Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Missed Opportunity by Dave Goode

You’re probably familiar with the episode in question. An old friend of Clark Kent,one Gary Allen is visiting Metropolis and is making plans to meet up with the mild-mannered reporter. What no one is aware of is due to exposure to kryptonite radiation Allen has become invulnerable to everything except kryptonite which has the same effect on him as it does on the Man of Steel. There is no real explanation for this. We just except it. Allen’s vulnerability to the “deadly rock” of the title leads to a case of mistaken identity and he is kidnapped by criminals who plan to use the kryptonite to kill him. Lois and Jimmy blunder into the picture and are also threatened with death. Of course the real Superman arrives on the scene to save the day.

This is a pretty mundane episode of the series and only the use of kryptonite and reference to the 2nd season episode Panic In The Sky make it stand out. But it could have been so much more. You see the actor who portrayed Gary Allen in this episode was none other than B-Movie leading man Robert Lowery. The same Robert Lowery who a few years earlier had portrayed Batman in a movie serial. What an opportunity wasted. I’m not suggesting that Lowery should have worn the cape & cowl in this episode.Though how cool would that have been? I’m only suggesting that the writers could have made the Gary Allen character Bruce Wayne from Gotham City and made some reference to his ward Dick Grayson being unable to make the trip to Metropolis. Shazam...instant cult classic.

By the way this episode wasn’t the 1st project Reeves and Lowery worked on together. During the 2nd World War while in the service the pair made a sexual hygiene training film.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Masked Detective Comics by Dave Goode

Fawcett and then Charlton Comics would publish a series of Nyoka comics based on the Nyoka character from the serial THE PERILS OF NYOKA(1942) starring Kay Aldridge as Nyoka Gordon. Frances(no relation to Frank)Gifford had previously played jungle girl Nyoka Meredith in the serial JUNGLE GIRL(1941). So I ask again,why no Masked Marvel comic book?

In that alternate universe I sometimes find myself inhabiting there was a Masked Marvel feature starring the hero from the Republic serial. Republic itself instead of just licensing their popular characters to Fawcett or some other comic book company they would publish the comics themselves churning out comics starring their own galaxy of western stars. But more importantly they would have put out a comic titled MASKED DETECTIVE COMICS featuring the continued adventures of not only the Masked Marvel but the Copperhead as well.Heaven knows the Copperhead deserved a sequel after THE MYSTERIOUS DR.SATAN(1940).

There would be a comic book sequel to the Masked Marvel serial in the world. It came in 1990 from AC Comics. It was featured in CLIFFHANGER COMICS 1A and was written by Jodi Ensign and illustrated by Mark Heike and John Dell with a cover utilizing a still from the original serial.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

He Could Have Been A Contender by Dave Goode

Showcase No.66 told the origin of B'wana Beast.After graduating from an American university,Rupert Kenboya the son of the great Kilo of the Zambesi tribe of Africa is determined to return home and go into government service to help his people. Kenboya's friend and classmate Mike Maxwell declined his millionaire father's offer to join the family business to go to Africa with his friend to become a game warden.When the private plane Maxwell is piloting is struck by lightning it crashes on Mt.Killmanjaro. Kenboya drags the injured Maxwell into the cavern home of an oddly colored gorilla. Kenboya tries to aid his friends recovery by giving him rainwater that had been filtered through the cavern walls. Attacked by the gorilla Kenboya attempts to protect Maxwell from the creature and gets tossed around the cave like a rag doll for his trouble. A recovered Maxwell,who has mysteriously grown six inches and gained ninety-five pounds of muscle,subdues the gorilla with the same wrestling hold he used to win a college championship with.

Acknowledging the American as his master the gorilla retrieves a stylized helmet from deep inside the cave and places it on Maxwell's head. Through the helmet Maxwell can now communicate with the animal and learns his name is Djuba.He also finds that through the helmet he can communicate with and control all animals. Maxwell theorizes that the helmet was created by "some ancient civilization with knowledge and science beyond ours". The helmet also gives Maxwell the strange ability to combine two animals of different species into one large mutated creature which exhibits the greatest strength of both. Kenboya and Maxwell agree that Maxwell's new abilities should be used for the good of the African continent and Maxwell creates the costumed identity of B'wana Beast to become Africa's super-powered trouble-shooter. In his only Silver Age appearances in Showcase No.66 and 67 he battles villain Hamid Ali and his minions. By the end of issue 67 he also acquires a Lois Lane-like romantic interest in the person of Eve Corstairs,a reporter for the All-Africa Press. 

The sci-fi aspects made the story different enough from other jungle heroes to make B'wana Beast interesting. But the story seemed kind of rushed.And felt like like they were making it up as they went along.And then there was Mike Sekowsky's art which is an acquired taste.I've grown to appreciate his style over the decades. But the ten year old me really wish the story had been illustrated by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson.If nothing else it would have given Infantino the opportunity to draw Djuba the mutant gorilla. To a lot of comic book readers B'wana Beast is pretty much a joke.But I kind of like him .Even if he never got the chance to fight gladiator style in an arena. He had a really cool costume. And his alliterative name had a ring to it. It fairly sings. Given a better story and a different artistic team he could have been a contender.

Funny thing is as a ten year old I thought the name B'wana Beast and his costume would have been perfect for a professional wrestler. Years later when the character's origin was revamped for the Batman:The Brave & The Bold television series the writers in fact made Mike Maxwell a pro wrestler before he became the Jungle Master.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Dinosaur Comic Books Are Cool by Dave Goode

As cool as it was to read a comic book where a super-hero went up against a prehistoric predator there were some other dinosaur-fighters who were just as cool.

Turok,Son of Stone was one. The character first appeared in 1954 in FOUR COLOR No.596 from Dell Comics. His second appearance came in FOUR COLOR No.656 in 1955. Finally the character would receive his own title in 1956 and the feature would run for several decades. First published by Dell. Then by Gold Key. Then finally by Whitman.
The feature told the story of Turok and Andar to Native-Americans trapped in a deep canyon in the Carlsbad section of New Mexico where they encounter prehistoric forms of life that had disappeared from all other parts of the world. Except for maybe Dinosaur Island.
I imagined a Turok movie starring Jay Silverheels and featuring stop-motion dinosaurs courtesy of Ray Harryhausen. Heck! I'd have settled for a Turok movie that starred Michael Ansara and Sal Mineo as Turok and Andar.

Borrowing a bit from Edgar Rice Burroughs' book THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT writer Robert Kanigher along with artists Ross Andru and Mike Esposito created what would become a cult classic among comic book readers.The War That Time Forgot first appeared in Star Spangled War Stories in 1960 from DC. It ran for eight years until 1968. The stories featured groups of American soldiers stranded on an uncharted island in the Pacific during World War Two that was populated by dinosaurs. This island was sometimes called Monster Island. But most of the time it was known as Dinosaur Island.  As a boy I made several "shadow boxes" inspired by the covers of these comics using toy dinosaurs and those bags of green plastic soldiers that have been a part  of every boy's childhood for years. But most of the time we just created our own Dinosaur Island adventures in our backyards.
Art by Vance Capley