Saturday, July 13, 2024

The Unknown Soldier Revisited

Signing up for the United States Army together and stationed in the Philippines, two brothers are trapped in their foxhole as the Imperial Army sweep across the islands. Inspired not to lose hope by his older brother who said "one guy can affect the outcome of a whole war! One guy in the right the right time..." before he sacrificed himself on a Japanese grenade to save his younger brother whose face was hideously disfigured from the blast. His tragedy becomes our victory as this one man chose to erase his identity and endure intensive training to become America's top intelligence operative, "The Unknown Soldier". Kanigher and Kubert's war-torn creation appeared first in Our Army at War #168 in June of 1966, before getting his own series in Star-Spangled War Stories #151, in the summer of 1970. This "Man of a Thousand Faces" whose head is always wrapped in heavy bandages, using make-up and latex masks to transforms himself into any individual. Only taking sensitive covert missions behind enemy lines, his only tell, scratching his face where the scars meet under his disguise to give himself away. Such a thorn in the flesh of the Fuhrer, Hitler devised a special Nazi agent, the Black Night, to deal with the lone American. But the Immortal G.I. gets the last laugh as he staged the Fuhrer's "suicide" then disappears to fight another day as the Unknown Soldier!

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Korak, Son of Tarzan In The Comics

For just a brief background on the character of Korak, Jack Clayton's first appeared as an infant in the non-Tarzan novel The Eternal Lover (later retitled The Eternal Savage), in which the Ape Man and his family played supporling roles. Baby Jack next shows up in the third Tarzan novel, The Beasts of Tarzan, in which he was kidnapped and taken to Africa. The story of his youth and growth to manhood was told in the fourth book of the series, The Son of Tarzan, in which he returned to Africa and lived in the jungle, taking for the first time the name Korak ("Killer" in the language of the Great Apes). Meriem, the Arab girl Korak rescues from a beating turns out to be a love story in his first true adventure that carried over to the DC comic series for many of the early issues. The two youths run wild in the forest for years before being separated. After many adventures they are re-united and eventually marry. Burroughs later used Korak as a supporting character in the eighth through the tenth entries in the series, Tarzan the TerribleTarzan and the Golden Lion, and Tarzan and the Ant Men. The last of those three also briefly mentions Korak and Meriem's young son 'Jackie'. Just as a side note, The Bunduki series by J.T. Edson, was initially authorized by the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate to include Korak and Meriem's granddaughter Dawn as one of two main characters. But after three volumes in 1976, ERB Inc. withdrew Edson's permission to use the Tarzan name in future books and as a result the fourth novel and the short stories do not mention Tarzan or Jane by name. 

Gold Key Comics first published Korak, Son of Tarzan in issues #1-45 from January of 1964 to January of 1972. The early books featured some stellar work by a favorite artist of Edgar Rice Burroughs fans, Russ Manning, often thought to be one of the best ever to represent ERB's characters. Newspaper strip artist Warren Tufts did a few fill in issues in his classic style, before Dan Spiegle took over the artistic chores to finish out most of the series. When National Comics acquired the rights to the Korak series in 1972, they continued the numbering from Gold Key with issue #46-59 (June 1972 to September-October 1975), until it was later renamed The Tarzan Family. The retitled series ran an additional seven issues #60-66 (November-December 1975 - November-December 1976). Both series also included other various Burroughs' characters usually as back up features and reprints from the Gold Key issues. Initially, the DC Korak, Son of Tarzan series featured work from writers Len Wein and Roberl Kanigher and artists Frank Thorne, Murphy Anderson, and Rudy Florese. A fantastic adaptation of "Carson of Venus" written by Len Wein and illustrated by Michael Kaluta was also a short-lived backup featured in issues #46-56. Graced with fantastic covers that only Joe Kubert could produce in all its savage beauty, Korak started out with interior art by one of my favorite DC's artists, Frank Thorne.  

As the whole DC series only lasted twenty issues including the renamed Tarzan Family in that larger anthology format, I now discovered earlier Tarzan reprints from the likes of Russ Manning, and Hal Foster, not to mention new stories and art for Carson of Venus, John Carter of Mars and other delights. They were illustrated by DC's talented stable of artists including Noly Zamora, Gerry Talaoc, Gray Morrow, Jack Sparling, James Sherman, Neal McDonald, and Ernie Chan. Whether learning to speak the ape language in "Tarzan's Jungle Album" or reading the letters and comments The Ape Vine, Korak, Son of Tarzan with the other two Burroughs' DC titles (Tarzan of the Apes and Weird Worlds) were always a favorite of mine, before I discovered the back issue market and the earlier Western/Gold Key issues. Murphy Anderson who worked on Mystery in Space, Hawkman, Superman and other DC titles took over after Thorne's quick departure for five issues, but his sleek streamline style never seemed to fit the character in my opinion after the rough heavy style of Kubert and his protege, Frank Thorne. But when Filipino great, Rudy Florese was chosen to finish out the title, we had another solid illustrator with a beautiful graceful line that also could portrsy a savage undetone I felt missing in Anderson's work, as shown in another wonderful double page splash from Korak' Florese drew many Edgar Rice Burroughs features for DC, mainly over Joe Kubert layouts (providing the savage undertones I like), and also did a handful of chilling horror stories.

Friday, May 3, 2024

DC Comics' Funny Man...Jerry Lewis Revisited!

Before the film star hosted his first Labor Day telethons for charity, and became a national treasure to the French, all around comedian Jerry Lewis was already a comics veteran. Bursting with all the energy and zany madcap humor of his movies, you can almost hear Jerry screaming "HEY LAY-DEE" on every page of his long lasting DC comic, The Adventures of Jerry Lewis. Starting out for National Comics in 1952 under the title The Adventures of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, the series ran forty fun-filled fast paced full-length adventures with lots of comidic misunderstandings and pretty girls before the teams eventual break up and Jerry receiving the comic in their settlement. Starting with issue #41 Lewis set off on his own new adventures targeted for a younger audience with its goofy gags, wild stories, many fads, and even more beautiful side-kicks. Some of the highlights of the Jerry solo stories could be when he acquired a Doctor Dolittle-like ability to talk with animals,that lead to many a wild and wooly story line for a handful of issues. Then meeting a genie called Mister Yes in issue #79, brought the reader even more zany off the wall fun.

About this time on three occasions DC Comics adapted Jerry Lewis films, using photos covers from the features, The Ladies Man, The Errand Boy, and It's Only Money, rather than running the usual book length tales. These film adaptations were probably a reaction to Dell Comics acquisition of the rights to adapt Jerry Lewis's film, Don't Give Up the Ship, for its Four Color series, drawn by comic veteran, Dan Spiegle. This prompted DC to now acquire the license to not only Jerry's likeness, but to adaptations of his numerous films as well. When Arnold Drake took over the writing in the early 1960s, he borrowed what was selling formula at the time, namely, monsters and superheroes. Starting off with a superhero take off of Spider-Man (The Trantula) #84, Drake later decided to add more characters to the title to pull more kids into the book. With this move Jerry's rotten nephew, Renfew, was introduced in issue #85, and a few books later the broomstick riding witch/housekeeper, Witch Kraft, in issue #88. Many of us can fondly remember as a kid every summer when Renfew would go to Camp-Wack-a-Boy where he was tormented by a bald Neo-Nazi, the infamous Coach Hal who debuted in issue #94. Jerry was usually left in the dark in most of these tall tales, with a witch running his household and his weird nephew always knowing what's going on behind the scenes, which was a big key to the humor. 

With a large licensing fee paid to Lewis, the comic was always losing money with every issue. Drake later stated one reason to introduce his new characters was to popularize them before starting their own series, once DC lost the license with Lewis. When you look at the sales figures for the Lewis title though, Drake's contributions coupled with Oskner's fantastic comedic artwork made them perform better then some might have expected. Even with a slow sales, The Adventures of Jerry Lewis was outselling such standard DC titles as Green Lantern, Aquaman, House of Mystery, and Wonder Woman. Unfortunately, as Drake stated, with the cancellation of the most successful comic in the their comics titles, it looks like DC just didn't understand what they really had. I always enjoyed the over the top artwork by National Cartoonist Society winner for "Best Comic Book" for 1960 and 1961, Bob Oksner. The series is also know for some very early DC cover and interior work from their most popular artist, Neal Adams in his unique but versatile style. Also before I forget for our wisecracking, bumbling funnyman, Lewis really got around the DC Universe meeting many of it super heroes including Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Robin, Lex Luthor, The Flash, many a Universal monster, and even the Beatles. Jerry though finally ran out of steam as the series ended in May of 1971 with issue #124, but is not soon to be forgotten!