Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Oddball Super Heroes: This Monster, This...Super Hero?

Hello, there! Dave-El here, reporting from secret lab where I produce the affront to nature and science known as I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

Today all across the great land of ours (the USA or as I like to call it, Oosah) is New Comic Book Day. As is my want on Wednesdays, I turn my blogging attentions to the world of comic books. Today is another installment of my look at Oddball Super Heroes.   

The 1960's was a strange time for comic books and super heroes. There was a resurgence of super heroes prompted by the revival of characters like the Flash and Green Lantern over at DC Comics under the guidance of editor Julius Schwartz as well as the energetic surge creativity that came out of Marvel with new characters from Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and more. This interest in super heroes moved to more main stream media with the advent of the Batman TV show on ABC which sent the buzz around comic  book super heroes to a whole other level. Suddenly everybody was wanting to cash in on this renewed interest in super heroes. 

Last week we looked at the absurd 1960's creation from CC Beck, the artist behind the legendary Captain Marvel. Beck's newest character was a fat man called Fatman who had the power to turn into a human flying saucer thanks to an alien chocolate drink. Now as absurd as all that sounds, let's give Fatman the Human Flying Saucer some props for trying to be original. Other publishers, anxious to print their own super hero comics, were perfectly willing to take whatever was already lying around and turn that into super hero comics. 

Dell Comics had a long publishing history extending from the birth of comic books into the 1970s. Most of Dell's output centered around adaptions of TV shows, movies, cartoons and books into comics. There were not a lot of original creations at Dell, just concepts licensed from other media to turn into comics. And two of those concepts became Dell's unlikely foray into super hero comics. 

Dell had launched a pair of comics featuring Dracula and Frankenstein. As you can tell from the covers below for their respective first issues, the books were fairly faithful adaptions from books and film.

However, Dell was quickly gripped by super hero fever and immediately, these two titles went through an extremely unusual and rather immediate transformation.  

Yes, as of issue #2, Frankenstein's monster became a super hero. I'm going to be a bit lazy here and just paste the write up from Wikipedia because....well, I just can't even. 

Created in 1866 by a reclusive scientist referred to only as "the Doctor" who endowed him with a superior intellect and the strength of fifty men, Frankenstein lay dormant for over a hundred years under the ruins of an abandoned castle near the large modern American metropolis of Metropole City. Upon awakening thanks to a convenient lightning bolt, he dons a lifelike rubber mask to hide the fact that his white-haired and black-browed head has pale green skin (the rest of his tall, muscular body has a normal Caucasian flesh tone) and takes the name "Frank Stone", a pseudonym inspired by a fallen chunk of masonry with the word "FRANK" engraved in it.

Befriending elderly millionaire philanthropist Henry Knickerbocker after rescuing him from a traffic accident (and who, by an amazing coincidence, is the son of a man who had been his long-dead creator's friend and business partner), when the old man dies from a heart attack he leaves his "nephew" Frank his vast fortune, allowing him the financial freedom to devotes his life to being a scarlet-suited superhero.

Only his devoted butler William knows his secret, although neighboring blond busybody Miss Ann Thrope suspects that handsome brown-haired playboy Frank Stone is really the secret identity of the crew cut and craggy-faced crimefighter Frankenstein and is constantly trying to prove it. His archenemy is the amazingly "Mini-Me"-like midget mad scientist Mr. Freek who likes to ride around on the shoulders of his huge and extremely powerful pet gorilla Bruto.

Dracula got in on the act too with issue #2 turning the book into...whatever this is.  

Again, I'm going to let Wikipedia do the heavy lifting for me on this because....I really can't improve on this.   

Dracula is a modern-day direct descendant of the original Count Dracula now working as a medical researcher in the old family castle in Transylvania where, due to his experiments to develop a cure for brain damage using a serum developed from bat blood, he accidentally gains strange "vampire"-like powers, including the ability to turn into a bat and superhuman sight and hearing. He decides to embark on a superhero career in order to redeem his family name, developing his body through diet and exercise to the peak of physical perfection and designing himself his own distinctive crimson-cowled purple costume with a bat-shaped gold belt buckle, after which he vows to fight evil and superstition in all its forms.

Leaving for America after the local peasants burn down his castle, he adopts the secret identity of "Al U. Card" (a hastily chosen pseudonym short for "Aloyisius Ulysses Card"). In issue #4, his girlfriend and confidante, blond socialite B.B. Beebe, gains the same powers and became his blue-clad sidekick Fleeta (from "fledermaus", the German word for bat), bringing to the team not only a black belt in judo but also an abandoned hidden underground government radar installation/bomb shelter on her family's mountain estate that Dracula uses as his secret laboratory lair.

This strange and wacky experiment in transforming movie monsters into super heroes did last long, each producing 3 issues; both titles ended with issue #4. 

In 1972, Dell reprinted those three issues as issue #s 6 through 8. 

No, there was no issue #5. 

Yeah, comic books be wierd, yo! 

So that's that for today's post. I'll be back with another one tomorrow. Until then, remember to be good to one another.

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