House of Mystery #148

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House of Mystery has long been associated with horror but it actually featured superhero stories from #143- #173. Martian Manhunter aka J’onn J’onzz was the main attraction for the majority of that span. He’s always confused me a little. Not the character overall but rather his popularity. The dude is a straight up heavy hitter in the DC Universe and when he comes up in conversation among fans there is genuine affection there.

So why can’t J’onn hold on to a solo title like the other big guns? He’s an original member of the Justice League who has appeared in video games, animation and live action TV. He’s also been in so many titles, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him DNA tested on Maury.

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” Grant Morrison is a HO!”

I suppose it’s fitting to follow up a paternity test anecdote with Martian Manhunter battling a race of prophylactics. Wait, don’t tell me you don’t recall the Clash with the Condoms back in ’65? All good, that’s what I’m here for. Let’s take a peek at House of Mystery #148 “The Beings in the Color Rings” ( I preferred my title too) by Dave Wood and Joe Certa.

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Before we examine the story, I have to be honest with you. I don’t care for sidekicks. Some have a place. Marvel’s Rick Jones or DC’s Robin for example, had important roles in comic book history. Mention the likes of D-Man or say, any animal in a cape to me and prepare for a look that will melt your face off. J’onn may have had one of the worst of the bunch in Zook. He’s cute, resembles a teddy bear, speaks like a child and every time he appears on panel, I want to punt the little bastard into next week.

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“I’m gonna bring you home and flush you like a turd.”

The issue begins with Bedford City being attacked by a strange creature from the sky. J’onn hears the radio bulletin while chilling in his mountain lair and deducts it must be a manifestation of “The Idol Head of Diabolu”. Other than having a name that rolls off the tongue, Diabolu was an artifact from Mars that granted ordinary folks powers. If his suspicion of it’s involvement is true, we can add giving baby toys sentience to it’s resume.

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“Let your kid play with these at your own peril pal…”

So what form of evil is this thing capable of? Basically, it tosses rings around that suck up items of corresponding colors only to spit them back out sans pigment. Yellow ring picks up a yellow taxi and voila, it’s white. Before you head to the rooftops and start yelling “Cheeseballs!” at the heavens let me remind you this was the sensational Silver Age. An era chock full of random plot points, so there is one cool thing it can do… summon an electrified two headed octopus!

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      “J’onn please. Don’t be rude. It’s name is Larry and he has a Massage License.”

This proves to be a let down. The wannabe Wacky Wall Crawler is merely a mirage. Something that does please me however, was back in the day heroes had powers to suit any pickle. Kids nowadays with their search engines will never understand the importance of  “Super Memory”. That’s right, us old timers used to walk to school during blizzards and had to use our alien brains to access the Encyclopedia Britannica. The struggle was real. Oh before I forget, the Earth is about to be enslaved by ringworm hungry for paint.

hom1487“The Rainbow Paint Factory appears to be constructed from a crossword puzzle.”

Rather than fight any more imaginary beasts, J’onn has a plan. It’s terribly stupid but hey, if you haven’t noticed already, this isn’t the finest work of fiction. He decides the ringworm is absorbing colors and sending them somewhere. If he can become bait maybe the source will be revealed. Showing exemplary carpeting skills, he rolls up giant piece of turf to call attention to green. The trick works and he’s whisked away to another dimension. May I remind you he’s already the correct hue so the sod sushi is a bit unnecessary.

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“Little known fact: Martian Manhunter taught Bob Marley how to twist a spliff.”

At the start, I referred to this yarn as the Clash with the Condoms. Well I’ll be damned if the “disk people” he encounters are not related to rubbers. Seriously. They seem harmless at first. “Color gives us power” and all that jazz but their real intent is to oppress Earthlings and coat the world in latex. Just kidding, I made that last part up but it’s actually an improvement to the plot.

PicMonkey Collage“This Halloween, tell your friends it’s a Disk Person costume.”

Now that our hero has found himself at the mercy of sinister love gloves, how does he save the day? Surprise…he doesn’t. J’onn actually gets his Martian mutton roasted by the baddies. All seems lost until, and I’d rather swallow nails than say this but Zook comes to the rescue. A character I can’t stand shows up, yanks him out of out of trouble and this issue wraps up with J’onn remarking he owes the city a patch of grass.

This book was ghostwritten and I completely understand the creators not wanting to be associated with it. Rancid from start to finish, I had zero enthusiasm to check out the back up feature “The Man who Hated his Powers”. The story was one of the worst I’ve ever read. That’s saying something. I can usually justify the existence of a comic by relating to the time period it was released but in this case, the defense rests.

If your a hardcore Martian Manhunter fan or just someone interested in learning more about him, this is not for you. On the other hand, if you’re eager to get your Zook on, He’s the true protagonist in this drivel. Read away and prepare for a robust slap to be delivered by yours truly.

David Schultz is the Creator/Co-Host of the Parlipod Podcast. Give it a listen on Soundcloud or via the GWW Radio Network. If you have a comic you would like to see reviewed on Two Staple Gold or just want to harass Dave, follow @lavahog on Twitter.

 

 

 

*All images/video clips are rights of their respective owners. Links to external sites are used solely for informational purposes.

 

 

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Metamorpho #4

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While it doesn’t happen often, sometimes a cover grabs me. It’s so enticing that I can’t resist getting a little giddy to see what’s inside. Metamorpho #4 dated Jan-Feb. 1966 is exactly what the Doctor ordered. It’s colorful, action packed and takes you on an adventure prior to page one. Pure silver aged goodness.

Now that the front of the book has amused my avacados, let’s open it up and find out if the carpet matches the drapes. First off, here are the creators that brought us Metamorpho’s Mexican migration titled “The Awesome Escapades of the Abominable Playboy”.

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I’ve written about the scripter Bob Haney before in Two Staple Gold. Be sure to give that column a look see. Shameless self promotion is my middle name. Sorry Bob…

The renowned Ramona Fradon penciled this groovy little gordita.  She is truly a living legend. Besides being the co-creator of Metamorpho, her Aquaman work is considered some of the most iconic in the history of the character. Spending the majority of her career at DC, Ramona also drew the Brenda Starr newspaper strip from 1980 until her retirement as an illustrator in 1995.

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Something you need to know about Rex Tillerson aka Metamorpho. He may be one butt ugly dude but deep down he’s a romantic. ‘Morpho was created by mad scientist Simon Stagg and he’s in love with Simon’s daughter Sapphire. Sure, her dad is nuttier than a bag of bolts, has a creepy cro-magnon as an assistant and her name is suitable for a stripper but what a looker! From a readers perspective, this makes for an interesting supporting cast to say the least.

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“That’s funny. ‘El Bonehead Stupendo’ was my nickname in college. Small world.”

Problem is, Sapphire is one fickle female. She has feelings for Rex but wants more attention. How does one garner extra affection from DC’s resident Elemental Man? Easy, he may be able turn his limbs to steel but isn’t impervious to a taste of jealousy. That bitter nectar can make the most steadfast superhero a little loco.

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“Could’ve started Operation: Honesty but the story would’ve ended next panel.”

She selects “Cha-Cha” Chavez, an over the top latin lover as the tool for her spite campaign. A Mexican millionaire who’s wealth is a mystery. In an impressive initial act, he showers Sapphire’s home with flowers. So much so that Team ‘Morpho must escape to the roof. He then displays his redesign of Mt.Rushmore featuring Sapphire’s likeness. Ridiculous? Absolutely, but her dad is sold.

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“Wonder when ‘Bring her Hot Fudge’ makes it’s debut on Urban Dictionary.”

Metamorpho isn’t pleased Cha-Cha is moving Heaven and Earth to woo is gal but has no say in the matter when the entire clan is invited to board his yacht for a trip to his homeland. Setting sail steaming mad, he notices something odd while stewing on the starboard side. A submarine has launched a torpedo at their boat. Rex quickly transforms into a Manganese Paravane (hell if I knew what that was) and destroys the missile.

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“Technically, if there were no time a paperclip would have been a logical choice.”

In the process, Metamorpho managed to also blow himself to bits. His limbs conveniently land on board the yacht. Speaking of opportune situations, there happens to be a lab below deck that Stagg uses to piece his monster back together. He better hurry, an attack plane has started spraying​ bullets at everyone topside. Returning in time to save the day, our hero smells something fishy. Accusing Cha-Cha​ of foul play,  it’s explained as a Mexican way of saying howdy. Nice excuse buddy. What’s next, your Chihuahua ate your homework?

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“OK Chavez enough malarkey…wait, that dog is friggin’ HUGE!”

 

Settling in at Cha-Cha’s mansion proves to be no picnic either. The source of his money is indeed based in criminal activity. He’s an arms dealer and angry rebels have stormed the compound. In a blaze of gunfire, they kidnap Simon Stagg and his lackey Java. Well, take a wild guess who has to go off and save everyone’s guacamole again. This time however, rather than transform into some wacky device, he rolls like a native. Hi-Ho Silver away! Bad ass to the max dude.

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” Sir…that cigar WILL BE AVENGED!”

The hostages have been put before a firing squad for their affiliation with Chavez. Simon, who in the beginning would have covered himself in chicken feathers for the man now renounces him to no avail. As the guns go off, Metamorpho rides in and turns his arm into what he calls an “iron mitt”. To me it looks like a giant ladle but I suppose that’s a tough feature to sell when marketing your powers. “What can you do?” they ask. “Me, I turn into an indestructible spoon!”. Yeah, iron mitt it is.

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“The DCU Ping Pong Champion of 1966”

The rebellion realizes they stand no chance versus a superhuman, so rather than fight they make their case to Metamorpho. They inform him that Cha-Cha Chavez is a dictator that goes by the name “El Lupo” and is one cutthroat bastard. The weapons he procures are used against his own countrymen. ‘Morpho is having none of that. Sapphire is still in the grubby grasp of that sinister señor. He rallies the troops and rides back to the hacienda only to discover Cha-Cha​ escaping via helicopter with his lady.

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“At that height, I think I’d just jump out of the damned thing.”

They’ve fled to the Capital where Metamorpho goes incognito mosquito in a nifty sombrero, following their tracks to a bull fight. The nation’s insurgents has taken to him, spray painting propaganda throughout the city in his name. Beats having your phone number scrawled in bathroom stall by comparison.

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“For a good time call Geoff Johns.”

After entering the arena, Metamorpho discovers that the bull has been fitted with a booby trap. The tip of it’s horns are actually bomb detonators. One tap and the stadium gets blown to smithereens. Well, say no more. This looks like a job for Meta-Matrador, Ole! Yeah, I just made that nickname up but I kind of dig it. The crowd, unaware of their lives being in danger are wowed by Meta-Matrador’s skills. He proceeds to reshape into various forms, avoiding a perilous poke. ‘Morpho snaps off the pesky prick, saving the lives of the onlookers but leaving the Bull with a case of antler envy.

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“Isn’t that illegal? Shouldn’t he get a yellow card or something?”

 

 

 

Defeated, Cha-Cha tries to make off with Sapphire. Java the caveman jumps to the rescue  but you just knew somebody was gonna get jabbed in the ass, or as I lovingly refer to it as a “toro tickled”. With Java down for the count, Metamorpho turns himself into gelatin glue and stops our bad guy in his tracks. That’s right, a scoundrel undone by a snack! Shouldn’t be surprised though as Jello sure did a number on Bill Cosby and Lindsay Lohan. Talk about getting yourself into sticky situations! Ahem…

“J-E-L-L-Oh hell NO!”

Full disclosure, I left a couple of plot points out of my recap. Why? I really want you to go check this out. It’s campy as you imagine but the book is crazier than a pinata filled with firecrackers. I love the ever livin’ crap out of it. Props to me for not fully spoiling a fifty one year old comic. Gotta take my pats on the back where I can get them people.

Here’s a novel idea. Some of you may be familiar with the Justice League Action cartoon. It’s actually pretty rad and my kid really enjoys it. Why not take some silver age yarns like this one and adapt them to animation? It can’t be faithfully reproduced as some of the subject matter isn’t suitable for kids these days but it’s the whole enchilada when it comes to silly entertainment. See that, I’m an idea man. Show me the dinero.

Pick this one up. It’s a classic.

David Schultz is the Creator/Co-Host of the Parlipod Podcast. Give it a listen on Soundcloud or via the GWW Radio Network. If you have a comic you would like to see reviewed on Two Staple Gold or just want to harass Dave, follow @lavahog on Twitter. For the record, “El Lupo” has no meaning in Mexican Spanish, so feel free to toss that nugget around. Your Welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Metamorpho #4 images rights of DC Comics. All other pictures and videos rights of their respective owners.

 

Justice League of America #70

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There’s just something about the Creeper I like. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe it’s the colors and offbeat costume or my affection for those on the B-List. What I can say for certain, there’s not too many great Creeper stories out there. I’ve enjoyed some of the original Ditko material but if someone were to ask me “what’s the greatest Creeper story ever told?”, I would reply it’s yet to be written.

When Justice League of America #70 (cover dated March 1969) landed on my desk, I was excited. Here it is, this could be the one! Not only is this book written by a legend in the field, just look at this cover. He toys with the League in all of his gaudy greatness.

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The answer sadly is… no. This is not the book that breaks the mold for the Creeper. All is not lost though as this is the debut of a character that will change the DC Universe forever! Are you excited for the big reveal? No? Understandable as who I’m about to introduce would be lucky to get a kazoo serenade. Ladies and Germs, this is the first appearance of… Mind Grabber Kid!

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“One thing is for sure, Dishpan hands need not apply”

Mind Grabber Kid gives the Creeper a run for his money in the tacky garments department but as we will come to find out, lacked the staying power. I’ll get more into that later. First, I mentioned a true luminary scripted this jazzy jaunt, so let’s talk the talents who put this together.

It was written by Denny O’Neil. Whew. I mean, c’mon. The man left classics at every turn of his career. His runs on Green Lantern/Green Arrow and Batman with Neal Adams are  considered some of the most iconic books of their era. He also edited a Daredevil run by some guy called Frank Miller. GREATNESS.

Art chores were handled by Dick Dillin and Sid Greene. Dillin started drawing for Quality Comics, most notably on the Blackhawk series. He later moved on to DC and spent 12 years as the penciller on Justice League. Greene inked for many publishers for over 30 years but his true claim to fame was helping to define the look of DC’s Silver Age characters.

As promised, back to Mind Grabber Kid. I’ll affectionately refer to him as “Grabby” even though, unlike others in a position of power, he sticks with brainwaves only. He’s hitting the scene for the first time and busts up a robbery right out of the gate. Not too shabby. The onlookers however aren’t as impressed with his heroics as they are with the exploits of the J.L.A. being broadcast on TV in a nearby shop.

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“We just got our asses kicked by…Forbush man???”

This fills Grabby with jealousy. So much so that when Shrek like Extra Terrestrials who love oven mitts send a transmission to Earth, he intercepts it with his mind and delivers a terrible reply. In a nutshell, he claims the League are just prick bastards that must be destroyed.

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“All of our controls are hot…VERY HOT!”

Where is the Justice League of America while all this is going down? They’re terribly bored actually. Watching a baseball game is a option but leave it to Batman keep their biscuits busy. Well, provided he doesn’t have to do any of the work himself.

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“Green Lantern speaks with his eyes and Batman’s getting the what’s up”

Investigate the Creeper it is then. Our mean yellow-green laughing machine is on a case of his own. He’s out to get the mob and finds out their next move is to rob an atomic power plant. Why? Honestly, we never find out but whatever it’s the groovy 60’s man. Pass the triple dipped white blotter and hop in the van, we have a wild three way to get to.

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“Even further below, at the Earth’s core, nothing happens… but I had to keep it going”

The Creeper acts first, beating up mobsters with ease but the Atom jumps in and pulls a shit for brains move. Distracted, the Creeper gets K.O.’ed and Atom socks the bad guy. That’s all the proof the aliens needed that the JLA are bad for business. Screwed up sense of reasoning there but any excuse to don a Meta-Cap makes it worthwhile.

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“Don’t forget your jackets! It’s chilly out there”

So what the heck is a meta-cap you say? Pretty dope gadgets actually. They can mimic and counteract the League’s powers. Disposing of them one by one, the aliens encounter a serious problem: Superman’s abilities. There’s just too much to try and imitate. I was actually surprised by the “super-suction”. I can only imagine when that comes in handy.

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“Jeez G.L., that sucks..err..blows..umm…”

Don’t forget about our little buddy Mind Grabber Kid. He’s just kicking it at home and hears a news report on the radio about the ruckus. Time to throw the long johns back on baby! It’s also fairly rad that he could care less what his parents think. They just assume he’s taking part in a school play…or sniffing glue.

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“Could have something to do with that Kooky crack pipe”

By the time Grabby arrives at the scene, the aliens had used some atomic junk to simulate a red sun, neutralizing Superman. These guys are legit! Oh wait, one problem. The Creeper registers as a normal human to all of their instruments and when it comes to fisticuffs, those oven mitts don’t cut the mustard.

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“Yeah you have something in common, your both color blind ya knucklehead”

The Mobsters prove to be the dumbest criminals alive. Rather than taking the opportunity to high tail it out of there, they see this as a chance to whack the League. Grabby realizes his spite was misguided and it’s up to him to save the League. Using his telekinesis, he pulls Superman’s hand away from the red sun’s rays.

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“Wurg? Must be the sound one makes while crapping their pants”

Superman bounces back and takes down the overzealous law breakers. He then plays the role of sneaky weasel and tells the Creeper to scoot. Grabby apologizes for lying to an entire race. Oddly, they just say whatevs and hit the road. Mind Grabber Kid learned a lesson on humility, finding inspiration in the Creeper. This kind of annoyed me. The whole book, Grabby keeps stating he is a regular Joe. The dude has some serious powers and is lucky he didn’t get his ass meta-capped into next week. Quite the whiny little bastard if you ask me. We end with everyone happy and the action wrapped up in time to finish watching the ball game.

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“Nobody says liar, liar, pant’s on fire in outer space”

The word I would choose to sum this story up is goofy. That’s not a bad thing. It was so zany however, I was kinda expecting Brother Power the Geek to pop up out of nowhere. This is where it gets his entertainment value from as it’s truly a campy outing. Let’s not forget this dandy dropped in 1969, so the narrative was loyal to the whimsical comics kids enjoyed.

Earlier, I touched upon how this was not a Creeper classic and Mind Grabber Kid’s inability to go mainstream. They both still have merits. For the Creeper, his quality as an anti-hero is on full display. In many ways, he could be perceived as a Joker/Spider-Man amalgam. A misunderstood hero who cracks wise and opts to maniacally laugh when faced with danger. What’s not to love about a wildcard who’s intentions can be difficult to navigate as a tightrope.

Grabby…oh Grabby. At the conclusion of this issue, readers are urged to write in asking for his return. America’s youngsters must have forgotten to lick the stamps as he wasn’t seen again until 1992. Leave it to Grant Morrison to dust him off as “Mind Grabber Man” during his Seven Soldiers project roughly 12 years ago but to love him entitles you crazy cat lady status in comic book fandom.

Not the best story to ever see print, it still has a little bit of something for everybody and is worthy of your attention. Dig in on some early Denny O’Neill and enjoy the trip.

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David Schultz is the Creator/Co-Host of the Parlipod Podcast. Give it a listen on Soundcloud or via the GWW Radio Network. If you have a comic you would like to see reviewed on Two Staple Gold or just want to harass Dave, follow @lavahog on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

Images rights of DC Comics