Welcome back, everyone! After traveling the comic shops in the area looking for issues to get for this blog, I got a sad feeling when I remembered that one of the best comic stores in the area has not been in business for many years now. That was a shop called The Bookie Parlor, run by Hal and Sue Blevins. Bookie Parlor not only had the new comics that came out every Wednesday, but they also had a huge selection of back issues, old comic related books, t-shirts, posters, and sports and trading cards. When I was younger I spent many hours going through their cheap bin and Incredible Hulk back issues and remember always be greeted with Hal’s gravelly voice as he would say “Welcome to the Bookie Parlor” and would go right back pricing sports cards. Most of the times I was there, he seemed to be messing with sports cards. Many teens and kids would complain about Hal being rude to them, and while he was gruff, he always treated me with respect and would help me find issues I needed. His wife Sue was always super nice and would always make you feel welcome. Everything in the shop was easy to find and Hal always seemed to get new back issues that he would restock like clock work. My brother and I used to always imitate Hal to each other and would chuckle as we would watch him go off on people in his shop, oh the good times of that. My first knowledge of Bookie Parlor came when his shop was on Wayne Ave near downtown Dayton. The side of the building had a huge painting of Superman plus the bicentennial march of Spider-Man, Hulk and Captain America. Every time we would pass it going to my grandparents’ house or Renaissance Music (the best record store EVER in Dayton), my Brother and I would get super hyped to see the paintings. It wouldn’t be until years later when the shop moved to Wilmington in Kettering that we would actually get to shop there. Thanks to Hal and his trading cards, I learned who Bettie Page was as I would buy cards based on the sexy pin-up model. Bookie Parlor maybe gone but it won’t be forgotten. The years of great nerdom the store spread is still felt to this day.
The Bookie Parlor also introduced me to a small comic company from the 70’s called Atlas Comics that will lead us into our look at The Brute. As I mentioned, The Bookie Parlor had a great cheap bin of comics that I would raid for off the wall comics, some that were in terrible shape but among these misfit comics I found a comic called The Brute, that had a huge ape like man rampaging in the streets like the Incredible Hulk. The cover piqued my interest, and the issue came home with me. I read the comic and loved it and so began my love for Atlas Comics. In 1974 Seaboard/Atlas Comics was created by Martin Goodman (the man who made the launch company that would become Marvel) and was his way to compete with Marvel and DC. Goodman hired many veteran comic workers and aimed to make his company # 1 in the market. But sadly only one year later the company would shut down, and Atlas was forgotten. But not only did great characters like Iron Jaw, Wulf, Grim Ghost, Brute and Son of Dracula come from this company but so did the power to creators! You see if you made a character for Marvel and DC, they would own the character once it was green-lit but at Atlas the character was the creator’s property and this gave the power back to the people who made comics what they were. There could be no Stan Lee slapping his name onto anything and everything, making the world believe he created it. This noble stand was also what Image Comics was founded on showing that Goodman had truly the right Idea. In 2010 Goodman’s grandson relaunched the company that is still going. To this day I still love Atlas Comics and look forward to exploring its many back issues.
Now I am sure many of you are thinking what the heck is The Brute?! Well let me sum him up real quick for you so that you might have more of a bond with the savage man-beast. The Brute is a primitive man, half human and half ape. He has the mind of a hunter and was frozen in a block of ice during the ice age. In 1975 the temperatures have heated up and freed this hunter from his icy prison. Now he is free and has traded bears for human prey as this hunter does what he knows best and that’s killing. The Brute has blue skin, long black hair and ape like features making him very different looking than modern man. He is also very tall and very strong making him a major threat to those he crosses.
So with that let’s get down to business and take a look at the 3 issue run of The Brute for Atlas Comics. Remember I grade these on a standard 1-4 star rating and am looking at how well the comic keeps to the source material, its entertainment value, its art and story. This review is a team up from Bookie Parlor, Mavericks Cards and Comics and Bell Book and Comic.
The Brute # 1 ***
Released in 1975 Cover Price .25 Atlas Comics #1 of 3
Three brothers enter a limestone cave and only one leaves alive as a primitive missing link of a man makes two of them dinner! Sherif Frazier with his force alongside Dr. Turner, a female scientist who wants to study the beast man once he’s captured, go to the scene. Frazier and his men capture The Brute and then it must stand trial for the murders. Dr. Turner wants to study the creature while the father of the dead boys wants it dead. The judge sides with Turner but puts her fully in charge of the beast man. Turner works for months with The Brute and forms a bond with it. One night the father breaks in and knocks Turner out, letting The Brute free! The Brute kills the father and leaves the jail. When Turner comes to, she is in trouble for it escaping and Sherif Frazier gives the order to capture it alive or dead!
This 1st issue reads like a pure B-Movie and would have been right at home not only in comics but also on a drive-in movie screen. In this issue, The Brute is very much a killer and more animal then human, but after his friendship with Turner, more of its human side is shown giving this nonspeaking character some depth. Dr. Turner is turning out to be just like Rick Jones as far as being a mindless monsters friend and trying to make it do good. Sherif Frazier is a hero but not given much to do after he captures the Brute. What works the most for this comic is the story. While it’s very simple and for all accounts not all that original, it still holds something that’s sure to please cheesy horror/sci-fi fans as well as fans of comic characters like The Hulk, Man-Thing and Solomone Grundy. The art is pretty good and has that classic 70’s look and could easily have the Marvel logo on the front in terms of quality. The cover while very cheesy is still a classic Atlas cover. At 33, I found myself still loving this issue and enjoying the hell out of it! So let’s get down to issue 2 and see if the charm is still there for the blue skinned Brute. Oh yeah think about that: The Hulk is green skinned and The Brute is blue skinned – clearly this was Atlas’s attempt to capture Hulk fans.
The Brute # 2 ***
Released in 1975 Cover Price .25 Atlas Comics #2 of 3
The Brute hides on a small plane and in fear causes it to crash deep into the woods. But before the crash, the pilot is able to send out an SOS call and speak of a monster on board. After the crash, The Brute is injured but alive and is found by a mad scientist named Dr. Speer and his deformed assistant Eric who take him to their secret lab and turn The Brute into a mindless slave. No longer needing Eric, Speer has The Brute kill him and then go after members of the science board that had taken his license away so he can turn them into reptile people! As this goes on, Sherif Frazier goes to Dr. Turner tells her of the plane crash and says if she can get there before the cops she might be able to save The Brute’s life. When Dr. Turner gets there, she is attacked by Speer who wants her to become a female reptile person in order to mate with one of his other freaks, but The Brute breaks the mind control and proceeds to beat up all the reptile people and then kills Dr. Speer. The fight leaves the hidden lad in flames, leaving Dr. Turner to think The Brute is dead but this is not the case as it wanders off into the woods.
It’s Frankenstein meets cave man once more, much like the 1974 film “Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks.” But this time throw in some reptile people, and you have an issue that is slightly better than the first. In this issue The Brute is still the mindless killing machine but for the most part is mind controlled by an evil doctor who is hell bent on making all humans into reptiles. Once more The Brute is shown to understand friendship as he breaks his mind control to save his only friend, Dr. Ann Turner. The plot of this one also reminds me of “House of Frankenstein” in which a Mad Scientist wants nothing more than revenge on fellow scientists who have spoken out against his crazed work. Dr. Turner is a likable character who you find yourself wanting to see help The Brute from being killed. Sherif Frazier has very little time in this issue and is shown to be a friend of The Brute as he gives Turner a lead to save its life. The art is pure Marvel Horror and makes the comic seem even better. The cover again is good work and makes for an eye catching issue. I think so far this is a great solid series that showcases an amazing powerhouse character. Let’s see if issue 3 can end the series with a good finisher.
The Brute # 3 **1/2
Released in 1975 Cover Price .25 Atlas Comics #3 of 3
The Brute is alone in the woods, confused and hungry, when Sherif Frazier sends his men out to capture him. At first they are told to kill The Brute, but Frazier’s crush on Turner makes him change his mind to capture him. One cop disobeys orders and puts a bullet into The Brute’s brain. What should have killed him only puts him at death’s door. The Brute is rushed to surgery where its life is saved and it starts to learn to talk, but when The Brute escapes again he runs around looking for a ball to play with like a child would. But The Brute is about to meet his match as a super being called Doomstalker takes the beast down and makes threats to the cops! And so ends Issues 3 on a cliffhanger that was never resolved.
This third issue starts off with a bang and is a great story but when Doomstalker enters the issue, it slips a little. This one has The Brute learning how to speak, showing that the primitive man is learning. In this issue the Brute is pure Hulk rip off at the start complete with torn purple pants and childlike actions. Dr. Turner is turned up a notch as well and for some reason is a total flirt! Sherif Frazier is more of a hard ass with a soft spot in this issue, changing the past vibes the character has given off. The addition of another mad doctor with a super being is a little silly and Doomstalker seems like a total hammy generic bad guy goof. There’s also the normal drama of the cops trying to kill or capture the Brute, making it have a slight been-there-done-that feel. This was not intended to be the final issue but as fate would have it, this issue did mark the end of The Brute’s run at the Seaboard Atlas Comics.
The Brute was the first comic I read from Atlas comics and remains one of my favorites from the short lived company. It’s a shame that his tragic story never fully unfolded and at the end of issue 3 you are not sure if he’s alive or dead and what the fates of Dr. Turner and Sherif Frazier will be. That’s one thing that always sucks, when a series never gets to have a full ending much like many of the STAR Comics we have reviewed in the past. It makes your wonder the fate of characters you have invested time and emotions into. While it’s clear as day that this is a cheap cash in on Incredible Hulk, the Brute still makes his mark in my comic world. Man with all this talk of Incredible Hulk, I have decided to also do a quick review for issue # 121 from that series and will also try something new after that! So with no further wait, let’s take a look at Incredible Hulk.
The Incredible Hulk # 121 ***
Released in 1969 Cover Price .15 Marvel Comics #121 of 474
The Incredible Hulk has a hurt leg and decides to hide out in the swamps of Florida after he has a mishap with a rocket. The Hulk wanders the area enjoying the peace and quiet, taking in the sights of nature. General Thunderbolt Ross, alongside Major Talbot, is planning his next attack on The Hulk when they get word he has been hit by a rocket and landed in the swamps of Florida. They whisk off to attack him. Meanwhile in the swamp, a thing has come out of the muck, once a man who was on the run, now a giant mucky monster known as The Glob. Thunderbolt and his men head into the swamp as Talbot stays with Betty Ross (the general’s daughter and lover of Hulk’s other side Bruce Banner) and they stay at a hotel near the swamp. As The Hulk fights with the army, The Glob is attracted to Betty and comes for her and takes her deep into the swamp. After Hulk beats the army he must save Betty from The Glob and must do so with a very badly hurt leg! In the end a toxic substance the army put into the swamp water ends the Glob and he makes sure Betty is out of harms way and into the hands of The Hulk.
This is a great classic Hulk vs. other monster match as he takes on the swamp muck man The Glob. This fight is pretty lackluster as The Hulk is fighting with a bum leg and The Glob seems not to even care to fight. The Glob is very underused in Marvel Comics and mostly only fought The Hulk and Man-Thing. While he is a mute villain, he can still add some trouble for any hero he faces. It was also nice to see The Hulk hurt in this issue stacking the odds against him as he had to take on Thunderbolt and his men as well as The Glob, The Hulk is one of the strongest characters in comic history so seeing him as an underdog was nice. Thunderbolt Ross is as always a bitter old man who will stop at nothing to crush The Hulk once and for all, but does show some mercy as The Hulk saves his daughter and quietly gets away into the swamp. Betty Ross is still sweet as ever and cares about Bruce Banner and The Hulk knowing they are one in the same. General Talbot is as sleazy as ever and while a good man, he still is not to be trusted. Over all this is a great issue in the long running Incredible Hulk comic series and has a monster battler as well as an monster vs. army battle so what more could a reader want! The art is amazing classic Marvel and the style I miss in modern comics. The plot is your classic Hulk story. The cover is eye catching and lets you know that you will see two monsters fighting it out.
So with that, let’s take a new look at something new here: a dream match up that pits three monsters against each other! Fighter one is The Glob, the muck monster of Florida! Fighter two is the primitive powerhouse The Brute! And the third is the green skin power house The Hulk!
The battle place will be the swamps of Louisiana and The Glob will be the first one there. As he comes from the muddy banks he shuffles around, almost lost in his own thoughts, but at that moment The Hulk lands from one of his mighty leaps. The Hulk knows The Glob and knows they have fought in the past and a battle is about to happen as Thunderbolt Ross drops in his new secret weapon that he captured known as The Brute into the battle ground! The three monsters would size each other up, and then the battle would start. The underdog of the fight would have to be The Brute. While he is strong, he is still mortal and can feel pain. The wildcard would be The Glob. While he is not super strong, he has enough power to inflict some major damage, and with being mute he could hide in the back and choose when to strike. The odds on favorite is The Hulk with his brute strength and pure raging power. I think The Hulk and The Brute would go at each other first, and The Hulk would make quick work of The Brute with a few well placed punches. The Glob would then attack from behind and would get the best of The Hulk for a brief moment, but when Hulk got his balance back, a well placed Thunderclap and ground stomp would send The Glob into the opened Earth.
WINNER: The Incredible Hulk
Atlas Comics is a short lived company that had a good impact on my life and showed me a whole new world of independent company. So this update I got to look back on The Bookie Parlor, The Brute, a primal man and The Hulk, my favorite superhero of all time. Next up is Dark Horse Comics’ short take on horror icon Pumpkinhead! See ya next time.
Thank you for the wonderful trip down memory lane to the Bookie Parlor. The store was always a fun place for people to visit, but it was the customers , people from all walks of life, stopping in for their fix of the latest comics or cards, that made it so special. The owner was also very special & enjoyed what he did & the camaraderie that was always present. Hal would be very proud to know that people still remember the Bookie Parlor so fondly. I find it very touching, as well. Thanks for the kind words & for everyone who supported us throughout our 25 years of a fabulous , fun journey in the world of fantasy. Sue Blevins
Sue The Bookie Parlor will forever be my favorite local comic shop 🙂 And my girlfriend’s as well!