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.