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Batom Comics – The Untold History Part 9

posted on February 6, 2016

Tank Rough

War comics had long been a staple of comic books. From Harvey Kurtzman’s Frontline Combat on to Robert Kanigher’s numerous war titles at DC Comics, comics about men in battle provided an enduring source of story material. World War Two was still in the rearview mirror and versions of heroic soldiers still inspired the nation’s youth. So it wasn’t surprising that one afternoon after school as Brady was wrapping up his weekly obligatory and finely choreographed browbeating of Mitch Knox’s most recent Charley and Chuck script, he said that, against his better judgement, he was going to give Mitch a shot at creating something new. While Batom Comic’s Starbuck Jones and The Amazing Mister Sponge clearly staked out their claim in the super hero genre, and Charlie and Chuck were holding down the fort in the kid detective market, Batom was noticeably absent on the comics spinner rack where war comics were concerned. Brady suggested that Mitch might want to give some thought to creating a war comic for Batom and Mitch asserted that he was game. The obvious irony of a fifteen year old boy writing a war comic was no doubt not lost on the pair, but Brady figured that this stuff was all made-up anyway and Mitch, despite Brady’s constant harping, was as good as anyone at making stuff up.

So on their way home to Grafton, Mitch had his mom stop off at the Grafton library so he could rifle the library’s somewhat limited offerings of WW II history and visual reference books. Later that evening after the dinner dishes were cleared, he set himself up at the kitchen table and began work on the hero he was already calling Tank Thompson, who would be a WWII tank commander, but with a twist. As Mitch began sketching a cover, he showed a medieval knight charging Tank Thompson’s tank with Tank exclaiming in an homage to Dorathy’s line from Mitch’s favorite movie The Wizard of Oz: “Well, Tank… it looks like we’re not in (quickly referring to his World Almanac for a French town that came the closest to sounding like Kansas) Kerrist anymore!” Mitch hadn’t been in WWII, but he had had to deal with Kenny Roadabarger on the playground after school, so, in some ways, the idea of facing fear inducing combat in the hedge rows of Franch wasn’t all that far removed from the dystopian hell of the Junior High School. And besides, this stuff was all made-up anyway.

Flash Fridays – The Flash #126

posted on February 5, 2016

The Flash no.126

The sticker-shock-shrieking of thousands of Flash readers when they saw the two cent price increase on the previous issue must have created a huge disturbance in the Force because on the inside of the cover of #126 there was a letter from the editors with a detailed primer on Inflation 101 and how it affects you, Bunky. It was a pretty good explanation of why they had to stick it to us during which they pointed out that their competitors had already begun charging fifteen cents for their books. They finish by telling us that their Giant Annuals would still be priced at twenty-five cents which, when you consider the fact that they were pretty much all reprint books at that time, was a pretty disingenuous boast on their part. Hey, we were twelve, not stupid.

Economics aside, the issue featured the return of the Mirror Master with some tasty Infantino/Anderson art on the cover. I remember it arriving just as we were starting Thanksgiving break which added a nice vibe to the issue for me. The A story revolves around the fact that the Mirror Master has discovered a way to enter a fourth dimension world through a mirror. In our real world, speculation about extra dimensions was still on the fringes of cosmological thinking and I always imagined John Broome paging through issues of Scientific American looking for plausible springboards. In any event, it worked for me. In this other dimension, MM finds himself the only male in a matriarchal society (he was literally the only male which raises some interesting questions all on its own). The women are about to dispatch MM when they see he has a mirror, something they had never seen. They love seeing themselves in the mirror so much (I can almost hear Gloria Steinem spinning in her spin class) that they instead to treat him to a pampered lifestyle catering to his every whim if he’ll promise to make a mirror for each of them. Anything he wants to steal, they simply provide for him. Like a thoughtful-examination-of-human-nature Twilight Zone episode, MM gets bored and slips back into our D to commits crimes where he is eventually is corralled by the Flash, but not before turning the Flash into a mirror and firing a bazooka at him. The Flash manages to escape thus saving MM from seven years of bad luck. The nice touch is the B story where all of this happens while Barry is supposedly in the green room waiting for Iris to wrap up a TV appearance.

Given all of that, you would have thought it was my favorite story in the book, but the second story, Snare of the Headline Huntress, struck a deeper chord with me. It involved Barry returning to his hometown of Fallville where he encounters a childhood crush, Daphne Dean, who is now a Hollywood actress. Realizing that Daphne and Barry had been childhood sweethearts, her press agent tries to cook up a phony romance and engagement between the two for publicity and gets Daphne (with reservations on her part) to play along. Daphne gets kidnapped, the Flash saves her, the press agent gets a story, and Barry an Daphne part company as they both head back to their respective lives. The story ends with Daphne alone in her hotel room realizing that, even though she was play-acting initially, she really was still in love with Barry. And I was in love with that story. The real tangle of human emotions and behavior was somehow far more fascinating to me than the Mirror Master trying to blow up a mirror Flash with a bazooka. What? Talk about a disturbance in the Force.

John Darling – Take 14

posted on February 2, 2016

John Darling - Take 14

For some reason, the new Muppets show leaves me cold, but the original Muppets program was a real joy. So it was hardly surprising that a member of the cast would show up to be interviewed on John’s show in the first year.

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