in a free book distributed to kids by Planned Parenthood? Classy!

We cut to a giant mansion where a space alien from the planet Intellectia monologues about his plan to get on national television and use his “magnetic monotone” (according to the caption, his spaceship has shitty shields and the radiation absorbed while passing through the Earth’s ionosphere caused him to get the power to have a persuasive sounding voice) to brainwash America’s youth into making “stupid mistakes.” And what is his plan? Telling them to fuck, kidnapping the babies, and taking them back to Intellectia for child labor!

Back at the Pan Am building, Spidey decides to attach himself to the helicopter and hitch a ride to wherever it’s going. Of course, it ends up at the mansion. As soon as the helicopter lands, the kids are ushered into a classroom where the alien begins teaching them that grown-ups tell them to wait to have sex because they secretly don’t want kids to have a good time. He then tells the kids that unprotected wanton sex is the only way for a teenage boy to “prove hes a man.” And when hes questioned by some of the kids about how that goes against everything their sex ed teachers said, he just replies that getting pregnant is good for you because it “Clears up acne.” After finding out about his upcoming appearance on national television, Spider-Man has heard enough. He makes a totally not-at-all dated Marcus Welby, M.D. joke and springs into action.

 

Pictured: Another way to not get pregnant. Take note, kids!

 

Well, Spider-Man doesn’t get far before he’s spotted by the machine gun-wielding guards who chase him onto the roof. Spider-Man crouches down and pretends to be a gargoyle (seriously) but that doesn’t work because the guards aren’t complete idiots. Spidey knocks them all out between panels and makes his way to the mansion’s private TV studio. He waits outside for the broadcast to start and then smashes the window and rips off the alien’s mask revealing to the world that he actually just kinda looks like a green Sinestro. After Spider-Man wags his finger at the alien for a couple panels, he decides that he needs to “end the power of the Prodigy” (the first time the alien is given a name) and shoots webbing down his throat. One thumbs up to the camera later and the story abruptly ends.

The last three pages of this 18 page book are dedicated to Spidey Facts about everything sex and advertisements for other Planned Parenthood literature with weird titles (what the hell is The Sex Alphabet?). Man, people in the 1970s believed some weird shit. My favorites are that “masturbation won’t make you insane” and that “doctors are both men and women and so are nurses.” You know what? Here. I’ll just show you that whole awkward page.

 

Oh my God, click to enlarge.

 

So, there you have it. The best of the worst of the Bronze Age Marvel comics PSAs. You know, for being as awkward and as terribly written as this book is, Ross Andru still seems to have given it his all. At least it has that going for it, right?

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If you wanted to get laid in the mid-60s, it was easy. All you needed was a Vespa, a fistful of amphetamines, and a firm grasp on all things British Invasion-y. DC Comics, in their infinite wisdom, decided to cash in on mod culture with Swing With Scooter, a book about Scooter, a Paul McCartney clone, quitting his band and moving to the U.S. to live life as a normal teenager. Plus, the book was written by Jack Miller (creator of Rip Hunter) and drawn by Joe Orlando, one of the greatest artists to ever work on Daredevil! There’s no way this could go wrong unless, oh, let’s say John Lennon claims the Beatles are “more popular than Jesus” thing and the British Invasion going belly up. So what is DC to do? How about replace Miller and Orlando with Henry Boltinoff and Henry Scarpelli and turn the whole damn thing into another fucking Archie clone? Perfect! Here’s November 1968’s Swing With Scooter #15 (a triple-feature!).

Well, before we get too far into this, I guess you should know who all Scooter’s friends are. Sylvester’s the klutz who overeats (Jughead?), Kenny’s the player (Reggie?), Penny’s the rich brunette who wants to fuck Scooter (Veronica?), Cookie’s the not rich girl who wants to fuck Scooter (Betty?), and Malibu’s the vampire (um, Morbius?). Yeah, one of these things is not like the others.

Anyways, our first story (titled “Will the REAL Princess Please Step Forward?”) starts out poolside at Penny’s place. She gets a letter that Koobla Kin, the sultan of oil-rich Salti-Arraba, and his daughter are coming to visit. Everybody is psyched about it (with the exception of Malibu, who’s pissed that Salti-Arraba isn’t a democratic country) and decides to welcome the sultan by being as culturally insensitive as possible. Donning some Arabian costumes, the gang heads outside in time to greet the sultan, Sherry (his Americanized daughter), and Prince Amid (the overweight douchebag oil tycoon the sultan’s forcing Sherry to marry). Let the stereotyped hijinx begin!

HA! What iss thees... Date rape!

Later on, Sherry reveals to Scooter that she doesn’t want to marry Amid, instead pining for Nikel Oozee, the guitar player for some garage rock band. Since Scooter has to get involved with everything, he calls up Oozee who immediately writes a song for, runs away with, and marries Sherry (well, that was fucking easy). Of course, the second Sherry’s gone, Amid shows up asking for her. Scooter decides to deal with this in the weirdest way possible, dressing up in a harem costume and running around flirting with the prince. Of course, this dumbass plan is ruined when the prince rips off Scooters’ pants (hello, international incident).

Koobla Kin captures Scooter and the gang, telling them that he’s going to have them tortured and executed. Fortunately for them, Koobla’s adviser runs in to tell him that Amid’s  17 oil wells all dried up (at once?) and that he’s broke. Malibu tells the sultan that Oozee’s band just got their sixth gold record (who he didn’t mention this sooner, I’ll never know) and he’s rich as fuck. In celebration, the sultan decides the kids won’t get brutally murdered, and runs off to drum for Oozee. A-yup.

Yeah, that'll teach Kenny to be a guy on a date.

Our second story, “Lover, Lover, Run for Cover,” is pretty much the same joke over and over again for about six pages (at least it’s Joe Orlando’s art again). Kenny wants to fuck some new girl in town named Ginger. Not having it, the gang and Ginger decide that he’s due for a good old0fashioned cockblocking. They go back to her place where Scooter and Cookie lie in wait, disguised as her parents. They run away, but Ginger wants to look at some house for sale. The real estate agent (Sylvester in disguises) mentions marriage and, once again, they run away. They decide to get a soda and head to a local diner, where the gang’s set up a wedding rehearsal. It just so happens, Ginger’s pro-wrestler brother, Ferdinand, is there as well. Kenny insults Ferdinand who then jumps on the back of Kenny’s Vespa and the story just kinda ends there. Moral of this story: Scooter and his friends are dicks.

From what I hear, he's well off.

Story three! “Sink or Swim!” Scooter and Penny come home from a school and discovers that his Aunt Hatta bought a elephant-shaped vase thing. Because this is an Archie rip-off, it is promptly smashed. They run to the local shop to buy a replacement but, much to their dismay, the shopkeeper says it’s “very rare” (despite having a ton under the counter) and wants $80. Since Scooter apparently spent all his rock star money on blow, he’s broke. Fortunately, Penny’s dad, J.P. Moneybucks (subtle) has a job opening as a lifeguard on his private beach. After flat out refusing, he gives him the job anyways. Problem solved!

Or so you’d think. For no real reason, Sylvester and Malibu decide to get him fired by throwing a fake shark in the water and pretending they need rescuing (how that’d get him fired, I don’t know). Before they have the chance, Moneybucks finds the fake shark and confiscates it.

Meanwhile, back on the beach, Penny is putting the moves on Scooter and Cookie is jealous. She decides to get his attention by pulling a Sandlot and pretending to drown. As soon as she gets out in the water, though, a shark fin pops up. For some reason, Scooter assumes it’s the fake shark that nobody had yet mentioned to him and he rushes out to “make like Aquaman.” He punches the shark in the head and brings Cookie to shore just in time to see Moneybucks walk up with the fake shark. For some reason, Moneybucks just gives him the $80 and fires him. Scooter and Penny go out, buy the vase, and set it back up just in time for Aunt Hatta to talk about how ugly it is and throw it in the trash. Cue this sound clip.

So, yeah, even after the Archie-fication of Swing With Scooter the book lasted until issue #36. And it’s not like DC didn’t know what they were doing, Scarpelli had all ready been doing some more-cartoonish style work in books like DC’s own Stanley and His Monster and Dell’s Bewitched and Beverly Hillbillies books. Funny thing is, before Swing With Scooter, he’d only done one Archie story, a one-page in February 1968’s Archie’s Pals ‘N’ Gals #44. It wasn’t really until around 1987 that he really started working with the Riverdale crowd, including the cover for 1994’s bizarre Archie Meets the Punisher crossover (hell yeah, I did my research). Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have the sudden urge to listen to The Kinks and read way, way too much Jean-Paul Sartre.

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For writing extensively about the Silver Age, it’s a wonder I’ve had yet to touch upon anything Marvel, specifically any of the bajillion collaborations between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. These two are responsible for the X-Men, Thor, Hercules, Hulk, Iron Man, and Nick Fury. I mean, come on, if that ain’t prolific, nothing is. And, while most of their books seemed to be somewhat more serious than DC’s books from the same era, Lee and Kirby seemed to write another of their creations, the Fantastic Four, as a bit more fantastical (hence the name, I guess). Let’s take a look at January 1963’s The Fantastic Four #10.

The issue starts out with Mr. Fantastic using his patented vibra-light process in his radioactive x-ray camera to try and help Sue control her invisibility. By the way, it’s worth noting that, while Star Trek may have perfected it, the Fantastic Four more or less invented bullshit technobabble (which this issue is full of). Anyways, he manages to take a picture of her while she’s invisible which I guess is good news or something. Before they can explain how that even begins to make sense, Johnny Storm spots the emergency signal flare out the window! To the Fantasti-Car!

Except it turns out that Reed’s nuclear lock is stuck and they can’t get into the garage. We are then treated to a full page of Reed stretching his arm under the door, trying to feel around for the Fantasti-Car. He fails, but Johnny discovers that he can “concentrate his flame so much that it burns without heat” (um, what?) and pops open the lock. For some inexplicable reason, Reed then decides that it’d be faster to walk anyways, rendering that entire sequence completely pointless. After Sue almost gets killed crossing the street and Reed almost gets his clothes ripped off by insane fans, they show up at Alicia Masters’ doorstep to discover that the Thing just wanted to show them Alica’s sculptures of various supervillains.

Meanwhile, across town, Doctor Doom shows up at the office of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Feel free to take a few seconds and let that last sentence really sink in. Turns out that Earth-616’s Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are BFFs with all the heroes. Anyways, Doom demands that Stan call up Mr. Fantastic and somehow get him to the office. Reed suits up and heads on over, where Doctor Doom hits him with some sleeping gas and teleports away with an unconscious Reed.

Later, Reed awakens in Doom’s secret lab, completely unrestrained. He just stands there while Doom talks about how he survived being shot into space on a meteor by being picked up by some weird aliens called Ovoids who taught him how to swap bodies with somebody. After he finishes his story, Doom reveals that while Reed was just kinda hanging out and listening, he’d used telepathy to switch their bodies. Doom-in-Reed then proceeds to beat the shit out of Reed-in-Doom before the rest of the Fantastic Four shows up and finishes the job. After they talk about whether or not they should bury him alive in the desert (holy fuck, that’s an option?), they decide to lock him in a plexi-glass prison in his own lab. Ben is super concerned that Reed-in-Doom will run out of air, but Doom-in-Reed convinces him that there’s tons of air in there and he’ll be fine. After they leave he then pretty much says, “Just kidding, there’s only an hour of air. See ya!”

Back at the Baxter Building, the team is shocked when they open Reed’s lab and a ton of tiny-sized animals run out. Ben notices that that day’s headline reads “Zoo Animals Missing.” Gasp! The gang rushes in to confront Doom-in-Reed but he contests that he was doing it for them, merely testing out his new reduction ray to help increase the group’s powers! This is immediately followed by the greatest example of sequential art (laced with more technobabble) I have ever seen.

Roughly the same size as this vagina.

Doom-in-Reed explains that the reason dinosaurs went extinct is that while their bodies grew larger and larger, their brains did not (bullshit). But what if they got smaller? With their brains being so large compared to their tiny bodies, those dinosaurs would be scientific geniuses and rule the world (bullshit)! Doom-in-Reed hypothesizes that if he uses his Shrinky Dink laser beam on the group, their powers will retain their intensity, yet grow when they are un-shrunk (such bullshit!). He tells them that Johnny could fly faster than a jet, Sue could turn parts of herself invisible at will, and Ben will be able to turn human again. Rather than question the logic behind any of that crap, the gang starts arguing over who’s going to get shot by the laser gun first. Doom-in-Reed tells them to come back in a few hours and, as soon as they’re gone, starts giving exposition to the empty room. Basically, he’s just gonna shrink the Fantastic Four out of existence. Surprise, surprise.

Back at Doctor Doom’s secret lab, Reed-in-Doom escapes his plexi-glass prison by blowing up the rest of his oxygen tanks. He immediately runs over to Alica’s house to get her help convincing the others that he is actually Reed. Before he can get a word in, an invisible Sue beats him over the head with a vase, knocking him out. Ben and Johnny run in and get ready to beat the shit out of an unconscious Reed-in-Doom  but Ben realizes that, for some reason, he can’t bring himself to punch him. Confused, they take him back to the Baxter Building.

Doom-in-Reed (seriously, all they have to do is look at his new evil Peter Lorre eyebrows) ties up Reed-in-Doom and tells the rest of the Fantastic Four that the ray is read to shrink them. They eagerly stand in front of it, but a desperate Reed-in-Doom runs around screaming that everybody is dumb for not listening to him. Johnny decides to test this out by using a heat mirage to make it look like there’s a stick of dynamite in the room. While Doom-in-Reed freaks out and climbs up a pipe to escape, Reed-in-Doom tries to remove the fuse. Doom and Reed suddenly switch bodies back to normal and a fight ensues. Sort of. Doctor Doom just throws himself in front of the reduction ray and starts screaming for somebody to turn it off. They don’t, he shrinks into nothingness, the end.

So, yeah. While Lee and Kirby’s other books like X-Men and Hulk were way more dramatic, Fantastic Four is anything but (pretty much til the Silver Surfer shows up). I mean, hell, this issue alone had aliens, cameos from the creators, and technobabble out the ass. Oh. And dinosaurs in spacesuits. Shit, did I forget to mention the dinosaurs are in spacesuits?

BEST. PANEL. EVER.

I just realized that every single fucking one of my Silver Age Recaps has been a DC Comics book. Have I seriously become this subconsciously biased against the other publishers? Should I finally give in and do a Silver Age recap of a Marvel book? Nope. I mean, eventually, yeah. But right now I think I’d rather rub your nose in one of Dell Comics’ weird-ass products, Don Segall and Sam Glanzman ‘s Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle #5 from January 1963.

First off, I guess you need a little bit of backstory. Dr. Henry Dodd, his daughter Mary, and his grandkids Mason and Lily are flying over the Pacific Ocean in a blimp on their way to Australia to get Aborigines to help the Navy talk to aliens. Instead they fly straight into a storm and crash land on a island full of the cover to “Big Lizard in My Backyard.” After getting attacked by some big ol’ bats in a cave, they’re rescued by Kona, a neanderthal man (who, despite living on a tropical island, is whiter than Tipp-Ex) and his tribe. Afterward, Dodd teaches the tribe to use his ridiculously huge cache of guns and grenades (which he had why?) and become total BFFs, meaning Kona has to pull their stupid asses out of usually avoidable adventures time and time again. Awesome!

Kona #5 drops us off right in the action, with the best first page I have ever seen in a comic. EVER. Seriously. I’m not even going to describe this shit, just LOOK at it. FUCK YES.

How have you NOT clicked to enlarge yet?

Immediately, Kona jumps into action while Dodd wonders where the hell a giant cat like that comes from. Insert buttloads of exposition. Apparently, before Kona’s caveman crew showed up the island was used as a nuclear testing site where they tested how much fallout would be left from various sized bombs. They also kept a pet kitty cat named Amsat, whose main job was to run around and kill mice and be adorable. And then they fucking left him there. A few years of fallout later and Amsat was 30-feet tall with a taste for shark meat. As a matter of fact, he loved shark meat so much that he “feasted on these sharks with a wrath and satisfaction common only to killers driven purely by madness.” FUCK YES (again).

STARE INTO THE EYES OF A KILLER!

Finally, with the exposition over, we get back to the action. And holy shit, is it great. Unfortunately, Tim and Lex or whatever their names were are stuck under the paws of this giant cat. Fortunately, Kona and his tribe are a bunch of badasses and keep pet tyrannosaurs (as in more than one) for such occasions. One of them pops out of the ocean and brawls with Amsat, chasing it into the woods. Later that night, Kona comes to the conclusion that they need to kill Amsat or else he’ll keep coming back till they’re dead because Amsat is a cutesy-wootsy stone-cold killer. After ruling out digging a hole and shooting it, they come to the conclusion that they need poison, fire, and water.

Kona puts the plan into action with step one, setting the entire goddamn island on fire and cornering Amsat between the blaze and the ocean. Considering that Amsat is seen time and time again swimming in the ocean, I don’t know why this stops him, but whatever. Dr. Dodd fills a hollow arrow with some poisonous plant goo, gives it and an arrow to Kona, and tells him to go do his thing. After finding a dead rabbit, Kona dives into the ocean, climbs up on some rocks, and fires the arrow at Amsat. He takes out his knife (dear lord, where the fuck was he keeping that knife?) and pours bunny blood into the ocean attracting all those sharks. Amsat, driven by gluttony, dives into the sea to eat himself some shark ignoring his whole being-full-of-poison handicap. The sharks quickly gobble him up, leaving nothing but bones.

Dodd, Kona, and the dead weight decide that they need to leave the island and never come back. They hop onto their schooner (wait, where was THAT this whole time?) and take off. Hooray! Everybody’s safe! Oh, except when they get about 100 yards out and a giant fucking sea monster pops out of the ocean ready to eat the boat in a cliffhanger ending. You know, something tells me that Dr. Dodd has such shitty luck that he has to fight a giant spider every time he tries to go to Taco Bell or something.

But wait! The issue isn’t over! There’s a back-up story in here about Anak, some kid who crash landed in some jungle and is taken in by the Great Ape Thoth after he fights off the Serpent King and blah blah blah. Thoth and Anak come across a giant statue of Buddha and are attacked by a big-ass tiger. The Serpent King jumps out, bites the tiger, kills it, and everybody walks away. The end. What the fuck? What kind of back-up story is that?

Whatever. The best part of this book? Holy secret Christian agenda, Batman! Before and after the Kona story, there are a few essays about random shit. The first one is about the Emim, Rephaim, and Anakim tribes from the Bible and the second is about why cats and dogs hate each other so hard, chalking it up to Adam and Seth from Genesis. There’s also a weird-ass warning against using your cats in witchcraft. So, yeah. Don’t use your cats to conjure up Satan or anything.

So, in 1968, hippies didn’t really read comics. Maybe they were too busy with the whole Vietnam War thing going on, maybe “truth, justice, and the American way” just wasn’t really their bag. Either way, DC Comics had a fool-proof plan to get their hard-earned busking dollars: hire Joe Simon, legendary co-creator of Captain America (clearly the most liberal of all heroes), to create the ultimate hippie superhero! And what did he come up with? Brother Power, a mannequin who was struck by lightning and brought to life. Yeah, there’s no way this’ll fuck up. God help us, let’s take a look at December 1968’s Brother Power, the Geek #2.

Our hero!Our book starts out where issue one left off, with Brother Power (aka: the Geek) floating in the San Fransisco Bay. On a nearby shore, a bunch of hippies are fishing and one of them just happens to reel in Brother Power’s body and decides that the best course of action is to dance with it before stealing it’s clothes. Meanwhile, on an overlooking cliff, a bunch of guys in World War I-era German uniforms (complete with a balsa wood glider made to look like a Fokker biplane) are spying on the hippies and notice Brother Power’s sweet, sweet boots. Apparantly, that’s enough reason for a full-on attack, so they push their glider off the cliff and the epic hippie ass-whooping begins! Just kidding. Two panels after they land, the Geek stands up and the German guys puss out and run away.

After the “battle” ends, a completely unprovoked Brother Power decides to tell the hippies his origin story (previously seen in the entirety of the previous month’s issue, making this sequence 100% filler and entirely fucking pointless). For those that are curious, Brother Power started out as a mannequin in an abandoned tailor shop where a bunch of hippies were squatting. They put their clothes on him and left him by an open window where he was struck by lightning and “somehow, I was alive! And I had enormous strength!” That’s one of the reasons I love the Silver Age. They don’t feel the need to explain why shit happens, it just does. Anyways, Brother Power was kidnapped by a traveling freak show and put on display, escaped, and was chased by cops till he jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, which is where we came in to this.

The hippies accept him as one of their own and indoctrinate him into their gang, the Clinkers. Unfortunately for them, Brother Power is horrified to learn that they don’t have jobs and decides to get work in a grocery store stocking shelves and bagging groceries (which is totally the kind of action I look for when I read comic books). After impressing some old lady by taking groceries out to her car on roller skates, she offers Brother Power a job at her husband’s missile factory. At that very moment, Acme Missile Parts Factory president J.P. Acme is freaking out because “one small snag” in their assembly line is costing them a million dollars a year and bankruptcy is inevitable! Unfortunately, there’s only one man who can help save the company: the evil Lord Sliderule!

Brother Power shows up for his interview just in time to witness J.P. Acme signing the company over to Lord Sliderule (and Sliderule’s midget henchmen backflipping all over the place in celebration). Sliderule immediately tries to fire the Geek, to which Acme remind him that he has to solve that snag in the assembly line before he gets complete control. So, what is this snag that could be destroying this giant corporation? A right-handed guy has to grab something on his left side and is slowing down the assembly line. Brother Power suggests they get a left-handed guy to do the job. Sliderule gets pissed off that he didn’t come up with the idea and sics his men on Brother Power! Another epic fight ensues! No, just kidding again. The next panel just has a caption that “Lord Sliderule and his nasties are no match for our Geek” and shows Brother Power getting promoted to plant foreman and then CEO, like, one panel later when J.P. Acme says, “Fuck it, I quit”

Suddenly, the Clinkers appear outside holding a “non-violent demonstration” against the missile factory! Some of the employees run outside and start beating the crap out of the hippies so the Geek runs out after them and explains that the missiles aren’t for war, but for outer space. He promptly hires all of the hippies for the assembly line and pats himself on the back. Unfortunately, Lord Sliderule (who the Geek also apparantly hired at some point) writes an article for the local paper with the headline “Are Hippies Slowing Down the space Program as Protest?” freaking out the U.S. Space Agency. To prove that everything is cool, Brother Power schedules a missile launch the next day which, thanks to some sabotage by Lord Sliderule, explodes on the tarmac. Ronald Reagan then sends out a bunch of tanks to arrest Brother Power (haha, what?). Fortunately, Brother Power also seems to have hired the head German guy who crashes his Fokker plane as a means of distracting Ronald Reagan’s army. It works and the Geek decides to hide in another of the missiles. Which Lord Sliderule then launches into space. It ends with the following caption:

Damn straight, you’ll never believe where. It turns out that not only did Joe Simon hate writing Brother Power, the Geek (going so far as refusing to talk about it to this day), but then-Superman editor Mort Weisinger hated the hippie culture so much that he pressured DC publisher Jack Liebowitz into canceling it. So then where did Brother Power land? 21 years later in Neil Gaiman’s Swamp Thing Annual #5, in which Ronnie Raymond guides the rocket back to Earth, Brother Power discovers he’s an elemental of dolls, and Batman and Abbie Cable have to stop him from destroying Tampa Bay. Yeah, you know what? Don’t ask.

There’s no denying it, we’ve pretty much concluded that Silver Age comics are completely bizarre. They all seem to follow the same formula: villain does something nefarious, hero intervenes, hero appears to fail miserably, hero totally psychs everybody out and saves the day. This happens every fucking time and somehow it never gets old. April 1962’s Showcase #37 (which, by the way, is the first appearance of Will Magnus and the Metal Men) took this formula to a whole new level, though. It has been a long time since a Silver Age book actually managed to throw me a curveball and leave me shocked at the end. Yeah. It’s probably better if I just explain this with a recap.

Our story starts out in a jungle millions of years ago, where radioactive fire rains from the sky, wiping out everything on the planet with the exception of one creature: a giant flying manta ray with both heat and ice powers! Suddenly, without explanation, the ray is frozen in a glacier that was in a jungle for whatever reason. And then, years later, global warming melts the glacier and the ray is free to wreck shit up! After using his heat ray to melt a lighthouse, his freeze-y ray to crash a jet, and setting the entirety of the fucking Empire State Building on fire, the military decides to intervene. But who can they get to help?

Colonel Henry Caspar takes a quick helicopter ride to the headquarters of none other than Will Magnus, who he finds slow dancing with a shiny silver woman. Magnus invites the colonel to dance with her and he discovers that she is made of metal! What kind of sorcery is this? Before the colonel has time to recover, Will goes, “Oh shit, yeah, I got a whole bunch of these guys.” The Metal Men proceed to introduce themselves and bore readers with random facts about metal (yes, yes, mercury is liquid at room temperature, we know!). The colonel asks Magnus if he can send the Metal Men to help defeat the marauding freezing and burning manta ray. Magnus agrees. Oh, except he doesn’t want to send Platinum because she’s a useless woman. That’s not a joke, he explicitly states that. She ties Magnus up with her power to turn into wire and he relents with, “Fuck, fine, whatever. Everybody into my thought-controlled hovercraft.”

They come across the giant manta ray fucking up some bridge and go into a huddle. After arguing about which of the robots can do the job better, Magnus determines that Iron should shape Lead into a giant ball covered by Tin and throw it at the ray. Perfect! Except when they do that, the ray slaps the giant metal ball back at the hovercraft, knocking out Magnus and crashing it into the rooftops. The ray circles around to shoot his heat ray but Tin jumps in the way, melting to death. Way to go, Metal Men!

Lead turns into a shield against the ray’s rays, allowing Magnus to wake up. He devises a new plan, using super-stretchy Gold as a lasso with Iron acting as an anchor. Surely the ray can’t lift both of them off the ground! Except he does. And then he drops them into the ocean, rusting Iron to death and killing Gold somehow. Way to go, Metal Men!

Fortunately, Will Magnus always has a backup backup plan. What would happen if they cut off the ray’s oxygen? Using Lead as a shield again, Mercury throws his liquid-y self at the ray, coating it completely. Yeah, it doesn’t die. Magnus realizes that it doesn’t breathe air, but draws it’s life from radioactivity! Suddenly, the ray whips its tail around, grabbing the hovercraft! To save her beloved creator, Platinum turns herself into wire, tying up the ray. Lead takes the opportunity to jump at the ray, blocking it from it’s radiation lifesource. The ray wrapped in Mercury wrapped in Platinum wrapped in Lead crashes into the sea, killing them all. Way to fucking go, Metal Men!

Now, this is (one of) the thing(s) that weirds me out. The very last panel of the comic is Will sitting at his desk, bumming out at little statues of his now dead Metal Men. Colonel Caspar stands behind him and does something that I have never ever seen before: in a precursor to the Jason Todd phone poll, he addresses the reader directly, asking us to send postcards to Julie Schwartz about whether or not we want them to bring the Metal Men back to life. The end!

Now, I don’t know how long it took to write a Silver Age comic, because the very next month’s issue of Showcase also starred the Metal Men. Unless the poll was just some weird way of giving the fans a sense of interacting with the story, it doesn’t really seem possible to conduct a survey of that magnitude, plus script, draw, print, and ship a comic all in the course of a month! You know what this seems like to me? Remember in Peter Pan when he makes the kids slow clap to bring Tinkerbell back to life? Replace Tinkerbell with potentially killer robots and Peter with DC Comics’ editorial staff, and it’s the same fucking thing. Whoa, I think I just blew my own mind.

bork3When it comes to Barry Allen and his Silver Age stories, I notice a running theme (pun so totally intended): up until the last page or two, he has the absolute shittiest luck ever. It doesn’t matter who he fights, he always ends up knocked out, stranded, incarcerated, and/or pretty much powerless until he either remembers that he can vibrate through anything or that comic book chemistry can fix everything ever. Even when teamed up with somebody as legendary as Batman against somebody as dumb as Bork (as is the case in January 1969’s  Brave and the Bold #81), he still manages to just get the shaft over and over again.

Our story begins at the Gotham City docks where street thug Carl Bork has been spotted trying to steal cargo from a ship. The captain must be crazy forgiving, because all he does is shoo Bork away. As he sulks away from the failed heist, Bork walks straight into the path of an oncoming truck and is creamed at full speed! But instead of dying like us normal folks, Bork just gets up and realizes that he is both now invincible and only able to talk in the third person (oh, that’s not going to be annoying)! He decides to try out his new found power by robbing a diner’s register. The cops show up and immediately try to shoot him in the leg (Gotham cops don’t have time to fuck around), but the bullet just bounces off!

bork1Meanwhile, Barry Allen is getting a tour of Gotham’s police lab by Batman and Commissioner Gordon when they hear the call over the radio: there’s a “rumble” at the docks! Barry and Gordon carpool to the scene while Batman “flits” and beats them there, just in time to see a lone Bork challenging Milo Manning and his gang. Milo takes a swing at the invincible Bork, who survives getting hit with a forklift and pretty much just claims Milo’s gang as his own. Batman realizes that Bork is invulnerable and, for whatever reason, decides that his fist can do what a forklift couldn’t. Yeah, it can’t. Bork shouts his catchphrase, “You can’t hurt Bork but Bork can hurt you,” and then takes out a bunch of cops and hands Batman his own ass, just in time for Barry and Gordon to show up. Bork then announces that he’s taking over Gotham and there ain’t shit they can do about it. By the way, that annoying catchphrase? Yeah, Bork says it four times within the first seven pages (five if you count the cover).

A couple of hours later, Bork has practically the entire Gotham underworld under his control and has announced his demands to the Gotham City Hall. They have 24 hours to kick Batman out of town, give over half of the city counsel seats to his goons, and give him areas of the city that cops can’t touch. If not, there’s gonna be a riot! Batman decides that Bork must have gotten his invincibility at some point during his never before mention travels all over the world and asks Barry to suit up and figure out the where and how of it all. As the Flash, Barry gets the manifests to all of Bork’s destinations and discovers that he’s been all over the damn place, including a small unnamed African nation where he impoverished all of the citizens (somehow). And as luck would have it, their president has sent some commandos to Gotham to apprehend him! Simultaneously, those same commandos open fire on Bork but the bullets just bounce off! Batman shows up and everybody runs away.

bork2During his investigation, Flash discovers that Bork was once shipwrecked on Desolation Island where the natives carved a magical sculpture of him. Oh, man, Barry is having some awesome luck! All he has to do is destroy the sculpture! He races to the island and finds the Bork statue on top of a volcano. Sweet! What could go wrong? Well, just then the volcano erupts and the whole island fucking explodes. The Flash and the statue are thrown into the air where is hit in the head with a lava rock and passes out. He lands on a big piece of driftwood while the statue gets caught in a current and is picked up by some “grizzled adventurer” in a sailboat. While Barry tries to follow the current, the adventurer gets caught in a storm miles away and the statue falls overboard. Just as the Flash finally finds it again, a tiger shark starts trying to eat it. Barry jumpkicks the shark (yeah, that’s kinda awesome), grabs the statue, and starts banging it against rocks. When that doesn’t do anything, he ties it to his back and starts running at the speed of light, trying to use friction to burn the Bork statue. He goes fast enough to end up both in the future and a different dimension, but that damn statue is still in one piece. When he’s about to give up, he decides, “Fuck it, I’m gonna shoot it with a laser.” It doesn’t do much, but it kiiiiinda burns a spot on the hand of the statue. Kiiiiinda success!

Meanwhile, Batman and Gordon confront City Hall, who are ready to give in to Bork’s demands. Batman says that Bork is just like Hitler (for some reason) and he and Gordon storm out. Apparently there are some panels missing, because the next thing you know, Batman is throwing Bork into a paddywagon while reminding him that invulnerability doesn’t mean that a jail cell can’t hold him. I, the reader, then think to myself, “Actually, it kinda does. I mean, couldn’t he just punch the wall a bunch of times until he knocks a hole in it?” One page later, Bork punches the wall a bunch of times until he knocks a hole in it. The African commandos catch up with Bork and decide that a blowgun will be able to do what machine guns couldn’t. The dart just happens to hit the same spot on his hand as the laser hit on the statue and it works. What are the odds!

Barry decides that the only way to destroy the statue is by throwing it into the sun (you know, the same way every fictional character has destroyed every fictional dangerous object ever). He straps it to his back, runs up a ramp, and vibrates through the sun with the statue, burning it to a crisp. At that exact moment, Batman punches Bork in the jaw, knocking his ass out. In the end, they send him to Africa to stand trial for being a douchebag and dicking over an entire country.

Final verdict? Barry Allen needs to get a fucking desk job and Bork needs to shut the hell up.


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