Friday, September 7, 2012

ACG's Two Heroes...Magicman & Nemesis

American Comics Group had been around 23 years doing war, romance, horror, humor, mystery and other titles before it finally decided to publish two superhero books before its demise in August of 1967. Editor Richard Hughes had never cared for the genre, but felt pressure from readers to give it a try with sales slipping and cancellation of books. Sticking with his fantasy and horror roots, he first created Magicman whose debut appearance was in Forbidden Worlds #125 for January 1965, followed one month later in the pages of Adventures Into The Unknown #154 with the ghostly hero called Nemesis. Written by Zev Zimmer, (one of Hughes numerous pseudonyms) and drawn by Pete Costanza, the covers were graced by the slick artwork of Kurt Schaffenberger who was moonlighting from his exclusive contact at DC comics. Editor Mort Weisinger wanted Kurt to work only on his Superman Family titles so his ACG covers were credited to the fictional Kurt Wahl or to Pete Costanza, though Schaffenberger's distinct style was hard to miss. Tom Cargill's alter ego was that on the mysterious Magicman who inherited his strange powers from his 18th century wizard relative named Cagliostro. A Vietnam vet whose old war buddy, Sergeant Kilkenny, became his side kick in civilian life, the two have some wild  adventures for the fifteen short tales over the two year series. The unusual story lines played off of Magicman's many powers including flight, super strength, extra-sensory perception, telekinesis, creating tornadoes and nightmares, changing into animals, and other magical feats. Magicman's villains were an almost exclusive men's club including rogues like Garbageman, Monkeyman, Pigman, Moronman, Pizzaman, Halfaman, Frogman, and the fem fatale, Dragonia.

Interesting enough, the superhero Nemesis shared most of the same villains in his stories. Similar to DC's Spectre and Deadman characters, Nemesis became a superhero after he died. Steve Flint was a crackerjack detective working for the Department of Justice trying to build a case against a mob boss named Goratti. When the gangster found out about the the G-man's plans, he had Flint quickly murdered being hit by a train. Now in the afterlife, waiting to be processed by the Grim Reaper, Flint bargained his way back to life to avenge his murder and after disposing of the mobster, became the permanent "Guardian of the Mortal Realm" taking the name Nemesis. The ghost's super powers included invisibility, flight, super strength, time travel, and to communicate telepathically and change his size at will. A strong light source was his greatest enemy that was used against him many times on his earthly visits. With most of his adventure drawn by artist Chic Stone, Hughes now under the pen name Shane O'Shea, wrote some comic relief as he had Nemesis try to keep up his relationship with his former girlfriend, Lita Revelli Craig, while still being a spectre. Only lasting for fourteen adventures Nemesis's series ran exactly two years ending in February of 1967.

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