Category Archives: Superheroes


This weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero post here at Balladeer’s Blog will take a look at the very early stories of the DC Comics superheroine called the Black Orchid.  

adv 428ADVENTURE COMICS Vol 1 #428 (August 1973)

Title: Black Orchid

Villains: Corrupt politicians making their lone appearance.

NOTE: Black Orchid’s origin was just vaguely hinted at for years, but for the sake of streamlined storytelling I’m starting off with it. Susan Linden, an adventurous young woman, roamed the world for a few years, working at a variety of jobs.

           While working as a blackjack dealer in a casino, she met wealthy Carl Thorne and the two dated, then married. Eventually, Susan realized that Carl was a black-market arms dealer and reported him to the authorities.

          adv 428 splMs. Linden sought shelter with her old school boyfriend from years earlier – brilliant scientist Philip Sylvian, an expert at botanical science. Carl Thorne’s thugs tracked Susan to Sylvian’s place and mortally wounded her.

           With no other hope for Susan Linden’s survival, Philip used Susan’s dying body and harnessed life-force, combining them with his latest botanical experiments in plant/ animal hybrids. The result was a new life-form which looked like Susan but whose physiology was more plantlike than human.

           Susan Linden’s transformed self now possessed superpowers which she used to fight the forces of evil as the costumed superheroine called Black Orchid. Her wood-hard muscles gave her massive super-strength as well as greater than human reflexes and agility. She could fly and her hybrid physiology made her immune to bullets. Continue reading


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This weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero post here at Balladeer’s Blog will take a look at some of the very early stories in Marvel Team-Up.

mtu 1MARVEL TEAM-UP Vol 1 #1 (March 1972)

Title: Have Yourself a Sandman Little Christmas

Villain: Sandman

Synopsis: On Christmas Eve, Spider-Man and his old friend the Human Torch find themselves caught up in a battle with their mutual enemy Sandman. At that time the villain was still wearing the special costume his fellow Frightful Four member the Wizard made for him, which gave him the power to mix other chemicals with his sand body, thus increasing his power. Misty Knight makes her (retconned) first appearance.

NOTE: I wrote a VERY lengthy review of this story for the Christmas season of 2016 HERE.

mtu 2MARVEL TEAM-UP Vol 1 #2 (May 1972)

Title: And Spidey Makes Four

Villains: The Frightful Four

Synopsis: The Human Torch (Johnny Storm) is still very depressed over the end of his romance with the member of the Inhumans called Crystal.

NOTE: Crystal had been the Torch’s love interest for years and had even replaced Invisible Woman in the Fantastic Four during Sue Storm-Richards’ first pregnancy. Crystal would later marry the Avenger Quicksilver at a ceremony attacked by Ultron HERE.

frightful fourThe escaped Sandman reunites with his teammates in the Frightful Four (as you could guess, the supervillain version of the Fantastic Four) – the Wizard and the Trapster. Originally, the Inhumans member Medusa had been their 4th member back when she was a misunderstood villain.

With Medusa having gone straight and quit, the team needs a 4th member (the woman Thundra would not join until December 1972) so Sandman, Wizard and Trapster capture and enthrall Spider-Man. The Human Torch is the only Fantastic Four member on hand at the Baxter Building, and the hypnotized Spider-Man gets Johnny to let him into the building and the villains force their way in with him. Continue reading


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For this weekend’s light-hearted and escapist superhero blog post Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at the early adventures of the Marvel Comics character Shanna the She-Devil.

shanna 1SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL Vol 1 #1 (December 1972)

Title: And a Jungle Queen is Born

Villains: Ivory Dan Drake and his men

NOTE: Rather than simply revive one of their company’s Golden Age Jungle Queens like Zara or Lorna, Marvel Comics went with a new character whose name made her even MORE of a Sheena rip-off than either Zara OR Lorna! Go figure.

Synopsis: On the Dahomey Reserve in Africa, the infamous ivory poacher Ivory Dan Drake and his men are about to slaughter some elephants for their tusks when they are stopped by the attacking Dr. Shanna O’Hara, now better known as Shanna the She-Devil.

sheena spl pageShe disarms and subdues the poachers, then she and her two leopards – Ina the Spotted and Biri the Dark – escort the hunting party to the border of the reserve. She orders them to leave the area, then resumes her professional care for the animals of the jungle.

Ivory Dan and his men simply move to another location and resume their poaching expedition. As Shanna spends the rest of the issue battling them, including Ivory Dan’s huge, hulking German thug Zarg, we get flashbacks regarding her origin. Continue reading


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This weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero post here at Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at the often-mishandled DC character the Creeper, from Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko.

showcase 73SHOWCASE Vol 1 #73 (April 1968)

Title: The Coming of the Creeper

Villains: Soviet Major Smej and Angel Devlin

Synopsis: Jack Ryder is a crusading television reporter and commentator for WHAM-TV in Gotham City. Ryder’s maverick style always has him in trouble with sponsors like Clayton Wetley and his own boss at the network – Bill Brane.

Jack RyderJack gets tipped off about the abduction of Vincent Yatz, a scientific genius who recently defected from the Soviet Union to the United States.

Investigating, Ryder discovers that Major Smej, a Soviet spy, has allied himself with the criminal gang of Angel Devlin to abduct defectors and return them to the U.S.S.R. for punishment. Angel uses a half-angel half-devil costume schtick for his villain gimmick.  

creeperOur hero learns that Devlin will be covertly turning the captured Yatz over to Major Smej that night using a costume party attended by the rich and powerful as cover. Jack Ryder throws together a costume from leftovers he buys at a costume shop – the yellow, green and red sheepskin cape/stole ensemble that will become his Creeper outfit going forward.

At that costume party, Jack’s nosiness gets him roughed up and fatally stabbed by the costumed Angel Devlin and Smej’s men. Bleeding out, he is kept out of the sight of the bigwig guests by getting locked up with the scientist Vincent Yatz. Continue reading


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For this weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero post, Balladeer’s Blog will look at the first twelve months of Batman stories.

dc 27DETECTIVE COMICS Vol 1 #27 (May 1939)

Title: The Case of the Chemical Syndicate

Villains: Alfred Stryker and his thugs

NOTE: This was the very first appearance of Batman.

Synopsis: Wealthy Bruce Wayne is relaxing with Commissioner Gordon at the latter’s home. Gordon discusses with Bruce the reported sightings of a figure called the Batman. Bruce pretends to be as puzzled as the commissioner is.

A phone call summons Gordon to the Lambert Mansion, where the son of the chemical company tycoon is being held on suspicion of murdering his father. The commissioner invites Bruce to tag along (?) and he does so.

batman posingThe Lambert son (no first name is ever given for him and his father) insists he’s innocent and that his father was receiving threats from a criminal syndicate muscling in on the family’s firm, Apex Chemical Corporation. The dead man’s partner Steve Crane starts getting threats now and wants police protection.

Bruce Wayne secretly decides to give Crane extra protection as Batman. That night, our hero clashes with multiple hired killers, tossing one of them off the roof of a building during their fight. Batman also has to evade the police, who want the vigilante arrested. Continue reading


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This weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero blog post from Balladeer’s Blog will look at the first twelve adventures of the She-Hulk.

sh 1SAVAGE SHE-HULK Vol 1 #1 (February 1980)

Title: The She-Hulk Lives

Villain: Gangster Nick Trask

Synopsis: Bruce Banner drifts into Los Angeles. Wearying of his life as a fugitive, he seeks out his cousin Jennifer Walters, an attorney. While Bruce is asking Jennifer for whatever legal help or advice she can give him, gangster Nick Trask has some of his goons shoot Jen because one of the clients she is defending is a man that Trask framed for murder. 

she hulk picJennifer is bleeding out and will die before any ambulance can arrive, so Bruce breaks into a nearby doctor’s office and uses some of the equipment inside to donate some of his own blood to Jen to save her life. An ambulance gets Jennifer and Bruce to a hospital and she stabilizes.

The authorities start to get suspicious of Bruce so he slips away before they realize who he is. Nick Trask has 3 more goons visit Jennifer’s hospital room to finish her off. Their attempt to murder her fuels enough of a metabolic change to trigger her first transformation into She-Hulk. Continue reading


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stan presentsFor this weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero post here’s a look at another Marvel Comics character that never became a hit for some reason.

bloodstone 1MARVEL PRESENTS Vol 1 #1 (October 1975)

Title: Dweller from the Depths (despite the title on the cover)

Villains: The Possessor and the Dweller from the Depths

NOTE: This story introduced the character Ulysses Bloodstone, a mysterious monster hunter who has been alive for thousands of years, sustained by the fragment of an alien Blood Gem lodged in his chest. With his custom-made weapons and the paranormal powers granted to him by the Blood Gem, he has hunted down and destroyed countless monsters for millennia.  

Synopsis: The Dweller from the Depths rises from San Francisco Bay, summoned by the otherworldly music from a blind flutist who is possessed by an alien entity. The Dweller rampages through San Francisco and suddenly a muscular man with blonde hair and wearing a Big Game Hunter outfit attacks it.

bloodstoneThat man’s thoughts tell us he is Ulysses Bloodstone and that the fragment of an alien gem in his chest unerringly leads him around the globe whenever monstrous creatures are about to strike. While television news crews and the police look on, Bloodstone battles the enormous beast.

Our hero’s superhuman strength, reflexes and a degree of invulnerability help keep him alive while he shoots the Dweller over and over again from many angles with the shotgun he carries in a holster on his back. The custom-made gun weighs nearly a hundred pounds and fires shells that strike with the force of cannonfire. Only Bloodstone’s extraordinary strength lets him wield the weapon so casually. Continue reading


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Okay, this Saturday’s light-hearted, escapist superhero blog post will take a look at Marvel Comics’ neglected figure It, the Living Colossus.

it 1TALES OF SUSPENSE Vol 1 #14 (February 1961)

Title: I Created the Colossus

Villains: The Kigor, an alien

NOTE: It the Living Colossus was created by Stan Lee, his brother Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby

Synopsis: We are introduced to Boris Petrovsky in the Soviet Union. He is a dissident artist whose brother Ivan, a Party official, had Boris canceled for his pro-freedom views. Ivan also had his brother detained for “reeducation” and was forcing him to create a huge statue glorifying the Soviet Union to show that he had abandoned his insurrectionist beliefs.

Defiant to the last, Boris instead used the months-long period to craft a menacing, horrifying face on the mammoth statue to show how he REALLY perceived the communist government. Shortly before Ivan was due to arrive to inspect the finished statue a spaceship crash-landed near Moscow.

living colossusThe sole occupant of the alien vessel was a member of the Kigor race, large crab-like creatures of great intelligence who walked erect. Outnumbered on a hostile planet, the Kigor used its alien technology/ powers to transfer its mind into the enormous statue to try surviving.

Whether via technology or radiation treatments or some other method, the Kigor made the statue capable of movement as though it was a living being who had skin and muscles made of other-worldly stone. It’s a comic book, just go with it.

Ivan Petrovsky arrived to see the statue moving around on its own and called in the military. The statue, soon labeled It, the Living Colossus in languages around the world, fought back against the army, tanks and aircraft. It rampaged through Moscow like a kaiju monster stomping Tokyo. Continue reading


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doc samsonFor this Saturday’s light-hearted and escapist superhero post, here’s a look at the gamma-powered Doc Samson, a potentially great character that Marvel Comics never quite managed correctly. 

Almost as strong as the Hulk, possessed of an MD and a PhD, this guy should have been placed in the Defenders the minute they stopped having the Hulk as a regular team member. Say, around Defenders #103 (January 1982). 

hulk 141INCREDIBLE HULK Vol 1 #141 (July 1971)

Title: His Name is … Samson

Comment: General Thunderbolt Ross is desperate to cure his daughter Betty from her current state of being trapped in an immobile glass form. (Betty wound up like that after a blood transfusion from the supervillain the Sandman 3 issues earlier.)

General Ross has called in the brilliant Doctor Leonard Samson (formerly Leonard Skivorski, Jr), as yet non-superpowered. Dr. Samson devises technology which can convert a certain type of gamma radiation into a cure for Betty, but the Hulk must be captured to obtain that radiation. 

Samson is a psychiatrist on top of being a physicist, and he uses a psychiatric approach to revert the cornered Hulk back into Bruce Banner temporarily. Leonard explains his plans to cure Betty of her glass state AND cure Bruce of being the Hulk, and Banner agrees to cooperate.

doc samson and girderIn a laboratory, Dr. Samson triggers the restrained Bruce Banner’s transformation into the Hulk, and uses his Cathexis Ray Generator to drain all of that gamma energy from him, curing Bruce of being the Hulk permanently. Next, Samson uses a tiny fraction of the stored gamma energy to turn Betty Ross back into her normal human state.  

After a few days of caring for both Bruce and Betty as his patients, Leonard uses the leftover gamma radiation in the Cathexis Ray Generator to turn himself into the super-powered Doc Samson. By controlling the radiation, Leonard kept his human form and intelligence, unlike Bruce when he became the Hulk. As a side-effect his hair grows long and green. Continue reading


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queen of the black coast smallerWell, after last week’s Curse of the Conjurer some of you wanted more of the 1970s Marvel Comics adaptations of Conan stories and some of you REALLY didn’t. As a compromise I’ll do just one more before moving on to another topic next Saturday.

conan 58CONAN THE BARBARIAN Vol 1 #58 (January 1976)

Title: Queen of the Black Coast

Villains: The Black Corsairs

NOTE: Yes, with this issue Marvel finally got around to adapting one of Robert E. Howard’s greatest Conan stories. At last, Belit (bay-LEET), the pirate queen and the great love of Conan’s life, was introduced in this tale.

           Marvel fairly faithfully adapted the opening of the story in this issue, then, rather than just refer to the years that Conan and Belit sailed the seas together, their writers did dozens of stories depicting their adventures together. All of that culminated with Conan the Barbarian issue #100 when Marvel adapted the tragic conclusion of Queen of the Black Coast, a small part of which was ripped off in the 1982 Conan movie.

        queen of the black coastThis blog post will review the first meeting of Conan and Belit, then Marvel’s depiction of their first shared adventure (featuring an imaginative “fan theory” regarding why Conan was also called Amra) and finally, the sorrowful finale of the longest romance of our Cimmerian’s life.

Synopsis: Just like the original story Queen of the Black Coast from 1934, Marvel’s adaptation opens up with Conan being pursued by the authorities through the streets of the port city of Messantia, the capital of Argos. Conan’s latest clash with the law saw him kill a powerful man, leading to his current plight. Continue reading


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