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).
I felt it was long overdue for a blog post nothing short of ridiculous. Jimmy Olsen marrying a gorilla seemed quite apropos. This story isn’t actually the first one in the book believe it or not. That honor belongs to “The Four Clocks of Doom!” in which Jimmy and Superman must deal with Tempus, and his Doom Clock! Yeah, it’s not that scary, but it is a lot of fun. Jimmy gets a tour of Tempus’s home and it’s hilarious. But lets get back to Jungle Jimmy! Of course the cover doesn’t exactly match the interior story, but Jimmy, Clark, and Lucy Lane find themselves in the jungle while a sleazy movie producer/director (von Spitz) takes advantage of the indigenous peoples naivety. No, Superman doesn’t marry Jimmy and the ape, and in the end, he actually saves him from her (as she’s making advances on him).
The Jungle Jimmy story was written by long time Supes scribe, Leo Dorfman. He wrote a ton of stories during the Silver Age about the boy scout. The artwork is by Pete Costanza, and to be honest, I don’t think I’d ever heard his name before. Looking into his past, he started out at Fawcett, and became an assistant to C.C. Beck. Remarkably, he taught himself to paint left-handed after losing the use of his right arm from a stroke. The Tempus story was written by Otto Binder art by Costanza again. The crazy cover is by Curt Swan and George Klein!
“Ridin’ that train, high on cocaine, Casey Jones you better watch your speed,” The Grateful Dead famously said in a song. Maybe they were talking about the Nightmare Express? If so, drugs might be a good scapegoat for this one (just kidding). Anyway, there are three cool stories in this one and all of them are completely crazy. Translation- it’s an a awesome book!
The first story is about J’onn J’onzz, the Manhunter from Mars! Now don’t get too excited, as he’s fighting the “Giant Genie of Gensu”…yeah. So that story isn’t the greatest, but it has really cool artwork with some hilarious shenanigans (Jack Schiff, writer, art by Sheldon Moldoff, letters by Ira Schnapp). Next up is a tale called “The Human Hurricane!” Mitch Anderson is a guinea pig for scientist and ends up becoming, you guessed it, a human hurricane (story by Jack Miller, art by Joe Certa, and letters by Stan Starkman). Lastly, we climb aboard “The Midnight Express!” But don’t expect to see John Hurt or Randy Quaid, as this one has Detective John Sutter, on his way home from work, and he gets a ride on a train that he’ll never forget. Or was it even real (written by Jack Miller, art by Bernard Baily, letters by Stan Starkman). This very groovy cover is by Jack Sparling!