Oh My Goddess

00
Charlton Comics’ Golden Age offerings weren’t much to speak of before such talents as Dick Giordano and Steve Ditko entered the low-rent company’s doors. But there were some gems hidden here and there.

Diana The Huntress, one of the better conceived Wonder Woman expies, premiered in Yellowjacket Comics #1 and lasted for the entirety of the book’s 10-issue run. Although the feature mixed Greek and Roman mythology a bit too freely, Diana herself stood out as a notable character despite finding herself in some crudely written and drawn adventures.

Diana The Huntress

The Huntress’ strongest outing was undoubtedly her first, illustrated with much more skill by Gus Schrotter, who worked for a variety of publishers before leaving comics in the 1950s to become a children’s book illustrator.

From Yellowjacket Comics #1 (Charlton, September 1944), here’s “Diana The Huntress.”
01
02
03
04
05
06
07
08

The Atomic Age

00

Charlton published a vast array of titles from the 1940s to the 1980s, but the imprint is best remembered today for its short-lived “Action Hero” line that brought the world Steve Ditko’s Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Nightshade and The Question as well as such stalwarts as Peacemaker, Sarge Steel, Judomaster and Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt.

Although DC eventually purchased and published their own versions of the Action Heroes to varying degrees of success, the characters achieved their greatest fame serving as templates for the quasi-heroes that populated Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal Watchmen.

Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s recent The Multiversity: Pax Americana brought the Action Heroes and Watchmen back to the forefront in a masterfully complex, beautifully illustrated story that examined super-heroism in the 21st century, the intersection of fiction and reality and the United States’ role in a post-terrorism world, among other equally challenging topics too numerous  – and too far beyond my reach – to summarize in a single paragraph.

Heck, Morrison and Quitely even resurrected this guy from the first comic ever published by Charlton (or “E. Levy/Frank Comunale” as it was referred to in the indicia) back in 1944.

yellowjacket

For all the ways the Action Heroes have been deployed, however, I don’t know if many people have read the original stories published during the Silver Age. The Time Bullet has already posted classic adventures of the Blue Beetle and The Question, so it’s time for Captain Atom to get his due in a fun super-hero romp that also introduces the judo-flipping heroine Nightshade.

From Captain Atom #82 (Charlton, September 1966), here’s “How Do You Catch A Ghost?” by David Kaler (script), Steve Ditko (pencils) and Rocco Mastroserio (inks).

01

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

010

011

012

013

014

015

016

017

018

019

020

Stack O’ Wax

00

Tex Blaisdell is best remembered for his stints assisting such great newspaper strip cartoonists as Hal Foster, Stan Drake, Al Capp, Bud Sagendorf and many others. He even took over Little Orphan Annie for five years after the feature’s creator, Harold Gray, passed away.

Like many of his contemporaries, however, Blaisdell also worked in the comic-book field and inked many Silver Age tales for DC. Less well known is his shot at Pre-Code horror comics, a House Of Wax rip-off published by lowly Charlton Comics.

Blaisdell’s work elevates the tale, though. One panel toward the end of the tale, in particular, deserves inclusion in the Pre-Code Horror Comic Hall Of Fame for sheer audaciousness.

(You’ll know it when you see it. By the way, there is a Pre-Code Horror Comic Hall Of Fame… right???)

The 13 Days Of Halloween continues with “Murderers’ Row” from The Thing #5 (Charlton, October-November 1952).

01

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

As a special bonus, here’s the entertainingly sick cover to The Thing #5 by Lou Morales.

Thing 005

I owe a tip of the hat to the Fawcett & Charlton Horror site for bringing this story to the Internet’s attention. Although I poke fun at Charlton’s bottom-of-the-barrel reputation among Golden Age publishers, The Thing actually turned into one of the better horror titles of the era once Steve Ditko jumped on board. A selection of those stories were posted during last year’s Halloween fest.

Coming tomorrow: Matt Baker’s Phantom Lady Vs. A Werewolf! You know she’s had experience dealing with wolves!!

Bad Medicine

00

Dick Giordano is justly remembered as a comic-book legend for his accomplishments as a penciller, inker and editor who oversaw the creation of Charlton’s hallowed “Action Hero” line and brought his strong artistic sensibilities to DC comics as both an artist and an editor throughout the ’60s to the ’80s.

Everybody has to start somewhere, however, and Giordano earned his stripes as a freelance artist for Chalrton who unwittingly “inspired” world-famous plagiarist Roy Lichtenstein.

It’s too bad Lichtenstein never stumbled upon today’s story. A painting based on a panel or two from “Too Much To Swallow” would have definitely left an impression on the art gallery set.

All joking aside, however, it’s always interesting to see the early work of a great like Giordano and the uncredited writer of said story definitely knew how to bring the Pre-Code violence!

From Space Adventures #12 (Charlton, August 1954), here’s “Too Much To Swallow.” The art is by Giordano (pencils) and Vince Alascia (inks).

01

02

03

04

05

06

As a bonus, here’s the striking original cover of Space Adventures #12 by Steve Ditko. I sure as heck would have picked up a comic with THIS cover back in the day, even if nothing inside the book remotely matched the scene depicted up front.

07

Elementary

1353741192SherlockHolmes002-002

When fans of BBC’s Sherlock complained about CBS’ plans to air its own updated version of the Great Detective’s adventures, most of the heated commentary conveniently overlooked just how many times Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation has been altered/rebooted/re-imagined over the decades.

He’s fought Nazis, defeated Jack The Ripper – at least when it didn’t turn out that Holmes himself was the infamous serial killer – traveled to the far, far future and was even treated for heroin addiction by Sigmund Freud.

In comparison, portraying Holmes as a recovering addict solving crimes with a female Watson on the mean streets of 21st century New York is hardly a stretch at all … and certainly just as valid as Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who-esque take on the canon.

Soon after the institution of the Comics Code Authority, Charlton published its own spin on the Holmes legend by moving the master sleuth to America (hmmm … sounds familiar) and replacing Dr. Watson with a series of anonymous law enforcement officials who were essentially the good Doctor in everything but name.

(My favorite? A Nigel Bruce lookalike named Frothingham.)

The series only lasted two issues and was exceedingly tame given the draconian standards of the freshly minted Comics Code. Still, it’s always fun to see how Holmes is interpreted during specific points of our cultural history.

And, to be honest, I prefer this incarnation to the two-fisted detective DC briefly unveiled in the 1970s…

“The Mystery Of The Doomed Daredevil” first appeared in Sherlock Holmes #2 (Charlton, March 1956). The writer and artist are not credited.

1353741192SherlockHolmes002-003

1353741242SherlockHolmes002-004

1353741252SherlockHolmes002-005

1353741265SherlockHolmes002-007

1353741274SherlockHolmes002-008

1353741284SherlockHolmes002-009

1353741301SherlockHolmes002-010

Grave Tales

After Steve Ditko left Marvel in the mid-1960s, the gifted creator essentially washed his hands of his two most famous characters  – Spider-Man and Doctor Strange – and pursued characters and concepts that mirrored his interests at such publishers as Charlton and DC.

Ditko’s apparent resolve to not look back at what many considered his glory days was so strong that given an opportunity to design splash pages featuring the Marvel Universe circa 1985 (in the all-time classic ROM #65), he pointedly avoided any mention of a certain Webhead or Master of the Mystic Arts.

Still, to appropriate the title of a rather mediocre James Bond film, never say never again. While Ditko never lent his talents to Spider-Man again, he did illustrate a Doctor Strange story … more or less.

A few years after leaving Marvel, Ditko produced a story for the Charlton horror anthology – The Many Ghosts Of Dr. Graves – that served as a secret “Dr. Strange” adventure.

The story’s protagonist, Dr. Graves himself, bore a strong resemblance to Stephen Strange but rarely participated in the tales within his comic. He generally acted as a narrator, much like EC’s Crypt Keeper or DC’s Cain and Abel.

In the “Ultimate Enemy,” which appeared in the 12th issue of the anthology comic, Graves took the center stage and utilized his mystic powers against a “mystical being … bent on conquering Earth.”

The resulting battle – which took place on the astral plane, natch – would have fit in quite nicely with the surreal Dr. Strange adventures by Ditko that made Strange Tales a timeless cult classic of the original Marvel Age.

In celebration of Steve Ditko’s 85th birthday – not that he would want anyone to take notice – here’s a “lost” Dr. Strange classic from The Many Ghosts Of Dr. Graves #12 (Charlton, February 1969).

“The Ultimate Enemy” was scripted by Steve Skeates. The pencils and inks are by Ditko.

image27943

image27944

image27945

image27947

image27948

image27949

image27950

image27951

image27952

image27954

image27955

Family Plot

An Internet friend who read “Family Mixup” once told me the tale was “like an O. Henry story, if O. Henry was a sociopath.”

I really can’t think of any better way to introduce today’s entry in the Time Bullet’s weeklong celebration of Steve Ditko and Charlton’s The Thing, other than to add that we’ve definitely saved the best for last!

From The Thing #15 (Charlton, July-August 1954), here’s “Family Mixup” as drawn by Steve Ditko.

Thing_15_26

Thing_15_27

Thing_15_28

Thing_15_29

Thing_15_30

A Friend Indeed

Although the 1950s are remembered as a comparatively tranquil era, the Cold War and resulting suspicion of anyone and anything that seemed vaguely “Red” were indications of the fears and paranoia that Americans hid in their hearts as they settled into the suburbs and strived for normalcy.

Such anxieties often manifested themselves in the much vilified horror comics of the era. Were people really afraid titles like The Thing were causing juvenile delinquency, or was there a vague sense that those “trashy little magazines” were actually evoking deeper fears that struck just a little too close to home?

Today’s Pre-Code Steve Ditko classic reminds readers to not trust anyone … even yourself. The enemy, after all, may be hiding in the most unexpected place of all.

“Inheritance!” originally appeared in The Thing #14 (Charlton, June 1954). The art, once again, is by Steve Ditko.

Thing_14_26

Thing_14_27

Thing_14_28

Thing_14_29

Thing_14_30

Scared Straight

Is there anything more evil than a college fraternity prank gone awry? Don’t be too quick to answer that question …

First read “Die Laughing,” today’s installment of our seven-day celebration of Steve Ditko’s masterful Pre-Code horror art for Charlton Comics’ The Thing.

The story originally appeared in The Thing #13 (Charlton, April 1954).

Thing_13_08

Thing_13_09

Thing_13_10

Thing_13_11

Thing_13_12

Thing_13_13

Thing_13_14

Worm Food

T.S. Eliot once wrote, “This is the way the world ends: Not with a bang but a whimper.”

Well, to paraphrase one of my favorite lines from Blazing Saddles, “Blow it out your @$$.” We all know the world ends after it’s devoured by a giant worm.

Want proof? Our latest example of Steve Ditko’s remarkable run on Charlton’s The Thing provides that and much, much more.

From The Thing #15 (Charlton, July-August 1954), here’s “The Worm Turns.” The art, once again, is by Steve Ditko.

Thing_15_01

Thing_15_02

Thing_15_03

Thing_15_04

Thing_15_05

Thing_15_06