DC ComicsNew Talent Showdays

NTS #1 – Sky Dogs

New Talent Showcase #1 (Sky Dogs)
“Sky Dogs Away”
Writer – L.B. Kellogg
Art – Tom Mandrake
Letters – Andy Kubert
Colors – Shelley Eiber
Edits – Marv Wolfman & Ernie Colon

Welcome to Day TWO of New Talent Showdays… now that I’ve given the project a “name”, I suppose you ought to expect a dedicated page coming to this here site sometime within the next couple of months.

Today we’re going to meet some Pirates… but not just any Pirates, these be Sky Pirates!

We open on the Indian Ocean, where a Pirate Vessel is fleeing from a brutal raid they’d performed in Bombay.  Their number fears being tracked down, I assume, by Indian Authorities… or, ya know, just the angry people from India they’d just robbed… but, those are not the people this ship-o-fools ought to be wary of.  For, they’re about to be boarded by the… Sky Dogs!  So, more or less, Pirates from the Sky.

These folks, if the fella who I assume to be their leader, can be trusted… are kind of the Robin Hoods of the Seven Seas.  They have no problem stealing from those who “prey upon the innocent”.  And so, the Sky Dogs engage in battle with the baddies.

The leader of the Sky Dogs, this Captain Hawke, shares in some sorta-kinda competitive banter with a compatriot named Ndemba, before bursting through into the… uh… “living quarters” of the ship?  Inside, he happens to find… if you pardon the vernacular, wenches!

Hawke immediately pours on the charm… introducing himself as both a Gentleman and an Adventurer.  Sounds pretty romantic… maybe I ought to add that line to my business card.  One of these “wenches” claims to be Princess Zelaleddin, the daughter of “The Great Mogul”, which makes her the Princess of all of India.  I guess we’ll just have to take her word for that… frankly, I’m not interested enough to Google none’a that.  Hawke swoops her into his arms, and promises to rescue her… he also informs her that, where they’re going, they’re not going to need roads… err, water, as his ship, the “Moonjammer” flies overhead.

On board the Moonjammer, Hawke introduces Zelaleddin around… and also explains just how this rig manages to stay afloat.  He claims that this was among the discoveries of one Mullah Ka Khwaja (I’m never going to be able to spell that without cheating).  Speaking of words I have a hard time spelling, our friend Ndemba overhears this chat, and interjects that Ka Khwaja is nothing more than a faker.  Uh, dude… you’re currently on the flying boat.

Hawke suggests that Zelaleddin just meet Ka Khwaja herself and make up her own mind, because, as luck would have it… he’s on-board too!  We find him, naturally, gazing into a crystal ball.  He shows the Princess a vision of… her father’s palace being infiltrated by the fearsome pirate, Captain Kidd.  He wants to know about the Crown of Siva and some Seven Jewels of Power.  When the Court Astrologer reveals that he hasn’t the foggiest idea what Kidd’s talking about… he is killed.  Also, Kidd’s packin’ his own mystic… who can tell they’re being watched… and so, the “transmission” is cut.

Zelaleddin begs Hawke and Company to aid her in saving her kingdom… and promises to give him “anything” in return.  I get the feeling that Hawke’s crew thinks this means “a whole lot of money”, while the Captain himself feels as though he’s about to get lucky.  Anyhoo, the Moonjammer Gang decides to throw in with the Princess… and it looks like Captain Kidd’s days might just be numbered.

Hey, not bad!  This story didn’t so much “move” me, but it didn’t make me tune out either… which, for a dude who really only reads superheroes nowadays, might be saying something!

I don’t particularly find Pirates to be all that interesting, but I definitely appreciated the little bits of characterization we were able to see here in this opening chapter.  Captain Geoffrey Hawke seems like a fairly charismatic protagonist… and, I really enjoyed his playfully contentious back and forth with Ndemba.

Having the Sky Dogs sort of be of a Robin Hood bent… ehh, perhaps a bit cliche, but I’m cool with it.  I mean, we’re less likely to root for actual pirates… right?  I think this could probe interesting going forward… with Hawke dealing with the dissonance between altruism and pirating.  Though, I might just be thinking too hard about how “deep” this little story might go.  Heck, at this point (and by design), I couldn’t even tell ya how many parts it has!  For all I know, it ends next issue.

Captain Kidd is an interesting choice of antagonist… and I’m wondering if this is supposed to be the actual William Kidd… who was executed for being a pirate after a trip to… the Indian Ocean.  Hmm… perhaps?  Far as I can tell, we didn’t exactly get a “timestamp” in this issue, though we can probably assume it was quite a while ago.  Hopefully this will blend some more real and fantastic elements as we proceed.

The art here was really good… and comes from a fella (I’m assuming) we’ve all actually heard of!  Speaking of which… let’s meet our makers:

L.B. Kellogg comes from the world of fanzines… he actually co-created one called First Flight (1975) with the very same artist he worked with in this here feature!  Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate a whole heckuva lot about First Flight online… but really dig the fanzine-to-comics “pedigree”… especially back in the long ago.  Kellogg’s comics credits are limited… just Sky Dogs, some Star Trek, and a couple issues of World’s Finest.  Worth noting that he had a character named after him in X-Men comics… apparently a local sheriff in a story was named in his honor.

Across the table, Tom Mandrake… a fella who we’ve seen several times here already.  He is probably the most prolific of all the “New Talent” we’ve looked at here so far… and, lemme tell ya, his credits are numerous!  His work has spanned several decades.  Worth noting, he married fellow comics pro, Jan Duursema… and, check this out, their wedding actually happened in “the backyard” of the Joe Kubert School(‘s original location)!  Pretty wild!

Overall… I’m feeling optimistic about Sky Dogs… and am looking forward to seeing where it’s headed!

Tomorrow: Mr. March Searches for Answers…

0 thoughts on “NTS #1 – Sky Dogs

  • Charlton Hero

    Weird name for a pirates book. It's interesting that the first two issues of NTS are veering away from the Superhero genre persay. Of course that would change later with laughable results but I feel in a time where Superhero books ruled the racks making a pirate book is simply bad decsion making.

    Fun article with some interesting factoids built in!

    • Thanks, brother!

      I kinda get *why* they're not doing superheroes… but, for the life of me, I don't understand why they didn't make this first issue more of a "gateway drug" for superhero readers. I mean, pirates and the Vietnam War in the first couple of dozen pages of this new project? Just doesn't seem like it would necessarily entice a curious reader. I wonder how many people sat this one out, who otherwise would have given it a shot… if only there were a "cape" on the cover?

  • Grant Kitchen

    I never knew this series existed before. I mean, I knew about the 2017 one-shot but no idea there was a series in the 80s. So does this series feature all original characters? I know the 2017 one featured established characters.

    • As far as I know (and I might be mistaken), this 80's run is all original characters. I know this is a concept DC has brought back… I believe there have been 3-4 "annual" New Talent Showcase Specials since around 2016 or so, where they let some of the folks in their "creative workshop" or whatever show their stuff. We'll eventually be getting to those…


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