Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Volume Four, Number One

Yes, I am back. I am really, really, really back this time. Promise.

So, why "Vol. 4", you ask? Well, I could say that it has been so long since I've written an "E-Dispatches" that I've forgotten what number I was at (and was just to darn lazy to look it up.). Truth be told though since the last installment of this column I have moved.

Yup! That's right, folks! The Jazzy One has finally managed to flee the purgatory known as Port Stanley Ontario Canada (with purgatory in this case meaning "a place without a comics shop") and has put down roots in the exciting, thriving metropolis of Waterloo, Ontario Canada (a place with lots of comics shops and a couple or three famous comics creators). So I figured as a move such as the one I made often results in a new perspective on life why not reflect that in E-Dispatches by starting with a new "number one".

Now, how exactly this will transfer into the body-proper of this column I can't say as yet; mainly because, well, I don't quite know myself. I can though promise that in the coming installments of "E-Dispatches" it will be an interesting adventure for both you and me. I hope everyone will stick around for the ride.

Now, before I sign off I have some house cleaning issues-for lack of a better term-that I want to cover.

First, yes; I will be wrapping up the whole "MLJ/Red Circle" serial (and also eventually expanding it into book form) soon. It has to be honest dragged on longer than I had originally planned it to and while the response to it has been fantastic and much appreciated I do want to move on to new stuff in this new volume of "E-Dispatches". So look for that to wind up in the not to distant future.

Next-and just as important-is the subject of deadlines. For the time being this column will be appearing on an irregular basis until I get into a regular writing routine. I've only been in Waterloo now for less than a week-arriving Sunday November 29th 2009-and while I am pretty much settled into my new digs now I still have to find some paying writing gigs to put food on the plate and a roof over my head. So until that happens I am going to be putting my non-paying endeavors (which includes "E-Dispatches from the Great White North!") in the "whenever I have a spare moment" file. That means also that I won't be putting the same amount of research into this column for the next little while that I normally do. Instead I will be taking a more chatty, informal approach much like I am doing here or in my personal emails to all my favourite pals and gals.

Another thing I intend to do here for a couple installments is twist the arm of a few of my friends to see if they'd be interested in writing a guest installment or two of "E-Dispatches". Lucky Lloyd? Sir Steve? PDR, Mr. Mike R.? Richard V.? Any takers? Offer's open, people. And maybe, just maybe, I could get my webmaster to find a public domain comic or two and post it here for everyone to read (with of course a brief into to it by yours truly). Sky's the limit actually so we'll just see what happens over the next few weeks. Suggestions are welcomed and needed.

Now, next, to the future once I am back on track. First, as said earlier I will be wrapping up the "MLJ/RED CIRCLE" serial though as yet I can't say when. Also too I will be reviewing a comic that was sent to me by my buddies at Star_Verse while I was in mid-move. I have read it and loved it though and strongly recommend anything published by Star_Verse as just plain fun comics reading.

Besides those two things I am not quite sure what I will be doing as yet once I get settled into a routine. I can say though I will be doing more "E-Dispatches Exclusives" down the line so if you read this other than at be sure to visit that website from time to time to see what is happening.

So I guess that's it, Super-Folks. Questions, comments, statements, pan mail, everything that you can imagine is definitely welcome in my email mailbox so feel free to contact me at... .

I'm done. Time to go look for some paying work. See everyone soon.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Volume Three, Number Thirty

I'm back! That's right; after a much longer than planned hiatus E-Dispatches from the Great White North has finally returned. One of these days I'll sit down and tell you all about what kept me away for so long but in the meantime let's return to...

Part Eighteen

The second "Red Circle Comics Group" to hit the comics shops was "The Fly". Rather than revive the Mighty Comics Group version of the character-which in many folks' eyes was a poor man's version of Ant-Man/Giant-Man-the powers that be at Archie Comic Publications decided to bring back the earlier version minus the size changing abilities. The first issue of "The Fly" was cover-dated May 1983 and the comic lasted for nine issues (with the final issue cover-dated October 1984). While the artwork was wonderfully rendered by the legendary Steve Ditko and was an excellent example of his Randian Objectivist Libertarian philosophy the fist eight issues of "The Fly" were a disorganized mess and had little to do with either the early 1960s version of The Fly or the character that was appearing in "The Mighty Crusaders". The ninth issue was a vast improvement-though Ditko's artwork and point of view were definitely missed-for those readers who were fans of comics continuity however the writing was already on the wall and the attempt to revitalize the title was too little, too late.

The third title to appear under the Red Circle imprint was completely opposite in its approach to continuity than was "The Fly". "Lancelot Strong, The Shield" (#1 June 1983) began strong with close tie-ins with the Red Circle universe generally and the version of the character who was a member of The Mighty Crusaders. Issue number two was equally strong but with the third issue-there was a major change in the whole concept. Not only was the title changed to "Shield-Steel Sterling" (with the latter, which was the backup feature in the previous two issues, now sharing the title billing) but Lance Strong was killed off leaving the whole mag in the hands of Steel Sterling. This drastic change was enacted by long time comics writer Robert Kanigher who for the remaining four issues (now titled "Steel Sterling" beginning with issue number four) wrong the most convoluted, heavy-handed tales to appear under the Red Circle imprint. Kanigher's approach to Steel Sterling was actually not a surprise to those who had followed his career. While he wrote excellent comics stories in the 1940s and 1950s plus created some great characters over the years-most notably The Metal Men-by the 1970s Kanigher seemed to be going through the motions as a comics writer telling predictable, contrived stories that paled in comparison to what he had done before. By the time he got his hands on "Steel Sterling" in the early 1980s he work can only be summed up as a disgusting mess so when "Steel Sterling" the title died after issue number seven (July 1984) even the most die-hard fans of the original "Man of Steel" were not saddened by the comic's departure.


NEXT: More disappointments from Red Circle Comics Group!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Volume Three, Number Twenty-nine

While things are still quite busy here at "The Gilbert Homestead" what with developing material for Red Lion Publications
( ), researching a couple of books and looking for a penciler to work on the revival of my "Mister Chameleon" series ( ) I'm taking a few minutes away from that insanity to share with you a comic that crossed my desk a few weeks back.
By the way, I'm not quite sure when I'll be returning to writing this column on a regular basis-I am currently looking at some time around the middle of May-but while you wait why not visit the two blogs my buddy The Groovy Agent is scribing. They can be found at and . But don't go there yet. First take a few minutes to read what I have to say about the comic I got.


IN FLESH AND SPIRIT NO. 1 Winter, 2009. Published by Overtone Comics. Suggested for mature readers. Full color cover with 24 inside black & white pages. $3.50 U.S. Written and edited by Baron Misuraca, art by David G. Williams, grey tones by Jarreau Wimberly, lettering by Karen Levin and Baron Misuraca and color cover by Alex Horley.Website found at .

I usually don't review comics for mature readers but to be honest I can't for the life of me see why this comic is labeled as such. Don't get me wrong. It ain't something you'd send out to members of The Mickey Mouse Fan Club by any stretch of the imagination. It isn't though what I would regard as a mature title and actually I've seen more blood and guts on such TV shows as "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Battlestar Galactica". So if you can handle shows like that you should easily be able to handle this comic. 'Nuff said on that subject.

According to the press release that accompanied this issue IN FLESH AND SPIRIT is about the origin and adventures of a vampired named Baron Misuraca who came into being in the 14th-century and continues to live today. If that name sounds familiar it should as Baron Misuraca is the writer and editor of this comic as well as a member of the goth band Vasaria.

If you are like me and are somewhat indifferent to the whole goth thing don't allow that to stop you from picking up this comic as it is quite a good read. While mention is made of the good Baron being a member of the above-mentioned goth band basically what IN FLESH AND SPIRIT is is a well-written vampire tale (with an excellent cover by DC/HEAVY METAL/VAMPIRELLA artist Alex Horley).

If I were to have one complaint about his comic-besides of course that it is printed on that darn glossy paper that I absolutely hate-it's that the dialogue needs some work. If anything this comic is a prime example of why, with a few exceptions, a writer should always have an editor.

Despite that though this is none the less a good comic and worth picking up if you see it on the stands at your local comics shop. Basically, it's an enjoyable read and that's all one can ask for, eh.

That's pretty much it, folks. If you are following this column at be sure to occasionally visit where you will not only find this column but some great links and installments of E-Dispatches that are exclusive to that blog site. I'll be back soon. Promise.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Some "vacation"! Things have gotten so busy these days at Red Lion Publications that I reluctantly have to take a brief break from the "fun stuff" I do such as writing this blog.

Not to worry, though. This break will only be short-lived and within three or four weeks I'll be back. Meanwhile, if you want to find out what's going on at Red Lion Publications feel free to visit and while you are waiting for me to come back here and want some entertaining reading you can visit The Groovy Agent's blog at or any of the other blogs I've set up links for down the right hand side.

Have fun reading folks and I'll be back in a few weeks.


Jonathan "A" Gilbert

Monday, March 9, 2009

E-Dispatches Exclusive #2

Lake Erie's Secret Legend

Over the years I have worked as a reporter, columnist and feature writer for a number of newspapers including The Lake Erie Beacon which is published in Port Stanley Ontario, Canada. In September 2004 I wrote for that paper an article about South Shore Bessy, a rather mysterious creature that can best be described as Lake Erie's version of The Loc Ness Monster. As a change of pace from the usual comics fare I write for this blog I thought I'd reprint it here.

Loc Ness in Scotland has "Nessie", British Columbia's Okanagan Lake has "Ogopogo" and Lake Erie has "South Bay Bessie".

"South Bay Bessie"? Yes. While the other two mystery creatures are known to the general public few are aware that Lake Erie is one of 200 lakes world wide that are purported to be home to some sort of aquatic monster. While no pictures of Bessie have ever been taken those who claim to have seen the creature-also called The Lake Erie Chomper and LEM (Lake Erie Monster)-have stated that is 9 to 12 meters long, serpentine in appearance and that its body is as round as a bowling ball.

The earliest reported sighting of Bessie was in 1793 when the captain of a sloop named "Felicity" reported having seen a 17 foot snake like beast rise from the waters while he was shooting ducks near Middle Bass Island, Ohio. Sightings continued through the 19th and 20th centuries with many of them made by police officers, ship captains and firefighters. There was even a claim of the beast being captured. In a 1931 New York Times report two fishermen are said to have crated up a 20 foot long serpent in the Sandusky Ohio area. The pair said that when the monster reared its head they beat it senseless and towed it to shore. No attempt was ever made to follow up on this report and it has never been discovered what, if anything the two captured. It is doubted though that it was Bessie as there have been numerous sightings since 1931.

Marine biologists suggest that what people are actually seeing is a giant sturgeon. According though to Akron Ohio resident Rich Le Monica, who makes it his hobby to study "Bessie" reports, it couldn't have been a sturgeon as they are bottom dwellers and lack a neck to lift out of the water as the creatures that have been reportedly sighted are said to have done. Other possible suggestions as to the true nature of Bessie include it being a giant lamprey and a bowfin.

But whatever the creature may in fact be reports of sightings don't subside after experts in aquatic life weigh in on the subject. In the early 1990s Bessie was especially busy making appearances resulting not in in the Beacon newspaper published out of Port Clinton Ohio running a "Name the Lake Erie Monster" contest (out of which the creature gained its South Bay Bessie name) but also saw Ohio marina owner Tom Solbery Sr. and other businessmen offer a $150,000 reward for the live capture of Bessie. Eventually the sightings-which were even reported in the American national media-died down and the reward was quietly dropped. Solbery Sr. though has said that if anyone was to capture Bessie live he would seriously consider giving the person a six figure sum for the beast.

While the majority of the Bessie sightings have been on the Ohio side of Lake Erie, Canada has not escaped a possible visit by the lake monster. In July 2001 near a pump house off the shore of a Port Dover Ontario beach three people were attacked and bitten by a mysterious creature. Though no one saw what bit the swimmers medical staff who treated the victims were certain, because of the nature of the bite, that it wasn't anything like a snapping turtle, walleye, goby or muskellunge fish. To this day no one has found a reasonable answer as to what bit the people but some people have pointed the finger at Bessie as the possible attacker.

Bessie has been rather quiet this year with only one reported sighting. On July 2 four people who were on the beach of Madison Township Park in Lake County Ohio during the night said they saw something travel past the shore which was 30 to 40 feet long, dark green or black and had humps. Exactly what these and other people have seen over the centuries is wide open to speculation. Some have simply brushed Bessie off as being a fairy tale. Others believe a giant serpent actually exists in Lake Erie while still others are trying to find some explanation based on current knowledge of marine life. Probably the truth lies somewhere in the middle but whatever it is that people have been seeing in Lake Erie it adds an air of mystery to a body of water that people thought they were familiar with.


I hope you found the above piece an enjoyable read. It's been suggested to me by a couple of readers that my E-Dispatches Exclusive blogs be about subjects other than comics. What do the rest of you think? You can let me know by commenting at the end of this piece or by emailing me at . And while I wait to hear back from you on this next time out I'll be returning to my regular column and continue with my overview of the MLJ Magazines/Archie Comic Publications superhero lines. Oh. And don't forget to visit and read what my buddy The Groovy Agent has to say about comics of the 1970s.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Volume Three, Number Twenty-eight

Part Seventeen

1980s RED CIRCLE COMICS GROUP: With the advent of the direct sales market Dick Goldwater and Michael Silberkleit--who had become co-publishers of Archie Comic Publications in early January 1983--decided that the time was right for them to return to publishing superhero comics. With Richard Buckler as editor and Dick Goldwater as editor-in-chief Archie Comic Publications made plans to release a number of comics under the company's 1970s Red Circle Comics Group imprint.

Red Circle's first title made its debut in early 1983. All-New Adventures of The Mighty Crusaders (cover-dated March, 1983, and later undergoing a title change to simply Mighty Crusaders) was not only a revival of the Mighty Comics Group's 1960s superhero team of the same name, but was also meant to be the line's flagship title around which all other Red Circle Comics Group publications would spring.

Lasting until September, 1985, the quality of this comics' material was all over the place with some stories being of high caliber--such as "The Trial of The Shield" in issue number 9--and other tales being of, shall we say, less than stellar quality (with issue number 11's "And Two Shall Fall In Battle..." being a prime example). As well, the continuity of All-New Adventures of the Mighty Crusaders/The Mighty Crusaders was for the most part hit and miss. In fact, this and poor quality material was a problem that ran through much of the 1980s Red Circle Comics Group line as we will discover next time out.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Volume Three, Number Twenty-seven

Before we begin I just wanted everyone who does not follow this column at that the first Blog Exclusive E-Dispatches has been posted. So once you've finished reading this be sure to give blog a visit.


Historical Overview
of the
THE 1970S RED CIRCLE COMICS GROUP: In the early 1970s Archie Comic Publications once again branched out of its mainstay of humour comics. Under the Red Circle Comics Group imprint, the publishers of Archie and his pals released two horror comics (Red Circle Sorcery-initially called Chilling Adventures Into Sorcery-and Madhouse) and one issue of Super Cops, a comic based on a popular movie and book of that period. After achieving a level of success with the horror comics, Archie Comic Publications decided to branch out further and return to publishing superhero comics. As the story goes Gray Morrow, who was editing the Red Circle line as well as doing much of the artwork for its titles, went through some of his publisher's old superhero comics and after some consideration decided upon a new version of The Black Hood to be Red Circle Comics Group's first superhero title.

This version though of The Black Hood was vastly different from earlier versions in that he was the latest in a long line of crime fighters to use that name and rather than wearing a costume he wore street clothes, a leather jacket and a cloth black hood to cover his face. He also carried some rather sophisticated weaponry and drove a rather fancy motorcycle in his battle against evil and injustice. Add to this a sophisticated writing style filled with action and superb dialogue and some of the best artwork of the decade and Red Circle had what could have been one of the biggest selling comics of the 1970s. But it didn't as the comic was never published.

Ads were placed in Red Circle Sorcery #10 and Madhouse #97 announcing the upcoming release of the new Black Hood comic but before the comic hit the printing presses Archie pulled its Red Circle line.

Luckily for readers though the Black Hood material did eventually see print; not once but twice. One time was with major revisions in the June 1979 issue of Heavy Metal. Believing that Archie would never publish the Black Hood he had created for them Gray Morrow did a bit of rewriting of the material, changed the character's name to Stingeree and submitted it to Heavy Metal for consideration.

The other time the material saw print was in its original form in Archie Comics Superhero Digest magazine which was published in 1979. In actually there was a third time the material saw print but that wasn't until the 1980s which we will talk about in a future installment.

Basically, the Red Circle Comics Group lasted around 18-months with the last issues being published in early 1974. With its cancellation fans who had hoped that The Shield, The Comet, Flyman and other Archie superheroes would eventually returned had their hopes dashed by the line vanishing and Black Hood #1 not seeing print. But those characters actually did return but not, surprisingly, in comics published by Archie Comic Publications.

After the Red Circle Comics Group lined vanished, Marvel Comics Group began featuring its versions of Flyman (a villain called The Fly who battled Spider-Man), The Shield (calling himself The Blue Shield) and The Comet (appearing in a few issues of Nova) in its comics. To my knowledge there's never been any detailed explanation as to why Marvel decided to use these names in its comics, whether or not the folks at Archie raised a stink about the whole matter and what lead to them getting rid of the characters (they were all eventually killed off). Whatever happened behind the scenes may well be lost to the general public forever and while Marvel's Fly, Comet and Blue Shield were not the characters that fans of the MLJ/Archie heroes loved it was still none the less great seeing a version of them in print in the 1970s.


For a more detailed examination of the 1970s Red Circle line be sure to visit . Next time out we'll take a look at the 1980s version of the Red Circle Comics Group. And while you're waiting to read that why not visit the blog of my buddy, The Groovy Agent, to find out about all the other nifty comics that were published in the 1970s. It can be found at . See you next time.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

E-Dispatches Blog Exclusive Number 1

When I came up with the idea of doing instalments of "E-Dispatches from the Great White North" for here I decided that the first piece I wanted to do was on my ongoing health issues; or more specifically the peripheral neuropathy I am afflicted with and have made mention of on a few occasions here and elsewhere.

Towards that end I began to put together some reference material when I came across the following article which I wrote a couple of years ago. Upon reading the piece I decided that it would more than explain to everyone my situation.

So I will let you get to reading this piece after which I'll make a few additional comments. The following was an instalment of my "Did you know about...?" newspaper column and was published during the third week of May 2007.

"Did you know about...?"
Jonathan A. Gilbert
All Rights Reserved.

I've been writing this column for well over two-years now and I hope that you've been getting as much enjoyment out of reading it as I have been putting it together. And while I would love be be able to write "did you know about...?" for at least another two-plus years due to an ongoing health problem of mine after the next instalment outside of reprints this column will be coming to a close.

I am suffering from a condition known as peripheral neuropathy. Basically what that is is a deterioration of the peripheral nervous system which links the spinal cord and brain to the other parts of the body. The peripheral nerve system includes the sensory nerves that allow a person to feel a wide range of sensations, motor nerves that assist muscles to contract and the nerves that regulate internal organs, sweat glands and blood pressure. Symptoms including tingling, prickling and/or numbness on the hands, feet and legs, the sensation that one is wearing a sock or glove, burning and/or freezing pain, sharp jabbing and/or electric pain, extra-sensitivity to the touch, muscle weakness, loss of balance and coordination and skin injury or ulcers due to reduced pain perception. Not all sufferers of peripheral neuropathy suffer the same symptoms during the condition's progression.In extreme cases peripheral neuropathy can result in paralysis.

There is no cure or reversal for the condition but it can be managed through diet and other non-medical therapies and techniques. There are some medicines that can assist with dealing with the pain but more often than not the side effects are worse than the condition (in my case the side-effects included extreme anxiety and paranoia along with suicidal tendencies). Avoiding stress is a big factor in managing peripheral neuropathy as stress can result in a rapid deterioration of the already damaged peripheral nerves.

Chances are that you have never heard of peripheral neuropathy. Most people, including many in the medical professions, haven't either and it will probably come as a surprise to you that there are over 100-types of the condition suffered by between 20 and 23-million Americans (and approximately 3-million Canadians). The causes of peripheral neuropathy can range from diabetes to alcoholism to vitamin deficiencies. In my case I suffer from peripheral neuropathy due to a genetic abnormality. My symptoms first began to appear shortly after I reached puberty but did not become severe until April of last year when four-days after my 50th birthday I woke up in extreme pain and was unable to move. Since then my condition has deteriorated rapidly. A year ago I was able to walk two to three miles easily and without even giving it any thought. Today i can only walk a block before I find my legs and feet in extreme, burning pain and I am suffering from muscle fatigue. My peripheral neuropathy has now progressed to my hands making it difficult for me to type or hold a pen. I am also tired much of the day and must constantly lay down for 15 to 20 minutes after doing the simplest of tasks. Writing a weekly column such as this used to be a relaxing activity. Now, due to the pain and fatigue, it has become an exhausting chore resulting in me laying flat on my back for the rest of the day-and some of the next-after I've completed an instalment.

As I said earlier my condition has been on a rapid decline over the past twelve months and while I have not yet been able to halt it I have been able to slow it down somewhat due to some adjustments in my daily behaviour and minor dietary changes. One of the advantages that I have over many others who suffer from this condition is that I am in excellent health otherwise and am not dealing with such problems as obesity or diabetes. I've also got a positive outlook on life and look at what I am going through as simply one more challenge to deal with. The concept of depression is foreign to me. Yes, I am concerned about my condition but I'm not one to give up and let it control me. While I'll never be able to reverse it I continually look for ways to work around it. I'll never be able to do all that I could do even a year ago but I will find new paths and directions to explore. If nothing else when I'm laying flat on my back from muscle fatigue I'll finally be able to read all the books I've been collecting over the years.

So what does the future hold for me as a writer? Well, while I won't be able to work on anything with strict deadlines-the fatigue and pain make it impossible for me to predict when I will be able to write and for how long on an hourly basis-such as this newspaper column or as a reporter I can still do the occasional article for a publication and a comics script here and there. I've also got a couple of long term project that don't have tight deadlines in the works that I'll have no problem tackling over the next year or so. My main activity though is to get my condition under some sort of control through the continued fine-tuning of my life and diet. I still have a bit of a rocky road ahead of me but when in life aren't there obstacles to tackle. Its what we do about the obstacles and how we deal with them in life that's important and is the key to our success and failure. Me; I always plan for success.
Since writing the above piece my condition has indeed worsened. On the upside though I have managed to regulate it better and while I'll never be able to do such jobs as being a newspaper reporter again I am now able to do paying writing jobs including any that have deadlines; comics or otherwise. Now the next problem is trying to find some paying writing jobs. 'sigh'

So there you have it in a nut shell. If you have any questions or comments feel free to make them here or email me at . And if you are interested in learning more about peripheral neuropathy you can visit .
NEXT: We return to our ongoing look at the MLJ Magazines/Archie Comic Series superhero lines when we take a peek at the 1970s Red Circle Comics Group. See you then.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Volume Three, Number Twenty-six

A Historical Overview
of the
MLJ Magazines/Archie Comic Publications
Superhero Lines!

While there was lots of costumed-hero activity taking place at Mighty Comics Group in the mid-1960s Archie and his pals were also jumping onto the superhero bandwagon. For a brief period between 1965 and 1967 Archie, Jughead, Betty and Reggie would occasionally put on costumes and become "Pureheart the Powerful", "Captain Hero", Superteen" and "Evilheart". These adventures took place in a number of Archie Series titles including Life With Archie, Betty and Me and even The Adventures of Little Archie. As well as appearing in these titles the costumed Archie characters appeared in six issues of Archie as Pureheart the Powerful and seven issues of Jughead as Captain Hero between 1966 and 1967. For the most part their adventures were just plain good old fun reading but occasionally the tales got quite interesting for Mighty Comics Group fans (most of whom by the way won't buy an Archie Series title if their lives depended on it deeming them to be too juvenile) when characters such as "Black Hood" or "Fly Man" would pop in for a visit (eg: "Jughead" #132 May 1966).

Meanwhile, back at Mighty Comics Group, a month after Mighty Crusaders was canceled (#7 cover-date October 1966) Fly Man also vanished from the scene and was replaced by a new anthology titled Mighty Comics which picked up its numbering from Fly Man (beginning with number forty, cover-dated November 1966). The title ran as a monthly with its final issue being number fifty (cover-dated October 1967).

While Fly Man seemingly vanished the same time his comic left the stands other Mighty Comics Group characters continued to appear in Mighty Comics including "Steel Sterling" (#44 & #49), "Mister Justice" (#47), "Hangman" (#45 and #48) and "The Web" (#40, #43, #45 and #50) who, in his last appearance, teamed up with "Inferno The Flame Breather".

In the opinion of most Mighty Comics Group fans the stories which ran in Mighty Comics #s40-50 were the best superhero tales published by Archie Comic Publications in the 1960s and were all, coincidentally, written by Jerry Seigel. Unfortunately by mid-1967 interest in superhero comics was beginning to drop both by the folks at Archie and the public as a whole resulting in the Mighty Comics Group line to vanish without a trace after Mighty Comics #50 October 1967. While this imprint was never to return The Comet, The Shield, The Fly, The Black Hood and other MLJ/Archie superheroes would not be permanent residents of comic book limbo.

NEXT: The 1970s' Red Circle Comics Group!!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Volume Three, Number Twenty-five

Historical Overview
of the
MLJ Magazines/Archie Comic Publications
Superhero Lines
Part Fourteen

With the exception of Fly Man #31-which had an Archie Series logo-in the very beginning, there was no mention of what imprint the Archie Comic Publications superhero line of the camp era of the mid-1960s was appearing under. The final two issues of The Shadow didn't have a logo on its cover either nor did the first issue of The Mighty Crusaders when it debuted with the cover-date of November, 1965. While there were a couple of references to Radio Comics in house ads in the next two issues of Fly Man (#s 32 and 33) it wasn't until issue number 35 that the comics leading world learned the name of Fly Man's publisher; Mighty Comics Group.

Appearing on the January, 1966 cover of Fly Man along with issue number two of The Mighty Crusaders (which had the same cover-date) the Mighty Comics Group logo bore more than a glancing resemblance to the logo used at the time by Marvel Comics Group. Indubitably done intentionally by the head honchos at Archie Comic Publications this more than passing resemblance in company logos on more than a couple of occasions resulted in less than observant comics buyers picking up an issue of Fly Man or The Mighty Crusaders mistaking it for a comic from "The House of Ideas".

While I am unaware of any legal action resulting from the deliberate act by Archie, Stan Lee was not impressed and while not mentioned the offender directly made mention of the incident in at least one MARVEL BULLPEN BULLETIN. Looking back at it now one wonders how someone could confuse say Fly Man #36's cover for a Marvel title but one has to remember those were much more innocent days for comics readers and we actually believed that the people who published our favourite form of reading entertainment wouldn't do anything to trick us. Lots of us fell for the android Captain Marvel, too, from MF believing it to be at first glance the return of the legendary Big Red Cheese. Like I said; those were more innocent days. You definitely had to be there to understand.
When The Shadow's comic finally vanished from the scene after issue number 8 (cover-dated September, 1965), two months later it was replaced on the schedule with The Mighty Crusaders featuring the Silver Age Shield, the Silver Age Comet, Fly Man, Fly Girl and The Black Hood. Lasting until issue number 7 (cover-dated October, 1966), which, besides publishing the adventures of the title's team the comic, the mag reprinted the second part of the Steel Sterling tale that originally appeared in the High Camp Super-Heroes paperback (see last installment of this column for more info) plus reintroduced almost all of the MLJ heroes who had not already appeared in the aptly titled tale "Too Many Super-Heroes" (issue number 4, Apri,l 1966).

Mighty Comics Group published only one other comic during this period (1966), an annual titled Super-Heroes Vs. Super-Villains which appeared in the summer of 1966 and reprinted stories that had appeared in Fly Man since issue #31, including the introduction of The Mighty Crusaders from that issue.

There was a lot of activity going on at The Mighty Comics Group but those weren't the only comics from Archie Comic Publications that had jumped on the superhero band wagon in 1966. But that's for next installment of E-Dispatches.

Meanwhile, if you are a fan of The Silver Age, you'll love comics of the 1970s and there's no better place for find out about that wonderful period of comics history than by visiting . See you next time.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Volume Three, Number Twenty-four

A Historical Overview
of the
MLJ Magazines/Archie Comic Publications
Superhero Lines!
Part Thirteen

From Fly Man #31 (cover-dated May 1965) until the final days of Archie's 1960s superhero line in 1967 every superhero story that was published was written by Superman co-creator Jerry Seigel. Since the Silver Age of Comics, much has been said and written about Mr. Seigel's 1960s comics writing with most of it being extremely critical. While there is a lot of truth in statements that his writing-particularly that for the Archie superhero line of the period-was both overly campy and out of touch with reader preferences during the Silver Age his work none the less had a unique charm to it that leads to comics fans who grew up during the 60s to look back at the comics line that is referred to as The Mighty Comics Group with a great deal of fondness.

It should also be noted though that not all of Mr. Seigel's work for the Mighty Comics line was as out and out bad as some comics historians would have today's readers believe. In fact some of the stories, particularly those that appeared in issues of the Archie superhero line's Mighty Comics anthology title were as good, and in a couple of cases even better, than a lot of the stories that were being published by National/DC during the same period of time. Two stories of this high caliber include "The Nightmare World of The Skull" (starring Black Hood) which appeared in Mighty Comics #47 (June 1967) and "The Gasser Attacks" (starring The Fox) which appeared in Mighty Comics #49 (August 1967); neither of which contained the campy atmosphere or terrible dialogue that all of Mr. Seigel's writing for The Mighty Comics Group has been accused of today. While it is true that compared to say Stan Lee or Roy Thomas, Jerry Seigel couldn't hold a candle creatively, it is by no stretch of the imagination correct to state that he lacked talent.

FLY MAN #31 was labeled as a bi-monthly comic in that issue's indica and the title remained as such until its final issue; #39 (September, 1966). During that comic's 9-issue run the title character teamed up with his fellow Mighty Crusaders (as the grouping Black Hood, The Shield, Fly Girl and The Comet would become known as) plus his co-stars and other revived MLJ heroes would appear in solo-stories of their own. Most memorable of these appearances was that of The Web who went on to some small stardom of his own in the Mighty Comics Group Universe. Another former MLJ character who the head honchos at Archie seemed to have hoped would become a major star was Steel Sterling who appeared in the back of Fly Man #39.

In fact the Steel Sterling story in that issue was actually a reprint of sorts and was actually the first part of a story that had been originally published in the April 1966-released HIGH CAMP SUPER-HEROES paperback published under Archie Comic Publications' BELMONT BOOKS paperback imprint. HIGH CAMP SUPER-HEROES featured a new Steel Sterling story along with reprints of previously published Mighty Comics Group superhero tales. Unknown to many though until a few years back there is an even deeper story behind the Steel Sterling tale that appeared in the High Camp Super-Heroes paperback. In truth that tale was originally intended to be the first issue of a Steel Sterling comic featuring the original Man of Steel as its lead. Just why the folks at Archie Comic Publications had thought that there would have been a market for a Steel Sterling comic and what caused them to change their minds has never been looked into (at least to my knowledge) in any great detail, but there were plans for such a title with the plans going as far as there being a cover put together. And the writer of that comic? Why, Jerry Seigel of course.


NEXT: THE NAMING OF THE 1960s Archie Superhero Line.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Volume Three, Number Twenty-three

A Historical Overview
of the
MLJ Magazines/Archie Comic Publications
Superhero Lines
Part Twelve

As mentioned in the last installment of this serial, The Fly made his final appearance in Adventures of The Fly #30 (cover-dated October, 1964) resulting in the few remaining followers of the by then semi-annual title to believe he was gone forever. However, five months later a house ad in The Shadow #5 (March, 1965) announced that a new version of The Fly-now called Fly Man-was on the way. Two months after that, Fly Man #31 (titled Adventures of The Fly in the indica and cover-dated May, 1965) hit the stands.

The cover of the new and improved Fly-title was a definite winner. There appeared Fly Man on his knees from an apparent loss of powers and swinging down to assist him were The Black Hood, the Silver Age Shield, and someone who appeared to be The Comet from Adventures of The Fly #30 (see part eleven of this serial) but who later turned out to be an amalgam of that Comet and the original Comet who was supposedly shot down way back in Pep Comics #17. Inside, the four heroes who were on the cover, along with Fly Girl, teamed up in a book-length tale titled "The Fly Man's Partners In Perl!" to battle The Spider, Fly/Fly Man's main foe who debuted way back in Adventures of The Fly #1.

Fly Man and his pals were, of course, victorious, and at the end of their premiere adventure together readers were asked if they wanted to see more team-ups of these heroes. The folks at Archie Comic Publications must have been a tad impatient regarding their wait to see if readers did in fact want to see more of The Comet, Fly Man, Fly Girl, The Shield and The Black Hood working together, as from that point on in every issue of the bi-monthly Fly Man (which was published until and including issue number 39) the Archie folks' Silver Age five-some-who collectively became known as The Mighty Crusaders-appeared either in pairs or as a team. While readers of this comic weren't aware of it at the time Fly Man #31 was the beginning of the comics line that eventually became known as The Mighty Comics Group.


NEXT: Jerry Seigel's return.