Category Archives: Superheroes

MAN-MONSTER: ATLAS COMICS HERO

Balladeer’s Blog’s recent look at the short-lived comic book company Atlas-Seaboard was a big hit. As a follow-up here’s a look at an Atlas figure I did not cover in the main article, which can be found HERE

Tales of Evil 3MAN-MONSTER

Secret Identity: Paul Sanders, Olympic Swimming Gold Medalist

Origin: Hedonistic Paul Sanders lives the life of a playboy from his endorsement deals and his resented oil baron father’s vast fortune. After a flirty/ bickering battle of the sexes-style interview with two female reporters from Women’s Lib Magazine Paul boards a motorboat for one of his father’s offshore oil wells.

To show off for the still-watching ladies Paul leaps overboard to swim the rest of the way to the oil drilling platform. As fate would have it, the oil drilling had just churned up some rare, mutated bacteria from the ocean floor. Sanders winds up covered by the bacteria, which causes changes to his body.  

Man Monster 1Paul barely escapes the bacteria and makes it back to shore, where he transforms into a red-scaled amphibious monster. After a brief rampage he becomes human again and the female reporters take him home.

From then on in times of danger the transformation comes over Paul again and he finds himself battling various forces of evil.

First Appearance: Tales of Evil #3 (July, 1975). His final appearance came in September of that same year.

Powers:    Continue reading

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A TEEN TITANS CHRISTMAS CAROL

Christmas Carol-A-Thon 2017 continues here at Balladeer’s Blog!

Teen Titans Christmas CarolA TEEN TITANS CHRISTMAS CAROL – Last year Balladeer’s Blog examined the 1973 Luke Cage, Hero For Hire version of A Christmas Carol. This time around I’ll take a look at Christmas 1967’s The Teen Titans’ Swingin’ Christmas Carol.

Swingin’ Christmas Carol may sound like the title of a Dean Martin Christmas Special but was really an issue of Teen Titans which paralleled the Dickens tale.

The Teen Titans was a team composed of the teen sidekicks of various DC Superheroes. Robin the Boy Wonder, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Aqua Lad and later Speedy, Hawk & Dove plus many others would come and go over the decades.

For this Christmas story we meet Ebenezer Scrounge, who runs a junkyard where he employees and abuses Bob Ratchet. Bob’s handicapped son Tiny Tom comes to visit his father and accidentally witnesses Scrounge’s secret partner –  a crime boss called Mister Big – use an invention which turns old items in the junkyard brand new. Continue reading

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ATLAS (SEABOARD) SUPERHERO PANTHEON

Atlas figuresBalladeer’s Blog marks the shortest day of the year with the shortest-lived comic book company ever!

It’s Atlas-Seaboard, to distinguish this publisher from Marvel Comics, which went by Atlas Comics in the 1950s. There IS a Marvel connection, however, in that Martin Goodman, Stan Lee’s old colleague, launched Atlas Comics through Seaboard Periodicals for one brief shining moment several months in 1975. 

Calling themselves “The NEW House of Ideas” clearly threw down the gauntlet at Marvel Comics’ feet. As it turned out, however, even Alan Thicke was a bigger danger to Johnny Carson than Atlas was to Marvel.

PhoenixPHOENIX

Secret Identity: Ed Tyler, Astronaut

Origin: Astronaut Ed Tyler was part of a three-man crew on the orbiting space station Threshold I. A leak in the main portion of the station forces the trio of astronauts to abandon their mission early and they evacuate in a shuttlecraft.

Complications cause the vessel to crash-land in the Arctic ice with Ed Tyler as the sole survivor. Tyler found himself in the hands of an alien race called the Deiei, who have been observing humanity from their underground Arctic base for untold millennia. The Deiei guided humanity’s evolution to make us more in their image.

The haughty aliens had recently decided Earth people are a failed experiment. They planned to preserve Ed Tyler for study to see what might have gone wrong but intended to wipe out all other human life on the planet and start from scratch. Tyler escaped custody, donned one of the high-tech battle suits of the Deiei and flew off, determined to thwart the Deiei’s genocidal plans 

Phoenix 2First Appearance: Phoenix #1 (January, 1975). His final appearance came in October of that same year.  

Powers: The Deiei space suit worn by Phoenix enabled him to fly at thousands of miles per hour, to shoot atomic energy blasts from his gloves and to withstand high levels of energy and large projectiles virtually unharmed. The suit also granted him a modicum of greater than human strength.  

The media named this hero Phoenix when they saw him emerge from the smoldering ruins of part of Reykjavik, where he drove off the first assault by Deiei spaceships.  

Comment: After fighting the Deiei for awhile Phoenix encountered another alien race called the Protectors of the Universe. Magus, the leader of the race, disagreed with the Deiei’s desire to wipe out humanity and granted Phoenix an opportunity to prove the people of Earth deserving of a second chance.

Phoenix’s adventures combined elements of the Silver and Bronze Age Green Lantern with Adam Warlock’s “philosophy for pre-teens” approach during his Counter-Earth period. Personally I found Ed Tyler’s gloomy “Humanity is so awful maybe we don’t deserve to be saved” musings to be ridiculous. Compared to the genocidal and callous Deiei, the human race seems like the definite lesser of two evils.  

All that aside, Phoenix had a certain charm. In fact he was one of the few Atlas characters popular enough to be given a second chance with 2010’s attempted re-launch of the title.  

Destructor 1DESTRUCTOR

Secret Identity: Jay Hunter, teenager

Origin: When aspiring criminal Jay Hunter ticked off Max Raven, the crimelord he answered to, that gangster put out a hit on him. The attempt on Jay’s life took place at the lab of his scientist father Simon, who was working on a super-soldier formula.

Both men were mortally wounded, but Jay’s father – knowing there was enough formula to save one, but not both of them – gave it to his son to save his life. Jay pulled through, discovered he now had amazing super-powers and took to wearing a costume to fight crime. He called himself Destructor and was determined to atone for his criminal past.   Continue reading

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THE ZEBRA: ODDBALL SUPERHERO

With superheroes dominating popular culture right now Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at another odd Golden Age figure: the Zebra.

The ZebraTHE ZEBRA

Secret Identity: John Doyle, Attorney

Origin: John Doyle was framed for murder by corrupt politicians who wanted him out of the way. Just two days before his scheduled execution Doyle escaped from prison, lost the pursuing authorities and set out to clear himself.

Using his striped prison outfit as the basis for a costume, John added a mask, gloves, boots, a cape and a “Z” belt buckle to complete his ensemble. After proving his innocence, John Doyle resolved to continue fighting crime under the nom de guerre Zebra.  

First Appearance: Pocket Comics #1 (April 1941). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1946.  

Powers: The Zebra was in peak human condition, excelled at unarmed combat and was more agile than an Olympic athlete. As an interesting twist for Golden Age superheroes the Zebra’s specialty was French Kick-Boxing aka Savate. 

Those “Zebra Kicks” helped justify this unusual hero’s handle. It was sometimes implied that the Zebra’s legs were in such incredible shape from Kickboxing that he could run faster than most ordinary men, too.    

Comment: Created by artist Pierce Rice and an unknown writer working under the alias “Ellery King,” the Zebra was one of the Golden Age superheroes published by Harvey Comics.

STORIES: Continue reading

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DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT (2010)

Dylan DogDYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT (2010) Halloween Month continues with a look at the luckless Brandon Routh’s turn as this film’s title character, Tiziano Sclavi’s horror hero from Italian comic books. Sclavi launched Dylan Dog’s series in October of 1986 and under various creative teams the series is still running.

(Years ago I reviewed the film version of Tiziano Sclavi’s Dellamorte Dellamore from 1994.) 

Dylan Dog, an investigator of vampires, werewolves and other monsters, is an international cult hero beloved by comics fans around the world … which, of course, meant that any deviation from what the fan-boys wanted would cause them to hamstring the movie adaptation at the box office. The internet giveth and the internet taketh away.

In my opinion Dylan Dog: Dead of Night does not deserve its bad reputation. Compared to the many, many other films and television programs about heroic battlers of the paranormal this was certainly a top shelf production. The fact that this cinematic adaptation came along decades later than it should have is the main problem.  

Dylan Dog 2Let’s go by the numbers, knowing full well that budget and projected box office returns limited many of the creative decisions:

I. The Dylan Dog comic book was set in London (?). This movie was set in New Orleans, a change of locale that I actually like, given London’s overuse in horror films. Needless to say, this put the worst type of fan-boys in a VERY bad mood right off the bat.

II. The creative team behind Dylan Dog: Dead of Night kept the mood light. I agree with that choice given the inherent campiness and absurdity of an investigator who encounters werewolves, vampires, zombies, etc in horrific settings that are often reminiscent of Film Noir detective stories. The worst type of fan-boys bemoaned the “lack of the sad and serious tone of the comic books.”

III. In the comic book Dylan Dog’s sidekick in his investigations was Groucho, a Groucho Marx impersonator whose built-in craziness caused him to BE Groucho 24/7. For obvious legal and monetary reasons an American film version could not use Groucho as Dylan’s sidekick. The worst type of fan-boys were even more disenchanted.

Dylan Dog 3IV. The cinematic sidekick for Dylan was a new creation – Marcus, played by Sam Huntington, who had previously appeared with star Brandon Routh in the ill-fated Superman Returns (2006).

(Poor Routh. If only he had also starred in Frank Miller’s 2008 movie The Spirit he could have notched an all-time Hat Trick for starring in unfortunate comic book adaptations.)    Continue reading

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THE SUPERHERO PANTHEON OF RURAL HOME – CROYDON – ENWIL PUBLISHERS

With superhero cosplay starting to take over Halloween what better time of year for a look at the neglected male and female superheroes of the Rural Home/ Croydon/ Enwil/ Orbit and McCormick conglomeration.

Captain WizardCAPTAIN WIZARD

Secret Identity: Joseph Preston

Origin: Joseph Preston was unjustly suspected of a murder he did not commit. While fleeing the police he took shelter in a haunted wax museum where he encountered a wax figure who was really the magician Theophrastus.

The magician’s powers told him Preston was innocent so he gave the man a mystical cape, costume and mask which granted him superpowers. Calling himself Captain Wizard our hero caught the real murderer and went on to fight the forces of evil on a regular basis.

First Appearance: Red Band Comics #3 (April 1945). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1946. 

Powers: Thanks to his enchanted costume Captain Wizard had super-human strength, could fly and was invulnerable. He also never required sleep. In addition he could switch from his street-clothes into his costume and vice-versa simply by saying “Abracadabra.”   Continue reading

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A HALLOWEEN LOOK AT GHOST RIDER

Ghost RiderHalloween Month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with a look at the 1970s Ghost Rider. I will say again, from my research the very late 1960s and most of the 1970s were the best period for Marvel Comics. They were to that period what Pulps were to earlier decades.

Once Star Wars, Alien and Close Encounters of the Third Kind proved that science fiction and fantasy were finally able to be presented with the kind of special effects necessary, it seems that a LOT of pop fiction writers who used to gravitate toward the comic book industry now sought careers in movies and television instead.

Ghost Rider and Bounty HunterAt any rate, the Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze) made his first appearance in August of 1972 and it’s a shame that the movie version in 2007 didn’t stick closer to the action and horror combo of the comic books.

The pair of Nic Cage movies did not do the character OR his lore any justice and ruined a chance to see some top-level Ghost Rider foes like the Bounty Hunter, Witch Woman, the Orb and others on the big screen.  

Enjoy a sampling of cover art featuring the Ghost Rider taking on some of his Rogues Gallery of enemies, many of whom would have been ideal for the debut movie. Continue reading

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