An Equal and Opposite Re-Action

This morning’s post looks back a staggering thirty-eight years to review the July 1974 100-page issue of Action Comics. I didn’t read this one at the time; the Nick Cardy  cover, with its vibrant contrast of orange and acid yellow, caught my eye in the window of City Centre Comics ( formerly in Glasgow’s Parnie Street) some years ago.

Magic is Bustin’ Out All Over: Effron the Sorceror seeks revenge against his foes Superman and Green Arrow in a sequel to a 1972 World’s Finest story. The Flash and Green Lantern also have cameos, so you get almost half the JLA for your sixty cents.  Kurt Schaffenberger lends a playful, cartoony quality to Curt Swan’s pencils.

However the script for this full-length story is by Elliot S! Maggin, my least-favourite Bronze Age writer.  A settlement of immortal Vikings is imperilled but we we scarcely see it! Maggin’s favourite Green Arrow is a unfunny, boorish swinger and completely out of place in this piece of whimsy.  We should forgive the failings of a 24-year-old but I find Maggin’s campy humour grates on me.

The Sea Devils Vs. The Octopus Man: This is a classy, if sedate,  Russ Heath strip about the attack of a sea creature on an underwater adventure movie.  Dating from October 1961, I think it’s interesting to compare the line-up of the Sea Devils-the Leader, the Girl, the Kid and the Tough Guy- with a certain fantastic foursome..

Riddle of the Runaway Rockets : Fox, Infantino and Anderson produce a gorgeous adventure for the Jet-Pack John Carter. This time the perennial threat to Rann is a gigantic bronze robot from its ancient past. Interplanetary beauty Alanna is an absolute stunner.

The Barbed Wire BarricadeRawhide, the tv series about a continuous cattle drive, first aired in 1959; it launched Clint Eastwood’s career and it ran for nearly eight years.  Gardner Fox and Gil Kane introduce  a diverse group of characters, led by Matt Savage, Trail Boss, in this 1959 story. It certainly reads very much like a pilot for a long-running tv Western. I’ve given Fox a bit of a bashing over his Batman/Outsider stories but this interesting strip proves he could write in any genre, not just the science-fantasy for which he is best known.

I Was King of the Daredevils: Dick Wood and John Prentice are names I don’t know. This suspenseful tale of wire-walking hailed from My Greatest Adventure. I could picture it as a mid-50s movie starring Tony Curtis. It’s a bit too naturalistic however and  I would have preferred a new story about Christopher Chance, an Action back-up since 1972.

The Man Who Returned From the Dead:  Al Bryant draws a macabre gangland adventure for the Doll Man. The villain is the splendidly-named Enoch Lazarus. The blackly comic wreath on his coffin reads ” Goodbye,  Old Pal”. The diminutive hero in the skimpy costume  apparently starred in comics for fourteen years. The Silver Age Atom barely managed to support a feature for half that time.

Superman in Action: In fact, one LoC here suggests the Atom should retire. The Mighty Mite was a regular back-up in Action however and a Fox/Kane story (even one of the campy ones where Fox mimicked Stan Lee’s voice) would have livened up this issue.

This is a classy comic book but it’s also quite polite and a little dull. There’s nothing in it to excite although there is a lot to admire. This month DC had a total of nine “weird mystery” books on the stands, so the idea to produce a comic that features a variety of genres- Western, Outer Space, Underwater- seems a sound one. Perhaps it should have been titled Adventure Comics.

Meanwhile at Marvel, Don McGregor was writing Panther’s Rage. Starlin, Englehart and Conway were delivering  the climax of the  Thanos War, the suicide of “Richard Nixon” and the crucifixion of Adam Warlock . Superman has Elliot Maggin…

Coming soon: The One-Man Justice League

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners.


3 comments on “An Equal and Opposite Re-Action

  1. Richard says:

    It’s a source of ongoing bafflement to me that while you and I share so very many likes and dislikes, we have absolutely diametrically opposed views of Elliot Maggin’s work. I loved these stories of his that you’ve been panning, and his Superman is one of the archetypal renditions of the character, ranking alongside those of Jerry Siegel and Edmond Hamilton. (Maggin was also a very big influence on the way Alan Moore wrote the character.) Please understand, I’d never try to persuade anyone to change their preferences; I just felt that an opposing view from your readership should be reflected here in the comments!

  2. Dougie says:

    I’ve read commentary about ” Last Son of Krypton” and its influence on Moore but I disliked the style of that book when I read it a few years ago. In Maggin’s favour he did team Batgirl with Superman, which I liked. Thanks for the comment, Richard.

  3. Kid Robson says:

    I read Last Son of Krypton in 1981 when I was living in Southsea. I bought it the same day I saw Superman 2 in a Portsmouth Cinema. Overall, was disappointed in the movie and thought the book was juvenile.

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