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“COMIC BOOK ROYALTY” ISSUE, STARRING AQUAMAN!

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AQUAMAN, MERA, AND CAMELOT 3000 TM & © DC COMICS. DR. DOOM TM & © MARVEL CHARACTERS, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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PRO2PRO: Mike W. Barr & Brian Bolland

Doctor Doctor Doom: Doom: Monarch Monarch or or Monster? Monster?

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Why Jack Kirby was King!

ALAN WEISS ART GALLERY ! SUB-MARINER ! ARION, LORD OF ATLANTIS ! DON McGREGOR’S BLACK PANTHER ! WOLFMAN AND COLAN’S NIGHT FORCE ELVIS AND SHAZAM JR.! and PRINCE in comics!


Volume 1, Number 27 April 2008

The Retro Comics Experience!

Celebrating the Best Comics of the '70s, '80s, and Today! EDITOR Michael Eury PUBLISHER John Morrow DESIGNER Rich J. Fowlks COVER ARTIST Nick Cardy

BACK SEAT DRIVER: Editorial by Michael Eury . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

COVER COLORIST Glenn Whitmore

FLASHBACK: The Roiling Seas of Aquaman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3 The Sea King’s on-again, off-again ’70s/’80s adventures

COVER DESIGNER Michael Kronenberg

FLASHBACK: Sub-Mariner: Proud Prince or Perennial Punching Bag? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15 The anti-social Sovereign of the Seas as a superteam social butterfly

CIRCULATION DIRECTOR Bob Brodsky, Cookiesoup Productions

ALAN WEISS ART GALLERY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24 Eye-popping illos from the artist of Spider-Man, Steelgrip Starkey, and Tom Strong

SPECIAL THANKS Joe Ahearn Jim Alexander Roger Ash Mike W. Barr Al Bigley Brian Bolland Randy Bowen Tom Brevoort John Byrne Nick Cardy Joe Casey Dewey Cassell Sean Clarke Gene Colan Gerry Conway DC Comics Mike DeCarlo Angela Fowlks Keith Giffen Grand Comic-Book Database Dave Guiterrez Heritage Comics Auctions Eric Houston Tony Isabella Dan Johnson Rob Kelly Jim Kingman David Anthony Kraft Joe Kulbiski Paul Kupperberg Erik Larsen Bob Layton Stan Lee

Paul Levitz Steve Lipsky Bruce MacIntosh Andy Mangels Yoram Matzkin Dwayne McDuffie Don McGregor Sean Menard David Michelinie Bernie Mireault Allen Milgrom Brian K. Morris Tomas Pardo Robby Reed Rico Renzi Bob Rozakis Jaynelle Rude Steve Rude Rose Rummel-Eury Jim Salicrup John Schwirian Jim Shooter Steve Skeates Anthony Snyder Tom Stewart Roy Thomas Tusky the Walrus Mark Waid Jim Warden Alan Weiss Brett Weiss Pauline Weiss Marv Wolfman

BRING ON THE BAD GUYS: Doctor Doom: Monarch or Monster? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30 The lethal Lord of Latveria and his unusual role as supervillain monarch BRING ON THE BAD GUYS BONUS: All Hail Baron Zemo! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36 An astounding pinup of the Captain America rogue by Genial Gene Colan BEYOND CAPES: Arion: From Atlantis to New York and Beyond . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37 The story of DC’s Lord of Atlantis, with a special tribute to colorist Bob LeRose PRO2PRO: Mike W. Barr and Brian Bolland Return to Camelot . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .45 A lavishly illustrated interview exploring King Arthur’s return in Camelot 3000 FLASHBACK: Black Panther: Don McGregor in the Jungles of Wakanda . . . . . . . . . . . . .57 The groundbreaking writer recalls his collaboration with artist Billy Graham FLASHBACK BONUS: Jungle Adventure! Jack Kirby Arrives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .62 Kirby’s return to Prince T’Challa, the Black Panther OFF MY CHEST: Why Jack Kirby Was King . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .64 An all-star lineup of artists, writers, and editors discusses comics’ real-life “King” BEYOND CAPES: Forces of the Night, What Horrors They Faced: Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan’s Night Force . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .71 The co-creators remember Baron Winters and his supernatural superteam BACKSTAGE PASS: Elvis and Captain Marvel, Jr. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .75 How the World’s Mightiest Boy inspired the King of Rock and Roll WHAT THE--?!: The Most Famous Prince in the History of Comics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .82 The pompadoured purple performer’s comics moonlighting gigs BACK TALK . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .84 Reader feedback on “Men of Steel” issue #25 BACK ISSUE™ is published bimonthly by TwoMorrows Publishing, 10407 Bedfordtown Drive, Raleigh, NC 27614. Michael Eury, Editor. John Morrow, Publisher. Editorial Office: BACK ISSUE, c/o Michael Eury, Editor, 118 Edgewood Avenue NE, Concord, NC 28025. E-mail: euryman@msn.com. Six-issue subscriptions: $40 Standard US, $54 First Class US, $66 Canada, $90 Surface International, $108 Airmail International. Please send subscription orders and funds to TwoMorrows, NOT to the editorial office. Cover art by Nick Cardy. Aquaman and Mera TM & © DC Comics. All Rights Reserved. All characters are © their respective companies. All material © their creators unless otherwise noted. All editorial matter © 2008 Michael Eury and TwoMorrows Publishing. BACK ISSUE is a TM of TwoMorrows Publishing. ISSN 1932-6904. Printed in Canada. FIRST PRINTING. C o m i c

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Voyage to the bottom of the sea with the queen of Atlantis, Mera. Sketch by Nick Cardy, courtesy of Bruce MacIntosh. TM & © DC Comics.

PROOFREADERS John Morrow and Eric Nolen-Weathington


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John Schwirian

I still vividly remember my first Aquaman comic book! It was Adventure Comics #442 (Nov.–Dec. 1975), with Aquaman on the cover leaping over the heads of a group of scroungy sailors as they launched a nuclear missile into the sky—complete with the caption “Can Aquaman Stop a Nuclear Nightmare? H is for Holocaust!” My 11-year-old pulse pounded—how in the world can Aquaman do it? I had to know, and thus began my love affair with the world of Aquaman. My timing could not have been any better. In 1975, Aquaman was undergoing a renaissance—a second surging in his on-again, off-again popularity. Every Saturday morning, he appeared on television as one of the core Super Friends, battling misguided scientists. And every day after school, he (along with Superman and Batman) starred in the half-hour syndicated reruns of the classic 1967 Filmation animated series, where he faced deadly menaces like Black Manta, the Fisherman, the Torpedo, and the Brain! Yet, oddly enough, while I was thrilled daily by Aquaman’s televised exploits, I could not find him on the comicbook rack! What was going on here? For the answer, one has to travel back to 1971. Aquaman had his own bimonthly title, produced by the fan-favorite team of writer Steve Skeates, artist Jim Aparo, and editor Dick Giordano, all transplanted to DC Comics from small-time competitor Charlton Comics. The SAG team (as they were called by the fans) had taken Aquaman to new heights. Providing fast action pacing in the manner of rival Marvel Comics, SAG successfully infused a sense of excitement and energy into the series in a long-running epic storyline

Unseen Aquaman Aquaman—in his totally ’80s blue suit— battles the fish-monster Sreng in this unpublished version of the cover for issue #2 of the 1986 Aquaman miniseries, penciled by Craig Hamilton and inked by Rick Bryant. The art was watercolored in 1992 by Lurene Haines. Courtesy of Jim Warden of Distinctive Original Art (www.doasales.com). TM & © DC Comics.

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King-Sized Egos The “SAG” (Skeates/Aparo/Giordano) team evolved the formerly bland Aquaman into a realistic monarch often torn between devotions to his family and kingdom. Page 7 from Aquaman #53 (Sept.–Oct. 1970), with arch-enemy Black Manta; special thanks to Heritage Comics Auctions. TM & © DC Comics.

which sent Aquaman globe-hopping in search of his missing wife, Mera, also separating the Sea King from his sidekick, Aqualad. Additionally, they had finally given Aquaman a personality. No longer was he the bland cookie-cutter superhero. Now he was the impatient king—used to giving orders and to being obeyed. Aquaman’s easily aroused temper first emerged here, an outgrowth perhaps of Skeates’ personal issues with superheroes as being too self-righteous in their use of Might to enforce their personal views of Right. However, Skeates was able to carefully craft a balance between the angry hero and the clear-thinking king. Skeates explains that “in order to make him even more heroic, I decided to portray him as a good king, a worthy leader, and I honestly saw no conflict betwixt that and my own political beliefs. Still, our hero here did come off by the end of our first story arc a bit stodgy, something I tried to offset a couple of issues later via portraying the more liberal aspects of Aquaman’s leadership, more specifically his belief in free speech, a belief that remained intact even when the speech that was

“Big Argument” Cover The rejected, unpublished version of Nick Cardy’s cover to Aquaman #43 (Jan.–Feb. 1969). Original art scan courtesy of Heritage Comics Auctions (www.ha.com). TM & © DC Comics.

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going on constituted a personal attack upon his own royal self!” Yet while the SAG approach was a hit with the fans, it still could not save Aquaman from cancellation. Giordano decided to step down from his editorial position at DC in order to go into business with fellow artist Neal Adams, leaving editorial director Carmine Infantino to decide the fates of the books under Giordano’s guidance. Steve Skeates recounts his theories as to what happened: “Even though he was leaving, Dick wanted to keep the Aquaman book going, wanted to edit it on a freelance basis. However, Carmine, who had had problems with Dick—for example, a big argument over the cover to Aquaman #43 (Jan.–Feb. 1969) which Carmine had designed while Dick was on a vacation and in doing so had broken one of Dick’s primary editorial rules, that the cover of a book should not emphasize a scene that isn’t even in the story itself—figured Dick would be even harder to deal with as a freelance editor, and therefore (despite sales figures that weren’t really all that bad) he cancelled the book!”


AQUAMAN AND HIS SUPER FRIENDS

Ramona Returns (below) Detail from the cover of DC’s Super Friends #5 (June 1977), penciled by Silver Age Aqua-artist Ramona Fradon, who also sketched the Sea King (at left) for collector Rob Kelly. TM & © DC Comics.

TM & © DC Comics.

Other than appearing in Justice League of America, a guest-shot as “Aquaboy” in Superboy #171 (Jan. 1971), a team-up with Superman in World’s Finest Comics #203 (June 1971), and the Aquaman “Annual” in Super DC Giant #S-26 (July–Aug. 1971), Aquaman fell out of public view. That is, until 1973, when the Hanna-Barbera-produced Super Friends cartoon hit ABC television’s Saturday morning line-up, featuring the roster of Superman, Batman (and Robin), Wonder Woman, and Aquaman! Yes, thanks to the success of the Filmation Studios’ Aquaman animated series of the late 1960s, the H-B producers felt that Aquaman, out of all the possible DC superheroes, had the recognition factor necessary to be a member of their new cartoon show. After a four-year absence since Filmation’s DC-inspired cartoons faded from the airwaves, DC’s greatest heroes were back on television, and Super Friends stayed on the air in one form or another for 14 years. [Editor’s note: BACK ISSUE #30, shipping in September 2008, will examine both the Super Friends TV show and DC’s spin-off comic series.] Thus began the greatest, and worst, thing to ever happen to the Marine Marvel. Most people recognize Aquaman instantly due to his lengthy run as one of the Super Friends. Unfortunately, people also remember how poorly he was portrayed on the series. Aquaman is frequently the butt of a joke, as comedians pose questions like: “What good are Aquaman’s powers? I mean, he’s great if you need someone to talk to fish, but how many crimes happen underwater?” Sadly, this makes it hard to be an Aquaman fan! Oddly enough, the initial success of the Super Friends did not have a direct impact on the return of Aquaman to his own series. According to Paul Levitz, president and publisher of DC Comics, the editors were not influenced by the animated series: “On some level it was in the psyche but I don’t think there was a lot of spillover at the time.” Instead, other factors were at work, bringing the Sea King back to the newsstand.

AQUAMAN’S ORLANDO ADVENTURE

Looking back to 1973, Paul Levitz recalls the factors involved: “Joe Orlando had taken over [editing] Adventure Comics after Supergirl was pulled out, or I guess Joe did the last issues with Supergirl as well, but when Supergirl moved over to [editor] Dorothy Woolfolk, Joe was casting about for what to do in the book. It was the company’s oldest surviving title, I think, at that point. There was no great passion for canceling it, but nobody had a really good idea of what to with it. So Joe tried out a number of different features and progressively moved more towards the borders of the superhero—things like the Black Orchid.” [Editor’s note: Other features appearing in the Orlando Adventure issues were the “Adventurers’ Club”, the “Vigilante”, and the pirate strip “Captain Fear”.] “By ’73,” Levitz continues, “I was working as Joe’s assistant, and as an old superhero fan [I was] agitating for things that moved more in a direction that I had enjoyed or that I thought belonged in the missing superhero titles, [and] Joe started “Aquaman” while I was there. So either Steve Skeates had come in saying, ‘Gee, I enjoyed writing this, can I do some for you,’ or I had nudged Joe about Aquaman and one way or another he kind of stumbled on it and tried it out.” At this point, “The Spectre”, written by Michael Fleisher and illustrated by one-time Aquaman artist Jim Aparo, was the lead feature in Joe Orlando’s Adventure C o m i c

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Bruce MacIntosh Admit it: At some point you’ve called Marvel Comics’ aquatic anti-hero “Sub-muh-REEN-er.” Well, in spite of the pronunciation of that undersea vehicle with a periscope, Sub-Mariner’s creator, Bill Everett, says that the character was inspired by the epic poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (MARE-ih-ner). Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, was not only one of comics’ first superheroes, he was unquestionably the premier anti-hero. His unique blend of equal parts angst and anger made him an irresistible subject for editors and writers of Timely Comics in the ’40s and ’50s, as well as its progeny—Marvel— in the ’60s and beyond. The problem was, however, that there were only so many times he could attack America for revenge for the crimes of Man against Atlantis, so sadly he was often portrayed as the spoiled bully getting his come-uppance. Writers struggled to keep Subby relevant as the anger of the Revolutionary ’60s gave way to the experimentation of the ’70s and the “Me Generation” of the ’80s. His focus changed in the span of those latter two decades, as the Sub-Mariner moved from being the Avenging Scion of his undersea kingdom—Atlantis—to contrite exile, to Crown Prince, and back again to exile. In the process, the avowed loner became the social butterfly, joining almost every team and making frequent guest appearances in most Marvel superhero titles.

A QUICK DIP THROUGH NAMOR’S HISTORY

Before examining Namor’s appearances in the 1970s and 1980s (the BACK ISSUE era), we should start by briefly visiting his origins. The Sub-Mariner was originally “published” in a movie-theater giveaway called Motion Picture Funnies Weekly. Only eight of these promotional comics are known to exist, having been discovered in the estate of their deceased publisher in 1974, so it is uncertain whether they ever reached the public. That story, and the character Sub-Mariner, came from the mind of creator Bill Everett, who at the time worked for Funnies, Inc., a studio that created comics and sold them to comic publishers. Everett soon re-used the character, packaged with other stories, in Timely’s first comic, appropriately dubbed Marvel Comics #1 (1939). Sub-Mariner soon became one of the “Big Three” characters at Timely, the others being the (original) Human Torch and Captain America.

The Burden of the Throne The Prince’s pondering won’t last for long … Marvelites know Sub-Mariner will be in a brawl in just a matter of panels. Detail from the splash of Sub-Mariner #60 (Apr. 1973), laid out by Sam Kweskin and finished by Jim Mooney. © 2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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Sub-Mariner Comics ran 32 issues, until superhero titles from all comics publishers sank like a rock in 1949. The title was resumed in 1954 and ran for another nine issues until it was harpooned for good after issue #42 (Oct. 1955). Following the immediate success of Stan Lee’s and Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four (which had already put a new face on another Golden Age character, the Human Torch), Marvel Comics dusted off Subby in FF #4 (May 1962). There was magic in the Marvel “Bullpen” and money in revitalized Golden Age characters, so the Prince of Atlantis was included in as many comics as possible during the 1960s (including what turned out to be a 1967 one-shot shared mag with Iron Man) until publishing and distribution restrictions were lifted and Marvel granted him another eponymous series in 1968. Sub-Mariner #1 (May 1968) recounted the story of his origin: He was born of a human seafaring captain and blue-skinned Atlantean mother. His father, Leonard McKenzie, was supposedly killed when his mother’s protectors came to find their Princess Fen. The pinkskinned Namor was born nine months later, and though he was the heir by blood to the throne of the underwater

Avenging Hubby Subby Two issues after the murder of his beloved Lady Dorma, Namor cries out for vengeance on this powerful Roy Thomas/Ross Andru/ Jim Mooney splash from Sub-Mariner #39 (July 1971). Courtesy of Heritage Comics Auctions. © 2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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kingdom, suffered the disrespect of his contemporaries and taunts of “halfbreed.” He was thus tempered in his formative years by the competing expectations of royalty and the need to defend his rightful claim— both verbally and physically—against those of full (literally) blue-blooded pretenders. This imbued Namor with selfassurance to the point of arrogance, and a persecution complex tightly wound around his hair-trigger temper. This explosive combination led to an unending series of tragedies for the Maritime Monarch in the ’70s and ’80s. Time and tide wait for no man—not even the Sub-Mariner—and as the ’60s turned into the ’70s, Namor was restored the ability to breathe underwater, which had literally grounded him a couple years earlier (in issue #22, the first to appear on the stands in the ’70s). Then, after US Army poisonous gas canisters wiped out some Atlantean outposts, Namor waged war against America. He ordered a deadly missile fired at soldiers in New York, but physically diverted it himself when he saw civilians present. He was still mad, however, so he sought to ally with Earth’s other undersea civilization, Lemuria. (They had green skin.) Unfortunately, he arrived after Lemuria’s throne was overthrown by the evil Llyra, who desired to conquer sea and land alike. Llyra was supposedly killed in a brief battle with Namor. In a tale with as many turns as a seahorse race, Namor finally got to the altar in Sub-Mariner #37 (May 1971), only to find out that his beloved Lady Dorma was the evil Llyra in disguise. She thought that having said his vows to her—though she was dissembled as his bride—would have resulted in an unbreakable marriage. She was wrong, however, because Dorma had actually said her vows earlier and the ceremony was merely a formality. This angered Llyra, who returned to her lair and killed Dorma. Following the funeral, the Sub-Mariner abdicated the throne of Atlantis and proceeded to take out his remorse on New York. Later, he found out that his father, long thought dead, was very much alive and had been kidnapped by that nasty Llyra and Tiger Shark. Tragedy followed Namor like a shark to the scent of blood, and naturally Dad got killed within minutes of meeting his long-lost son. One of the most interesting events of the SubMariner’s “Marvel Age” series actually happened near its conclusion: Due to exposure to deadly nerve gas, Namor was in danger of suffocating because he couldn’t process his own natural moistures. In Sub-Mariner #67 (Nov. 1973), Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four replaced Namor’s scaly green swim trunks with a black leather costume that would have made him the pride of any biker bar if it weren’t for the half-calf leggings and booties (designed to allow his ankle wings room to flap). The costume wasn’t just a fashion statement, as Richards explained the “wetsuit” was designed to recycle moisture from Subby’s own pores while out of water. Why give him a “hero” costume at all? Roy Thomas lamented in his own Alter Ego magazine (vol. 3 #70, July 2007) that Sub-Mariner “was always #3 of the ‘Big Three’ in the 1940s. I suspect it’s partly because he didn’t have a costume… I hate to come up with something as crass as that, but that’s part of the reason for John Romita and me giving him that costume near the end.” Then, an unusual inter-company “crossover” occurred as the Sub-Mariner series drew to a close


Subby’s New Wetsuit Detail from John Romita, Sr.’s cover to Sub-Mariner #67 (Nov. 1973), unveiling Namor’s leather threads. © 2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.

with issue #72 (Sept. 1974) and a two-part story started at DC was concluded at Marvel! In 1971, writer Steve Skeates—then writing Aquaman for DC Comics—started a tale in issue #56 (Mar.–Apr. 1971) called “The Creature That Devoured Detroit.” That story was part one of two, and told of a new superhero with bad eyesight who invented a satellite that would shed light at night so he could fight nocturnal crime and still see what was going on! The unexpected side effect was that it caused explosive growth in algae that threatened to devour the city, until Aquaman broke into the satellite’s control center and—according to the murky final panels—was about to push the button to destroy it…

…but unfortunately, Aquaman was cancelled after the first part of the story, with issue #56, so readers never got to see the conclusion. That is, until Skeates moved over to Marvel and coincidentally scripted the final issue of that company’s aquatic adventurer. This provided him a unique opportunity to finally conclude the tale he had been waiting over three years to tell. Sub-Mariner #72 picked up right where Aquaman #56 left off: An unidentified glove presses the satellite destruct button, the resulting explosion sending a green, protoplasmic alien life form hurtling to Earth. The original “Aquaman” version was to be that he was to have learned that he had lost both his ability of communicating telepathically with aquatic creatures and the ability to breathe underwater. Now it was Subby, and instead he briefly lost his sight! In spite of the temporary disability, he was still able to squeeze the algae-being hard enough to squirt its glutinous head off into space, and wander off lamenting his ability to ever restore his comatose Atlantean subjects to life. Subby did regain his eyesight within a couple of pages, just in time to conclude his series and ponder his fate. Roy Thomas, in his final editorial text box on the “Send It to Subby” letters page, confidently advised, “[S]hed no salty tears for the Avenging Son … because we have other plans for him—big plans.” Before we find out what those big plans were, let’s backtrack about a year— to one of Roy’s most enduring and beloved creations: C o m i c

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Namor by Bill Everett A 1970 Subby convention sketch by the character’s creator. Courtesy of Heritage Comics Auctions (www.ha.com). © 2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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Alan Weiss—whose artistic résumé includes Warlock, Shazam!, Spectacular Spider-Man, Steelgrip Starkey, War Dancer, Tom Strong, and the Elseworlds Batman: The Blue, the Grey, and the Bat—was scheduled to be interviewed in this issue, but circumstances beyond our control prohibited the interview’s completion. The interview will appear in a future issue. In the meantime, courtesy of the ultra-talented artist and his very helpful wife Pauline, we are proud to present this six-page gallery of Weiss wizardry.

No “Comic Book Royalty” issue would be complete without a curtsey to Prince Valiant, seen here in a 2004 pencil commission. Alan’s pencil prowess is also on display in this stunning pinup of Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone. Prince Valiant © 2008 King Features Syndicate. Elric © 2008 Michael Moorcock.

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Two of Marvel’s sexiest superheroines, Tigra (left) and Valkyrie (below left), get the Weiss treatment in recent commissions, as does a pairing of Prince T’Challa, the Black Panther (featured in this issue) and Alan’s own character (from Defiant Comics), War Dancer (below right). Tigra, Valkyrie, and Black Panther © 2008 Marvel Characters, Inc. War Dancer © 2008 Alan Weiss.

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Eric Houston In the middle of Europe, surrounded by Transylvania, Symkaria, and the Carpathians, lies the tiny country of Latveria. Home to only 500,000, Latveria remains one of the most powerful nations in all of Europe—well, the Marvel Universe Europe, anyway. Its people appear peaceful and happy, and crime is relatively unheard of within Latverian borders. This peace and power are both gifts from the country’s unquestioned ruler, Victor von Doom. To the world at large, he is Doctor Doom, a villain—a monster, even—who has tried time and again to overthrow the Earth and kill the Fantastic Four, although not necessarily in that order. Yet, his relationship with his own people is never in question. In the relatively rare visits to his homeland, Doom has been portrayed both as a gracious monarch to his people and as a power-mad monster, leaving readers to wonder, Which is the truth? If one were to look at those classic stories which saw the Fantastic Four face their greatest enemy within Latveria’s borders, would they find a monarch or a monster—or, as is so often the case with Doom, is the answer much more complex?

VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED

The Doctor is In Jack Kirby pencils to the “Doom’s Dispatch” section of Marvel’s house fanzine, Marvelmania #1 (Apr. 1970). Courtesy of Al Bigley. © 2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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Early within their legendary run on Fantastic Four, creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby came up with the idea for Doctor Doom, a villain who they felt had a unique background: He was king of his own country. Stan Lee explains, “I had never read of a supervillain who was a king, so I thought it would be cool. It gave me lots of advantages because I could give him diplomatic immunity.” Still, in those early years, visits to Latveria were scarce. Indeed, outside of Doom’s origin story, in Fantastic Four Annual #2 (1964), most of the book’s visits to Latveria took place either within Doom’s castle walls or as single-panel shots of villagers cowering fearfully outside. Of course, comic-book readers had met villains who ruled their own nations and even planets before. Ming the Merciless of the planet Mongo from Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon springs to mind immediately. Such worlds, Mongo in particular, were horrifying visions of futures that could come to be on Earth, rife with oppressed, downtrodden citizens, cowering beneath the heel of a fascist government and all-powerful army. Thus, readers must have been surprised by what they saw of Latveria in those early appearances. Doom’s nation was not some sort of futuristic, Orwellian dystopia, but a peaceful European village,


Ming the Merciless The prototypical malevolent monarch, as excerpted from master Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon Sunday strip of March 13, 1936. © 2008 King Features Syndicate.

populated by smiling people. Looking at one of Jack Kirby’s panels of a typical Latverian street is almost like looking at a tourist brochure for Oktoberfest. There are no fascist armies marching the streets of Doom’s Latveria, nor is there a slave class of lizard men toiling in chains beneath the surface. It seemed from the start that Doom might be a different kind of villain king, one who might actually care for his people. Indeed, one of the final pages of Doom’s aforementioned origin story shows Doom walking the streets of a Latverian village. He is unaccompanied by guards, robot or human, as his citizens happily and fearlessly gather around him, wishing him well in word and thought. From the very start, part of what made Doom stand out from other villains was the complexity of his character. “I always felt that the thing that set Doom apart from most other supervillains is the fact that he didn’t ever feel he was doing anything wrong,” explains Stan Lee. “To me, Victor von Doom was a very complex character and one that I cared about very much.” True enough, Stan and Jack went to great lengths in Doom’s origin story and elsewhere to create a truly sympathetic villain. He was, after all, a man with a tragic past and real motivations—as a youth he lost both of his parents to the same royal soldiers who constantly harassed his gypsy band, and spent much of his time and genius in learning spells and building devices designed to free his mother from Hell—but he was also the man who unapologetically tried to kill our heroes time and again. Still, this sympathetic side easily lead readers to believe that maybe the glimpses they saw of Latveria were true. Maybe the man who so terrorized the world truly loved and protected a small part of it. Finally, in Fantastic Four #84–87 (Mar.–June 1969), Stan and Jack sought to make their thoughts on Doom and Latveria clear once and for all. In those landmark issues, the Fantastic Four enter Latveria on a mission from Nick Fury. Their orders: Find and destroy Doom’s secret army. Upon entering the country, the four heroes are shocked to find themselves welcomed with open arms. In fact, the local burgermeister has even declared it “Fantastic Four Fiesta Day” in their honor. During the festivities, a television screen rises from the street and Doom welcomes the FF, declaring them citizens of Latveria and beckoning them, “Be eternally happy, or else, you die!” As the FF struggle to discover Doom’s secret army and recover their missing powers, robbed via hypnosis, they also begin to discover the truth of Latveria. Initially, Reed, Ben, and Johnny are shocked discover what the readers had seen for years in those single-panel appearances: a quaint, happy European village. At first blush, Latverian life is positively idyllic. The people seem to want for nothing. Ornate meals are even provided on demand, completely free of charge. Better yet, the food is so good that the Thing is forced to admit, “This joint’s got the Yancy Pizza Palace beat all to hallow!” Meanwhile, elsewhere in the issue, Doom himself declares to a disloyal citizen, “Have I told you how dearly I love my subjects? The welfare of my people is ever closest to my heart!” Yet, while readers had seen only those fleeting glimpses of Latveria, the Fantastic Four are now seeing the world between the panels, and all is not as happy as it seems. The smiles on the Latverian people seem false, almost painted-on. Even Johnny Storm, usually the last member of the FF to realize the obvious, is quick to comment, “Despite the banners and bands, the people move around like sleepwalkers!” Reed continues the observation: “The mood of fear and oppression,” he says, “is so thick and heavy, you can almost touch it.” Still, Reed and Johnny don’t know how right they are. As the Fantastic Four enjoy their meal, the readers are whisked away to Castle Doom, only to learn a horrifying truth: Doom’s secret army,

I Can’t Drive 55 As the ruler of Latervia, Doom enjoys diplomatic immunity, as this panel from Daredevil #37 (Feb. 1968) reminds us. © 2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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The magic is dying. And the court sorcerer of Atlantis knows it. Fortunately, no one else does … not yet. Not his ruler nor his lover nor his best friend— and especially not the savage sub-men who roam the edges of Atlantis’ boundaries, seeking a weakness in the land’s sorcerous defenses, to say nothing of his in-court enemies, angered by the young wizard’s arrogance. And then there are the enemies he can’t even see, the ones who await the opportunity to strike from lands beyond the earthly plains. As the magic dies, the sorcerer undergoes a journey, one that moves him from the jeweled capital city of soon-to-be sunken Atlantis to a deli in Brooklyn and eventually Metropolis. But the first step is taken in Derby, Connecticut…

“ … THE WHOLE ISLAND AND THE OCEAN WERE CALLED ATLANTIS.”

Charlton Publications was unique in comics history in that it not only owned its own distribution company, but its own printing presses as well. Publishing its diverse line of magazines wasn’t always enough to keep the plates constantly inked, so printing comic books took up the slack. Notorious for paying some of the lowest rates in the industry, Charlton Comics allowed its writers and artists more creative freedom to compensate. Under editor George Wildman, Charlton experienced a new level of creativity from veterans like Joe Gill, Steve Ditko, and Pat Boyette, while bringing in newer talents such as John Byrne, Mike Zeck, Joe Staton, Bob Layton, and Paul Kupperberg.

Arion’s First Stab Luckily for the Lord of Atlantis, Arion survived this cliffhanger ending to his very first adventure in The Warlord #56 (Apr. 1982). Script by Paul Kupperberg, art by Jan Duursema. All art in this article is courtesy of Paul Kupperberg, unless otherwise noted. TM & © DC Comics.

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Early “Tynan” Takes Before they became pro artists at Marvel Comics, penciler John Byrne and inker Duffy Vohland brought “Tynan” to visual life, as did then-newcomer Mike Zeck. TM & © DC Comics.

Already selling a story to Charlton’s horror magazines with Scary Tales #5 (Apr. 1976), Paul Kupperberg worked up a proposal for an ongoing series that would be called Atlantis. In college, the writer was completely familiar with the philosopher Plato’s metaphorical concept of Atlantis and “really tried to make my version of Atlantis as close to his idea as I could, although I changed plenty.” Kupperberg recalls of his story’s protagonist, “I think I intended to kind of create him via the backdoor by using the same protagonist in several stories and, before you know it, I’d have an ongoing character that maybe I could convince them to use on a regular basis in his own strip.” However, the Atlantis proposal was never submitted. Kupperberg drew his inspiration primarily from Larry Niven’s The Magic Goes Away, where magic, like petroleum today, is discovered to be a non-renewable resource and science becomes an alternative energy source of sorts. “When I steal,” boasts Kupperberg, “I steal from the best.” Fast forward to the early ’80s. Kupperberg now wrote for DC Comics, regularly scripting the adventures of the Superman family, the Doom Patrol, and the Vigilante, among many others. Word reached him that editor Laurie Sutton was looking for a new backup feature for The Warlord. With the combination of science and sorcery in the title strip, backups ranging in style from “OMAC” to “Claw the Unconquered” proved complementary. With the prominence of Atlantis not

Arion Proposal To secure a spot in the back pages of Warlord, Paul Kupperberg rewrote his “Atlantis” proposal for editor Laurie Sutton’s approval. Remarkably, the concept translated from conception to printed page, with the exception of the hero’s and series’ names. 3 8

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Roger Ash

cond ucte d Octo ber 11, 2007

Only a King Can Save Us King Arthur to the rescue in this exquisitely drawn Brian Bolland Camelot 3000 pinup. Courtesy of Tomas Pardo. TM & © DC Comics.

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Beginnings: The Elongated Man story “Magical Mystery Mirror” in Detective Comics #444 (Dec. 1974–Jan. 1975) [editor Julius Schwartz’s first issue after Archie Goodwin left the title]

Milestones: Detective Comics (DC) / Batman and The Outsiders (co-creator, DC) Batman: Full Circle (DC) / Batman: Son of the Demon (DC) The Maze Agency (creator, Comico, etc.) / Mantra (creator, Malibu) / Star Trek (DC) / Star Trek: Gemini novel/ Silver Age Sci-Fi Companion (TwoMorrows)

Works in Progress: A new series for TokyoPop set to debut in 2008 / “a couple fantasy novels I’m shopping around”

Mike W. Barr Comic Scene photo courtesy of Mike W. Barr.

Beginnings: Powerman series (1975) [not the Marvel hero, but an African hero whose comic was produced in the UK but initially only sold in Nigeria]

Milestones: Judge Dredd (2000AD) / Batman: The Killing Joke (DC) / covers for various DC titles including Animal Man, Wonder Woman, Vamps, and Green Lantern

Works in Progress: Re-coloring Killing Joke for the Batman: The Killing Joke Special Edition hardcover (DC) / covers for Jack of Fables (DC/Vertigo) / the cover for the final Grant Morrison Doom Patrol collection (DC/Vertigo) / “Mr. Mamoulian” for Negative Burn (Desperado)

Brian Bolland Comic Scene photo courtesy of Mike W. Barr.

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In the year 3000, aliens from the tenth planet, under the guidance of Morgan Le Fay, have invaded Earth. This threat brings about the return of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Thus begins Camelot 3000, the rollicking science-fiction series by writer Mike W. Barr and artist Brian Bolland. Begun in 1982, this groundbreaking DC series featured a number of firsts, which Mike and Brian were kind enough to discuss; they also share some behind-the-scene stories. – Roger Ash ROGER ASH: How did Camelot 3000 come to be? MIKE W. BARR: As I’ve written before, I had taken a course in Arthurian Literature in college. When you study the Arthurian mythos, one of the first things that you learn is that the stories don’t really come to an end. King Arthur is out there kind of sleeping, recovering from the grievous wound he received at the end of Le Morte D’Arthur, waiting for his return. I thought it would be cool to do a science-fiction sequel to those stories. I had that idea around 1974 or ’75. I hung onto it until years later when DC was looking for projects. One year I submitted Camelot 3000 to them. It got rejected. The next year I submitted it again, and that time it was accepted. BRIAN BOLLAND: Who did you submit it to and who rejected it? BARR: I believe it was submitted to Joe Orlando’s office. I don’t know if he made the actual rejection and acceptance. ASH: Had the proposal changed at all? BARR: I don’t believe so, no. I believe I just submitted the same one. Oddly enough, in-between that time, I had submitted to Marvel, and received an acceptance, to do what became Camelot 3000 in one of their black-and-white magazines. Either I never got around to doing it, or there was some kind of a cancellation in their black-and-white magazines before I could do anything with it. But it never went anywhere at Marvel. Then, when DC was looking around for an artist, there were a number of names that were thrown around. Brian had done a lot of work by that time already. The American companies were just beginning to become cognizant of the fact that there was this untapped stream of talent over in Britain. ASH: Was this your first major work in the US, Brian? BOLLAND: Yes, it was. I was always a DC Comics fan, an American comic-book fan, so I knew all the artists and all the books. I was quite keen to get in on that whole thing. When my work on “Judge Dredd” in 2000AD was popular, through an accident which I’ve told a number of times, Joe Staton, the artist on Green Lantern at the time, came to borrow the spare drawing table in the flat where I lived in London. Through conversation with him, I said I’d really love to do a cover on a Green Lantern comic. He phoned up Jack Harris, who was the editor on Green Lantern, and Jack said, “Okay! Great! Let’s get this guy to do a cover.” Once the logistics of that seemed to work out okay, I think I became the first of a kind of brain drain of artists and writers from over here that drifted across the Atlantic. BARR: I think you probably were. Of course, it was unheard of for almost anyone to work at DC unless you were actually physically in the New York area. BOLLAND: That’s right. The fact that we were working from across the Atlantic seemed like a huge obstacle.


And he came, leaping out at us (with some odd foreshortening) from the cover of Fantastic Four #52 (July 1966), a creation of the team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. He’s the Black Panther (named before activist Huey Newton’s group), the first black superhero. In the issue, the FF is invited to visit the ruler of Wakanda, an African kingdom that none of the Four have heard of before (and they’re bribed with a cool high-tech plane if they come. Nothing Reed Richards likes more than cool tech). It’s a trap (of sorts)! The ruler, T’Challa, is the Black Panther, a title (and uniform) passed from chieftain to chieftain. He uses the invitation to go all “Most Dangerous Game” on the FF, hunting them through what Lee calls a “hightech jungle,” but what Kirby depicts as a huge room of Kirby-tech. The Panther almost defeats the FF, and if it wasn’t for that pesky Wyatt Wingfoot (Johnny Storm’s college roommate), he’d have gotten away with it! Turns out the Panther is a cool guy, using the FF to help train him to square off against his ultimate enemy, Klaw (a rather disappointing take on the “great white hunter” yarn). The Panther decides to leave Wakanda and go out into the wider world to help all of mankind. End of twoissue story. So, what has this to do with Don McGregor’s Panther? When Don got to write the character in 1973, he was proofreading for Marvel, reading everything that Marvel put out (and getting paid for it!), including Jungle Action. At the time, you’d almost have to get paid to read Jungle Action. It was part of the flood of titles from Marvel in the early ’70s, a deluge aimed at grabbing more of the shelf space away from DC Comics. DC and Marvel were playing the “blink first” game, and Marvel was stuffing old ’50s Atlas-era stories between new Gil Kane covers and slapping them out as Jungle Action. “Jann of the Jungle” and “Lorna, the Jungle Girl” were back (with nice Joe Maneely art), once again swinging through the jungle in Tarzan’s wake, playing Great White God to the poor black natives. While silly if forgivable in the ’50s, it was embarrassing in the supposedly enlightened ’70s. Don McGregor, proofing all this stuff and growing more and more disbelieving, called Marvel on it:

by

Tom “The Comics Savant” Stewart

© 2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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In 1976, Jungle Action, starring the Black Panther, was canceled. It may have been a groundbreaking series, and popular with the college crowd, but it wasn’t making it in sales. That doesn’t mean it was a bad book, but like another innovative and acclaimed series, Denny O’Neil’s and Neal Adams’ Green Lantern/Green Arrow, it wasn’t making the numbers the publisher thought it should. A lot of books weren’t in the ’70s, and a lot of books met the same fate. So Marvel decided to try something new with Wakanda’s Prince T’Challa. Jack Kirby had recently come back to Marvel after a five-year stint at rival DC Comics, and was expected to pick up right where he left off in 1970. Kirby had had enough of working with Stan Lee, of working with anyone, really, and wanted to do his own thing, be his own plotter and scripter, and his own editor. And he didn’t want to work on Thor, or Fantastic Four, or any of the books he’d been doing before his DC vacation—he wanted to do something new. Jack was always looking foreword, always wanting to know what was around the next corner. Instead of having Kirby become the company-wide idea man he would be perfect for, helping out the entire line with new characters, new formats, and new markets, Marvel put him back right where he’d left off, putting out pages as rapidly as he could. Kirby became the go-to guy when Marvel had a book they didn’t know what to do with. Captain America was given to Jack as a book in trouble, and Devil Dinosaur was something they didn’t know what to do with, as was 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was almost as if Marvel said, “I don’t know, give it to Kirby. Let’s see what he does with it!” And Jack never turned down a challenge. He might not have been getting the respect he thought he deserved after his long service to the company (and the millions his creations had earned), but he was always there to help, and to accept the book that was failing. Which brings us (the long way ’round) to Black Panther. Marvel had canceled the Jungle Action book due to poor sales, but still thought the Panther character was worth another try. Why not throw Jack on it? After all, they needed something to fill the 15-page quota in Jack’s contract. Black Panther was a book Jack was not that interested in—after all, he always wanted to do something new—but it was a challenge, and Jack accepted, starting with Black Panther #1 (Jan. 1977), written and penciled by Kirby and inked by Mike Royer. Kirby never read what McGregor had done with the Panther (he usually didn’t read other’s comics—he was too busy with his own), and after all, the book had been canceled and Marvel wanted a new direction for it. Jack went for a more adventure style for Black Panther, and focused more on the technological aspects of Vibranium, bringing in the Wakandian royal family, lost civilizations, and Kirby-style monsters. He also brought enough new ideas to keep other writers busy for years (he was Kirby, after all). Jack did his best with the book (his work ethic wouldn’t let him sleepwalk though it), but he was not really happy with it, or Marvel. His old friend and biographer Mark Evanier claimed that Marvel in the ’70s was not the place for Jack. “They didn’t know how to use Jack…” I’d have to agree. Jack left Black Panther at #12 (Nov. 1978), leaving others to strip out what he put in, and left Marvel. The fans who encountered Black Panther through McGregor’s run were mystified, and even angry, blaming Kirby for ending Don’s run. Others were still hung up on why Jack wasn’t doing Fantastic Four. But Kirby’s Panther was, well, pure Kirby as only Kirby could do. Weird, innovative, and at times bizarre, but always entertaining. Jack’s entire run has been reprinted by Marvel in inexpensive trade paperbacks, so you can find out for yourself. Thanks to Mark Evanier for taking time off the picket line to talk some Kirby.

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Tom “The Comics Savant” Stewart

Pouncing Panther, Hidden Logo Detail from the cover to Black Panther #7 (Jan. 1978). Pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Ernie Chan. © 2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.


poll cond ucte d by

Michael Eury

A commissioned illustration of Kirby’s kolossal kreation Galactus by Steve “the Dude” Rude, courtesy of the artist and Jaynelle Rude. © 2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.

“KIRBY IS COMING!”

That teaser appeared in DC Comics in 1970, followed by house ads which were, like Jack Kirby’s art, bombastic. I was a kid back then, mainly a DC fan, lured into the realm a few years earlier by TV’s Batman. I knew who Jack Kirby was, though, because Fantastic Four, one of many titles he co-created, was one of the few Marvel books I followed (another reading choice predicated upon a comics-to-television adaptation). I was too young and too green at the time understand the newsworthiness of why Jack Kirby was leaving the company he helped put on the map for its main competitor, and his first efforts at DC—the Fourth World titles (Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, New Gods, Forever People, and Mister Miracle)—didn’t win me over (those Plastino and Anderson Superman and Jimmy Olsen heads redrawn over Kirby’s didn’t help, either). My brother John and I used to snicker at the awkward anatomy in Kirby’s drawings, the square-tipped fingers being a particular point of ridicule. It was Kirby’s second wave at DC—Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth and The Demon (which DC really should collect in a Showcase Presents trade, don’t you think?)— that won me over. I was artistically wiser by that point, and Kirby’s new series weren’t encumbered by the interlocking density of the Fourth World. With those two titles, I finally understood Kirby’s “superpower”: imagination. It’s no wonder that an alliterative nickname in Stan Leepenned credits has instead become a title of respect. No “Comic Book Royalty” edition of BACK ISSUE would be complete without a celebration of Jack “King” Kirby. And so I turned to many of the King’s loyal subjects—some of comics’ finest writers, artists, and editors—and asked them to share with us their reasons for believing…

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KEITH GIFFEN Writer/artist of … well, almost everything! Fan site: www.lonely.geek.nz/giffen.html

How is this even a question? Is there a single comic-book pro currently working who hasn’t been influenced in one way or another by Kirby (and if anyone says “no,” odds are they’re either lying or too stupid to live). All comic-book roads lead to Kirby. The question shouldn’t be, “Why was Kirby King?,” it should be, “Why is Kirby King?”

AL MILGROM Marvel and DC artist/writer/editor • co-creator of Firestorm, the Nuclear Man Commissioned illustration info at www.theartistschoice.com/milgrom.htm

Kirby’s my all-time fave … a massive talent who combined speed, brilliance, and creativity in a way no one else in comics ever has. We will never see his like again, and we and the comics industry are that much the poorer for it. I can think of no other creator in any discipline who led their field for as many years. At the top of his game, at the top of the food chain!

JIM SALICRUP Editor-in-chief, Papercutz http://members.aol.com/_ht_a/jasalicrup/ myhomepage

The House of Ideas announced the departure of its chief architect in its fanzine, Marvelmania Monthly Magazine #1 (Apr. 1970). All Marvelmania images are courtesy of Al Bigley.

Back when I was editor-in-chief of Topps Comics, an LA convention decided to devote a big panel to everything we were up to. And suddenly I found myself onstage with, amongst others, Don Heck, Ray Bradbury, and Jack Kirby. While Jack is certainly deserving of the title “King” or even “Comics God” or even “genius,” the Jack I remember was the man I was with prior to that panel. In a short period of time, I witnessed three fascinating sides of Jack Kirby. First was Jack Kirby the fan. Jack was in awe of Bradbury. In Bradbury’s presence, Jack was no longer Jack “King” Kirby, but little Jacob Kurtzberg, the kid who read Bradbury’s stories in sci-fi pulps on the streets of New York’s Lower East Side. Of course, Bradbury admired Jack as well, but that thought was too mind-blowing for Jack to believe. Second was Jack the regular guy. This was a man who spoke like my father and was very down-to-earth talking with one of his peers, Don Heck. I’ll never forget Jack asking Don, “So, did Ditko ever find himself a woman?” Third, there was Jack’s “comic-book guru” persona. I suspect Jack thought he needed a special way to talk to comic-book fans. Jack was a genius, but you needed to take a course in “Kirbyology” to fully understand what he was talking about when he was in his public-speaking mode. There have been lots of “kings,” but there was only one Jack Kirby.

© 2008 Marvel Characters, Inc.

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Jim Kingman

What we were told about Baron Winters twenty-five years ago: “In the murky darkness of a house which should not exist lives an enigma. He is uncomfortable existing in time, belonging perhaps to no time, yet existing in all. Why he is here he cannot tell, but he is here nonetheless. Existing like some shadow frozen in a moment of light. He calls himself Baron Winters. But if that is his true name, not even he remembers.” – Marv Wolfman, Night Force #9 (Apr. 1983). Permit me to reintroduce … Baron Winters. The Baron is a liar, deceiver, and fabricator of stories to suit his needs and manipulate his recruits. Like the wretched season his name symbolizes, Baron Winters is cold, remote, isolated, and often unbearable. He has been called a charlatan, a quack, a placebo, and a fraud. Yet on frequent occasions he has used his subtle and mysterious powers to save mankind from forces it cannot comprehend or successfully confront. But as confined and dissociated as Baron Winters is, he cannot save mankind alone. He requires his own forces to aid him, sometimes at great cost to those oft-unwitting recruits. While a Baron by definition—he is the lord of his realm, Wintersgate Manor, and often answerable to an unnamed higher authority—there is a severe limitation to his nobility: He cannot leave his home in the present time (although he, and others, can step through portals within his house into different time periods in the past). What the consequences are if he does leave his home in the present have never been made clear. It is presumed he will wither and die, as hundreds of years, frozen in time in his domain, will catch up to him physically when he is no longer bound to the confines of the estate that powers his alleged immortality. But not everything involving Baron Winters is a mystery. Some things are certain.

“A DIFFERENT KIND OF MYSTERY/HORROR COMIC”

House Arrest Baron Winters and Wintersgate Manor, illustrated by Gene Colan and Bob Smith, from Who’s Who vol. 1 #2 (Apr. 1985). Original art scan courtesy of Dave Guiterrez. TM & © DC Comics.

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In the early 1980s, the state of the once-thriving DC mystery line was simple and sad: The genre was fading fast. The Unexpected, Ghosts, and Secrets of Haunted House ceased publication over a six-month period from 1981 to 1982. House of Mystery and Weird War Tales were both canceled in 1983. In the midst of this decline, “The Night Force,” touted as a different kind of mystery/horror comic, debuted in a special preview/ prologue insert in The New Teen Titans #21 (Apr. 1982). Originally titled The Challengers then Dark Force, Night Force was settled on so as not to conflict with a Harlan Ellison project involving the name “Dark Forces.” In the Titans letters column, writer Marv Wolfman described Night Force as “true graphic novels of incredible power and density.” Wolfman and Night Force artist Gene Colan had previously garnered tremendous praise during the 1970s for their work on Marvel Comics’ Tomb of Dracula, and it was hoped by DC that they would work magic again on a series devoted to mystery and the macabre. “Night Force was my idea,” explains Marv Wolfman, “as I was looking for another book to do and felt I’d like to create my own horror title and push the boundaries a bit more than I had with Tomb of Dracula. I really B o o k

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wanted to try something different and thought I had solved the problem of doing an anthology series by doing it with continued characters. The idea was to write for the older audience, with darker and more realistic stories than had been done at that point.” “Marv had been wanting me to join him ever since he made the move to DC,” notes Gene Colan. “It was Marv who brought me over from Marvel. It was the first project we tackled. I was confident it would do well.” “This was a book I worked out in great detail before I ever wrote the first story,” continues Wolfman. “I even did astrology charts for each character. Gene did multiple character designs until he got what I was looking for. After that it was a matter of me sending Gene fully worked out plots and Gene doing incredible work with them.” “I tried to give an otherworldly visual aspect to the panels,” adds Colan. “I remember attempting to warp rooms. Whatever I could do. My concern from the start was how quickly I could get the audience to become familiar with the main characters. There were so many.”

“THE SUMMONING”

The first story arc, “The Summoning,” ran for seven issues (Night Force #1–7, Aug. 1982–Feb. 1983), with an epilogue in issue #8. The extended story fulfilled

Meet Baron Winters (above) Jack Gold is quite skeptical of the bizarre Baron on page 8 of Night Force vol. 1 #1 (Aug. 1982). Written by Marv Wolfman, with art by Colan and Smith. Courtesy of Anthony Snyder (www.anthonysnyder.com/art). TM & © DC Comics. TM & © DC Comics.

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Wolfman’s desire to utilize a graphic-novel approach that allowed the lead and supporting characters to develop gradually; to change, mature, or regress; and not necessarily survive. To nominate Vanessa Van Helsing—the young woman touched by an evil that individual and political forces strove to raise, harness, and control—as the central character merely simplifies the proceedings. There are four strong personalities involved: Vanessa; Jack Gold, alcoholic and washed-up reporter; Donovan Caine, parapsychologist; and Baron Winters. They all maintain equal footing as malevolent chaos threatens to overwhelm and destroy them all. Yet Vanessa is the crux that drives “The Summoning,” for she, according to Winters, is the great-granddaughter of Abraham Van Helsing, hunter of Dracula, and it is his psychic rapport that has been passed down to her. That rapport has manifested considerably. She has become the conduit, channeler, and vessel for what is known as the “energy” of evil, and a lot of people want to extract it, through what can only be called demonic ceremony, and use it for their own purpose. Caine wants to destroy the energy, the United States wants to own it, and the Soviets, more determined than everybody, want to harness and control it as a weapon of mass destruction. They almost succeed. Vanessa is kidnapped by two Russians posing as CIA agents during a deadly demonic ceremony performed by Caine and his students at Georgetown University. She is taken to London, England, where she is tested in another “satanic baptism” to see if she is really a conduit of the evil energy. Well, of course she is, and a branch of the Soviet Embassy in England is destroyed in the process. Vanessa is then taken to Science City Complex #5, deep in Siberia, where the Soviets perform their most dangerous and secret experiments. Once again Vanessa is tormented in a demonic ceremony, only this one is the most brutal of all and the evil energy is unleashed and hell-bent on destroying everything. Utilizing his vast resources, Winters puts Gold and Caine on Vanessa’s trail, and they make it to the Science City complex only to be captured. But the Soviets release them in hopes that they can subdue Vanessa. Gold is able to do that by convincing Vanessa that he truly loves her, and with that the evil— which in an ironic twist desires to protect Vanessa from those who tormented her—collapses and disappears, leaving Vanessa cured. But not quite. The evil is still within her. Gold realizes that, and he knows he lied to Vanessa about his love for her. Now he must take care of her and keep her happy to keep the evil suppressed. It is Donovan Caine who has suffered most. He lost his wife, an arm, and a leg. This is not a happy ending at all for the man who wanted to capture evil’s essence and eliminate it, but he accepts responsibility for what he has done and vows to focus on the upbringing of his son. Jack and Vanessa plan to wed. Jack feels guilty at first about lying to Vanessa but in time he grows to love her. Vanessa, after years of torture and torment, emerges as one happy camper, almost frantically so. She is now free of the Potomac Psychiatric Hospital she was committed to for years, and is settling with a man who she believes loves her. Meanwhile, after an almost-incidental series of events to remind readers that the Baron is technically the book’s star, Winters utilizes every trick in his book to prevent Detective Eliot Stone from taking him from his home and arresting him for the kidnapping and disappearance of Vanessa. Once Vanessa and Jack return to Wintersgate Manor at the end of their ordeal, the Baron is in the clear and he can begin on his next “case.”


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Robby Reed

[Editor’s note: The following is reprinted from Dial B for Blog, with the kind permission of its author. It has been been edited from its original form of four blog posts into this single article. To view the four blogs in their entirety, with historical photos, visit www.dialbforblog.com/archives/85/.]

THE CAPTAIN AND THE KID

And You Thought Michael Jackson’s Diana Ross Makeover Was Weird… A fantasy cover by blogger Robby Reed. Comics characters and logos TM & © DC Comics.

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If you think you know all about Captain Marvel, Jr.’s influence on Elvis Presley ... think again! Because the World’s Mightiest Boy didn’t just influence the King of Rock and Roll’s hairstyle—Captain Marvel, Jr. helped shape Elvis’ entire lifestyle. It all began on the battlefields of the first World War, with soldiers enduring bombs that whizzed right over their heads like a lightning bolt, then exploded nearby with a tremendous bang. Wilford “Billy” Fawcett, a former police reporter for the Minneapolis Journal, was a World War I army captain. After the war, Fawcett began printing a small two-color pamphlet containing barracks humor meant to entertain disabled servicemen in veterans hospitals. The title of Fawcett’s self-published pamphlet came from his own former army rank and nickname, plus a reference to one of the “whiz-bang” bombs of WWI. The magazine was called “Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang.” But the monthly collection of off-color jokes, sexy stories, and racy cartoons wasn’t a bomb—it was an instant hit. A wholesaler picked it up in 1919 and started selling it in hotels and drugstores. It soon became an American standard, published continuously for the next thirty years. Vernon and Gladys Presley had married in 1933 and moved into a shotgun shack in East Tupelo, Mississippi— a two-room house Vernon built himself, for $180. Gladys soon got pregnant, and she gave birth to twin boys right in the Presley’s modest home, on January 8, 1935. The first of the twin boys, named Jesse Garon Presley, was stillborn. Vernon Presley placed the baby’s tiny corpse in a shoebox and buried it in an unmarked grave. A half-hour later, the second twin was born. Gladys Presley would later tell the boy, “When a twin dies, the one who lives gets the strength of both.” The Presley twin who survived was given Vernon’s middle name: Elvis. Just a month after Elvis Presley turned five years old, Fawcett Publications decided to try its luck in the comicbook business. Fawcett oversaw the creation of a new superhero whose name came from his own actual rank during the war, Captain, plus the source of the hero’s magical superpowers, Thunder. At the last minute, Captain Thunder’s name was changed to “Captain Marvel” for legal reasons. The new book was titled “Whiz Comics,” a nod to “Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang.” The first issue of Whiz Comics starring Captain Marvel was published in February 1940. The explosion the book made when it hit the stands was not nearly as loud as that of the “whiz-bang” bombs it was named after— but for the comic industry, it would prove to be every bit as earth-shaking. In the issue, drawn in a cartoony B o o k

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style by Fawcett artist C. C. Beck, a homeless young boy named Billy Batson followed a mysterious stranger deep into the tunnels of an abandoned subway station. There he encountered an ancient wizard named Shazam, who ordered Billy to speak his name. “Shazam,” the magic name that transforms Billy Batson into Captain Marvel, is an acronym. It stands for the wisdom of Solomon, strength of Hercules, stamina of Atlas, power of Zeus, invulnerability of Achilles, and speed of Mercury. The term was popularized as a rustic expression of surprise by Jim Nabors on the TV sitcoms The Andy Griffith Show and its spin-off Gomer Pyle, USMC. Captain Marvel wore a red military–inspired uniform with gold trim and a yellow lightning-bolt insignia on the chest. His costume also included a white-collared cape trimmed with gold fleur-di-lis symbols, modeled after the ceremonial cape once worn by British nobility. With Whiz Comics selling like hotcakes, Fawcett decided to expand its line by giving Cap his own title, Captain Marvel Adventures. With Captain Marvel outselling even Superman, Fawcett next decided to expand the so-called “Marvel Family.” In the fall of 1941, Fawcett writer Ed Herron came up with the idea of creating a junior version of Captain Marvel. DC Comics wouldn’t begin publishing Superboy until March 1949, so this was the first time a superhero teenager was created not as a mere sidekick, but as a hero in his own right. Would Herron’s concept work? Would comic fans accept a teenage version of a wildly popular adult superhero? Young Elvis Presley would soon get his first guitar as a birthday present when he turned 11 years old—would a junior version of Captain Marvel appeal to boys like Elvis? And even if fans such as Elvis would be willing to accept the new character, how could his origin be explained? After all, the wizard Shazam had already given all his powers to Billy Batson—how could there be any left for a new teenage hero?

AT THE ROCK OF ETERNITY

Eons ago, after a monumental struggle, the wizard Shazam defeated his arch-enemy, “Evil,” and imprisoned him in a bottomless pit located in “Eternity.” To keep Evil trapped in this pit, Shazam placed a colossal rock atop it, and Shazam’s spirit took up residence in a temple located near the top of this gigantic stone, which is known as the Rock of Eternity. At the Rock of Eternity, it is possible to reach any time period, world, or dimension. Here, time itself stands still. When creating Captain Marvel, Jr., Fawcett took a risk by hiring artist Mac Raboy to draw the character. Raboy’s fine, delicate line work was far more realistic than that of Captain Marvel cartoonists C. C. Beck and Pete Costanza, but it was perfect for Cap Jr., a character whose adventures Fawcett was aiming at slightly older readers. When Elvis was just six years old, in December 1941, Captain Marvel, Jr. appeared on the scene. His three-part origin story crossed over between two different titles, a rarity in the Golden Age. Cap Jr.’s origin started in Master Comics #21, continued in Whiz Comics #25, and concluded in Master Comics #22. The story went like this: Freddy Freeman and his grandfather were out fishing when they were attacked by a villain named Captain Nazi. Freddy’s grandfather was killed, and Freddy was crippled and left for dead. Captain Marvel discovered the young boy, barely alive, and flew him to a hospital, where doctors told Cap that young Freddy Freeman would not live through the night. Desperate to save the boy’s life, Cap transformed back into Billy Batson, snuck the unconscious Freddy out of the hospital, and took him to the underground chamber where Billy had first met the wizard Shazam. There, Billy could communicate with the wizard’s spirit, which resided at the Rock of Eternity. Billy begged the wizard for help. Shazam said he couldn’t repair Freddy’s damaged body, but Captain Marvel could share a portion of his mighty powers with Freddy to revive him. Billy agreed. Billy said the ancient wizard’s name— Shazam!—and was transformed into Captain Marvel. At that moment Freddy woke up, saw Cap, and exclaimed, “Captain Marvel!” As he did, the magic lightning struck again, and Freddy Freeman was transformed into the World’s Mightiest Boy, to be known henceforth as Captain Marvel, Jr. 7 6

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Unlike Billy Batson, who transforms into Captain Marvel by saying the name of the wizard Shazam, Freddy Freeman transforms into Captain Marvel, Jr. by saying the name of his hero, Captain Marvel. Fawcett thought this would remind readers to buy Cap Sr.’s book—which it may have—but it also had unintended comic consequences. Because of it, Captain Marvel, Jr. is the only superhero who is unable to say his own name, since he transforms back into Freddy Freeman when he does. Captain Marvel, Jr. began starring in Master Comics with issue #23, February 1942. Junior was given his very own title just nine months later, when Elvis Presley was seven years old. On November 6, 1948, Vernon, Gladys, and 13-year-old Elvis moved from Tupelo, Mississippi, to Memphis, Tennessee. The Presleys lived briefly in two Memphis boarding houses, then, in September 1949, their application to reside at Lauderdale

With Five Magic Pages… …Dave Cockrum endeared himself to 1970s Shazam! fans by illustrating a Captain Marvel, Jr. short story in Shazam! #9 (Jan. 1974). Shown here is an undated, unpublished sketch of Junior by Cockrum, courtesy of Robby Reed. TM & © DC Comics.


Courts, a public-housing apartment, was approved. The Presleys’ modest two-bedroom unit consisted of a living room, bathroom, and walk-in kitchen that came with a working 1951 Frigidaire fridge and a tiny stove issued by the Memphis Housing Authority—all for $35 a month rent. Compared to their previous residences, it was a huge improvement, but they remained dirt poor. To be eligible for public housing, a family’s income could not exceed $3,000 per year. Lauderdale Courts consisted of 66 buildings and 449 apartments. The Presleys soon became part of this vibrant community, and it was here, in a basement laundry room, that future superstar Elvis Presley practiced his singing and guitar playing. Presley lived here between 1949 and 1953, when he was attending Humes High School. From his apartment at Lauderdale Courts, Elvis could fill his leisure time by walking to Beale Street to hear black rhythm and blues music, attending gospel concerts two blocks away at the Ellis Auditorium, and, quite possibly, reading comic books. Elvis’ Lauderdale Court apartment has been preserved as a historic spot, and a copy of Captain Marvel, Jr. #51, cover-dated July 1947, has been placed on a desk in Elvis’ old room. It’s not likely that this particular issue ever made it to Lauderdale Courts, though. Since the Presleys moved in 1949, Elvis would had to have saved the book for over two years. But as a symbol of Elvis’ love for the character, it’s perfect. So, what issues did young Elvis read? From our timeless vantage point at the Rock of Eternity, reader, it looks like September 1949 to January 1953 is the time period when Elvis, from the ages of 14 to 18, is most likely to have first encountered Captain Marvel, Jr. According to Pamela Clarke Keogh’s Elvis Presley: The Man. The Life. The Legend, Elvis used comics as an escape. “Like a lot of kids with a chaotic home life, Elvis created his own world inside his head. He read comic books and was drawn to Superman, Batman, and, most of all, Captain Marvel, Jr. Around the age of 12, Elvis discovered Captain Marvel, Jr. and quickly became almost obsessed with him.” Billy Smith, a lifelong friend of Elvis’ and member of the so-called “Memphis Mafia” [Elvis’ circle of associates, friends, and yes-men], concurs: “One of the comics Elvis read when he was a kid was Captain Marvel, Jr. He went after Captain Nazi during WWII. And he had this dual image—normal, everyday guy and super crime-fighter. Sounds like Elvis, don’t it?” Finally, Elvis himself once mentioned comic books in a speech. “When I was a child, I was a dreamer,” Elvis said. “I read comic books, and I was the hero of the comic book.” So, there can be no doubt that Elvis Presley did, indeed, read and love Captain Marvel, Jr. comic books. Since the Presleys were dirt poor, with a family income of just $3,000 a year, it’s likely Elvis borrowed comics from friends, and didn’t get to actually buy comics himself very often. Imagine the young King of Rock and Roll in front of a newsstand, staring at racks full of comics—each one calling out to him, each one bursting with amazing action and dazzling color, each one promising a fantastic new adventure. He could probably only have afforded to buy a single comic. Which book, specifically, might have caught young Elvis’ eye? A historian might say we have no way of knowing— but historians aren’t usually comic-book fans. We are. We don’t have to imagine what it’s like to stare at racks of comics and choose—we do it every week! And we know that when money is in short supply, we comic fans are likely to buy team books, because they features lots of superheroes. Or, if we have a favorite character, we’ll more than likely buy just that character’s own title, because that way we’re guaranteed more stories featuring the hero we want to see. So, although

What Young Elvis Was Reading Fawcett Comics’ Captain Marvel, Jr. #51 (July 1947), now a museum artifact. TM & © DC Comics.

Captain Marvel, Jr. appeared in a number of different comics, it’s almost certain that Elvis, if buying, would have gone for Cap Jr.’s own title. Given the dates of Elvis’ move to Memphis, the issues of Cap Jr. he is most likely to have read are #77–119. Late in 1952, Fawcett Publications was faced with a lawsuit from DC Comics claiming Captain Marvel was a rip-off of Superman. Rather than continue to fight it at a time when the comic-book market was in rapid decline, Fawcett discontinued the entire “Marvel” line. For Captain Marvel, Jr., this meant his own title ended with issue #119, Master Comics was canceled with issue #133, and The Marvel Family’s final issue was #89. The times were changing. And things were about to change for Elvis, too. Lauderdale Courts was not meant to be a permanent residence. Tenants could be forced to move if they were earning too much money, and this is exactly what happened to the Presleys in 1953. They moved to 698 Saffarans in Memphis’ Uptown neighborhood in January 1953, just one day before Elvis turned 18. He had already begun to model his look after Captain Marvel, Jr. “He already had the greased hair color and black satin pants—with his friends standing next to him in jeans and shirts,” according to Elvis researcher Alex Mobley. “He already looked different than every other boy. Everyone in the Courts knew who he was.” Six months later after moving, on June 3, 1953, Elvis Presley graduated from Hume High School in Memphis. What would he do now? “You know,” Elvis confided to his cousin Earl, “I believe there’s a superboy inside me, just waiting to bust out.” Elvis was right. He had the talent, the looks, the charm, and the style. There was a superboy inside him just waiting to bust out. The only thing missing was the magic words.

TM & © DC Comics.

TM & © DC Comics.

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by

Brett Weiss

Who is the most famous prince in the history of comics? Prince Valiant? Prince Namor? Diana Prince? Wrong, wrong, and wrong. With apologies to Hal Foster, Bill Everett, and Charles Moulton (respective creators of the aforementioned princes who wouldn’t be king), the most well known comic-book prince is, well, Prince, the eccentric rock star who made his splash during the 1980s with such flashy, funky pop songs as “Little Red Corvette,” “When Doves Cry,” and “Delirious,” and who continues to thrill pop music fans today. You may be wondering: What in the wild, wild world of sports does Prince have to do with comic books? In 1991, during a boom of sorts for music-based comic books (thanks in part to Revolutionary, the publisher of such titles as The Led Zeppelin Experience), DC Comics, under its Piranha Music label, released Prince: Alter Ego, a one-shot written by Dwayne McDuffie (Justice League Unlimited), penciled by Denys Cowan (The Question), and inked by Kent Williams (Havok & Wolverine: Meltdown). Emblazoned with a gorgeous cover by the always great Brian Bolland, Prince: Alter Ego tries hard to infuse the storytelling techniques of sequential art with the power and drama of music. The result is a wistfully (and at times artfully) written, hopelessly corny morality play that offers convenient, romantic solutions to complex problems. Our story begins with Prince cruising along on his purple motorcycle, returning to Minneapolis after a long tour, the tassels of his gaudy leather jacket blowing in the wind. As he enters the city, which is “his favorite song, a tune he knows by heart,” he senses that the rhythm is not quite right, that something is amiss, like “hearing a favorite old single playing slightly off-speed.” Obviously, the music metaphors in this comic book run deep, which is a credit to McDuffie. In fact, they spill over into literalism as Prince decides to “make a little music of his own” to set things straight. Unable to find his muse, Prince leaves the studio in hopes of distraction (her name is Muse, fittingly enough), but finds more than he bargained for: a pair of gangs on the verge of war. Amazingly (not to mention unbelievably), Prince quells the conflict with the following retort: “I thought you two were supposed to be leaders. What happens to your people if you start a war with each other?” Upon hearing these words of wisdom, the gang leaders share an epiphany that makes them appear to come out of a trance and see the error of their ways. That the scene didn’t end in tears, a hug, and an exchange of sugar cookie recipes was a little surprising. After stopping the gang war, Prince remains uneasy, thanks to the city’s “subtle new rhythm.” He goes to his old haunt, the Glam Slam dance club, and hears a familiar sound: his own music, but played with “pure, explosive hatred” that causes people to “rip each other apart.” Prince discovers that his ex-band mate, Gemini, is back on stage, producing harmful, rage-inducing music. The resulting altercation and flashback sequence (in which Prince first

Prince by Brian Bolland Detail from the cover to Prince: Alter Ego. TM & © Warner Bros./DC Comics.

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Back Issue #27