Thursday, November 13, 2008

Volume Three, Number Seventeen

Let's return our overview look at the history of MLJ Magazines/Archie Comic Publications superhero lines.

Noticing that National Comics Publications (today known as DC Comics) was having some success with its revival of the superhero genre in early 1959, Archie Comic Publications decided to revive some of its superhero characters from the 1940s. Around that same time comics legend Joe Simon was planning to approach the company in search of some writing assignments. Upon his arrival at the Archie offices, he was given the job of reviving "The Shield" and developing new material for the company. While opinions vary as to who did what to the two concepts, in the end Joe Simon returned with a new version of "The Shield" titled "The Double Life of Private Strong" and a brand new series titled "Adventures of The Fly". Much to the surprise of folks at Archie Comic Publications, when they looked at the first pages of what Joe Simon brought in, they found that they had been done in the unmistakable style of his long-time partner Jack Kirby who, it turned out, Simon had asked to assist on the project.

"The Double Life of Private Strong" was launched first, with a cover-date of June, 1959. Featuring a superhero named "The Shield", the title alluded to the secret identity of the lead character who through manipulation by his scientist father when the hero was a child was able to use the normally untapped 90% of his brain. The comics' appearance on the newsstand immediately resulted in National/DC taking legal action against Archie Comic Publications, claiming that "The Double Life of Private Strong" infringed on their "Superman" trademarks and copyrights. Only one more issue of the comic was published before it-and the legal action-was dropped.

"Adventures of The Fly"-which was about a young orphan boy named Tommy Troy who was given a magic ring that could change him into a super-powered adult known as The Fly-was released under the "Archie Adventure Series" imprint (as was "The Double Life of Private Strong") with a cover-date of August, 1959, the same month that the second and final issue of the comic featuring the new version of the Shield appeared. "Adventures of The Fly" #s 1 & 2 along with both issues of "The Double Life of Private Strong" both featured the work of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Then with the cancellation of "The Double Life of Private Strong", Kirby left and went to work for the company which is today known as Marvel to work on its various monster, western and fantasy titles with Stan Lee. Joe Simon remained on "Adventures of The Fly" for two more issues and then himself moved on. With the comics' fifth issue for no apparent reason or explanation Tommy Troy went from being an orphan boy to an adult lawyer, continuing to have adventures as "The Fly" and ignoring his days as an orphan. Also beginning with this issue the art and writing took on a more National/DC feel to it eliminating all the flare and excitement that made comics by the "Simon & Kirby" team such big sellers in the past. Whether this was a decision of the upper management at Archie Comic Publications-who may have hoped to attract National/DC readers by adopting more of a National/DC look-or by accident we may never know for sure. One thing is certain though, while "Adventures of The Fly" continued to be an enjoyable and readable comic for its time, it didn't have anywhere near the excitement and sales potential that it would have had if Simon and Kirby had remained. For all intents and purposes, "Adventures of The Fly" had gone from being a great comic to just being pretty unremarkable.


NEXT: "Adventures of The Fly" gets a companion title on the stands.

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