Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Kong the Untamed #1 (1975)

Kong the Untamed #1 (July, 1975)
"Kong the Untamed"
Writer - Jack Oleck
Artist - Alfredo F. Alcala
Editor - Joe Orlando
Cover Price: $0.25

One of my favorite parts of being a comic collector is discovering things I had no idea existed.  There's always that (brief) moment of shock when I come across something in a cheap-o bin, or even on the racks that I never knew of.  It doesn't happen too often, but when it does... it's pretty neat.

Even if what the "new" thing is isn't totally to my interests as a reader, I'm still pretty likely to snag it just to be sure.  Case in point, today's trip into the primitive world (which is different from Warlord's "Lost World") of Kong... the Untamed?

There isn't a whole lot written about the towheaded cave boy online, except that he's apparently a canonical DC character (I though for a moment he was a licensed deal)... he is a direct descendant of the "first boy" of the DC Universe, Anthro!

Let's see what makes him tick...


We open as a clan of cavemen do battle with... well, a clan of beastmen.  Many of the cavefolk are fleeing, much to their leader, Trog's annoyance.  One clanmember who did not flee... though stayed behind is Attu.  She is pregnant, and prays to their god Lural that her child be born with the warrior spirit of Kong.

Following the battle, Trog and company return to their cave.  They find the deserters have already beaten them there.  What's a caveman clanleader to do?  Well, he "demotes" them from man to woman for starters... Ya see, the beastmen stole most of their gals, and now there's nobody left to do the wimmin's work.  Just as he's reading the geeks the riot act, Attu appears holding her bouncing baby Kong... offering her child as a warrior to the clan.

Trog's all, silly lady... what am I gonna do with a 10-minute old kid?  The clan shaman informs Trog that there is legend of a blonde boy who will grow to be their finest warrior and hunter... and so, Trog, bright fella that he is... decides to put that to the test.  He... raises his ax to the newborn!

Attu thankfully intervenes, only to get backhanded for her trespass (and the possibility of tainting Trog's ax with her inferior female blood).  She (and Kong) are then excommunicated from the tribe... and sprinkled with cursed he-bear teeth powder for good measure.

And so, Attu and Kong live their lives outside the clan proper.  They have been ostracized by all members out of fear of what Trog would do if he'd found out the members treated them as family.  This leads to Kong becoming a rather adept gatherer... they say necessity is the mother of digging for roots and stuff... so here we are.

Kong while a warrior-born (?) is also still just a little boy.  He yearns to be accepted by his peers... he wants to join in on their hunting games.  They, however... out of fear of Trog perhaps, will not allow him in.  In fact, they mock his blonde hair and proceed to pelt him with stones.  Wow... what jerks!  He's not blonde by choice, ya know?

As he flees, Trog tells him he should join up with the Beastmen... which made me think we were headed for one of those Twilight Zone endings where the ugly beast men were the good guys all along... Anyhoo... Kong uses this as inspiration to create his own hunting games... and comes to be quite the proficient little hunter.

Some time later, Attu and Kong watch as Trog is challenged for his leadership by a tribesman called Karas.  Trog easily slays the challenger.  Attu and Kong return to their cave, and mother tells son of the legend of the Warrior Kong.  This causes the boy to get pretty ticked off... if he's such a great warrior, then why do they live in solitude?  In freezing cold temperatures?  Eating only things dug from the ground?  Attu pretty much shrugs and tells him they're at the mercy of Trog for her trespasses.

Kong waits for his mother to fall asleep, and goes "screw it... I'm taking some of that sacred flame"... and he does!

Some more time passes, and Kong grows even more restless.  He's tired of eating roots... he wants meat, dammit!  Attu reminds him that they have no "man" to hunt for them... Kong's like "eff that..." and off he goes huntin' wabbits.  While he lies in wait for a fine bit of hossenfeffer, he is captured by a beastman!  Now, get this... the beast man ties Kong to a tree... and starts bleeding him out so he can take his skin.  Yeesh.  Guess the beasts weren't the "good guys all along"!

As luck would have it, it begins to rain.  This loosens the bindings around Kong's wrists and he is able to make his escape before losing too much blood.  The beastman gives chase!  Kong lures him to a boar pit the tribe had set up... and the baddie falls in!  As he climbs out, Kong pelts him with rocks... which only seems to amuse the hairy bastard.  Kong don't dig being the butt of a joke... so he launches throws his rabbit-hunting spear right through his furry heart!

He returns home to tell Attu... who takes him directly to Trog to see if this can get them back into the tribe's good graces.  Well, Trog knows bullcrap when he smells it... he must be a seasoned comic book reader... he's all "no body... no kill".  Kong runs off to fetch the body from the boar pit... and finds there is no body!  He is then surrounded by beastmen, and captured.

Back at the cave, Trog's still being a jerk... so Attu goes off to find her son.  She doesn't find him, but does notice a trail of footprints.  This may be an indicator on how she has grown as a tracker in her own right during her years of exile.  She follows them to a beastmen camp-out jamboree where she sees her boy all hung up on a spit by the fire.

She hops down to rescue her boy, and upon undoing his bindings catches a spear in her Achilles... ouch.  The mother and son flee as fast as their (now) three feet will take them.  When they get far enough away, Kong splits off to fetch some herbs to control his mother's bleeding.  Upon return, however, he finds her hung from a tree.  He swears vengeance on the Beastmen... and spits upon their god Lural!  Kong's ticked, and he's ready to kick some hairy butt!


Wow, that's a lotta story for just 18 pages.  Wasn't expecting such a (relatively) dense read.

Outside of Warlord, I really never gave much of a look at the... hmm, do I call this type of book "sword and sorcery"?  I mean, there was a shaman... and the beast man did have a knife... Either way... I don't usually care for... er, cave... boy... stories?  Yeah.  Don't usually go for this kind of stuff... 


... this was pretty good.  It read kind of like a fable, odd as that may sound.  Like the whole time, I was waiting for the big moment of moral clarity to overcome the thing.  Thankfully, they zigged when I was prepared for them to zag.  I enjoyed watching young Kong grow up and become more fed up with his (and his mother's) lot in life.  The old rules of the clan must seem rather alien to a boy raised outside it.  I like that we saw him raised to be fearless... he never had to take a knee to Trog, and so he never had to temper his attitude nor expectations of life.

I gotta say, I was also prepared for this to be some sort allegory to social issues, specifically feminism and racism... ol' Trog wasn't quite the progressive clan leader in the way he spoke of women... and further, I was expecting... when Kong first ran into the Beast Man Gurat, he was going to learn that the beasties weren't so bad after all.  Well, one outta two ain't bad.  We did get to watch as Attu raised her son on her own, and grew into a strong independent brave selfless (lotsa adjectives!) warrior herself.

Overall, had a good time with this one.  Not gonna rock your socks, but it's a fun diversion from the rest of the comics out there.  This series only went five issues, and I doubt Kong's ever been seen nor heard of again... though I wouldn't be surprised if he made some background appearances so a creator could give the series a wink.


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That's one scary child...

That's one scary grown-up...

These two look like they were caught in the act! 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

1st Issue Special #12 (1976)

1st Issue Special #12 (March, 1976)
Writer/Editor - Gerry Conway
Artists - Mike Vosburg & Mike Royer
Cover Price: $0.30

Got a bit of a late start on this one.  Found myself pretty ill over the past couple of days, and somehow wound up sleeping entirely through yesterday.  Guess the body knows what it needs, right?

Today we're going to discuss the first appearance of a character I think most think is from the 1990's.  Mikaal Tomas was a part of the post-Zero Hour James Robinson penned Starman series... and it was the first time I'd ever seen (or heard) of him.  It was interesting to learn that he had actually been around almost two full decades before that!

So lets find out just where the blue Starman came from, shall we?


We open with a ship crashing in the Bronx late one night.  It is mistakenly thought to be a meteor.  The lone inhabitant of the vessel is a blue-skinned man with a very timely mid-70's haircut and low cut top... too bad he doesn't have a tuft of chest hair peeking out the top!  He hops away from the wreckage and into a wonderfully seedy Bronx neighborhood... where he gets jumped by some jamokes.  Here we learn that our visitor is quite adept at fighting, may have some enhanced senses, and might not bleed when he's cut.

In the moments following the crash, emergency personnel swarm the wreckage... including a pair of officers and one Air-Force Colonel.  Col. MacGruder calls off the inspection, and claims that he's "got it from here".  I'm guessing Conway was trying to make the military man look uptight during this scene, but unfortunately he didn't do enough to ingratiate either side of this to the reader/me.  Either way, it's all a moot point.  The ship explodes... killing Inspector Dave Clarson.

We shift to Clay's Grocery Store, where our gibberish-speaking visitor wanders in.  Shop owner, Frank Clay aims his rifle at our man who, as a defensive measure lets forth some sort of sonar beam from the amulet he wears around his neck.  This causes the rifle to disappear... and our man to slump down unconscious.  Frank decides against calling the police, and instead gives him a bed for the night.

We shift to a domed city on the Moon where Billy Batson is reporting on the world-wide cupcake disappearance epidemic er, Master Komak is going on a rampage because someone he calls Mikaal Tomas has gotten away.  He kills the poor schlub who failed to capture/execute him... and then we meet Lady Cormell.  She's drawn to look far too nice to be a baddie... but, she be bad.

She asks what Komak's plans are for the Tomas situation.  He points to a Mind-Slaver called Turran Kha who has the power to crush a chair... which I suppose is quite impressive on the Moon.  He will surely bring Mikaal to justice!

We rejoin Mikaal as he is having a nightmare.  He is dreaming about his last conversation with his lover Lyysa... hmm... well, to be fair, it is never said outright that they were lovers... just what I took from the scene.  Anyhoo... here we learn that their Mind Council has picked Earth for enslavement.  Lyysa cannot abide by such juju, and has decided to become a revolutionary.  Sadly, her revolution last about... 30 seconds... she gets shot dead just a few feet outside the front door.

Now, Mikaal loses it!  He starts pounding the trigger-man into hamburger.  Just as he's choking the baddie out. he gets *bunnt*ed on the back of his head by another member of the Council.  He is than taken to stand before the big-wigs for sentencing.  They are giving him the same sentence they would have given Lyysa... had she lived.  Mikaal shockingly tells them to "burn in hell"... which ya don't see often in Code-Approved books... it's usually "go to blazes" or something or the like.

He is shackled and led to his final fate... when he is able to escape.  Truly the Mind Council has some of the most incompetent and inept guards.  I mean, this dude's got his arms shackled, and he takes them out without a problem.  He uses one of their dropped ray guns to free himself of his bindings.

Around now the Clay's wake Mikaal up.  They've got a big bowl of something for him to eat.  From here, we find out that Mikaal speaks English and can communicate with his new pals.  He explains that all of his kind were required to learn English to prepare for the invasion of Earth.  He continues by spilling the beans on what brought him here.

Ruth Clay excuses herself to... er, make a cake... yeah, that's it... gotta make that cake... and Mikaal's starman-sense starts tingling.  He figures she's going to call the cops, so he (after thanking Frank for his hospitality) takes his leave.  In the moments that follow, we find that Ruth wasn't calling the police... she was calling a hospital to get Mikaal some treatment.

We shift scenes to Clarson's funeral (man, that was quick!), where his partner Sgt. O'Donnell has another run-in with jerkface MacGruder.  The Colonel takes the Sarge to the Harlem River where another of those creepy exploding space planes has been located.  Conway has MacGruder check off another box in the cliche list by having him suggest that the man on board may be... dun dun dun... a spy!  If only it was that easy, Kernel.

We wrap up our tale with Mikaal observing his new environment.  He notes that it is quite similar to his own... the differences are so small, they may as well be non-existent.  While his mind wanders... he is jumped by Turran Kha, who helpfully introduces himself as he begins pounding away on him.  The issue closes with the pair getting ready to face off... if you're interested in seeing how this one winds up... you're going to need a time machine, and some stamps!


A decent enough origin story... if not a bit contrived.  It feels as though we've read this before.  Like, this is some well-trodden ground... very much been there, done that.  Perhaps that's unfair, being as though this is a forty (!) year-old comic at this point.  Maybe the peaceful rebel of a warring planet wasn't as tropey back then.

What really struck me about this was the art.  It's really quite wonderful.  The character designs, and even the work on the civilians looks great.  Looking at Lady Cormell, she's almost too "pretty" to be evil.  I thought for sure she's come around by the end.

This, like many/most/nearly all of the 1st Issue Special books really makes me wonder if DC really thought this concept could actually maintain an ongoing (or even limited) series.  I mean, I like the character... but all I know of him is from almost twenty-years after this issue came out... and even then, I doubt he could carry a series.

Overall, worth a look for the novelty.  A decent first-half of a first chapter... I'll have to reread my Robinson run to see if Master Komak, Turran Kha, Lady Cormell and this first adventure get a shout in there.


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Monday, August 29, 2016

Superman #405 (1985)

Superman #405 (March, 1985)
"The Mystery of the Super-Batman"
"Yes, Lowell, There is a Superman"
Writers - Craig Boldman & Bob Rozakis
Artists - Alex Saviuk, Kurt Schaffenberger, & Karl Kesel
Letterer - Ben Oda
Colorist - Gene D'Angelo
Editor - Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.75

Found another great pre-Crisis Craig Boldman Superman story... let's get right into it!


We open with a thief hot-footin' from the Metropolis City Museum with a messenger-bag slung over his shoulder.  On the way he bumps into a poor unfortunate just sitting on the steps (he's important!)  He hops into his waiting ride and shows off the loot... a gilden pan flute!  Suddenly a batarang (?) slams into the hood of the car... wrecking it real good.  A batarang?  Wrong city pal... or is it?  We see that night Lana Lang is reporting on the strange amalgamated Super-Batman who made an appearance earlier that day.

Clark is watching Lana's report, and he thinks back to earlier that day.  He and Lana were preparing to run a story on a prized new acquisition at the Museum... and wouldn'tcha know it, it's a gilded pan flute!  Now Lana, being a goofball thinks it wouldn't be any problem to just give the pipes (which originated with a CULT that worshipped Pan) a toot!  This causes Clark to recoil in pain.

This is back in the time where Clark was very much a wimp when not in costume, so Lana just takes this as another account of his softness acting up.  Clark returns to his apartment and takes one peek in the mirror... only to find he's sprouted horns!  Next stop, the Fortress of Solitude!

While up north, Superman does some Pan-research.  He deduces that if he were to give the pipes another play, his hornyness will subside.  He uses his telescopic vision and sees that the magical instrument had been stolen... again... He's gotta go fetch it, but he can't with these damn horns!  What's a man to do?  Well, if that man has a Batman exhibit in the next room, you borrow it's cape and cowl!  He quickly nabs the no-goods, and keeps the pipe for good measure.  He takes it home and gives it a toot... and nothing!

Clark notices that the gold is flaking off of the flute... meaning he's got some bogus goods!  He decides to go out on patrol at Super-Batman... to maybe strike some fear into the hearts of the baddies.  This doesn't go quite as well as he'd hoped.  He gets laughs and scoffs rather than trembling.  He chases a pair of geeks who just held a young couple up... and he, get this... bursts a fire hydrant to soak the guys... then freezes the water... encasing these fools in ice!  Super-Batman does not mess around!

The next day, Clark shows up at the Galaxy Building for his live report... in which he's gotta jump out of a plane!  No big deal, right?  Well... right.  Clark (somehow) pops a helmet over his horns and hops from the plane.  Morgan Edge is absolutely shocked that his "jellyfish" Kent showed some real guts.

That night, Superman uses his "mind's eye" to play back what went down the other day.  He is able to see that the poor hobo (derelict is what Supes calls him) the crook bumped into during his escape pulled the ol' switcheroo.  Super-Bat's next stop is the jail cell of the baddies... nice of the police department to let these guys bunk together, right?  They're hesitant to spill the beans on their boss, but Super-Batman convinces them that they were patsies (see?) and the big boss left 'em hangin' out to dry (see?).

We learn that Wesley Wood is the middle-man between the thugs and a fella called Frederick Forrest.  Super-Batman enters through the window and... get this, uses his spooky voice to (unsuccessfully) try and strike some fear.  As he approaches, Wood plays the pipes and knocks Superman to the ground.  Luckily, he didn't just grab the cape and cowl... he's got some goodies from the world famous utility belt to boot!  He snags Wood and gets the goods on the real man behind the "Big Crime Wheel".  As Superman takes Wood to the clink, he hopes that he'll eventually be able to scare at least one person!

Well, when Superman pays Forrest a visit... be does so without the cowl.  It just so happens that Forrest is a pretty big fan of Pan... and wildly superstitious to boot!  He retrieves the Syrinx, and relieves himself of his heady dilemma.

Our second feature is a Christmas story!  You know how I love Christmas stories!  Well this one features an irritating little twit named Lowell.  Ya see, he doesn't believe in Santa Claus (which he proudly declares in front of his younger sister... the jerk) nor does he believe in Superman!  Like he's really reading Perry White the riot act here.  Pictorial evidence just isn't enough for this clown!

Clark Kent pops his head in to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, as he's set to return home to Smallville to spend the holiday with Lana's parents.  He leaves, and figures he'll do a quick patrol... then return to give ol' Lowell a shock.

It turns out that this is probably the worst day in Metropolis history... as everything that could go wrong, has!  The streets have changed to an ice skating rink, and traffic has turned into bumper cars... A pair of kids are having a snowball fight while standing next to a downed live power line... a woman accidently burns her Christmas tree down... and a senior citizen passes out while shoveling his driveway.  Man, this is taking longer than he thought!

Just as Lowell and family were getting ready to split... with Lowell giving some passive-aggressive barbs to Perry.  I mean, really... slap this little bastard!  Well, lucky for the Chief, Superman has finally arrived... and offers to give Lowell a lift.  Which he does... and sadly, it doesn't end with Lowell splattered all over the sidewalk!


This was a silly but fun story... the kind that totally wouldn't work these days.  I mean, Superman gets enchanted by Pan's Pipes and sprouts horns... so he has to fight crime while wearing the Batman cowl he keeps on display at the Fortress... that's amazing!

The only problem with an issue like this is... outside of "I really enjoyed it", there just isn't a whole lot to say about it.  I did really dig Superman getting frustrated that his Bat-costume wasn't quite striking the same fear into the crooks as it does when Bruce wears it... that was pretty funny!  I will say, this Boldman fella... he hasn't let me down yet.  The pre-Crisis Superman is more or less a mystery to me, and I'm pleased to say I've enjoyed my education thus far... a lot of the thanks to that goes to Craig Boldman.  Definitely a name to keep an eye out for while trawling the bins!

The back-up story... man, that Lowell was a punk!  I was hoping Superman would bobble the twerp just to put the fear of God in him.  What a smug little brat... should've had his shoes heat-visioned for a few seconds.  How real does Superman feel to ya now, Lowell?  I will say that I enjoyed the art on both stories, however... I gotta say it tickles me that the streets of Metropolis literally turn into a ice-skating rink come Christmastime!


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