The Unknown Soldier 261, 1982 “Hour of the Beast!”

After two weeks of marvel, I decided to swing back to the other side and roll with a weird DC book. Although, this one has me with mixed emotions. For one, it’s really cool, and has everything you could want in a bizarre war story. On the other hand, it drives me crazy when the cover gives away the story (but there is a twist to that statement). Yes, those editors that allow that should be let go. Anyways, on to the book!

The first story, starring The Unknown Soldier, is absolutely nuts. Lady Jade has been captured by the Nazis, and being tortured, and the Unknown Soldier is not happy about it. He then finds out that he’s indirectly responsible for the betrayal that lead to her capture. She’s being held in a castle…in France…by Japanese soldiers (not sure how many Japanese soldiers were in France, but let’s not parse hairs here). His superiors tell him his orders are to stay put, but he knocks out the two MP’s taking him outside, and makes a b-line for Jade. He decides that this time, he must not just use a disguise, but it must be “a complete metamorphosis.” He then disguises himself as a hunchbacked SS torture expert, and heads to the castle. As he attempts to rescue her, his disguise is  removed, and the chase is on. Now, this is where the story gets really crazy. As the pair are running down a hallway, Jade is possessed by a spirit that also changes her appearance. After introducing herself she tells him he must don a suit that’s hanging in the hallway of a demon (resembling a Satanic figure). He puts it on, and they both kill all of the Nazis in brutal fashion. Then they walk away arm in arm, while inside the castle, the woman/ghost that possessed  Jade remarks to the demon that they might be needed again someday.

Written by Bob “Zany” Haney, art by Dick Ayers and Gerry Talaoc, colors by Bob LeRose, and letters by Esphidy Mahilum.

The second story is a very hardcore story about racism. It shows a brutal killing right on the splash page of a racist soldier killing another during the Civil War. I gotta admit, although the story is about revenge against the racist guy, it was still a bit jarring to read in 2020. Written by Bob Haney, art by Ric Estrada (no, not from C.H.I.P.’s), colors by Bob LeRose, and letters by Pierre Bernard Jr.

The final story stars Enemy Ace! Anyone that knows this character knows that a quality story and art always accompanied Enemy Ace! This was a solid story involving an imposter that Von Hammer must deal with in a dogfight! Written by Robert Kanigher with art by John Severin!

Overall a fun issue that is most certainly worth seeking out! Oh and always an incredible cover by Joe Kubert!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Beyond the Unknown 23, 1973 “The Secret of the Man-Ape!”

Sometimes when I see a cover, I know it is going to be absolutely crazy. Honestly, in the last few years, that’s mostly what I’m looking for in a new (to me) comic. A comic with a gorilla holding a librarian at gunpoint? There’s a name for that- pure gold. Three reprint stories from the Silver Age are entombed inside, so let’s get cracking!

The first (and best) tale, is the cover story. We see a scientist using a machine to try and turn a gorilla into a human. The captions and images show us that years ago, a civilization of gorillas dominated the Earth, and that aliens were watching this and wanting to conquer Earth, sent a spy, but not in their more humanoid forms, but as a gorilla. After some miscalculations aboard the spaceship, the “gorilla” alien guy winds up in modern times where man rules, and not gorillas.

Pretty much shenanigans ensue for the rest of the story, but the highlight is or sure the gorilla-alien guy using his telepathy to tell a librarian to give him some classic novels (not at gunpoint as the cover shows). A little bit of a bait and switch there, but still, the story is comical, and extremely strange. Story/script by Otto Binder, art by Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella.

The next two stories are from the mind of Gardner Fox. First, “Language-Master of Space” is a story that still makes my head explode just trying to figure out what the point was, but it also left me laughingly entertained. The art by Sid Greene helped, as his renditions of the different aliens was great.The second story, “World of Doomed Spacemen” is another crazy one. It’s one that shows life in the 25th century, and a time of giants! Art by Mike Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs. The magnificent cover is by none other than Nick Cardy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hawkman 9, 1965 “Master Trap of the Matter Master!”

After searching through my boxes for source material, I came upon this issue of Hawkman! A recent acquisition, as I’ve made it a point to read more DC comics from the Silver and Bronze Ages in recent years, this one fits the bill perfectly for my weird tastes. A villain called the Matter Master, Hawkman and Hawkgirl trapped in a diamond, with the Atom in the corner with a pink burst of energy behind him, all show exactly why this appeals to me!

The story begins with Matter Master (Mark Mandrill) in prison. He’s slowly finding elements in the prison yard to try and construct a smaller version of his wand (it was taken from him by the Justice League, and resides in their trophy room). He succeeds, but the smaller wand isn’t powerful enough to do his bidding. He then asserts that it might be able to draw his original wand to him though, and it works! He then busts out of prison and heads straight for his abode. He immediately hatches a plan to get revenge of Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and hopefully the Justice League as well!

This story by Gardner Fox, is a lot of fun. Just a superhero versus villain tale that doesn’t have much depth. It is however entertaining and of course with great characters like Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and a crazy villain like this, you can’t help but have fun. I’ll always give Fox credit for that fact. The art is very good, and we have Murphy Anderson (cover as well) to thank for that. He draws a very sinister looking villain here, and even though he’s not the most threatening guy ever, he still poses a real threat to society. The letters are by another standout, Gaspar Saladino! His lettering is legendary, check out his credits!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dynamic Classics 1, 1978 “Starring Batman”

The more I read Bronze Age Batman, the more I look forward to the next time I buy and read another story! In this superb reprint issue, we see a Batman story (originally Detective Comics 395, 1970), and a back up featuring Manhunter (Paul Kirk). We also get this super creepy and cool cover by Dick Giordano!

In the first tale, Bruce Wayne has been invited to a party in Mexico, by a normally reclusive, but wealthy couple. He realizes something must be up, so he begins investigating immediately. He foils a murder attempt, and starts to piece things together. Before he can dig any deeper, he’s in fight for his life against armed thugs, then a pack of wolves! He eventually conquers those obstacles and comes face to face with the real masterminds, but as he’s about to put a stop to their plans, he’s rendered helpless by an unforeseen power they possess!

This story was a good one and really resonates with the other stories of Batman in the Bronze Age. It shows him first and foremost as a detective, then a superhero in a cape (or sometimes not at all). Moody, atmospheric, and a slight touch of horror all bring this story together. It’s not simplistic, but it’s certainly not overly complicated either. A good mix of both, to be honest. Writer, Denny O’Neil, art by Neal Adams (pencils) and Dick Giordano (inks), with letters by Ben Oda.

The second story is one I’m not familiar with, as it involves a character I’ve heard of but never read before in Manhunter (originally created by Jack Kirby in the Golden Age). This version of the character has two legendary creators behind him in Archie Goodwin (writer), and Walt Simonson (art)! Just quickly breezing through the story, it’s definitely something I’ll be looking into in the future! Definitely look for this book in the bargain bins, as that’s where I found it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Brave and the Bold 108, 1973 “The Night Batman Sold His Soul!”

From the cover, you’d think that DC put out a comic book with Batman and Sgt. Rock versus a vampire. Well, if they ever did, this isn’t the issue. No, this isn’t a bait and switch, but the contents certainly don’t match up (100%) with the cover. Rest assured though, this book is highly entertaining, and will leave you happy you’ve read it!

Somewhere up near the Canadian border, Batman has cornered a kidnapper. The guy has a kid, but Batman insists it’s not who the kidnapper believes it is, so there will be no ransom. The kidnapper is losing his mind, so Batman attempts to jump through a window to try and surprise him, but it doesn’t work. The kidnapper shoots Batman, then for some odd reason dumps him in a well. As batman is coming to, he’s helped out of the well by some cloaked stranger. The man has a hat on as well, so you cannot see his face. Batman thanks him for the assist, then heads back to apprehend Mad Dog Dorn (the kidnapper). After returning to Gotham, and his guise as Bruce Wayne, he then slumps over in an alleyway, still reeling from the wounds from the gunshot. As he’s trying to get up, that same cloaked figure appears, and tells him that he owes him for the help he gave him in the well. Wayne tells him he owes him nothing and the strangers tells him that his soul now belongs to him! As the man shuffles away, Wayne attempts to catch up. He does, or so he thinks, and grabs a man in the foggy street, but that man was also following after the cloaked figure. The man Wayne grabbed turns out to be none other than Sgt. Rock! Rock then reveals the identity of this mysterious figure, and Wayne cannot believe it!

I know of a few encounters between Batman and Sgt. Rock, and this is a good one. Sure, it’s a bit ludicrous, but it’s a ton of fun as well. You can’t deny that Bob “Zany” Haney writes wild, but fun stories. I honestly haven’t read one yet that disappointed me. The artwork is by Jim Aparo (cover and interiors), whom I, and quite a few others feel is the best artist to ever draw Batman. Of course there are plenty of other fantastic artists that drew him over the years (Neal Adams, Irv Novick, Bill Finger, etc.), but Aparo seemed to really get the character and his moody scenery better than anyone. Colors by Tatjana Wood, and letters by Jim Aparo (cover letters by Gaspar Saladino).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Beyond the Unknown 20, 1972 “Fishermen from the Sea!”

I’m on a bit of a DC kick lately, so I’ll let the train keep rolling. The sci-fi stories they produced in the Silver Age are a blast (off). The talent they had was perfect for the genre, and seeing is believing. Most associate DC with superheroes, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t just stop there, because these books (the originals, and reprints like this one) are great fun! You get three big stories in this issue, and a cool cover by Nick Cardy!

The first adventure (“Fishermen from the Sea!“) shows an alien invasion. These fish-like creatures want to take over the Earth by flooding the planet, thereby killing all humans. Not sure where Aquaman was, but it’s up to “Dave” and “Helen” to save the day. OK, they do get a small assist from the U.S. government testing atomic bombs. Written by Gardner Fox, with art by Mike Sekowsky and Joe Giella!

The second story is one of my all time favorite wacky, sci-fi stories! “The Interplanetary Restaurant!”  A new restaurant is opening and everyone is buzzing. Why? Because the owner claims the food is from outer space! Is it really? Or is it a ruse, as many people believe? You must read this bonkers story and find out! Written by Gardner Fox, with art by Gil Kane and Joe Giella!

Lastly, we have “When Did Earth Vanish?” This is a story starring the Star Rovers (click here for another story of theirs I covered). To try and describe this story would not only be near impossible to do in less that a thousand words, but might not even be possible. This story is all over the place and kooky to say the least. Story by Gardner Fox, with art by Sid Greene.

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you, this is an all Gardner Fox penned issue. Really dig deep into his history in comics (click here for a recommendation), especially his sci-fi work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Challengers of the Unknown 39, 1964 “Rocky, the Genius Challenger”

In 1957, we have the brilliant Jack “King” Kirby, creating more heroes from his pantheon of work. The Challengers of the Unknown, although not nearly as popular as let’s say the Fantastic Four, predate them by four years. The Challengers were a group of guys that all survived a plane crash and vowed to help humanity because they’re on “borrowed time,” so Ace, Red, Rocky and Prof, ban together for the benefit of all mankind…or something like that.

In this issue, we see two stories that are both equally ludicrous, but fun! In the lead off, we have “The Phantom of the Fair!” In this adventure, the Challengers get Madame Zaddum (a medium) to look into her crystal ball at the future, to see what their kids are up to. They see how a crook named “Stokie Johnson” is being let out of prison, and is plotting a revenge scheme on the Challengers. This one is part mad scientist, part revenge plot. Art by Bob Brown (cover as well) and possible scripting by Ed Herron.

The next story is (from the cover), “Rocky, the Genius Challenger.” In this one, Wizard Welles builds a machine that can transfer information from a computer into the mid of a human being. Before he can do it to himself, though, Rocky knocks him out of the way, and takes the brain boost himself. His cranium then grows to twice the normal size, and his brain power is now beyond any person on earth. Shenanigans with the team and the Wizard ensue. The awesome art is again by Bob Brown (an unsung hero of comics to be sure). The writing credits are possibly by Arnold Drake (Deadman, Doom Patrol).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest 26, 1982 “The Brave and the Bold”

Thanks to a podcast (Digestcast on Fire and Water), I discovered this wonderful series of books. I’d never heard of them before, but when I was trolling eBay recently, I saw them at a good price. I snagged this super cool edition of The Brave and the Bold! Other than a slight tear of the cover, the book is on fantastic shape, too! This series was an anthology reprint (most of the time) book that brings some of the best DC had to offer from the Silver Age! Six big stories (part six having three chapters) are encased in this powerful, pint-sized book, and it’s all led off with a great cover by Jim Aparo (framing sequences as well)!

After some framing material, the first tale is from issue 86, 1969. “You can’t Hide from a Deadman!”, brings some incredible action from the Dynamic Duo, as they’re busting up an extortion racket and run into Deadman! Written by Bob “Zany” Haney, and art by Neal Adams!

Next, is “Three Arrows Against Doom!” This fantastic Robin Hood story is from issue 9, 1956/57. In this story, we see how Robin escapes from the sheriff’s men yet again, but this time with only three arrows at his disposal! Written by Bob Haney, with art by Russ Heath!

The third tale is called “Menace of the Mirage People!” It’s from issue number 38 (1961), and involves the Suicide Squad (no, not the lame movie characters from 2016)! Colonel Rick Flag, Jess Bright, Dr. Hugh Evans, and Karin Grace must fight against illusions that seem like reality! Written by Robert Kanigher, and art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. For further reading on this team, click here and here!

The following story, “Threat of the Ice King (issue 18, 1958)” is a tale of the Viking Prince! These ongoing stories were great and not only because they gave you epic fantasy tales, but because they had names like Bob Kanigher (writer) and Joe Kubert (art) behind them!

In the days of Camelot, knights and warriors ruled the day (story from issue 21, 1958/59)! And in “The Sword in the Lake,” we get to see some great action involving the Silent Knight! He’s tricked into the service of Morgan Le Fey, and must retrieve some incredible artifacts for her! Written by Robert Kanigher, with art by Irv Novick!

Lastly, we have some wild adventures of Cave Carson! In three separate chapters, we learn “The Secret Beneath the Earth!” These chapters from issue 31 (1960), show us some crazy adventures involving dinosaurs, lava men, and other shenanigans. Written by Ed Herron, art by Bruno Premiani. For more on Cave Carson, click those links above in the Suicide Squad section!

Do yourself a favor and grab some of these as they are a great way to get some fantastic material from the Silver Age at an affordable price!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strange Adventures 234, 1972 “The Human Icicle!”

It’s been quite a long time (4 1/2 years!) since I spotlighted an issue from this series, and I’m not sure why. This is definitely one of my favorite Bronze Age (and Silver) titles from DC comics. These quirky sci-fi stories are a lot of fun. You either get something that mirrors the time period (scientifically), or a story that’s so far out there, you can laugh about it. The book held a few memorable runs in its day, including Deadman (some stories illustrated and written by Neal Adams), Animal Man, and Adam Strange.  This issue is all reprints, but they pack a punch!

There are four big stories in this issue, and the first one is something really out of this world. “The Human Icicle” is featured on the cover (a spectacular cover by Joe Kubert), and showcases a man with amnesia, and a power that turns everything he touches to ice! The writer does a fantastic job of keeping the man’s “secret” until the perfect time in the story. Written by Otto Binder, with art by Carmine Infantino and Bernard Sachs.

The second story is a Star Rovers tale called “Where is the Paradise of Space?” This trio is a a non-team that comes together to figure out certain anomalies. Homer (no, not that Homer), Karel, and Rick are up to their eyeballs in mayhem in this one, as they are on a floating island in space that’s full of the wonderful and the weird! Written by Gardner Fox, with art by Sid Greene.

Next we have “The World that Vanished!” There’s an alien invasion coming, and it looks like the only thing that may be able to stop it is a cosmic ray weapon! Written by John Broome, and art by Sy Barry.

The last chapter in this book stars Adam Strange! This space faring superhero has a jetpack and a laser pistol and he knows how to use them! What happens when a man must face himself? Do not miss “The Spaceman Who Fought Himself!” Written by Gardner Fox, with art by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Spectre 9, 1969 “Journal of Judgement!”

In the late 1960s, DC comics decided to give The Spectre his own series. To say that this series was weird is an understatement. It’s not quite on the level of the Fleisher/Aparo stories (in Adventure Comics), but those are top of the food chain for Bronze Age comics. This title had a few different creative teams on it even though it was only a ten issue run. Some huge names involved and the stories are all over the place (in a good way).

In this issue (the main story), we see The Spectre as he’s chained to a “Journal of Judgement” for his failings in the eyes of the creator. We get to go back in time, as Jim Corrigan and his partner try to bust up a crime ring. The Sargent gets shot and killed and then another crook tries to shoot Jim in the back. The Spectre rises up and kills the man. Corrigan then confronts The Spectre, and the two fight. It appears as though he kills Corrigan, and that’s when he’s forced back to the spirit realm, and gets punished.

This story is pretty wild, but very consistent with the others from this run (and the subsequent Adventure Comics run). We see that the Spectre has no problem killing people, no matter what the cause! Written by Mike Friedrich, art by Jerry Grandenetti and Bill Draut. Another incredibly awesome fact about this issue is that it has a back up story (told by The Spectre) about a magician that runs afoul of the devil! Oh, and did I mention this story was written by Denny O’Neil and illustrated by Bernie Wrightson? There’s also a third story (Shadow Show, writer- Mark Hanerfeld, art by Jack Sparling), where The Spectre terrorizes a thief! All of this is kicked off by a great cover by Nick Cardy!