Christmas Carol-A-Thon 2022 continues, this time combined with the weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero blog post. This item looks at A Christmas Carol getting adapted through two separate stories – first with Luke Cage/ Power Man and then with the Teen Titans.
LUKE CAGE, HERO FOR HIRE Vol 1 #7 (March 1973)
Jingle Bombs was the real title of this holiday tale which pitted superhero Luke Cage aka Hero for Hire aka Power Man against the one-off supervillain called Marley. Like a Guest Villain from the Adam West Batman show Marley uses a campy Christmas Carol motif for his nefarious plan … yet, oddly the story is kind of quaint.
On Christmas Eve, Luke Cage is hanging out with his then-girlfriend Claire Temple, a doctor who worked at a clinic in the New York ghetto. Later on in the series Claire would be the center of a romantic triangle between Luke Cage and another of Marvel’s black superheroes – Black Goliath, Hank Pym’s former lab assistant who used Pym’s inventions to turn to giant-size and back.
As night approaches Luke sees a ruckus outside the clinic: a man in Dickensian 1800s clothing is using his walking stick to beat a little handicapped boy named Timmy. Our hero goes out to save the little boy and is attacked by the strange man, who identifies himself as “Marley.” Continue reading
For this weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero blog post we’ll do the DC characters called the Creature Commandos.
WEIRD WAR TALES Vol 1 #93 (November 1980)
Title: The Creature Commandos
Villains: Nazi soldiers
Synopsis: This story introduced Project M, a fictional 1942 War Department effort to unleash supernatural monsters upon the Axis armies. The members of these Creature Commandos:
*** Warren Griffith, an institutionalized teenager who irrationally thought he was a werewolf, so the scientists of Project M turned him into a real, biological man-wolf who could become his monstrous self at will.
*** Marine Private Elliot “Lucky” Taylor, who blew away much of his body by stepping on a land mine. Government scientists used patchwork body parts to reassemble him into a huge, yellow-skinned Frankenstein’s Monster figure.
*** Army Sergeant Vincent Velcro, who was given a choice of 30 years of hard labor for crippling a superior officer or being a human guinea pig for chemical injections derived from bat blood. The injections turned him into a science-spawned vampire.
*** Lieutenant Matthew Shrieve, Army Intelligence, a normal human placed in charge of the Creature Commandos.
In their first mission, the Commandos are sent into France to attack Castle Conquest, where the Nazis and French collaborators are designing android duplicates of high-level politicians from Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill on down. The plan is to use the nearly completed robots to replace the originals and surrender to the Axis Nations. Continue reading
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.
ADVENTURE 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.
Ms. 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 metamorphosed life-form which still 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
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 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 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.
Our 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
For this weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero post, Balladeer’s Blog will look at the first twelve months of Batman stories.
DETECTIVE 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.
The 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
With the bulk of Balladeer’s Blog’s light-hearted superhero blog posts featuring Marvel Comics characters, DC fans have been demanding some love. I previously looked at the Justice Society, so this time here’s my take on their overlooked Golden Age heroes.
Secret Identity: Larry Jordan
First Appearance: Detective Comics #60 (February 1942)
Origin: District Attorney Larry Jordan became disgusted with the way so many criminals escaped conviction in the courts. He adopted the costumed identity of Air Wave and set out to fight crime on his own terms.
Powers: Air Wave was in peak physical condition and was more agile than an acrobat. He excelled at unarmed combat and wore special boots which let him glide or skate along power lines and phone lines. He also had radios in his costume’s earpieces. In addition, his trained parrot Static served as his mascot.
Comment: This hero appeared in nearly 80 adventures from 1942 to 1948. Continue reading
STALKER – With the WITCHER series such a sensation right now, Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at the forgotten 1970s sword, sorcery and fantasy series called Stalker.
The art was by the legendary Steve Ditko and the story by Paul Levitz. In a time when comic book companies keep rebooting the same unpromising characters over and over I am amazed that DC Comics never gave this intriguing series a second chance.
First off, a lame joke – Who DOESN’T love a sword they could pole-vault with? That baby is ridiculously out-of-proportion yet awesome at the same time.
Sometimes I wish Stalker’s sword really HAD been that big in the actual stories, but he’d have needed to carry it in a sheath slung across his back. If he kept it in a sheath attached to a belt around his waist it would be dragging on the ground behind him everywhere he walked. Anyway, on to the story – ALL FOUR PARTS ARE COVERED BELOW.
The Premise: In a fictional world as filled with fantastic beings and mind-bending geography as anything from Conan the Barbarian, Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones a nameless warrior called Stalker tries to recover his stolen soul from the demonic warrior-god Dgrth. The narration tells us this is “a war that will rend a world from its gods,” really drawing us in.
STALKER #1 (July 1975)
Title: QUEST FOR A STOLEN SOUL
Synopsis: The story opens at Castle Loranth as Stalker uses all the preternatural skills that the god Dgrth has granted him to get past the walls and kill the guards. Our red-eyed hero penetrates to the hall where Baroness Loranth is holding a grand feast and hurls a knife at her chair. Attached to the knife is a note telling her that one year and one day hence Stalker will kill her as revenge for the wrongs she did to him in the past. Continue reading
Thank you to readers who reminded me that I did not follow up my examination of the World War Two-era Justice Society of America stories with my usual collection of links. I always did that after similar items like The Celestial Madonna Saga, Panther’s Rage, The Kree-Skrull War and most recently Adam Warlock’s encounter with the Magus, Thanos and Gamora.
In addition to examining these WWII stories I added detailed ways that I would have script-doctored them for a more sophisticated age.
THE FIRST MEETING OF THE JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA (December 1940)
Gathered together for the very first time, the JSA members each share an introductory story about themselves (braggarts). The government informs them it has a vital mission for them in the next issue.
My Revision: Since it’s their first meeting I would have had the JSA – including the original female Red Tornado – recount their origin stories to each other. CLICK HERE
FOR AMERICA AND DEMOCRACY (March 1941)
The government sics the Justice Society of America on the Greyshirts, a Nazi-sympathizing group sabotaging America’s industries in case the U.S. enters the war.
My Revision: I had the heroes acting as a team, not on individual missions and once again used the female Red Tornado instead of the awful Johnny Thunder. CLICK HERE
THE MYSTERIOUS MISTER X (June 1941)
A masked man calling himself Mister X organizes America’s criminals into guilds and unions to make them more efficient.
My Revision: I had the JSA acting as a team in 3 adventures against Mister X and used the Red Tornado again instead of Johnny “Jar Jar” Thunder. Plus I used Hawkgirl instead of Hawkman. CLICK HERE Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog’s examination of the Justice Society’s Golden Age stories continues. FOR PART ONE CLICK HERE
I will review the original issue and then detail how I would “script-doctor” the story for modern audiences.
ALL STAR COMICS #27 (Winter 1945 – On sale date Nov 13th)
Title: A PLACE IN THE WORLD
Heroes: WONDER WOMAN (Original), DOCTOR MIDNITE, FLASH (Original), WILDCAT, HAWKMAN (Original), JOHNNY THUNDER, GREEN LANTERN (Original)
Villains: ASSORTED GANGS OF CRIMINALS (I would revise it to have PER DEGATON, the JSA’s Nazi foe, as the villain)
Synopsis: In very late 1945 some superhero comic books featured their last few World War Two-centered stories, with the implication being that they had happened earlier in the year when the war still raged. Others moved on into the Post-War Era while others were a mixture, like this Justice Society tale. Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog’s examination of the Justice Society’s World War Two-era stories continues. FOR PART ONE CLICK HERE
This blog post will cover the only “lost” Justice Society of America story to have definitive artwork and story elements recovered. It’s all in fragments since the story went unpublished so I’ll go with what is known and add my usual revisions for modern audiences.
Possible Publication Month: I’ve read anywhere from July to September 1945 so it may or may not have referred to World War Two still raging.
Title: THE WILL OF WILLIAM WILSON
Heroes: FLASH (Original), GREEN LANTERN (Original), HAWKMAN (Original), DOCTOR MIDNITE, THE ATOM (Original), JOHNNY THUNDER
Villains: PSYCHO-PIRATE AND ASSORTED THUGS
Synopsis: Well the Spoiler comes right up-front since this story was apparently long known as “the lost Psycho-Pirate story.” In the original plan the fact that the Psycho-Pirate (Charles Halstead) was really the man behind the tale’s villainy was to be a surprise.
Just like when they used their superpowers to raise money for war orphans several issues ago, the Justice Society was drawn into this adventure for the sake of charity. The will of recently deceased eccentric millionaire William Wilson stated that all of his fortune would go to charities if the Justice Society of America could accomplish the seemingly impossible by securing some designated relics from around the world. Continue reading