Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ominously Lurks...The Owl!

"I'm not a Batman rip-off...and get off my flying Owl-Mobile!"

Comics in the 1940s were noted for, among other things, a tendency to see what worked, then take elements from it, mix it with a few other things and see if that new version would sell!

Sometimes the recombination sold better than the original!
For example: Batman's still going strong as a multi-media phenomenon, but most of his "inspirations", including The Shadow and Zorro, are only marginal pop culture characters today (though both had periods when they eclipsed Batman)!
On the other hand, The Owl was one of those who, while interesting, didn't quite hit the heights.

Nick Terry, a police detective who felt the law was too easily manipulated by racketeers and gangsters (and their lawyers) decided that operating outside the law on behalf of justice would be the way to go!
(Any number of Golden Age heroes, including The Whisperer, Black Hood, Guardian, and DareDevil, had the same concept of one who upholds the law having to indulge in extra-legal methods to achieve true justice.)
He became a Caped Creature of the Night to battle criminals (like Batman, The Shadow, and The Sandman, among others.)
Nick also used a plethora of themed weapons and gimmicks (including an Owl-Mobile, and Owl-Light) not unlike Bat-you-know-who and Green Arrow. (Although since he wasn't a millionaire like most of the aforementioned characters, it's never explained how Nick affords all this stuff!)
His nosy reporter girlfriend (Can you say "Lois Lane" or "Vicki Vale" boys and girls?) eventually discovers his dual identity and forces him (ala Captain America's Bucky) to make her his similarly-costumed sidekick, Owl-Girl! (think HawkGirl, but with hyphenation!)
One of his unique features (he did have a couple, don't get snarky) was that he wore a full-face cowl with sight-enhancing lenses, predating a similar style later worn by Spider-Man!
And, he does have a very distinctive look! You won't mistake him for anyone else!

The Owl never had his own title in the Golden Age.
Instead, he was the cover-feature of Dell's Crackajack Funnies for over a year before being downgraded to the back of the book in Popular Comics for another year before finally being cancelled.

But, that's not the end of the story...

In the 1960s, with the pop-culture success of Marvel Comics and the Batman tv series, superheroes were in vogue again!
Curiously, while Marvel, DC, and Archie revived their Golden Age characters, other publishers with old heroes chose to do new characters instead...with one exception!
Gold Key now owned the Dell super-heroes, and though they did several short-lived new characters, they did revive the Golden Age character in their library most similar to Batman.
Guess who?
The Owl finally got his own comic!
And because they felt it should be as much like the tv Batman as possible, Gold Key camped it up beyond belief...
It only lasted two issues.
And except for a cameo appearance in a Gold Key horror comic, The Owl fluttered into oblivion...

But that's still not the end of the story...

Recently, The Owl was one of the many Lost Heroes of the Golden Age of Comics™ revived by Alex Ross in his acclaimed Project SuperPowers series.
So, we at Atomic Kommie Comics™ felt the time had come to expand our line of Owl collectibles.
(The fact we had just purchased a large comics collection including a near-complete run of Crackajack Funnies had nothing to do with it, we swear!)
Have a look at the classic covers we've emblazoned on items from t-shirts to blank sketchbooks, to mugs and many other goodies.
And pick up Project SuperPowers, the best Golden Age of Comics revival on the stands today!
(You thought we were gonna do a "Whooo..whooo" joke of some kind? We're saving that for later...)

Friday, July 23, 2010

"So, what's your super-power?" "I can turn into water..."

Comic book scientists are incredibly clumsy.
They spill or ingest chemical concoctions that would kill any ordinary human, but always end up granting them amazing powers!
Such is the case of Harry Thurston, who developed a chemical that would convert any matter it touched into water!
And, of course, he spilled it on himself, turning his arm to liquid. Thankfully, labmate Bob Blake used another chemical to revert Harry's arm.
Deciding to take things a step further, Bob Blake then injected himself with the chemical, making his whole body turn to water and, after using the same antidote that restored Harry's arm, discovered his force of will could control the level of transformation from human to liquid and back to human!
Like most scientists who gain weird powers, he became a costumed hero to fight enemy agents and crooks.
Strangely, he strapped a .45 automatic to his belt when he first donned his costume, but never used it! (You may ask: whatever happened to Harry Thurston, who had the good sense to not inject himself with dangerous chemicals? AFAIK, he never appeared again!)
With his ability to both become and control water, HydroMan was a remarkably-effective crimefighter, as long as he avoided sub-zero temperatures which would freeze him solid (his Achilles heel!)

HydroMan never had his own comic, but he was the cover feature from #1 onward for the first year or so of Reg'lar Fellas Heroic Comics.
It is from this series that Atomic Kommie Comics™ has created a new line of kool kollectibles for our Lost Heroes of the Golden Age of Comics™ series, including his 1st appearance, and his 1st issue with partner RainBow Boy!

Note: HydroMan was created by Bill Everett, who later went on to create some other water-based heroes for Timely/Marvel including The Fin and some little-known guy called Namor, The Sub-Mariner.
Oh, him you've heard of...

Alex Ross revived HydroMan in Project SuperPowers, even teaming him with PyroMan on the cover of Vol. 1 #4!
Oddly, he's renamed HydroMan "Hydro", even though the only extant Hydro-Man in comics is a seldom-used Marvel villain! (It's not unusual for characters at different companies to have the same name, especially if one's a hero, and the other's a villain. Example: The Sandman...a villain at Marvel, and several different heroes at DC!) But I digress...

Pick up Project SuperPowers, the best Golden Age revival on the stands today, and have a look at our retro-styled goodies at Atomic Kommie Comics™ (And when is Dyanmite going to do their own Alex Ross art-based line of Project SuperPowers collectibles? I'll be among the first to get 'em when they come out!)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Behold...the Blue Beetle!

One of the most popular concepts in crime fiction of the 30s-40s was a policeman who felt too constrained by the letter of the law and decided to take up a masked identity to "serve justice rather than the law"!
Every rank from beat officers (The Guardian) to police commissioners (The Whisperer) donned a mask (and usually a skintight outfit) to fight criminals in their off-duty hours.
One of the longest-lasting was Officer Dan Garret aka The Blue Beetle.

Garret had good reason to be disillusioned about the power of law and order.
His late father was a police officer killed by a criminal who evaded prosecution even after Dan himself joined the force.
Seeing the fiend go free due to an unbreakable (though false) alibi, Officer Garret took matters into his own hands.
Donning a mask, fedora and business suit (ala The Green Hornet), Dan adopted the Blue Beetle identity to harass the felon and force him to to commit a crime in front of witnesses, including Garret's reporter girlfriend and her photographer!
It worked, and undeniable retribution was finally delivered to the killer!
In the next issue, after saving scientist Dr Franz, from racketeers, the grateful chemist gave Garret a suit of bulletproof chainmail, as well as a supply of an experimental vitamin, 2-X, to enhance his strength and reflexes!
Combined with a pair of lethal .45 automatics, that chainmail and "power pills" made the "upgraded" Blue Beetle a formidable foe indeed!

The Beetle's adventures began in Fox Comics' Mystery Men Comics #1 (though he didn't make the cover until #7) and ran thru all 31 issues.
He gained his own title The Blue Beetle, which published 60 issues between 1939 and 1950 and also appeared in every issue of Big 3 Comics, an anthology title featuring the most popular characters from Fox's various titles!
Blue Beetle was popular enough to be the only Fox Comics character to warrant both a newspaper strip and a dramatic radio series, both of which were, regrettably, short-lived. (The newspaper comic strip featured art by a young Jack Kirby!)
In the mid 1950s, another publisher did a reprint series which proved so successful that they published a reworked new version of the Beetle that ran into the 1960s, was revived again in the 1980s and runs on-and-off to this day. (In each of these revivals, the Beetle has a new secret identity and powers.)
But Dan Garret, the original Beetle, hadn't been seen since the mid '50s, until Alex Ross revived him in the acclaimed Project SuperPowers in 2007!
Atomic Kommie Comics™ has also revived The Blue Beetle as part of our Lost Heroes of the Golden Age of Comics™ line with several of his best covers from his own title and Mystery Men Comics on t-shirts, mugs, and other goodies.
Heck, we're so proud of him that we gave him his own 12-Month Calendar with a rarely-seen Golden Age comic cover for each month!

FREE comic convention season bonus: mp3s of The Blue Beetle radio show!

And BUY Project SuperPowers, the BEST Golden-Age revival comic (er...graphic novel) out there!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Guess the connection between these two Lost Heroes!

Besides the fact they both fly!

Answer: they're both jet-propelled!
(Air-Man's wings are balloons! They don't flap like Hawkman, Birdman, or most other avian-themed characters!)

When ornithologist Claude Stevens was brutally murdered by criminals with an unbreakable alibi, his son Drake decided to avenge him by becoming a masked vigilante.
Using a jet-pack of his own design along with wing-shaped balloons for maneuverability and lift, Drake created an appropriately bird-themed secret identity as Air-Man to work outside the law for justice!
Air-Man caught the murderers, and decided to continue battling evil wherever he found it in the pages of Keen Detective Funnies and Detective Eye Comics!

On the other hand, Cal Martin and Doris Dalton were scientists who used their jet-packs as RocketMan and Rocket Girl almost on a whim, and found they enjoyed crimefighting, so they kept at it for several years!
They appeared in the back pages of the entire run of Scoop Comics, but never made the cover spot!
When Scoop was cancelled, they moved to Punch Comics where Rocket Girl finally got a solo cover, but RocketMan never did!
When their publisher went out of business, another company picked up the rights but re-named them Zip-Jets, since the abandoned "RocketMan" trademark had been taken over by Republic Pictures for their otherwise unrelated leather-jacketed flying serial hero!
Two issues of Zip-Jet, reprinting their Scoop & Punch stories came out before their new publisher also went kaput!
The duo made a final appearance in a one-shot titled Atomic Comics, but whether it was new or reprinted material is unknown, since the issue we scanned for our kool kollectibles was slabbed! ;-(

All three characters have re-appeared in minor roles in Alex Ross' Project SuperPowers, with hints of bigger things to come!

We at Atomic Kommie Comics™ have revived both Air-Man (both Keen Detective Funnies appearances) AND RocketMan & Rocket Girl aka the Zip-Jets, as part of our Lost Heroes of the Golden Age of Comics™ line, on t-shirts, messenger bags, mugs and other kool kollectibles!
Next time someone says "Look, up in the sky...", it might not be who you think...

And don't forget to buy the NEWEST Project SuperPowers comics including...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Broncho Bill

Star of both a newspaper strip and comic book that ran from 1928 to 1950, Broncho Bill was originally called Young Buffalo Bill, then Buckaroo Bill before taking the name it would have from 1932 to 1950.
Bill and girlfriend Nell kept law-and-order in the Old West.
Judging from the covers, that seemed to consist of rescuing Nell from rustlers, bank robbers, and outlaws of various sorts!

Note: He's so obscure there's no entry in Wikipedia about him!

Help Atomic Kommie Comics™ bring Broncho Bill back into the pop culture spotlight!
He deserves it!
Choose from 6 different designs on t-shirts, mugs and many other goodies.
Save him from obscurity! He deserves better than that!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The OTHER Hero from the Creators of Superman!

What do you do after you've created the ULTIMATE comics character...and lost the rights to him?
Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster faced that problem in 1947!
When they sued DC Comics (then National Periodicals Publications), they lost all the assignments (both individually and as a team) they were working on.
To pay the bills, they solicited work from other comics companies both on existing characters and, in one case, creating a NEW character...FunnyMan for Magazine Enterprises!

FunnyMan was Larry Davis, a comedian looking for a shtick.
His girlfriend / agent June suggested a publicity stunt with Larry dressing in his trademark clown outfit, "accidentally" coming upon a (staged with actors) "crime scene" and disarming and capturing the "criminals" using his props, all the while being photographed by conveniently-placed cameramen.
As you might have guessed, Larry stumbled on a real crime in progress, and thinking it was the stunt, captured a real criminal!
When he discovered he had captured an actual criminal, Larry decided to continue battling crime, using mocking humor and embarrassing tricks to punish evildoers!

The editor at Magazine Enterprises who bought FunnyMan was Vin Sullivan, who also bought Superman from Siegel & Shuster when he was an editor at National Periodical Publications!
Larry Davis was based on movie / radio comedian Danny Kaye!

It was a clever idea, and pretty well executed.
Unfortunately, it didn't catch on.
The book only lasted six issues.
There was also a short-lived newspaper strip.
After FunnyMan failed and Siegel & Shuster lost their lawsuit, they went their separate ways.

But...FunnyMan has NOT been forgotten!
There's a NEW book about the character--Siegel & Shuster's Funnyman: the First Jewish Superhero from the Creators of Superman by Thomas Andrae and Mel Gordon!
Besides the actual comic stories, there's a wealth of background info about Siegel & Shuster, the Danny Kaye connection, as well as the cultural influences that inspired the character!

Plus: we've brought FunnyMan back with a line of kool kollectibles (including mugs, t-shirts, iPad bags, etc.) in our Lost Heroes of the Golden Age of Comics™ collection!
So why not get a gift set of the new book and one of our collectibles for the pop culture aficionado in your life?
What could it hurt? ;-)

Bonus: a cool review of the new book at Publishers Weekly.
Extra FREE Bonus: the 6-issue FunnyMan run in PDF form!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

U.S. Jones: the Everyman as Hero!

Since it's almost the 4th of July, let's look at a flag-draped, patriotic hero...
At first glance, U.S. Jones was just another of a long line of 1940s super-heroes who wrapped themselves in the star-spangled red white and blue of the American flag.
Introduced in WonderWorld Comics #28, he made the cover twice before the title was cancelled and he was given his own short-lived title.
What made him different from other patriotic-themed heroes was...
1) He had NO secret identity, (It's speculated that his name was "Ulysses S. Jones" or somesuch)
2) U.S. Jones had no weapons or super-powers.
He described himself as " average American doing what's right."
He always won in the end, but it wasn't easy for him...
3) No origin.
He simply was there from the first story onward, fighting foreign evil!
4) While other heroes ran fan clubs, U.S. Jones was calling American youth to action against "America's Enemies". (This was before the US entered World War II.)
The "U.S. Jones Cadets Membership Kit," which the readers sent away for, told the readers that democracy must be protected at all costs, and listed ten rules for members; these included keeping fit, conserving resources, and knowing one's neighbors, among other things. (It also goes for a pretty penny on eBay...when you can find it!)

Since then, he languished in comic book limbo until Alex Ross included him as one of the time-lost heroes of Project SuperPowers.
Unfortunately, he's not adjusted as well as most of the others to being revived in the present day...

We at Atomic Kommie Comics™ respect the Everyman of patriotic heroes and have digitally-restored and remastered his best Golden Age cover appearance as part of our Lost Heroes of the Golden Age of Comics™ line of kool kollectibles!

And, just a gentle reminder to pick up the Project SuperPowers comics, on sale now!
They're the best Golden Age revival books out there!