Monday, June 5, 2017

If you liked Action Heroes, It was a good time to be alive


I was sick of college.
I was horny and alone.
And I had thought about quitting life often.

I often resorted to comics to escape.

I was about to get my insular world of  comic book heroes sent into disarray.  My big two heroes only  bubble burst.  Who were those weird costumed guys from Charlton?  I never saw them before...

But I learned quickly.

The super heroes of the world have not always come from DC or Marvel Comics.  In the middle 1960s Charlton Comics, a smaller but self contained publisher/distributor offered a great number of adventures and heroes.

Dick Giordano, Joe Gill, and Steve Ditko were the central creative and editorial figures of Charlton, but there were others, including Jim Aparo, Dennis O'Neill, and Steve Skeates.  They worked for less money than at the Big Two, but the freedom to create was far greater.

The Blue Beetle had been published by other companies, and in different forms and characters, but the last and most definitive Blue Beetle was created by Steve Ditko.  Imagine them as Spider-man but with gadgets and you'll be close to the target. His stories are highly entertaining and mix adventure and humor well.

Captain Atom was created by Steve Ditko and Joe Gill.  He is a living nuclear reactor.  He was a technician who was unfortunate enough to be near the reactor when it blew, and his being absorbed the energy and reformed his being.  His adventures range from fighting villains to discoveries in space.

The Question was created by Steve Ditko as a means to question the world's values and to show his Objectivist world views.  As a comic character, the Question is a splendid vehicle for deeper mysteries and investigations.

Nightshade was less popular, but still interesting.   She partnered with Captain Atom, and had unique powers. Nightshade's powers are hereditary as the only surviving member of the royal family of the Land of Nightshades.  Able to teleport herself and others by passing through the Land of Nightshade.  She can cast shadows, and manipulate them to appear differently.  She was created by David Kaler and Steve Ditko.

Sarge Steel was a war veteran who turned his martial skills into skills needed for Private Investigation.  His left hand was a mechanical appendage.  He was created by Pat Masulli and his adventures ranged from P.I., to spying, and his typical adventures were against former Nazis, Communists or criminals who tested his mental strength.

Judomaster was a different kind of hero. He wore a costume that was reminiscent of the flag of Imperial Japan, but fought against the Japanese in the Pacific war.  He had an Asian partner named Tiger who wore a similarly Japanese costume.  His adventures were entertaining, and made sense within themselves.  Once you could get over the fact that the two heroes wore those costumes.

Peacemaker was a fun all action character who worked for a secret organization who fought against anyone who attempted to disturb world peace.  As such, he was the sort of character kids could repeat the adventures of without paying more for those fancy special powers.  He used jets, helicopters, mini submarines, and jet packs.  This guy was ready for war.

Peter Cannon Thunderbolt was a wonderful character, who had adventures that didn't match up to his potential.  His Pete Morisi developed the character using Eastern Mysticism and tales of the power of inner strength.  Trained by the masters at a distant monastery to focus his self upon perfect physical body abilities, and new mental abilities, his adventures were often about how the one man could overcome.  They were entertaining, but again, I always left expecting more.

After DC Comics purchased the rights to Charlton's characters. As shown in the images included, DC did attempt to create a new mythos for each character, with solo tales.  Most were good, but other than The Question, were short lived.    What they became famous for, is that these characters were the templates or analogues for the characters of the epic series THE WATCHMEN.  Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons had originally planned to use the originals, but with so many of those characters dying, it would kind of spoil buying all those characters and all the plans.

And Watchmen was amazing.

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