Tags Matching: Charlton Comics

Scary Stuff

Are horror comics scary? Probably not, unless you’re six-years-old. But they can occasionally get creepy and are almost always fun. It’s getting hard to compete with interactive media like video games that can provide actual jump-out-of-your-seat moments, but horror comics soldier on. In honor of the holiday, here’s a random selection of reasonably-priced terrifying comic auctions.

Old stuff is incapable of being scary (stop lying, classic horror fans) but it is capable of being cool as hell.

This is a little more like it. Still not scary, but starting to get disturbing at least.

Man, I don’t even know how to explain this garbage. Who wants this? It’s not gross, it’s not scary, it’s not cool, it’s just turd. And this was from 1981! Kids were smoking crack by then, how is this supposed to thrill anyone? Misstep, DC.

Bruce Jones really hits the spot for wonderfully clever but intrinsically throwaway horror shorts. This series did everything right. Buy all these today. Highest recommendation.

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Coast to Coast with the Blue Beetle.

One of the things most people don’t know or realize about the Blue Beetle, is that the character is actually really old. Like pre World War 2 old. Batman only predates him by a whooping 3 months, though as originally created, the Blue Beetle was almost definitely one of many Bat-copies from the time period.

Originally published by Fox Comics, Dan Garrett was a police man (with requisite murdered parent) who became a costumed crime fighter. Much like the original Green Arrow, he was a straight Bat-copy; driving a Beetle-mobile, flying a Beetle-Bird plane, and carrying a Beetle signal to strike fear into the hearts of criminals (and like the original Batman, he also carried a gun). But he also had a pill called vitamin 2X, that would temporarily give him super powers should he need them for a case.

For a character we now think of as strictly B list, the original Blue Beetle actually got a lot of press. I don’t know how popular the character actually was, but he was popular enough to not only get a newspaper strip, but to get a half year run as a national radio show in 1940. The original comic ran until 1950. 14 years later, Charlton Comics now held the rights, and brought the character back in his own title, though in a much less serious vein.

Yeah. From smashing spy rings and arresting criminals to fighting giant mummies (who aren’t dead). Still, that is what was going on with superhero comics at the time, so you can’t really blame them. While still superficially the same, the character received a completely revamped origin, going from policeman with murdered father to archaeologist who found an ancient scarab that would give him superpowers. This version of the Beetle lasted a mere 2 years, before he was replaced with the original version that most of us who grew up on comics in the 80s and 90s are now familiar with.

Brought to life by comics legend Steve Ditko, the Ted Kord Blue Beetle is the one most modern fans know and love. This Blue Beetle took aspects of both versions of the Dan Garrett Beetle, and combined with a dash of Ditko’s best known creation: Spider Man. A wise cracking genius type, Kord was a student of Dan Garrett, and inherited the mantle when Garrett died fighting Kord’s maniac robot building uncle (don’t ask). Unlike the Garrett Blue Beetle however, Kord’s Beetle never utilized the mystic powers of the scarab; Ditko preferred a more street level hero, so he simply had Kord never figure out how to make it work. Instead, he flew around in a giant Beetle shaped plane, and used a “BB gun” that shot blinding light and air blasts. DC kept this origin intact when they purchased the rights to the character in the 80s as part of their acquisition of the Charlton superheroes, though they did add a splash more of Batman back into the character by making him head of his own company, Kord Industries.

The DC Beetle’s solo series only lasted 2 years, and while a guilty pleasure of mine (I was a big fan of bad guys, and Beetle had some good ones, like Catalyst, a stereotypical poison super villain, and the Hybrid, X-men stand ins who were actually Teen Titans villains, but had a 2 issue spot in Blue Beetle where they turned one of Kord Industries employee’s into one of their number) was fun but relatively uneventful. It was only later that Ted Kord would gain greater fame in a more comedic vein as a member of the Keith Giffen era Justice League International, and then a few short years ago become infamous when DC kicked off it’s systematic destruction of that era by having former JLI figure head (and Sam Neil look alike) Max Lord shoot him in the head.

DC then proceeded to replace Ted with a new, scarab powered Blue Beetle with a futuristic robot look named Jamie Reyes, a Hispanic teenager. By all accounts it was a good book, that was canceled too soon, and the Reyes Beetle is arguably the best of DC’s many late 00’s politically correct replacements for classic B list characters (I will never accept Renee Montoya as The Question, sorry). But for me, the Ted Kord Blue Beetle is the version that stands out the best.

80 pages of Ted Kord being made relevant again, ending with his brains on the carpet. But hey, it’s autographed!

Cheap Charlton Comics.

What we have here are six Charlton Comics featuring the original version of Captain Atom, whose 1980s reboot I just wrote about, and the original version of the Ted Kord Blue Beetle, whose 1980s reboot I’m going to try and get to this weekend.

If you’re like me, and are into the idea of getting old comic books for cheap simply because you like the way old comic book cover art would look in a frame, or if you’re someone just looking to dip your big toe in the shallow end of comic collecting, then this is definitely worth trying for, even with the sellers warning that they would only get a low CGC grade.

After they blow him to bits… the adventure begins!

One of the things that kind of sucked being a kid in the mid 1980s was that a lot of the more serious turns many comic books took were kind of lost on a 10 year old me. Sure, I knew a comic like Suicide Squad was awesome, but it was awesome to me because it was super villains teaming up to do spy stuff, and holy crap they could DIE. The actual Cold War and political intrigue stuff was lost on me at the time. DC’s original Captain Atom reboot was cool to me in the same way. Sure, half the time I didn’t know what was going on, but the concept was AWESOME.

Originally published by Charlton Comics, Captain Atom’s only real claim to fame was that he was co-created by comics legend Steve Ditko (tho this was enough to make him one of Charlton’s most popular characters). He was just one of several nuclear powered superheroes that came out during the nuclear power years of the late 50s and 60s, and there wasn’t much to make him stick out. Just another scientist who gained super powers via an accident. It wasn’t until the Charlton Comics line was purchased by DC in the 80s that the character was taken in a direction that made him more interesting.

Dig that tag line. And DC made good on it too. The new Captain Atom was a Vietnam era Air Force captain and family man who had been unjustly accused of murder and treason, and forced to participate in a mysterious government experiment involving an alien alloy in order to gain a pardon. That experiment? GETTING BLOWN UP WITH AN ATOM BOMB. Tell me that’s not one of the coolest origins ever.

“So, how’d you get your superpowers?”
“Oh a spider bit me. How about you?”
“I volunteered to be blown up with an atom bomb.”

So yeah, the man agrees to be blown up with an atom bomb in order to at least clear his name for his family’s sake, only to merge with the alien alloy and get blown forward 18 years in time, where he finds that the jerk Colonel who forced him to be in the experiment had married his wife, raised his kids, and had him declared dead rather than issue his pardon. To add insult to injury, the government uses the old charges to force him to go to work as a government super hero under the command of a certain jerk General who once upon a time used to just be a jerk Colonel.

Sure, the Captain can now fly, and shoot energy blasts, and gets to run around mostly naked because he now looks like a shiny silver Ken doll, but he’s stuck being bossed around by the guy who got him blown up and married his wife (who’s now dead), his now grown kids hate his guts and don’t know he’s alive, and he has to pretend to be somebody else while getting used to 18 years of a changed world. Great, great concept for it’s time. A little bit of Quantum Leap, a hearty sci-fi tinged dose of the Rip Van Winkle archetype, a dash of soap opera, and of course some traditional superhero fisticuffs.

Despite a stint with the Justice League during the popular Giffen/DeMatteis era, the Captain never really got a chance to shine on his own again once his series was canceled in 1991, and quickly became nothing more than a go to big gun for when a big gun character was needed. Even worse, the character was recently shunted off into the Wild Storm universe, where he did pretty much nothing, then was brought back and shoe horned into a villain role during Countdown to Final Crisis, making good on the early 90s plans to reveal him to as Monarch, the big bad guy behind the Armageddon 2001 mini series (the plans had been scrapped when the idea leaked, and they changed the identity of Monarch to Hawk, from Hawk and Dove, at the last minute. Which of course made zero sense based on the story that had been told up until the reveal).

Nowadays, the Captain has been cured of his villainous tendencies (courtesy of some convenient amnesia) and is running around in some magical mystical castle world. Yeah, don’t ask me. You’d think a character that was the basis for Doctor Manhattan would get better treatment. Lord knows that jerk General is doing well. He had his mind put in the body of an invincible immortal giant (with tusks), and was last seen trying to stage a hostile take over of the Suicide Squad…

Poor Captain Atom. After all this time, his nemesis still has a more stable life than he does.

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