The Ghost Who Walks Among Us And Can Never Die…The Phantom

In the world of comic books, crime doesn’t pay thanks to the Superheroes who protect the innocent and punish the guilty. I mean Gothom City has Batman, The City has Dick Tracy and New York has many like Spider-Man, Daredevil and Fantastic Four, to name a few. But while the big cities have their protectors, so does the jungles of Bangalla in Africa who has the one and only The Phantom! What is really cool about The Phantom is that he is much like Batman and Dick Tracy as he has no superhuman powers and is just a man who is a vigilante and dedicates his life to defending the weak and beating evil down. If you think about it as well, The Phantom, who was created in 1936, is a character who bridged the comic strip hero and the comic book superhero and is the first hero to really walk that line. So let’s kick 2017 off right and spend some time in Bangalla and see what The Phantom is all about and how DC brought him back to comic books in 1988.

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First, we must take a look at the life of the creator of The Phantom, the one and only Leon Harrison Gross aka Lee Falk, who was born on April 28, 1911 in St. Louis Missouri and had a decent childhood growing up Jewish.  Things would take a slight turn for the bad when his father passed away when Lee was still young, but his mother remarried sometime later and this gave Lee a stepfather he loved and respected and looked up to. The older he got, he began making comic strips and made up a fake bio story for himself as he claimed to be a world traveler who experienced so much out in the world which lead him to create the characters Mandrake The Magician and later The Phantom who were both picked up by King Feature Syndicate. He created The Phantom as he grew up loving the stories of Tarzan and The Jungle Book and decided to also add in pirates and thugs from around the world as it was a topic that also interested him.  Originally he wanted to call the character The Grey Ghost and wanted his costume and all to be grey but things changed when he liked the name The Phantom better and the news printer screwed up and made the costume purple, and the color stuck with readers. Weirdly enough, Falk did not have faith in his characters and thought they would only last a few weeks and was shocked that they lasted his whole lifetime, During World War II Falk worked for KMOX radio and was the chief of propaganda.  Also, the older he got the more world traveling he did in order to not have to lie about his background stories. Lee Falk was married three times and had three children with two daughters and one son. Lee Folk also loved the theater and over the years wrote 12 plays, directed 100 of them and produced over 300 others! Not to mention over his lifetime he even ran five theaters! His plays would have such Hollywood actors as Basil Rathbone, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Shelley Winters, Chico Marx and Charlton Heston acting in them! As you can see Lee Falk was a very creative man who did lots of very cool things. Lee Falk passed away from heart failure on March 13, 1999 at the age of 87 and up to his death he was still working on his comic strips…a true man who loved his characters and creations. It’s amazing to think about just how many comic strip creators worked on their strips all the way up until their deaths showing that unlike the comic book world, the creators loved their creations and got joy of bringing them to life for the readers. This update is dedicated to you, Lee Falk, a true icon of comic strip artists and a man who lived for what he loved to do.

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The Phantom is a hero who has no super powers and uses his wits, fists and guns to right the wrongs and protect his friends and tribes around his home in Africa. His costume is the following: a black eye mask, a skull ring and a purple costume that was based on an old African idol.  The look is used to scare criminals and pirates, who are his main targets. The Phantom is a costume and legacy that is passed down from generation to generation within the Walker family who do this in order to give the appearance that The Phantom is not human and immortal to strike even more fear into the hearts of those who do evil. The Phantom is a trained fighter with his fists, and I would guess that he has the punch of a heavy weight boxer! He is also skilled with a gun and while not a full dead shot, he hits his target when it’s needed. The Phantom is very smart and has the same kind of mind for solving crimes as Batman, The Shadow and Dick Tracy as he is also quick to get out of a bad situation. The Phantom’s main weapon is fear as legends spread of him being a ghost and not able to be killed, using superstition of the unknown to his advantage of just passing on the title to the next in the family bloodline. The 21st Phantom also has a pet wolf named Devil who helps him uphold justice and has his white horse Hero to get him places faster. Say what you will, The Phantom is a kick butt hero who might not be super but sure knows how to get the job done!

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On June 7, 1996, thanks to Paramount Pictures, a film based on The Phantom was released to theaters and was directed by Simon Wincer and had Billy Zane as The Phantom himself. Also in the cast were Catherine Zeta-Jones, Treat Williams and Kristy Swanson with the score being done by David Newman. Before it was made The Phantom had many different directors attached to it including big names like Sergio Leone, Joe Dante and Joel Schumacher who all left the project at one point or another for reasons of their own. Paramount picked the relativity unknown Simon Wincer, who had directed a few films before it like Quigley Down Under, Free Willy, Lightning Jack and Operation Dumbo Drop to name a few and they gave him a $45 million budget.  He is the one who hired Zane to play the title role as they both were fans of the character since childhood. The film’s production went smooth, and the hype was high for the film’s release as Paramount was wishing for the same kind of success as Warner Brothers had with Batman in 1989 and Touchstone had with Dick Tracy in 1990…but the box office and critics were not nice to this film as it only brought in $17,323,326.00 in the US and didn’t even get released in theaters overseas! The film came in at #93 of the year and beat out such films as The Frighteners, Trainspotting, Thinner and Mulholland Falls to name a few. While the film bombed at the theater, it developed a cult following when it was released on VHS and DVD, making the film turn in a small profit for Paramount. While I am a fan of The Phantom character, I skipped this film at the theater and waited for home video.  I found it to be a fun dumb popcorn movie that, while it didn’t 100% capture the magic of the comic strip, it at least delivered some fun action and adventure. And I must say that the outfit for The Phantom that actor Billy Zane wears was pretty well done and looked like a modern version of the classic suit and brought out elements to make it stand out on the big screen.

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But the 1996 film was not the first time The Phantom made the jump from comic strip to media on the big and small screen as the first was the 1943 Columbia Pictures serial simple called “The Phantom” that had a total of 15 chapters and had Tom Tyler as The Phantom. A serial sequel for The Phantom was in the works in 1955 with actor John Hart in the role of The Phantom and as production was chugging along they soon found that they no longer owned the rights to use The Phantom and quickly changed it over to calling it “The Adventures Of Captain Africa.” This was followed by the cartoon “Defenders Of The Earth” that aired on TV in 1986 and had Peter Mark Richman voicing the character for a total of 65 episodes, only lasting one season. In 1994, a cartoon called “Phantom 2040” was released as a series that lasted for 35 episodes and a total of 2 seasons with Family Ties actor Scott Valentine lending his pipes to make the character speak. And in 2009 they made a TV mini series based on the character and called it “The Phantom” that had two feature length movies to tell this new version of the character.  This time around actor Ryan Carnes landed the role of the character. So as you can see, Hollywood has had many plans for this character to be the next comic character to be on every kid’s t-shirt and have toys on every chain store shelf…while they tried, it just was not meant to be as it was clear the youth was just not biting at The Phantom to replace their Batman toys and comics. I can proudly say that as a youngster I did my part, as I owned The Phantom action figure from the Defenders Of The Earth toy line.

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Besides the movies and cartoons getting released on VHS and DVD, some other really cool stuff based on The Phantom has been released over the years from action figures, t-shirts, posters, statues, comic books, novels, card game, video game, Halloween costumes, replica skull rings, bobble heads, lunch box and so much more! The Phantom has had his fair share of collectibles for his fans to collect and enjoy, not to mention, besides DC, other comic book companies like Pacific Comics Club, Gold Key, Whitman, King, Pioneer, Dynomite, Marvel and Moonstone among others have printed adventures of this character. Besides some of the comics and the Defenders action figure, one thing I had in my teens was a skull ring replica that a fellow classmate gave me, and I can remember wearing it around school and feeling super cool…yeah, I know –  I was young and didn’t know any better. I wonder if that ring is still someplace in my parent’s basement, also know as Independent B Movie Studios. So in closing, if you enjoy The Phantom, the world is filled with collectibles for you!

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Speaking of Independent B Movie, the old shot on video company that my friends and I use to make films together under that brought you such shot on video classics as The Wolf Hunter, Farmer Joe and Who Keeps Feeding Grandpa to name a small few.  For a small time we toyed with the idea of doing fan films based on some of our favorite movies and characters with lots of things being written and talked about at our annual company meetings. Characters like Superman, Lone Ranger, Leatherface, Spider-Man and Neo from The Matrix all had fan scripts written or talked about, and one of the characters I was developing a fan film for was The Phantom! The idea for my film would have had Matt Hoffman or Jason Gilmore playing The Phantom who was sent on a mission to stop Dr. Frankenstein from creating a monster for the Nazi’s who needed this super solider to turn the tide of the war.  The setting was Frankenstein’s Castle in Kettering and the woods around it would have acted as the jungle with all the typical friends taking on roles like Josh Weinberg who I wanted to play Dr. Frankenstein.  Garrison Kane would have played The Monster and Dave Wean, Patrick Neeley, Mike Ritchie and Jason Young would have made up the supporting cast. If memory serves me right, I think the title of it would have been called “The Phantom vs. Frankenstein,” real original right? The costume was going to be ordered offline and The Frankenstein’s Monster mask was something we would have gotten from Foy’s in Fairborn. But the film idea went nowhere and a script was never written as only scraps of paper with notes was all I had taken down for my idea for this flick, and sadly that are long gone by now. I could have only imagined if we were to have filmed this just how cheesy and terrible the action fights would have been, but I am sure much like all the films we made, it would have had a small cult following for being so bad it’s good. Below is a mock-up poster for this movie done by my friend Jason Young who I’m sure would have been cast in this could-have-been fan made film.  Check it out!

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Speaking of Jason Young – before we get into the reviews of DC Comics first run of The Phantom, I want to share something very cool with you: my good friend Jason has started a comic review blog called “The Bewildering” for independent comics issue # 1’s he finds in .25 and $1.00 boxes at stores as well as conventions! And with his reviews, he breaks down the issues’ plots really well and will update about once a month.  It’s worth checking out if you enjoy your comics on the moldy side of the comic racks. Jason Young is a super talented dude as he is the owner of “Buyer Beware Comics” that puts out his bio comic called “Veggie Dog Saturn” among other titles. He is the co-owner of “Sparkle Comics” and its horror comic branch “Blood Scream Comics” and is working on a very cool comic called “Defenders Of The Planets” based on knock off He-Man toys from the 80’s! He also is co-host on the comic podcast called “Gutter Trash” with artist Eric Shonborn, not to mention he works at Mavericks Cards And Comics, a local shop that helps hook me up with comics for this blog! So in other words you are for sure in for a high quality good read with his blog, and I recommend that you check it out and show him some love.

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So now that we have taken a look at The Phantom from comic strip to an old never made fan made film that would have been directed by me, lets get to the main attraction here at Rotten Ink and that’s the comic book reviews! When choosing The Phantom as this update I had to think long and hard about what comic company I wanted to choose as many have tackled releases for The Phantom.  Most of the time I would just gone with Marvel Comics but decided to go with DC as the covers caught my attention more and looked like it could be a fun mini series.  Plus I feel like sometimes poor DC gets the short end of the stick here as I cover Marvel way more often. I want to thank Game Swap Kettering and Lone Star Comics for having these issues in stock to make this update possible and want to also say thank you again to the late great Lee Falk for creating this iconic character for all us comic readers to enjoy! And as always, I need to remind you that I grade these issues on a standard 1-4 star scale rating and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So with that, let’s enter the Skull Cave and see what kind of adventure we can share with The Phantom!

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The Phantom # 1  ***
Released in 1988     Cover Price $1.25     DC Comics   # 1 of 4

A young boy named Kit Walker is writing in the journal in the Skull Cave as he is the next in line to be The Phantom, the ghost who cannot die.  He is talking about his fears and reads back to the first Phantom who watched as his father was killed by pirates and he himself washed ashore in Bangalla, Africa near death.  He was taken in by its tribe and found that if the world was going to get justice, it was by him becoming justice itself and becoming the first Phantom who wanted to protect his new home and get revenge on the pirates! Now Kit Walker is an adult and the 21st Phantom who along with his step-nephew Rex, wolf Devil and white horse Hero are called upon by the tribes people as some drug smugglers have kidnapped two of the patrol men and are waiting for the big drug transaction. As The Phantom rushes off to save his friends the patrol men, one who even is under his protection for saving his life some time back, Rex starts to read the history of The Phantom journal and learns that the 13th Phantom was tricked onto a pirate ship by a evil men named Chessmen and captured! In modern times, The Phantom arrives too late as one of the patrolmen is shot dead, and as he frees the other, he soon finds himself looking down the barrel of a gun of a hired gun of one of the original Chessmen who has always been told to kill The Phantom and his supporters!

Three Phantoms’ tales are woven together into this issue’s plot as we take a look at what sparked the 1st Phantom to take on the mantel of being the ghost of justice as well as follow the 13th on a set up mission and are in present day with the 21st who is battling relatives of enemies from the past! And while this might sound confusing, it’s really not and by all accounts is really well done and gives each of The Phantoms their own characters and own traits letting you get the feel that this is truly a mantel that is handed down from father to son over the decades. All three of the Phantoms are very strong-willed people who understand that evil in the world will prey and destroy the weak if someone does not watch out for them.  Each puts his life on the line to rescue the innocent and stomp out the evil that is running loose. Rex is a young man who while is not blood to current The Phantom, he is adopted into the legacy and feels very much connected to it all and wants to learn the history and family secrets to prepare for the day he is called upon to wear the purple costume of good. The pirates and captain are the villains of the story thus far and when they are not stealing or selling drugs, they are killing and have zero remorse for ending lives too soon.  One of them shoots a man in the head without a care all because he had the mark of The Phantom on him! And what’s really shocking is they show the aftermath of the gunshot with a body on the deck in a pool of blood; that’s pretty crazy for a comic based on a comic strip character. The only thing that kind of made this comic a hard read was that some of the lettering for the journal was written in cursive and at times it was hard to read as it felt piled up and a little sloppy. The cover is well done and has The Phantom doing what he does best and that’s beating up pirates! The art is great and is done by Joe Orlando who I think did a fantastic job of mixing the normal 80’s DC Comics style with a touch of Sunday Comics appeal. Over all I am very impressed with this first issue and really kick myself for waiting until 2017 to read this comic as younger me would have really enjoyed this back in 1988!

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The Phantom # 2  ***
Released in 1988     Cover Price $1.25     DC Comics   # 2 of 4

Rex is reading the history of The Phantom in the Skull Cave as The Phantom kicks into high gear and saves the remaining officer and takes down the captain and his men, but all he could get from the captain as who is his boss is the name Chessman because his own shipmate shoots and kills him before turning the gun on himself. The officer calls the colonel on the ship’s radio for back up and help as The Phantom slips into the jungle with anger and revenge on his mind as the name Chessman is attached to those who did his father wrong many moons back. After a few hours The Phantom contacts the colonel and finds that a man named Charles Chessman from New York is the prime suspect of being the head of the drug smugglers, so alongside Devil, The Phantom as Kit Walker boards a plane for New York to get his answers and justice…but soon finds that his American girlfriend Diana’s family are long time friends with Chessman! The Phantom heads to the office of Charles Chessman only to find himself under arrest! All the while young Rex is reading about the 13th Phantom and his struggle to break free from the pirates who sold him into slavery.

The Phantom once more shows why he is the man who cannot die when he beats up a boat full of pirates and heads to America to settle a score with a person connected with the torture of his father. While he is dealing with his want for revenge, his adopted nephew is learning the history of The Phantom. This issue feels like a great classic hero tale and adds in just enough violence, drama and modern settings to give it an appeal to readers who enjoy Batman, Superman and classic stuff like Dick Tracy and Flash Gordon. The Phantom is as heroic as he can be in this issue and saves not only the life of an officer but also a whole plane full of passengers and crew when a man tries to take it over and with one quick punch that threat comes to an end. Rex, like any young man, is wanting to learn all he can and prove that he could be very worthy of The Phantom legacy someday. The pirates and the captain are such scum that they even turn on each other when the odds are out of their favor.  The Captain has no spine and is about to squeal like a pig on who hired them before his own right hand man put a bullet to good use. Diana Palmer is a woman who clearly cares about her boyfriend The Phantom and understands his odd way of life, but her mother doesn’t like the relationship and thinks The Phantom is too creepy. Something that is working really well for this comic mini series is that like his father The Phantom is trying to get the revenge that his father was unable to dish out all those years back and this adds to not only the drama but also the action. The cover is pretty slick and holds a classic look and the interior art is done by Joe Orlando again and is fantastic.  Again, the only complaint I have is that some of the cursive lettering is hard to read in spots but that’s very minor and didn’t take away any of the enjoyment of the issue. So with issue two being as good as issue one, I cannot wait to see what issue three has in store for us the readers, and I wish I would have bought this series when I was a kid as I would have enjoyed it a lot.

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The Phantom # 3  ***
Released in 1988     Cover Price $1.25     DC Comics   # 3 of 4

The Phantom and Devil outsmart and out-maneuver the officers and as they go on a wild goose chase to track him down he slips back into the office of Chessman and beats him up and tells him he has a short time to turn himself over to the police and tell them the truth about his drug selling and stolen good ways or that he himself will be the judge, jury and executioner. After taking his leave, Diana comes to see Chessman and is upset over the fact that he beat up one of her friends who she thinks is truly a nice guy and decides to go on a dinner date with Chessman and has a terrible argument with The Phantom leaving the couple at odds and even possibly broken up. The Phantom goes out the night of the date and gets information on all of Chessman’s thugs.  Meanwhile, during dinner Chessman hires a hitman named Stryker to hunt down and kill The Phantom who is in turn now hunting down Chessman’s right hand man! All the while, we get flashbacks to the 13th Phantom who escapes his chains and goes on a hunt and kills the first of The Chessman brothers to send a message to the others that no one crosses justice and The Phantom.

This third issue ushers in the idea that The Phantom is now onto the man who has not only killed his friend and is pushing drugs but also is a relative of the evil men who pushed his father, the 13th Phantom near death’s door. And while trying to put a stop to the evil of this man he might lose his girlfriend as well as his life as now the hunter might just very well become the hunted. The Phantom is a man alone in New York as his own lady thinks he is on the wrong track, and this leaves him trying to fight this fight without her knowledge of the target, but at least he has Devil by his side and is kind enough to give Chessman a choice of turning himself in or become a body in the morgue. Diana is making a big mistake by thinking that her longtime family friend is a nice guy and not scum.  This leaves her also at the madman’s mercy as she is now at his house for dinner and he is desperate to rid the world of The Phantom.  I would not put it past him to use her as a human meat shield when the action goes down. Chessman is just so slimy and plays the role of a nice guy who really has a black selfish heart, and I can’t wait for him to get served some cold justice. Stryker is a mystery and looks like your typical mafia style hitman, and he could be a challenge for The Phantom once they meet! The story of the 13th Phantom from the past and the 21st Phantom’s paths are one in the same dealing with the same evil and crappy people The Chessman family is good story telling and writer Peter David is doing some amazing things to make The Phantom cool for comic readers of 1988 and beyond. The cover once more holds a classic look and captures the adventure style of the character and his legacy as again the art by Joe Orlando is top notch and amazing stuff. Once more this issue is as good as the other two so far and leaves the reader wanting more and wanting to see how the story ends in the next issue. So like The Phantom, let’s lurk into the shadows of your favorite place to read comics and see what happens next.

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The Phantom # 4  ***
Released in 1988     Cover Price $1.25     DC Comics   # 4 of 4

At dinner Diana overhears Chessman telling Stryker about his right hand man being busted by the cops thanks to The Phantom and that this spoiled a major drug deal for him.  Before she can get away, Chessman and Stryker take Diana hostage and want to use her as bait when they find out she knows him! The Phantom spends the next nights breaking up Chessman’s illegal operations but finally finds a message that Diana is in trouble and heads to Chessman’s house and into a trap. The Phantom sets Diana free but she is soon recaptured by Chessman who throws her into his car and hits the streets to get to his private plane.  While The Phantom and Devil make short work of Stryker, who, armed with a sniper rifle, hardly put up hardly before being knocked out. The Phantom watches as his enemy takes his true love away and borrows a police horse and tracks them down to bridge where traffic has come to a standstill and with a gun to her head Diana is forced to watch as Chessman and The Phantom have a showdown that leaves them both falling off the bridge. Chessman is in bad shape and rushed to the hospital but is suspected to live and will face charges for his drug empire.  The Phantom is thought to be dead until he shows up with Devil to Diana’s house and they patch things up and all ends well. We also see that the 13th Phantom also had an epic fight with the pirate Chessman brother that as well left them both falling off a mountain that they both died from, but this once more proved that the legacy of The Phantom would live forever.

This four issue mini series took us on an adventure that had us in the past and modern times as well as in the jungles of Africa and the slums of New York and pitted good vs. evil and justice against law breaker. The Phantom in this issue not only brings down many drug and gambling rings but also takes down a hitman as well as defeats a rich business man who is the ring leader of smugglers and has lived his life as a lie and gotten the support of many with his phony good guy persona. And most importantly, he also wins his girl’s heart back as well as keeps the legacy of The Phantom going and intact. The best part about The Phantom is that while he is super talented in hand to hand combat, he also uses his mind to really bring down those who are doing bad and wicked things. Devil is a loyal wolf and is a big help when it comes to fighting crime and is the best ally as he is threat with his razor sharp teeth! Rex learns lots about The Phantom legacy by going into the records, a place he is not meant to be, but a place it is known he would enter as all future Phantoms have interest in the past adventures. Diana Palmer is a woman who stands by her man…well that is until he beats up and points the figure at a rich family friend and then you turn on him and try and send him home until everything he said turns out to be true and he saves your life and then you fall back in love with him. Diana should have had faith in her superhero boyfriend as she clearly has a brain in her head. Stryker is all talk as he acts as if it would be easy to kill off The Phantom and when he gets his chance, he crumbles faster than a house of cards in a hurricane! The 13th Phantom in this series is a hero who is beaten, sold and near death but finds his inner power to get his revenge and to prove that his family legacy is not to be taken lightly. Charles Chessman is a man who has no morals and only cares about making money and getting his own fat out of the fire and would kill an innocent woman to get away, even after being given the chance to turn himself in he decides that he would rather not and try to kill his nemesis. He is much like the Chessman Pirate Brothers as his ego is what causes his downfall and leads him to a life in jail. The one thing that shocked me about this comic series was the fact that it shows not only blood but also a suicide and shows them both very gritty and this brings a more raw and natural feeling to it. The cover on this issue also is very well done and captures the heroic nature of The Phantom and adds the touch of mobsters and gritty city life to its appeal. The art is again done by the talented Joe Orlando and his work helped make this comic series even better of a read and added to the enjoyment of the sold story written by Peter David. Over all, if you enjoy classic hero tales that are filled with drama, action and a more realistic hero, then I suggest checking out this 4 issue mini series as I am glad that I did all these years after its newsstand run. Check out below to get a taste of the artwork from Joe Orlando and see just how good it is.

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Being a fan of The Phantom since a young age, it really is shocking that it took this long for me to read this mini series as to be honest I remember seeing it at comic shops in my teens and never pulled the trigger on buying the issues. I really think fans of such characters, as Batman, Dick Tracy, The Unknown Solider and Moon Knight should check out The Phantom if you have not already. With our next update, we are staying with DC and taking a look at one of the biggest events in comic history in my life time and one that some say brought the beginning of the end for the comic boom and I am of course talking about Doomsday: The Death Of Superman! So until next time, make sure to read a comic or three, read a novel or two and as always support your local Horror Host, and I will see you next update for Superman’s deadliest fight ever.

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American Hero: The Original Shield

Happy July 4th and welcome back to Rotten Ink, a place where everything nerdy that inspired me has a place to shine and be discussed! Who doesn’t love a holiday that is in celebration of our nation’s independence and is filled with cookouts and amazing firework displays? So for this update I decided to cover a patriotic super hero and had many to choose from such as Captain America or even DC’s Freedom Force with Uncle Sam, but I decided to cover The Shield, a hero who pre-dated them all and has a fun Americana feel. So grab a burger and a cold beverage, and sit back, relax and have some fun with me here at Rotten Ink as we celebrate July 4th!

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Growing up, I can remember that my Brassfield grandparents would have cookouts that would have that side of the family gathering to eat burgers, hot dogs and steaks and play some baseball, Nintendo or football with the cousins and have an overall fun time. Later in the evening, we would all go to Delco Park and watch the fireworks and celebrate our independence. But while for the most part those were fun times, I can also remember many of years drama breaking out over someone having too many beers, and fights and arguments would break out for no reason.  Maybe my friend Henrique Couto should make a follow up to his film Awkward Thanksgiving and call it Awkward July 4th cause I have some fun and silly stories to share with him on that subject! The older I got, the less the family meet up and the more I would go out with friends to watch the fireworks or attend BBQs with them.  Some of the best times I have ever had on this day had to be sitting in a football field with my friend Andrea Seay and watching fireworks, just chatting with her as we watched the sky explode with bright colors, showing me just how important she was and still is to me.  Sadly we have drifted apart due to a dumb decision I made when it came to her. I also remember having great times on this day with David & Katie Wean cooking out and eating hamburgers and hotdogs chatting about movies and music. I also remember having a good time over at Patrick Neeley’s house cooking out, chatting, listening to music and playing video games. I also always had an amazing time hanging out on this day with my brother Bryan and his family along with friends like Andy Copp, Henrique Couto, Mike Ritchie and Nick Williams grilling out and watching Couto set off tiny fireworks or blow up apples and such with firecrackers. Nowadays I spend July 4th with my girl Juliet, and we find some sort of wacky thing to do to celebrate the day. I am going to pack lots into this update, not only about The Shield but other things to do with the holiday as well as a few things that don’t! But one thing is for sure, if you’re reading this on July 4th I am sure you are enjoying some grilled out meat while being around your loved ones waiting for the fireworks to go boom!

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In 2015 on July 4th for some reason I had to work for a few hours and then went to WYSO and got Alpha Rhythms done.  When I got home, Juliet and I decided to try some chicken wing sauce we bought at Jungle Jim’s that was called “Oh My Garlic.”  This was originally bought to have during one of my Horror Movie Marathons as the bottle had a pretty cool vampire drawing on it, but that idea changed as the last marathon I had was pretty large and we ended up ordering wings from Fricker’s instead. We got some fresh farm grazed chicken wings and drumsticks from Dorothy Lane Market, and when placing them in the glass pan, I put some spices on the wings and then put a little butter on them as well to help make them turn crispy and brown and placed them in the oven at 475 degrees for about 10 minutes. When taking them out I covered them with the Oh My Garlic sauce and man the smell was great.  Juliet and I knew that dinner was going to be really good and we could sleep easy as the heavy garlic smell would scare off any vampire. After about 30-40 minutes the wings were done and our feast began. The Oh My Garlic sauce was fantastic and had a strong garlic taste and the flavor mixed well with the chicken, spices and butter drawing out the garlic taste even more and really soaking into the meat. This is one sauce I will eat again and look forward to the next trip to Jungle Jim’s so that I can raid the chicken wing sauce aisle and get another bottle and see what other wonders I can uncover! The first picture is of the Oh My Garlic Sauce.  The second is the finished meal, and the third is the wings when the sauce was first placed on.

Oh My Garlic SauceOh My Garlic Done WingsRaw Wings With Oh My Garlic sauce

What would July 4th be without talking about something creepy! In 2009, a strange video was uploaded to Youtube by a user named Creepyblog that shows a very creepy female android singing a song called “I Feel Fantastic” while it moves its hands about.  It sent shivers down viewers’ spins, and the web was creeped out with many people asking what is this?! Tara The Android is the thing’s name.  No one is 100% sure of its origins and it’s true intention of being made, but like anything odd on the internet, there are a ton of theories that I would like to share them with you. Before you read on, you should watch the original video by typing in “I Feel Fantastic” into Youtube or just click the title from this page. Many people believe that Tara was made by a man named John Bergeron who made her to be a novelty concert attraction that he planned to book at clubs and art shows to show off her singing ability as well as his android work, but after not getting the attention he thought she would via her website as well as some issue with her not being that portable, the idea was scrapped. This theory is the most logical one and takes any creepy element away from Tara and her creator.  It was said that for a short time on the website that is now almost shut down, you could buy the songs as well as the “music videos” from Tara…is this fact or was the website made up to help build the legend of Tara? The next, more science fiction, theory is that Tara was made by a man who was killed by her and now the female android is on the loose looking to sing to and kill anyone who gets in her way…this one is silly and over the top and seems like it could have been an episode of The X-Files. The best, and also very believable, theory is that a serial killer made Tara and dresses her in his victims’ clothes and has her sing positive things to him as if murdering them was the right thing.  At one point Tara says “You Are Fantastic” but also says such odd things as “Run, Run, Run” and “Please Leave” adding to the killer using phrases he wanted to hear as well as what he did hear from his victims. Many videos were made and most are laced with strange lyrics and odd costume changes for Tara. Another odd thing is during the music videos random shots of a backyard are shown zooming into the ground ,and this is said to be the location of the body or bodies of victims. The background music that accompanies her lyrics sounds like weird low budget horror film score music adding fuel to the creator being a killer. No record has ever been uncovered if this is the work of a killer, and many people think this theory is just told to scare people looking for a good Creepypasta. So I am sure your wondering what I think the story of Tara is, well let me tell you that I am not sure! So what do you think, was she a would be android pop star made to make its creator some extra money? Is it a killer android on the loose who killed its creator looking for blood? Or is it the work of a killer who uses the robot to relive his crimes and feel good about his deeds? Only Tara and her creator know for sure, and they aren’t saying anything! On a side note weird stuff like this is why I do love the World Wide Web, cause it’s open to debate what is real and what’s only fiction to make a Creepypasta.

tara the android 1Tara The Android Backyardtara the android 2

On this update the CD I listened to as I wrote was picked by my friend and co-worker Dan Harkless, who is a Vietnam Vet and served his country in the war.  I always enjoy sitting around and listening to his war stories, and it’s given me a perspective into battle.  He is an all around fun person to chat with who loves Russ Meyer films and Playboy Magazine.  He’s a great swimmer who won awards, a gardener, was a fan of Sub Mariner when growing up and is a music lover. Dan picked Harry Chapin’s 1977 release Dance Band On The Titanic as his favorite, and this is interesting as I know very little about Harry Chapin besides the song “Cat’s In The Cradle” that almost every music listener knows.  So this is a very big unknown for me as I do not recognize any of the songs on this CD! The first thing I noticed is the 70’s pop folk sound of the tracks.  This was not what I was expecting at all as I felt going into it that it would be 100% folk rock, so this was a pleasant surprise! The first track that caught my ear was “Why Should People Stay The Same,” a nice song about change in relationships with a touch of religion.  It’s a good song with a catchy beat. Many other well produced and well played tracks followed including the soft folk ballad mixed with a dash of big band song called “Dark Valley (An Imitation Spiritual)”, a song that also caught my attention. While this CD was nothing I would normally listen to, I did find some great songs to write to on it and want to thank Dan for recommending it to me to go outside the borders of what I normally listen to.

Dan Harklessharry chapin dance band on the titanic cdHarry Chapin

My brother and I used to rent a lot of horror films from K&L Video.  We would look up and down the New Release Wall looking for low budget titles that would catch our attention or direct to video sequels to films like Children of The Corn, but in 1996, a cover box caught my attention for a horror film called Uncle Sam that had a picture on the back of it that made me crack up and caused us to rent it! The picture on the back that had me laughing was a man dressed in an Uncle Sam mask peeking into a window and watching a woman in the bathroom…so cheesy, yet so 90’s direct to video horror! The film was directed by William Lustig, who was known for The Maniac Cop series as well as titles like Maniac, Relentless and Vigilante, and starred names like Bo Hopkins, PJ Soles, Isaac Hayes and David “Shark” Fralick and was released by A-Pix Entertainment. The film is about a young boy named Jody who idolizes his uncle Sam Harper, who is a master-sergeant in the army and is killed in a crash, but when the body is flown home, the small town soon finds out Sam is not dead.  He is a zombie killing machine and must be stopped by his nephew who once looked up to him. You see Sam was not a good man who enjoyed beating his wife as well as killing in wars.  While his nephew thought he was a true patriot, he in fact was a scumbag. While watching the movie, my brother and I spent time spotting the G.I. Joe action figures and enjoying the over all cheesy nature of the film. Sam Harper wears the Uncle Sam costume once he kills a peeping tom who was wearing it and has two looks, one with a mask and one with a zombie like burnt rotten face.  That’s right, sadly the picture on the back cover was not the killer, but just some teen tying to sneak a peek at a girl he likes. Uncle Sam leaves itself open for a comic sequel as it looks like a film one is not in the books. The story for the comic could have a grown up Jody, who is now in the military himself, being sent to a top secret base where he finds that the government has many experiments locked away including the still reanimated body of his Uncle Sam.  They want him to lead this rag tag group of “controlled” reanimated solders into battle against terrorist, and Jody soon learns that no one can lead Sam as he takes control of the zombie army and leads a war against not only terrorist but returns home to settle the score with the town that hides his ex-wife as he wants her dead! The comic would come to an epic end battle in the small town as Jody leads a group of elite soldiers against Sam and his army of the undead! The comic could be filled with lots of blood, bullets and boobs and the home coming for Sam of course would have to take place on July 4th so that during the final battle, fireworks could be going on in the background. While no major comic company would touch this to turn into a comic series I would say that out of my friends, the ones I would love to see make this would be Eric Shonborn or Justin Wasson, both of whom I think could make this idea pop and come alive the way it should. If you like low budget horror films that have a holiday themes to them, then make sure to check out Uncle Sam as I am sure it will give you at least an entertaining watch.

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The Shield was created in 1940 by Harry Shorten and Irv Novick for MLJ Comics for a series called “Pep Comics” and was one of the first true patriotic superheroes of comics. In 1959 Lancelot Strong became the new Shield for a comic called “The Double Life Of Private Strong”, but Archie Comics pulled the plug on the series after only two issues. In 1983, Lance once more as The Shield was given another run under “Lancelot Strong: The Shield” and had two name changes during its seven issue run. Think about that; the comic had three titles for seven issues! The Original Shield, who was back to the first one – Joe Higgins, came out for Red Circle Comics and lasted only four issues. 1991 saw DC Comics (under Impact Comics) giving him a try with a series called “The Legend Of The Shield” that had Joe Higgins as The Shield for thirteen issues, and later Lt. Michael Barnes took up the mantel, in a series that only lasted sixteen issues. In 2015, Archie Comics under their Dark Circle Comics banner, has released a new version of The Shield that has Victoria Adams stepping up to do America proud. So that’s the publishing history of The Shield; up next we will take a look at Joe Higgins, who is the Original Shield!

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Joe Higgins is a chemist, whose father Tom was working on a chemical formula that would act as a super solider serum, but the Germans want it and this leads to Tom’s death.  Joe continues his father’s work, and after using X-Rays and other chemicals, he does it! He gains invulnerability as well as the ability to leaps of great distance. He dresses in a outfit that sports the American colors, takes the codename Shield and takes a job for the F.B.I. to fight threats to America as well as try and clear his father’s name and expose his killers. His adventures are part superhero and part spy game as he also takes a young orphan named Dusty Simmons as his sidekick, and the pair stop many menaces and dangers. Later in life as he aged, he formed a group with teenagers he called “The New Crusaders”. Joe’s son Bill Higgins took over the role of The Shield when his dad was turned to stone by a bad guy named The Eraser, and in order to save him he also created a team called “The Mighty Crusaders! This is just a quick crash course of the history of The Shield as I don’t want to spoil too much and would like for all you readers to take some time and check out some of his comics.

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The Shield did get an action figure in 1984 as part of Remco’s toyline based around the superhero team The Mighty Crusaders that consisted of The Shield as well as 7 other figures. The Shield figure came with a gun belt, two guns and a shield that rocked the red, white and blue colors! The figures themselves are about the size of Mattel Secret Wars but more bulky in proportions, and their legs look like liverwurst logs stuffed inside spandex pants…to sum it up, they are weird looking. The Shield figure also has a goofy looking face, and sadly the whole figure line reeks of cheapness.  While my brother and I had a few of these figures growing up, hardly no other kid I knew did. The Shield was not one of the figures we owned growing up, but I can safely say if I did he would ended up just being a foot solider for my Secret Wars Captain America on rescue missions to save Princess Leia and Scarlett from the grip of Baron Zemo!

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So I think we are all in a patriotic mood right now thanks to The Shield and it being July 4th so I think we should grab a burger or dog along with a favorite drink sit back enjoy the weather and atmosphere of being our independence day and take a journey with The Shield as he battles those who want to disrupt our way of life here in America. I want to thank Bookery Fantasy and Lone Star Comics for having these issues in stock and helping make this holiday update special. Like always, I want to remind you that I grade these issues on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So light a sparkler and take a bite of that hotdog it’s time to go to war alongside The Shield!

Original Shield 1

The Original SHIELD # 1  ***
Released in 1984   Cover Price .75   Archie Comics   #1 of 4

A map has been stolen from the F.B.I., and The Shield wants to find out who stole it and why.  By donning his alter ego Joe Higgins, he tracks down a fellow agent who was the spy for a bad man named Boroff and was the key in stealing the map. At Boroff’s hideout he not only has the top secret map but also Professor Newton, the man who created the maps and knows the location of the item they seek,.The Shield comes in at the last second and beats up Boroff, who is working for a secret group called Delta 3 and saves Newton from being killed and finds out that what the map is hiding is no longer a threat as the radiation from bomb testing has ruined it. But things are not all good as Boroff escapes, and while one fight ends, the battle still rages on. When retuning back to work Joe Higgins finds out that the F.B.I. as part of budget cuts is closing one of their old storage warehouses and are giving away some old robots to the museum that was created by Boroff’s henchman Klotz.  He travels to Washington with Lisa Carvin, his boss, for a black tie affair and to check on the robot.  Upon arriving, he finds that they are already gone, and a man with a gun is waiting for him.

This is classic patriotic super hero action that shows a normal man in a special suit mixed with spy situations can be a great read and would be great for fans of Captain America! The plot of this issue has The Shield stopping a plan to kill a professor and steal a top secret weapon and along the way finding a mole within the F.B.I, beating up his arch nemesis Boroff, and trying to stop the transfer of old robots that he battled in the past. The Shield, aka Joe Higgins, is a great hero who uses his wits as well as his special powered suit (that reflects bullets, fire and blasts) in order to protect America from those who wish it harm. He is strong as a well-trained boxer and packs a punch that can break robots into pieces! He is firm and harsh when need be and doesn’t like to lose when it comes to the game of fighting crime.  He also enjoys being an F.B.I agent and ridding the streets of global threats. Over all I’m big fan of The Shield at this point and am very glad to be reading about him on the 4th of July! Lisa Carvin, who is Jim’s boss in the F.B.I., seems pretty cool at this point.  It’s clear she is not a fan of Joe but respects that he gets things done.  She is also clueless that Jim is The Shield. Boroff is a pointed tooth, black Mohawk haired beast of a man who clearly does not value human life.  We only get a small dose of him in this issue but I have a feeling he will be back in the future. This issue has likable characters, a fun dated yet classic story, good art and filled with pride from those who created this issue. Now the bad side is that the story picks up in the middle of the action as you had to read “Mighty Crusaders # 5” and “Pep Comics # 1” in order to really get the full backstory of what is going on.  I still am unclear as to what the map held the location of besides these numbers 42642. But even with that flaw, I really did enjoy this comic.  The cover is classic Archie Superhero stuff, and the art inside done by the likes of Dick Ayers and Tony DeZuniga and is fantastic stuff.  I really enjoyed the art as it reminded me of late 70’s Captain America work. Well let’s see what issue two has in store for us, and I am hoping it will be as good as issue one!

Original Shield 2

The Original SHIELD # 2  ***
Released in 1984   Cover Price .75   Archie Comics   #2 of 4

The man with the gun is no threat, but an old F.B.I agent named Dan Hurley who served with Jim way back when has now pieced it together that Jim is The Shield as he has not aged at all! The pair get talking about the past and how, for a short time thanks to a powerful ray gun from Boroff, The Shield lost his powers. After the talk, Jim asks Dan for help and makes it just in time to pick up Lisa for the party that is being thrown by Senator Casey.  At the party, Lisa meets an old flame named Ed Crisp, and Jim sees his old nemesis Klotz who tries to murder him with a poison gas capsule! Jim barely escapes and leaves the party with Lisa as he coughs and rambles on about a 80 year old spy. Jim passes out in front of Lisa’s hotel room, and she drags him inside where he has flashbacks to his past that include his wife, son Bill and old crime fighting partners and enemies. Once awake, he changes into his Shield outfit and finds Klotz who is out of his mind and is a working for Delta 3.  Klotz drops a grenade as our issue ends, hoping to blow them both up!

The Shield does it again with this second issue as he captures the mood of a time when comics were simple and plots were cut and dry with bad guys and good guys, another solid issue for sure! This time around Jim Higgins meets an old friend, The Shield comes face to face with an old enemy and Lisa comes in contact with an old flame. Plus throw in a shady Senator, and you have a fun spy costume hero comic plot. This issue The Shield aka Jim is once more a man of honor as he chats with an old friend and comes clean to him that yes, he is the costumed hero everyone depended on in the past.  Plus thanks to the gas, we learn that he was married and had a son, and we get a little about his old crime fighting friends who went missing.  We also learn that he was frozen into a statue by a bad guy named The Eraser, and that’s why he is so young in modern times. The Shield is a class act hero who reminds me of a character that would have been a member of The Minute Men from The Watchmen from DC Comics. Lisa Carvin is also a little more fleshed out as it’s clear that while she is hard on Jim she still likes him as a person and she is not your typical one sided female character as she acts and gets things done. Dan Hurley is a old timer who lives and breathes the F.B.I and is a pretty cool little side character.  I wonder what mission Jim asked him to do; I am sure in the coming issues we will find out. Klotz is a crazy old man and with him being nuts comes the danger as it’s clear he is not sane and will do whatever it takes to kill The Shield and impress Delta 3. I don’t trust Senator Casey or Ed Crisp as both seem a little too shady for this comic reader.  Plus Ed has one of those 70’s porn mustaches mixed with Mr. Kotter’s from Welcome Back Kotter! While not a lot of fists flying, this issue still packs a mighty punch with its simple and classic plot and good characters. The cover is pretty good, and that art inside is once again fantastic and done by three this time: Dick Ayers, Tony DeZuniga and Rex Lindsey.  It’s sure to please old school comic readers. Sad to say, we are at the half way point and this series is almost at an end. l hope the next two keep up the quality of the first two as I’m really digging this series.

Original Shield 3

The Original SHIELD # 3  ***
Released in 1984   Cover Price .75   Archie Comics   #3 of 4

The blast kills Klotz, and stuns The Shield for a few moments.  During this time he remembers back to the day he was broken free from being a living statue thanks to his son Bill who was acting as The Shield. He also thinks how different his time in the 1940’s was from present time in the 80’s. While looking around the room he finds the final mission for the robots, to attack the White House and kill the president! The Shield rushes to the White House running as fast as The Flash and defeats them. Changing back to Jim Higgins, he, alongside Lisa, confronts the Senator who seemed to be working alongside the crazy Klotz, but after they find Ed Crisp dead in his office from a suicide with a note claiming allegiance to Delta 3 the heat is off the Senator…for now. Delta 3 however is very not pleased with their plans being foiled and put a hit out on Joe and Lisa that is taken by Mega, a strong tall stretching powerhouse and Bit, a small man with telepathic powers! As Jim and Lisa leave Ed’s funeral, they both have the feeling he didn’t kill himself but was murdered to cover up Delta 3 plans.  As Mega goes after Jim, he soon meets Shield who makes quick work of him as Lisa is attacked by Bit who is finally beat by Lisa and The Shield together.

This issue tones down the spy aspect and ups the fighting as Shield goes toe to toe with Mega and Bit who are mutants sent to do his boss and him harm.  It’s a pretty great plot and could be taken straight from a classic Spider-Man comic. In this issue, the Shield watches as one of his old nemesis dies, discovers corruption in government and fights two mutants to save his own life as well as his boss’! Lisa Carvin is also fighting corruption as her one time lover has been murdered and framed all to cover up for the evil Delta 3. Mega and Bit are mutants with special powers who use them wisely, but just are no match for The Shield who outsmarts them in battle. But to be fair, Lisa is the one who delivers the knock out blow to Bit with a vase to his head. Delta 3 shows two members named Number 1 and Number 3, and they are cheesy bad guys who are worried about being discovered and that’s why hits are placed on the F.B.I agents. The best part of this comic series so far is the fact that as we get deeper in it, the plot thickens! The cover is good and classic 80’s superhero stuff, with art this time around being done by Dick Ayers and Rex Lindsey only, and like before it’s fantastic! The sad part about this issue is that we only have one more in the series and then we are done, but I guess that’s a good thing as if you are reading this update on July 4th I am sure you have cooked out food and fireworks to get to. So let’s not waste any more time and see what the final issue has in store for us.

Original Shield 4

The Original SHIELD # 4  **1/2
Released in 1984   Cover Price .75   Archie Comics   #4 of 4

Jim Higgins comes to work at the F.B.I and has a special note from his old World War II friend and now Army Col. named Boyle that informs him that in New Mexico a shield that belonged to his nemesis The Hun is being placed at an army base museum and that danger is near. As Boyle gets to the base and sees the Nazi shield with his own eyes, they come under attack as the aging Hun is mad as hell and as powerful as ever! The Hun manhandles Boyle and the aging base commander. But lucky for them, The Shield makes it just in time to tangle with The Hun and is able to make short work of him thanks to his love for freedom and power. In the end the Nazi shield goes missing, The Shield captures The Hun and America is safe from a threat once more.

This fourth and final issue in the series only slips slightly as the story is good, but also seems a little rushed. The plot is simple and has a Nazi super bad guy from the past attacking a military base.  He’s taught a lesson in manners by The Shield who makes quick work of him. In the issue the Shield comes off a freedom loving hero but oddly enough lost a little charm as this issue felt like it were trying to hard to be a Captain America issue. The Hun’s is amazing as it shows him as a German boy who had murdered people his whole life getting powers from the ghost of Attila The Hun and after doing so joined the Nazi party to try for world domination. While he sounds like a bad ass, he is shown to be a good fighter but is outclassed by The Shield in every way…making him no real threat. We finally meet Col. Boyle, and he comes off as a old man who lives in the past who is a mix of Nick Fury and Thunderbolt Ross from the Marvel Universe. With this being the final issue some questions do go unanswered.  It was clearly not supposed to be the final issue as they advertise in the end for issue five. So as far as we all know, if you just read The Original Shield series, Delta 3 is still out in the world causing issues and The Shield along with the F.B.I are still battling them, and I like that. The issue also takes a jab at Marvel Comics as in the end characters named Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes are asked to dump the trash where the Nazi Shield is placed among the garbage. The cover is epic and shows The Shield going into battle with The Hun as army soldiers are frozen in place. The art this time around was done only by Dick Ayers and has a 50’s style look to it.  While not bad, it’s also not the best the series has looked. I should also mention that The Coment from Mighty Crusaders makes a cameo in the issue as he is how The Shield gets to New Mexico so fast. While The Original Shield is dated by all accounts and most modern comic fans would be bored to tears with its slow pacing and World War II dated hero who’s out of time being resurrected in the 80’s, I found lots of joy in reading it, and it triggered even more patriotic spirit in me as I read it on this day that celebrates America and all it’s glory. While this series might not be for everyone, I think fans of early Captain America will love every cheesy page of it. Below is some artwork from the series with the first two showcasing The Shield and the last being The Hun.

The Original Shield Art 1The Original Shield Art 2The Original Shield Art 3

The Shield, a True American icon, is worth the read and receiving the honor of being the first Rotten Ink update for the 4th of July under the “American Hero” banner. But our next update will take us away from the Star Spangled Hero The Shield and into the world of the living dead and another trip to Monster Bash Convention in Mars, PA, as we take a look at the IDW adaptation of Dawn Of The Dead! So until next time enjoy the fireworks, eat a hot dog or two, read some comics and enjoy this holiday with friends and family.

Dawn The The Dead Logo

The Real Deal STEEL Of DC Comics!

Welcome back!  It’s been a very long time since I took a look at a DC comic series.  In fact, the last one, and for that fact only one, I did was for Sherlock Holmes back on March 28th 2013. I did talk about some of their characters when I covered the Marvel and DC crossovers that took place in the 1970’s, but that was not all about one of their homegrown heroes so I think its time to give them another look. Growing up I was a comic reader as I am sure you could have all guessed by now, but I always found myself reading more Marvel than DC.  Given the option back then of reading Superman or Spider-Man, I would choose Spider-Man hands down.  It’s not to say I didn’t read my fair share of DC issues, I just couldn’t get into the characters as much as I could Marvel’s. So one year when I was in my mid 20’s I decided to go out and buy a bunch of DC comics to read on a trip I was planning with my then girlfriend, Jennifer, who was from a small village called Oswego in Illinois.  We were going to see her family who all still lived there. So I went to Mavericks and Bell, Book And Comic and grabbed some older issues of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and found an issue # 1 for a super hero I had never heard of called STEEL The Indestructible Man that was only .50.  So I took the chance on it and packed them with the rest of my luggage and looked forward to a great trip with my girl. I met Jennifer at work as both of us worked for Blockbuster Video at the time.  While at different stores, we met up thanks to the fact BBV wanted to use the actual cover art for the DVDs they were renting out and not just generic logo inserts like they had been.  So they had a team of two employees from every store in the district go from store to store and change them over. I worked at the store on Smithville and was chosen to be one of the team as was Jennifer from her store, and from the start I was considered the MVP of the team because I was a fast scanner and cover changer and hit it off with everyone else selected including Jennifer.  By the end of the change over we went on our first date to see the movie Fantastic Four. But anyways, I always looked forward to our trips to Oswego as the car ride was a fun time that we would make late at night with music on the radio from mix CDs I made and trips to 24 hour Starbucks for a quick coffee fix, all great memories. The town was also a really cool place and had the very small town feel to it were high school sports were important and small locally owned businesses were all over downtown. But it was also in the small town that I read the first issue of STEEL and found myself really liking the character who I would say was DC’s version of Captain America. So in this update I am going to revisit STEEL # 1 and read the other 4 issues in the series and see how in 2014 at the age of 34 I feel about this character. And while Jennifer and I split up we still remain close friends to this day, and I still look at her in great respect and still have great memories of all the trips and adventures we went on.

Jennifer Perkins OswegoStarbucks Drinks

Before I get into STEEL, I have to share with you readers a film I saw for the first time in April 2014 that could be one of the best/worst low budget horror films I have ever seen called Night Of The Demon.  The film is not about Demons at all; it’s about a pissed off Bigfoot who murders anyone who dares get in his way! The film was released in 1980 and was directed by James C. Wasson, who on IMDB only has this film linked to his name, and stars Michael Cutt, Melanie Graham and stuntman Shane Dixon as The Bigfoot. Dixon went on to do stunts for many other great films like Lethal Weapon 1, 3 & 4, Rambo III, They Live, The Hunt For Red October, Maniac Cop 2-3, Death Warrant, Night Of The Demons 2, Godzilla and so many more.  The guy was all over the place in Hollywood but this role as Bigfoot for me is his crown jewel. Sadly Dixon passed away in 1999 from cancer so while he may be gone his film work will live on for the world to enjoy. The film follows a professor and some of his students going into the woods where people have gone missing and a Bigfoot has been spotted, but they should have never have entered those woods because Bigfoot is on the prowl and doesn’t like it when people enter his homeland. The film ends with a clash between the humans and the Bigfoot that will leave you breathless with horror and laughter. The film is so over the top that I found myself drawn into it and truly enjoying every blood soaked bad acting moment. In the film Bigfoot does so many messed up things.  From yanking a person’s penis off to ripping out someone’s guts and swinging them around a room, you realize that this Bigfoot plays for keeps. I don’t want to give away to much of the “plot” of this film because I really think if you like cheesy horror films then you should check this one out.  For those wanting a little more push to see the film, watch James Rolfe’s Monster Madness review of the film for his 2010 line up that dealt with Campy Cult films. At some point I am hoping that I can get a custom comic book made that would act as a sequel to the film, and if I can pull it off, keep your eyes open because I will 100% review it for Rotten Ink. The film was also part of England’s Video Nasty list for all the blood and guts and here in the US can be found on DVD and VHS for those wanting to watch its amazing goodness. So this summer if you’re walking through the woods, for God’s sake please keep an eye out for Bigfoot because if this film has taught me anything, it’s that he hates it when people mess in his woods!

night of the demon logonight of the demon VHSnight of the demon bigfoot

Now it’s main event time. We have talked about Jen and Oswego as well as a killer Bigfoot, but now it’s time for STEEL! As I said I have read issue 1 in the past and found it very entertaining so I am very hyped to read the rest of the series and see how his story pans out. I want to remind my readers I grade these issues on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, it’s entertainment value and it’s art and story. And I want to thank an Ebay seller for having the full set for sale dirt cheap. So with that let’s go and fight the good fight with STEEL. 

Steel the Indestructible Man 1

STEEL: The Indestructible Man # 1  ***
Released in 1978   Cover Price .35   DC Comics   #1 of 5

Hank Heywood along with his soon to be father in-law Dr. Giles are in Germany in 1939 as part of a medical conference and are run out when Hank saves an old man from Nazi thugs and Giles claim to make artificial organs gets sneers. When returning home Hank finds that his fiancé Gloria has bad news as Hitler’s army has invaded Poland, and this sets Hank off who goes and joins the Marines in order to help out in the coming war. During his time at boot camp Hank stops some Nazi spies but during the attack he is blown up with dynamite. Hank is in bad shape with broken bones, a lung gone and bad burns all over his body. He turns to Dr. Giles and his artificial organs and is rebuilt.  Hank gets a new robo-lung, steel for bones, mechanical joints and even a devices to help his heart. When returning to the military, Hank must keep Giles’ secret that he used him as a test subject and is forced to take a desk job. Hank can’t just sit by knowing that he now has all these powers and makes a red, white and blue steel suit and calls himself STEEL! Meanwhile the Nazi’s have sent over a super powered goofy suited super solider named Baron Death who is to try and see if some new weapons could help defeat the Americans. Hank, dressed as STEEL, sneaks into an armory to take some weapons to upgrade for his one man war on Nazi’s and finds a group that was there to steal from the army as well and makes quick work of them, and by doing this he makes an oath to himself that he will do all he can to defeat Hitler’s crazed army and defeat Baron Death!

I have to start off by saying STEEL is just as good as I remember it, and in fact issue # 1 is even a little better than I remember. The plot in issue one is pretty standard World War II stuff and has an American who wants to do what he can to help in the war with the Nazi’s.  After an accident he is left broken until, by a medical miracle, he is fixed and is better than before cause now he has super human strength. In fact the best way to describe this plot is just mix Captain America, RoboCop, Six Million Dollar Man and a touch of The Weapon X Project into a DC Comic stew and poof, out would pop STEEL. Hank Heywood is a strong headed college student who really wears his heart on his sleeve as he acts when he sees that something is wrong, even after being blown up and is at deaths door he still was more worried about helping in the war than his own health. As STEEL, he is a little more cocky and knows that his body can take all types of damage and almost seems as if when dressed up he doesn’t even fear death. STEEL is pretty strong and can easily lift half a ton as well as hold his breath under water for 30 minutes. Dr. Giles is your typical old scientist/doctor who has discovered a “cure” for many medical issues but is laughed at because it all seems too extreme.  He also clearly loves his daughter Gloria and respects his soon to be son in-law. Gloria is a complainer and seems to be on Hank’s need to be a hero like white is on rice.  She is kind of annoying and my least favorite character. Baron Death is a goofy looking bad guy with a yellow and purple suit on and a black and yellow mask.  He is only in this issue for a few panels, and I look forward to seeing STEEL stomp him into the mud. The comic’s art is done by Don Heck and really has that classic 70’s looking DC comic style, making it feel just right.  Heck’s work is great in this issue as is the cover that I find very eye catching. I can’t wait to read issue two for the first time and hope it holds the charm and old timey feel of this issue.  So with no more wait let’s charge into issue # 2! 

Steel the Indestructible Man 2

STEEL: The Indestructible Man # 2  **1/2
Released in 1978   Cover Price .35   DC Comics   #2 of 5

Lots of things have been going on in Hank’s life since he took on the alter ego of STEEL.  For one he is trying to keep it a secret from Gloria and her father, and second he is trying to show the Army that as STEEL he could help them win the coming war with the Nazi’s. Meanwhile across town a scientist is ambushed by Baron Toten and Bruno, two Nazi spies living in America who shove him into a machine he created that gives animated life to objects like rocks and jewels. After falling into the machine, the scientist is turned into a blue skinned monster that can animate matter all around him into creatures.  His name is The Mineral Master! While trying to impress the army with his skills STEEL is treated as a joke and a showman by the ones he is trying to impress and is left alone with his own angry thoughts, but his thoughts are broken when he finds Mineral Master in a hanger.  The two have a fight that leaves STEEL one the losing end.  Returning to desk work as Hank he hears Mineral Master’s voice over the radio as the crazed miracle maker has taken over a radio show.  He changes to STEEL and rushes to the station and has a battle that in the end leaves Mineral Master weak and STEEL wondering when the time will come when he has to pick war or his love for Gloria. 

This second issue is good but not as good as the original.  While the first issue had a full fledged classic superhero feel to it, this second issue while good seemed a little forced and things changed in a kind of goofy way. Dr. Giles seems to have an issue that if Hank is STEEL, that’s a bad thing,  Now if Giles is as smart as he is supposed to be, I cannot see how he couldn’t know that they are the same person. Plus in this issue Dr. Giles takes a back seat and is barely in it. Gloria is as annoying as ever just whining about war and how she doesn’t want Hank near it. Hank/STEEL is as noble as ever and really wants the green light from the army so that he can go overseas and kick some Nazi butt.  Plus I do like in this issue while he plays the straight laced superhero for a brief time, he is telling jokes and making fun of his foe to anger them. Speaking of foe, Mineral Master is much like Doctor Doom in the aspect that he knows what’s good for us all and what’s good is not fighting a war with The Nazi’s. Mineral also seems to hate the government but yet loves the United States and wants it to live in a perfect world. The first fight between STEEL and Mineral shows just how powerful they both are and how while they both have different strengths they are very much equals.  That’s why the second fight is more suspenseful as it makes you wonder just how STEEL will beat him. The only major downside to this issue is the fact that it’s getting a little eye rolling at this point with Gloria’s anti war feelings and the pro-war we have to stop them speeches of STEEL.  We get it and know how each of them feels and don’t need to be force feed it over and over. I also would like to note that in issue # 2 I had many spots where the words are hard to read due to the ink being smudged and this made for some frustrated reading. The cover is pretty cool and shows action and almost has a monster comic feel to it. The art is done by Don Heck again and looks fantastic. Over all while not as great as the first issue, this one still was a fun and entertaining read. So let’s see what Issue 3 has to offer, shall we?

Steel the Indestructible Man 3

STEEL: The Indestructible Man # 3  **1/2
Released in 1978   Cover Price .35   DC Comics   #3 of 5

STEEL arrives at a building that he has been called to by a newspaper owner named Edward Runyon just in time as a group of Chicago mobsters show up to end the guy’s life! STEEL makes short work of the gangsters that is until their giant fisted boss nicknamed Sledgehammer shows up and knocks STEEL into a bus and leaves as the police come to the rescue. STEEL gets free of the bus and has a talk with Runyon who tells him that once upon a time he and Sledgehammer were friends until the giant fisted freak was arrested for killing another kid on accident. STEEL tracks Sledgehammer to a rundown motel and takes him down and finds out the truth that he was there to kill Runyon because he is the one who turned him into the cops that lead to his arrest. Returning to base, Hank is upset and finds that Runyon is just as scummy as Hitler and questions why he even helped him, but his anger turns to sadness as he finds out the Dr. Giles has suffered a heart attack and he rushes to be by his bedside. Meanwhile Runyon is going on a date now with his girl but once more has caught the eye of a bad guy who has all types of gadgets and calls himself The Gadgeteer who robs him and his girl of all their wealth.  After the crook leaves, it’s clear that Runyon’s woman has a crush on STEEL who she thinks will stop Gadgeteer and get her jewels back. When Hank gets to the hospital and talks to Gloria he finds out that her father had a heart attack while reading a story about STEEL that seemed to upset him and his final words before collapsing was Hank’s name!

Issue 3 is another fun issue that breaks the mold finally of WORLD WAR II drama and focuses on mobsters and home grown super baddies. STEEL this time around shows off some Batman type guns and even questions why he has given so much of his life to being a costumed hero. I love that aspect of the issue seeing how Hank is dealing with all the pressure of being STEEL and knowing that he has to save scumbags like Runyon from punishments they lead themselves to.  I also like how the issue ends with a cliffhanger of Dr. Giles heart attack might be because of him finding out Hank and STEEL are the same person. Dr. Giles and Gloria both take a back seat in this issue and only come into play towards the end when Hank finds out he is in the hospital. Runyon is an ass who is a big shot around town that made his money by ratting out his one time friend for the reward money, and while a bad guy, he is not evil and for the most part has everything he wants money, power and women. Sledgehammer, the mob boss, is a pretty cool character that reminds me a lot of some Spider-Man villains like Hammerhead and Tombstone.  Too bad he is beaten pretty fast and I am sure will never make another appearance in this short lived series. The second baddy is a waste. The Gadgeteer is soooooo lame.  He wears a green spandex costume and has all types of silly little gadgets that he uses….I just can’t even waste my time talking about this goon. Speaking of Spider-Man, even the cover of this issue reminds me of a Spidey comic.  I wonder if in some ways DC was trying to make STEEL a cross between Captain America and Spider-Man…makes me wonder. The issue’s artwork is once more done by Don Heck who does a fantastic job and makes the character come alive. Over all issue 3 is pretty good but nothing special and is getting closer to being just a plain silly comic with stuff like Gadgeteer leading the way to sudden dumbness. Well let’s see what is going to happen in issue four where we are going to find out about Dr. Giles’s heart attack as well as how will STEEL stop The Gadgeteer.

Steel the Indestructible Man 4

STEEL: The Indestructible Man # 4  **1/2
Released in 1978   Cover Price .35   DC Comics   #4 of 5

At the hospital Hank finds out that if Dr. Gilescan make it through the night, he should be okay.  He goes back to the base and gets caught in his STEEL outfit and is attacked by soldiers who think he is stealing government weapons! He breaks away and goes to Runyon’s office and makes a deal with him that if he takes out The Gadgeteer and gets back his and his girls riches, that in his paper he would run a pro-war piece about why America should get involved in the war against Hitler. Runyan agrees but has no intent of keeping his promise as STEEL goes after The Gadgeteer and finds him robbing an armored car.  The two fight for a moment but the gadget using baddy gets away and the Cops blame STEEL for the robbery. STEEL breaks away and chases The Gadgeteer and once more fights him and just as he beats him The Gadgeteer tosses a grenade at our Hero, but things get bad as it explodes on his chest, and while he is alive the massive blows brings the Indestructible Man to his knees.  It’s clear he needs help and his only hope is Dr. Giles who is in the hospital still! 

This issue is a good solid comic, but the problem is that while good, it’s lost the classic hero charm that the first issue set in place. STEEL spends most the issue running around trying to find The Gadgeteer and once more goes to Runyon for a favor that he thinks he will actually honor. I will say that once more it’s nice to see STEEL doing something else besides talking about Hitler and the Nazi’s and focusing on a super villain that is a homegrown terror. STEEL also shows that he truly does care for Dr. Giles and his daughter Gloria as the Dr’s heartattack seems to really bother him. I can’t tell you how much I hate The Gadgeteer.  He is a terrible character who reminds me of the worst Batman or Spider-Man villain whose only power is lame silly gadgets he uses. Even his back story is just so oh hum.  I don’t understand why this character has been in two issues so far but Baron Death has only had a tiny part in the first issue and was never spoken of again. Once more Gloria and Dr. Giles have a smaller role and seem to take a backseat once more.  While they are a big part of the over all story, I am fine with the smaller roles given to them. The art is done by Don Heck again and looks amazing, but this time around the cover is just so-so and not all that eye catching. This issue is good just not as good as the others in the series so far.  The next issue is the end of STEEL’s solo run at DC and I can’t wait to see how they end the series..so let’s get to it. 

Steel the Indestructible Man 5

STEEL: The Indestructible Man # 5  **1/2
Released in 1978   Cover Price .50   DC Comics   #5 of 5

STEEL is injured and hitching a ride on a truck that has Olivia on board.  She’s a young woman he went to college with who has a some medicine that can be used to help not only STEEL with his wounds but also help the now dying Dr. Giles. But the ride is cut short when a giant white furred swamp monster attacks the truck killing the driver, beating STEEL up and leaving him in quicksand and finally kidnapping Olivia. STEEL wakes up sinking deeper and deeper in the quicksand, and after freeing himself, he follows the track of the swamp monster to a mansion in the woods that belongs to the Hawk Brothers.  Once inside, he finds it’s like a funhouse that has dangerous traps. Once he gets to the end of the line, that he gets to once he kicks out the glass to a giant aquarium he is stuck in, he finds that the monster is in fact one of the Hawk brothers who was once a silent film actor and now a mishappen monster and that the doctor down there is the other brother who watches after his brother hoping to find a cure. STEEL tangles with the beast and snaps its weak back with a well places karate chop and saves Olivia as the mansion comes falling down around them killing the brothers once and for all.

Well DC pulled the plug on this series and didn’t give it a full last issue as this one leaves itself wide open for an issue # 6 and nothing is settled with Dr. Giles at death’s door. The issue holds a little monster comic feel to it, and its nice to see a super hero fight a swamp monster and once more this formula reminds me for some reason of Marvel’s Man-Thing. STEEL in this issue is not as unbeatable as he has been in the past issues and for the most part is the underdog in the fight with the Hawk Swamp Monster. I also really liked the idea of him being trapped in the quicksand and having to use his special guns in order to save himself. The Hawk Brothers are more of the sad kind of bad guys as one brother is tormented by the accident that left the actor brother mangled and later a monster.  While they are “bad,” they don’t have evil intentions. While mentioned Dr. Giles and Gloria do not appear in this issue, and by the end of this series all we really know is that he is going to die unless STEEL can get him this medicine. I really do hate the fact that DC just decided not to continue the series after this issue and find that when comic companies do this kind of stuff, it really shows a lack of respect to those fans who have bought every issue and are invested in the characters. I really wonder why they canceled the series.  I am leaning toward poor sales.  I just don’t think kids of 1978 really cared much for old style heroes who had a bone to pick with Hitler. I also find it funny that Baron Death is built up to be the series’ main bad guy and never even meets STEEL once.  Sadly the only villain to show up twice in this series was the lame Gadgeteer. But out of all the baddies he fought in this series I would say my favorite would have to be The Hawk Brother Swamp Monster, just because well he was a white furred monster who put up a good fight till his spinal cord was karate chopped by STEEL. The whole series was drawn by Don Heck.  I find myself really liking his style and feel he was perfect for making this comic come alive. The cover on the last issue is great and could have drawn in not only the super hero fans but also the horror comic kids. Over all I really enjoyed the series a lot and found that issue one really held up well after all these years of my first reading of it and that all the issues that followed while not as good were still very solid and fun. If you’re a fan of older school super heroes and are into World War II comic stories, then this comic would be up your alley, but if your looking for fast pace action and plots than I would say you would probably not enjoy this series at all. Below is some of Heck’s artwork that I find sums up the mood and feeling of the series pretty well.

STEEL ART 1

So I would say that STEEL is a great comic series that holds lots of charm of classic super heroes and is filled with the American Pride and just old school Americana. So for those of you wondering what ever became of STEEL, let me sum it up for you real quick: he went on to join a team called The All-Star Squadron and did indeed made it and fought in World War II and was called Commander STEEL. When Hank retired as the hero, his grandchildren took up the mantel and after one of their deaths he returned as STEEL and died a hero setting off a device that killed the Super Villain Eclipso. So that was the dear old fate of this patriotic super hero. So next up we are going to cover a real life Egyptian feast so make sure you’re not late to dinner because it’s going to be a Blood Feast! Until next time, read a comic or two and enjoy life.

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