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.

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