Tag Archives: Comic Books

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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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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THE MANTIS SAGA: CHAPTER LINKS

Mantis Collector pose 2Balladeer’s Blog spent part of this past summer on a light-hearted, escapist bit of fun by examining the very first Mantis storylines at Marvel Comics. Mantis was brought into the Marvel Cinematic Universe this year in the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie but I reviewed her ORIGINAL appearance and the 1973-1975 Celestial Madonna epic she starred in.

I. MANTIS: THE CELESTIAL MADONNA SAGA – The “senses-shattering” beginning of the series which I covered in some of the same style as my reviews of Epic Myths. CLICK HERE  

Mantis Night of Swordsman 3II. MANTIS 2: NIGHT OF THE SWORDSMAN – Mantis and her romantic partner the Swordsman show up at Avengers Mansion and wind up helping the superteam against one of their old foes. CLICK HERE

III. MANTIS 3: BELOW US THE BATTLE – Mantis, the Swordsman and the other Avengers fly to England in search of their missing member the Black Knight. While there they come into conflict with sinister forces. CLICK HERE

IV. MANTIS 4: THE AVENGERS VS THE DEFENDERS – As the search for the Black Knight continues, Loki and Dormammu trick the Avengers and the Defenders into all-out war with each other over a relic called the Evil Eye of Avalon. CLICK HERE 

V. MANTIS 5: THE AVENGERS-DEFENDERS WAR CONTINUES – Mantis and one of her fellow Avengers battle the Defenders’ leader Doctor Strange for a fragment of the Evil Eye. Meanwhile, the newest Defender Hawkeye fights Iron Man in Mexico for another fragment. CLICK HERE Continue reading

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MANTIS 30: THE NEXT-TO-LAST CHAPTER

FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF MARVEL’S SUPERHEROINE MANTIS CLICK HERE 

Avengers 135 torch is passedTHE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 135 ( May 1975)  The Torch Is Passed

Avengers Roster: Thor (Donald Blake, MD), Iron Man (Tony Stark), The Scarlet Witch (Wanda Frank), Hawkeye (Clint Barton), The Vision (not applicable), MANTIS (Mantis Brandt) and Moon Dragon (Heather Douglas) 

THE TORCH IS PASSED

Synopsis: Given the far more important storyline involving Mantis I’d have gone with the title hinted at in last issue’s cliffhanger ending: THE COMING OF THE CELESTIAL MADONNA. Instead they went with this cutesy play on words regarding how Ultron transformed the Original Human (android) Torch into the Vision.

Anyway, we’ll move along to the universe-shaking events taking place at the Pama Temple in Vietnam in a few minutes. This installment starts off with the Vision and his Synchro-Staff observing long-ago events where we left them.

Mantis 3The laboratory where the “dead” android Human Torch of the World War 2 era is lying on a slab was just broken into by the Avengers’ archenemy Ultron. Back then he was still numbering his iterations so he was technically going by Ultron-5 when he crafted the Vision.   

Courtesy of Immortus’ Synchro-Staff, the phantom-like time-traveler called the Vision continues observing how events played out years earlier. When necessary the Synchro-Staff’s robotic Siri voice provides added details for the Vision’s edification.

Ultron examines the slain android form of the Original Torch. He makes it clear that the Mad Thinker was responsible for providing the villain with the information that the Torch’s android body was still lying undisturbed in his (The Mad Thinker’s) abandoned laboratory.   Continue reading

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MANTIS 29: THE REAL STORY OF THE PRIESTS OF PAMA

FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF MARVEL’S SUPERHEROINE MANTIS CLICK HERE 

Avengers 134 times that bindTHE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 134 ( April 1975)  The Times That Bind  

Avengers Roster: Thor (Donald Blake, MD), Iron Man (Tony Stark), The Scarlet Witch (Wanda Frank), Hawkeye (Clint Barton), The Vision (not applicable), MANTIS (Mantis Brandt) and Moon Dragon (Heather Douglas) 

THE TIMES THAT BIND 

Synopsis: MANTIS, Thor, Iron Man and Hawkeye, still traveling through time courtesy of Immortus (another of Kang’s future selves), are informed by their Synchro-Staff’s robotic female Siri voice that they are nearing another important point in the tale of the Celestial Madonna.  

In the previous installment the Avengers were shown the “senses-shattering” origin of the Kree-Skrull War millennia ago. Since then the two races have battled across thousands of worlds – even the Earth – forever expanding their empires.

Times that bindThe Synchro-Staff now shows its passengers the Kree home planet of Hala in the Kree Year 476 (last time around we learned that Kree Year Zero was the year of First Contact with the Skrulls). Here in 476 those Kree dissidents who want nothing to do with the “all-conquest, all the time” nature of their race’s Empire have drawn together in their own sub-culture.

That sub-culture of Pacifist Kree – as the Star Stalker told the Avengers when they battled him – formed the order called the Priests of Pama. Now our heroes are about to learn those pieces of the story that Mantis’ father Libra withheld from them.  Continue reading

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MANTIS 24: THE SWORDSMAN’S FUNERAL AND THE MYSTERIES OF MANTIS’ PAST

FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF MARVEL’S SUPERHEROINE MANTIS CLICK HERE  

Avengers 130 Titanic ThreeAVENGERS Volume 1, Number 130 (December 1974)  The Reality Problem 

AVENGERS ROSTER: Thor (Donald Blake, MD), Iron Man (Tony Stark), The Scarlet Witch (Wanda Frank), Hawkeye (Clint Barton), The Vision (not applicable) and MANTIS (Mantis Brandt).

The Swordsman is dead. So is Moe Greene … Barzini … Tattaglia … All the heads of the Five Families. Today I settle all family business, Carlo, so don’t tell me you’re innocent. It insults my intelli- OH, sorry. I started channeling Michael Corleone there.  

In any event the Swordsman (Jacques Duquesne) IS dead, to begin with. As dead as a doornail. SORRY! I promise that’s the last time I’ll do that! The Swordsman was killed by Kang the Conqueror last time around, giving his life to save his beloved Mantis.

swordsman-funeral.jpgMantis, who was proven to be the mysterious Celestial Madonna that Kang is after, realized how much she really loved the Swordsman, despite her recent callousness toward him while she tried to romance the Vision away from the Scarlet Witch. She deeply regretted her actions, pleading with her dying lover to forgive her and to chalk it all up to her youthful pride. 

Two or three days have gone by since the Swordsman’s death in Peking as the Avengers battled Kang. Our heroes have been mourning the loss of their comrade while regrouping and trying to comprehend the universe-threatening situation they have found themselves in.

And there’s a lot to take in:

*** It’s the first time an Avenger has ever been killed in battle.

*** The Madonna Star continues to shine brightly over Avengers Mansion. Crowds remain thronged around the mansion for blocks because of this strange phenomenon which has spawned rumors that the End of the World is near.

*** The shocking death of an Avenger has added to the grim environment, magnifying global fears of imminent doom. The international tension caused by Kang’s attacks in Egypt, at the U.N. and in China doesn’t help any, either.

*** Kang is still at large and still determined to have the Celestial Madonna.

*** Exactly WHAT the Celestial Madonna IS and how she affects all time and space is still not known.

Mantis in action*** Exactly WHY Moon Dragon and the Scarlet Witch were having parallel experiences to Mantis’ own is still not known, either, but those parallel experiences added to the mystery of which one of them was really the Celestial Madonna.

*** The Vision and his teammates still cannot determine the cause of his recurring panic attacks/ deja vu traumas, more of which occurred while fighting Kang.

*** There is some speculation that the android Vision may be experiencing traumatic memories related to life experiences of the dead supervillain Wonder Man (Simon Williams), since HIS mental patterns were used for the Vision’s artificial intelligence. That was done back when Ultron-5 used them while creating the Vision as a weapon against the Avengers.   Continue reading

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MANTIS 20: ULTRON VS THE AVENGERS, THE FANTASTIC FOUR AND THE INHUMANS

FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF MARVEL’S SUPERHEROINE MANTIS CLICK HERE 

Fantastic Four 150

FANTASTIC FOUR Volume 1, Number 150 (September 1974)  Ultron-7: He’ll Rule The World

Just like during the Avengers/ Defenders War this crossover story alternated between the Avengers’ comic book and in this case the Fantastic Four’s comic book. In fact it was the 150th Anniversary Issue for the F.F, an appropriate setting for the momentous events in this story.

NOTE: This was back when Ultron was still numbering his iterations, hence him going by “Ultron-7” here. For instance, Ultron-6 was the first time the android villain used adamantium for his body and Ultron-5 was when he created the Vision to use against his archenemies the Avengers.

Ironically, though today Marvel’s fictional metal adamantium is mostly associated with Wolverine’s claws and skeleton it was actually introduced as a new discovery in the pages of The Avengers in the 1960s. In fact it was introduced in the very story in which Ultron stole some of the indestructible metal to make himself even more dangerous.

After this current Ultron-7 story, when Ultron returned for the long-running Bride of Ultron storyline he was no longer  numbering his versions.   

Ultron 7 againULTRON-7: HE’LL RULE THE WORLD

Synopsis: We pick up where we left off in our previous installment, in Atillan aka The Great Refuge, hidden home of the Inhumans. It’s the night before the former Avenger Quicksilver and the Inhuman named Crystal are to be married.

Crystal has been kidnapped by the gigantic robot called Omega, but after a battle with the Inhumans plus the wedding guests – the Avengers and Fantastic Four – the enormous figure pulled off its mask to reveal that it was really Ultron-7. (Nicely, this was early enough in Marvel’s history that Ultron had previously never fought the Fantastic Four OR the Inhumans, just the Avengers.)

Ultron-7 taunts the assembled heroes plus the thousands of terrified citizens of Atillan about how they gathered for a wedding but instead of that joyous occasion have found only horror, defeat and death.

Mantis againHe revives the heroes he had put into comas last time around – MANTIS, Iron Man, Medusa, Quicksilver and the Swordsman. Meanwhile the Thing rushes forward to attack Ultron-7 but is easily defeated as the villain reminds him that the Omega body now has all of HIS (Ultron’s) powers, not the lesser powers it used to have.

Before the Thing or any other heroes can renew the attack, Thor, Mister Fantastic and Triton remind everyone that only Ultron-7 knows where the kidnapped Crystal is being held. The villain has the edge until they can learn if she is even still alive.       Continue reading

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