I've started this thread for issue reviews of comics from the Silver and Bronze Ages that were by published companies other than Marvel and DC. Comics I currently have in mind to write about include issues of Charlton's Blue Beetle (pre-Ditko) and Son of Vulcan, Dell's Brain Boy, Kona and Space Man, Lightning Comics's Fatman the Human Flying Saucer, M.F. Enterprises's Captain Marvel, and Tower Comics's Undersea Agent. Please feel free to contribute your own reviews.
This post displaced The Grant Morrison Thread from the home page.
Fight the Enemy #1 (Tower, 1966)
This was a war comic that ran three issues. Like other Tower titles it cost 25c and had more story pages than Marvel or DC comics. This issue has 54 story pages consisting of six stories and a fact item.
"The Saga of the Lucky 7" was an ongoing series about a WWII bomber crew. "Secret Agent Mike Manly" was a spy series. The other stories in this issue are non-series tales. "Chain of Command" is a Vietnam War tale. The remaining war stories are WWII ones. The cover has a Vietnam War image pencilled by Mike Sekowsky.
"The Saga of the Lucky 7": "The Mission!"/"The Rescue!"
The Lucky Seven is assigned to bomb Tokyo. The hits it takes from the Japanese cause it to catch fire, and the captain has to land in the sea.
This instalment places the Lucky 7 crew in the Pacific, but the other instalments were set in Europe. It starts as a realistic bombing mission tale and becomes an adventure story in its second half. The seven crewmen all have names and distinctive appearances, but their personalities don't play a role in the story.
The story was pencilled by Mike Sekowsky, and the GCD attributes the inks to Frank Giacoia and Joe Giella. It's a good-looking story drawn in Sekowsky's Barry style.
"The Well in the Desert!"
American and German units deep in the desert both need water and fight over a waterhole.
This is the grim type of war story, with interesting stylised art that really works for it. The GCD credits the pencils to Jerry Grandenetti, and the inks tentatively to him.
The opening of the story recalls the movie Sahara (1943) and the ending shows it was definitely the inspiration, although the story here is different.
"Gallant Warriors": "Major Charles Loring Jr., U.S.A.F."
This is a two-page fact feature about the military career of Major Charles Loring Jr and his death in the Korean War. The GCD attributes the inks to Giacoia, and the pencils tentatively to Sekowsky.
"When It's Time to Die...."
A group of American commandos is sent on a mission to destroy heavy guns that might stop the Allied invasion. They are assisted by freedom fighters with a woman leader.
The opening caption calls the commandos "soldiers of central intelligence". The caption is written in the first person as by one of the participants, but the later captions are in the third. The train scene reminded me of Force 10 from Navarone (1978). Possibly the story's inspiration was The Guns of Navarone (1961).
The setting isn't clear. The initial reference to "the Allied invasion" suggests France, all the enemy soldiers are Germans, and the freedom fighters could be members of the French underground. But the heroine is named Maria rather than Marie, one of the commandos talks of how he could "go for a beautiful Italian girl", and a German says he's tired of spaghetti. Those touches suggest Sicily or mainland Italy. The gun emplacement is in a castle.
The GCD attributes the art to Grandenetti and Frank Giacoia. It's not as stylish as the art of "The Well in the Desert!" but it tells the story OK.
Spoiler warning. The moral of the concluding part of the story is a woman can die as a bravely as a man. When the attackers are withdrawing and Maria doesn't make the rendezvous they leave without her. They're right to do so as she's shown to have died, but it's a surprising touch.
"Secret Agent Mike Manly": "Message of Doom"
Spies shoot a man on the steps of a public library. His prints show he was an undercover man. Agent Mike Manly investigates his murder.
The story is classily drawn by Dick Giordano, but the plot and action are standard spy stuff. I'm willing to like this kind of tale, but a story needs more than that. Manly is visually based on Sean Connery.
"Chain of Command"
A PFC finds himself in command of his unit.
The last two stories in the issue are more DC-ish. In this one the soldier thinks command turns men into glory-hounds until he finds himself in the position. The GCD credits the pencils to José Delbo and the inks tentatively to Delbo. His art here is like 60s DC work rather than his later stuff.
A frightened soldier fighting in the Battle of Iwo Jima has a buddy who seems unafraid. But as the battle progresses his buddy shows fear too.
This time the moral is it's normal to feel fear and sometimes it temporarily gets the better of even a brave man. The GCD credits the art to Delbo, pencils and inks. I like the art of his other story a bit more.
The Bravados #1 (Skywald, 1971)
This issue is really a continuation of Skywald's Wild Western Action. It was the Bravados' last appearance. My reviews of the three Wild Western Action issues are on p.2 and p.4.
"The Bravados": "Ride to Vengeance!"
The Bravados ride into a small town. Gideon recognises one of the locals as Jonas Payne, who commanded a Confederate prisoner of war camp during the Civil War and was responsible for many deaths.
This instalment is 15 pages rather than 10 like the previous ones. It's easily the best entry in the series. The story has more room, and the personalities of the heroes and how they interact are brought out better. Gideon has a strong motive for taking on the villain and brings the others with him.
What's implausible is the violence never draws any attention. The locals must really keep their heads down, like in A Fistful of Dollars.
The previous covers emphasised the feature's team aspect. This one'treats Reno as the star, but it's really Gideon's story, as the blurb implies. We learn he fought for the Union in the Civil War and afterwards became a hired gun.
Once again the creative team was Len Wein, Syd Shores, and Mike Esposito.
"The Durango Kid": "Death Duel on Main Street!", from Charles Starrett as the Durango Kid #32 (ME, 1954)
After Muley is apparently killed the Durango Kid accepts an outlaw's showdown challenge. What he doesn't know is the gang have replaced his bullets with duds.
This is another Fred Guardineer-drawn story. The story structure - a tense situation in the present explained by flashbacks - reminds me of EC and 50s Marvel.
"Red Mask": "The Man Who Rescued Redmask", from Red Mask #48 (ME, 1955)
An older man several times saves Redmask from being shot, but his help also allow the gang Redmask is chasing to get away.
This is another domino mask Redmask story drawn in Frank Bolle's rough style. I admire Bolle's clear style, but it can be a bit dull. His stories in his rough style are more exciting to read.
The surprise twist is obvious from the start, but I like the intelligence shown by the villain at the end. I think he could have made a good recurring foe.
As in the Wild Western Action #3 reprint Redmask's clothing is coloured like ordinary clothing rather than red as originally. I prefer this look on the domino mask Redmask.
"Billy Nevada": "The Purple Back", from Billy the Kid Adventure Magazine #9 (Toby, 1952)
A strongman called the Purple Back has been showing off his strength. Billy meets a man with a grudge against him. They arrive in a town where he's offering to fight any comers.
This is another Toby "Billy the Kid" story. The art is OK. The GCD ascribes it to Jack Sparling. If this is right his art took on its loose, ugly look later. The opening has promise but the rest of the story is uninteresting.
"Men of the Law", from Death Valley #5 (Comic Media, 1954), where it was titled "The Deputy"
Sheriff Henderson has decided to retire, and his son, who is one of his deputies, wants to be his replacement. Henderson backs his other deputy as he thinks his son is too young and reckless.
The story's artist was Bill Discount. (The original version was signed.) The present story has been altered to remove its more violent content and make the dialogue clearer. In the original version Bill and the wounded man can be seen in the splash panel, the sheriff is shot at the climax, a gunfight follows, and several characters have strong accents.
My acknowledgements to the GCD for its information about the stories' original appearances.
When I reviewed Wild Western Action #1 on p.2 I disagreed with the GCD's indexer's guess that "The Two Guns of Rio Vegas!" was a Billy the Kid story, and the identification of the penciller as Mike Sekowsky. Well, the story is "A Brother" from Billy the Kid Adventure Magazine #28 (Toby, 1955), and the indexer of the original issue tentatively ascribes its pencils to Sekowsky too. I guess I can see his style in it now, so that's GCD 2- Me 0.
I also couldn't find the original appearance of the Billy "Nevada" story, "The Town that Forgot!" It was in the same issue. The original story was six pages. The reprint simply dropped two, and it's a lot better with them.
When did the Silver Age start? There's no clean answer, because it didn't arrive everywhere at once. It’s often said to have started with the Flash's debut in Showcase #4 in 1956, but in some respects DC’s Silver Age goes back further. The Superman and Batman series in World's Finest Comics began in 1954, and so did Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen. DC titles carried the Comics Code seal from Jan. 1955 (on sale). Krypto debuted with it, and Ace, the Bat-Hound was introduced a few months later. The Manhunter from Mars series commenced in the second half of the year.
1956 markers aside from the Flash's intro include the commencement of Sugar and Spike, Batwoman's debut, and DC's taking over Blackhawk. From Showcase #6 the features in the title are like a Silver Age roll call.
But it was 1958 that was the big transition year for DC. The markers include the commencement of Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane and Challengers of the Unknown; Wonder Woman's revamp (Ross Andru and Mike Esposito took over the art, her origin was retold, and Hippolyta became a blonde); Space Ranger's Showcase try-out; Congo Bill's becoming Congorilla; Green Arrow's origin story; Lady Blackhawk's introduction; and the end of DC's licensed police/crime/detective titles (Gang Busters, Mr. District Attorney, The New Adventures of Charlie Chan).
The markers in the Super-titles include the intros of the LSH, the Silver Age Fortress of Solitude, Brainiac and Kandor, red kryptonite, and Bizarros (a Superboy one in the comics, a Superman one in the newspaper strip).
Finally, the Schwartziverse became a regular presence on the stands when the Flash got his own title in Dec. (on sale). The second Schwartziverse feature, "Adam Strange", was appearing in Showcase at the time.
1959 markers outside the superhero titles include DC's shift to the use of ongoing features in its war titles; The Brave and the Bold's transformation into a try-out title; the commencement of "Mark Merlin" in House of Secrets; the commencement of Adam Strange's and Space Ranger's ongoing features that same month; and the end The Adventures of Rex the Wonder Dog. DC also began dropping its Western titles other than Tomahawk: Hopalong Cassidy in 1959, Western Comics in 1960, All Star Western in 1961.
At Marvel the Silver Age only fully got going with the commencement of Fantastic Four in 1961, or even its introduction of further superhero features, creating a line, in 1962. Earlier markers include Marvel’s adoption of the Code seal in Dec. 1954 (on sale); the line's severe curtailment in 1957 due to the collapse of its distributor; Joe Maneely's tragic death in 1958; the commencement of Tales to Astonish and Tales of Suspense (and the short-lived Strange Worlds with them) in 1958; Jack Kirby's stepped-up output for the company from 1958/59; the shift of its fantastic stories anthologies to a monster stories approach in 1959; and the introduction of the new Rawhide Kid in 1960. The Dr Droom stories appeared in Amazing Adventures in 1961, before Fantastic Four #1.
Quite a number of companies folded, or ceased comics publishing, in the course of the 1950s. This happened before and after the bad publicity of 1954 and the introduction of the Comics Code, but I think the end of a number of companies in the early Code period is a Silver Age marker. The casualties include EC apart from MAD (1955), Eastern Color (1955), Avon (1956), Lev Gleason (1956), Superior (1956), Ace (1956), Quality (1956), St. John (1957 or 1958), Magazine Enterprises (1957 or 1958), Farrell (1958), and Pines/Standard (1959). Prize continued until 1961.
These panels are from one of the last St. John issues, Atom-Age Combat #1 (second series). The issue was dated for Feb. 1958, so I don’t know if it came out in late 1957 or early 1958. Either way it predates many of the DC markers I mentioned, but check out that craft: that’s Silver Age! Art by Dick Ayers.