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!!