Strong as Iron, Homely as Sin

We’ve very nearly reached the end of my collection of 10o-page DC comics of the Seventies. This morning’s post features World’s Finest Comics no. 226, cover-dated December 1974. This is another recent ebay purchase, from the end of June.The red cover is striking- always a winning colour for a Super-Spec.

The Freak Who Never Fails: a Haney/Dillin story in which Supes and Bats are sent on a mission to rescue a bio-physicist from a South American dictator called the Swine-sorry, El Jefe. The World’s Finest are scooped by Metamorpho, however. There are some gruesome scenes of plague victims and Haney seems to have a thing about fallible heroes. He refers to his own version of the Zodiac Killer, “Who Killed Capricorn?”, where the villain escaped. The story is a weird blend of  tv spy caper and surreal comedy.

Metamorpho is one of the oddest heroes in the DC seventies stable: a Ben Grimm-like monster with zany Plastic Man-powers,  a flip, hep-cat demeanour and a cartoony cast of grotesques.  He also has his own, first-person song about his origin!

He has a brash, cocky, tough-guy “voice”, not unlike Deadman. The  sheer chutzpah of the character makes him an entertaining foil to the WF team.

The Tricks of Metamorpho’s Trade: a two-page feature recapping the origin of the Element Man and explaining his powers. Fradon panels from Rexy’s B&B début are reprinted.

I Hate The Sandman: I always enjoy Simon and Kirby reprints and this is a humorous tale of a narcoleptic who becomes a murder suspect. It begins with an irate Silas Pettigrew breaking the fourth wall. The lead-in about the new Sandman is intriguing but I’ll save that for another post.

From the World’s Finest Fans: Metamorpho is praised as  “just the thing the reading world is clamoring for”. The editorial voice dismisses rumours of poor sales in the Sixties- “his career was shortlived for reasons too lengthy to be offered here”. Enigmatic! (Rexy did get a revival in First Issue Special in ’75. The reading world wasn’t clamouring for him after all.)

Fan costume designs for the sons of Superman and Batman- maybe all fan designs – are curtly turned down.

Alongside requests for more Deadman,  Alex Fedyk asks for an all-female Spectacular ( presumably having missed the Supergirl issue of March, ’72.)   The response is : “we did just that twice in the late 1960s with unfortunate results”. What? I have DC Special 3 from 1969. Was there another one?

Editor Boltinoff, here and on LSH, had a practice of printing only snippets of letters. Despite this, most of a page is given over to a bio and caricature of inker Tex Blaisdell.

Eclipso’s Amazing Ally: an Alex Toth-illustrated  adventure scripted by Haney from November ’63.  Eclipso hatches a complex plot utilising a robot to make it look like he’s split from Bruce Gordon. Or something. Eclipso is unusual in that the protagonist is a villain but he’s really a sci-fi twist on Jekyll and Hyde.

An ad encourages college students to ask university bookstore managers to carry comics, especially the Golden Age Tabloid reprints. This surprises me because  I’d have thought the college audience who snapped up Silver Surfer and Dr. Strange (according to Stan) would have graduated by now.

The Crime Collector: a  dull 1953 short about the original Robotman, where he foils a crook called Randolph Strange. Very nicely drawn by Joe Certa ( I think), which goes some way to explaining how Robotman flourished for eleven years.

What Makes a Corpse Cry?:   The third Deadman episode from December 1967. Another moody noir  by Neal Adams  in which Deadman tries to rescue a night club singer and her bartender boyfriend from a counterfeiting gang. It’s very televisual and the precursor to Marvel’s auteur titles like Tomb of Dracula. Also, the best strip in the mag, with Sandman a close second.

The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel:  This 1955 short is from Detective Comic and introduces John Jones, the Martian police detective; I really like this angle. I first read the Martian Manhunter’s origin story in this Adventure Double Double comic.

Co-creator Joe Certa drew MM for thirteen years. He’s hugely underrated- he draws very individual faces for his cast.

The Case of the Magic Baseball: is an innocuous short in which an ex-con baseball pitcher is blackmailed into losing a game.  The powers of John Jones displayed here, aside from changing his form,  are invisibility, mind-over-matter and “molecular hypnosis”. A banner announces that the Manhunter From Mars will appear regularly in WF.

This is an entertaining collection. I wonder if the theme was hooded or bald heroes? Let’s close by looking at UK Marvel comics from December 1974:

Notice the price rise!

Incredibly, Jon Pertwee ‘s final season of Dr. Who is broadcast, featuring the début of the much-missed Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith.

Coming soon: Send me a Dream

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners

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