Posts tagged ‘Len Wein’

Action 519 – Superman doesn’t trust the alien, and Aquaman learns his mother’s plans


Superman deals with an alien beast and its hunter in Action 519 (May 1981).


Conway, Swan and Chiaramonte helm this tale.  Superman gets alerted about signals of approaching aliens.  One has come intentionally, to stop a intergalactic beast that stopped here first.


Superman has his doubts, even when the beast shows up, in the Grand Canyon.


It’s a rare story, in which Superman is wrong.  The hunter is exactly who he claimed to be, simply here to defeat the monster.


Aquaman’s origin, and that of Atlantis, are retold in a different light in this story, by deMatteis, Len Wein and Heck.


Poseidon claims to be Aquaman’s human father, and explains his story to his son and Cal Durham.  Atlanna is given a sister, and her period on land, and the birth of Aquaman, are placed shortly after the city’s sinking, in contravention of every other version of this tale.  Atlanna has used Atlantean tech to turn her supposedly dead husband into Poseidon, as well as creating robots of Aquaman’s various enemies.  She is portrayed as murderously insane.


Ocean Master consistently refers to Atlanna as his mother through this storyline, which is very odd.  He has always, to this point, been the son of Aquaman’s father and a human woman.

The story concludes in the next issue.


Action 432 – Two Toymen, and the Human Target ends


Bates, Swan and Anderson bring back the Toyman, and introduce a new one, in Action 432 (Feb. 74).


The new Toyman is not given a name, nor is shown out of his mask and costume.  Clearly younger, and thinner, than the original, he begins his crime spree in a big way, signing his destruction of an airplane.


He uses exploding bubble gum to divert Superman, and make his escape.  Perhaps because of this, he makes me think of the Trickster, more than the Toyman.


But Toyman is the name he chose, and Winslow Schott is none too pleased about that.  Schott has reformed.  Indeed, the character had not been seen since 1962, except for a cameo in a World’s Finest story in 1966, in which he was shown in prison.  But Schott gets out his Toyman outfit, to teach the newcomer a thing or two.


The original confronts the replacement, and takes him down in very little time, giving him a choice.  Partnership, or death.


So the two Toymen work together to pull off a theft.  The newbie betrays the old, but he is late in the game.  Schott had been in touch with Superman before he ever found his successor, working with him to take the new Toyman out of action.

Both versions return within the next couple of years.


The Human Target has his last outing in Action Comics in this story, by Wein and Giordano.


He takes the place of a reclusive oil baron,who has a taste for living young, and with a young girl.  Though Chance is suspicious, the girlfriend is faithful, and the wanna-be killer has no connection to her.

The Human Target returns in a few years, as a back-up series in the Brave and the Bold.  The ad for that run would use the panel above, which shows Chance running through the oil field while being shot at.


Action 426 – the evils of moon rocks, Green Arrow does the books, and the Human Target at Niagara Falls


Action 426 (Aug. 73)also contains three stories, and seems to feature a generic cover, but in fact it does occur during the course of Bates, Swan and Anderson’s story.


The plane crash is one of a number of disasters taking place, as well as thefts of moon rocks.  This story sees the first appearance of Steve Lombard in this book. He had recently been introduced in Superman, the obnoxious prankster jock sportscaster.


The moon rocks are being gathered by members of a cult, whose leader blames the disasters, as well as war and poverty and crappy weather, on the contaminating presence of these alien rocks on Earth.


The leader is actually Terra-Man, also recently introduced in Superman and making his first appearance in this book.  A human raised by an alien, Terra-Man uses advanced weaponry disguised as western gear in his battles with Superman.  The moon rocks are used to charge a gun, which Superman is meant to fire a destructive blast with, but he just throws it into the Earth’s core.

Not one of the better Terra-Man appearances.  It lacks his flying horse!


Green Arrow’s story, by Maggin, Dillin and Giordano, once again keeps Dinah Lance out of costume, and in girlfriend mode.


Oliver spots an out of business delivery service making a drop-off. Intrigued, he stumbles upon a plot to steal a young heir’s fortune, which he can totally relate to.


He catches the bad guys, and helps the young man balance his books and get a grip on his finances, as well as taking some commissions for Dinah.  I do enjoy their conversation in the final scene, as Oliver babbles about his new arrow, and Dinah discovers the orders.


Wein and Giordano conclude the Human Target’s story from last issue, as he faces down and defeats the angry aerialist he has been hired to impersonate.


The actual murder attempt happens as he is walking the tightrope over Niagara Falls, and the rope goes slack.  Christopher survives, he was being held up by ropes from the helicopter.  The manager was the only one with access to the tightrope, so that solves that.

Action 425 – Superman vs a moa, the Atom begins, and the Human Target at the circus


A really great, if generic, cover for Action 425 (July 1973), the first of two consecutive issues to contain three stories, instead of what had become the normal two.


Cary Bates and Curt Swan are joined by Frank Giacoia on this odd little tale, in which a man finds and kills the last moa on Earth.


The man seeks out and finds the moa’s egg, and brings it back to Metropolis with him.  He falls deathly ill, and the egg hatches a super-powered moa, which gives Superman a lot of trouble.

He traces the location of the egg, and finds a contaminated swamp, which gave the moa its powers, and also caused the man’s disease.  Though with the knowledge of its source, it can be cured.  Superman builds a special reserve for super-moa, which lives out its life in unpublished obscurity.


The Atom’s rotating series begins here, moving from Detective Comics, with a story by Maggin and Dillin.


Jean Loring is defending a client who insists he was framed for a gold theft by the thirteen men from Zurich who secretly rule the world.  That is to say, the International Jewish Conspiracy, but the story neatly avoids that racial element.  Jean doesn’t quite know what to do with her honest but clearly deluded client.  The Atom investigates, and discovers organized crime behind the theft, using the man’s conspiracy theory as a decoy.


The ending is, in retrospect, somewhat cruel, as Ray Palmer denies any sort of rational explanation for his disappearance at a critical moment (when he switched to the Atom).  Jean Loring had only recently recovered from a bout with insanity.  Toying with her sense of reality was not wise of Ray.


Of the three stories in this issue, the Human Target is the only one to be the opening chapter of a two-parter, by Wein, Neal Adams, and Giordano.


Chance is hired to impersonate a high wire walker, after a series of accidents at the circus.  The man absolutely does not want Chance to impersonate him, but his manager insists.


The cliffhanger sees the Human Target facing off against the man he is supposed to be, rather than the one trying to kill him.

Action 423 – Luthor’s hammer of hate, and the Human Target finds his father’s killer


Bates, Swan and Anderson give Luthor one of his most inventive attacks on Superman in Action 423 (April 1973).


The story opens on a humourous note, as Morgan Edge orders Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen to take acting classes, to improve their ability to emote on camera.


Luthor has realized that his obsessive hate is actually a detriment, that it stops him acting rationally as he tries to kill the man he blames for causing his hair loss as a child.  So he invents a hammer, which absorbs all his hatred for Superman.


And he shoots Superman with the hammer.  It looks silly and harmless.  But it isn’t.  It transfers the insane hatred to Superman, which makes him act violent and impulsive.


He even has an outburst on television as Clark, to Morgan Edge’s dismay.


Superman transfers the hate into a robotic hand. Luthor is so mad about this he acts impulsively, and is caught.


Len Wein and Dick Giordano conclude the origin of the Human Target in this story.


Disguised as the bookkeeper with a contract on him, he follows the trail backwards, to get to the man who killed his father, and who tried to kill the bookkeeper.


He finds and confronts the man, now quite old, who collapses as a whimpering shadow of himself.  It’s a strong ending, as Christopher Chance consoles the desperate man, rather than killing him.


Action 422 – Superman vs blood cells, and the origin of the Human Target


A neat cover for Action 422 (March 1973), and the boy is the main character of the story by Bates, Swan and Anderson, a boy born with an extreme illness that keeps him isolated as he grows up.


The boy is addicted to a sci-fi television show that resembles The Fugitive. One of the characters is even named Rolf Kimb.  The main actor is being written out, as the one who has been chasing him will be the lead from now on.  The boy is terribly upset, and leaves his room to help the hero.  The boy has issues telling reality from fantasy.


Also upset is the actor being fired.  He has already tried to kill his co-star, and takes advantage of the boy’s gullibility to convince the boy to murder his replacement.


Superman has been all tied up dealing with white blood cell monsters, which grow from every drop of blood the boy spills.  But he makes it to the hospital in time, following the monster trail.


Wein and Giordano begin a 2-part Human Target story, which gives the origin and background of the character.


Chance is approached by a mob bookkeeper, whose life is in danger now that he has gone to the police.  He describes the man who has tried to kill him, which prompts Christopher to flash back to his father’s loan shark debt.


The man who killed his father had a scar identical to the one described by the bookkeeper.  Christopher Chance had offered to die in the place of his father, but the man just laughed and killed his dad in front of him.  Reminds me of the Batman origin.


And like the Batman origin, Christopher makes a vow over his father’s corpse, and grows up training to be the crime fighter he is now.

He takes the case, even though the bookkeeper cannot afford to pay him.

The story concludes next issue.


Action 420 – Superman rescues Clark Kent, and the Human Target helps a hunter


Elliot S Maggin joins Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson for a diverting little tale in Action 420 (Jan. 73), which introduces a new supporting character for the Superman books, quite by the wayside.


Johnny Nevada is introduced in this story, a popular talk show host, based on Johnny Carson. (as in, Carson City, Nevada).  But he is not really featured at all.  More important in this tale is a young man who is trying to book Superman as a guest on the show, in order to secure a job with him.


Chaos is added to the mix by an interstellar bard, Towbee, who creates a magical monster for Superman to battle, so that he can compose a song about it.  He also creates a Clark Kent, to make things easier.


So there is no real villain in this story, but it remains entertaining.


The man manages to book both Superman and Clark Kent for the Johnny Nevada show, securing his job (though we never see him again).  Superman sends the fake Clark back to Towbee after the taping.


Some excellent art on this month’s Human Target story, by Wein and Giordano.  Christopher Chance is hired to impersonate a big game hunter whose life has been threatened.  Despite not liking the man at all, Chance takes the contract. We get to see Luigi again, this time in the restaurant that he runs.


The hunter winds up killing the person he hired Chance to protect him from, but Christopher suspicions are aroused.  Sure enough, the man was already dead.  Chance had been hired to be an unwitting alibi for a murder, not a Human Target at all.  He is more than happy to take down the murderous hunter.

Action 419 – Superman on dangerous ground, and the Human Target debuts


I don’t usually care for covers that blend photos and drawings, they rarely work.  But Action 419 (Dec. 72) is one of the rare exceptions, and one of my favourite blends of the two.


Bates, Swan and Anderson tell this story, which deals with a hobo who finds glowing shoes, which endow him with superhuman energy.


While Superman finds that when he touches the ground he causes explosive bubbles to appear.  The two are related, both effects of a satellite compromised by “cosmic dust”.


Superman spends the issue in the air, which is more problematic as Clark than as Superman.


Christopher Chance, the Human Target, makes his debut in this story by Len Wein, Carmine Infantino and Dick Giordano.


Chance is called the Human Target because,for a price, he will take on the identity of someone who is in danger of being murdered, to smoke out and capture the killer.  He has a helper, Luigi, although the man just cameos briefly in this story.  This tale also spends very little time on Chance’s transformation into the chemical tycoon whose place he takes.


This first story has a train setting, which is always fun for tight adventure, and Giodrano makes Infantino’s art work well.


The Human Target would be the sole back-up series for a couple of months, and then join a rotation with a couple of other features.




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