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...

EVERYTHING'S SUPERHEROES!
A
HISTORICAL OVERVIEW
OF
THE
MLJ MAGAZINES/ARCHIE COMIC PUBLICATIONS
SUPERHERO LINES!
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Part Eighteen
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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.

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NEXT: More disappointments from Red Circle Comics Group!

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