Action Comics Weekly #641 (March 7, 1989)
Demon: “Welcome to Hell”
Phantom Lady: “Lady Lost”
Human Target: “The Pow! Zap! Wham! Contract”
Superman: “Justice For All”
Phantom Stranger: “Tommy’s Monster”
Wild Dog: “Crack Up, Chapter 6: Unfriendly Takeover!”
Writers – Alan Grant, Len Strazewski, Mark Waid, Roger Stern, Paul Kupperberg, & Max Collins
Pencils – Mark Pacella, Chuck Austen, Curt Swan, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, & Terry Beatty
Inks – Bill Wray, Gary Martin, Dick Giordano, Murphy Anderson, & John Nyberg
Letters – John Costanza, Albert DeGuzman, Bill Oakley, & Tim Harkins
Colors – Tatjana Wood, Glenn Whitmore, Bob LeRose, Tom Ziuko, Petra Scotese, & Carl Gafford
Editors – Dan Raspler, Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn, Mike Carlin, & Renee Witterstaetter
Special Thanks – Tom Peyer
Cover Price: $1.50
Hey, psst… hey, you… you like anthologies? Well, we’ve got forty-one of ’em right here! I don’t really draw much attention to other “pages” on this site… but, if you’re interested in catching up with this #ActionComicsDaily project, do I have a page for you! Over on the sidebar, or above (and/or by clicking this link right here), you can be transported to the complete collection of Action Comics Weekly discussion we’ve had here over the past year. You can follow along by chapter, by feature, or… if you scroll all the way to the bottom, you can go issue-by-issue (with super-cool blinking covers!). Just head on over, click a cover, and you can check out anything and everything we’ve looked at during this endeavor.
So, I say all of that… so that I might say this. Today is the end of the Anthology Portion of Action Comics Weekly! Tomorrow begins the final actual issue… but, it’s something altogether different. Just a single story… broken into chapters, but not an “anthology” per say. I had planned on just knocking that one out in a day… but, I dunno… I’m having a little trouble “letting go”, know what I mean?
This project has been one of my main “free-time priorities” for nearly a year. Turns out, it’s a little more difficult to see it end than I expected! I’m going to be honest with you… there have been days (weeks, even!) where I was not really enjoying this… and there were a few reasons for that.
First, many of the stories here were lackluster at best. Afterthoughts, inventory fill-ins, just… half-hearted stuff. Sure, there was a lot to like (love, even!), but for every Blackhawk, there was a Black Canary… for every Malvolio, there were several dozen Fellowship chapters. Ya take the good… you get the bad.
Another bugbear… and, it’s embarrassing to even admit this, but… insofar as “the views” and engagement… this entire year has been a gigantic flop. Relatively speaking, people just either a) don’t care about Action Comics Weekly, b) just don’t care what I have to say about it, or c) both! Granted, I’m not terribly high on the “comics community food chain”… heck, I’m basically an outsider to that entire “scene”, but boy howdy did I lose a lot of readers this year! It’s
almost enough to give a fella a complex!
But… we stuck with it… and, barring my getting struck by lightning or a bus… or kidnapped by ninjas, by this time next week… Action Comics Weekly will officially be in my rear view. I want to thank everyone who actually stuck with me… it’s been a year of ups, downs… and further downs, and it means the world to me if you kept coming back!
One more thing before we get down to bidness. Action Comics Weekly #642 is a story told in four chapters… and so, we’ll be covering it over the next four days (plus a fifth for the “compilation”). This past week, I designed a “trade dress” for the final four… and, lemme tell ya, it was much harder to do than I expected. Not out of difficulty… but, with the actual reality of the situation setting in. This truly is… The End.
Speaking of covers… we had a pretty good one this week! Superman (and Murphy Anderson) pitch in to stop the runaway train that this weekly anthology has become. It’s a really cool cover… one of the best we’ve had in a long while!
Let’s hop over to the Polls!
Unsurprisingly, Wild Dog gets the nod again! If I’m not mistaken, he’s won every week since he’s been back! Not sure what that says about the rest of the line… but, I know I voted for the Dog myself!
Here’s the final anthology poll of this entire project. Please vote! Please share! I’ll be running another poll next week wherein we can vote for ANY feature that has shown up in Action Comics Weekly. I’m already seeing it being a giant tie, with a bunch of features each getting a single vote… but, what the heck… it’s worth a try, right? Maybe with the promise that this whole thing is finally over, people might start coming back? Stranger things have happened…
Shareable Poll Link: https://linkto.run/p/KERHN8DD
We open at the stone circle site where Morgan LeFay had entombed Etrigan last week. Before she can, I dunno, land the “killing blow” Jason Blood hurls her own severed hand at her… and it actually sorta-kinda slaps her across her own face! Heckuva toss! Jason lunges toward her, but is shooed away with ease. This opens up the opportunity for Etrigan to reveal he was “playing possum”. The Demon tackles LeFay, before burning her to a crisp. This is all being viewed by that creepy bastard (Asteroth) who is holding Merlin captive, while his manservant bathes him… with a pointy rod.
After being squeaky-cleanified, the creep heads off to bother Merlin some more. We learn that he’s planning to conduct something called a “Five-Way Blood Sacrifice”. I think the last time I read a five-way ritual, Norman Osborn came out of it thinking he was Spider-Man or something. Bad times…
Back topside, Etrigan and Jason Blood have a heart-to-heart. Jason learns that Asteroth is behind all the hijinks, and that Glenda and Randu are being used as pawns in whatever ritual he’s got planned.
Back in the Wookey Hole, Glenda and Randu head down a flight of stairs leading to a pool of suffering souls. They reach out, begging for help. Glenda, proving herself to be a complete fool, extends a hand…
After we see her and Randu get sucked into Hell, we shift scenes topside. Jason Blood gets a ride outta Tintagel, and winds up sitting in a field naked as a jaybird. He conducts a ritual of his own (getch’r minds outta the gutter), and if I’m guessing right, sends himself to Hell in order to help his pals.
We wrap up with Asteroth preparing for his Five-Way Blood dealie, and the promise that this story will………….. be continued? Da hale? I thought this was the end?
What a let-down… not that I was expecting all that much out of this, I tell ya one thing I was hoping for: an ending! I mean, c’mon… this is kind of a slap in the face, we’ve been following this dull storyline for six weeks at this point, you can’t even give us an ending? Was it a space issue? If so, did we really need that entire chapter of Glenda trying to pass the friggin’ Philosopher’s Stone through Customs?! C’mahnnnn.
In case you’re curious, this storyline is continued in the Demon ongoing series that would launch over a year later. I’m sure everybody picking up a shiny new #1 issue in 1990 was keen to rush into the bins to pick up Action Comics Weekly to catch up! More likely, they explained away the entire build in a page and a half.
Not much more to say… after all this Morgan LeFay build, she’s taken out without any fanfare… this Asteroth guy continues to be uninteresting. Really, a most unspectacular way to begin our final anthology issue! Oh well, at least it’s over… for me anyway, I have no interest in seeing where this is (eventually) headed.
We open with Dee ploppin’ the file full’a photos on her father’s desk. He’s happy to have them back… until he flips through to that one with the Ku Klux Klan. We learn that the young man in the photo was… him! Now, ya see… he never palled around with the Klan, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was actually Dee’s Daddy’s brother Beau who was all in with the bad guys. One night he was out to “scare” a young black man who had eyes for a white woman. Rather than “scare” him… well, they actually lynched him. Dee’s Daddy was along for the ride, and got caught in a series of compromising photos.
Like seriously, the Klansmen snapped a picture of him next to the victim… and told him to keep his mouth shut, or it would be released. Dee asks how Guerrehart could have gotten his hands on it… to which, her Daddy is sure that Brother Beau happily handed ’em over.
We get a bit more of Dee’s Daddy’s secret origin. Shortly after the lynching, he’d run away from home… join the Navy, and wound up in Paris. This is where he’d meet Dee’s mother. Whirlwind romance, marriage, the whole deal would follow. Daddy would ascend to power as the Attorney General… Mom would pass away, but not before having a child.
Dee asks what he wants to do about the pictures… and so, Daddy decides he’s run from the truth for far too long. Rather than engage in another cover-up, he decides it’s time to “go public”. He resigns his position.
We wrap up with a blinded Guerrehart swearing vengeance on the Phantom Lady. Next time she shows her face… she’ll be dead. Dead. You hear me, DEAD!
Okay, this ended a lot better than I thought it might. The entire arc feels kind of like an issue of Secret Origins… which isn’t necessarily a bad thing… it just makes me wonder why it wasn’t just that. Guess we had to burn off pages before Action Comics returns to normal… and there are worse ways to do that (see The Demon).
Really not a whole heckuva lot to say about this chapter or this arc. It was inoffensive… and sometimes that’s a “plus” in and of itself. The final panel asks folks to write in if they wanna see more Phantom Lady. Gonna guess very few people did… can’t say whether or not this Guerrehart storyline ever comes up again, and also can’t say whether or not that bothers me all that much.
Overall, I think Dee’s a pretty cool character… but I don’t really see her “carrying” a title. I guess that’s what Action Comics Weekly is all about, innit?
We open with Courageous Man and Minute Lad sliding recklessly toward the evil Pastafazool’s Pasta-Maker of Death. With only a moment to spare, C.M. shoots the rotor blades of the machine, causing it to explode! We then shift ahead a bit, to the same pair of heroes nearly drowning in a pool of yogurt?! What in the world are we looking at?
Well, I’m so glad you asked… what we’re looking at is, a television show, not unlike that mid-60’s Batman series that everyone in the world but me seems to love! Courageous Man and Minute Kid are a campy pair of superheroes, who find themselves regularly tossed into madcap deathtraps… only, these days, there seems to be a little bit more going on behind the scenes. Ya see, Bill Anderson, who plays Courageous Man on television, feels like he might be a target… in the past little while, several of these fake deathtraps have malfunctioned on set, each time nearly costing him his life. And so, he’s decided to call in a certain Private Investigator to check things out.
Christopher Chance asks Anderson why he doesn’t just quit… but, it ain’t that easy. If he leaves the show, he’ll lose his syndication royalties… or something. So, Chance takes the case… and takes over both roles in Bill’s life!
On set, we meet three of Anderson’s co-workers. Perry Klein, a director who doesn’t seem to have any patience for “Bill’s” near-misses… Frazier White, a producer who kind of dotes on “Bill”, and seems very nervous about all of the recent accidents… and, Doug Duncan, the little jerk who plays Minute Lad… he’s a real piece of work, this one.
We jump into a montage of Chance portraying Courageous Man… and it looks like he’s taken to the role like a fish to water. In fact, he’s actually performing a little too well. He catches the attention of an electrician named Barney who had been hired on to check into all of the recent malfunctions. Barney greets “Bill” and, realizing it’s a different dude under the mask, invites him to meet up that night so he can give him some information. In his excitement, however, he might’ve spoken a bit too loudly… looks like li’l Dougie Duncan overheard the whole thing!
That night, at midnight, Chance-as-Bill goes to meet with Barney… only to find him dead! Deceased! Moidered, even!
Upon inspection of the body, Chris curiously finds a match clutched between the electrician’s fingers. Hmm… that might be useful in solving the crime… ya know, in the most convenient way possible.
The following morning, Chase makes his big reveal. He is, in fact, not Bill Anderson. He explains everything that’s gone down… the deathtrap “malfunctions”, the murder of Barney the Electrician… and says that the person responsible for the whole magilla is in this room right now. He then pops a cigarette in his mouth, and asks for a light.
Both Doug Duncan and Frazier White offer him a light… and A-Ha! Mr. White uses matches instead of a lighter! Bingo-Bango, there’s our killer!
Frazier attempts to beat a hasty retreat, but gets tied up in Courageous Man’s gimmick bolo-gun-projectile-thing. Turns out, Mr. White was trying to kill Bill Anderson for the insurance money! It’s always for the insurance money, ain’t it? We wrap up with Chance being offered Bill’s role on the show… wonk, wonk, wonnnnnk.
Well, that was worth waiting forty-two weeks for, wasn’t it?
I kid, I kid… I actually quite enjoyed this little one-off. A neat change of pace, and really… an indictment on the potential Action Comics Weekly had as a concept. I feel like we should have had more things like this… not everything needed to be an overlong serial… one-and-done’s would’ve been just as good (better, even!).
Just thinking back to some of the ridiculously drawn-out arcs we’ve endured during this run… many of them would have been so much better if they were condensed… heck, some even cut in half. That could’ve left room for little one-off’s like this one. Just think of all of the under-appreciated characters and concepts in the DC Universe… they could’ve had a home here in ACW.
Even looking at folks like the Phantom Stranger… who, if you’re a seasoned reader of this here blog, you’ll know he ain’t one of my faves… even he worked (for me) in the short-bursts in which he was presented here. He only stumbled in quality (to me) when we got him in that awful four-part arc.
I’m taking the scenic route here, but all’s I’m trying to say is… they should’ve been more “experimental” with this… experimental concept.
So, what about today’s story? It was decent and fun. Not likely to rock any socks, but solid storytelling that gives you most everything you’ll need to know about the lead character. Granted, the “gotcha” was a bit contrived… I’m not quite sure “Your Honor, he lights his cigarettes with matches!” would hold up in court… but, whattayagonnado?
Overall… I was pleased with this one quite a bit, so much so that it really shone a light on the unmet potential of this entire endeavor!
Superman catches up with the xenophobic arsonists, and gives ’em a “talkin’ to”. One of them reminds him that he (Superman, that is) once wiped out the Quraci Air Force… so, he figures they’re all on the “same side”. This gives the Man o’ Steel a moment of pause, but he still nyoinks them up by their belts and flies them back to the scene of the crime.
The nogoodniks lash out at Superman for being in cahoots with a terrorist… and, then… we get the lecture this entire mini-arc has been building toward. The man may be Quraci by birth, but he is not responsible for the atrocities of his former government. Ya see, he fled from the brutal dictatorship… and is actually an American citizen at this point.
Then Superman gives the quick and dirty on how he already lost one planet… and he isn’t keen on losing another, especially not to hatred. The End.
Well, this is the only way this one could have ended… and while it might’ve been a bit heavy-handed and cliche, I will say it was worlds better than the Fellowship arc we trudged through for the better part of the year. Wow, I can say without hyperbole that we spent nearly a year with the friggin’ Fellowship!
Anyhoo… this feels kind of like a PSA… something that could run in lieu of a Letters Page or something in a month’s worth of books. Not bad, not great… just a story. Gotta wonder if they had something a bit more “fleshed out” planned in the instance that Action Comics Weekly didn’t go back to “normal” with #643? I guess we’ll never know… and, ya know what… considering the first 38 parts of this serial, I’m willing to take that as a “win”.
Wish I had more to say about this… but, honestly, I’m just glad it’s over.
We open with a boy named Tommy Jones hopping into bed, grabbing his Illustrated Edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. He peers at an image of a dragon, and wouldn’tcha know it… at that very moment a nearby drug store goes up in flames. I’m sure there’s no connection. So, you might be asking: just who is this “Tommy” anyway? Well, he’s just some kid… who always finds himself being hassled by grown-ups. He can’t walk across their fences, or read comics in the store (It ain’t a liberry, after all!). He’s just a kid… with a bone to pick.
The next day, just as the Phantom Stranger himself arrives in town, we see the woman who shooed Tommy off her fence settling in to watch some television. Suddenly, there’s a rumbling… and before we know it, her house is destroyed! Before the walls come toppling down, however, she notices a great big beast stood outside her window… and it appeared to be taking direction from that no-good Tommy Jones!
When the Police arrive, the old lady tells them that Tommy’s responsible… and so, they follow up at the kid’s house. Naturally, upon arrival, they find the kid “fast asleep” in bed. “Fast asleep”, that is, until the Phantom Stranger arrives to conduct an interrogation of his own!
The Stranger calls the kid out on being a little jerk, and causing all of the recent destruction. Tommy’s all “screw this noise” and bails out the window. Unfortunately for us, this was just a first floor window… and so, the story must continue. As the Stranger goes to give chase, he is nearly struck by a giant reptilian tail that crashes through the house!
Outside, we see Tommy riding on the back of a great big dragon (named Rudolph). The Stranger appears right in their path… and so, the great beast breathes fire right at him. Of course, this isn’t very effective.
The Phantom Stranger pleads with the boy to stop being a little jerk, and points out all of the people he is hurting with his supernatural delinquency. When he mentions Tommy’s own parents, the kid seems to snap out of it… and the dragon vanishes. He falls into the Stranger’s arms… and thankfully, we out!
I feel like, over these past 1,400 or so days, I’ve discovered some “chestnuts” that I pop into my writing more often than I realized. Just little turns-of-phrase, or plays on words that… without ’em, this blog would probably be much shorter. So, stop me if you’ve heard this before: “Not much to say about this one…”.
The first time I flipped through this issue, in preparation for what was to come, I took one look at li’l Tommy Jones, and figured we were in for a “Send ’em to the Cornfield” sort of situation. And… I groaned. Boy, was I wrong… this kid pulling a Billy Mumy would have been just so much more interesting than what we actually wound up with here.
Kid’s a little jerk… kid has the power to manifest a dragon from his Fairy Tale book… Phantom Stranger tells ‘im to cut it out… and we’re done. Really not sure why we got so much Phantom Stranger during this run… and, no matter how interesting a story he gives us, he never fails to cause the “flow” of Action Comics Weekly (if there’s one to be found) to a screeching halt. Oh well, at least it had wonderful art… and, it was better than the Demon.
We open in Chicago, where Wild Dog looks like he’s on his way to a very important date. It’s funny, just like in our recent Speedy serial, our hero is out in broad daylight… in full costume! The folks around him gawk a bit, but just assume he’s out to promote a movie or something… cuz, ya know, hockey mask. Meanwhile, there’s a boardroom meeting going down at one of the biggest corporations in the city… and it looks as though business is going well. Hmm, wonder what this might be all about…
Downstairs, Wild Dog enters into the lobby of their building… and informs the receptionist that he’s there for an interview with WCKO Radio. They have no problem letting him in, thinking he’s just there to promote a movie… cuz, ya know, hockey mask. As he hops into the elevator, we check back in with the bigwigs who, for whatever reason, are really bummed out about the crack/rock houses being busted up in the Quad Cities. Hmm…
Well, ya see… this big corporation appears to have their hands in the cookie/crack jar, meaning if the operations keep getting busted up and burnt down, it affects their bottom line! The bigwigs discuss cutting their losses with their “franchisees”, and bringing the whole magilla back “in-house”. Just then, Wild Dog hops off the elevator.
Our hero whacks a couple of suits with his Halliburton…
… before setting it down, and retrieving some of his arsenal from it.
He then enters the board room, and informs them he’s there to “collect” on a debt. He talks about the unnecessary death of li’l Georgie Washington… and, well… empties his guns!
That’s right, Wild Dog just murdered an entire boardroom full’a big wigs. Our favorite reporter, Ms. Susan King refers to it as being the bloodiest day in Chicago since the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre… and alludes to the fact that a certain hockey-masked individual was seen in the vicinity.
We wrap up back at the bar, where Lou and Andy tell Jack that he’s officially “out of business” as Wild Dog. If they ever see him in action again, they will come forward with all they know. Jack’s all “yeah, whatever… I’ll hang it up… until you beg me to come back.”
Ya know what? I might be mistaken, but with this “review”, I think I’ve covered every single Wild Dog story ever published here on the blog! Sure, he’s made a handful of guest-appearances in the years since, usually treated as a sort of unsubtle “funny, ha-ha” character (most recently seen in that Cave Carson series from DC’s Young Animal)… but as far as “Wild Dog” stories… between his mini, his one-shot, and this ACW serial… I’m pretty sure that’s all she wrote! Well, there’s something I can hang my hat on, huh?
I’m really going to miss this character. Just knowing that not a whole heckuva lot happens with him after this is kind of a punch in the gut. I think I’ve read somewhere that Max Collins and Terry Beatty were too busy with other obligations (including Ms. Tree) to pour more time and effort into ol’ Jack… which, is kind of a shame. Though, at the same time, I’m glad he didn’t get pawned off on another writer. If you’re going to write Wild Dog, ya need to be… subtly unsubtle enough to do it in earnest. Otherwise, you’re just engaging in “low-hanging fruit” writing.
So… whatta we got here? Jack decides to quit dilly-dallying around with the drug-peddling “grunts”, and takes it straight to the top. Big business, naturally, has their fingers in the pie… and are able to stay “clean” by pawning off the dirty work on street-hustlers and the like. Sounds sorta like how the Quad-Cities P.D. keeps their hands clean by letting Wild Dog do everything they ain’t allowed to do. Hmm…
This was a pretty surreal chapter, all told. Wild Dog straight up murders a dozen people. Was everybody in that board room guilty? Maybe someone was just there “recording minutes”… who can say? I guess it doesn’t really matter at this point, does it? Guilt by association, and all that jazz. I did appreciate people kinda being okay with Wild Dog walking around in broad daylight dressed like he ought to be haunting Camp Crystal Lake. That was pretty funny… and a neat way of “lampshading” the Dog’s makeshift costume.
The ending was pretty great as well. Lou and Andy “finally having enough” of Wild Dog’s antics came across as pretty forced… like, something they said because it felt like something they had to say. Given the situation, I can’t fault them for that. Jack’s response, however, was gold. He knows that, no matter how righteous his buddies are trying to come across, the next time there’s trouble… they’ll come a’knockin’. Really good stuff, all around.
And that… my friends, wraps up the anthological portion of Action Comics Weekly! Forty-one weeks… Two-Hundred Eighty-Something Days… Tens of Thousands of Words… Hundreds of Pictures… that’s a pretty impressive body of work, for a blog very few people know or care about, innit?