Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"A": Things I learned from "The Superhero Book"




  • It never occured to me that AC Comics is pretty much the longest lived "independent" publisher of comic book periodicals in the U.S. I read some AC back when they were still "Americomics," but never warmed to them. I also never recognized that much of their business was from mail order, which helps explain their longevity. In eight years I only had one subscriber ever to an AC Comic, specifically "Femforce," and that was alongside most of DC & Marvel's full super-hero line. I took it as being some vestigial element of 80's collecting.

  • A short list of presumed public domain characters published by AC over the years: "Black Terror, Commando Yank, Golden Lad, the Flame, Captain Flash, Cat-Man, the Green Lama, Pyroman, Miss Masque, the Owl, Black Venus, Captain Wings, the Eagle, Yankee Girl, the Fighting Yank, Black Cobra, Rocketman, Dynamic Man, the Grim Reaper..." Feel free to Wiki the ones not already repurposed for "Project: Superpowers," as though that were anything new, to stay ahead of the curve.

  • Quoting an African-American butler serving the Vision in Marvel Mystery Comics #13 (1940): "Ise sorry, gennilmun, de doctor is pow'ful busy, experuhmintin!" There's a whole article on that type of thing, reminding me of that line from Barack Obama's speech on Tuesday,"The anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races."

  • Show of hands for those in favor of Erik Larson adding a second edition of 1947's "All-Negro Comics" to his "Next Issue Project?" If he doesn't, I swear to God I'll do it myself!

  • Famed early adopters of racist caricature for humorous effect in super-hero comics: The Spirit, the Young Allies, Midnight, Mandrake the Magician...

  • Early defenders of the negro and racial harmony: a black serviceman used to show unfairness to our dark-skinned defenders in "World's Finest Comics #17" (1945) and the Batman in his 57th issue, breaking up an interracial squabble.

  • I never realized what a hanger-on Hank Pym was. Not only didn't his solo series ever amount to anything, and he was booted from the Avengers book after barely a year, but he spent most of the 70's on the bench. I never sat down and read a bunch of Avengers issues in one sitting, so I'd always assumed all his identity changes played out through most of that decade. Instead, it seems that was all in the 80's, making Pym a sort of Martian Manhunter in that he's considered a team mainstay despite many lengthy absences and little solo merit. Sad to say, it seems Pym is actually inferior in popularity to J'onn J'onzz by a fair margin. Woe unto Dr. Ant-Giant-Yellow-Man-Goliath-Jacket. He wasn't even a hero in Fox's short-lived Avengers cartoon, just a supporting character. (UPDATE: Or not... see comments section for valid rebuttal...)

  • Due to to my interest in the Mighty Crusaders toys and great cover art on the "Red Circle" line, I've tried many times to like the old MLJ/Archie heroes with little headway. This might explain why I've never retained the knowledge that the original Comet was kill-happy anti-hero who was himself murdered after only seventeen stories by mobsters in 1941. He was replaced by his brother, the equally if not as fantastically bloodthirsty Hangman, who stayed in print until 1944. Seems to me that's one of the first "event" stories leading to a long-term major character death, and the first true "legacy" character.

  • I always thought it was Mr. A that allowed a criminal to drown, not the Question.

  • Both the Punisher and Wolverine premiered in the same year the Watergate scandal was unfolding.

  • The Golden Age Hydroman wore a see-through shirt and had a sidekick named Rainbow Boy? That fairly screams for the Log Cabin Comic treatment.

  • The Jaguar rubbed his magic belt to gain all the power of the animal kingdom? Besides ripping off The Fly, that just sounds like my house on a Saturday night.

  • The Black Hood had his own radio show and pulp magazine? And he continued having adventures as a plainclothes detective after being unmasked by hoods in 1946? Seriously? Nobody seems to like this guy, but you must admit the accomplishment there.

2 comments:

BrittReid said...

"I never realized what a hanger-on Hank Pym was. Not only didn't his solo series ever amount to anything, and he was booted from the Avengers book after barely a year, but he spent most of the 70's on the bench. I never sat down and read a bunch of Avengers issues in one sitting, so I'd always assumed all his identity changes played out through most of that decade. Instead, it seems that was all in the 80's, making Pym a sort of Martian Manhunter in that he's considered a team mainstay despite many lengthy absences and little solo merit."

Let's see...
Founding member of Avengers in 1 thru 16. Returned in 28, stayed thru thru 75, couple of appearances in 89-91, 93 and 100, returned again in 137 and stayed thru 230...
Tales to Astonish 27, then his own strip 35-69 (with Wasp from 44 on)
Marvel Feature 4-10
Most of the run of West Coast Avengers...
Multiple issues of Ultimate Avengers (1-13, V2#7, V2#9-12) Defenders, Marvel Team-Up, etc.
I wouldn't say "little solo merit"
But that's just me... ;-)

Frank Lee Delano said...

Hee hee! I get so few comments here at ...nurgh... that I'm gleeful even when I cause someone to take a swing.

Okay, like I said, I never read a whole lotta Avengers all at once. To further clarify, most of what I know of the first year came from Marvel Saga and other reference material. In the late 90's, I bought a nice (if smelly) collection for my first shop, which included several dozen Avengers from the early 20's through to the mid-to-late 100's. I read most of those before selling them. An early volume of the Essentials I bought cheap for a friend also sits unread on a shelf. That's the sum of my 60-70's Avengers knowledge.

That said, your stats clearly prove Pym was no absentee hero over that period. I said in my first post the "Superhero Book" was refreshing in its personal touches, which include big stinking bungles that drag me down in the retelling. Still, I'm a Ray Palmer fan only too happy to rag on Hank Pym when the opportunity presents itself, even when my second hand "facts" are suspect as Bigfoot sightings.

I shall now officially instate the ...nurgh... equivalent to Marvel's old No Prize, rewarded to those who catch Frank Lee Delano in the act of being eyebrow deep in guano...

...MY BAD...

The ...MY BAD... award has no cash value, and is no more tangible than the aforementioned No Prize. In fact, at least No Prizes involved an envelope (sometimes illustrated) and a stamp, whereas you'll just have to take me at my word on the actual the existence of a ...MY BAD... citation. The same word you just called out and manhandled. Phyrric victory, thy new name be ...MY BAD...

...nurghophiles...

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