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.
Mighty Samson #1 (Western, 1964)
This was written by Otto Binder and drawn by Frank Thorne. The painted cover was by Mo Gollub. The issue can be read in the preview of the Dark Horse Archives collection Mighty Samson Vol. 1 at Google Books.
Mighty Samson was set in the future after a nuclear war. When I was a kid this kind of fiction was usually post-nuclear war fiction, but it actually goes right back. An early comic book series in this tradition was "The Lost World" in Planet Comics.(1) Other 60s features in the tradition include "Atomic Knights" from Strange Adventures (America after nuclear war), "Guardians of the Galaxy" in Marvel Super-Heroes #18 (Earth after its conquest by the Badoon), and the one-shot "Children of Doom" in Charlton Premiere #2, where the culprit was war, but not nuclear war. The last issue is by Denny O'Neil and Pat Boyette and quite striking. It can be read at Comic Book Plus.
70s features in the tradition include DC's Kamandi and Hercules Unbound, and Marvel's Planet of the Apes, "Killraven" series in Amazing Adventures, and Logan's Run.(2) Kirby depicted the world after a nuclear war in 2001: A Space Odyssey #7. Charlton's Doomsday + 1 was an early John Byrne series (with Joe Gill) I've never read. In the 80s there was Hex, about the adventures of Jonah Hex in a post-nuclear war America. Please feel free to chime in with other compares, especially Silver and Bronze Age ones.
Binder(3) had written an atomic war story as early as "Captain Marvel and the Atomic War!" in Captain Marvel Adventures #66 (1946), which predates the first Soviet nuclear explosion in 1949. The story begins with a nuclear attack on Chicago and things get worse from there. The bombs are even carried on missiles, referred to as V-2s. I don't want to give away the ending. This issue can also be read at Comic Book Plus.
In Mighty Samson #1 the opening caption sets the scene:
A once-great city lies in ruins, overgrown by a dense jungle. Strange, glowing mists hover ominously, remains of a great nuclear war which devastated the planet. The hopes and dreams of mankind are buried beneath tons of rubble, but in this fantastic world, man himself lives on...
Arguably, this is a hopeful future. There are still people, and there's no more danger of nuclear war! Granted, they don't have comic books. Anyway, the series concerns survivors who live in tribal communities in the ruins of New York. The Captain made the point here that in such a war major cities like New York would be principal targets, but the series is set generations in the future and it could be they're descendants of people who moved into the city at a future date, or of survivors who waited out the radiation in shelters. Radiation has produced new flora and fauna, and the people of the city have to constantly work to keep the jungle at bay (which could be a reason for moving back into the cities).
The first story is Samson's origin. Samson had fantastic strength from babyhood, and was named "Samson" because of it (after "a legendary hero, still known among the N'Yarks"). His strength was due to "radiation! The belt of glowing mist which circles the Earth has acted on all its forms of life, turning some into fantastic plants, some into incredible beasts". Binder understood mutation, but this makes it sound like the radiation transformed things. The next panel similarly describes Samson as "transformed into a lad with more-than-human physical powers". But I think the captions may not have been intended that literally.
The story moves forward to Samson's young manhood. When his tribe is attacked by another Samson uses his strength to defend them but his mother is killed. In this sequence, and later, Samson avoids killing people. He's depicted an amiable guy, rather than one driven by inner anger or violence.
The next episode, beginning "some weeks afterward", is his fight with a liobear, a monster combination of lion and bear. This is depicted at length. In the course of the fight Samson loses an eye, but he manages to kill the beast.
He receives medical attention from a woman called Sharmaine, who we later learn is the daughter of Mindor, an cheerful scientist dedicated to recovering ancient knowledge. While he is sleeping she skins the liobear so he can keep its hide as a trophy. (She must really stink after doing that! And the pelt must smell terrible as well.) When he awakes she takes him to her father, at their lab-home in an old bank vault. He lives with them while he recovers, and Sharmaine makes the pelt into clothes for him. This is intended to parallel Samson's wearing of the lion's skin, of course.
Sharmaine's own clothing looks like it was industrially made, and her father wears a lab-coat. The other characters wear rude garments, such as animal skins. A nice detail is Mindor's pet, a small, green critter which might be a (mutant) lemur, which they take with them when they go out in the next sequence. This isn't mentioned in the dialogue, so perhaps Thorne put it in.
The trio go out food-hunting and find cans. Some tribesmen try to steal them, but Samson uses his fantastic strength to drive them off. Mindor and Sharmaine say they'll "join forces" with Samson.
In the issue's second story Samson and co. escape a cactus that can fire its spines and find an armoury. Inside they find a "lightning beast", a giant lizard that fires electricity from its eyes, that Samson defeats. (I love stuff like this.) Mindor is interested by the rifles - there's some humour in the art here; Samson experiments with swinging one as a club, Mindor peers down the barrel while fiddling with the trigger - and they head off so he can look up how to operate it. Samson is attacked by a "six-pawed gorilla" with antlers and Mindor remembers how to a rifle works and shoots it. (He loaded the gun? The gun was already loaded? I don't know much about guns, but think the rifle would have rusted.)
The shot draws the attention of a tribal leader called Kull the Killer. He sees Mindor experimenting with the rifle and grabs Sharmaine. He forces Samson and Mindor to surrender and to give him the gun, and lead him to where he got it from. [Climax spoiler warning.] He chains them to pillars in the armoury and plans to shoot them, but Samson uses his strength on the pillars - paralleling the Biblical Samson again - and brings the roof down. (Only Samson, Mindor and Kull escape, so Samson does kill people here.) He trails Kull as he returns to his camp, where Sharmaine is, and defeats him and his remaining men by knocking a tree onto them. After taking Sharmaine back to Mindor he leaves them, saying he must go "to fight other evil" but will return if needed.
This comic wouldn't be likely to please anyone who doesn't have a taste for this kind of material, but I do. Even for me it's only so-so, but I figure you have to get your liobears where you can find 'em. Thorne does a decent job of drawing the ruined New York - it's depicted as an overgrown, ruined junkland of a city - but his monsters have an underimagined, underdrawn look. The exception is the panel where Samson kills the liobear (top p.20 in the Dark Horse volume), where he puts in a lot of detail. At times the art looks sloppy, at other times more finished. He does a good job with the main characters. His action is not particularly exciting, but the panel where Samson collapses the armoury is good, with an Alex-Toth-like use of shadow.
At the climax of the fight with the liobear swings from gymnastic rings, as on the cover. I wondered if the story was done first, or that cover was and that element was put into the story to match it. Perhaps the cover was painted from the script. On the cover Samson doesn't have a cape, but as in the story his costume retains one of the liobear's claws, which hangs down his right leg. As the GCD points out the cover shows him fighting the liobear in costume, although it's made later. Gollub does a good job with the liobear (his is smaller than Thorne's), and its positioning is comparable to that on the p.20 panel, which might mean one of the artists had seen the other's work.
I also wondered if the second story was done before the first. Against this, it starts with Samson with Mindor and Sharmaine, but in favour, Samson leaves them at the end although the first seems to end with his teaming up with them, and it has the temple-destruction parallel. Mindor's green pet also doesn't appear.
The lightning beast reminds me of the critters from Binder's Superman stories, and the cactus could be from one too. Binder had already used the Kull name for King Kull back in his Captain Marvel days.
I've read the second story before, because it was reprinted, behind a new story and "Tom Morrow" reprint, in Gold Key Champion #2 which I read as a kid. The new story was drawn by Don Heck, and is reprinted in Vol. 4 of the Dark Horse series. "Tom Morrow" was Mighty Samson's short alternative feature, but it didn't start until #7.
(1) The first instalment, in Planet Comics #21, spoke of the period as the 33rd century after the destruction of civilisation by "planet wars and resulting plague" but another instalment I checked, in #24, instead speaks of "the plague and destruction dealt to the Earth by Volta's merciless warriors". In the first instalment the hero, Hunt Bowman, was abducted from Earth by the Voltamen and wound up on another planet they'd invaded. This was the initial Lost World of the title, but in ##23-#24 he returned to Earth and the ruined Earth was afterwards the setting. I owe this point to Wikipedia.
(2) A destructive war was also part of the future history of the "Gary Concord, the Ultra-Man" feature in All-American Comics, but his future was high-tech. The Great Disaster in Kamandi was apparently a natural disaster. "Killraven" depicted Earth after a modern invasion by H.G. Wells's Martians. The B&W Planet of the Apes magazine ran a mix of movie adaptations and original stories, and the adaptions of the two movies were reprinted in the newsstand Adventures on the Planet of the Apes. (There's a good likeness of Charlton Heston on the cover of the last issue.) The opening movies of the Apes series implied our civilisation was going to be destroyed by nuclear war, but in the film Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) it was instead overthrown by apes who had been made pets and slaves.
I suppose Marvel's Star Wars series, which started as an adaptation, was in the tradition of its Planet of the Apes, 2001, and Logan's Run titles. The first issue went on sale the same month as the last Logan's Run. This makes me wonder if Logan's Run was cancelled to make room for it. The Logan's Run TV show started later in the year, but didn't last very long.
(3) The tale was cover-featured. Fawcett Captain Marvel stories lacked credits, of course, but the story is credited to Binder at the GCD. It credits the art to C.C. Beck. The GCD's indexer note on the tale gives away the twist ending.
Space Adventures #35 (Charlton, 1960)
This was one of the issues with a first-period Captain Atom story. It also has three non-series SF ones. The Captain Atom story and one of the others were drawn by Steve Ditko. The GCD attributes the writing of the Captain Atom story and tentatively that of the others to Joe Gill.
The first story is the other Ditko one, "Spies from Another World". Alien spies from Uranus leave their spacecraft in a junkyard, invisible, and steal clothing from a second hand store to disguise themselves as human beings. (One of the aliens has hair like Norman Osborn.) They assure themselves that we are too primitive to stand up to them, but make a mistake that proves fatal. The art is really nice and the story is similar to contemporary Marvel ones in this vein.
The second story, "The Enigma of Pluto" is sloppily-written. Earth scout craft have been investigating Pluto, but many craft have been shot down. Earth doesn't yet know what the Plutonians are like. Only three men have landed on Pluto and returned. Two them turn out to be impostors. The initial mystery element - What are the Plutonians like? - has interest, but the Plutonians turn out to be ordinary evil aliens. The script describes them as "robots ...machine men", but the art depicts them as bald men in space helmets. The hero overcomes them too easily (and where'd he get his club from?) There's a bit about the Plutonians' having captured and shrunk Earth's space carrier that comes out of nowhere, and its restoration also takes place off-panel. It's science fiction! Depict such things! The art is dull and is credited by the GCD to Bill Molno and Vince Alascia.
The third story is "The Unexpected Visitor". Earth reaches Mars, and finds it's divided into three nations. One of them, Luravia, is a tyranny and plans to invade Earth. (Its leader reminds me of Ming the Merciless, but he's only briefly seen.) An arms race results. An unidentified spaceship lands on Earth, and Earth attacks it. There's an interesting bit where the craft reforms after it's apparently destroyed. I won't give away the twist. The story has very attractive art by Charles Nicholas and Sal Trapani which would not have been out of place in an early Silver Age DC story. Their handling of the SF elements reminds me of Murphy Anderson. The art is signed "Cha-Nic and Sal-Tra".
Fourth is the Captain Atom story, "The Little Wanderer", which I mentioned on the previous page. When he returns to his home in Georgia Sgt. Gunner Goslin (a recurring supporting character) learns his son, Billy, has been asleep two days. He talks in his sleep, and seems to think he's travelling through space. Captain Adam is with Goslin and asks him about Billy's dreams. Goslin says they started with one in which a big bird came through his window and took him for a ride to the far side of the moon. Adam, who recognised his description of it, guesses the boy really is travelling through space. He transforms into Captain Atom and heads out into space to investigate. It's a pleasingly oddball story with a good opening hook and good art from Ditko, with nice space-scapes. It skips over the question of how Atom manages to locate Billy in space. The story was cover-featured, but the image was an altered version of a panel from the story, as the GCD notes (Billy's clothing was changed and the space-scape was extended to the right). The "Captain Atom" logo on the cover is coloured red, white and blue, emphasising the strip's patriotic aspect.
In text story the people of Venus await a visit from an Earth ship and wonder what Earthmen will be like.
The issue can be read at Comic Book Plus.
Alarming Tales #6 (Harvey, 1958)
This was a strange story anthology. It had four five-page stories, two one-pagers, and a contents page with a teaser sequence for the cover story.
First up is "Ambassador from Venus", the cover story. The cover, by John Severin, shows the ambassador suspended like a puppet on red ray "strings" from a flying saucer, and the story lives up to the promise of this. An ambassador from Venus arrives in Washington and threatens Earth with destruction if it doesn't submit. He is constantly suspended from red ray "strings" from off-panel that presumably come from the sky, and extols the benefits of surrendering control of oneself to another. The twist ending is OK. I don't see how it gets Earth off the hook, but the fun of the idea compensates.
The GCD, following Martin O'Hearn, identifies the writer as Dick Wood, who did a lot of work for DC. The teaser sequence and story were drawn by Bernard Baily, in a solid Dan Barry style. With its scientist hero who deduces a solution it's like many stories from the Schwartz SF books. The teaser sequence is intriguing, and more dramatic than the corresponding sequence in the story.
I was predisposed to like the story because the alien ambassador premise reminded me of "Diplomatic Immunity" by Robert Sheckley. I read this as a kid and it really stuck with me. It can be found at Project Gutenberg. It's possible it was an influence on the present story, but I don't mean to suggest this one imitates it in detail.
Next comes the two one-pagers. These could be from an ACG title. The first one is a dopey story about life on the moon. In the second Pennsylvania Dutch superstition proves to have foundation. The GCD ascribes the art of the first to Paul Reinman and it doesn't have a credit for the second. (It's decently drawn, but a little stiff.)
The second five-pager is "The Emotion Maker". A scientist develops a means to manipulate emotions. This has solid Dan Barry-style art which the GCD attributes to Fred Kida. I was initially going to write it could also be a DC story, but the ending has heart and is more ACGish. According to O'Hearn this was also written by Wood.
Third is "King of the Ants". This has lovely art by Al Williamson and Angelo Torres. A man is visiting a plantation in the tropics when it is attacked by raiders. He is exposed to chemicals which cause him to shrink to a size of ants. Ants take him prisoner, but after he kills a beetle they make him their king. I won't describe the story's ending. O"Hearn ascribes this one to Wood, too. It's very reminiscent of "The Man in the Ant Hill!" from Tales to Astonish #27 and the first Ant-Man story, although the details are different. Was it the Marvel stories' inspiration? I really wouldn't be surprised. It could also be a chestnut that had been done in other places. In any case, if you've ever wanted to see the origin of Ant-Man as done by Al Williamson and Angelo Torres, here's your chance.
Last is "The Strange Power of Gary Ford". The GCD doesn't have a writer credit for this one, and it's very ACGish. An American man comes upon an oasis city in the Sahara. He finds he can walk through walls, and deduces it was because he drank the water. He romances the sheik's daughter in the hope of stealing his jewels. He meets an American woman who has been made a servant, and proposes they steal the jewels and run off together. They have to separate escaping, and the resolution reveals his greed was pointless and lost him love. O'Hearn ascribes the art to Norman Nodel. I don't recall seeing his name before, but it's a good, well-drawn job.
There are two one-page text stories. In the first, a scorned scientist plots revenge. This one falls flat. In the second, a mutant hides his powers from others and fears alien beings are tracking him.
The GCD credits Leon Harvey as editor. I'm wondering if Joe Simon oversaw the actual production of the stories. The GCD tells me "King of the Ants" has recently been reprinted in Titan's The Simon and Kirby Library: Science Fiction.
The issue can be read at Comic Book Plus.
Thunderbolt #53 (Charlton, 1966)
This was my first issue of Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt was created by Pete Morisi, who signed the strip PAM. Don Markstein noted here that his origin was based on the origin of Centaur's Amazing Man, and his costume recalled the Golden Age Daredevil's (although it wasn't a close copy).
Thunderbolt, whose real name is Peter Cannon, was reared in a Tibetan lamasery after his parents died assisting the monks against the black plague. The opening blurb describes him as having learned from ancient scrolls "concentration, mind over matter, the art of activating and harnessing the unused portion of the brain". In practice the issue depicts him as mentally and physically superb. He can get about by leaping from building to building, but he isn't shown to have superpowers like Amazing Man's. At the climax his "amazing power of will" allows him to return to a fight revitalised after he's been badly pummelled.
This issue's adventure is near-book-length. A criminal leader called the Tong has founded a new tong. His movement has a cult element, with a regular ritual in which male slaves dance around an idol called the Idol of Evil and he ascends from a pit of flames. Tong is drawn as Asian, and there's an element of racial caricature in his appearance - he has buck teeth - but it's fairly slight. He's plump and white-haired, so he doesn't look like the Yellow Claw and similar villains. His skin is coloured orange. His men are white American gangsters, like the ones in Goldfinger.
At a meeting of his men the Tong identifies one as an infiltrator. He shoots him and tells his men to dump the body. But the man is not dead and is found in time to be hospitalised, although he is in a coma. He is a police detective, and a Lt. Palmer asks Peter Cannon, who has published articles on Asian cultures, to identify the tattoo on his wrist. Cannon recognises it as the Idol of Evil, "symbol of the tongs". Cannon briefly explains the history of tongs in America.
The Tong has a mole machine, and sends his men on raids to steal gold. (I'm a sucker for these. I must have imprinted on them watching Thunderbirds.) Cannon doesn't want to get involved with the "problems of civilisation" anymore (this makes sense; he was raised in a lamasery, and monks seek peace of mind by separating from society), but his servant, Tabu, talks him into getting involved. ("Even if civilisation is the jungle you claim, would have the Tong rule, as king of the beasts?") Tabu also has orange skin, but in appearance isn't one whit caricatured. He wears a turban.
Thunderbolt deduces where the Tong will strike next. He gets there as a robbery is in progress and lets himself be captured so he'll be taken to the Tong. The Tong and his men perform their ritual and the Tong declares Thunderbolt will die in combat. His opponents are two giant sumo wrestlers. At first they get the better of him, but through his "power of will" and "splendid physique" he rallies and wins. He then wins a fight against the Tong's men. The Tong tries to attack him with the mole machine, but Thunderbolt's "precision of motion" allows him to leap aside. The machine goes out of control and drills into the ocean, presumably killing the Tong. Thunderbolt hears sirens, realises the police are on the way, and leaves.
The next day Cannon tells Tabu the police found out the Tong's location from the wounded detective, who finally woke up. (Arguably, Thunderbolt need not have gotten involved with the case. But I suppose if he had not police would have been killed in the raid.) Tabu asks about his motives, and Cannon tells him his "parents were innocent victims of the tong wars that raged here years ago! He swore to avenge their deaths by destroying civilization, through an empire of crime!" Tabu notes the similarity of his background to Thunderbolt's.
Since his parents were apparently immigrants, I figure the Tong is properly not an Asian villain, but Asian-American. The Idol of Evil looks Southeast Asian rather than Chinese,(1) and sumo wrestlers are Japanese. But it would be unreasonable of an insane criminal mastermind to refuse the services of killer giant sumo wrestlers just because of their ethnicity. Cannon refers to the "asbestos clothes" the Tong wore. This must be to explain how he was able to emerge out of the flames in the ritual. Until I reached that line I didn't realise that was supposed to come across as supernatural.
Morisi's style reminds me of Alex Toth's cartoon style. The story's action isn't exciting and it wastes its interesting new tong idea. On the other hand, I never expected to read a comic with a dual between a man and a mole machine. The tong wars background made me think that Thunderbolt was based on the west coast and I was going to write that I liked this, but a caption places Palmer with the New York police.
I didn't really enjoy the comic all that much while I was reading it, but I like Thunderbolt and Tabu so I'll read another. Thunderbolt is unusual in that he's compassionate but not really into crimefighting. Tabu has to talk him into it. The idea of a superhero who lacks superpowers but mentally and physically represents humanity at is best is interesting. I should note the idea there is an unused portion of the brain is a myth.
The filler story is a two-pager about nuclear power, narrated by Captain Atom and drawn by Frank McLaughlin. I didn't know there were ever nuclear-powered merchant ships.
The text story is a rainmaker tale that I believe is a version of a chestnut. A guy makes a deal with a city's authorities to make it rain for money. When he does the authorities try to stiff him, so he makes it rain harder after telling them they'll have to pay a higher price to make it stop. There's the nice detail that when he meets with the authorities again he brings his lawyers. The issue also has a letters page.
The issue can be read at Comic Book Plus.
(1) It has a real look to it and might be based on a real one. But if so, I'd guess it's an image of a saintly or divine figure. It doesn't look demonic, although it has a bit of a scowl on the cover.
This post displaced the thread Dark Shadows from the home page.
One issue of Mighty Samson had them find and start passing out cans of food to starving people, mentioning how the food would have been kept fresh in the cans. Obviously the writer didn't think just how long it had been since the world was destroyed, or that canned goods don't stay good forever. Those cans must have smelled horrible when they opened them!
"Menace from Uranus", Space Family Robinson Lost in Space #23 (Western 1967)
Synopsis (complete): An accident has sent the Robinsons' space station back through time, and it has crashed on Mars in a time when it had areas of foliage and air breathable by humans. Tim and Tam go exploring and meet the Martians, who have an advanced city. The city is attacked by a craft from Uranus made of sodium metal. Tim and Tam destroy it with the rockets of their spacemobile and a flask of water.
The grateful Martians set about repairing the space station. Meanwhile Craig Robinson and Tam tour Mars in a Martian helicopter. Their guide is a lady Martian councillor. She tells them their planet is slowly losing its moisture. They have no rivers, only pipes, aqueducts, and oases.
As the helicopter travels over a crater it's caught by the meteorite's magnetism and pulled into it. Everyone survives the crash, but the pilot and councillor are knocked unconscious. Craig steps out to look around.
A reptilian critter that lives in the crater catches Craig with its huge tongue. With Tam's help he gets into the helicopter and they shut the door. It smashes its way through, and Craig brains it with a large spanner.
The Martians recover. Craig and Tam are stronger due to Earth's gravity, so they climb out of the crater to call for help. Tim has been organising and arming a militia. Another Uranian craft attacks, and they destroy it. Then he picks up the "castaways" in a spacemobile.
On Earth most people live in cities or their suburbs, but people live all over the place and there's a lot of farmland. It seems to me SF stories often depict worlds where people live in cities and everything else is wilderness. The Robinsons' landing site is fifty miles away from the city, but they attract no attention until Tim and Tam scout the city in the spacemobile.
The Martians are depicted as super-advanced but peaceful and lacking in weapons or space travel technology. The Robinsons can communicate with them as they and the Martians have translator devices.
The Martians look like human beings with slightly odd faces. At one point Tam blurts out that in their time Mars will be all desert. The Martians know this is in their planet's future and don't show curiosity about the future of their race. They're aliens, I guess.
If the critter that grabs Craig is the same size as the one they saw earlier, the "mouse" it caught must've been the size of a human. The ones the dog is chasing in the splash panel look like they could reach a thigh on their haunches.
The story was drawn by Dan Spiegle, the feature's artist from the beginning, and written by Gaylord Du Bois, who handled it from #8.
The story has been reprinted in Dark Horse's fourth Space Family Robinson collection, which currently has a preview at Google Books. The original issue also had a short "Captain Venture" back-up story and filler pages.
I didn't read this series as a kid. I was a sci-fi nut, but I think I would have found it dull. Did kids enjoy it then, or did it only survive so long by its connection to the Lost in Space TV show?
This post displaced the thread Today's Purchases from the homepage.
In my review of "The Mummy Khafre" from Nightmare #22 and Psycho #23 p.1 I mentioned the way in the second instalment the mummy is a skeleton under her robe. The image was copied from the Italian horror movie La maschera del demonio (1960), known in English as Black Sunday and The Mask of Satan.
I also reviewed "Tarzan and the Demon Elephant" from Western's Tarzan #197 p.1. It turns out the story was partly based on H. Rider Haggard's novel The Ivory Child. I've posted a synopsis of the novel here. This might mean more of the Tarzan stories of the era were semi-adaptations.
Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom #1 (Western, 1962)
This was Doctor Solar's first appearance. The first story is his origin. The second story continues the first's spy plot.
"Doctor Solar": "Solar's Secret".
Synopsis (complete): Dr Gail Sanders has just arrived in Atom Valley. Dr Solar saves her from a runaway rocket test. They know each other from college. He shows her around the facility.
Dr Solar and Dr Bently are working on a project to convert energy into matter. Another scientist, Dr Rasp, is a spy for a mysterious figure called Nuro. Nuro orders Rasp to kill one of the two so he can replace him.
Rasp treats Solar's tires with acid so he'll have a blowout. The tire blows as Solar and Gail are driving along a sharp drop, but they avoid going over. (It's a terrible road. The surface is dirt, the corners are blind and there's no safety rails.)
Nuro orders Rasp to kill Solar or Bently by sabotaging the atomic pile. Rasp extracts the control rod and rigs the gauge so it won't show it's out.
Bentley decides to work late. A radiation alarm signals something is wrong, and he spots the out of place control rod. ("If I don't act fast, the whole valley will blow sky-high!") Solar decides to join Bently and finds him working to avert the crisis. Bently warns him to get out before the radiation kills him, but Solar's concern is for Bently. Bently collapses, and Solar completes the lowering of the control rod.
Solar's dosimeter shows he has received a fatal radiation dose, but he has no symptoms. Bently has died. In the art Solar is now coloured green. He finds he is giving off radiation.
Solar contacts his boss, Dr Clarkson, via television-phone and tells him what's happened. He tells Clarkson to get him cadmium-lead shielding and uses this to line the walls of his office. The window he lines with transparent cadmium-lead film, and he lines his clothing with cadmium-lead (and wears gloves) to cut down on the danger of being in his presence.
Clarkson conducts tests and finds Solar no longer has a heartbeat or "metabolism". They decide his body has been chemically transmuted by the radiation. Solar tells Clarkson to keep what's happened secret and to say he'll continue the energy-matter project alone.
This foils Rasp. Security decides the crisis was an accident but Solar is sure it was sabotage.
"Doctor Solar": "An Atomic Inferno"
Synopsis (complete): An electronic furnace explodes. Emergency workers tackle the fire and rescue the scientists who were using it, who are Rasp and Gail.
Solar wants to go to the site to investigate, so he has Clarkson clear the corridor. Rasp sees him passing and notices the reaction of his Geiger counter.
Solar is unable to find clues, and questions Gail about the accident through his window. She's angry at his changed behaviour. Meanwhile, Nuro orders Rasp to find out more about Solar.
Solar learns he can turn the energy of his body into heat by concentrating. He and Clarkson test his power using the heat lab. Solar changes into "a mass of heat", then resumes human form. The expenditure of energy leaves him drained. Clarkson directs him to renew his energy by exposing himself to the atomic pile. A neutron beam revives him.
Gail interrupts Rasp as he's preparing materials for Nuro. He leaves to see Clarkson. She notices he's forgotten his dosimeter, and realises it's a camera. As he returns she confronts him about it. Gail calls Solar for help over the intercom. He spots Rasp depositing her in an altitude chamber.
Solar sets off to help, but his strength begins to give out because of his experiments. He calls Clarkson for help from a wall phone. Clarkson revives him with radioactive iodine.
The chamber can't be opened due to the "pressure", but Solar saves Gail by burning a hole in the chamber steel. Elsewhere, the frantic Rasp contacts Nuro, and Nuro somehow kills him by remote control. Solar and Clarkson find his body and radio and wonder who his higher-up was.
According to DC Indexes the issue appeared the same month Spider-Man, Thor and Ant-Man debuted.
At this point the idea was apparently to do a series about a radioactive man with fantastic powers. Solar’s costume was not introduced until #5.
Solar’s need to protect others against the radioactivity of his body recalls Captain Atom’s origin story. His spy-sabotage-and-radiation origin is somewhat like the Hulk’s. Rasp reminds me of Dr Smith in the Lost in Space pilot: nervous, willing to kill, constantly contacting his boss by radio. But that show was still in the future.
The series was initially written by Paul S. Newman. The Dark Horse archive credits the stories to Newman and Matt Murphy. Murphy was reportedly the editor in charge of Western’s New York office. Wikipedia credits him as the “concept co-creator”.
The art was by Bob Fujitani, a Golden Age veteran whose early had a distorted look but by this point was using a restrained, realistic style, somewhat like John Prentice’s style on Rip Kirby.
The splash page of the opening story has a large splash panel and two follow-ups. All the other pages have five panels arranged on a six panel grid. The double-panel appears in any of the three tiers.
The covers of the first two issues were painted by Richard Powers. He was also a paperback cover artist, and his work was ubiquitous on SF paperbacks in this period. The GCD tells me the back cover reproduced the painting without copy.
Rasp’s atomic pile sabotage was only supposed to kill Bently or Solar, so he apparently flubbed his hit badly. Presumably if Bently had not worked late everyone would have been killed.
When Gail is in the atmosphere chamber Clarkson says it’s set for a pressure that “will make her body explode!” That seems to refer to low pressure or vacuum (although it’s my understanding that even in a vacuum a human body wouldn’t explode), but in the next panel he says the door won’t open “against that pressure”, which implies the pressure has been set high. If the pressure was already so high Solar is very lucky that when he burned the hole he didn’t give Gail the bends.
“Doctor Solar”: “Doomsday Minus One Minute”, from Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom #15 (Western, 1965)
By this point Gail knew Solar's secret. Solar was able to pass for normal, but his abnormal state kept him from living a normal life with Gail.
Solar's costume looks based on the Golden Age Comet's, who was a similar character in some ways. It was introduced a month before the debut of Cyclops in X-Men #1.
Synopsis (complete): An Atom Valley scientist called Dr Lamson has ascended a test tower and is refusing to come down. Solar ascends to talk to him. Lamson is clearly in a bad mental state. He refers to nuclear weapons and indicates he’s done something catastrophic. Just before he jumps he says the world will see what “on the morning of January 10th, 1966 at the new United Nation’s Plaza!”
Solar catches his arm and is momentarily able to hold him. He appeals to Lamson, but Lamson says society will never understand or forgive what he’s done. Then he falls. The facility soldiers catch him in a net, but his heart has given out.
Solar, Clarkson and Gail discuss Lamson’s statements (or rather, Solar and Clarkson discuss them while Gail watches). Solar believes Lamson must have taken “some terrible step”. Clarkson is forced to agree. He throws out the idea of Solar travelling to the future. Solar believes he can do this by absorbing enough energy from the atomic reactor to go faster than light.
Solar switches to his costume and enters the reactor to absorb energy. When he is super-energised he exits it and cracks the light barrier. He begins to see the future. He sees super-skyscrapers in New York and realises he’s gone too far. He brakes his nuclear power, which moves him back towards his own time. Then he uses a building’s date clock to hit the right date.
In the plaza Solar stands by a time capsule monument. There is an underground detonation, the monument splits, and its spike soars upward as a rocket. Five mile up it bursts, releasing a device that emits radio waves. The waves start triggering the world’s atomic bombs. A global catastrophe develops. Solar realises Lamson’s plan was to avoid the worst effects of nuclear war by setting the bombs off in their silos. But the wave of explosions causes a geological upheaval that shatters the planet.
Solar marshals his energy to fight the time current and return to the present. The trio investigate the time capsule. They determine Lamson rigged the bomb to go off “at the slightest pressure”. To deactivate it safely they need precise knowledge of the trigger mechanism.
The solution is for Solar to travel back in time to its construction. The trio calculate exactly how much energy that will take. Solar re-enters the reactor - in his suit and tie this time - and absorbs the necessary energy. He disappears into the past and emerges into time during the dedication of the time capsule.
Solar observes Lamson placing the bomb (which is the size of a small box) and rigging the trigger mechanism. He determines there is a way to deactivate it, but when he attempts to return to the present he realises he has become a normal human because he has travelled back to before the events that gave him his powers.
Solar relives the events of his origin story. He is tempted to try to change the past but decides he doesn’t have the right to. When he has again become super-powered he returns to the present, leaving an “imprint” of himself in the past. The trio return to the plaza, and Solar deactivates the trigger and extracts the bomb.
In his introduction to Dark Horse’s first archive Mark Evanier says Paul S. Newman “appears to have written the first nine issues of Doctor Solar-minus one fill-in by Otto Binder-before handing the assignment off to Dick Wood”. This is how the GCD credits them. However, Dark Horse’s second and third archives credit their stories to Newman. The present story is collected in volume three, which takes the series up to #22.
The GCD ascribes to Binder the stories from #7. Dark Horse doesn’t ascribe any of the stories to Binder. But Binder is credited as having worked on the feature in Jerry Bails’s Who’s Who. Murphy’s co-writer credit on the stories in volume one seems questionable. I take it it’s based on his contribution to the creation of the feature and Solar’s remodelling in #5,(1) and if that’s all, it shouldn’t appear on stories from issues other than #1 and #5. So I think the GCD’s credits more worthy of trust.
The art was by Frank Bolle, who replaced Fujitani on the series from #6. His work here is a bit simpler than Fijitani’s, but really a lot like it. It isn’t as attractive as his Tim Holt work for ME, but he does a good job on the cataclysm sequence, which gets five pages including a full-page splash.
Solar’s not said to have merged with his past self when he travels to the past. You just have to roll with it. When he travels into the future he first sees the New York of the more distant future, then the world’s destruction at an earlier date. In the cataclysm sequence Lamson’s device detonates most nuclear weapons underground but causes others to launch, although his plan is supposed to be about preventing their launch. The slapdash handing of these SF elements reminded me of Charlton’s Joe Gill.
The art depicts the rocket as having reached space when it bursts, but five miles up is much too low for that.
The issue reminded me of “Children of Doom” from Charlton Premiere #2, which also has a time travel/end of the world plot. Some of Charlton’s first wave Captain Atom stories also have danger-of-nuclear-war themes.
The cover was painted by George Wilson. It’s a good one, with interesting imagery. The clockface element connects it with the story.
According to the GCD the issue also had a "Professor Harbinger" short feature, and a "Doctor Solar: Secrets of Atom Valley" one-pager on the inside back cover. The letters page was titled "Solar's Science Forum".
(1) According to the GCD #5 was edited by Matt Murphy, but #1-#4, #6-#7 by Bill Harris.
Space Adventures #44 (Charlton, 1962)
Charlton covers of this era were often collages of interior panels. Some of these covers look great, but this one just has the splash panel of "Introducing: The Mercury Man!" and an inset image from another story. The covers are the main reason I read Charlton SF, as the stories are almost always just terrible.
I read this issue for the Mercury Man's introduction. He's coloured differently on the cover and inside. On the cover he has white skin and a form-fitting blue costume. Inside he has a mostly-unclad mercury body. There was one other instalment, in #45.
According to DC Indexes the issue went on sale in Dec. 1961.
Synopsis (complete): An Earth patrol ship with a two-man crew rescues an alien spaceship from pursuing craft. The commander, Ross, crosses to the craft they assisted. At first sight its pilot appears to be a "monstrous insect", but she reveals herself to be a pretty woman.
The woman is an "astronomist" named Lura, from a planet called Ketos. She tells him her people have been at war, and only "ancients" and women remain. While Ross is saying his people will help hers out she takes control of the patrol ship with a magnetic field. She tells Ross he's her prisoner, and takes the ships to her planet.
Ross wants to return to his base, but the Ketosians won't let the Earthmen go. His assistant doesn't want to go. Ross broadcasts to his HQ they're being held prisoner by beautiful women and need rescue. He predicts "every spaceman on the base" will fight to come.
The GCD ascribes this story's script, tentatively, to Joe Gill, and the art to Rocco Mastroserio.
There's an art/dialogue mismatch in the opening sequence. In the dialogue Ross orders his subordinate to use the "atomic engine disabler ray". But the splash panel shows the ray blowing a craft apart. The dialogue in panel 2 implies the other craft have been disabled, but in the art they're more likely fleeing.
We don't get a clear look at Luna before the reveal. She seems to be in a spacesuit. Are we supposed to think she projected an illusion? Or that her spacesuit looks insect-like? The former explanation fits the art better, but there's no explanation in the dialogue.
In this Code-approved story the happy ending is the hero lures Earth's defenders to an alien planet for stud purposes.
"The Human Element"
Synopsis (complete): Earth has been at war with Centuria for centuries, but the two races don't know what each other look like. An Earth scout ship detects an Centurian craft, and the two duel. Suddenly the Centurian ship is hit by a ray from an alien saucer. The Earthmen scan the new ship and find its crew look monstrous. The Centurians send out men in spacesuits to do repairs, and the Earthmen discover they look like bald humans. The Earthmen destroy the saucer and befriend the Centurians.
The GCD ascribes this story's script, tentatively, to Joe Gill, and the art to Bill Molno and Vince Alascia.
The premise recalls the later Star Trek episode "Balance of Terror".
Contrast the cover story from Superman #236, in which the moral is you can't judge by appearances. Here that's just what the Earthmen do.
Synopsis (complete): Jim won't marry his girlfriend Diana until he's a roller skating champion. The trouble is he keeps falling over. He blames the skates. Diana arranges for a man to dress as a dwarf and deliver "magic skates". Jim thinks it's a gag until the deliveryman stands on the ceiling. He wins the championship and proposes. The "unexpected" twist ending reveals the deliveryman really was a dwarf.
This is a two-pager. The GCD ascribes the script, tentatively, to Joe Gill, and the art to Charles Nicholas and Sal Trapani.
Using magic to win an athletic contest is cheating.
"Introducing: The Mercury Man!"
Synopsis (complete): A silver-bodied alien with winged ankles and ears has the power to fly through space. He arrives at Earth and enters US airspace. On radar he appears as an "unidentified metallic object". The military attempts to destroy him with atomic (!) missiles. One hits him, but it does him no harm.
He flies to Washington to contact a scientist called Dr Penn with whom he has previously communicated telepathically. He introduces himself as the man from Mercury, and learns Penn is an attractive woman.
Penn questions him about Mercury. He tells her it was once a garden, and was destroyed by war. Only he survived, because he had discovered a way to become "pure mercury". Penn tells him Earth faces a similar crisis because a very aggressive dictator has come to power in the Soviet Union and means to start a war.
The Mercury Man heads for the Soviet Union to prevent this. The Soviets fire rockets at him, but he just smashes them. He destroys the intercontinental missiles that have been readied for launching and otherwise demonstrates his superiority to Soviet arms. Then he takes a look around and intervenes in a war in Africa by destroying the weapons depots on both sides.
Penn reads about his exploits in a newspaper. The Mercury Man tells her wants to become human again so he can join Earth society, but he's not sure he can. Penn conducts tests and finds a way to make him human. They kiss. Penn says he will be able to resume his metallic form when he wishes.
The GCD ascribes the script for this story to Joe Gill, and the art to Rocco Mastroserio.
The Mercury Man’s winged ankles recall Namor’s, and his winged ears recall Namor’s pointed ones. DC Indexes tells me the issue came out two months before Namor’s return in Fantastic Four #4. This makes me wonder if the Fantastic Four story was prompted by it.
In fact, the Mercury Man may have been consciously modelled after Namor. He lacks the Marvel hero's bellicosity, but he's otherwise like a Namor from space. He flies, is invulnerable, wears little aside from trunks, and comes from an alien society.
Although he smashes missiles, tanks, and planes it's not clear how strong he is. He has the ability to zap things he points at, but this isn't explained.
The story misses a couple of opportunities. How he established communication with Penn isn't shown, and there are no flashback panels when he tells her his origin. His origin - last survivor of a planet destroyed by war - reminds me of the M.F. Enterprises Captain Marvel's from a few years later.
The Hermes/Mercury of myth wore winged sandals and a winged hat. So the Charlton hero is a "Mercury" man in three ways: by his planet of origin; by his mercury body; and by the wings on his head and heels.
The opening caption calls him "the fluid man of metal from outer space", "who can fly at any speed, take any shape or appearance, and who has total immunity to any weapon!" But he doesn't display any shape-changing powers in the story. The idea recalls the Metal Men, but they didn't debut until the end of the next month. The Mercury Man's mercury form is correctly depicted as silvery, not red.
The text item is a sober account of the potential of rockets and satellites.
Space Adventures #45 (Charlton, 1962)
In both this issue and #44 the cover story is placed last. This time out the Mercury Man story is blurbed above the title and placed first. The cover is a non-collage one by Rocco Mastroserio illustrating "Judgement Day".
Synopsis (complete): The President invites world leaders to the dedication of a peace monument. Dr Penn is invited and she asks the Mercury Man to escort her. During the ceremony someone throws a grenade. The Mercurian succeeds in throwing it into the lake.
The President thanks him in the Oval Office. The Mercurian tells him he has a way to change the thinking of the world’s warmongers, but it will have to be done apart from the government, secretly. He commissions the creation of a space capsule. Then he kidnaps the world’s worst warmongers - a financier, a Soviet type, and stand-ins for Mao and Castro - and orders them aboard. Dr Penn wants to see his planet and goes too.
The Mercury Man carries the capsule to Mercury. He shows the warmongers the ruins so they will know what will happen if they continue to foment war. But they remain belligerant. The Soviet attempts to shoot him and pseudo-Castro throws a grenade at the capsule. This wrecks it. The Mercury Man decides they’re hopeless cases and carries Dr Penn back to Earth in his arms.
Better rulers take the place of the warmongers. The Mercury Man tells Dr Penn that he hopes one day to see Mercury repopulated by Earth colonists.
The GCD ascribes the script, tentatively, to Joe Gill, and the art to Charles Nicholas and Sal Trapani.
The script describes the Mercury Man as “transforming to his pure metallic form” when he starts using his powers, but the colouring doesn’t depict it. In the art he just seems to switch from normal clothing to his costume.
In #44 his costume includes suspenders that the cover-colouring interprets as the border of his blue shirt. His costume here is a red version of the cover costume from #44 without the thick border. His belt has an “M” symbol.
In the #44 story the Mercury Man’s ears become humanlike but pointed when he’s changed back to flesh and blood. (In p.10 panel 2 one ear is pointed and one appears Earth-normal. But in p.10 panel 3 they’re both clearly pointed.) In #45 he has pointed ears in and out of costume.
In #44 Dr Penn has black hair and glasses. Here she doesn’t use glasses and is orange-haired.
In this story the Mercury Man is publically known to be a Mercurian. He doesn’t conceal his ears when he’s in civilian clothing, and talks with the President about how things were on Mercury while in civilian clothing. A couple of times he's called Merco.
The Mercury sequence ignores Mercury’s proximity to the sun. The Earthpeople walk around as if it the planet has an Earth-like atmosphere.
The clearest shot of the destroyed city is in the background on the splash page. In the sequence where the Mercury Man shows it to the warmongers it’s only glimpsed.
In one panel (p.7 panel 4) there seems to be fifth warmonger, but otherwise there’s only the four.
The President is drawn to look like Kennedy.
Synopsis (complete): A great robot scientist named Dr Monet is assassinated in space. Operator 7 is assigned the job of finding his killer. After much searching he locates the spaceship that was used to commit the murder. He is able to record the “body-waves” of the murderer, and finds them to be “partly human, partly something else”. He searches all over for a match, but can’t find one.
Looking for a clue, he checks the victim’s family history and learns his father married a woman from Mercury II after his first wife died. He deduces the murderer was the victim’s half-brother, Claude. When he goes to question him Claude holds him at gunpoint and admits it. Operator 7 moves to arrest him, and he fires. But the policeman is a robot constructed by Dr Monet, and the gun only causes cosmetic damage.
The GCD ascribes the script, tentatively, to Joe Gill, and the art to Rocco Mastroserio.
This story has a particularly nice splash page, but some other parts of the story aren’t as well drawn. The splash has Mastroserio’s signature, as the GCD points out. Is it possible he signed the splash, but didn’t do the story solo?
There’s a nice visual device on the final page. When Claude shoots Operator 7 he damages part of his face. His skin is coloured, but the exposed circuitry is B&W. It’s a good effect.
I can imagine EC doing a story with this plot.
“When the Day Comics”
This is a two-page reflection, in comics form, on the subject of how humanity will react to meeting aliens. It offers the interesting suggestion that encountering a superior civilisation might cause humanity to develop “a morbidly excessive inferiority complex”.
The GCD ascribes the script, tentatively, to Joe Gill, and the art to Bill Molno and Rocco Mastroserio.
Synopsis (complete): In the future as envisioned by this story humanity has not yet succeeded in sending men through the Van Allen belts. Four astronauts are being trained for another try. One of them is written off as too imaginative, but the other three develop medical conditions, so he has to be chosen.
The mission launches. The astronaut responds to the loneliness of space by voicing his thoughts. He has always believed the Van Allen belts are artificial creations. For this he has been accused of having too much imagination.
His ship is sufficiently shielded and he quickly passes through the belts. On the other side he finds an alien spaceship that orders him to follow it to “the near planet, Eros” (presumably, the asteroid Eros).
The aliens are orange guys with bald, pointy heads who wear red capes. They say they created the Van Allen belts as a test. They direct the astronaut to sit in a special chair and probe his mind to determine the mental characteristics of humanity. His mind convinces them humanity is a “warm, imaginative, emotional, yet intelligent” race, and they welcome Earthmen to outer space.
The GCD ascribes the script, tentatively, to Joe Gill, the pencils to Bill Molno, and the inks, tentatively, to Molno.
The story reminded me of Edmond Hamilton’s City at World’s End and Robert Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, in both of which humans have to be vindicated to galactic tribunals. If the other astronauts had been sent through the belts, would they have been judged unsuitable?
The idea that humanity will be assisted by more advanced races once it becomes spacefaring recalls Star Trek: First Contact.
The text story is a tale of how a doorman saved Earth after it had been conquered by Martians.
Cheyenne Kid #64 (Charlton, 1967)
The Cheyenne Kid is a white man who was raised as a Cheyenne. He is a scout for the cavalry, wears a blue cavalry tunic, and is based in Fort Bent. He carries a knife in a sheath on his back.
His feature debuted in Wild Frontier #7. That issue already carried a "Cheyenne Kid" logo on the cover, and the title became The Cheyenne Kid with the next issue. The feature was probably created by Charlton in imitation of the TV show Cheyenne, which was then running, although its hero was a wanderer rather than a scout. The title continued until 1973.
The hero of Cheyenne was a white man who was taken in by the Cheyenne after his parents were killed by Indians.(1) Wild Frontier #7 opened with an origin story that copied the TV character's. A boy is taken in as a pre-adolescent by the Cheyenne after they attack a wagon train and kill the other settlers. When he is a young man the Cheyenne make plans to attack another wagon train. He now regards himself as a Cheyenne and means to fight with them. But partly by chance, partly by sympathy, he winds up fighting with the settlers. He afterwards becomes a scout. We get a quite different origin, and a sympathetic portrait of the Cheyenne, in the present issue.
The scripts are tentatively attributed by the GCD to Joe Gill. It assigns the art Luis Dominguez. Dominguez's art has an attractive fine art quality, as so much Filipino art does. The issue is good-looking but unexciting. I think the writing more to blame for this, but Dominguez does keep the action a lot in the middle distance.
The cover is in a realistic style with chiaroscuro effects. It doesn't illustrate a scene from a story. The GCD ascribes it to Dominguez. It might be by him, as he signed other covers for this series, but other Charlton artists also signed attractive Western covers in this period and I can't tell their styles apart.
The issue has three stories: a 12 page origin story, an Indian story, and a Cheyenne Kid adventure. But the Indian story is placed between pages 8 and 9 of the origin story, and carries the Cheyenne Kid logo. We're apparently supposed to take it as the story told by the visiting story teller.
"The Cheyenne Kid"": "The Little Chief"
Synopsis (complete): The Cheyenne Kid's parents were heading west with a covered wagon when it was overrun and destroyed by a stampeding herd of buffalo. (I've not seen that before.) They were killed, but their baby survived. A Cheyenne man heard him crying in the wreckage, and adopted him as his son.
The boy became known as the Little Chief because he always led the boys in their games. He killed his first game, a bird, when he was 11.(2) Many moons later he distinguished himself by breaking a wild pony and presenting it to the chief, and was rewarded by being allowed to join the chief's circle to hear a visiting story teller.
Subsequently he and his friend Red Hawk were sent into the woods for their manhood trial. The story of this was told in Cheyenne Kid #61. The pair were accepted as warriors, and the chief presented him with a white pony.
The time came for his vision quest. After standing for four days he saw a giant white eagle descend and carry him away. He returned to his people to find white men visiting, apparently a cavalry officer and scout (judging by their appearances). One of them spotted him as white by his blue eyes. His foster father presented a book which explained his birth identity. At the white men's request, and with the consent of his father, he left the tribe to learn their ways. He became known as the Cheyenne Kid, and works "to bring peace and justice to all peoples of the prairie, whether red or white".
The Cheyenne's way of life is here depicted with respect. The boy is thoroughly a Cheyenne boy, eager to grown into manhood. There are references to warriors and war, but no depiction of it, and no mention of conflict with whites. The youth has never seen a white man until he meets the visitors.
When the scout reads the book he finds the young man is 19. He sure doesn't look it before that page. When the sequence starts he's still a full head shorter than the chief. Possibly that should've been 14. When the scout says he's 19 he suddenly looks that age.
His manhood trial is said to have taken place "not long after" he broke the pony, but when the chief presents him with one during his convalescence he says "many moons" have passed. That's probably careless scripting, but the references are reconcilable on the assumption his recuperation took a long time.
The Kid is coloured red throughout the account of his origin, presumably to represent his tan, but in the final panel he's shown as a white. Wouldn't he still be equally tanned as a scout?
"The Fire Pony"
Synopsis (complete): Although this story carries the "Cheyenne Kid" logo it's a self-contained story about the vision quest of an Indian named Running Bear. He was suspended where he could see for miles. At the beginning of the fourth night his vision began. He saw a fiery horse, and afterwards a great eagle. The two fought, and after a hard battle the horse triumphed. The vision's meaning was revealed to Running Bear years later in his days a chief, when he met his enemy Black Eagle in battle.
The story is presented by an Indian host figure, and said to be a story often told around Indian camp fires. It's very attractively drawn, and the storytelling is more vivid and interesting than that of the Cheyenne Kid ones. The artist clearly threw himself into it.
In the vision quest part of the story Running Bear looks like a young man, which might be too old. He's initially depicted as suspended off the ground, but later shown as suspended standing.
"The Cheyenne Kid": "The Cheating Trader"
Synopsis (complete): While the Cheyenne Kid has been visiting the Cheyenne a new trader has set up a store in Fort Bent. He has been cheating the Indians with sub-standard goods. The Kid helps an Indian he knows get what he's due. The trader makes nice, but afterwards hires agents to assassinate the Kid. The Kid learns the trader's reputation and with the help of the Indians and cavalrymen runs a sting that proves his perfidy. The Kid calls out the trader, and he attempts to shoot the Kid and the Kid has to fight him.
This is the most ordinary of stories. The art helps it a bit, but not very much. The splash panel is particularly nice.
The text item is called "The Deputy Sheriff's Corner". This is a column on the Old West that invites readers' questions. The columnist quotes a letter asking after the origin of the name Wrong-Wheel Jones, and answers it with the account of the story from John R. Cook's The Border and the Buffalo.
(1) Wikipedia says it was unspecified which tribe committed the attack. This wiki says it was the Cheyenne who took him in. The wiki indicates Cheyenne's background was mentioned in more than one episode, but apparently it wasn't mentioned all the time.
(2) The caption says "when he reached his twelfth year", which would be while he was 11.