The first volume of The House of Mystery was a horror anthology. Kate the Devil Girl never made the cover The House of Mystery but was a back story that had a loyal following in the seventies and DC has collected her six appearances into a single volume. Kate the Devil Girl is a normal high school student until she finds a demonic wand that gives her various demonic powers including super strength, limited invulnerability and the ability to shoot magical flames from her hands. The catch is that every time she picks up her wand, she has evil impulses that become stronger and stronger and she is in danger of becoming a full blown demon and therefore also more powerful.
At the end of the adventure, Kate always resolves to never use the wand again but there is always some emergency that forces her to use the wand again. In her third appearance, the wand accidentally absorbs the life force of a Cambodian exchange student and the head of the wand can now talk and give her advice but mostly the wand urges Kate to figure out a way to return him to his human form. In the sixth and final appearance of Kate the Devil Girl the various plot lines that had developed were not resolved. Many people thought that Kate the Devil Girl would become a Vertigo title eventually. In this incarnation, the various loose plot lines of the original would be resolved but this never happened. Perhaps this reprint means new adventures of Kate the Devil Girl are possible in the future.
Alan Moore is one of the top comic book writers of all time. Alan Moore uses many specialized techniques to entertain the reader including superhero universe reboots but another technique he uses to make his stories especially engrossing is the novel use of point of view (POV) in his narrative. Moore uses alien POV, hallucinogenic POV, intelligent ethically ambiguous POV, stream of consciousness POV, and a story within a story POV in order to make his fiction more interesting.
Doctor Manhattan is Superman type character in the series Watchmen. Doctor Manhattan has the ability to see the past, present and the future at the same time. This is power 256 in my Superpower List (250+). Doctor Manhattan may have been human at one point but due to an accident became a being that is growing distant from humanity. Ozymandias on Doctor Manhattan, “If there’s one thing in this cosmos that that man isn’t capable of doing it’s having a political bias. Believe me… you have to meet him to understand. I mean, which do you prefer, red ants or black ants?” Doctor Manhattan can also make multiple versions of himself and does this for practical purposes but also because this is a point of view that he finds interesting. Doctor Manhattan can perceive subatomic particles that exist for nanoseconds. Doctor Manhattan has developed a nihilistic view of reality due to his superhuman perceptions that is shared by very few human beings but The Comedian is one of them (see Figure 1 below).
Figure 1- Watchmen #4 (of 12) – Page 20
Doctor Manhattan is so removed from the human POV that he almost does not intervene to save the world from WW III (see Figure 2)!below
Figure 2 – Watchmen #9 (of 12) – Page 11
And true love does not change his mind but instead he has some sort of eureka experience related to human individuality relative to probability (see Figure 3 below) and this insight causes him to try to stop WW III.
Figure 3 – Watchmen #9 (of 12) – Page 28
The Swamp Thing discovers in Swamp Thing, v2, #21, the first issue of this character that Alan Moore wrote, that he is actually a plant not a human and this knowledge causes him to change how he views humanity and temporarily flip out and commit his first murder. Alan Moore decides to turn a superhero that was a man with plant features into a plant period with a plant POV! This story is aptly titled “The Anatomy Lesson” and is a POV driven plot (see Figure 4 below).
Figure 4 – Swamp Thing V2 #21 – Page 13
Alan Moore decided a superhero even more removed from humanity would be more interesting. The Swamp Thing can also perceive and move through “The Green” which is some sort of dimension that contains the consciousness of all plant life. As a plant and later an elemental, the Swamp Thing sees the human struggle between good and evil in a larger transhuman context. Humans are one of many species and the welfare of humans at the expense of the environment is not acceptable.
In a two issue story arc, the story is told from the POV of an alien that happens to be an Earthling! In “Mysteries in Space”, Swamp Thing, v2, #57 and “Exiles” Swamp Thing, v2, #58, Adam Strange is the hero of planet Rann. The inhabitants are more advanced than Earthlings and have difficulty doing “primitive” things like fighting and procreating. Adam Strange has slowly become aware that the Rannians see him as an ape-man errand boy and the statute erected in his honor as the hero of Rann is a façade to flatter him into doing their bidding. There is plenty of action in the story but Adam Strange’s internal dialogue about he is perceived in the Rannians is actually more interesting. In the end his relatively, to Earthlings, Rannian girlfriend, Alanna Strange, is found to be pregnant and this is the first pregnancy in quite some time on Rann. The Earthling “alien” has done the “job” he was probably recruited and manipulated for in the first place (see Figure 5 below)!
Figure 5 – Swamp Thing V2 #58 – Page 23
Another story of Swamp Thing tells the story totally from the point of view of an alien! In “Loving the Alien”, Swamp Thing, v2, #60, an alien that is a planet made of biomechanical material is telling the story of her courtship of the Swamp Thing. I guess alien biomechanical planets have a hard time finding suitable mates and all prior attempts at failed and often caused the death of the potential mate. Swamp Thing tried to escape but she used a “chronofracture” which reverses time to get a second chance at catching the Swamp Thing and she has her way with him. She transfers all the information biological and otherwise into her reproductive system and voila little baby aliens that want to hear the story of their mothers courtship and mom wonders if dad would love his children if he had gotten to know them (see Figure 6 below)!
Figure 6 – Swamp Thing V2 #60 – Page 19
Miracleman is another Superman type character radically rebooted by Alan Moore who reflects on his superhuman condition has changed how he views the world. Even his “father” who is a genius by human standards cannot understand the perspective of Miracleman in the opinion of Miracleman (see Figure 7 below).
Figure 7 – Miracleman 07 #1440 – Page 16
Miracleman’s perceptions evolve and he recognizes his superhuman condition probably distances him from humanity and he sees this as a negative (see Figure 8 below).
Figure 8 – Miracleman 16 #1440 – Page 29
The Miracleman’s universe includes two alien empires including the Qys and the Warpsmiths. The Qys can change bodies the way we change clothes and this radically changes their sense of self. This ability changes the aesthetic of the Qys so radically that they are ruled by what to a human would seem like a giant monster (see Figure 9 below).
Figure 9 – Miracleman 13 #1440 – Page 5
The Warpsmiths have the power of teleportation and with this power also perceive time very differently than humans. There are hints that this power changes how they perceive the universe and their role in the universe (See Figure 10 below).
Figure 10 – A1 Ghost Dance Warpsmiths
For Alan Moore, superpowers are not just tools for fighting crime but create sensibilities that change POV radically. The daughter of Miracleman realizes that Miracleman’s perspective is too human for her growth and development as a superhuman and leaves her father to go live with the Qys despite being a newborn (see Figure 11 below).
Figure 11 – Miracleman 14 #1440 – Page 7
Skizz is a character that Alan Moore created for 2000 AD. Skizz resembles an E.T. the movie sort of alien and one biker actually refers to Skizz as being like E.T. in the movie. Skizz is an interpreter and not very formidable physically and we get to see Earth from the point of view of an alien that finds us barbaric (see Figure 12 below).
Figure 12 – Skizz – Page 14
More than any other comic book that I am familiar with, the story of Skizz revolves around the POV of an alien rather than relying on action for plot delivery.
In Swamp Thing v2, #32, “Pog”, Alan Moore treats us to an alien that in a manner similar to Skizz provides an alien point of view in which we are seen as barbarian but even more than that a savage planet. On the planet of Pog, even different species of animals coexist but in our planet a cartoonish crocodile will be eaten real crocodiles (see Figure 13 below).
Figure 13 – Swamp Thing V2 #32 – Page 17
There is a metafictional aspect to Pog since Moore is comparing two types of comic book universe not just aliens and Earthlings. The comic strip Pogo universe of Walt Kelly is being compared with the grittier Vertigo universe that Swamp Thing inhabits.
In Swamp Thing v2, #61, “All Flesh is Grass”, Swamp Thing meets a Green Lantern (Medphyll) on his alien home world in which plant life is sentient. The title “All Flesh is Grass” is from the Bible and refers to the transitory nature of existence. The story is told from the POV of Medphyll and the reader is treated to a description of an alien world of sentient plants and the art, religion and plant based architecture of the planet are described in detail. The Green Lantern oath reflects the plant POV of the ring bearer:
“In forest dark or glade beferned,
No blade of grass shall go unturned.
Let those that have the daylight spurned,
Tread not where this green lamp has burned.”
The Swamp Thing is the horror from the stars in this story and we are reminded that what is a hero or a monster is a matter of perspective. The Swamp Thing inhabits the form of Medphyll’s deceased and beloved teacher Jothra and the Swamp Thing and the reader are given a tour of this very interesting planet (See figure 14 below).
Figure 14 – Swamp Thing V2 #61 – Page 18
Aliens like Dr. Manhattan, the Swamp Thing, Miracleman, Skizz and Pog view the world in a radically different way that in turn change how they think. Super powers do not just let the character smash mountains but change how the characters perceive mountains and this is actually often more interesting.
In “Tygers”, Tales of the Green Lantern CorpsAnnual #2 (1986), a hyper rational Green Lantern, Abin Sur, fails to understand how a demon of the Empire of Tears, Qull of the Five Inversions, can use his perceptual abilities that combine clairvoyance, cunning and an understanding of mortal psychological weaknesses in order to create a death trap with words alone. Abin Sur feels protected by his scientific world view but in fact the supremely evil POV of the demon allows the demon to murder Abin Sur even though the demon is imprisoned and should be helpless (see Figure 17 below).
Figure 17 – “Tygers”, Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 – Page 12
In all three Green Lantern Corps stories, there are two aliens that have such radically different states of being that their POV makes mutual understanding difficult. The Green Lantern Corps are aliens. Moore realized the rich potential in exploring the alien side of the Green Lantern Corps rather than treating them like Earth based super humans that happen to look funny due to a third eye or some other cosmetic difference between the alien and us. The Green Lantern Corps stories are even more POV centric than the other superhero stories mentioned previously.
Alan Moore develops the Alien POV idea even further in the Omega Men series. The Omega Men are a team of extraterrestrial superheroes in a solar system other than that of Earth called the Vegan system. Alan Moore did two back stories for the series that take place in the Vegan system but do not involve the Omega Men directly. In “Brief Lives”, Omega Men #26, the Spider Guild, giant intelligent spiders, try to conquer giant aliens in the planet Ogyptu that live for millennia and move, think and perceive the world at a glacial pace, literally. The entire invasion by the Spider Guild over a thirty year period is barely perceived by the giants. The invasion fails because the POV of the giants is so radically different than that of the Spider Guild that the invasion cannot even be perceived and therefore cannot be successful (see figure 18 below).
In “A Man’s World”, Omega Men #27, a female xenobiologist, or possibly an anthropologist since she mentions the rules of inter-system anthropology, studies a tribe called the Culacaons that reproduce minus women. The female alien named Leelyo pays the ultimate price for not understanding the POV of the males in the tribe. After probably three rereads, the reader figures out that the males of the Culacaons stab giant snails and plant their babies into the giant snails. The reader can infer that the Culcaon male stabs
poor Leelyo and probably deposits the children in her body after stabbing with
her with his Gamugha stick. Apparently, the male tribesman sees the female alien not as a fellow humanoid but as more similar to the giant snails and deserving similar treatment. From the POV of the male Culacaon Leelyo is more like the giant snails than like him! This story is widely dismissed as a very poor story. However, if you reread the story then the horrible truth of the story becomes apparent and the true meaning of the title, “A Man’s World” becomes horrifyingly apparent (see Figure 19 below)!
Figure 19 – “A Mans World”, Omega Men #27 – Page 24
Swamp Thing was radically changed during his tenure under Alan Moore. The Alan Moore Swamp Thing has tubers growing from his body that more or less has the same effects as peyote. In “Rite of Spring”, Swamp Thing v2, #34, the Swamp Thing gives his girlfriend Abby Arcane a tuber in order to educate her about his perception of the Earth via The Green (see Figure 20 below).
Figure 20 – Swamp Thing V2 #34 – Page 12
In “The Return of the Good Gumbo”, Swamp Thing v2, #64, the Swamp Thing again gives his soon to be wife Abby Arcane a tuber to eat since nothing says love like hallucinogenic tubers. Abby is literally eating a part of her lover and has hallucinations that help her understand how the Swamp Thing perceives the world and they also have really good sex (see Figure 21 below)!
Figure 21 – Swamp Thing V2 #64 – Page 14
In “Windfall”, Swamp Thing v2, # 43 a hippie named Chester found a tuber lying around the swamp and brought it to Baton Rouge. Pieces of the tuber end up in a woman named Sandy painfully dying of cancer and she hallucinates a luminous body free of pain and is transported to a radiant heaven like garden in which she dies in the arms of her husband (see Figure 22 below).
Figure 22 – Swamp Thing V2 #43 – Page 19
A sleazy drug pusher named Milo has a really bad trip and hallucinates some of the very ugly and evil villains the Swamp Thing has encountered. The tubers as parts of the Swamp Thing apparently contain the memories of the Swamp Thing at some level (see Figure 23 below).
Figure 23 – Swamp Thing V2 #43 – Page 18
When Chester finds out what happened to Sandy and Milo he theorizes that the tubers bring out what is in your as a person. Good people have good trips. Bad people have bad trips. Chester ponders whether or not to take what is left of the tuber and decides not to.
In V is for Vendetta, the lead detective, Eric Finch takes LSD at the shut down concentration camp Larkhill. The psychedelic imagery used is disturbing and unnerves the reader. Finch hallucinates the naked torsos of a man and a woman perched on barbed wire (see Figure 24 below).
Figure 24 – V For Vendetta #9 – Page 4
Finch hallucinates wearing the striped garb of a prisoner. Finch has a hallucination about a crowd of black people, presumably killed at the camp and they are friendly towards him but ultimately move away from him and disappear into a wall. Finch is then transported in to his middle class house but this is also a hallucination. Finally, Finch takes off all his clothes and experiences freedom from social constraints in the center of Stonehenge. Stonehenge may or may not be a hallucination. Eric Finch is using the LSD experience to help him understand how V thinks and to some extent succeeds. V is an anarchist and Finch does develop an understanding of freedom that helps him in turn understand V.
In DC Comics Presents#85: “Superman/Swamp Thing: The Jungle Line”. Superman is hallucinating due to an infection by a Kryptonian fungus and has flash backs about Krypton that reveal a great deal to the reader about how Superman handles his Kryptonian heritage. Swamp Thing is perceived as an enemy due to the hallucinations and is almost destroyed. Some of the more interesting hallucinations Superman has are talking with his empty Clark Kent clothes and the empty suit explains to Superman that he is dying and furthermore that he is nothing special. Superman seems to suffer from Survivor guilt which manifests in his hallucinations (see Figure 25 below).
Figure 25 – DC Comics Presents #85 – Page 13
Swamp Thing can enter the hallucinatory world of Superman because this world is in part generated by a “plant”, strictly speaking a fungus is not a plant, and the Swamp Thing takes Superman into “The Green” which breaks contact with the scarlet jungle of the fungus Superman was dying in. In this plant dimension the Swamp Thing soothes Superman so he can sleep and this allows Superman to recover.
A large alien plant called the Black Mercy has Superman trapped in a coherent hallucinated world on the planet Krypton and this is supposed to be his deepest desire. This is the Krypton that would have happened if Krypton had not blown up. Superman has never been Superman and has a Kryptonian brother and a niece. This alternate world is supposed to be what the person really wants but soon turns ugly due to Kryptonian xenophobia and presumably this is the unconscious of Superman trying to free himself from the grip of the Black Mercy. Batman also ends up with the plant on his chest and in his hallucination he is in a world in which his parents were not killed. Finally, the bad guy, Mongul, ends up with the plant on his chest due to Robin. Mongol has a hallucination of a world of endless conquest and Superman’s head on a pike.
In all the stories examined, the person hallucinating does gain insight that is often helpful. The hallucinations are not always pleasant but generally reveal truths rather than being random and meaningless.
Intelligent Ethically Ambiguous POV
Generally in comic books the hero is simplistically good and the villain is simplistically bad. Alan Moore departs from this practice and presents antiheros. Comic books have any number of muscular tough guy antiheros like The Punisher and Wolverine but generally ruthless intelligent characters are invariably super villains. Alan Moore uses intelligent antiheroes that present a compelling argument for ruthless action.
Ozymandias is a major character in Moore series Watchmen. Ozymandias is considered the smartest man in the world. This very intelligence forces him to see the world differently than his fellow superheroes that are not as intelligent. Ozymandias is at the upper limits of human intelligence but probably does not possess super intelligence. The only Watchmen superhero to really agree with the actions of Ozymandias to save the world is Dr. Manhattan who probably possesses out and out super intelligence. Ozymandias manages to save the world from WW III but kills millions in New York do accomplish this task. The reader is allowed to share the triumph of Ozymandias directly and the background picture of Alexander the Great cutting the Gordian Knot is intentional (See Figure 27 below).
Figure 27 – Watchmen #12 (of 12) – Page 20
V in V is for Vendetta is an antihero and is a powerful fighter but what makes him really dangerous is his super intelligence. V uses strategy to take apart the fascist party Norsefire that rules Great Britain. V commits various acts that may be considered unethical. V kills a Bishop, Anthony Lilliman. However, the bishop is also a pedophile so that’s probably ok. V kills a doctor, Delia Surredige. Dr. Surredige has clearly repented for her sins in the concentration camp V was in. Killing a woman is generally not done by heroes. Killing someone who has reformed is also not generally done by comic book characters. V also kills the hired help of Norsefire that happens to be in the way. V doesn’t do comic book things like use stun guns, non lethal Karate chops, or shoot their pistols out of the hands of henchmen. Generally V throws knives into the hearts of the henchmen. Killing the hired help is something the Punisher and Wolverine also do so this is not new ground for a comic book antihero. V does imprison and torture Evey, a girl he had saved previously, and even used as a side kick. Evey is clearly an innocent. V tortures her to set her free by toughening her up! V does provide the reader with a very eloquent defense of his actions (See Figure 28 below).
Figure 28 – V For Vendetta #5 – Page 9
V and Ozymandias are intelligent men that employ ruthless means to accomplish noble ends and we are privy to their thought processes which generally is the POV of a super villain like Doctor Doom not a hero and this use of POV forces the reader to go beyond the simple structures of good and evil normally associated with comic books even comic books with antiheros.
Stream of Consciousness POV
Comic book writers did not employ stream of consciousness in early comic books. The use of stream of consciousness is a narrative technique that is employed more and more in comic books in the present. Alan Moore makes extreme use of an interior monologue in all of his comic books. Rorschach’s internal monologue is used extensively in Watchmen. However, Alan Moore pushes the comic book envelope of stream of consciousness in A Small Killing.
Alan Moore has used a stream of consciousness POV exclusively in A Small Killing and the narrative the use of images from the inner world of the protagonist. There is very little action in A Small Killing and we follow the protagonist as he is haunted by a ghost like child that is presumably a hallucination of himself as a child. However, there is a hint that the child might be an actual ghost rather than a hallucination (see Figure 29 below).
Figure 29 – A Small Killing – Page 11
Incredibly I didn’t care about the nature of the child because the protagonist is an unlikeable whiner and I am sad that the “ghost” child did not succeed in killing the protagonist. A slow read that is POV technique driven to the point that reading pleasure is sacrificed for art. The favorite device for exploring stream of consciousness for Moore seems to be via the use of hallucinogens by the characters in his stories which is already discussed in detail in the prior section of this essay.
Story within a Story POV
Alan Moore often employs the metafictional device of a story within a story in order to give his narrative added depth and complexity. In Watchmen, one of the children is reading a comic book about pirates called the Tales of the Black Freighter and the bleakness of the story makes the already “real” story of the Watchmen even more nihilistic and acts a plot juxtaposition device.
Miracleman was programmed in a reality that resembled a superhero comic book. The adventures of the Miracleman family in this virtual reality can in turn be self contained stories. There was a Marvelman comic book published in Great Britain in the fifties and from the perspective of the Moore series, those adventures took place in a virtual reality which explains the lack of “reality” in those adventures. Miracleman is also a comic book fan and comic books are part of the narrative but this device was exploited more by other writers after Moore such as Neil Gaiman in Miracleman: Apocrypha.
Alan Moore’s Supreme has many metafictional layers but I will stick to the story within a story elements. In the Supreme comic book, Moore’s Supreme has the secret identity of Ethan Crane who works Dazzle Comics on a character named Omniman that is being rebooted. In reality, Supreme is a Superman character that is being rebooted by Alan Moore. The comic book within a comic book is a parallel story! Eventually Supreme even has a fight with his own comic book creation in Supreme #53. Supreme becomes a character in a comic book that fights Omniman (see Figure 30 below) but of course there is a “logical” explanation and a Szazs, a Mister Mxyzptlk, clone, is the cause.
Figure 30 – Supreme #53 – Page 6
In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Moore creates an entire universe made up of fictional characters from novels. This is not exactly a story within a story device but is a metafictional device. Basically Moore’s League invention is a pastiche of prior stories!
Alan Moore uses certain novel POV techniques with different characters in different comic book series in order to consistently make his stories more interesting. There is a synergistic effect created by using so many POV techniques within a single narrative. The combination of POV techniques causes the reader to feel transported to an unnerving and alien reality and upon reflection the cause of this feeling is hard to pin point but I would argue the POV techniques are a major cause. POV drives plot in many instances. How the character perceives reality not only explains the behavior of the character but often acts as the deus ex machina of an Alan Moore story. The character must behave a certain way because of their perceptions.
Alan Moore uses caption boxes instead of thought bubbles to show the thoughts of the character. This allows for lot more information to be expressed. Alan Moore uses a lot of caption boxes relative to speech bubbles compared to other writers and this shows that POV is more important to Alan Moore than other writers.
Many of Alan Moore’s comic books have been made into movies including some discussed here (Watchmen, V is for Vendetta). The art and text attempting to show the POV of Dr. Manhattan is one of the high points of this series that was not really explored in the movie and this lack of the comic book POV devices made the movie less interesting in many ways than the comic book series the film was derived from.
This post looks at the horror genre. I had problems separating the horror genre from the superhero genre. This would not have been a problem when I was reading comic books in the sixties and seventies when I was younger. However, since at least the eighties, DC and Marvel heroes that belong to the horror genre have been incorporated into their mainstream comic book universes to the point that they are often just another type of superhero.
For example, Blade, who fights vampires, has done so many crossovers with mainstream Marvel characters that he is no longer a hero of the horror genre but a hero with horror roots who inhabits the Marvel superhero universe. The mystery that is essential in horror is lost when the characters of horror are overused in a flashy superhero universe that in many ways is the antithesis of horror. Superheroes wear bright colors and fly off into the sunset versus inhabiting a world beneath the moon, moss and worms. When you juxtapose a creature of horror with a superhero the creature of horror is lessened. The suspension of disbelief is just too much. I can temporarily believe in a world of horror. I can temporarily believe in a world of superheroes. I can only believe in a world with both superheroes and horror with difficulty.
The entire Vertigo line, a DC imprint, can be seen as an excellent attempt to bring the sense of horror back to DC by creating boundaries between creatures of horror and superheroes for the purposes of better story telling. So who represents pure horror in the DC and Marvel universes? I would argue the horror hosts do! Most horror comic books are anthologies with one-shot characters that often die a horrible death at the end and are never seen again. You have the same problem with romance comics. Both genre focus on single shot stories and finding ongoing characters in both genres is hard do. So what sort of character survives in a horror comic book? The host of the stories is who!
A horror host is the host of a horror comic book anthology. The most famous horror host does not belong to either the DC or Marvel line but to EC Comics. The host for the EC comic book Tales of the Crypt was the Crypt Keeper and perhaps the only horror host to make the transition to TV where the same character hosted the very popular and long running TV show of the same name and also two movies and even a Saturday morning cartoon named Secrets of the Cryptkeepers Haunted House. The Crypt Keeper was one of the GhouLunatics and that included fellow EC horror hosts the Vault Keeper and the Old Witch.
The DC horror hosts include Abel, Cain, Charity, Destiny, Eve, Mad Mod Witch, Madame Xanadu, and Macbeth’s witches (Mordred, Mildred and Cynthia). Abel was the host of the House of Secrets. Cain was the host of the House of Mystery. They are the Cain and Abel of Biblical fame and an ongoing gag is that Cain kills Abel over and over again whenever there is a crossover between the two brothers. The two houses sit next to each other so a little neighborly interaction is only to be expected. Charity was the host of Forbidden Tales of the Dark Mansion and probably wins the title of most obscure and forgotten DC horror host. Destiny hosted Weird Mystery Tales. Eve hosted Secrets of Sinister House from issues # 6-16. Eve later generally replaced Destiny as the host of Weird Mystery Tales. Abel and Cain are officially cousins of Eve. The Mad Mod Witch was the, on again of again, host of Unexpected from issue #108 onwards and with the alias Fashion Thing was rebooted by Neil Gaiman in the Sandman. Madame Xanadu was the host of Doorway to Mystery. Madame Xanadu returned in the first direct sales only comic book in Madame Xanadu. The series is a one-shot. The witches Mordred, Mildred and Cynthia hosted the Witching Hour. Lucian was the host of the short lived Tales of Ghost Castle. Neil Gaiman made use of all the DC horror hosts, except Charity, in his Sandman series. Heck, even Lucian, perhaps the most obscure of the horror hosts became a librarian of the Sandman. All the horror hosts have gone onto new fame and prominence in the Vertigo line that probably exceeds the fame and prominence they had during their original title runs in the sixties and seventies.
In the Sandman title, Destiny and is one of the Endless who in turn are mightier than gods. Destiny has been able to resist the influence of Zeus. Zeus is in turn much mightier than for example Superman. Zeus can create a female version of Superman, Wonder Woman. Destiny is one of the most powerful characters in the DC universe but is also considered the most boring story teller by Abel, Cain and Eve.
Despite a slew of horror tiles by Marvel/Atlas including Beware, Chamber of Chills, Chamber of Darkness. Creatures on the Loose, Crypt of Shadows, Dead of Night, Fear, Giant Size Chillers, Journey into Mystery (2nd series), Tomb of Darkness, Tower of Shadows, Uncanny Tales (2nd series), Vault of Evil, Weird Wonder Tales, Where Creatures Roam and Where Monsters Dwell only one of these titles had a horror host! Digger and Headstone P. Gravely hosted Tower of Shadows that was designed to go head on against DCs House of Mystery and House of Secrets. I do remember Tower of Shadows and I even remember the story of the first issue and I was like 14 years old at the time! I don’t remember the horror hosts at all. Two unknown hosts versus an interconnected family of DC hosts that are major part of the current DC/Vertigo universe? This contest doesn’t seem fair at all and I am going to change the rules! I am going to bring in a Marvels number one comic book host! The Watcher!
The Watcher acted as a host to futuristic stories in Tales of Suspense starting in issue #39 in the sixties. The Watcher acted as second story to the main Iron Man story. The stories were titled Tales of the Watcher. I actually often preferred the Watcher stories to the Iron Man stories and am totally aghast that Marvel has not made an Essential version of Tales of the Watcher. I mean Werewolf by Night and Spiderwoman get an Essential volume but not those great stories by the Watcher? The tradition was carried on in the first volume of the Silver Surfer. Later still the Watcher became the host of What If stories that were 100% superhero stories but the original Tales of the Watcher were mainstream science fiction complete with a Twilight Zone sort of lesson about the universe and/or humanity told by the Watcher at the end.
Despite their genre difference the Watcher and Destiny actually have an awful lot in common. The Watcher is a cosmic entity. Destiny is a cosmic entity. Destiny is a lot more powerful but like the Watcher mostly tells stories, and despite being blind, “observes” and doesn’t really do much. The Watcher is bald and for all we know Destiny might be bald as well. Destiny always wears a cowl and this is probably to hide his baldness. I would see Destiny as being somewhere in the power class of the Living Tribunal over at Marvel. Destiny and the Living Tribunal both wear cowls by the way. The Watcher is at least two hierarchical levels below the Living Tribunal.
The Living Tribunal is even more powerful than Eternity or Death that only represent the totality of one universe. Both Destiny and the Living Tribunal are multiverse type beings that more or less bring balance to the multiverse. There isn’t a different Destiny or Living Tribunal in each universe but one for the whole dang multiverse. A being that performs a balancing multiverse function has to be more powerful than any being limited to one universe no matter how powerful they are in that one universe. Destiny could squash the Watcher but this won’t happen.
Destiny and the Watcher are hyper rational, Mr. Spock is emotional compared to those two, and I do mean the old Mr. Spock, not that new guy French kissing Uhura, and would never engage in aggressive behavior except in self defense and neither would attack the other first since that would be illogical, uncivilized and just bad manners. Destiny and the Watcher both exchange the very best stories from their mutual universes and agree I am not a very good story teller and perhaps should find another hobby. This “DC versus Marvel” story ends in a draw.
The genre of this post is teenage humor and the heroes are the teenagers of this non superhero genre. The ultimate comic book archetype of this genre would be Archie published by MLJ/Archie Comics. The enduring success of Archie has created many imitators over the years. Archie was so successful that characters in his universe became spin off titles. Some of the Archie characters that had their own titles include Jughead, Betty, Veronica, Reggie and even less well known characters such as Principal Weatherby, Dilton Doily, and Big Ethel. Interestingly, Archie went through a superhero phase. The Archie superhero stories were written as parodies of regular superheroes. Archie was Pureheart the Powerful. Jughead was Captain Hero.
The DC teenagers include Scribbly, Buzzy, Binky, Scooter and Debbie. Scribbly the boy cartoonist was invented by comic book giant Sheldon Mayer for Dell Comics in 1936. Scribbly moved to the back pages of DCs All American Comics in 1939. The last appearance of Scribbly in that title was in 1944. When Archie became popular, Scribbly returned in his own series for 15 issues between 1948 and 1952. Binky then appeared in the back pages of DC’s other two teen humor titles, Buzzy and Leave it to Binky.
Buzzy was a hipster, unlike Archie, and one of the few none Archie clones in this genre. Buzzy was part of a five-piece combo. Buzzy graduated from the All Funny Comics anthology to his own title that ran from 1944 to 1958. Buzzy became more and more an Archie clone during the run of the title.
Binky started in his own title, Leave it to Binky, immediately in 1948 in response to the success of Archie. Binky was a teenager in high school and his title lasted until 1958. Binky won the Shazam Award for best inker in 1970 and this is not a genre known for winning awards.
Scooter was the main character in the title Swing with Scooter that was launched in 1966 almost ten years after the demise of Buzzy and Binky. Scooter was named after his scooter that he used for transportation and was a British mod. A mod can be considered a type of sixties British hippie. Scooter was transplanted to Laurel City, USA. Scooter was lucky enough to be born in an era when crossovers became more common and he met the likes of Batman and Superman. There will be no such teen humor/superhero crossover until Archie meets the Punisher published in 1994.
Scooter is probably the only DC character of the teen humor genre that I remember. I was born in 1957 and missed all the other DC teens due to my age but vaguely remember running into Scooter in the newsstands. My own parents were into the whole hippie, mod, whatever thing in the sixties, and because of this, I found the character a little interesting but even as a youth was smart enough to realize this comic book was being written by people who had no idea what was going on in the sixties counter culture. The writers were middle aged, the slang was more lame than hip. When a 12 year old can figure this out about your dialogue then your title is in trouble. I had been an on and off, tepid fan, of Archie since I was eight years old until I was about 14, so the problem wasn’t that I didn’t like the genre. The problem wasn’t I didn’t like Scooter. Scooter lasted 36 issues and for a non superhero genre that is pretty good so maybe the slang worked on other less worldly teens.
Debbi starred in Date with Debbi that ran 18 issues from1969 to 1972. Debbi was a red head. Debbi looked like a female version of Archie, right down to the chubby cheeks and this is not a good thing! I am surprised the series lasted as long as it did.
I have mentioned in other posts, in this series, how the DC imprint Vertigo has consistently rebooted non superhero material from DC’s obscure comic book past. I challenge Vertigo to do a miniseries about DC’s long lost teens. How about a look at the teens twenty years later? The DC teens are all working as office workers at a paper company, no, the paper company has already been done, maybe a computer support company. They go to a bar and reminiscence about their lost youth and decide to do something crazy as a group. Look up their lost loves? This would give an excuse to see all their supporting casts. Go to Thailand? Maybe they do something even crazier. Maybe they take acid together in Amsterdam that was accidentally mixed with alien DNA and they merge into Super Hip. Maybe a road trip where they see their lost loves, go to Thailand and then go to Amsterdam.
Super Hip briefly appeared in the Adventures of Bob Hope DC comic book and basically could alter reality as this super power is referred to nowadays. Mostly Super Hip displayed Superman type powers. Super Hip’s alter ego, Tad, went to Benedict Arnold High School. Super Hip is one of those totally obscure DC characters that didn’t even rate a mention in Who’s Who in the DC Universe. Super Hip was drawn in a cartoony style that was reminiscent of teen humor characters. I think Super Hip was some sort of misguided attempt to combine a super hero with a teen humor character.
The Marvel teenagers include Millie the Model, Chili and Patsy Walker. Patsy Walker was popular from the 1940s until 1967 and even supported several spin off titles. Patsy Walker was a red head and her romantic rival was black haired Hedy Wolfe. Betty and Veronica, of Archie Comics, of course are blonde and black haired respectively and minus super hero costumes perhaps hair color is needed to differentiate comic book characters in situations where a lack of a consistent house style can confuse young readers. In 1973, Marvel brought back the name but totally rewrote the character, and made Patsy Walker the alter Ego of the super heroine known as Hellcat. This is similar to what Marvel did with Night Nurse, a romance genre heroine that was remade into the nurse of super heroes.
There is some overlap between romance comics and teenage humor comics. For example, Millie the Model went back and forth from being a romance comic to a teen humor comic. The art on the cover lets the reader know which version of Millie they are dealing with immediately. The romance comic version of Millie the Model issues were drawn in a more realistic fashion. The teen humor version is in a cartoony style that imitated the Archie Comics house style.
Chili was the red headed rival of Millie and in her own series was consistently a teen humor title. The clothes that Millie and Chili wore are a big part of both series. Both titles featured paper dolls and outfits in the comic book. Many of the Millie comics, the romance version, showed off very glamorous fifties type outfits. Many covers of Millie had her sporting evening gowns and furs. Not exactly something you would wear to the mall. I think Marilyn Monroe might have been the inspiration for these covers. Chili,in her own series, on the other hand, consistently wore very mod clothes with bright colors and even pant suits and wore stylish clothes you might actually see in the mall in the late sixties and seventies.
Despite the difference in art styles between the teen humor and romance genres, there are many similarities in plot lines. Both genres highlight male/female relationships in general and love triangles in particular, but the story line of a romance comic leads to love or a broken heart while the story line of a teenage humor comic leads to a punch line.
Another interesting difference between the plot lines is that teenage humor generally portrays a young man such as Archie being pursued by two gals such as Betty and Veronica. In romance comics, a woman is pursued by two men. One of the men would be the wild one and one the stable one. In teenage humor the main difference between the two gals would be the color of their hair. Although upon further examination Betty represents the nice girl next door while Veronica is more of a vamp but the main difference between them is definitely their hair color. A Mad Magazine parody of Archie named Starchie highlights this lack of difference between Betty and Veronica. Starchie tells that parody version of Jughead that Betty and Veronica are drawn totally differently despite the fact they have had identical poses and are drawn exactly alike, except for their hair, throughout the parody.
Teens in this genre do not fight but instead compete romantically and generally win or lose via practical jokes. The three Marvel female teens, Millie the Model, Patsy Walker and Chili go out on a group date with the DC teens, Scribbly, Buzzy, Binky, Scooter and Debbi. There are four women and four men so someone is going to go home alone. Millie the Model is a model! In teen humor comics looks are everything so all the guys go after Millie, leaving Patsy and Debbie to sulk in the soda shop and reflect how unfair life is.
Patsy, Debbi and Chili decide to play a trick on the guys. After all fellow red heads have to stick together when dealing with gorgeous blondes! Patsy and Debbie slip some pepper and salt into the sodas of the guys while the boys all stare at Chili and Millie walking to the restroom together. Chili is deliberately doing her sexiest walk, in her tight, oh so sixties, short, short little dress. Did I mention that I have very fond memories of sixties styles? The boys all choke on their foul tasting sodas and Patsy, Debbie and Chili laugh their heads off. The boys agree this is a very funny joke and that they deserved their treatment because of how they ignored the red heads. Scooter is a mod, with a sixties, as opposed to fifties view of sexuality and has actually been with a woman. Scooter starts to reflect that Chili is pretty mod and that the competition for Millie is just too intense. Later Scooter and Chili will marry and then divorce. The Marvel red heads hurt the DC men, even if they had help from a DC gal, so Marvel wins!
This post will look at DC and Marvel heroes from their line of war comics. The DC heroes include Blackhawk, Boy Commandos, Captain Storm, Creature Commandos, Enemy Ace, G.I. Robot, Gunner & Sarge, Haunted Tank, Hunter’s Hellcats, Johnny Cloud, the Losers, Mademoiselle Marie, Red, White and Blue and Sgt. Rock of Easy Company. As I did in the DC vs. Marvel Western Heroes post (https://foxhugh.wordpress.com/2009/02/13/dc-vs-marvel-western-heroes/), I will pit the top three of the DC line against the top three of the Marvel line. The top three in terms of fame are Blackhawk, Enemy Ace and Sgt. Rock of Easy Company.
Blackhawk is the name of the leader of a free lance fighter pilot squadron and the name of their group. They wore an aviator type uniform, they first appeared in Military Comics and their missions were decidedly military in nature. Slowly but surely they became more like superheroes and started to fight more and more enemies with superpowers. The New Blackhawk era lasted from issues #228-241 and each member got his own superhero costume. The transition from military heroes to superheroes was abrupt. Later on the Blackhawk team returned to their military roots.
Enemy Ace is the story of a German flying ace during World War I. Enemy Ace first appeared in Our Army at War in 1965. Enemy Ace is, as the title suggests, the enemy but has a sense of chivalry and a sense of the horror of war that is universal. Enemy Ace is an antihero. I do see similarities between Enemy Ace and Jonah Hex. Both are none superhero genre heroes that succeed in large part due to their atypical, for comic books, antihero status which makes them more interesting. Like Jonah Hex, Enemy Ace was later used by the darker Vertigo imprint.
Sgt. Rock of Easy Company is probably the number one war hero of the DC line. Sgt. Rock first appeared in G.I. Combat (January, 1959). Sgt. Rock appeared in Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion in 2008. This is quite a run for a war hero in comic books. Sgt. Rock for most of his run had zero superhero elements. Sgt. Rock generally carries a 45 calibre Thompson submachine gun and a .45 calibre Colt M1911A1 automatic pistol. Sgt. Rock always carries a number of hand grenades that he can throw with great accuracy.
Later Sgt. Rock appeared in Brave and the Bold #84, #96, #108, #117, and #124 in decidedly superhero type adventures with Batman. This comic book tendency to reinvent war heroes and make them into superheroes is unfortunate. Alan Moore, In theTwilight of the Superheroes, (https://foxhugh.wordpress.com/non-fiction/twilight-of-the-superheroes-by-alan-moore/) points out that the juxtaposition of Sgt. Rock, for example, with the Legion of Superheroes is a bad idea and I agree. Let the war heroes be war heroes! Kanigher, the editor of Sgt. Rock, who created the majority of the Sgt. Rock stories, in a letter column in Sgt. Rock #374 stated that Sgt. Rock did not survive past 1945 effectively making the Brave and Bold Sgt. Rock stories null and void.
Marvel has a shorter list of war heroes that include Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos, Captain Savage and his Leathernecks, the characters in the The ‘Nam series, and the Phantom Eagle. The ‘Nam was an attempt to create a realistic war comic. The comic book happened in real time. A monthly issue more or less described what happened in a month in Vietnam. Nam related lingo was explained at the end of the comic book. The ‘Nam characters are too real and would not stand against a chance against other comic book war heroes that are slightly superhuman. The title became a less realistic comic book towards the end of its run with the introduction of Frank Castle who later becomes the Punisher.
The Punisher can be considered a war hero of sorts in that he was a soldier in Vietnam as detailed in The ‘Nam. The Punisher uses actual military weapons as detailed in The Punisher Armory. The Punisher also does not have super powers. On the other hand, the Punisher wears a costume and that is one of the defining characteristics of a superhero. Most of all the Punisher fights superhero type enemies between conflicts with organized crime. A high point of this sort of battle was the Punisher versus Doctor Doom story in Punisher #28. Doctor Doom is the premiere super villain of the Marvel universe who can take on entire super hero teams such as the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and the X-Men. The Punisher should have no chance against Doctor Doom at all yet he manages to blackmail Doctor Doom into leaving him alone. Only a superhero could do this. No one would argue that Batman is not a superhero despite his lack of superpowers. The Punisher can be seen as a very successful combination of superhero and war hero elements with an emphasis on superhero elements.
The star war hero of Marvel is Sgt. Fury who goes on to become a secret agent of SHIELD and is better known for this role than his war hero role. Sgt. Fury first appeared in his own title in May of 1963 and is very similar to DC’s Sgt. Rock and probably Sgt. Rock was a model for Sgt. Fury to some extent. Jack Kirby, who created DC’s Boy Commandos, mentioned in an interview that the Howling Commandos were adult versions of the Boy Commandos. Sgt. Fury is far more famous than all the other war heroes of both universes put together. Sgt. Fury was also much lighter fare than DC’s Sgt. Rock and Enemy Ace. Sgt. Fury stories generally avoided the horror of war theme of the DC titles.
Captain America even shows up in Sgt. Fury #13! The cover of this issue is at the begining of this post. Captain America is created by the U.S. government and is described as a super soldier but is more super than soldier and does not even use military armament but instead throws an archaic shield. Later Nuke emerges from the same super soldier program and does use military hardware and is a Vietnam vet. Wolverine also comes from the same program providing some continuity to the Marvel universe but these super soldiers are clearly super heroes and not war heroes.
Fury is not some outlier of the Marvel universe but a character that is central to the Marvel universe. Marvel recently had an event labeled Civil War and Fury as the ex-head of SHIELD plays a pivotal role in this event that involved just about every title in the Marvel universe in 2008. Sgt. Fury logically fights his DC doppelganger Sgt. Rock. The other Marvel war heroes are obscure characters but will be drafted in this contest due to a lack of options.
The Phantom Eagle is a World War I ace that fights for the allies and logically is an opponent of the Enemy Ace. The Phantom Eagle had more super hero elements than the Enemy Ace including a mask that concealed his secret identity. The Phantom Eagle had worked in a flying circus prior to fighting in World War I and was a expert stunt flyer. The Phantom Eagle is also a very obscure character in the Marvel universe and someone who can describe this character really knows their Marvel universe history.
There is no equivalent to the Blackhawks in the Marvel universe. There is a perfect equivalent to Marvel’s Captain Savage and his Leathernecks in the form of DC’s Captain Storm. Captain Storm was a PT Boat Captain. Captain Storm lost his leg in combat and had the leg replaced with a wooden leg but stayed in active duty which would not happen in the actual military. Captain Storm actually had his own title in his very first adventure rather than having his adventures in one of the war anthologies before getting his own title later as was the custom at DC. Captain Storm appeared as late as 2003 in the Losers Special. The Losers were a collection of DC’s war heroes including Johnny Cloud and Gunner & Sarge.
Marvel’s Captain Savage originally was introduced in Sgt. Fury’s Howling Commandos and the main mission of the Leathernecks was to ferry Sgt. Fury and his commandos around but eventually Captain Savage got his own title. Pitting a fighter squadron against an infantry squad hardly seems fair but pitting two Captains that are both involved in amphibious operations does make sense.
The first battle is between the two Sergeants. Sgt. Rock has a penchant for hand grenades that he throws with unerring accuracy. Sgt. Rock believes Sgt. Fury is a Nazi imposter and throws a grenade at Sgt. Rock and blows him to pieces. Sgt. Fury has a tendency to lose his shirt and run directly at heavily fortified positions with his submachine gun blazing rather than taking advantage of other weaponry such as grenades. Sgt. Fury seems to think he is invulnerable like a superhero! Sgt. Fury does not seem to know what cover is unlike Sgt. Rock.
In World War I, the Phantom Eagle and the Enemy Ace face off and the Phantom Eagle does all sorts of stunts that do not impress the Enemy Ace. The Phantom Eagle is shot down by the Enemy Ace while doing a loop. The Enemy Ace wonders why this fool of a pilot was wearing a mask and concludes the aviator was probably deranged due to the horrors of war.
Captain Storm and Captain Savage get into a bar fight as to whether the Navy or the Marines are better and Captain Savage punches Captain Storm. Captain Storm goes down because the wooden leg buckles. Captain Savage sees his opponent on the ground and notices the wooden leg. Captain Savage feels absolutely terrible. Captain Savage pulls up Captain Storm rather than finishing him off and apologizes to Captain Storm. Captain Savage buys Captain Storm a drink and the fight is a draw.
DC has two war titles that are very interesting from a genre point of view. The Haunted Tank is a tank that is haunted by Lieutenant J.E.B. Stuart. The ghost is a good ghost and helps the leader of the tank crew out with omniscient but cryptic advice. I think this is the only comic book title that combines the supernatural and war genres. The Vertigo line resurrected the Haunted Tank years later.
The Creature Commandos appeared in Weird War Tales #93. Weird War Tales generally combined the war comic genre with another genre. The sister publication Weird Western Tales combined the Western genre with other genres. The idea was to have creatures that generally appear in horror and put them in war situations as commandos.
The original team consisted of J.A.K.E. and J.A.K.E. 2 that were the first and second GI Robot. Warren Griffith suffered from clinical lycanthropy i.e. he was a werewolf. Dr. Myrra Rhodes was effectively a gorgon. Lt. Matthew Shrieve is the team leader and totally human. Pvt. Elliot “Lucky” Taylor stepped on a land mine and put back together and looked like Frankenstein. Sgt. Vincent Velcro was the vampire of the team.
The modern team included Alten, a mummy like creature. The Bogman was an amphibian that resembled the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Gunner was a cyborg. Hunter is 75 and formerly of Hunter’s Hellcats. Medusa is Myrra Rhodes who has mutated even more. Pvt. Elliot “Lucky” Taylor returns and now called Patchwork. Sgt. Vincent Velcro has become even more vampire like. Warren Griffith, the werewolf, has become more feral and out of control in the modern team. This cross mixing of non-superhero genres is a hallmark of DC that Marvel never explored to the same extent.
The next post in this series is DC vs. Marvel War Heroes at: