Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Longbox Junk Halloween Retro Review - Haunted #1 (1971)

Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I write comic reviews that nobody ever asked for!

There's a crisp coolness in the air. The leaves are beginning to fall. It's October! It's time for some annual Longbox Junk Halloween Fun! That's where I dig through my collection and unearth all manner of spooky or scary comics and post as many as I can over the next 31 days!

For those of you who were enjoying my series of Longbox Junk Retro Reviews, I sincerely apologize and. . .HAH! Just kidding! We're going to start the Halloween Fun off with another Retro Review!

I noticed as I was digging through my many longboxes seeking out older comics to feature in my recent run of Retro Reviews that I actually have quite a good handful of older "horror" anthology titles including Witching Hour, Haunted, Chamber of Darkness, House of Mystery, Monsters Unleashed, and MORE! More than enough of them to carry this whole month!

SO. . .

I'm gonna keep the Retro Review fun going right on through Halloween.
Welcome to the first Longbox Junk Halloween RETRO Horror month!

Let's get things started by cranking up the Longbox Junk paper time machine and setting the dial for 1971 so we can take a look at Haunted #1, featuring legendary comic artist Steve Ditko!

Ready? Atomic batteries fully charged! *throws giant switch*

Longbox Junk Retro Halloween Fun. . .Let's do it!



I absolutely LOVE this cover! It makes regular appearances on my Halloween version of the "Wall O' Covers" in my office at work.  I love the stark white background.  I love the brilliant colors.  I love the way Ditko uses the ghostly eyes and mouth as floating picture frames previewing the stories inside. There's nothing I don't like about this cover!  

PENCILS: Steve Ditko
INKS: Steve Ditko

There's three full comic stories and a short text piece in this issue, all by the same team.
Let's take a look at the stories each in turn, shall we?  We shall!


A powerful businessman purchases a cursed Persian carpet and quickly descends into madness before becoming the rug's final victim. . .

A pretty straightforward story following a steady track from showing the rug being cursed in centuries past through a few owners (including Hitler) to its final owner and victim. This story really didn't grab me at all.  It's not BAD, there's just no real thrills or chills to be found.  The little ghostly narrator appearing in almost every panel is sort of annoying.  Ditko's art seems to be lacking something as well.  Some panels seem sketchy and sort of unfinished.

Not a great start.  Let's move on to the next tale. . .


An evil man discovers the means to bring spirits to the earthly plane through science.  After he successfully manages to enslave the spirit of a good man to do his evil deeds, he goes too far and finds himself enslaved in turn by malevolent ghosts.

Another story that's just sort of interesting, but not really memorable.  Like the first story, it's extremely straightforward and lacks any sort of thrills or chills that might be expected in a horror/supernatural comic.  The ending doesn't really make much sense either.  It just sort of comes out of nowhere, like the writer just decided it was time to wrap up the story any way he could.  Ditko's art here is an improvement over the first story, but still seems to be lacking a certain something.

Moving along. . .


A scientific genius with powerful psychic abilities named Mister Tyme invents a machine that can predict the stock market.  A rival steals the machine's data, but kills Tyme's assistant in the process.  Tyme is framed for the murder, but uses his psychic powers to show the police what really happened.

This story was pretty bad.  It doesn't make much sense at all, and seems like the writer just took a bunch of concepts and threw them against the wall to see if any would stick.  It looks like Mister Tyme is supposed to be being built into a recurring character, but I don't have any other issues of Haunted to see if that's what happened.  In any case, this story is weak and all over the place.  Likewise, Ditko's art is all over the place, swerving in quality from panel to panel on each page of the story. 



A famous hunter defies popular opinion by his belief in witchcraft.  He discovers a herd of shape-shifting deer and wounds one, discovering the next day that it is the daughter of a friend.

This is one of most poorly-written text stories I've ever found in a comic.  Look. . .I realize that these text pieces are basically page fillers and probably the feature that is paid the least amount of attention to.  I'm pretty sure that most of the time they're never even read.  But still. . .a LITTLE bit of effort could be expected.  This reads like something a twelve year old kid would handwrite in a spiral notebook as the first chapter of a never-finished story that he lost interest in as soon as he got his bike fixed.  Not a great way to end the comic.


I bought this comic for the awesome cover. . .and truthfully, that cover is the best thing to be found here.  Overall, this whole comic was pretty disappointing.  None of the stories were memorable in any way, and struggled to reach a high bar of "Sorta interesting".  

For a lot of comic fans, the main draw here isn't the writing, though. . .it's going to be Steve Ditko's art.  Unfortunately (with the exception of the cover) this is not the best example of Ditko's art talents.  

There are those who think that Ditko can do no wrong, and I'm not here to try and knock a comic legend off his well-deserved pedestal, but a simple look at the few pages I scanned above will tell the story. . .the art here is average at best,  and fairly poor in places.  EVERY comic talent, no matter how great, has phoned it in from time to time.  This comic looks like one of those times for Ditko.

All in all, unless you're a big Steve Ditko fan, I can't recommend this comic.  It's kind of a shame because that awesome cover builds a sense of expectation, but this is just one of those times when I have to say that they all can't be winners.

Up Next. . .

More Longbox Junk Retro Halloween Fun!

We didn't get off to a great start with Haunted #1, so I'm sending the paper time machine all the way back to the Golden Age and before that pesky Comic Code thing. 1953's Chamber of Chills #17!

Be there or be square!

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Longbox Junk Retro Review - Jack of Hearts (1984)

 Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find all the comic reviews you never asked for!

How about one last Longbox Junk Retro Review to finish off September before I move on to some October Halloween fun?  I originally wrote this one for the Fun and Friendly Folk of COMIC BOOK REALM almost exactly two years ago, but for some reason I can't figure out (maybe I just forgot) I never posted it here. . .UNTIL NOW!


This 4 issue mini is another nice find that came as a result of one of my local comic shops' abandoning back issue sales and pretty much pricing every back issue in stock that sells for less than $20 online at ONE LOUSY BUCK!  

As you can imagine, this has been a most beautiful bounty for a lover of Longbox Junk such as myself.  I now have a HUGE pile of unread comics and definitely feel like a dollar box glutton!


I basically picked up this mini based on the sweet cover for issue #1 and just grabbed the other issues because they were there.  I had no knowledge of this character coming into this review, even though it seems like he actually has quite a bit of history in mainstream Marvel comics at the time.  

So let's step back to 1984 and see what this colorful character from the end of the Bronze Age is all about, shall we?  We shall!

Marvel (1984)

SCRIPTS: Bill Mantlo
PENCILS: George Freeman
COVERS: George Freeman 

That's a sweet cover right there!

One of the most powerful beings on Earth is a willing prisoner of S.H.I.E.L.D. as they try to find a way to contain his immense power. After he attempts to commit suicide, his former girlfriend, Marcy Kane arrives to try and help keep Jack Hart under control.

When the S.H.I.E.L.D. lab comes under attack by mysterious alien invaders, Jack is released. . .but after destroying the aliens, Jack has no intention of returning to captivity.

So what we have here is mostly an origin story for Jack of Hearts. The issue is about 75% exposition, but coming into this series with no knowledge of the character, I'd say the issue did a great job giving me everything I need to know about Jack Hart. . .so well done there!

He's the son of a brilliant and wealthy scientist. Jack fell into a vat of "Zero Fluid" during his father's assassination and immense power was unlocked. He took on the identity of Jack of Hearts and had dealings as both friend and foe of several A-List Marvel superheroes before going into exile.

A pretty standard Bronze Age "Fell in some stuff and got some powers because. . .SCIENCE!" origin story.  But told well and very nicely illustrated.

Check this splash page out! VERY nice!

Overall, I liked this issue. Some of the dialogue was a bit overdramatic, there's a LOT of exposition, and there are some pretty bad color art issues here and there. . .but for the most part the story was engaging and the art (including that eye-catching cover!) was well done. It made me want to get right into the next issue. . .what more could you want from a comic?


Jack Hart discovers that his awesome powers were already inside him and were only unlocked and increased by his father's zero fluid instead of being caused by it, and that this is because his mother was actually an alien from the dying world of Contraxia. . .as is his lover, Marcy Kane,  who now introduces herself in her alien form as "Kaina" during this revelation.  His mind is, of course, blown.

After a devastating conflict between S.H.I.E.L.D. and a faction of Contraxians who want to force Jack to re-ignite their dying sun, Jack agrees to go with them willingly to Contraxia and use his powers to help.

So what we get in this second issue is pretty much ANOTHER origin story, expanding on Jack of Hearts' original "fell in a vat of stuff and got some powers" origin and swerving him more toward being a cosmic superhero in the vein of Silver Surfer.

Because of this expanded origin story, this issue is (like the first) about 75-80% exposition, flashback, and backstory. Fortunately, it's pretty engaging.

The building crisis of Contraxia's dying sun and the divisive opinion to let their civilization die with honor instead of forcing their way on to inhabited planets is really more interesting than Jack of Hearts' part in the story, in my humble opinion.

The art also remains extremely strong. . .well, the line art, anyway. There are continuing color art issues that brings it down a notch.

Other than some issues with the color art and a bit of overblown dialogue here and there, this was a pretty good issue overall.


Jack of Hearts arrives on Contraxia and is hailed as a hero, but quickly learns that saving the planet's dying sun will mean sacrificing his own life. He decides that his own life is worth less than the billions he will save, so agrees to go through with it.

The leader of the survivalist faction doesn't believe that Jack will sacrifice himself, so he captures Jack and kills the leaders of his rival faction, then puts Jack on trial for their murder. The Contraxians are fooled by the false trial and demand that Jack be shot into the center of their sun.

In this third issue, we finally move past origin stories and flashbacks and bite into the actual meat of this cosmic tale of dying planets and heroic sacrifice.

This is probably the best issue of the series so far, with clashing ideologies and a honorable man losing himself for the sake of survival. There's also a strong storyline about Jack deciding to sacrifice his life for the greater good. It's definitely a pretty good read.


As Jack of Hearts is shot into Contraxia's sun, the Contraxians' celebrations turn into riots as they try to justify abandoning their moral code in the name of survival.

The leader of the survivalist faction has a crisis of conscience and speeds to rescue Jack of Hearts and his lover aboard the doomed rocket. He arrives in time to save Kaina, but he dies during the attempt.
Jack frees himself and flies into the sun, determined to save Kaina and the Contraxians, but instead of dying, he not only reignites the sun, but becomes even more powerful in the process.

Realizing that he is now so powerful that his mere presence is destructive to living beings, he abandons his love and retreats to deep space.

And so we come to the end of this tale of sacrifice and redemption. Jack of Hearts goes out a hero, but has to give up everything that tethered him to humanity in the process. It's a great ending and surprisingly emotional for a mainstream superhero comic coming in at the end of the Bronze Age.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the writing on this final issue.  The art was also particularly strong this time out, with less color issues.

Some nice "Kirby Krackle" going on.


I came into this mini without any knowledge of Jack of Hearts at all, and truthfully, I wasn't very hopeful of finding much quality in a colorful mainstream Marvel superhero from the end of the Bronze Age.

I was very pleasantly surprised to find a pretty well-written and illustrated tale of heroic sacrifice and how people change when their survival is at stake. Is it the best comic story I've ever read? No.  But for what it is, I liked the story of Jack of Hearts quite a bit.  

There are some color art issues through the series, some of the dialogue is overdramatic in a Bronze Age way, and there's a LOT of exposition in the first two issues. . .but if you are a fan of cosmic superheroes and stories that delve into moral issues, I can definitely recommend Jack of Hearts as a good read.

Up Next. . .

It's October and that means Longbox Junk Halloween Horror fun!

Be there or be square!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Longbox Junk Retro Review - The Savage She-Hulk #1 (1980)

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find comic reviews you never asked for!  

Lately I've been going outside my usual Longbox Junk bargain bin finds to shine the spotlight on some of the older and/or more "valuable" comics sitting unread in my collection.  It's been a lot of fun for me, and I've been able to learn a little here and there in the process.  Case in point: the comic at hand.

I know next to nothing about She-Hulk beyond the obvious. . .she's a female version of The Hulk.  I've never read any of her ongoing series, and have only come across her occasionally in other comics she pops up in.  In other words, I know She-Hulk as more of a guest star than as a main character.

I bought this comic at a flea market for ten bucks because (despite my lack of knowledge about the character) I knew just from hanging around comic sites that I had a good find on my hands that was definitely "worth" more than a ten-spot.  That and it has a pretty sweet cover.  But I didn't have much interest in actually READING the comic, so it got bagged, boarded, and forgotten.


When I was digging through my collection for some "Before 1986, please" (nods to the fine people over at Old Guys Who Like Old Comics) comics to review for this batch of Longbox Junk retro reviews, this was a natural choice for me. . . A popular character that I had little actual knowledge of with a bangin' Bronze Age cover.  

So I did a bit of research before writing this and found that there's an interesting story BEHIND the story to be found.  Maybe more interesting than the actual comic itself (to ME, anyway).  Bear with me just a minute.  YOU might already know the story behind She-Hulk, but maybe others reading this might not. 

SO. . .

Just to sketch it out a little, what we have here is a character that was created for a very specific purpose.  It seems that the Powers That Be running Marvel in the late 70's were looking closely at the runaway success of the Incredible Hulk T.V. show.  But what they were ALSO looking at was the successful spinoff of another show. . .The Bionic Woman, which came out of the wildly popular Six Million Dollar Man series.

The Marvel Executives came to the conclusion that if one show could just spin off a female version of a character, another show could do the same.  And so they tasked Stan Lee with coming up with a female version of The Hulk so that if  CBS DID decide to throw out a female Hulk, Marvel would own the rights.

This would be Stan Lee's last major character created for Marvel, and because of the urgency of the job, the issue was written in an extremely short period of time (sources vary, but agree it was just a few weeks). 


Enough of that.  Let's get into this comic!

MARVEL (1980)

SCRIPT: Stan Lee
PENCILS: John Buscema 
INKS: Chic Stone
COVER: John Buscema

It's just a great Bronze Age comic rack eye catcher!  I'm a sucker for monochromatic backgrounds like this one, and I like the way it's split between the stark white and the cityscape below.  I really like the contrasting colors between the title and She-Hulk as well.  They both pop very nicely against the plain white background.  The thing I like best about this cover is the figure of non-hulked Jen Walters.  John Buscema drew some of the best female figures out there, and he doesn't disappoint here.  It's kind of funny that he drew her wearing purple pants.  All around, a great cover!  Let's get inside and see what's going on. . .


Our tale begins as Doctor David/Bruce Banner begins to feel the isolation and loneliness of being a wanted man and decides to visit his cousin Jen, a Los Angeles lawyer who Banner hasn't seen since she was young. . .

After a joyful reunion between the two, Banner tells her the real reason he's come to her. . .to confess he's the Hulk and to tell his side of the story.  This leads into an abbreviated recap of The Incredible Hulk's origin. . .

Jen sympathizes with her cousin and is determined to help him if she can.  On the way to her house, she confides that she's working on a case defending a hoodlum being framed for murder.  She know his boss committed the murder and has planted a rumor that she has evidence of his crime.  Banner is concerned for her safety, playing such a dangerous game, but Jen isn't worried.

But maybe she should have been.  As they arrive at her house, gunmen attack Jen, shooting her down in her driveway!  Banner fights off the gunmen as they close in to finish the job.

Banner desperately seeks help for his badly-wounded cousin. . .trying to keep his emotions in check so he doesn't turn into the Hulk.  He eventually finds a doctor office, but nobody is there.  He decides extreme danger calls for extreme measures, so he breaks into the office and gives her a transfusion of his own blood. . .

After the worst danger has passed and Jen is stable, Banner calls the police so that she can be taken to the hospital.  Unfortunately, the police are suspicious of Banner and take him in for questioning.  He turns into the Hulk and makes his escape. . .once again becoming a fugitive.

In the meantime, as Jen recovers in the hospital, the mobsters who put her there return disguised as doctors to finish the job by poisoning her!  Jen tries to fight, but they are too strong.  She feels rage begin to build inside!

A strange transformation comes over Jen!  She turns into a giant, green-skinned monstrosity! To the horror of her attackers, Jen Walters has become some sort of. . .SHE-HULK!

The newly-born She-Hulk fights off her attackers, who flee in panic.  She-Hulk pursues them through the hospital, wreaking havoc with her new strength! 

The chase ends in the parking lot as She-Hulk wrecks the mobster's getaway car.  As the police arrive on the scene, She-Hulk forces a confession out of the gunmen that they were behind the attack on Jen.  Seeing that the police have witnessed the confession, She-Hulk flees the scene!

As She-Hulk feels her anger and strength fade, she makes her way back into the hospital before changing back into Jennifer Walters.  She realizes that her cousin's blood transfusion was behind the change. . .but instead of seeing it as a bad thing, Jen decides to embrace her new abilities as She-Hulk and put them to good use!

The End. . .To be continued.


All righty then. . .there it is.  The origin of She-Hulk.  Let's break it on down!

When I was doing my little series of "First Issue Fun" Longbox Junk entries just a little while ago, I laid down the TWO basic requirements that make me consider a first issue a success. First, it has to introduce characters in a new reader-friendly way.  Second, it has to make me want to read more.

This comic does a great job in introducing She-Hulk to new readers.  Stan Lee delivers a quick and concise origin story that makes sense in the context of fitting in with the existing Incredible Hulk stories.  It's a well-written, fast-paced, and extremely simple story that's over with before you know it. . .but it gets the job done it's supposed to do very well.  Stan Lee was tasked with quickly creating and introducing a female version of the Hulk and that's exactly what you get here.  Nothing more, nothing less.

But does it make me want to read more?  Well. . .not really.  

This is a pretty good little "One and done" origin story written for a specific purpose, and it succeeds at that purpose.  But it's just missing something.  I'm not sure exactly what, but there's just not enough here to hook me into the next issue.  I guess I can't help but think that any story with She-Hulk could probably be done just as well with the original Hulk.  Maybe it's because I'm looking back from 40 years down the road and know the blatantly commercial origin of this character. 

In itself, this isn't a bad story at all. . .it just doesn't really have much reason to exist beyond its reason to exist.  Does that even make sense? Maybe I would have a different opinion if I hadn't done any research into the character before reading this. 

On the art side of things, I have to admit I was a little disappointed.

I'm a fan of John Buscema.  As far as I'm concerned (and I think maybe a lot of others as well), he's a  superstar who very much deserves the pedestal he stands on in the hall of comic book history.  I can confidently describe his work on Conan as "definitive", and not worry about much disagreement on the point. 

BUT. . .

His outstanding cover aside, Buscema's work here looks as obviously rushed as it was.  As I mentioned above, this comic was done in what was probably record time. . .available sources vary but agree on it being just a few weeks. . .and you can definitely tell.  The art isn't BAD at all, it's just not quite up to what I would expect from John Buscema.  A bit of a shame.  Given a little more time, I'm sure the art would have been a lot better.  As it stands, I'll just say it's not the best example of John Buscema's art, and I'll leave it at that.

What we have here is a comic book that was written for a specific purpose. . .introduce a female version of the Hulk in order to protect Marvel's rights to the character. . .that was done in a very short period of time.  

Stan Lee does a great job of introducing She-Hulk with a quick reading and well-written origin story, but he falls flat in making her interesting enough to make me want to read more.  John Buscema's art disappoints, looking rushed and pretty rough in spots.  I'm pretty sure a bit more time would have smoothed that out, though.

Good taken with bad, this is a pretty good comic book.  It could have been better with a little more time to cook, but it's not bad at all for what it is.  I see that there's going to be a She-Hulk live action series on Disney+ soon, so that will probably bump up the "value" of this comic a bit.  But it's been collected several times and is available on ComiXology, so if you want to check out She-Hulk's origin for yourself you don't have to hit the wallet too hard if you don't want to.  

Up Next. . .

I think I can squeeze in one more Longbox Junk Retro Review before I turn to October Longbox Junk Halloween Horror fun.

Be there or be square!

Monday, September 14, 2020

Longbox Junk Retro Review - The Lone Ranger #35 (1951)

 Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I write comic book reviews that nobody ever asked for!

Once again, I'm sorry for a bit of delay between entries this time of year.  I manage a hotel and we're fully in the swing of Utah tourist season right now. . .even though I've been assured by the fine folks on my television screen that it's SO unsafe to venture out of your home and stand in a line that we need to vote by mail this year.  I look at my packed parking lot, raise an eyebrow, and mutter, "Well, if you say so, I guess."


Long story short. . .the incongruous combination of a busier than usual tourist season and a hotel still running on a pandemic skeleton crew (for some reason I can't figure out) doesn't leave much time for comic readin' and reviewin'. 


I'm going to continue my "mini-series" of Longbox Junk Retro Reviews for a little while longer, since I've been having a lot of fun stepping outside of my usual bargain bin fare and shining the spotlight on some of the older and/or more "valuable" comics in my collection.

This time out, I'm setting the Longbox Junk paper time machine to 1951 and heading back to the days when Cowboys were king of the hill in movies, T.V. and comics for some wild west fun with one of my personal favorite characters of all. . .The Lone Ranger!

In MY extremely humble opinion, when it comes to heroes, the Lone Ranger has it all!

A tragic origin, a faithful sidekick, an iconic look, and a never-swerving determination to help others.  He may have changed a little bit here and there over the years (witness the original red shirt outfit on the cover below), but one thing about The Lone Ranger remains steady and firm. . .he will ALWAYS do the right thing, no matter how dangerous it may be.  He's not just a great western hero, he's a great hero, period.

Is it any wonder that the adventures of that mysterious masked man of the west have lasted since 1933 when so many other characters have come and gone?  How can you NOT like a hero that says things like, "I believe that to have a friend, a man must be one."  Or, "Everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world." 

 While Batman is slowly spiraling into the madness of the monsters he fights and Captain America's status as the bright symbol of a strong nation is being steadily eroded, The Lone Ranger is the hero that steps forward and tells you that he'll be your friend if you need one.  In these times of trouble, we NEED a hero like The Lone Ranger!

But enough introduction.

Let's get that paper time machine running and head back to the Old West by way of 1951, shall we?

We shall!


DELL (1951)

COVER: Ernest Nordli (?)

It's just a beautiful thing! A fantastic moment of action frozen in time with wonderful colors, composition, and sense of motion.  This is one of my favorite covers in my collection and was the reason I bought this comic for probably a little more than what it's actually "worth", but you know what? I would have paid more if I had to!  I mean, LOOK at that cover! There's no such thing as a perfect comic cover, but in my opinion, this one comes pretty close.  They certainly don't make 'em like this anymore. Let's get inside. . .

Never let it be said that Golden Age comics don't deliver their money's worth!  For a single lousy dime we get three full comic stories, a short text story, a single page article on different saddle styles. . .

AND a very nice piece of full back cover art to go along with the awesome cover up front. . .

That's a good chunk of comic for ten cents! Let's take a look at all this stuff in here.

SCRIPT: Fran Striker 
PENCILS: Charles Flanders 

The Lone Ranger and Tonto come to the aid of a wealthy banker in San Francisco whose daughter has fallen into the clutches of a notorious seafaring criminal named Shark Dawson.  After reading the ransom note, The Ranger decides to pay a visit to Dawson's known criminal confederate, Stingaree, owner of a dangerous dockside tavern where men commonly go missing. . .shanghaied for the crews of Dawson's ships.

Donning what is possibly the world's worst disguise, The Ranger allows himself to be knocked out and captured by Stingaree, then delivered to Dawson's ship as a kidnapped crew member. 

Nobody will suspect a thing!

In the meantime, after The Ranger has been taken to Dawson's ship, Tonto rushes into Stingaree's bar and informs him that the Lone Ranger has been taken aboard in disguise, sent by the banker to rescue his daughter!  Stingaree panics and rushes with all his men to Dawson's anchored ship to warn the Captain and try to find the disguised Ranger.  Tonto ambushes one of Stingaree's men, disguises himself, and rows out to Dawson's ship among the rest of the thugs, unnoticed.

Aboard the ship, as Stingaree's gang search for the Ranger, he and Tonto rendezvous and make their way to the Captain's cabin where the banker's daughter is being held.  They subdue the guards and then Captain Dawson himself.  As The Ranger, Tonto, and the banker's daughter make their escape in the darkness, The Ranger decides that now the banker's daughter is safe, he's also going to rescue the kidnapped crew members and take down Dawson's gang.

Tonto and The Ranger creep through the whole ship in the darkness, subduing any gang member they run across and sending any kidnapped crew to the waiting lifeboat with the banker's daughter.  When they are done, the only men left on Dawson's ship are Stingaree's gang. . .now themselves forced into service as Dawson makes his escape.  The Lone Ranger is satisfied with his good night's work.


Okay, not bad.  It's a pretty simple story at heart. . .The Lone Ranger vs. Pirates. . . and it's obviously written for a younger audience, but there's nothing wrong with that.  I just have to try and look at it from the point of view of who it was written for instead of as a modern reader.  Coming from that direction, this story combines two things kids love. . .Cowboys and Pirates! I'm thinking that for the 1950's kid who spent their dime, this is a great, action-packed story that shows the Lone Ranger and Tonto in a bit of an unusual setting. For a modern reader, maybe not so great.

The Ranger's "disguise" is unintentionally hilarious, and the ending is confusing (He lets them all escape, being satisfied with the "poetic justice" of the kidnappers becoming the crew instead of taking them in to the law).  But with a bit of research, I've learned that with the Lone Ranger there were certain specific guidelines for the character. . .such as his NEVER taking off the mask. . .that writers had to work around.  So I can look past some of the odd things in this story knowing that.  Other readers might not be able to.

As far as the art goes, it's surprisingly good.  It has a very cartoony style that is pretty appealing to the eye.  Backgrounds are a bit sparse, but that's to be expected from a story that originated in a daily comic strip.  What really surprised me was that the coloring was actually good here.  I've found the coloring to be a pretty common problem with older comics. . .usually very sloppy or garish or both.  Here it's not bad at all.  So overall, no problems with the art.

All in all, a pretty good story.   For a modern reader, there's a few things that are a bit clunky, but for the kids this was written for, it's a story full of action and adventure that brings the Lone Ranger and Tonto out of their usual setting for a little bit of Pirate Punchin' on the high seas! 


SCRIPT: Fran Striker
PENCILS: Charles Flanders

Thunder Martin is a giant of a man, and a menace to a small town.  Unfortunately, the local sheriff doesn't have enough evidence to make any charges stick. The Lone Ranger decides it's time to put him out of commission.

First, he brings Thunder in to the Sheriff on charges of property destruction.  The Sheriff tells the Ranger that without Thunder's gang and some real charges, putting him in jail will only cause more trouble.  The Ranger confides that he's got a scheme in mind.

They enlist the help of the shortest man in town, Pee-Wee Grimes, and lock him in the same cell as Thunder Martin. . .handcuffing the two men together.  Later that night, The Ranger enlists the Sheriff's daughter to stage a jailbreak under the pretense of feeling sorry for Pee-Wee.

After the two men make their escape, Thunder heads straight for his hideout so that he can break the handcuffs keeping him leashed to Pee-Wee. . .who he plans to kill after breaking free, so that Pee-Wee won't reveal where Thunder's hideout and gang are.

Fortunately for Pee-Wee, The Lone Ranger, Tonto, and the Sheriff are following Thunder Martin unseen as he leads them to his hideout.  The lawmen make short work of Thunder's gang and recapture him. . .this time with stolen goods and Pee-Wee as a witness to his plan to kill him.

The next day in court, Thunder is sentenced to hang, but he manages to escape, intending to kill Pee-Wee Grimes for helping trick him and testifying against him.  The Ranger and Tonto catch wind of Thunder's escape and they head directly to Pee-Wee's ranch, where they manage to save him and recapture Thunder so he can hang the next morning.  All's well that ends well!


Okay. . .not bad.  Not quite as good as the first story, though.  The Lone Ranger's scheme seems to be needlessly complicated and he's actually using an innocent man as bait.  The Sheriff mentions this several times through the story, but the Ranger just sort of ignores his concerns.  In the end, the bad guy pays the price for his deeds, it's just how he gets there seems a little out of character for The Lone Ranger. It's actually sort of a dark story if you think about it.

I guess it's just me looking at the story from a modern reader's point of view.  From the point of view of a kid in the 50's reading this, I see a story of the Lone Ranger and Tonto tricking a rotten criminal into giving himself away.  Bad guy loses, Good guys win.  Simple as that.

As far as art goes, it's the same artist as the first story, so it has the same exaggerated cartoony look and sparse backgrounds.  More of this story takes place during the day, so the colors are a bit more garish than in the first story, but not so much as to ruin the art the way bad coloring tends to do in a lot of the older comics I've read.

Overall, not a bad little story.  Not quite as good as the first story and actually a little dark in the Ranger's casual use of an innocent man to trap a criminal, from a modern point of view.  From the point of view of who this story was written for, it's very simple and action-packed tale of good vs. bad.


SCRIPT: Gaylord Du Bois
PENCILS: Jon Small

Next up is a two page text story written by Gaylord Du Bois, a prolific comic writer (one of the most famous characters he created was Turok, Son of Stone) and the author of the original Lone Ranger novel, which is a great read that's ACTUALLY more of an origin story for the Ranger's horse (Silver) with the Ranger as more of a supporting character!  If you're looking for some great pulp western fiction, then definitely try to find a copy.  But let's see what THIS story is about. . .

A bullied young boy named Little Crow is taken in by the great chief, Walking Tree, who teaches him the ways of life and being a man.  Little Crow's journey to becoming a great warrior under the guidance of Walking Tree comes to its best moment when the young man risks his own life to save a friend from a bear.

Truthfully, this was my favorite part of this comic.  I'd venture a guess that for the audience this comic was written for (young boys in the 1950's), this was probably the LEAST favorite part of the package, but to my modern eye Du Bois' punchy and descriptive prose is a great example of pulp fiction writing. . .even better for managing to tell a good story in an extremely limited space.  Reading this makes me want to get  my copy of the original Lone Ranger novel off the shelf and read it again!


SCRIPT: Gaylord Du Bois
PENCILS: Jon Small

We join Young Hawk and his brother, Little Buck, on a journey in progress along the Mississippi river shortly after losing their canoe during a bear attack (this story was a continuing Lone Ranger back-up starting with issue #11).

They find a new canoe with dead braves in it, letting them know that there are hostile tribes nearby.  After taking the canoe for themselves, the brothers are caught in a raging storm, where they see a herd of buffalo scattered, picked up, and thrown around by a tornado.

Several days after escaping the tornado, Young Hawk and Little Buck are pursued by hostile warriors. The brothers are forced to hide on the river bank after Young Hawk is wounded by an arrow.  They finally manage to escape under cover of darkness.

Days later, Young Hawk spots a plump turkey on shore.  He decides to go hunt it because the brothers are tired of eating fish.  As he prepares to take a shot on the turkey with his bow, Young Hawk hears a rattlesnake and sees a stranger about to be bitten!  Little Hawk kills the snake and saves the stranger, but loses the turkey in the process.  

The stranger introduces himself as Eagle Wing, a Chickasaw.  He declares his life to be in debt to Young Hawk and Little Buck, naming them as friends of his tribe and welcome at their camp.


Hmmmmmm. . .okay.

I did a review of  Dell's Four Color #656 from 1955 featuring the second appearance of Turok, Son of Stone, and also written by Gaylord Du Bois, at the beginning of this little series of looking at some of the older comics in my collection (You can read the entry HERE ).  

I wasn't a big fan of the writing because it seemed less like an actual story and more like a series of "They went here and did this.  Later, they went there and did that." vignettes.  This story suffers from exactly the same thing.  You can see from the summary that it's basically three unrelated events hanging on the framework of two brothers going down a river.  They aren't presented in any especially exciting way. . .more of a "This happened.  That happened" sort of almost documentary style.

Of course, looking at it from the point of view of the kid it was written for, you have the journey of two young boys on their own without any adults and facing the dangers of the wilderness, using their meager resources and wits to prevail.  Coming at it from that direction, it's not a bad little story.

Unfortunately, when I look back just a few pages and see Du Bois writing a pulpy, descriptive narrative in the sparse confines of ONE page front and back, and then seeing a comic story that doesn't even look like the same person wrote it, I realize that Du Bois may have been a prolific comic scripter that deserves a place in comic book history, but in MY extremely humble opinion, he's obviously a much better prose author.

The art changes with this story to a more darkly-inked and realistic style, with more detailed backgrounds.  It's not bad.  Probably better than the first two stories from a technical point, but for some reason it's just not as interesting as the other art style.  I can't even really put my finger on why.  Like I said, it's not bad at all.  It's just sort of. . .there.  It does a good job of telling the story, but doesn't try too hard to do anything else.

Overall, this story sort of fell flat for me.  It's not BAD, but it suffers from an extremely straightforward and documentary style of storytelling that probably didn't matter much to the kids this was originally written for, but I find it hard to ignore as a modern reader.  Don't get me wrong, I've read MUCH worse when it comes to Golden/Silver Age comics.  It's just that the scripting is a little too dry for something featuring buffalo getting thrown around by a tornado.

One of the things I like best about these Longbox Junk "Retro Reviews" is that it gives me an opportunity to educate myself a little bit while writing the review.  A lot of what I look up never makes it into the review itself, beyond maybe a little mention (Like the specific requirement that the Lone Ranger NEVER remove his mask, I tossed out above), but I wouldn't have any other reason to look up someone like Gaylord Du Bois or Ernest Nordli (my best guess for cover artist) otherwise.  

So when I write one of these reviews, one of the MOST common things I learn is that there really isn't that much information out there on many older comics.  So the opportunity to educate myself comes circling back around as I reveal what's under the cover of the comic for others who may be looking for information. 

Good or bad, when I write what will probably be the one and only review of the contents of an older comic like the one at hand, I get a nice feeling of satisfaction that I've contributed a little something to the general comic knowledge out there.  I'm not trying to blow my own horn here or make a review of a Lone Ranger comic more than it is.  I'm just saying that if you happen to come across this review while doing a Google search for information, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.


As for the comic itself.  It's pretty good.  It's not the greatest comic I've ever read, but for something written for young boys in 1951, it holds up pretty well to a modern reading.  The first story gives us the Lone Ranger and Tonto out of their usual backdrop of dusty western towns and fighting pirates on the high seas.  The second story is extremely simple in nature, but has a somewhat strange layer of darkness underneath it when viewed through a modern lens.  The third story is lacking in excitement, but is still pretty interesting.  And the text backup is an unexpected little gem of pulp western writing.

If you're a fan of The Lone Ranger or early western comics in general, you'll definitely get more mileage out of this than other readers.   You won't find it in the bargain bin, and it doesn't look like it's ever been reprinted or collected, but if you should spot this at a reasonable price, I say go for it! It will make a very nice addition to any collection including western comics.

Up Next. . .

I think I have time for another couple of Retro Reviews before I turn my attention to some Halloween fun in October!  I picked up a copy of She-Hulk #1 last year that I haven't read yet.  I think it's time to fix that.

Be there or be square!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Longbox Junk Retro Review - Targitt #1 (1975)

 Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find comic reviews nobody ever asked for!

Sorry for a bit of delay.  The challenges of trying to run a hotel on a skeleton crew while having typical summer tourist sellout guest traffic aren't what most people would call "fun".  It's made worse because at the same time people are getting out and about on their normal summertime travels, we're having a hard time hiring new employees because our government has decided that, for some strange reason, it's a GREAT idea to pay people more to sit home on unemployment than to come back to work full time.  


I've decided to step outside of my usual bargain bin fare for a little while and take a look at some comics in my collection a little more on the older and maybe more "collectible" side of things.  Retro Reviews of comics from before 1986 (Nods to the fine folks of Old Guys Who Like Old Comics) is what I'm talkin' about.

The comic at hand today is one of the very short-lived (and by that I mean abruptly cancelled and unfinished after 3 issues) titles put out by short-lived publisher Atlas Comics (AKA Atlas/Seaboard).  I'm not sure if three issues is even enough to call a title a "series", but here we are.

The sad tale of Atlas/Seaboard comics is an interesting one that I'm not going to delve TOO deeply into, but the gist of it is that the company was the brainchild of Marvel Comics founder Martin Goodman and was a pioneer in creator rights, allowing the return of artwork to artists, paying some of the highest rates in the industry, and allowing retention of rights for new characters created.

Unfortunately, internal fighting and a comic industry that just wasn't ready for their business model sunk Atlas/Seaboard fast. . .they lasted less than a year and put out less than 100 total issues.  Of their 23 titles, none of them lasted more than 4 issues.  Many of them only lasted for a single issue.

Like I said, I'm not going to delve too deeply into the publisher, but the tale of Atlas/ Seaboard is well worth looking up if you're interested in some of the behind the scenes drama of the comic world.  

Probably the most interesting thing to ME about Atlas/Seaboard is that, even though they folded very quickly and put out very few issues, they are STILL remembered with a certain fondness.  The whole line in general seems to be pretty collectible, which is surprising for a bunch of unfinished stories put out by a company that didn't even last a year.

I'm not so sure if this particular title is remembered as fondly as some of the others.  When doing my bits of research, I saw it's rarely even mentioned, which is why I picked it from among the handful of Atlas/Seaboard comics I own for this review that nobody asked me to do.   

SO. . .

Let's set the Longbox Junk Paper Time Machine for 1975 and take a peek at this practically-forgotten Bronze Age relic, shall we?  We shall!


ATLAS (Seaboard) COMICS (1975)

SCRIPT: Ric Meyers
PENCILS: Howard Nostrand
COVER: Dick Giordano

Hmmm. . .not bad.  Not great, mind you, but nicely-done.  It delivers the message that this isn't a superhero book, and I dig the whole 70's-Tastic vibe of it.  I like the tilted perspective and the colors quite a bit.  It's not the best cover in my collection, but it's a solid example of a Bronze Age comic rack eye-catcher.  Let's get inside!

Our tale begins at an airport, where Special F.B.I. Agent John Targitt says goodbye to his wife and daughter as they leave on a trip to his mother-in-law's.  Unfortunately, it's the last time he'll ever talk to them, because moments later the plane explodes after taking off!

Rushing to the burning wreckage, Targitt finds a newspaper from Boston.  Shortly afterwards, his boss, Carl, and partner, Jackie arrive and tell John that Mob Boss Bert Manetti was also on the plane and was the target of the bomb.  Over their protests that he not, Targitt informs them that he is headed to Boston to find who killed his family.

Later, in Boston as Targitt arrives at the airport, he is attacked by a mysterious man.  He's no match for the highly-trained Targitt and is wounded, then interrogated by the F.B.I agent.  Targitt gains a lead directing him to a Boston University dorm room. . .

That night, at the University dorm, Targitt is taken by surprise by a man laying in wait for him. . .a man Targitt realizes he recognizes from the airport just before the plane carrying his family exploded! 

Thinking he has Targitt dead to rights, he tells the F.B.I. agent that he killed Manetti because he wanted to take over the Boston drug trade.  A fight between the two breaks out, but before it can be resolved, the alarm is raised and Targitt is forced to make his escape. . .

Later, Targitt encounters three well-known mob hit men following him.  A fight breaks out in the street and Targitt is surprised to find his F.B.I. boss is ALSO following him.  Targitt easily dispatches the would-be assassins, but is brought to the Boston F.B.I. field office to explain himself. . .

At the field office, John is interrogated by his boss, Carl, about his actions.  Despite the grilling, Targitt remains cool under pressure and refuses a direct order to return to Los Angeles and give up on his crusade to bring the killers of his family to justice. . .

Later that night, Targitt returns to the Boston University dorm room to continue his "conversation" with the man who claimed to have been the one who planted the bomb that blew up the plane with John's family on it.  He is ambushed by one of the hit men he escaped earlier that day, who has already killed the man john wanted to talk to.  

Before the hit man can shoot John, he is shot from behind by Targitt's L.A. partner, Jackie.  A heartfelt discussion between the two reveals that John is planning to ambush a drug delivery that very night.

That night, Targitt is staking out the harbor in a rowboat.  He follows the sound of a submersible scooter to a freighter. . .the mob is using submersibles to transfer drugs and money into a hidden airlock below the freighter's waterline so as to not attract attention above.  

Now he knows where the drugs and money are, Targitt goes on the attack!  He stalks the deck of the freighter, gunning down any mob goons that cross his path.  Two of them attempt to flee the carnage with the money in a helicopter, but Targitt grabs a machine gun and shoots them down. . .

In the aftermath of the battle, Targitt finds the briefcase full of money, dropped from the helicopter as it crashed.  He dumps the money into the water without a second thought.  He has a darker purpose, and money isn't a part of it.

The End.


Allrighty then! Let's break it on down.

What we have here is basically The Executioner by way of Dirty Harry, watered down for comics.  

For those who haven't read any of them, The Executioner books were a long-running series started in 1966 by Don Pendleton (and a bunch of ghost writers) following the grim adventures of Mack Bolan, a soldier whose family were killed by the mob.  There's a VERY clear Executioner influence here.  

Fans of Clint Eastwood's no-nonsense, rule-breaking cop "Dirty" Harry Callahan will also see pretty obvious story beats. . .especially in the scene where he's being berated by his F.B.I. boss.  Frankly, I was expecting a mouthwash joke, and was a little disappointed they left it out.

Unfortunately, what COULD have been a pretty great mashup of pulpy neo-noir influences just really isn't that interesting.  Once I realized where the writer was going with this, I WANTED it to be great. . .but at the end of the day it's just okay.  

The story just doesn't have the sort of "zing" you'd expect from something influenced so heavily by Mack Bolan and Dirty Harry.  Sure, there's action and violence here. . .some of it pretty graphic for a code-approved comic, even.  But the scenes feel disconnected and just sort of flat.  The story follows a ruler straight "He went here and did this, and then he went here and did this." path from page one to page last.  

The final scene where he throws the money in the water is really the only really interesting character moment in the whole thing.  If the whole story had such a dark, pulpy tone as the ending, this would have been a great little hidden Longbox Junk gem, but as it stands it's pretty forgettable.

As far as the art goes. . .it's a little schizophrenic.  It switches between cartoony and exaggerated to dark and gritty from page to page.  Overall, it's not BAD, it just seems that the artist couldn't decide on the tone he wanted.


Well, not every comic can be a winner.  

I wouldn't go so far as to say this is BAD, it's not bad.  It's okay. . . but it could have been a lot better than what we got.  I guess the publishers felt the same way because in the next issue, Targitt becomes an agent for a secret F.B.I. division and is issued a bulletproof superhero suit and new identity as "Manstalker" for a very short-lived career (2 issues) as a costumed hero.

The story had all the right violent, pulpy, neo-noir influences to have been something pretty interesting, but I guess watering them down for a code-approved comic just didn't work out.  I like that Atlas/ Seaboard was trying to step outside the superhero genre with Targitt, so credit where credit is due for trying to do something a little different, but at the end of the day this is a pretty forgettable comic.

Up Next. . .

I don't think I'm quite done with the Retro Reviews just yet!

So many comics to choose from.  I'll have to ponder what's next.  Suggestions are welcome!

Be there or be square.