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Comic book showcase: Truth: Red, White, and Black

Today is Martin Luther King day.

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Now, we’ve been writing this blog series for a long time and when an important holiday happens to fall on a Monday, we like to find some sort of superhero and/or comic book that fits within the theme for that holiday.

When it’s the 4th of July we like to do a patriotic superhero,

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when it’s Halloween we like to do a horror themed blog post,

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and for holidays such as Martin Luther King day, we like to talk about black superheroes.

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We’ve briefly talked about the history of black men and women in comic books before, but today I thought we could break tradition and talk about an actual comic book series that was published in 2003 and uses one of the worst events in American history to tell a damn good story.

Today we’re going to talk about Truth: Red, White, and Black.

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Origin and history

WARNING: We are about to discuss a historical event that involves some very questionable ethics, upsetting imagery, and a rather frank discussion of race relations in America.  It may cause some people discomfort but talking about this is necessary in order to make sure something like this never happens again.

Between 1932 and 1972 the United States Public Health Service conducted a long running experiment known as “The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment” where they purposely infected 600 black men in rural Alabama with syphilis in order to study the long term effects of the disease.

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As if that wasn’t bad enough, the people running the study never told these men what was going on.  Instead, all the test subjects were informed that they were simply receiving free healthcare and medical treatment.

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This vile experiment continued until the program was shut down in 1972 after the project was discovered and public outcry grew too strong.

Although the study was shut down and $10 million dollars were paid out in reparations after a class action lawsuit in 1974 it remains one of the darkest chapters in American history.

The Comic

In January of 2003 comic book writer Robert Morales pitched an idea to Marvel’s editor in chief Joe Quesada that told an alternate story behind the serum that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America.

Image result for captain america serum

Image result for captain america serum

As many of us know, the true recipe for the super soldier serum was destroyed after creating Captain America, but that didn’t stop the Allies and the Nazis from trying to replicate it and making more super soldiers.

What followed was as series of experiments to see if the formula could be replicated.  In the case of the Allies, they forced a regiment of African Amerian soldiers to act as human guinea pigs for the serum, because people are awful and mid 20th century America didn’t really care about black people.

The results were catastrophic and disturbing.

Image result for truth red white and black experiments

...and the horror that ensued, graphic illustration of a moral low-point in human and US history.

However, five test subjects did survive to be sent off to the war and one manged to come home.  His name was Isaiah Bradley and he was the first black Captain America.

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Despite having every right to be pissed off at the people giving him orders, Isaiah did his job and did it well.  He managed to swipe one of Captain America’s spare shields and uniforms and kick a lot of Nazi butt.

Image result for truth red white and black

Image result for truth red white and black

He was even captured by the Nazis but was rescued before he could be dissected and studied.

His country decided to reward his bravery and accomplishments by court marshaling him and throwing him into prison in 1943 because sometimes life just takes a steaming dump on you and there is nothing you can do about it.

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He was later pardoned by President Eisenhower in 1960.

At the end of the series, Steve Rogers managed to find out about the program that created Isaiah and tried to make things better.  Unfortunately, the serum had a debilitating effect on Isaiah’s mind and he suffered Alzheimer’s like symptoms until he had the mental capacity of a child.

The last panel of the series is one of the most heartbreaking and sweetest panels I’ve ever seen.

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Impact of the comic

Within the Marvel Universe, Isaiah Bradley became a symbol and a living legend within the black community.

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Also, he served as a grandfather like figure and inspiration to many of Marvel’s black superheroes.  Even Black Panther gives him a massive amount of respect.

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While he was immensely popular with other black heroes he remained unknown by many white superheroes

Sadly, even after he did his time and served his country the United States government tried to use him and duplicate the experiment.  They wound up creating a clone that was born from a surrogate mother.  The child managed to escape and named himself Josiah X.

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Isaiah also had a grandson named Elijah Bradly who would go on to become the superhero Patriot.

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I’ve talked about race relations in comic books before.  When the industry really started taking off it was not kind to men and women of color.  While I do think things have gotten  better there is still a wide discrepancy between black creators and superheroes and white creators and superheroes in terms of audience and exposure.  But, thankfully things are getting even better and I believe only good things are in store for the future.

Truth: Red, White, and Black is one of the most brutal and uncompromising comic books out there and it is well worth your time and money.  It takes one of the ugliest events in American history and manages to turn it into something that is not only educational but one of the sweetest and most important comic book stories in the past twenty years.

Thank you for reading this article!  Besides weekly blog posts about comic books and superheroes Cambrian Comics also publishes a bi weekly web comic called “The Secret Lives of Villains” and the first volume is up for sale on Amazon here!  If you enjoyed this article please feel free to support us by picking up a copy.  Thanks again!

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Crowdfunded Comics that deserve more attention: Dealing with the Apocalypse.

So it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these but in my defense, it has been a busy couple of months.

Today we’re going to look at a Kickstarter project that was created by a good friend of Cambrian Comics and has a rather…interesting look at one of modern literature’s favorite scenarios.

Let’s take a look at Dealing with the Apocalypse.

What is it?

Dealing with the Apocalypse is a collection of short stories about the end of the world and what comes after.

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The Kickstarter project is being run by Jack Holder and his company: Arcane Inkdustries.  seeking $1000 in funding to publish their fist book.

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The book is about life after the apocalypse and sets out to tell a series of stories from different perspectives and events such as the return of magic, a single girl trying to protect her town, and the story of the first colonizers of Mars after they find out that Earth is no more.

It is worth noting that the project has already reached its funding, has already been written, and simply needs the funding to pay for the first print run.

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/520578277/dealing-with-the-apocalypse

Why I like it.

I like this project because I am a terrible person.

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Let me explain.

The end of the world is a pretty popular topic in popular culture, in fact it has been for quite some time.

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That being said, while I’m sure our ancient ancestors gleefully awaited the end of the world as we know it, it seems that the coming apocalypse has taken on a new meaning in this day and age.

Everything from books,

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to movies,

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to comic books,

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we love stories about the end of the world.

Why?

Well, I can’t speak for anyone else but I love reading these stories because I like to think that I wouldn’t just survive in this new world, but thrive and become the awesome human being I always knew I could be if it wasn’t for pesky things like society, and rules, and common decency.

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To be honest, I probably wouldn’t survive a second out in the wilderness without electricity and running water, but I like to think that I could.

It’s fun to imagine ourselves being able to live without rules and become immortal bad assess of the wasteland and many authors, artists, and directors know this.  As a result, a lot of post apocalyptic literature tends to focus on the journey and trials of an individual or a small group in a narrow space of time.  Just a person, a group, or a town surviving the near end of the world.

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That’s what I like about Dealing with the Apocalypse, it’s not afraid to broaden the scope of the genre and explore different types of stories.

Sure, you’ve got stories about people surviving and trying to protect themselves during the end of the world,  but you also have stories about the birth of magic what happens centuries after the apocalypse instead of decades.

Apparently, in the universe that this book creates humanity colonized Mars just before the world ended.  That’s a really interesting story that hasn’t been told yet and personally, that’s the one I’m most excited to read.

Why you should donate

Two reasons:

First, the book is already completed and ready for print.  There are almost no risks involved and you are guaranteed to get what you pay for.

Second, the team that put these stories together is top notch and deserves nothing but good things and good press.

Besides the literary talents of Jack Holder, there is a small army of great artists involved with the project.  Here’s a sample of some of the artists and their artwork.

Ed Bickford

 

Carlos Bonardi

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Hansel y Gretel

Cari Dee

Image may contain: 1 person

Image may contain: 1 person

and there are a whole bunch more.

If you like any of the art you see, or want to learn more about the universe this book is creating, I highly recommend donating to this Kickstarter, it is well worth your money.

Kickstarter link:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/520578277/dealing-with-the-apocalypse

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Golden Age Showcase: Dynamite Thor

Full disclosure, I discovered this superhero after reading an article for Cracked.com.

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The article was about crazy Golden Age superheroes and the author, a gentleman who goes by the name of Seanbaby, has a pretty cool list of obscure old school heroes.

Anyway, on to the article and if Seanbaby does wind up reading this, I just want to say thank you.

Today we’re going to to talk about the most explosive superhero in all of comics, a man so explosive that his name combines the Norse god of thunder and a highly dangerous explosive: Dynamite Thor.

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Origin and career

Dynamite Thor made is first appearance in Weird Comics #6 September of 1940.

Comic Book Cover For Weird Comics #6 - Version 2

He was created and written by a man named Wright Lincoln and is Mr. Lincoln’s only credited superhero.

He was published by Fox Features Syndicate, a company that was famous for two reasons.  First, their owner was an incredibly outspoken and boisterous man named Victor S. Fox.

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Apparently, before he became a comic book publisher he had made a living as the head of a shipping company, was arrested for stock fraud, and a book keeper for the company that would become DC Comics.  Also, he had a penchant for smoking cigars and calling himself “The King of Comics”

The man deserves his own article if we ever decide to do that.

Second, they were the original publishers of the superhero Blue Beetle.

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But back to Dynamite Thor.

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This hero’s actual name is Peter Thor, a wealthy mine owner and apparent explosives expert.

Here is his origin story.

Comic Book Cover For Weird Comics #6 - Version 2

And that’s it.

Say what you want about Golden Age comics, at least they’re damn efficient with setting up their characters.

As you might be able to guess from the name, Dynamite Thor likes to use dynamite…a lot.

Does he need to get someone’s attention?  Dynamite.

Comic Book Cover For Weird Comics #6 - Version 2

Destroy a ship killing and/or stranding countless numbers of people?  Dynamite

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Need to put out a fire?  You guessed it…dynamite.

Comic Book Cover For Weird Comics #6 - Version 2

Believe it or not, this actually isn’t as stupid as it seems, although to be fair it is pretty stupid.  It turns out that you can use explosions to put out fires so…good for the writer I guess.

Dynamite Thor was also seemingly impervious to explosives, something that is a pretty useful skill to have when you chuck dynamite everywhere.  Apparently this meant he was also immune to high G forces because his obsession with dynamite allowed him to do this,

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which is probably the most unfortunate way to fly that I have ever seen.

You would think that this ability to resist explosions would allow him to be practically invulnerable but nope, he was just as injury probe as you and me.

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His supporting cast is nothing really new or creative.

He had a girlfriend named Glenda who he had to keep in the dark about his secret identity for no other reason than that’s what superheroes do,

Comic Book Cover For Weird Comics #7

and he fought your standard assortment of foreign spies and gangsters.

Really, aside from the obsession with explosives and the high death toll he must have racked up, he was pretty boring.

So what happened?

Absolutely nothing happened, he disappeared from the comic book scene entirely after five pretty standard and kind of boring stories.

Fox Comics would declare bankruptcy in 1950 and its most famous creation, the Blue Beetle, would be bought by Charlton Comics,

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and eventually acquired by DC Comics into the hero we know today.

Image result for dc comics blue beetle

How could he be rebooted?

The question here really isn’t “how can he be rebooted?” it’s more “can he be rebooted in such a way to make him interesting?”.

Sure, Dynamite Thor is an explosives expert and he seems to be invulnerable to explosives, but someone with that particular skill set would cause waaaay too much collateral damage to be considered a hero (although that could be an interesting theme to play around with), so he would more than likely be rebooted as a villain.

The problem here is that there are a lot of halfway decent super villains such as DC’s Shrapnel,

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and Marvel’s Nitro,

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who have explosion based powers, which means that Dynamite Thor would probably struggle to stand out.

Maybe he could be a business man who has advanced knowledge of chemistry and physics and uses it to develop better explosives which he uses to commit crimes?  Or maybe he could be a disillusioned military veteran who was in a bomb disposal unit and watched his entire squad die?  The trick isn’t updating his powers, it’s making that update interesting enough for modern readers.

Dynamite Thor was a strange, very obscure hero who lives on in articles like these.  He had a pretty interesting power, used it in hilarious ways, and only lasted a couple of issues before fading into obscurity.  Basically, it’s heroes like these that make the comic book landscape vast enough and interesting enough to keep researching.

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Golden Age Showcase: Isbisa

Happy New Years everyone!

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After a week long break to celebrate the holidays we’re back and ready for another year of obscure comic book characters you’ve never heard of!

Now, since it’s a new year I thought it might be fun to do some branching out and try some new things.  So this year I thought I might focus more on the villains of the Golden Age.

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Now, over the course of researching a lot of Golden Age superheroes, I’ve learned that the early comic book scene wasn’t a very big fan of putting a lot of thought into their bad guys.  Usually the hero fought off hoards of gangsters enacting some sort of scheme

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or the Nazis trying to pull off some evil plot.

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Most of the time the villain that the hero would be fighting would often get his/her just comeuppance at the end of the story and be killed off.

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The point is that the bad guys don’t get a whole lot of attention in the Golden Age of Comics, but every now and then there is a villain who proves to be a long lasting and memorable threat.

Anyway, I thought we could start with a villain who managed to give an entire team of some of the most powerful superheroes a run for their money: Isbisa.

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Origin and Career

Isbisa made his first and only Golden Age appearance in All Winners #19 in 1946.

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What’s interesting is that while many of the comic books at this time were anthologies that told a series of short, unrelated stories about a whole cast of super heroes, this book was a complete story where a team of some of Timely’s greatest heroes would work together to defeat Isbisa as a common foe.

The book itself was written by comic book legend, and a man who deserves way more credit than he’s been getting, Bill Finger.

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Bill Finger is the man who is responsible for creating most of the Batman mythos, although for the purposes of this article let’s just say he’s the guy who created the Joker.

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So it’s safe to say Mr. Finger knew how to create a pretty good villain.

Isbisa started out as a humble museum assistant named Simon Meke.

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His goal was simple (as was most of the motivations for villains at the time): world domination, which he planned to accomplish by stealing a nuclear weapon.  In order to do this he adopted the super villain identity of “Isbisa”, which was an acronym for the six “Ages of Man” (Ice Age, Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Steel Age, Atomic Age).

Despite his lowly status, and the fact that he probably had no idea how to properly handle and manage a nuke, Meke was a smart man and realized that the superheroes of the All Winners Squad would be his greatest threat.

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He developed a plan to keep the team of Captain America, Bucky, the Sub Mariner, The Whizzer, The Human Torch, Toro, and Miss America busy while he could make off with the bomb.

His plan was actually pretty devious.  It involved hiring a group of gangsters and two small time super villains named “The Calcium Master”

(Drink your milk kids),

and Black Patch

to distract the heroes by committing various crimes while he robbed the place storing the bomb with his own special sleeping gas.

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In typical super villain fashion each of the crimes was committed with a certain theme and with plenty of clues for the heroes to use in order to figure it out.  Also, in typical comic book fashion the heroes were able to come together and save the day, capturing Isbisa and placing him into police custody.

So what happened?

Isbisa’s battle against the All Winners squad was his first and only Golden Age appearance.  However, this was not the last time he would appear to challenge his old foes.

His next appearance was in the 1970’s in Giant Sized Avengers #1 as a flashback.

Giant-Size Avengers Vol 1 1

It turned out that two of the old members of the squad, the Whizzer and Miss America, had left the group after defeating Isbisa and were married.  They wound up joining the CIA and were placed on body guard duty at a nuclear test site.  Unfortunately, during one of the tests they were both exposed to a large amount of radiation and when Miss America gave birth to their first child they discovered that their son was lethally radioactive.

The two were forced to place their son in stasis, but unfortunately their son escaped and became the villain Nuklo.

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Nuklo was eventually defeated and contained, but not before being brought to the attention of Isbisa.

The now released super villain learned about Nuklo’s powers and conspired to use them to give himself nuclear powers.

He disguised himself as a psychiatrist, infiltrated the facility holding Nuklo, and managed to hook both of them up to a device that would transfer Nuklo’s power to himself.  The device worked and when the Whizzer confronted his old nemesis, Ibisia killed him.

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He was defeated by Vision and the Scarlet Witch and sent back to prison.

His final appearance was in a battle with She Hulk.

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Isbisa had managed to escape prison again and was disguised as a physics teacher named Doctor Sandeson.  He discovered a way to move super villains in and out of time and space and used this same energy to rejuvenate himself (it’s worth mentioning that She Hulk comics played fast and loose with things like time and space and breaking the fourth wall).

Image result for isbisa she hulk

Image result for isbisa she hulk

She Hulk eventually triumphed and Isbisa managed to escape.  He hasn’t been heard from since.

Isbisa is something of a rarity in Golden Age Comics.  While there were plenty of capable superheroes in the Golden Age, and plenty of them were much deadlier and scarier than Isbisa, there weren’t a whole lot of consistent threats.  Usually a bad guy would last anywhere between a single issue or a couple, but Isbisa did manage to last and plague his mortal enemies for a terrifyingly long amount of time.

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Comic book showcase: ?????

Happy Holidays everyone!

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Since it is the week before Christmas, and since we plan on taking Christmas week off from the blog, I thought it would be nice to talk about one of the most powerful superheroes in all of comic books.

He’s big, he’s red, he knows if you’ve been naughty or nice, and he’s listed as one of the most powerful mutants in the entire X-Men franchise…it’s SANTA CLAUS!

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Origin and Career

Unlike most of the characters we talk about on this blog, this guy has had a long and illustrious career, and he didn’t even start off in comic books.

If you want to learn about the history of Santa, there are a couple of things you have to understand.  For starters, many people use the names “Santa Claus”, “St. Nick”, “Kris Kringle”, and “Father Christmas” interchangeably.

All those names are actually talking about different people throughout history.

The Santa Claus that we know was made popular in the 1930’s as a figure who was used to sell Coca Cola.  This was where we get the idea of a jolly man dressed in red with a big white beard and a red nose.
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But that image was based off of an earlier drawing by famed political cartoonist Thomas Nast for Harper’s Weekly in 1881, who drew an incredibly popular illustration of the famous poem “A Night Before Christmas”.

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This is where we get the idea of Santa with his reindeer and his fascination with giving out toys.

But THAT image was taken from old European Dutch traditions about a jolly old man named “Sinterklaas”, a jolly old man who travels around on Christmas dressed in red and giving out candy to good little boys and girls.

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This is where we get the idea of Santa and his elves, since this version of Santa was accompanied by two beings called “Zwarte Piet” who help Santa hand out candy to the children.

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It’s worth mentioning that this version of Santa has his origins with the Norse god Wotan, who would ride around on his eight legged horse Sleipnir around this time of year.

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It’s also worth mentioning that “Santa” and “Father Christmas” are actually two different people because Father Christmas looks like this.

Image result for father christmas a christmas carol

He’s still a pre Christian figure, just a bit different from the tradition of Santa.

But the real origin of Santa comes from the early Christian St. Nicholas.

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St. Nicholas was originally Nicholas, a 4th century Christian bishop of Myra in what is now known as Turkey.

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In the Eastern Orthodox tradition he is the patron saint of children, the falsely accused, repentant thieves, barrel makers, and a whole bunch of cities and nations that are too numerous to count.  He’s a pretty popular saint.

The legend goes that the bishop had a friend who had the bad luck of only having daughters.  Back then, the family of the bride was required to provide a payment to the family of the groom called a dowry as a sign of good faith and friendship.

Unfortunately, if the bride couldn’t provide a dowry the bride couldn’t be married, and the life of an unmarried woman back then was a very difficult one.

When Nicholas heard this he decided to do something about it and late one night he baked a bunch of gold coins into a loaf of bread, climbed up to the chimney of his friend’s house, and threw the loaf down the chimney.

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and that is where we get the origin of Santa sending presents via chimney.

So what happened?

Oh, Santa Claus is still around, giving gifts and spreading good cheer.

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In fact, he has been so good at it that during WW2, Adolf Hitler had Santa captured in an effort to strike at the morale of America.

Thankfully, Roosevelt had Captain America and Nick Fury of the Howling Commandos rescue Santa.

It was later revealed that Santa is actually the most powerful mutant/superhero ever created.  His abilities are widely varied from longevity, to super speed, to the ability to manipulate his size in order to fit down a chimney of any size.

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Santa has appeared in several adventures with famous Marvel and DC superheroes,

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Image result for santa marvel universe

but it’s worth mentioning that he hasn’t always been a source of good cheer over the years.

Image result for santa marvel universe

Image result for santa marvel universe

Probably the best example of this was when he sold his entire gift making operation to Hydra because he was fed up with all the anger and lack of faith, although it did give us this.

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Despite all the misadventures and silly stories, Santa has remained a force for good in comic books and the world in general  His friendliness, kindness, and generosity have inspired people to live better lives and to be kind to each other during the Christmas season,

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something that is sorely needed in times like these.

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Merry Christmas everyone, and see you all next year.

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Golden Age Showcase: Betty Bates, Lady at Law.

Full disclosure, this is going to be a short article.  That being said, I think today’s comic book heroine is awesome enough on her own and doesn’t need a whole lot of space to show how awesome she is.

Today we’re going to talk about a female heroine who SHOULD have been one of the great female heroes to come out of the 1940’s: Betty Bates, Lady at Law.

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Origin and career

Betty Bates first appeared in Quality Comics’ Hit Comics #4 in October of 1940.

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She was a backup character created by artist and writer Bob Powell,

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whose other credits include characters such as Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.

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Betty Bates was an interesting character, especially for the 1940’s.  While the era has been criticized for its rampant sexism and misogyny it is the era that gave us classic female super heroines such as Wonder Woman,

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Lady Satan,

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and an early Black Widow.

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With all these super powered ladies flying around it seems difficult for someone as plain as Betty Bates to stand out, but she manages to do that in grand style.

For starters, Betty Bates was a District Attorney, a profession that was almost exclusively reserved for male characters.

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She was almost unnaturally honest, refusing to take bribes and to be coerced into letting criminals go free.

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She was also a capable and talented detective, determined to get to the truth.  She never had a secret identity or costume, never had any colorful gadgets, and while she only fought gangsters and thugs with colorful names, when it came time to throw down and defend herself…

Image result for betty bates, lady at law

Image result for betty bates, lady at law

Image result for betty bates, lady at law

she could handle herself in a fight.

So what happened?

Her series was published by a company called Quality Comics, a company whose most famous creation was this guy.

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Quality Comics sold off most of its characters in the 1950’s to DC Comics but the company had been suffering for a while.  Betty Bates was lost in the shuffle and after a ten year run her title was cancelled.

Despite her unglamorous end, Betty actually has a pretty impressive legacy.

She outlasted many of her more traditional male superhero counterparts and would continue to have a comfortable position as a back up character in the Hit Comics line for over ten years.  In fact, she still holds the honor of being the longest running non super powered, non main character heroine in comic book history.  Plus, there is only one comic book lawyer who has lasted longer than she has.

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Anyone want to try to explain why we’re not talking about her instead of Wonder Woman as a female comic book icon?

Sadly, she has remained forgotten for most of history and hasn’t been revived or brought back in any modern issues.

Which is a crying shame if you ask me.

How could she be brought back?

Unlike many of the Golden Age heroes we talk about on this blog that might have trouble fitting into a modern setting, Betty’s problems are actually quite the opposite.

There are a seemingly endless number of law procedural shows on television today.

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and Betty Bates could fit into any one of them

Also, we are now living in an age where leading ladies are gaining an increasingly large portion of the spotlight in popular culture.

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and I think Betty could fit right in.

The difficulty rests in finding a leading lady.  Personally, I nominate Haley Atwell.

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But that’s just me.

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Golden Age Showcase: The Face

You know who everyone loves?  Batman.

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You know what one of his greatest lines is?

“Criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot”.

I love that line because it sums up Batman perfectly.  So much of his character is about instilling fear and dread into his opponents and it’s an integral part of the costume, especially the mask.

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This is part of what made Batman so popular and as we all know, popularity breeds imitators.

Today we’re going to talk about one of Batman’s earliest, and least successful, imitators simply known as…The Face.

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Hold on to your seats ladies and gentlemen.

Origin and Career

The Face was one of the hallmark creations of a little known comic book publisher called Columbia Comics.

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The company was formed in 1940 through a partnership between a newspaper company called the McNaught Newspaper Syndicate and a man named Vin Sullivan.

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Interesting fact: Vin Sullivan was the man who bought the rights of a little known character named Superman from Siegel and Shuster for a company called National Allied Publications, although you know them better as DC comics.

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Anyway, Columbia’s biggest seller was an anthology comic called Big Shot Comics and the Face was in the very first issue published in May of 1940.

Comic Book Cover For Big Shot Comics #1 - Version 1

He was created by an artist named Mart Bailey.

As for backstory, the Face was the superhero identity of humble radio station announcer Troy Trent who decided to fight crime just because he could.

Comic Book Cover For Big Shot Comics #1 - Version 1

In order to do this he decided to don a horrifying green mask with red hair, long fangs, and yellow eyes.  This disguise proved to be incredibly helpful since it struck enough fear into his enemies’ hearts that he could either get the jump on them or wrangle a confession from them quickly.

Comic Book Cover For Big Shot Comics #1 - Version 1

In his first adventure the Face helped save a group of sick orphans who were being poisoned by food supplied by a greedy businessman who was pocketing government aid money and selling sub par supplies back to the people that needed them.

Comic Book Cover For Big Shot Comics #1 - Version 1

No, I am not joking, this comic was absolutely serious.  I know that it may seem a bit much for our more developed brains to accept a story where the bad guy is just that evil and the good guy’s job is to save a bunch of orphans, but I thought it was sincere enough and just well written enough to make for a pretty good story.

Come to think of it, “pretty good” describes most of the Face’s stories.  The art work was pretty good, for Golden Age comic book standards, and while he never graduated past fighting crooks and gangsters his stories were either interesting enough or had some twist to them that made the writing a step above most of the crap that was being published at the time.

The character had a nice gimmick, with a good artist, and some good storytelling behind him.  He would wind up becoming one of Columbia Comic’s greatest heroes and I could easily see him making the leap into modern times along with more well known heroes like Batman and Superman.

So what happened?

The same thing that happened to Columbia Comics, he disappeared after they went out of business in 1949 due to declining sales.

Despite the fact that the Face was successful the sad fact of the matter was that superheroes just weren’t selling in the late 1940’s and by the early 1950’s the entire comic book industry would be on the ropes.

Sadly, the Face’s career was over.  However, a new hero who was heavily based off of him called “Mr. Face” did appear in Dynamite Comics’ Project Superpowers comic book series.

Image result for mister face dynamite comics

His powers got a much needed update after being thrown into a mystic object known as the Urn of Pandora.  When he emerged he realized that people would see their worst fears come to life if they looked at his face and mask.

Image result for mister face dynamite comics

Boy, this is a short section.  I wonder if there is anything I can do to add to this article?

How could he be remade?

What’s this?  A new section for long time readers in an attempt to remain fresh and interesting?  Well alright then.

In this section of the article I’m going to take a look at the character of the week and see if he/she/it could be remade and how it could be done.  Think of it like a pitch for a superhero revival only I’m not being paid for it.  Also, if anyone reading this should take a look at the article and be moved to turn it into a story of their own please feel free, I wouldn’t have put this on the internet if I didn’t want people to copy it.

Alright, so here’s what works.  The Face has a cool gimmick and costume.  Sure Batman has the whole “strike fear into criminals using the costume” deal but he also has decades of training and a bottomless bank account to help.  Our modern take on the Face would double down on the “using the mask to cause fear” idea and not rely on martial arts as much.

Maybe he could use the mask in conjunction with a fear inducing chemical like the Scarecrow,

Image result for batman scarecrow

or maybe it could be some sort of mystic curse or ancient deity like a much more serious version of the Mask?

Image result for the mask comic

What doesn’t work that much is the backstory and secret identity.  Having a superhero fight crime and have a life outside of crime may have been okay in the 1940’s but that just won’t fly here.  We need to give him a semi plausible backstory and motivation for fighting crime.

So, without further ado, here’s a short paragraph describing my idea for a revamped Face.

Tony Trent is a government scientist working on a top secret drug for the United States government.  He is a brilliant chemist working in conjunction with a psychologist named Tanya Ferguson (his love interest and helper) and they have been partnered together  in order to develop a drug for what they think is for crowd control purposes but is actually a powerful hallucinogenic drug for interrogation and discrediting enemies of America.  Tanya discovers the project’s true purpose and threatens to go to the press with the news.  Fearing reprisal the government shuts down the project and attempts to liquidate both Tony and Tanya.

The assassination attempt fails and both of them manage to flee.   The rest of the comic is the two of them trying to find the people responsible for trying to kill them and shutting the project down.  Tony is able to use the prototype fear gas, along with a plastic mask that he randomly picks up, as a weapon against anyone who would try to take them out.

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Golden Age Showcase: Thin Man

Confession time.  I’m sitting in an airport terminal in Portland Oregon (long story) and I’ve been so busy that I nearly forgot to write an article this week.

Thankfully I’ve got about two hours to kill before my flight leaves so today we’re going to talk about the first superhero who was able to stretch his body and use it as a super power.

Today we’re going to talk about Thin Man.

Image result for golden age comics thin man

Origin and Career

The Thin Man first appeared in Mystic Comics #4 in June of 1940.

He was created by artist Polish artist Klaus Nordling (I was unable to find a picture) and an unknown writer.

As for origins, Thin Man was the first super hero who was able to stretch and mold his body into various shapes.

What really sets him apart from a various number of heroes is that while Plastic Man got his powers from a lab accident,

Image result for plastic man lab accident

and Reed Richards got his powers from cosmic rays,

Image result for reed richards cosmic rays

Thin Man got his powers from a group of advanced humans living in a forgotten valley in the Himalayas.

Thin Man’s identity was Bruce Dickenson, a scientist who was exploring the Himalayas and discovered the entrance to a forgotten kingdom called Kalahia.

After he faints, Bruce discovers that the inhabitants of Kalahia have the ability to change their shape and size at will and that for some reason they decided to give him this ability without his knowledge or consent.

What I really love about this story is how they completely disregard world changing revelations such as the existence of aliens on Mars and multiple dimensions and head straight to the crime fighting.

Bruce convinces the elders of Kalahia to allow him to travel back to his home, accompanied by the daughter of one of the elders named Ollala, because this is the Golden Age of comics and you only need three panels to do anything.

As you can see above, Bruce builds a highly advanced propeller driven plane that he uses to murder people, because the casual murder of suspected criminals is totally justified and doesn’t require any explanation.

The rest of the story involves Thin Man and Olalla foiling a group of mobsters who are trying to collect protection money from a taxi driver.

Thin Man uses his advanced technology and his ability to become as thin as a piece of paper to foil the hoodlums and bring the boss to justice.

 

I like to think that if his adventures had continued that plane would have wracked up one hell of a body count.

So what happened?

Sadly, this origin story would be Thin Man’s first and only Golden Age appearance.

However, Thin Man’s career would get a second wind in the 1970’s when he became part of the World War 2 era Marvel team known as the Liberty Legion.

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He’s on the right of the panel in the green and yellow suit.

Long story short, the Liberty Legion fought a lot of Nazis and Nazi related schemes.

Image result for liberty legion vs the invaders

Thin Man would later reveal to Captain America that he lost his family and connection to his powers after Olalla had returned to her home shortly before it had been discovered and destroyed by a Nazi villain named Agent Axis.

Image result for marvel agent axis

After Agent Axis gloated that he could not be harmed or prosecuted due to his position as a Nazi scientist working for the United States, Thin Man got angry and snapped his neck.  He was arrested by Captain America and sent to prison.

In the 2004 series The New Invaders Thin Man was pardoned by the United States government with the purpose of equipping the new version of his old team with Kalahian technology.

Image result for thin man new invaders

Unfortunately this turned out to be a ruse by the Red Skull, who was disguised as the Secretary of Defense at the time.

Image result for new invaders red skull

Thin Man would wind up creating a warship called The Infiltrator which was a massive battleship designed to be able to cloak itself from any scanner and teleport across dimensions.

The ship wound up sacrificing itself to destroy a doomsday device and saving the world from a villain named U Man.

Image result for new invaders u man

I don’t know if Thin Man was on board the ship or not when it exploded.

Thin Man is an interesting hero for a number of reason.  First, he was the first superhero who could stretch himself and change his form at will, setting the precedent for other heroes such as Reed Richards and Plastic Man.  Also, he was the ambassador of a new and different world within the Marvel universe, and if they had not been destroyed by the Nazis I’m willing to bet that they would have become an integral part of the Marvel Universe.

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Golden Age Showcase: Spider Queen

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You know what we need to talk about more on this blog?  Female superheroes.

The way I see it, if we’re going to talk about female superheroes we should go all the way with it.  We need something daring, something obscure, something so original and new that it has stood the test of time and has never shared any background or history with any other established character.

Image result for golden age spider queen

Huh, that’s a woman swinging from a thread, in a strange costume, and calling herself “Spider Queen”.

This sounds familiar, but I just can’t quite place it.

Origin and career

Spider Queen was published by Fox Features Syndicate, the same company that gave us the original Blue Beetle.

Image result for fox features comics

The Spider Queen first appeared as a back up story in a comic book called The Eagle in September of 1941.

Comic Book Cover For The Eagle #2

The story names a person called Elsa Lesau as the creator.  It would be fantastic if this character was actually created by a woman, but sadly I can’t find any pictures of her.  Also, Elsa may have been a pen name for a writer/artist duo named Louis and Artuo Cazeneuve who were two brothers from Argentina who did a lot of work for Fox and would go on to successful careers as comic book artists.

And this is where I would have a photo of them but alas, Google is a cruel mistress.

It’s worth mentioning that the Golden Age of comics wasn’t very good with things like creators’ rights and giving credit to the people who deserved it so it’s all very up in the air.

Anyway, the Spider Queen was a mild mannered assistant named Sharon Kane.  She worked as an assistant for her husband, a chemist who designed weapons until he was killed by “enemies of the country”.

Comic Book Cover For The Eagle #2

While sifting through the stuff in the lab, Sharon uncovers a formula for a super strong, super sticky thread like substance similar to spider silk.

Comic Book Cover For The Eagle #2

Once she realizes that with great power comes great responsibility, Sharon takes the formula, crafts her own wrist mounted spray guns that she can use to swing across buildings, and dons a costume to become a “sworn enemy to all wrongdoers”.

Isn’t it amazing how “scientist with a fascination with bugs” is such a common trope, especially in comics?  It’s not like anyone’s turned this idea into anything successful.

Image result for spider man

Anyway, over the course of her career The Spider Queen simply contented herself with punching out goons and other small time criminals.  There may have been a budding romance with a detective named Mike O’Bell, but that didn’t pan out because…

So what happened?

She only lasted three issues, and since she was only a backup character she didn’t get a chance to develop as a hero or as a person.

Comic Book Cover For The Eagle #3

The character would have been doomed to comic book purgatory if it wasn’t for the folks at Marvel resurrecting her in a 1993 mini series starring a superhero team known as the Invaders.

Image result for 1993 marvel comics invaders battle axis

In a rather interesting twist, Spider Queen was actually a villain.  In fact she wasn’t just a villain but a Nazi as well.

 Image result for spider queen nazi

To be fair, they give her some justification by explaining that she’s only with the Nazis because they’re fighting the same group of people that killed her husband, but still…nazis.

Plus they gave her costume the 90’s comic book treatment.

Image result for spider queen nazi

Eh, personally I’m on the fence about it.

So that’s the history of the original Spider Queen, but you’re probably wondering if Spider Queen has any thing to do with Marvel’s flagship hero, Spider man.  After all, I have been dropping subtle hints about it throughout the article.

The answer is yes, Spider Queen and Spiderman did meet.  That being said, it got a bit…weird.

Image result for spider man disassembled comic

Long story short, this new Spider Queen was a woman named Adriana Soria who was a failed S.H.I.E.L.D experiment in 1945.

Image result for spider man spider queen

She has super strength, a sonic scream, and the ability to control people with an “insect gene” which allows her to turn people into spider monsters.  One of her victims is Peter Parker.

We’ll ignore the “spiders are not insects” thing and focus on the fact that Peter actually becomes pregnant while in his spider form, dies, and is reborn as a new Spider Man with organic web shooters instead of mechanical ones.

Image result for spider man spider queen

Image result for spider man spider queen

ew.

This version of the Spider Queen would come back as a semi regular Spider Man villain in a couple more stories but other than the fact that this new villain was more of a body horror, all powerful lady spider that’s really all you need to know.

Image result for spider man spider queen death

The Spider Queen was an interesting super heroine.  Sure she didn’t have a very long career as a hero, and her time as a villain was both short and very weird, but I like to think she was a real trailblazer.  She was the first super hero to utilize web shooters as a gimmick and would have one of the most interesting transitional careers as a super villain.

Image result for spider queen golden age comic

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Kickstarter Comics that deserve more attention: Air Pirates vs. the Dragon

Today it’s a pretty simple project.  Instead of a romantic graphic novel or a five part sci fi epic (holy crap, looking back we do a lot of science fiction on this blog) we’re looking at a comic book project that tells an entire story in a single page.

Today we’re looking at Air Pirates vs. the Dragon.

The project is a single large poster detailing a young air pirate’s adventure as she gets swallowed up by a massive dragon and has to escape from the bowels of the beast’s stomach.

The campaign is run by a gentleman named Thane Benson and is looking for $1000 by January 14th, 2017.

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1011388152/air-pirates-vs-the-dragon-a-giant-poster-comic?ref=category_newest

Why I like it

When you hear the word “comic” I’m going to bet a lot of you think of this.

Image result for comic books

There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that some of you might also think of this.

Image result for japanese comic books

While the idea of comic books, pictures and words combining to tell a story, has pretty universal appeal the format of comic books has developed according to the needs of the story and the resources available at the time.

For example, did you know that American comic books tend to be 22 pages long so the artist could produce art on a monthly basis?

It’s important to remember that comics don’t need to conform to a single format, and if you’re a fan of Scot McCloud’s Understanding Comics,

Image result for scott mccloud understanding comics

you know that comic books don’t need to stick to a certain format in order to be considered comics.

This is a comic,

this is a comic,

Image result for comic strip

heck, you could even make the argument that this is a comic.

Image result for egyptian wall paintings

The point is that the word “comic” can mean a lot of things and Air Pirates vs. The Dragon thinks so too.

The entire comic is a single poster that tells the a story.  You follow the numbers on the poster and it walks you through an entire story on a single image.

I think that’s really neat, and I think this project could open the doors for a lot of people to play around with the idea of a comic and come up with some really cool ideas.

Also, the artwork is really cool, colorful, and filled with neat little details that make this a fun and engaging “read”, but you already knew that from looking at that artwork.

Why you should donate

Some of the more pessimistic folks who read this article might dismiss this as a silly gimmick and in a way they’re right, but it’s a silly gimmick that works.

Plus, at some of the higher levels you get your pick of some pretty great pinups and other artwork.

Image result for thane benson artwork

Image result for thane benson artwork

Image result for thane benson artwork

It’s some really creative and cool stuff, definitely worth your time and money.

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1011388152/air-pirates-vs-the-dragon-a-giant-poster-comic?ref=category_newest