KAMANDI, THE LAST BOY ON EARTH #48 / Jan'77
The best version I could find of this online was at Heritage Auctions, but was only 728 pixels wide! So it's a bit fuzzy. I only slightly adjusted the white background using "levels" so as not to blank out the skin tones, then adjusted the white the rest of the way separately (using "magic wand" to grab areas). This one was very off-rotation, and clearly the crease was on in the wrong place, as there wound up being way too much room on the upper-right, while the left edge was missing too much and had to be filled in. Luckily there wasn't much detail. At least it was a "quickie".
KOBRA #6 / Feb'77
Absurdly, the biggest image I could find of this one was only 523 pixels wide (again, at Heritage Auctions). What is the problem with so many of these from this period?
This was, apparently, when the book finally found a stable art team, in Mike Nasser & Joe Rubinstein, a pair of impressive talewnts if ever there were from the late 70's. Sadly, while they did 3 episodes together, the book was cancelled after their 2nd...
I notice Randu Singh, who was a regular in THE DEMON, turned up in the last several issues of KOBRA. Was he intended to become a regular? Hard to tell, as the book was cancelled so soon.
My recollection is he was introduced as if he were going to be a regular character, but of course a character might appear for an arc and then depart. The GCD tells me he arrived in #4. Perez was killed in the same issue. Johnny Double was used in the later issues and can be seen on the cover of #5. I don't recall either Singh or Double as having appeared in the DC Special Series #1 story reportedly intended for the unpublished Kobra #8, but that story might have been written with the intention of changing the series's direction to save it from cancellation.(1) Martin Pasko, who wrote the series after it left Kirby's hands, later used Kobra as a villain in Superman, but the story wasn't one of his best.
(1) Spoiler warning for the DC Special Series #1 instalment. The story was basically written as a Batman story. Kobra, protected by a psychic shield, had Jason killed. (The sequence revealed he had already murdered Jason's girlfriend.) Batman vowed to avenge him.
SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-VILLAINS #4 / Dec’76 – “WHEN THIEVES FALL OUT...”
The SSoSV call Wizard & Sinestro out for sitting on the sidelines during the recent battle, waiting to see who would win. As more in-fighting breaks out, Wizard zaps Hi-Jack into another dimension, before Sinetro grabs Wizard and the pair escape. Manhunter tells the rest of the group they’re better off without them. Meanwhile, Star Saphire leads Green Lantern into a confrontation with Mantis, during which the latter becomes so arrogant he makes the mistake of offending his lord and master, Darkseid. Perhaps most strange, when Sinestro & Wizard return to the Citadel, they find talent promoter Funky Flashman waiting for them, with an offer to improve their public image. WTF?????
Star Saphire finally rendezvous with the rest of the SSoSV, but has failed to notice she’s lost Green Lantern—but picked up Kalibak! A huge battle erupts between Kalibak & Gorilla Grodd, tearing across half of San Francisco, until Grodd winds up beating Kalibak more through trickery than sheer strength. While this is going on, Mantis begs to stay in Darkseid’s favor, but panics when he sees—of all things—The Black Racer (the embodiment of death) heading his way!
Another chaotic mess. Halfway thru the issue, Ernie Chan took over from Pablo Marcos, with Vince Colletta (apparently) inking all of it. David Kraft continues as writer, and Gerry Conway as editor, so it’s difficult to be sure who came up with what ideas in this issue. Funky Flashman, who had been such a vividly-crafted character in MISTER MIRACLE #6, seems more “generic” this time out, his dialogue terribly-over-written, and physically, he seems to bear more of a resemblance to Dave Kraft’s later DEFENDERS comedy character, “Dollar Bill”, than the obvious Stan Lee parody he was originally designed as. In general, I hate the habit of many 70’s comics writers of introducing sub-plots for a page or two in one issue, then leaving us hanging until next time... and probably the time after that. (Marv Wolfman would do this in TOMB OF DRACULA, usually for 6 issues in a row, when introducing new sub-plots.) It’s an over-reliance on “soap-opera” story structure which is just, to me, sloppy story-telling.
Wizard zaps Hi-Jack into another dimension
"Enjoy the land of limbo, scoffer!"
NOTHING to do with the Fourth World (except by extension, Gorilla Grodd in SSoSV)...
...whatta ya think, one of the best-selling DC reprints of all time (potentially) ???
DC SPECIAL (v.2) #16 (Spring 1975)
DC SPECIAL #27 / May'77
A relatively simple restoration, the biggest challenge was eliminating the glare at the bottom edge (yes, another of those endless comics sold in a SEALED plastic box).
Although this came out in between SSoSV #6 & 7, according to "He Who Wanders" (at LEGION WORLD), this CAPTAIN COMET spotlight issue apparently takes place in between #4 & 5, which is why I'm posting it here. Which makes sense, as CC seems to be missing from an issue or two.
The behind-the-scenes changes really kick in here. Gerry Conway was listed as editor on SSoSV #1-4. After that, Paul Levitz was listed as editor on DC SPECIAL #27, Denny O'Neil as editor on SSoSV #5, and Jack C. Harris took over for a nice haul beginning with SSoSV #6. When I was a teenager, I had no idea what an "editor" did on comics, and so had no idea that often they are THE driving force behind everything that goes on, including assmbling the creative team, and often steering the writers in whatever directions to take a series in the long haul. So when you go thru 4 editors in 4 issues, you can expect CHAOS, not to mention a complete overhaul of creative teams, and in this case, a total change in the overall direction of the book in general.
Bob Rosakis (a constant presence at DC in the 70's) was the writer for DC SPECIAL #27 as well as SSoSV #5-7. One could say he was filling in for Gerry Conway, as when Conway returned to DC from his brief return to Marvel, he took back SSoSV and did the title from #8-14, and also did DC SPECIAL SERIES #6 (the SSoSV SPECIAL), and, SUPER-TEAM FAMILY #13-14, which features plot-lines that spilled over into it from SSoSV.
When I think about it, Conway leaving a book, then coming back some months later, is something that one almost never saw happen at Marvel (except when it happened with Jack Kirby in the early & mid-60's, on books he created himself, and was then asked back to make "modifications" to, such as Ant-Man / Wasp / Giant-Man, and Hulk). Frankly, when Conway kicked so many people off so many books during his brief return-stint to Marvel in 1977, it annoyed me no end, and saddened me that NONE of the writers displaced (Steve Englehart, Steve Gerber, Tony Isabella, Marv Wolfman) ever managed to return to the books they were kicked off of (with the exception of Steve Englehart on AVENGERS, but that took an awful lot of years to happen, not a matter of a few months).
As often happens with a change in editors, the switch from Conway to (eventually) Harris saw the departure of penciller Pablo Marcos, who was replaced by Rich Buckler, who did DC SPECIAL #27 and SSoSV #5-9. Inks were supplied on the various issues by Joe Rubinstein, Vince Colletta, Bob Layton & (my favorite) Bob McLeod.
Many of the covers of DC SPECIAL focused on themes rather than characters: Super-Gorillas, Earth-Shaking Stories, War of the Giants, War Against the Monsters, Earth Shattering Disasters. This may explain why "Dinosaurs At Large!" was more prominent than "Captain Comet".
SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-VILLAINS #5 / Feb’77 – “ENDGAME!”
Mantis grovels at Darkseid’s feet for his life as The Black Racer approaches. Just then, the SSoSV, led by Manhunter, arrive, and Darkseid—incredibly—orders The Black Racer away. (Since when does he have any connection with, or power over, the being who is the embodiment of death?) After the group of villains gives Mantis a pounding, and Manhunter decides to tackle Darkseid himself (physically—this is unheard of!!!), Darkseid decides to open a Boom Tube to return to Apokalips. But Manhunter zooms in after him, announcing that his creators made him a human bomb. An instant later, a huge explosion erupts from the Boom Tube, apparently taking both Manhunter and Darkseid with it.
And so, it looks like 7 pages in, the first main storyline of this series reached an abrupt (if absurd) conclusion. We then have 2 pages of Funky Flashman (who has ditched the sunglasses now) incessantly rambling on and on and on about nothing I can make any sense out of, until Sinestro literally pushing his face away and flies off, departing the group, and Earth. (“On that note, we take out leave of the frankly fantabulous Funky for now... to return next issue!” As I said, this sort of bad habit of using brief interludes to advance sub-plots got very, very annoying in the 70’s.)
Captain Comet digs himself out of some rubble, then proceeds to dig Green Lantern out as well. GL takes CC to the satellite HQ of the Justice League of America, where Superman announces their computer database has verified that CC was a hero decades past. GL suggests they “chaperone” CC for awhile, to help bring him up to speed on the status of heroes and villains on Earth. A little while later, GL and Hawkman see Sinestro attacking San Francisco on their monitor, and Hawkman decides to dive into action, since GL was scheduled for “monitor duty”. Apparently pissed off at the entire SSoSV, Sinestro has decided to cause San Francisco to suffer a massive earthquake, JUST to ensure ther destruction of the Sinister Citadel! (Isn’t that a bit of overkill?)
Seconds into a fight, Sinestro smashes Hawkman’s gravity belt, showing up just how limited this guy’s range of super-powers really is (and making it look like he should have let Green Lantern go on this mission instead). As CC dives to Hawkman’s rescue, Sinestro decides to escape into space (like he probably should have done earlier). In the sort of stunt you’d probably never see outside of a DC comic, CC manages to stop the Citadel building from collapsing. He then takes Hawkman with him into space, using his unusual power to surround the two of them with an oxygen bubble. What Hawkman could do, in space, without his gravity belt, is beyond me, though. Sinestro attacks CC, and CC manages to beat Sinestro single-handed (while Hawkman just hovers there helplessly as a spectator). As the pair take Sinestro back to the JLA satellite as their prisoner, CC announces his intention to round up the remaining Secret Society members.
Well, this was one severely underwhelming transitional issue. Denny O’Neil fills in as editor for the departed Gerry Conway, while Bob Rosakis joins the line-up as the new regular writer. Along the way, O’Neil and Rosakis prove they have no clue how to write Darkseid, and their grasp of physics, characterization, character motivation, pacing and story structure are severely backward. Maybe having just spent a year-and-a-half re-reading Jack Kirby comics has spoiled me, but it seems the contrast between his writing and just about everyone else’s at DC points out just how lame most DC Comics writing really was back then. The fact that, to this day, many so-called ‘fans” continue to push the idea that Kirby was a “terrible” writer becomes all the more baffling then. I can only figure that people who feel that way are either used to reading CRAP and can’t deal with anything that ISN’T crap, or there’s a certain amount of jealousy or resentment involved, if only by proxy. Many fans look back on old comics they read when they were kids with an almost unhealthy amount of nostalgia, which makes many old books seems better, in their memories, than they actually were. Kirby’s stuff is SO GOOD, it makes everyone else’s look WORSE than it already was. And who wants their cherised memories ruined that way?
Along with the change-over in writing, this issue also marks the debut on the book of Rich Buckler. A lot of people tend to dismiss Buckler for the periods where he was tracing Kirby panels, but the truth is, he spent most of his time being a 3rd-rate Neal Adams. What nobody seems to point out is just how stiff and awkward so much of his figure-work tends to be (which may be why his bogus Kirby work stands out, as it tends to be better than his usual stuff). Quite often, intense, overpowering inks help to hide Buckler’s shortcomings as a layout man, but in this case, the inks are by Vince Colletta, and somehow, that just draws more attention to the problem.
The nicest way I can describe this issue is that it’s across-the-board “average” for mid-70’s DC. It’s not really terrible... but there’s nothing here to get worked up about either.
KAMANDI, THE LAST BOY ON EARTH #49 / Mar'77
I dunno, this may be my LEAST-faovore Ernie Chua cover from this period. The image I found was dark & dirty, and had a lot of bleed-thru from the other side (blasted cheap, thin paper stock). Fortunately, I was able to take care of most of it by using "magic wand" (which required hitting an AWFUL LOT of small red areas-- ands I'm sure I missed some of them) and then cranking up the red in "color balance". Despite itself, a relative "quickie"... thank goodness.
KOBRA #7 / Apr'77
Another relative "quickie". When I adjusted "levels" a lot of it got faded out, but fortunately going in with "fence" and "airbrush" fixed the large black areas in the upper half.
The creative team of Martin Pasko (who'd been involved since the revamp of #1), Mike Nasser (not the greatest layout man or storyteller in the world, but servicable and visually impressive enough) & Joe Rubinstein (one of the BEST inkers to come into the biz in the late 70's, and who, decades later, has NEVER done a bad ink job that I've seen) were apparently just starting to really kick ass on this book. They did 3 issues in a row, of which this was the 2nd... but unfortunately, this was the LAST issue of the book, as the chaos of the earlier issues apparently put sales in the toilet, and it was cancelled with this issue. The 3rd Nasser-Rubinstein episode was published 5 months later (only 3 months later than KOBRA #8 would have been) but I wonder how few readers actually found it, on purpose?
SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-VILLAINS #6 / Apr’77 – “CAPTAINS CATACLYSMIC!”
It’s “theme” crime time again, as former SSoSV members (and Flash rogues gallery members) Captain Cold and Captain Boomerang have (between issues) broken Batman pirate-themed villain Captain Stingaree out of prison, to go on a crime spree in which they capture of kidnaps other “Captains”. Only in a DC book, right? First, they use Captain Boomerang’s rotating boomerang-shaped spaceship to invade “Space Lab” and hold its crew hostage, then they board and loot the “S.S. Sunset” (the world’s largest passenger liner), and finally, they interrupt a football game in order to kidnap the captain of one of the teams.
Captain Comet interrupts the 1st crime (but is forced to let the baddies go free when they threaten the life of one of the astronauts), nobody gets in the way the 2nd time, but Comet and Black Canary intrude the 3rd time, beating and capturing the 3 baddies, and managing to rescue the 2 earlier captives when Comet learns their location by reading Stingaree’s mind.
While this is going on, Funky Flashman & The Wizard are watching the crime spree on the TV news, as Funky keeps rambling about how this sort of thing give super-villains “poor P.R.”. I just don’t GET what he hopes to accomplish with his idea of “selling” the Secret Society to the “buying public”.
In the meantime, Comet, dejected after the 1st fight with the baddies went bad, tries to help an old lady across a street, and is almost beaten to a pulp by the angry, paranoid woman who begins swinging her handbag at him and warning him to stay away. Watching the scene, an attractive brunette named “Debbie” introduces herself and invites him up to her apartment for “coffee and a bite of an apple”. I suppose this is supposed to pass for both humor and character development, but I don’t know. Later on, Green Arrow continues to be annoyed at the idea of “baby-sitting” an over-the-hill hero, and gets even more annoyed when his steady girlfriend, Black Canary, decides to accompany Captain Comet on a crime-fighting jaunt, leaving him behind. There are times when the “new”, loud-mouthed Oliver Queen was interesting, meaningful, or funny, but sometimes, he’s just an annoying parody of himself.
The last page reintroduces Copperhead, and reveals that the mysterious person who broke him out of jail a few issues back knows about the Secret Society, and announces to Funky & The Wizard that HE intends to take over! (Even a brief glimpse at the shape of the person’s silhouette should be enough to clue in any longtime DC reader as to their identity...)
Jack C. Harris takes over as regular editor this issue, but the only immediate change is former Wally Wood assistant and future superstar Bob Layton taking over the inks—which is a HUGE step up from Vince Colletta, no doubt about it. Apart from making Rich Buckler almost look like he knows what he’s doing, for the first time, Funky actually begins to resemble Marvel Comics editor & huckster Stan Lee. (Sadly, Vince Colletta inked the cover. Maybe it was done before the rest of the issue?)
This issue also announces the major shake-up of the editorial staff, and introduces new publisher Jeanette Kahn! This coincides with the debut of the new DC logo (a wide circle with stars in it surrounding a bold “DC” tilted at a 45 degree angle, resembling a sports team logo). A new era for DC was about to begin!