Unca Cheeks the
Toy Wonder's Silver Age Comics Web Site!
WHEN BAD COMICS
HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE
The ARCHIE Comics "Mighty
Crusaders" Super-Hero Characters of the 1960's
(This article is dedicated, with
thanks eternal, to the incredibly generous Nick Caputo: a mightier crusader than
any li'l plush curmudgeon could possibly hope for... or deserve.)
Oh, good golly.
Back in the earlier half of the
1960s -- with DC Comics' incredible Silver Age revival in full creative
ascendancy, and Marvel Comics' Jack Kirby busily redefining the storytelling
parameters of the adventure comics genre his own bad self, to boot -- the ARCHIE
comics group decided to bunny hop its way into the (then-)ongoing super-hero
sales conga line.
In the 30s and 40s, you see --
the Golden Age of comics -- Archie Comics had spawned their own stable of
spandexed super-doers, under the separate MLJ Comics imprint. PEP COMICS (The
Comet; The Hangman; The Shield); JACKPOT COMICS (Mr. Justice; Steel Sterling);
TOP-NOTCH COMICS (The Firefly; The Black Hood); BLUE RIBBON COMICS (Bob Phantom;
Inferno, the Flame Breather); ZIP COMICS (Blackjack; The Web); and the good lord
only knows how many other similarly short-lived and obscurity-enshrouded
These were -- by and large,
believe you me -- singularly lame and awful in every known storytelling
However: they were handy and
convenient, blessed as they were with the twin virtues of being both: a.)
already created, and: b.) owned lock, stock and spandex, outright, by
You-Know-Who; and -- to the good (if, ultimately, clueless) men and women
charged with the care and feeding of the profitable Riverdale cash cow -- one
costumed ding-dong was pretty much the same as any other, really.
However: none of said men and
women -- as undeniably talented as they were in the entertaining explication of
small town teen dating angst, and suchlike -- had so much as Clue One, re:
"How To Write a Genuinely Marketable Super-Hero Comic Book." And (give
them credit for that much self-awareness, at least) they darned well knew that.
So: they went out and secured the
auctorial services of the gentleman who'd only started the whole
"super-hero" shebang rolling in the first place, is all.
They went out and hired Jerry
(SUPERMAN) Siegel to write the blamed things.
Oh, how stone brilliant that must
have seemed, on paper!
The estimable (and much
mistreated, by former employer DC Comics) Mr. Siegel, you see, was -- somewhat
understandably, by this juncture in his justly storied career -- more than a
little embittered over this whole "super-hero" business, quite
frankly. He had -- along with fellow artist (and SUPERMAN co-creator) Joe
Shuster -- been embroiled in a series of increasingly apocalyptic and
unforgiving lawsuits with DC, over the decade or so prior, re: the fair and
equitable distribution of monies generated by the obscenely successful SUPERMAN
franchise and its attendant multi-media merchandising. So: that's one, right
He also had some extremely...
ummmmm... antiquated notions as to how to tell a comics story, in an age where
rigorous plotting and scientific extrapolation (the John Broome and Gardner Fox
DC titles) was the storytelling "norm," on the one hand; and
high-energy emotional breast-beating and bombast (the Jack Kirby-driven Marvel
comics) were the order of the day on the other one. So: that's two, then.
... and: he was stuck (by
editorial decree) with using some of the most dire and awful
"super-heroes" ever conceived of by the mind of Man as his
meta-fictive catspaws, in any event. And that's strike three, right there.
Not even Mark McGwire can belt
out a homer with three strikes already on him, for pity's sake.
"The Fly-Man's Partners In
Peril" [ADVENTURES OF THE FLY #31; May, 1965; Jerry Siegel, writer; Paul
Reinman, the (apparent) artist] is as good an example as any of what I'm talking
The story opens with a scene of
"Fly-Man's" portly arch-nemesis -- the cut-rate Lex Luthor knock-off
better known as the Spider -- engineering one of his (putatively)
"super-scientific" escapes from the state penitentiary; this time, by
means of a prison delivery truck specially equipped (by his henchmen, on the
outside) with big, dopey-looking super-springy hydraulic leg-thingies.
following caption blandly observes; "... in the Capital City office of
attorney Thomas Troy..."
[Quick Origin Recap, courtesy of
Jeff Rovin's THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SUPERHEROES (and with additional commentary
courtesy of Your Ever-Helpful Unca Cheeks):
["Tommy Troy lives in the
Westwood Orphanage, whose superintendent, Aaron Creacher, hires him out to raise
money." (Yeah... hires him out to sailors. Really nasty sailors. On
["Working for elderly Ezra
and Abagail March, young Tommy learns that they are wizards and, late one night,
tries on a fly-shaped ring he finds in the attic. It glows and opens a door to
another dimension, from which steps Turan of the Fly People.
He (Turan) explains that
'millions of years before, Fly People ruled the earth'; but they 'waged war with
magic, reducing most of the population to common houseflies'." (... which
certainly had everybody buzzing for weeks afterwards...)
["Only a few of the Fly
People were able to escape, fleeing to 'a dimensional plane outside the galaxy'
where they have waited patiently for 'one person... pure of heart' to 'make war
against greed and crime,' which were their own downfall." (Well... that,
and the inherited racial tendency towards congenital imbecility, anyway...
["Troy has these qualities;
thus, whenever he rubs the ring and says 'I wish to become... the Fly-Man,"
he is 'projected into the other dimension,' and returns as a costumed adult
called 'the Fly-Man.' Tommy continued as the Fly-Man throughout adulthood,
cleaning up crime in Capital City."
[No. Seriously. Page 117. Swear
After a brief, desultory
introductory skirmish with the wildly cackling Spider (whose super-villain
costume is -- unfortunately; given the ampleness of his physique --
distressingly skin-tight), Fly-Man is startled, several days later, by the
arrival of a flying "remote-controlled, jet- powered gigantic metal
claw" whizzing its way over the skies of New York City, during its World's
Fair. [See panel reproduction, below]
"The Spider's emblem is
emblazoned upon the deadly mechanism!" a grim Fly-Man observes. "He
probably wants to hog the whole fair to himself!"
(The mental image that line of
dialogue conjures up -- that of an aging, obese super-villain, capering giddily
amongst the twilight shadows of abandoned roller coasters and ring-toss game
booths and giggling like a schoolgirl -- is, as much as anything, the real
reason I first took up the nervous habit of cramming little baby birdies, head
first, into electric pencil sharpeners. And laughing.)
In any event: the (inevitable)
death-trap accompanying said gigantic metal claw -- a massive "electrical
discharge," in this particular instance -- is thwarted, right in the very
nick, by the sudden arrival of the mysterious (and, from all available evidence,
massively color-blind) Comet.
[From Rovin's ENCYCLOPEDIA:
"In the early 1940s, while working at his research lab in Manhattan,
chemist John Dickering discovers a gas that is 'fifty times lighter than
hydrogen.' Injecting it into his bloodstream, he finds that he can 'make great
leaps' through the air." (The flaming, concussive bouts of hellish
flatulence accompanying said super-powered display were a nice artistic
"touch," as well.)
["Jekyll-like, he continues
experimenting on himself until, after many injections, the gas accumulates in
his eyes and causes them to throw off 'two powerful beams.' When they cross,
whatever he's looking at will 'disintegrate completely. Dubbing the power 'dissolvo-vision,'
he finds that the only problem is that he can't control it except by closing his
eyes." (Appparently, the simple expedient of not crossing his freakin' eyes
in the FIRST bloody place never occurs to Mr. Big Deal, Filled-With-
More-Gas-Than-a-Propane-Tanker Super-Scientist, here. I'm just sayin', here, is
vision can't harm glass, so he makes a pair of goggles which he raises to
release his blasts. Inspired by the exploits of other costumed heroes, he
becomes a crime-fighter, albeit an unorthodox one: he is one of the few who
--" (Pick One):
A.) " -- kills his
B.) " -- touches himself in
combat, while making lewd and suggestive comments to his adversaries."
C.) " -- subdues his
opponents by shrieking the lyrics to old Dexy's Midnight Runners tunes at the
top of his lungs."
D.) " -- can transform
himself, at will, into WEBSTER television star Emmanuel Lewis."
E.) " -- 'grooms' himself
with his own tongue. All over."
["Though girlfriend reporter
Thelma Gordon writes him up as a hero, his thirst for blood makes the public
uneasy. Not so the aliens of the planet Altrox who, after studying his exploits
on Earth, teleport him to their world to help Queen Naija wage war against
invading robots." (You're all still following all of this, right...?)
["Barely surviving that
encounter, the Comet is returned to Earth -- where he is promptly shot dead by
friends of gangster 'Big Boy' Malone, whose gang he had previously busted.
Witnessing the tragedy, Queen Naija brings him back to Altrox, reviving and then
marrying him." (This may very well be the first confirmed instance of a
comic book origin having been penned by renowned absurdist playwright Eugene
["But bad luck continues to
hound Dickering: less than a week later, robot survivors of the Battle of
Annexia ambush the newlyweds. By this time, the Altroxian atmosphere has
deprived him of his dissolvo-vision -- something the Comet doesn't learn until
he tries to use it against the assassins. The Queen is killed, 'her skull
crushed like a rotten bloodfruit.' Creating a super-powered costume using
Altroxian science, Dickering returns to Earth [...] and resumes his superheroic
career." (This was all in PEP COMICS #1, incidentally, circa 1940. And just
try imagining the eight- or ten-year-old kid of the period slogging his unhappy
way through all of that in one pre-adolescent sitting.)]
Well: back to the meta-fictive
changeling left here in place of an actual plot, then. Having rescued the
hapless Fly-Man from the Spider's electronic snare, the Comet assures his
inectoid pal that "Now that I've resigned as ruler of Altrox, Earth will be
seeing more of me! I'm glad I was able to help you! And now, goodbye, 'til we
"Bah!" a sullen Spider
fumes, viewing all of this nonsense from afar. "Why didn't that nosey
super-hero from Altrox stick around his own business, where he belongs?!? The
Fly-Man survived my trap! But he won't survive the next one!"
Pretty tough talk, from a Jenny
Craig refugee with a lace doiley on top of his head...
... but: a day or two later,
"at a party given at the Van Pyle mansion," a trio of toughies named
(Jesus whack me with a stick if I lie) Boppo the Mighty; Flipsy the Terrific;
and Basher the Dynamic crash their way into the foppish festivities, and proceed
to separate the revelers from their wallets, watches, and whatnot.
"Must telepathically tip-
off my noble friend, the Fly-Man, about these sinister happenings!" a
nearby (and typically altruistic) insect resolves, in the happy woodland way of
all small, crawling vermin.
(DC should have ponied up the
damn dollars for Jerry Siegel. I mean it. Whatever he bloody asked for; if only
to spare The Man Who Started It All the ultimate, soul-deadening indignity of
having to crank out stuff like this, in the twilight of his years, f'chrissakes.
And I really am Just Sayin', here.)
Fly-Man sneaks his way into the
low rent hideout of Boppo, Flipsy and Basher, grimly resolved to give the trio a
right good slapping around for Being Dorky Enough To Make Even the Comet Look
Like a Darned Good Idea, By Way of Comparison. Unfortunately, his (*kaff*kaff*)
fabulous assortment of insectoid powers wears off at an inoppportune moment --
oh, yeah; I should have mentioned thhat Fly-Man "can be super-powerful for
only one hour out of each twenty-four hour span"; cheapjack magic alien
rings being what they are, apparently -- and he kerPLOPS humiliatingly directly
in front of The Cretins Three, as a result.
Sans the ability to hold long,
rambling conversations with crab lice and the like, Fly-Man is roughly as
menacing as a blind kitten in a microwave; as Boppo and His Pals effectively
demonstrate, in what simply must be one of the most embarrassing ass-whuppings
in all of recorded comics history.
"They call me 'Boppo',"
the first gunsel explains; "... 'cause when I bop 'em, they stay
" 'Flipsy' is the
name!" the second assailant warbles. "For flipping, I am famed!"
"My momma wanted I should
become a great pianist!" the third one confesses, in a truly touching
moment of emotional vulnerability. "I figured out another use for my
[NOTE TO "BASHER": we all did, back during our respective adolesences,
dude. It's a perfectly normal aspect of the whole "puberty"- type
experience. And -- gosh darn it! -- that's okay. You needn't live with the guilt
and the shame any longer.)
Having thus spanked the (now)
unconscious Fly-Man like the proverbial red-headed stepchild, the Spider's three
mesomorphic hirelings -- for such they are, in plain point of fact --
unceremoniously deposit the internally hemorrhaging insect-guy on a nearby
elevated train trestle; rustle themselves up some popcorn and orange sodas; and
settle back to watch what promises to be (with said train, even now, fast
approaching) a truly impressive display of Really Icky Carnage...
... when -- all of a sudden,
like; just imagine the odds! -- a red, white and blue armored figure comes
thundering from out of absolutely nowhere; scoops up Fly-Man in two muscular
arms; and whisks the still-stupored super-hero out of harm's onrushing way.
"The b-bullets are bouncing
off his emblem!" one of the trio stammers, as they attempt to gun down the
silent Samaritan. (It's a little-known fact that Siegel was slipped an extra
buck by a certain fetishistic ARCHIE editor, each and every time he manaaged to
work the word "emblem" into one of his scripts.)
"That's... the Shield!"
one of his partners exposits, helpfully. "He's able magnetically to attract
bullets so they glance harmlessly off his bullet-proof shield emblem!" (See
what I mean? Ka-ching!)
"I'd have been a goner if
not for you, Shield," a grateful Fly-Man enthuses. "Where have you
been all these years? What made you quite crime fighting?"
"I'd... rather not talk
about that... now!" the Shield mutters, by way of response. "Maybe
some other day..."
(Yeah, yeah; this guy's got an
origin every last bit as lame-brained and awful as either of the other two we've
seen thus far. Your Drama- Conscious Unca Cheeks is just holding that little
laugh riot aside for a later chapter in this here entry, is all. You'll all need
to see the actual, for real, no foolin' pages for yourselves to fully appreciate
The Origin of... THE SHIELD for the rank and festering horror it truly is. Trust
me on this one, people.)
Just as in the earlier instance,
re: the mysteriously reappearing Comet... the Shield promptly scampers off,
after having hauled Fly-Man's buggy butt out of the fire; leaving the latter
hero even more befuddled than usual as to just what the holy heck is going on
around here, anyway; and the spluttering Spider with a batting average of .000,
Part Two of "The Fly-Man's
Partner's In Peril," coming right up... on the page immediately following.
Everybody go ahead and rub their
"magic fly rings." Or whatever.
... otherwise known as the You
Killed Jerry Siegel! You BASTARDS! wing of our little online atrocity
What the anti-social (and
adiposal) Spider habitually lacked in luck, he certainly made up for in sheer
grit and determination. A few days after his most recent failure (i.e.,
Operation: Code Name "Boppo"), the massive mastermind is up to his
standard shenanigans yet again: this time, utilizing a --
... well: let's allow the
super-villain set's answer to William Conrad to have his own say, just this
once, shall we...? :-))
" [...] the emanations from
this device can drain most of the energy out of all living organisms...
including you! That's why you can't crawl, or fly, off! Notice, too, the moving
second hand time-piece attachment! It's counting off the few remaining seconds
you have left to live! Enjoy it! When the rotating second hand points directly
upward, the atom bomb will explode! And so will you, Fly-Man! So will you!"
mechanism... and an atomic bomb detonation.
He's a thorough little cuss. Give
him that much, anyway.
"But -- " (the next
heart-stopping caption exclaims); " -- a split second before the diabolical
mechanism can detonate -- !" [Pick One]:
A.) Yet another dorky and
deservedly forgotten old ARCHIE Comics super-hero shows up.
B.) Yet another dorky and
deservedly forgotten old ARCHIE Comics super-hero shows up.
C.) Yet another dorky and
deservedly forgotten old ARCHIE Comics super-hero shows up.
D.) Yet another dorky and
deservedly forgotten old ARCHIE Comics super-hero shows up.
Every once in a great while: I
feel I owe the lot of you a "freebie" for putting up with all of
"The Black Hood... and his
robot horse 'Nightmare'!" a stunned Fly-Man marvels. "His ray-gun
blast saved me right at the brink of eternity!"
(Good News/Bad News Time, campers
and camperettes. The good news: I'm not going to delve into the unspeakable
details of the Black Hood's origin, at this point.
(The bad news, on the other hand:
same upcoming page as The Shield, bunkies.
"The Fly-Man! The Comet! The
Shield! And now, the Black Hood! BAH!" a now thoroughly frustrated Spider
rages, shaking one ham-sized fist at the inherent injustice of being forced to
endure yet another long, lonely evening of villainus interuptus. "The Earth
is getting so darned crowded with super-heroes, I can hardly breathe!"
(What this four- color universe really needs is a good, old- fashioned, DC-style
CRISIS, by golly!)
however, is the reaction of the standard man on the street to the news that
there's been a city-wide "run" on spandex over the past week or so.
"This is going to be a much safer world with all these great Crusaders
(Oh, yeah. Right. The Good Lord
alone knows but that Boppo, Flippy and Basher would -- even now -- be ruling the
planet in a collective iron grip of sheer, unrelenting terror if not for the
ongoing presence of these yipyops. Sure thing. Yoooouuuuu betcha.)
"[The] next day, high in the
sky," however: a mysterious, unseen force causes gigantic cloud letters to
form, reading: "THIS-A-WAY, SUPER-HEROES! FORM... 'THE MIGHTY
The three flight-enabled heroes
(Fly-Man; the Comet; and the Black Hood) all zip off in the direction indicated
by the helpfully provided cloud "arrow," accompanying; and are met
"in an abandoned amusement park" by a bemused Shield.
"Hello, fellahs!" the
chipper crusader chirrups. "Which one of you put that cloud message up in
the wild blue yonder?"
"Not me!" Fly-Man
"Or me!" the Comet
"I didn't, either!" the
Black Hood concludes. "Neither did my trusty robot steed, Nightmare! He
can't spell that good!" (MWAH-ha-ha-ha! Because... see... he's, like, a
horse, right? Get it? Huh? "He can't spell that good!" Because he's a
horse! Oh, gawd... my sides...!
(Kill me. Now. Please.)
"Hm-mm," a pensive
Fly-Man muses. "Maybe there's still another super-hero lurking around! If
he did it, he may join us shortly!" (Not exactly "the Darknight
Detective," is he, gang...?)
"Well, whoever did it, it's
a great idea," the Black Hood enthuses. "Us guys banding together into
an injustice-fighting group!"
"Yes!" the Shield
readily agrees. "The Spider's world-wide evil organization is too powerful,
too complex, for just one of us to defeat, alone!" Not that you'd ever
guess as much from the way these four goobers have been kicking blubbery bad guy
butt up and down the block all the livelong day, up to this point. I'm just
sayin', really. That's all.)
interjects. "In the first place, that name 'the Mighty Crusaders' is corny,
like something dreamed up in a comic book!" (Now "Fly-Man," on
the other hand...)
"But, more important,"
he continues, eschewing modifiers with a manly sort of disdain; "... I'm
not convinced you 'super-heroes' are mighty enough to deserve joining up with
This snide expostulation
occasions, in turn, the single most welcome and heart-warming scene in the comic
entire: the other three Crusaders join forces and proceed to pummel the holy
living poo right out of a hapless and ineffectual Fly-Man! (YESSSSSS --
"Lucky for you I was so busy
while patrolling today," the bruised and battered hero snivels, once the
dust has settled, "that my powers, which can last for just an hour each
day, wore off just now! Otherwise...!"
The other heroes all greet this
with the general snorting and derision it so richly deserves, flying off in a
chorus of catcalls and wet, juicy raspberries.
Seconds after that: the big, mean
This is a wholly true assessment
in not one, but two important respects:
1.) That's our one-man,
jumbo-sized jihad, the Spider, waving a Dirty Harry-esque hand cannon in
Fly-Man's goggled face; annnnnnd --
2.) He's wearing one of Emmett
Kelly's old hand-me-downs. (Not that this isn't necessarily an improvement,
"Ha, ha!" the corpulent
creepazoid exults. "It was I who planted that cloud message in the sky...
to bait you toward your death! We're alone, now... you, the weak Fly-Man... me,
the all-powerful Spider... and this gun, with which I will kill you!"
"It wasn't simple,
conceiving such masterpieces of villainy!" (The "Deal-A-Meal"
desperado continues.) "But you always wriggled off the hook, blast you!
Things like that could give me a bad name in the underworld! But now my prestige
will be mightier than ever! Wait'll word gets around that the Spider destroyed
Fly-Man! From the murderous alleys of Hong Kong to the terraces of elegant Park
Avenue penthouses -- !"
... well. He just goes on and on
and bloody on, doesn't he, though...?
As unalloyed a pleasure as it
most assuredly is, however, watching Fly-Man being ruthlessly and resoundingly
pimp-slapped into a stupor by a spandexed Dom DeLuise... all good things come to
their eventual end, alas.
"Okay, 'King Lear'!" a
(suddenly) hale and hearty-seeming Fly-Man growls. "Knock it off! You're a
ham, not 'Hamlet'! So muffle the monologue! Bill Shakespeare, you're not!"
(Try as I might: I can't shake
the unhappy image of a lonely, desperate Jerry Siegel seated at his battered old
typewriter; knocking back shot after feverish shot of cheap rotgut, his mind
racing like an amphetamined gerbil on a greased flywheel; wondering "...
how in God's name did it ever come to this? How? HOW? HOW -- ?!?")
It turns out, you see, that
Fly-Man wasn't power-bereft after all, really; nor was he ever the least little
bit unawares that the stupefied Spider was loitering about the amusement park in
"How could that be
possible?" the villain splutters, bound and helpless in some hastily-spun
Fly-Man "steel-tough webbing."
"What you didn't know,
Spider" the hero smugly explains, "was that a real spider, lurking in
a cobweb, saw you come and assume that clown- dummy pose! [...] I egged on my
friends into a free-for-all, so that I could whisper the news about your secret
presence to them, during the scuffle!"
"Fly-Man said he'd pretend
the hour during which he could have super-powers was up!" a grinning Shield
concludes, sensing (in his uncanny way) that the comic has only one more page to
go, in any event.
Doubtless fed up with having
wasted his time and energies in support of a story so ineptly engineered as this
one, the sulky Spider activates a fail-safe device secreted on his ample person
and teleports the heck outa Dodge; leaving the nonplussed paladins to ponder the
relative merits of this whole "Mighty Crusader" business, while a
waiting world holds its collective breath in eager anticipation.
I don't make the news, people; I
just report it, is all.
"Hold it, letterer!"
the final caption self-aggrandizingly blares and simpers. "This isn't The
End by a long shot! There's something important to decide! Readers, write today!
Tell us if "The Mighty Crusaders" should be organized or not! Write:
"MIGHTY CRUSADERS" Dept., Radio Comics, Inc., 241 Church Street, New
York, N.Y., 10013! Your decision can influence COMICS HISTORY!!!"
All right, then. Unca Cheeks
assumes that at least a bare handful of the regular vistors to this site
currently reside in the NYC area.
What I want you special, select
readers to do for me, please, is this:
A.) Hie thee hence, to 241 Church
B.) Enter the building located
C.) Make absolutely stone certain
there are no survivors.
I think we all owe a gentle,
sorely mistreated man by the name of "Jerry Siegel" that bloody much,
if nothing else.
Be here bright'n'early next week,
kiddies, as we continue our embarrassed, pained examination of the
Siegel-written "Mighty Crusaders" characters of the 1960s... with
especial emphasis on The Shield; The Black Hood; The Web; and other four-color
fancies and failures too dire and awful to long contemplate.
What you've seen, thus far, is
the quality stuff, comparatively speaking.
Trust me: you'll all be begging
on your hands and knees for more "Boppo," "Flipsy" and
"Basher," before this sorry sonata has reached its final coda.
Damn, but you guys are
I preface this week's entry in
this -- our ongoing, oh-my-God look at the almost breathtakingly awful ARCHIE
Comics super-heroes of the swingin' '60s -- with a timely and informative
clarification of same, courtesy of reader Tom Brevoort. To wit:
"The current piece on the
Archie/Radio Comics heroes is as neat-o keen as usual. However, you made one
mistake that I figured I'd point out. While the Comet did make his first
appearance in PEP COMICS #1 (drawn by the terrific Jack Cole), all of that
latter-day stuff about Altrox wasn't grafted on until much later, in the 60s
(when the character was first revived in THE FLY, before it switched over to
"The Comet has the
distinction of being the very first super hero ever to be killed off--and fairly
permanently, as these things go. In the 17th issue of PEP, the Comet was gunned
down while protecting his brother and his fiancee, and the brother subsequently
became the Hangman to avenge his death. The whole business about Altrox was used
in the 60s to explain how it was that the Comet was still alive (as though
anybody who'd read the original Comet stories in 1940 would still care.)
"More than you wanted to
know, I'm sure--but I figure it's better to straighten this sort of error out
quickly, rather than see it perpetuated in the future."
The management would like to
offer its most blushing and genuine thanks to the good Mr. Brevoort, for
rendering considerably more lucid its goggle-eyed explication of the origin of
the Comet, on Page One of this entry.
Whereas your Unca Cheeks has
Silver Age comic books all but falling out of his hemorrhoidal li'l hinder,
here; I have yet (to date) to read or own so much as a single Golden Age MLJ/Radio
Comics issue. I hang my head in grateful acknowledgment of the gentleman's
Eye for detail like that: the man
ought to be an editor.
(... and -- so long as we're
about this whole "thankyouthankyou" business: similarly appreciative
kudos to the eighteen or twenty of you, out there, who correctly identified
longtime Silver Age Martian Manhunter artist Joe Certa as the uncredited
penciler of the gape-
inducing JET DREAM AND HER
STUNT-GIRL COUNTERSPIES, of a few weeks ago. Maybe I should just sit back and
let all of you fellahs do these frickin' pages, from here on out.)
It seems to me that I recall
promising you all a detailed explication of the origin of Silver Age Shield last
"The Origin of the
Shield" [THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS #1; November, 1965; Jerry Siegel, author;
Paul Reinmann (I think) penciler] provides us precisely that; as well as an
informative (if fleeting) glimpse of his Golden Age predecessor, as well.
Let's see if I can keep from
screwing this one up, at any rate.
As per Jeff Rovin's invaluable
volume, THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SUPER-HEROES: "Joe [Higgins] is as boy when his
father, Tom, an FBI investigator, is killed in an explosion. Before dying, the
amateur chemist tells the boy about a secret formula he'd been working on,
code-named SHIELD." (He's an "amateur chemist"... and he gives
his fumbling basement concoctions code names? Ooookay. Whatever.)
"Joe comes to school and
becomes a brilliant chemist -- "
[You can tell he's
"brilliant," in that he, at least, hasn't blown himself up.
" -- completing his father's
formula and learning that SHIELD stands for Sacrum, Heart, Innervation, Eyes,
Lungs and Derma. However, before he is able to get the formula into those
portions of his anatomy, Joe learns from an agent the identity of his father's
"Impulsively going after the
man, Joe is beaten and left at the site of another explosion. Severely injured,
he drags himself back to his laboratory [...] rubs it (the SHIELD formula) into
his body, then dons a special suit containing 'a catalytic agent that, when
bathed in fluoroscopic rays, will cause the formula to be absorbed.' " (...
and I know I, for one, would be willing to pay Top Comics Dollar for a glimpse
of the sequence in which this goober sets to briskly rubbing said super-
liniment into his own "innervation," by golly. Easy to tell this was
written before the onset of the Comics Code.)
"[...] Joe finds his genetic
structure altered so that he possesses super-strength [...]; has the power to
leap incredible distances; and is able to withstand both gunfire and
temperatures up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Symbolically 'jazzing up' the
equally indestructible suit with a patriotic theme [...] he adopts the alter-ego
of: the Shield."
Right. Okay. So, then: that's the
colorful, energetic fellow you saw barreling his burly way into a crowd of no-goodniks,
in the previous page reproduction. Big, bad Joe Higgins: the Golden Age Shield.
Apparently -- supremely dopey
origin story notwithstanding -- the genial Joe has been quite the effective
little crimebuster, overall; because we witness "a meeting of the kingpins
of crime," during which a gaggle of gangland gunsels collectively pony up
the moolah requisite to their hiring of an Extra Chunky paid assassin by the
name of "the Eraser." [Again: see page reproductions, above and below]
I'm not necessarily saying this
guy's fat, mind, now; just pointing out that [Pick One]:
A.) ... his first choice for a
waycool super-villainous "code name" was: "the Mighty Lard
B.) ... if they'd ever gotten
around to shooting a film version of this saga, back in the '60's: they woulda
signed William Conrad to play this guy.
C.) ... he "killed hisself a
b'ar/ When he was only three"... and then ate it.
D.) ... he has a standing reward
of $10,000 ready for anyone who can provide information leading to reliable
confirmation of whether or not he actually has feet.
E.) ... lookit: the guy's just
freakin' huuuuuuuuge, all right?
In any event: the Eraser manages
to effect a faux communiqué from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, stating
that the Shield is to meet a contact at "The Museum of Arch-
Villains"; there to receive information "urgent to our nation's
"I am the Eraser," the
gargantuan gunsel informs Our Hero, lumbering his elephantine way out from the
shadows. "... and you are a dead man!"
"A trap, eh?" the
Shield sneers, by way of response. "Many have tried to destroy me! Be my
Illustrating the ages-old
super-hero maxim that "Courtesy Kills, Dammit": the two-ton thugee
elects to do precisely that, by means of (*gasp*) his fabulous "Metalor
Transforming the rather
stiffly-posed Shield into "a non-living iron statue," the Eraser
promptly calls it a career and quits the whole "This Gun For Hire"
"Since I can never top this
achievement," he informs his most recent (and final) clients; "... I
Okay... two quick observations,
1.) "Since I can never top
this achievement"...? Geez louise, fellah: what's to "top" here,
anyway? The guy all but begged you to take a "freebie" shot at him;
and then just stood there -- rooted to the very spot -- while you struggled to
extricate your "Metalor Ion-Whoozis" from that yard or three of
coaxial cable you've been using to keep your friggin' pants up! And this is the
crowning achievement of your criminal career, f'chrissakes? What have you been
snuffing for the past umpty- whatever years, anyway: nuns? Blind people? Little
baby bunnies, mebbe...?
2.) "The Museum of
ARCH-VILLAINS" -- ?!?
It is a happy and contented
gangland underworld, then, that goes about its wretched business with what
surely must be a collective sigh of relief, now that the pesky, bothersome
Shield is no longer around to play the spandexed fly, re: their villainous
... or: is he?
One thing's for certain, in any
event: somebody's taken to be-bopping about in the present day, alongside all
the other members (Fly-Man; Fly- Girl; the Comet; and the Black Hood) of the
Mighty Crusaders; a red-headed, suqare-jawed "somebody" who bears more
than a passing resemblance to a certain other red-white-and-blue super-type guy,
in plain point of fact.
Quicker'n you can say "gimme
my money back, Walrus-Butt!", the (now retired) Eraser is summoned to
appear before a consternated council of the underworld elite.
"I don't know how the Shield
can live again," the Wide-Load Wastrel confesses; "... but I have
emerged from retirement to finish the job I botched... at no extra fee!"
"Just spread the word
around" (he continues) "that there's a plot to steal the Statue of
Liberty. [!!!] Once again, I'll lure the Shield into a death-trap!"
("... spread the word
("... spread... the word...
(HOW, PRAY TELL, PRECISELY, DOES
ONE PROPERLY SET ABOUT TO "SPREADING THE WORD AROUND" THAT "THERE"S
A PLOT TO STEAL THE STATUE OF @#$%ING LIBERTY," ANYWAY?!? Huh? HUH?!? Just
how does one decently do dat dere t'ing, anyhoo?
[SUPER-HERO (approaching his
favorite "stoolie," from out of the nicotine'd mists of some seedy
waterfront dive): "Fast Eddie. Talk to me, snitch. What's the word been on
the streets, these past few days...?"
[FAST EDDIE (from the side of his
mouth; never looking up from the "Shirley Temple" he's been sullenly
nursing all evening): Well, now.. lemme see if I can recollect a mite, Mister
SOOOOper HEEEEroh... "Fingers" Finnegan is layin' low over on
"B" Street, after dat last big bank job...
[The Super-Hero nods once,
silently; Fast Eddie goes on.
[FAST EDDIE (continuing): Hmmmm...
now that I pauses to consider it: I t'ink I hoid somet'in 'bout your old
arch-enemy, Doctor Suppository, hirin' hisself some out-of-town muscle for
anudder one o' his 'revenge schemes' 'gainst you...
[The Super-Hero nods again; a
thin, humorless smile creasing his movie matinee idol features.
"You've done good, Eddie. Looks like you've bought yourself another quiet
evening, then; one without any broken bones or assorted asswhuppings.
[FAST EDDIE (snapping his fingers
in sudden recollection): Oh, yeah! I almost forgot! Dere's a plot t'steal da
Statue of Liberty!
[There is a long, elastic moment
of silence, then; as the Super-Hero stares wordlessly at his idiotically beaming
[... and then: the former whips
out a Glock from somewhere within the voluminous folds of his night-ebon cape...
and promptly blows the latter's head right off his shoulders, at point-blank
" '... a plot to steal the Statue of Liberty.' Riiiiight. Dickweed."]
Well... be that as it may: said
"word" is, in fact, disseminated throughout the lower underworld
ranks; and the Eraser does find himself squaring off, once again, versus a
maddeningly familiar star- spangled sentinel.
"I developed the Space-Warpine
especially for you, old foe!" the Eraser snarls; lobbing a particularly
ludicrous-looking frammistat in the Shield's general direction.
"I've got something for you,
too, old shmoe!" the Patriotic Paladin quips, by way of reply.
"Namely, a kick in the slats! SKAT, rat!"
"C-Can't s-stop from falling
into my own ghastly trap!" said rat squeals, falling into his own ghastly
trap. "YIIIIII -- !!"
"He's puffing out of
existence," the Shield observes, as both hitman and hyper-device vanish in
a shoddily-rendered coruscation of other-worldly energies. "... and so is
that deadly gadget! Its ray transported him to some place that's probably
light-years away from Earth!"
Retiring, then, to the shadowy
confines of his super-secret "cavern sanctum," the Shield pays silent
homage to a life-sized metal statue of... himself (?!?).
"No one knows the Shield had
a son," the modern-day myrmidon muses; "... and that now I've grown to
manhood, I am carrying on your career in the great tradition you
established!" (Allowing yourself to be super-simonized for life by a
tutu-sheathed Orson Welles is "establishing a great
Verily, then: t'is a silly
Let's see if the perpetually
grim-visaged Black Hood can do any better, shall we...?
"While on his night
beat" (so sayeth the ever-reliable Rovin) "[patrolman] Kip Burland
comes across a skeleton robbing a mansion. Before the officer can react, the
costumed robber (named the Skull) slugs him unconscious; plants some of the
jewelry in his hand; and blows Burland's whistle before running off."
(Boy... there's a euphemism I'd never heard before, by golly...!)
(Incidentally: have fun comparing
the accompanying Golden Age origin recital with the '60s-rendered Silver Age
version, in the page reproductions immediately following. The details differ,
here and there... but: the baseline particulars all seem pretty much the same,
by and large.)
"Burland is arrested for the
crime and stripped of his badge, Nonetheless, as soon as he is released on bail,
he goes after the real criminal." (That would be ARCHIE Comics publisher
John L. Goldwater, to my way of thinking; but, then... I'm not the fellah so
mind-bogglingly secure in his own masculinity that he elects to gad about town
in lemon custard-y Underoos, neither. So: there you have it, then.)
"Unfortunately: he finds
him... and this time gets shot and tossed from a car. Discovered by a hermit,
Burland is nursed to health over a period of several months, during which time
he learns that his savior was once the local sheriff, who was also framed by the
(Five silver dollars to the first
woman or man who can convincingly explain to a much-befuddled Unca Cheeks why a
self-proclaimed "hermit" might reasonably be wandering the nighttime
city streets of a major urban metropolis in the first place.)
"Together, the men build
Burland's mind and body to physical perfection. They also make him a costume, so
that Burland can move about disguised as the avenging Black Hood." (Gaunt,
hag- ridden and obsessive urban vigilantes being far, far more inherently
inconspicuous than some guy in a nice pair of Dockers... right?)
Okay... so: what we're dealing
with here (obviously) is a simple case of "Batman Lite," then. (Sample
dialogue from one of the Hood's gloomy "solo" adventure outtings, by
way of corroborative evidence: " [...] the very Fates are gloating over the
dark destiny inflicted upon me by the fiend who walks like a man:
(I said "Batman Lite."
You never heard me say so much as Word One to the effect that we were talkin'
"Batman Good," here.)
The few (largely cosmetic)
alterations made in the overall "cut" in the jib of the origin,
betwixt 1940 and 1965, seem rather more calculated to precisely that end:
allowing the ARCHIE/Radio Comics group, in general (and "the Mighty
Crusaders," in particular) to have their (quasi-) Bruce Wayne, and...
ummmmm... "eat it," too.
(Geez... don't you just hate
watching a perfectly good metaphor wheeze; stagger; and drop stone dead in its
traces like that...?)
Since I do not, alas, possess
anything like a full and complete run of the "super-hero" ARCHIE
comics of the day, as of this writing; I'm going to leave this particular
"chapter" in the discussion of same with a handful of questions for
anyone out there more knowledgable on the subject than myself to answer, via
e-mail, for the enjoyment of the readership as a whole.
Here we go, then:
1.) When; where; how; and (for
God's sake) why did the Black Hood shift from "the world's fastest
motorcycle" [see panel reproduction, above] to that dopey, two-bit flying
mechanical horsey of his, anyway...?
2.) Concerning one of our
characters from a previous page: none of the '60s comics I have ever show
Fly-Man actually unholstering that wicked-looking firearm affixed to his belt.
Just what in the name of Annie Oakley did that blody thing DO, anyway...?
3.) Go back and check out the
page reproduction entitled "The Fly-Man's Ultra-Pals," as utilized in
the Shield entry, above.
Notice how the character
simply... appears in the last panel; all of a sudden, like...?
This was something repeatedly
referenced in various and sundry MIGHTY CRUSADERS stories: the somewhat
disconcerting (to the rest of his spandexed fellows, at least) fact that
ARCHIE's starred-and-striped sledgehammer would frequently just... wink into
existence, whenever one of his aforementioned teammates happened to need him
Was this ever explained, in the
body of any SHIELD or MIGHTY CRUSADERS tale...?
Coming up next: a quick gander at
my all-time favoritest character from the ARCHIE super-hero stable of the 1960s.
Ohhhhhhhh, baby! Is this next one
ever gonna generate its fair share of e-mail...
... and then some.
I'm going to enjoy writing this
God alone knows what sort of
audience the character of the ever- hapless "Professor John Raymond"
-- a.k.a., the hen-pecked hyper-hero better known (if seldom actually respected;
either by costumed criminal recidivists or the ARCHIE readership, overall) as
the Web -- was meant to reach, sales- and/or apppeal-wise.
From Rovin: "When John
[Raymond] was a child, his brother Tom was a juvenile lawbreaker. Tom continued
his wicked ways and ended up in jail, while John -- trying to understand what
made his brother evil -- studied psychology and criminology. Unsatisfied simply
lecturing about crime, he became the Web, snaring criminals in events of their
own making." (Well... that certainly seems like quite the precipitous
response to a little occupational ennui, I dare say.)
"He possesses no abilities
beyond his criminology training and physically fit physique. The Web is married
to the former Rose Wayne who, in the '40s, forced him to give up his
super-heroic career. But he compulsively returned to it in the '60s, and --
since then -- his forays into crimefighting have bbeen the source of frequent
Okay: obviously, it would be
sheerest intellectual sophistry of the rankest "P.C." sort to hold
aging comics scribes of the early and mid-1960s to the same standards of gender
awareness one might readily expect from today's working professionals. One
doesn't criticize, after all, when an old wine bottle is corked and decanted;
and wine of a corresponding vintage issues forth.
Each and every storytelling
medium and/or genre, ultimately, is the product of its respective time and
(Your Exasperated and Eye-Rolling
Unca Cheeks, in fact, actually knows of one such online message board habitué
so ideologically [one might even venture so far as to term it fascistically]
inclined; a multi- venued poster whose online "rep" -- such as it is
-- is actually predicated upon "proving" such knock-kneed "kook"isms
as [say] "All Silver Age comics scriveners were women-loathing
maggots"; or that "All LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES scribes have been
race-mongering swine." Thereby proving essayist C.S. Lewis correct,
ultimately, when the learned sir opined that: "Yes; there are genuine sins
of the intellect.")
Nonetheless: I think it fair and
reasonable to point out that -- even so early on in this nation's history as the
Johnson administration -- the story detailed below was just....
... well: just plain ol' wrong,
"The Web Vs. the Viperous
Villains" [MIGHTY COMICS #43; February, 1967; and I don't even wanna know
who wrote and/or drew the friggin' thing, awright...?] opens up with the
infamous Olympic Dish-Tossing sequence, reproduced above.
"A hundred times," an
enraged Rose Raymond hisses at her spandexed spouse. "A thousand times... a
million times... I've begged you to junk this compulsion of yours to resume your
career as the crusading Web! [...] I'll stop you, even if I have to knock you
out... for your own good!"
"I've learned where that
diabolical crook Mr. Scare is pulling his latest caper," the heroic hubby
explains, lovingly twisting his wife's throwing arm up and back behind her head.
"I've got to foil him! 'Bye, Rose!"
Launching himself through the
open living room window like a blonde, superbly-muscled lobbed brick, the Web
vaults into high-octane super-hero action; pausing only long enough to initiate
massive internal hemorrhaging in the corpus of the luckless neighborhood
"Oh-oh!" the Web muses,
mournfully. "The mailman! It's amazing how often he keeps getting in my
way, whenever I leap into action!"
"Sorry, friend!" the
hot-footed hero tosses over his shoulder, by way of explanation. "That was
strictly unintentional! You have my sincere super-apology!"
Only Page Three... and, already:
we are deep, waaaaay deep into The Valley of the Shadow of the Goober,
"A little later, before a
bank" the following caption instructs; "... a man in a bizarre
elf-costume distributes marbles to a group of eaager youngsters."
I know; I know. Not exactly
Secret Society of Super-Villains territory, is it...?
"Marbles from Mr. Elf to
you!" the Ross Perot lookalike coos silkily to the eager, shoving throng of
little crumb-snatchers surrounding him. "Have fun, little chums!"
No mere comics scribe could
possibly be expected to maintain a storytelling pace so breakneck and
heart-stopping as this for long, naturally; and so our auctorial focus shifts to
a nearby bank robbery, where the heist-meisters in question are using the nearby
rugrat ruckus as impromptu "cover" for their vehicle-less getaway.
Quickly dispatching the runaway
robbers by means of a handful of marbles, the keenly-intuitive Web immediately
turns his antagonistic attentions towaards the aforementioned "elf"
and his jumpsuited ally; opining, in mid-tackle, that: "I'm sure that your
causing the gathering of all these kids during the progress of a hold-up was
much more than mere coincidence!"
(There's no way any of us can
ever be absolutely certain of such a thing, of course... but: the foregoing may
well stand, unchallenged, as the single most hopelessly knock-kneed and
inelegant attempt at expository sentence structure in the history of the comics
medium, entire. Quite the enviable little linguistic feat, really; given that we
are talking about the same field of meta-fictive endeavor which blessed us with
the auctorial likes of Mike Friedrich and Joe Simon. I'm just sayin',
"Ah-HA!" Our Hero
exults, tearing away the elf-guy's rubber mask to reveal [Pick One]:
A.) "I was sure that
elf-mask hid the features of Mr. Scare, the wily gangleader!"
B.) "I was sure that
elf-mask hid the features of Mitch Miller, the wily bandleader!"
C.) "I was sure that
elf-mask hid the features of Suzie Rabinowitz, the wily high school
D.) "Omigawd! It's... my
mailman! And he's packin' hisself an Uzi! No! NOOOOOOOO -- !"
Unfortunately for our arachnid
action hero, however: Mr. Scare really and truly is a wily sort of fellow; as
amply demonstrated by his having the felonious foresight to tote along a
genuinely super-powered accomplice, in the form of the jumpsuited Stunner.
Momentarily immobilizing the Web
with but the merest touch of one of his "paralyzing stun-gloves," the
Stunner helps Mr. Scare to effect a hasty escape; thereby giving the
green-and-yellow Gilgamesh a nice, round, fat batting average of 0.00,
Wending his webbed way homeward
once more, our hard-luck hero arrives just in time to be greeted by both a
beatifically-smiling Rose and the hearty, heady aroma of home-cooked noodles.
["Noodles: the He-Man Dinner
Supplement Endorsed By Eight Out of Ten Spandexed, Self-Aggrandizing Nutbars!
Noodles Really Satisfy! Try Noodles -- Today! N-O-O-D-L-E-S!"]
"I cooked them exactly the
way you like them, dearest!" the winsome Rose all but purrs, in wifely
solicitude. "I even added a rare, exotic seasoning I'm sure you'll
seasoning," apparently, is a little Betty Crocker-ish something my mom used
to refer to -- with a twinkle in her dear little eye; not the glass one; the
other one -- as: "third degree burns a la mode."
"ROSE -- !!" a
bizarrely blase Raymond under-emotes; his brand new noodle "do" making
him look disturbingly like pop chanteuse Sheryl Crow. "What an unfortunate
That's not the only
"unfortunate accident" awaiting discovery hereabouts, however.
Not with five pages yet to go, in
this tawdry, fetid little five-finger four-color exercise.
"John doesn't tell me
everything," a tight-lipped Rose fumes to herself, mounting a particularly
seamy-seeming staircase on the "bad" side o' town. "Well... I
have my little secrets, too!"
A mere heartbeat later: a worn
oaken door swings open with an anguished shriek of tortured hinges... and we see
the Fly-Man. Nekkid. Except for his socks, and a wide, expectant grin of
commingled lust and --
... all right. That one was way,
waaaay out of line. I can admit that much.
In actual point of fact: Rose has
-- inexplicably -- been training "under the supervision of an expert
instructor, [practicing] a series of athletic feats and judo manuevers that
would amaze her husband, could he but observe them..."
"Mrs. Raymond," the
lady's aforementioned "expert instructor" enthuses (we know he's her
instructor, see; thanks to the bright yellow INSTRUCTOR sweatshirt adorning his
beefy, muscular frame); "... you're terrific! These weeks of training have
turned you into the best I ever had! You are tops!" [Insert Tasteless Joke
Okay. I haven't felt the actual
need to issue one of these things, these past few months or so...
... but: right here --
-- right NOW --
... any of you relentlessly
masochistic li'l poindexters reading these words out there wanna bail: now is
most definitely the time. And then some.
All right, then. Just so long as
my conscience is clear, at any rate.
Spying upon her couch-banished
hubby later that same evening, Rose watches with narrowed eyes as the good (if
mildly obsessive) professor slips out into the night, suitably spandexed for yet
another go-round versus the still-at-large Mr. Scare.
"And now," the very
next caption breathlessly informs us; "... another secret of Rose becomes
known to you ardent fans of the Web and his family...!"
... and with no more preamble
than that: fully half of Unca Cheeks' readership found themselves mysteriously
transformed into pillars of salt.
"The costume of Pow-Girl!"
a smug Rose muses inwardly. "For that's what I've decided to call myself,
in my secret identity! Since my darling insists on taking crazy chances as the
Web, somebody's got to look after his safety!"
My God, but I love the Silver Age
We finally get to see something a
little more action-packed than toppled-over mailmen or near-lethal bowls of
noodles, as the Web tracks down and beards the dastardly duo of Mr. Scare and
the Stunner in their larcenous lair.
"Remember always," a
solicitous Web counsels, whilst sending hood after cheap hood tumbling ass-
over-teakettle during the ensuing melee; "... that it was your own trail of
evil that led to your undoing!" (Ohhhhhh... go to bed, old man! Go to BED
Just as they did the first time,
however: events reach the perilous pass whereby a smirking Stunner is but scant
heartbeats away from quick-frying the Web's nervous system to a crackly
... whennnnnnnn: along comes...
(You know... there's absolutely
no way in hell to type something like that without it sounding just as
brain-dead as the yodeled chorus of your average Beastie Boys song. Just. No.
Freakin'. Way. At. All.)
"Pow-Girl is the name!"
a domino masked Rose coyly informs her still-brawling hubby, effecting a
personal introduction between a startled Stunner's head and the nearest floor.
"Yeah? You weren't
misnamed!" a grateful Web responds. "Great fightin', ma'am!"
(It's sort of like an episode of
McMillan and Wife, I suppose. Only with... like... spandex. And goofy "code
names." And moderately less coherent storytelling.)
"Now that I've tipped off
the police," an exhausted Web concludes, in the post-battle afterglow;
"... I must go!"
"Wait!" a scheming
Rose/"Pow-Girl" entreats him. "I think you and I have the makings
of a great crime-fighting team! Shall we seal our new partnership with a
("I'm sure he loves
me," the masked minx rationalizes to herself; "... but there'll be no
harm done if I make this little test!")
"Did you say... a
kiss??!!" the Web stammers, swallowing past the beach ball-sized lump of
frozen terror suddenly lodged in his throat.
(You know: I'd be willing to lay
8-to-5 odds that this poor guy's bedroom sees less "action" than a
copy of GQ Magazine at Dennis Rodman's house. Especially when you pause to
reflect upon what we've seen of his sorry homelife up to this point.)
"Sorry, Pow-Girl!" the
Web manages to blurt out, before swinging out and away into the night. "I'm
a loner, and not a super-hero playboy! I gotta go now! Thanks again for saving
me from destruction!"
Let's try that last bit again,
after processing it through the handy-dandy Unca Cheeks Dialogue Codex... shall
"Sorry, Pow-Girl! I'm a
[p-whipped uberwuss, who's reduced to channeling his seething, continually
sublimated sexual energies into violent, nighttime
vigilante-slash-quasi-fascistic activities], and not a [well-adjusted individual
who ought to be left alone with small children]! I gotta go [take a very long,
extremely cold shower] now! Thanks again for [allowing me to drool over more
shapely female flesh than my own wife has flashed me with in the last month,
The Unca Cheeks Dialogue Codex:
"... because with great power... comes great responsibility!"
The story (I'm in a good mood,
tonight; I'm feeling charitable, overall) ends with one of those cutesy little I
Love Lucy/I Married Joan-style "moments" so common to (and beloved by)
both television sitcoms and super-hero comics of the period; with Rose all but
winking and mugging at the audience, and a concluding caption hectoring and
huckstering the reader, re: this whole sordid "Pow-Girl" business.
("How about it, Mighty readers? Should Rose quit hen-pecking the Web?
Should she on occasion, or even frequently, become Pow-Girl again?")
In actuality: the only bloody
thing they had any business asking their readership for, after this fetid little
four-color folly, was forgiveness.
Be here bright and early next
After a solid year and a half: I
finally have a comic book quantifiably worse than the nigh-legendary DOUBLE-DARE
ADVENTURES ("starring Bee-Man!") to share with the whole, happy lot of
Oh, yes indeedy.
WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!
You can't even imagine how much
this one is going to hurt.
"Too Many Super-Heroes"
[THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS #4; April, 1966; Jerry Siegel, perpetrator; Paul Reinmann,
co-conspirator] opens up with "quickie" vignettes of the various
members of the Mighty Crusaders (Fly-
Man; Fly-Girl; the Shield; the
Comet; and the Black Hood) in their respective "secret identities,"
responding in their various trademarked ways to an "emergency team meeting
(My two personal favorites --
both nicely represented here -- are the sequences involving Bill [Shield]
Higgins and John [Comet] Dickering, respectively. The former's ongoing
"shtick," see, was that -- due to his continually being forced to dart
off in response to this super-heroic emergency or that one -- he was plainly
incapable of holding a decent, well-paying job for more than, say, twenty-four
hours; thus being reduced to the most unrewarding and demeaning sorts of brute
"gimmick," plainly and simply, was this: the poor s.o.b. couldn't get
himself laid if he started loitering about the neighborhood TruValue Hardware
outlet, disguised as a gigantic floor tile.)
Okay: that's pretty much
everything this four-color thalidomide baby of a comic has to offer us, by way
of genuine storytelling enjoyment.
From this point onward: it's all
hot, bitter tears of shame and degradation.
Once gathered together in
spandexed congress, the members of the Crusaders set about to bickering and
squabbling in what one may only reasonably intuit as writer Siegel's spavined
interpretation of the Jack Kirby/Stan Lee-driven Marvel Comics approach of the
"If you quit the Crusaders
and went back to being a loner, Black Hood," a smirking Shield wisecracks;
"that wouldn't aggravate me at all!"
"You'll get a crack on the
jaw for that crack, Shield!" a bellicose Black Hood ripostes, feebly.
" [...] Your head'll be as red, white and blue as your cornball
Speak the Devil's name, and he
shall appear: no sooner have the hot-headed helpmeets been forcibly separated by
Fly-Man and Fly-Girl, than a brand new feebosaurus bursts his way through the
storytelling foliage. All of a sudden, like.
"Yes... the Fireball!"
the satorially-challenged gent trumpets, serving as his own narrator, on the
cheap. "I've come out of retirement, because I think the Mighty Crusaders
is the greatest thing since the invention of the pizza pie! I want to
(According to the oft-referenced
Rovin: this geriatric goofus -- real name: Ted Tyler -- gained his powers by
"going into a laboratory which has been set ablaze by the Bug."
Whoever the hell that might be.
(" [...] knocked unconscious
by the arsonist and left to die, [Tyler] is bathed in a chemical which gives him
the ability to control and even absorb fire." Not to mention eating away at
the portion of his brain responsible for formulating the awareness that -- hey
-- "shortie" shorts are seldom, if ever, suitable crime-fighting
attire for a codger. I'm just sayin', all right? That's all.)
Regaling the hapless Crusaders
with dramatic recountings of his pitiably low-rent spandexed exploits, the
Fireball is joined by yet two more Crusader wannabes: Inferno and the Firefly.
"Two Brand X pale imitations
of me!" the Fireball derisively snorts of the aforementioned pair, as they
come putt-putt-putting along astride their adorable little motor scooter.
"I'll comb them out of your hair, Crusaders!"
(Rovin: "Devoting his life
to the study of insects, [chemist Harley Hudson] discovers that their
proportionately great strength, leaping ability and other powers derives
from" -- I kid you not -- " 'wonderful muscular coordination.'
Mastering this talent himself, he [...] chooses the secret identity of the
Firefly." Inferno, on the other hand, is a reformed super-villain of some
sort; whose peculiar talent is that of swallowing ambient flames and... ummmm...
spitting them back out at folks. Or somesuch. I s'pose.
(Lookit: Unca Cheeks is still
trying to wrap his brain -- not to mention this here bottle of Everclear --
'round that whole "wonderful muscular coordination" bit o' business,
The trio of farenheit feebs set
to tussling with one another in a limp and desultory manner; all the better to
determine, you see, which one of them most deservedly merits inclusion within
the fighting ranks of the Mighty Crusaders.
"You applicants can borrow
that Crusaders craft," the Fly-Man solemnly intones, breaking things up.
"Prove you are worthy of joining our team by doing good deeds! We'll watch
you on our monitor!"
"Do that," Fireball
snorts; "... and learn how superior I am to these clods!"
"You're superior only in
conceit!" an angry Inferno retorts. Ummm... heatedly. [*rimshot*]
(Every time you hear that *rimshot*:
Unca Cheeks gets to shake hands again with his old pal, "Mr. Everclear."
Meanwhile: in the tastefully
appointed suburban home of "Professor John Raymond" -- a.k.a. the
relentlessly p-whipped Web -- said hero is sulkily swabbing dirty dishes, and
dreaming of low-rent glories long vanished.
"To think that I -- who was
once the famed Web -- have sunk so low," the unhappy hubby silently
soliloquizes; "... that instead of cleaning up on malefactors, I'm...
wiping dishes --"
[SIDE TO ALL THE LADIES SCOPING
OUT THIS HERE ENTRY: Okay. Look out, now. Here it comes --]
"... while my wife Rosie,
bless her heart, is weeping tears over a stupid sopa opera!"
"Watch out, Sarah!" the
good Mrs. Raymond moans from the adjoining room, staring wide-eyed and agog at
the television screen. "Marcia is out to steal your husband!"
Oh, Jerry... Jerry -- !
Bewailing his wimpy lot in life,
Raymond slips out under the flimsy pretext of "needing a little
exercise." ("I'll duck into those bushes," the
soon-to-be-arrested-for-Indecent-Exposure professor resolves; "... doff
this dreary, drab garb... and become the glamorous Web once more... Rosie or no
It's a happy and contented Web,
then, who strides the daytime streets of suburbia in full, foppish regalia;
seeking out action; adventure; and any stray, cookie-peddling Girl Scouts in
need of a good, solid ass-whupping, by jingo!
*Whew*! All of this
pulse-pounding drama and high-octane characterization has your gentle Unca
Cheeks just plain ol' worn out.
A snazzy-lookin' customized black
sedan screeches to a halt directly alongside our Sidewalk Super-Savior; piloted
by the Fox, with (God take away this bottle if I lie) Bob Phantom and Blackjack
lounging about in the rumble seat.
"Some of us fellows got
together," the Fox helpfully explains to a nonplussed Web. "We decided
that, great though it is, the Mighty Crusaders needs us! You remember Blackjack
and Bob Phantom, don't you?" To which a frankly incredulous Web responds,
in turn [Pick One]:
A.) [excitedly]: "Do I?
B.) [excitedly]: "Do I? WOW!
WORLD'S LAMEST COMICS #471; March, 1943! "... And Men Shall Call Him: THE
HEMORRHOID!" What an adventure we had then, eh, fellahs -- ?!?"
C.) "Oh, hell yes! Best
little pair of grocery baggers our neighborhood's "Piggly-Wiggly" has
ever seen, is all! How ya doin' back there, Herbie? Your mom still have that
D.) [winking broadly at the Fox]:
"Still pulling 'em in from the high school wrestling team with that creaky
old 'be my costumed sidekick' dodge, are ya? You twisted, degenerate animal
E.) " 'Bob Phantom,' my ass.
You three sailors wanna party: it's gonna be fifty buckaroonies.
Everclear: "... Because
Booze Really Satisfies."
detective Jack Jones," who "while playing his favorite card game --
blackjack -- at police headquarters, is pulled away to interview a wounded
robber about his gang. Jones is captured [by said gang], and -- as chance would
have it -- is walled up with a playing card: the Jack of spades. Managing to
work the card through the concrete [!!], Jack is able to breathe until rescued,
and adopts a vengeful new identity: Blackjack.")
("Managing to work his card
through the concrete"...?)
(The Fox: "Angry with
himself for continually bungling shots of crime as it's happening, DAILY GLOBE
photographer Paul Patton [...] decides to become a crimefighter, just to be on
the scene when the law is broken. Experimenting with the costumed identities of
the Zebra and Ape Lad, he settles upon the Fox. [...] Despite his extraordinary
fitness, however: after several years of two-fisted action, the Fox gets
cornered; beaten up; and left for dead in a trashcan." Which -- apparently
-- didn't "take." Dammit.
("The Zebra," huh? Must
have been a black-and-white photographer, then.) [*rimshot*]
[sound of frenzied, liquid
(Bob Phantom; no origin listed.
Thank you, Jesus!)
In less time than it takes to get
to the top of Page Eight, the Web and Company are milling about with all the
rest of the spandexed also-rans in the Crusaders' mammoth open field HQ, loudly
and arrogantly staking their rightful claim to team membership.
"We've come to join the
Mighty Crusaders!" the Fox barks. "Shield -- try to lay one on me
here! I insist!"
"I'll oblige!" the
Shield responds, on the (apparent) grounds that anyone willingly hanging out
with the sorry likes of Bob Phantom and the Web is pretty much just begging for
"Missed me!" the ebon
non-entity gloats, as the Shield's haymaker lands foursquare on the chin of a
startled Blackjack. "Now you know why I'm called the Fox! Foxy, huh?"
(Geez... now I'm really sorry he didn't settle on "The Zebra.")
Articles of nomenclature aside,
however: a wild, swinging free-for-all breaks out amongst the pin-headed
petitioners, with an aggrieved Blackjack taking his burly frustrations out on a
startled Web, and the Fox (inexplicably) taking a poke at Bob Phantom.
the Fox exclaims, as his opponent of choice does precisely that.
"A typical Bob Phantom
maneuver!" the latter smugly replies.
(Oh, booze... sweet booze...
you're the only one who truly understands me...)
While all of this is going on,
however: Fireball, Inferno and the Firefly are tussling with a Komodo-headed
baddie by the rather lackluster name of the Dragon, in a doomed attempt to
demonstrate that they really aren't the crime-fighters who put the more in
[CHEEKS' ASIDE: ... oh, yeah... I
almost forgot: the Fox pauses long enough during the brawl he started in the
first bloody place to plant a quick, spandexed peck on the cheek of a blushing
and demure Fly-Girl.
["How cute!" the
shapely sidekick thinks, smiling coquettishly.
["I resent that!" a
grim Fly-Man fumes, impotently.
["I wonder what sorts of
home lives the ARCHIE Comics editors had," a bewildered (and slightly
inebriated) plush toy ponders. Not for the first time, either.]
In any event, however: it turns
out that "the Dragon" is, in actuality, none other than
former-hero-turned-heel the Hangman; "magic rope"-wielding no-goodnik
at large and brother to Crusaders' team member the Comet.
"Hee, hee!" the Hangman
titters, brushing aside Fireball's ineffectual attack. "Flaming youth, eh?
Razz-ma-tazz and poop-poop-a-doop! 23 skidoo!"
"Wha -- ??" a befuddled
Fireball exclaims. (Welcome to the frickin' club, Tights Boy.) "The rope
fashioned itself into a gigantic loop, and my flames can't pierce the super-
frigidity barrier within it!" (... which scarcely seems any more coherent
an observation to offer up, really, than does the aforementioned "Razz-ma-tazz
and poop-poop-a- doop!", to my way of thinking.) (Then again, however: I'm
already on my second bottle... so: don't go by me.)
"The craft got away in a
burst of hyper-speed!" Fireball moans, as the Hangman makes good his
escape. "... and the rope is zipping after it! We... failed...!"
"... but we put up a good
fight!" a chipper (if somewhat delusional) Inferno reminds him. "I'm
sure we made a good impression on our Mighty Crusaders buddy-pals!"
Upon returning to their
aforementioned "buddy-pals," however: the torrid twit threesome
discover that their would-be comrades-in-arms are being beset a super-duper
jumbo assortment of "flying robo-bombs!"
"The Hangman told his chum,
the Wizard, to send us'ns to destrroy you'ns!" the devices metallically
intone, in an uncanny simulation of the late Irene Ryan, circa THE BEVERLY
"Hundreds of robo-bombs!"
the Fly-Man exclaims! "Fight, Crusaders -- FIGHT! FIGHT!!!"
This, the augmented assemblage
proceeds to do; and -- although we don't actually see them doing so, of course
-- we, as readers, can only imagine the thrills and excitement inherent in
watching the Fox, dodging missles behind his teammates; Bob Phantom,
courageously disppearing so as to avoid being struck; and the Web, whining
piteously for his wife, Rosie, to save him.
despairing Comet observes; "... there are limits to the number of 'em I can
destroy in time with my de-atomizing rays!"
"Have no fear!" a
monocled and turbaned dinkasaurus pontificates, appearing from out of nowhere in
a plume of other-worldly smoke. "Zambini, the Miracle Man is here!"
"Ditto, Kardak the Mystic
Magician!" adds a second Mandrake wannabe, likewise turbaned (but sans
(No origins listed for either
"Sigfried" or "Roy," here, in Rovin's ENCYCLOPEDIA. Which
means that -- whatever their respective origins -- these two yip-yops were even
less significant, character-wise, than Bob Phantom.)
The twin conjurors put the
kibbosh on the robo-bombs, hastily tansforming them into "harmless foam
rubber"; and then --
... oh, hell. What do you
"Don't thank me," an
unctuous Zambini all but purrs. "Just accept me into the Crusaders!"
"No! Induct me," an
outraged Kardak huffs. "I'm an even mightier magician! Take that lie back,
Zambini... or would you like to be turned into a snail?"
"Irk me not, Kardak!"
the foppish Zambini cautions. "Else I shall transform you into the worm you
despairing Fly-Man pleads with them both. "This is a Crusaders meeting,
remember? Let's preserve some dignity!"
This, the twin thaumaturges
readily agree to do; and -- yoking their respective mystic abilities in tandem
-- they obliterate Bob Phantom on the spot.
Welllllllllll... no. But it's a
nice dream, isn't it...?
"Suddenly..." later, however, a solemn Kaardak intones:
"Silence...! I sense great evil! Behold a picture of the menace...
mind-projected onto yon mountainside!"
"A parade of giant
balloon-figures!" the Black Hood helpfully interprets, realizing that the
penciler's artwork has illuminated this point with less than perfect clarity.
"What's so menacing about that?" (Revealing the one-time police
officer to be, quite possibly, the only human being on the face of the planet
never to suffer through one of Macy's interminable "Thanksgiving Day"
The balloons are then burst from
within, revealing themselves as mere Trojan Gasbags for their human payload:
"Costumed men who bear the insignia of the Wizard and the Hangman
With a wholly admirable
efficiency, the goofily-grinning gunsels set about to looting and plundering
jewelry stores and whatnot; the hapless Crusaders collectively grinding their
teeth at the sheer, unmitigated lawlessness of it all...
... when -- oh, Sweet Jesus! --
TWO MORE WASHED-UP SUPER- HEROES SHOW UP!
"It's... none other than
Steel Sterling!" an excited Shield ululates; "... propelled by his
darlin' Anti-Gravity Belt! Go, Steel, go -- GO! Yippee!"
[Rovin, once again: "When
his father was killed by gangsters, young John Sterling decided to become a
crime-fighter. Studying chemistry, he searched for something to give him[self]
an 'edge' in his battle; what he found was a formula which, theoretically, would
give his body the properties of steel."
["Coating himself with the
formula, he hesitated before taking the last step -- diving into a cauldron of
molten steel." The big wussy-bear.
["Mustering his courage, he
jumped in and emerged with tissue as mighty and impervious as metal. [...]
Although John can be dominated by magic or dazed by a blow to the head, his
greatest worry are 'solar flare-
ups,' which cause his powers to
ebb. [...] His other powers include -- "
[ ... get this, will you...?
[" -- the ability to rub his
electrolized tongue against his teeth to tap telephone wires, the sound coming
from his mouth. Sterling's companion is his pet dog, Honcho." Whom Sterling
doubtless lobbed into that vat of molten steel whilst the poor, put-upon poochie
was asleep or somethin', betcha. Betcha a dollar.]
[Rovin then adds: "In a 1983
retelling of the story, Sterling is hypnotized by a star" -- I presume he
means "enormous, flaming ball of super-heated gasses," here; rather
than, say, Gabriel Kaplan or Erin Moran -- "which compels him to walk
through the flames at an iron foundry, whence he gets his powers. The star
thereafter leads him to a garbage pail, where his costume has mysteriously been
[There you have it, ladies and
gents: the only "super-hero" in all of recorded four-color history to
go dumpster-diving for his own costume.]
"Gun 'im down!" the
consternated cutpurses shout, understandably miffed. "Kill him! KILL STEEL
"I can't outfly
bullets!" a worried Sterling confesses, whizzing about in panicky confusion
and frantically rubbing his tongue against his teeth. "I'm not that
"But in that moment of
unparalleled peril -- " (the very next caption shamelessly exposits);
" -- an ethereal form blazes in, yawns its macabre mouth wide... wide...
WIDE... AND THEN -- "
"Yum, yum!" the
absolute silliest-looking "super-hero" yet chirrups, heartily
swallowing the incoming projectiles. "Those bullets taste even better than
"Mr. Justice!" a
grateful Sterling enthuses. "I love ya, pal! Yeah!"
[Rovin: "During the Rogers
Rebellion in Scotland in 1040, England's 20-year-old Prince James is lured to a
tower of Castle Firth and slain by assassins. Because his destiny was thwarted
by human intervention, James' spirit is not allowed to rest, and --"
[... well: no. No... I suppose I
don't much care either, really.]
"Gotcha, crumbs!" the
Selfless Spook snarls, elongating one ectoplasmic arm and lassoing both
"No!" one of the
fleeing felons shrills. Don't hurt me!"
"I got brats to
support!" the other one chimes in. "Think of them!"
"Shut up!" is the
Deceased Do-Gooder's cheerily Algonquin-ish reply. "Tell it to the
"Nicely done!" Sterling
congratulates his spectral sidekick. "Now... let's go join the Mighty
(Geez-o-pete... what are these
"Crusaders" nimrods offering in the way of team benefits, anyway:
weekly "freebies" with Fly-Girl -- ?!?)
"Meanwhile, at the mountain
home of Captain Flag --" the very next caption provides...
"C'mon, Yank!" the
red-white-and-blue figure thus referenced exhorts his companion, a massive bald
eagle. "I've just learned of a terrible threat to the security of the
United States!" All of a sudden, like.
Said "mountain home"
can't possibly be more than eight, maybe ten seconds away from Crusaders HQ,
tops; because in the very next panel, Captain Flag is commanding"
"Shield! There's a danger to this country that can be best defended by you
"Lead me to it, Captain
Flag!" a jubilant Shield responds, all but groveling in his eagerness to
ditch this sorry "plot" for what cannot help but be a better one.
"That eagle Yank sure is mighty!"
"Shield!" a youthful,
similarly patriotically-bedecked figure exclaims, stepping out from a handy,
nearby temporal-dimensional vortex-type whahoozie just as Shield and Flag are
being borne aloft by the rapidly- herniating Yank. "Wait for your pal,
" 'Twas I who transported
Dusty out of the past, temporarily," Zambini modestly confesses; "...
for a reunion with his famed partner, the Shield!"
"... but I alone know I'm
not the original Shield," the glum Crusader inwardly soliloquizes;
"... but am his... son! What will happen if Dusty learns the truth about
More to the point, I think, are
these questions, surely:
1.) So... like... this "Zambini"
goombah just... I dunno... routinely resurrects dead-type people... without
askin' their friends and loved ones first or nothin' -- ?
2.) Did a clearly desperate Jerry
Siegel really just introduce no fewer than EIGHTEEN FREAKIN' COSTUMED CHARCATERS
in but a scant fourteen pages...?
3.) "What will happen if
Dusty learns the truth about me?" Hah! Better to worry about what Marvel
Comics' two-fisted, fightin'-mad attorneys might do, if anybody ever tumbles
them onto this whole shamelessly lifted "dead patriotic boy sidekick"
Whatever the ultimate answers to
these questions, however: I'm afraid you'll all simply have to turn your
(understandably) strained and flagging attentions to the page immediately
following this one, for Part Two of "Too Many Super-Heroes!"
"A typical Cheeks, the Toy
I was just teasing, back on the
There is no "plot"
Just more hurting, is all.
You all thought your doting (if
somewhat sadistic) Unca Cheeks was plain ol' full of it, last week, when he
warned that this one was gonna make DOUBLE-DARE ADVENTURES ("... starring
Bee-Man!") look like a cakewalk, by way of comparison.
Go on; admit it, now.
You all thought I was jes' joshin'
y'all a mite, didn'tcha...?
introductory caption details; "... inside a government security agency
building into which the Hangman has penetrated..."
"I'll get a fortune from
selling these military secrets to a foe of America!" the Hangman silently
chortles, pleased that someone's finally authored a sentence with his name and
the word 'penetrated' both yoked in grammarial tandem.
"An enemy agent!" an
eagle-eyed M.P. exclaims, racing towards the naughty knotsman with all the due
alacrity and intent of a man who knows good and damned well those sensitive
military secrets must never, no, never end up in the possession of America's
Sworn Foemen. (Those damned Swedes -- !)
"The new Cellular-Immobilizer-Ray
Pistol has rendered you unable to move!" the valiant guardsman announces,
discharging said weapon at the Hangman point blank and paralyzing him,
"Me, yes!" the Hangman
observes with a wry, inward chuckle. "My magic rope... NO!"
Utilizing that selfsame coil of
hyper-hemp, the hero-turned-hellion channels the paralytic power of the
immobilizer ray and promptly stamps it Return To Sender; freezing the luckless
non-com in a quick, impromptu session of Statue Tag.
The terrible tableau is
shattered, however, by the window-smashing arrival upon the scene of that
happy-go-lucky patriotic posse: the Shield; Captain Flag; and Buc -- errrrrrr...
I mean: Dusty!
"Taste the knuckles of
Captain Flag, vermin...!" the leader amongst their number thunders, in a
line of dialogue which will (I assure you, one and all) live on and on in your
collective memories, long after all the rest of this fragrant little four-color
stinkburger has (blissfully) faded away into drooling, senile dementia. (Believe
me: I know.)
"What's especially bad about
you, Hangman," Captain Flag offers, by way of frank and well-meaning
appraisal; "... is you were once a great force for good... and you've
turned your back on it deliberately!" (OOOooooooh. OUCH. That's gotta
Blindly stumbling his way towards
what little remains of a once-proud and attractive window, a bruised and
battered Hangman slithers his serpentine way down the ever-handy Magic Rope.
"He's at the end of his
rope, Captain Flag!" a chipper Dusty helpfully chirrups; yet wondering all
the while why he's being bedeviled by vague half-memories of yet another
red-white-and-blue adult mentor, ages agone; one sporting a large,
"Ha, Ha!" the fleeing
felon sneers. "My mind's had enough time to clear, and regain control over
the rope! Clobber the bums, rope!"
Out of simple, Christian charity:
your kind-hearted and solicitous Unca Cheeks has steadfastly resolved not to
subject the whole, frightened lot of you to the scene immediately thereafter, in
which three card- carring super-heroes get their collective hinders
good'n'stomped. By a big piece of rope.
After the mocking Hangman has
made good his hempen escape, a clearly tormented Dusty approaches the Shield,
out of earshot from any prying... ummmm... ears. I suppose.
"I know the Shield better
than I know myself!" the Teen Copycat counsels. (... and, boy: wouldn't old
Fredric Wertham have had himself a field day with that one...?) "I sense
you aren't him! Tell me who you really are, mister... pronto!" To which the
equally anguished Shield responds [Pick One]:
1.) "I guess I'll have to
reveal how that crook, the Eraser, turned Dad into a metal statue...!"
2.) "I guess I'll have to
reveal how that crook, the Web, turned Dad into a metal statue. And then Rosie
-- sweet Rosie -- will be mine! All MINE! NYAHHH-ha-ha-haaaa -- !"
3.) "My goodness, but he's
certainly the buff, butch little bruiser! rrrrrUFFFF -- !"
4.) "Luuuuuuuuuke... trust
your feelings... you know I am your Father, Luuuuuuuke...!"
Before the Shield can cobble up a
suitably convincing lie, however: the luckless Dusty vanishes in a gout of fire
"The lad is returning back
to his own time-era," a nearby Zambini helpfully explains. "My magical
mastery of time could only bring him to the present briefly...!"
(In a follow-up issue of ARCHIE
Comics title GOOBERS ON THE LOOSE -- issue #117, to be precise; the
heart-rending "Good; Schmood! You Want the Script Wednesday, or Don'tcha?"
-- we are later shown the tragic results of Dusty's having been arbitrarially
yo-yo'd back and forth throughout the time-stream.
(Two words: "rubber
are then informed, via caption; "... an astounding craft streaks towards
Said "astounding craft"
is being piloted by none other than that Rotund Recidivist of villainy most vile
(in times of greatest stress, I like to pretend I'm the guy who used to narrate
the old live-action BATMAN television show): the Spider -- the only costumed
super-villain secure enough in his own masculinity to flounce about with a big
lace doiley atop his head!
Upon reconnoitering over the mass
spandexed pajama party taking place at Ground Zero, however ("Gulp! What's
goin' on down there? A super-hero convention? There are too many of 'em for me!
I'm cuttin' out, quick!") --
... the big dummy loser panics;
loses control; and crash-lands his "Spider-Craft" in a nearby
Along come the Hangman and his
bearded, Pharoah-esque baddie buddy, the Wizard, however; reassuring the
internally hemorrhaging Spider that they are on their way -- even now -- to put
a serious stompin' on the heroic assemblage; Crusader and non-Crusader alike.
(Which -- given that the Hangman's rope just finished up spanking at least three
of 'em like squalling, red-headed step-children -- really doesn't seem all that
darned unlikely, quite frankly.)
Just as the dastardly duo have
commenced attacking, however: the unfailingly reader-conscious Fly-Girl exclaims
"Look who's jetting in...
the Jaguar! Master of the Animal Kingdom! He must've come to join our ranks,
(I've already covered this
particular bow-wow's penny dreadful "origin" in the article 1,001
Uses For a Dead Spandexed Goober. On the unlikely chance that anyone could
ever possibly care, I mean.)
Well, mesdames and messieurs: the
action (such as it is) finally kicks into high gear, with but a scant, miserable
five pages left to go. The Hangman beats up on the Web (oh, yeah; there's a case
of "Man Bites Dog" for you); and the just-arrived Jaguar
manages to haul Mister Justice's milky hinder out of a Wizard-spawned
("Behold," the Wizard
proclaims, in a bit of dialogue which has haunted my restless, hag- ridden
slumber for quite the little bit longer than I care to think about just now, if
it's all the same to you lot. "Through the flame-gate I have caused to yawn
open... the sight of my beastie dragging the ethereal Mr. Justice down toward
the eagerly awaiting shades of the worst villains of a thousand worlds who
inhabit the nether-domain of... NITE-GARTH!"
(I'm assuming the man simply
never had to breathe, is all; otherwise, he'd never make it through all of that
without pausing long enough for a cold soda, and a nice lie-down.)
"We've toyed with them long
enough, Wizard!" the Hangman demands. "Use your surprise weapon now...
So: the Wizard obligingly drops
his pants, see; and then --
It's because I've been watching
lots of MR. SHOW episodes lately, is all. I used to be much quieter and more
well-behaved, before MR. SHOW. Also: old re-runs of THE KIDS IN THE HALL.
"Up, now," the Wizard
portentiously intones. "Rearing up from far beneath the Earth's surface...
the unknown ore Transfinite!"
That's when the big, scaly purple
claw pops up out of the ground.
(My Good Buddy -- Long-Time Site
Regular Jack Selegue; Mastermind Emeritus of the highly recommended CHEMICAL
COMICS: A Comic Book Periodic Table, which you should only be checking out
on a weekly basis, at least -- is going to freaking wet himself when he sees
this'un. Seriously. He just plain ol' lives for this stuff.)
"And now," the
malevolent mystic continues; "... my superego- malignancy transforms yon
Transfinite into a Doom Claw, which has the wild talent to attract, then weaken,
then destroy all ultra-heroes!"
(He's practically drooling right
about now. Jack, I mean. Trust me on this one.)
The various heroes all end up
sorcerously KrazyGlued to the Wizard's "Doom Claw" like so many flies
to a mammoth pest strip.
"All of us...
perishing!" a rapidly-weakening Kardak manages to rasp. "Zambini... if
you and I can just t-touch hands... our combined might can summon the one hero
who can save us and defeat the Wizard!"
"T-take my hand, sweet
Kardak," Zambini husks, weakly. "I am but... a stranger in ...
(NOTE TO SELF: no more KIDS IN
THE HALL for the rest of the week. Be strong, dammit.)
The two conjurors marshall what
little remains of their ebbing powers, then; and -- from out of the mists of
sheerest neecromancy comes hurtling the jaw-dropping, gape-inducing,
awe-inspiring sight OF --
[Pregnant -- ? Stop Reading.
[Heart Patient -- ? For God's
sake: go back to one of the menus and click onto another entry. NOWWWWW -- !!]
... the awe-inspiring,
pants-wetting, brain-embolizing sight OF --
... ROY, THE MIGHTY BOY!!!
"Out of the past comes
I," the cosmic cherub chirrups; "... ROY, THE MIGHTY BOY, who was your
comrade years ago, Wizard, before you became evil!"
Oh, yeah. "Comrade." Uh-huh.)
"The evil I've done aged me
prematurely!" the hoary hocus-pocuser explains; a trifle over-sensitive,
perhaps, re: those unsightly crow's feet around the eyes and suchlike. "You
can't defeat me, brat!"
"You're right!" the
Youth of Yesteryear readily confesses. "I can't! But -- you yourself, as
you were years ago, before you became evil, can!"
"You disgust me!" the
Wizard's sorecerously-summoned younger persona self-righteously intones. "KADDABRA!"
...and -- with the moustachioed
muttering of that single, solitary magic word: the last remaining wisps of
gasping-thing-Siegel's-been-using-in-place-of-a-plot simply... evaporates.
The Wizard is summarily
de-powered (along with the Hangman's magic rope); an iron cage materializes
around them both; and -- as a slump-
shouldered and dispirited Wizard
snivels, in summation -- "We'll have many years of imprisonment in which to
regret the fate that changed you and me... who were once valiant heroes... into
Call it a pronounced case of
Mighty Boy ex machina, if you like.
The story shudders itself to a
spastic halt with the gargantuan assemblage of heroes degenerating into a
senseless, mano a mano slugfest over the question of which one(s) ought to be
granted membership in the Crusaders...
... which is pretty much where we
came in, come to think.
"Go away, applicants!"
a borderline hysterical Fly-Man ends up shouting at the assorted second-, third-
and fifth-stringers. "Too many super-heroes want to get into the act!
Perhaps, at some future date -- !"
"Future, phooey!" a
departing Fox shoots over his shoulder, snidely. "Maybe we'll form our own
new super-hero teams now! Chew on that, Crusaders! Good-bye!"
Not even if you were to smother
it in sautéed onions and call it "porterhouse steak," Winky.
Still: maybe there's something in
the notion, at that.
Bob Phantom. The Fox. Captain
Flag. And Roy ("... the Mighty Boy!"). All banded together, in the
cause of justice. Adventures and exploits beyond all human ken... modern-day
myrmidons who would one day become living legends...
... and, so long as we're at it:
I'd like a pony next Christmas, too.