Wednesday, March 30, 2011

One-Shot Hero - Red Raven

I have been concentrating on the Timely/Atlas/Marvel Comics group and thought I would post one of the briefer but rather memorable characters from the Golden Age - Red Raven. His first and only Golden Age appearance was ironically in the pages of his own magazine - Red Raven Comics #1, August 1940. In the story a huge, four engine clipper transport aircraft was flying through heavy weather when the pilot suddenly seemed to be losing control of the aircraft. Suddenly the plane crashes into a cloud-shrouded floating city and all on board are killed except for a small boy. The inhabitants of the floating city are birdmen who, the king claims, were descended from birds rather than apes, although except for wings they appear pretty human. The king decides he will raise the young orphan and for the next fifteen or so years he teaches the young man the ways of the bird people. When the boy reaches his 20th birthday the king sends him back to the world of man to try to bring some of the bird people enlightenment to the humans, who could certainly use it. To aid the young man he is given a pair of bat-like wings, although the bird people themselves seem to have more bird-like wings. He goes back to the human world as Red Raven - supposedly named after the color of his hair, although in the story he's depicted mostly as a blond. He encounters a mad scientist who is trying to corner all the world's gold reserves for his own nefarious purposes and rescues the obligatory girl along the way. Of course Red Raven triumphs in the end and flies off into the sunset. I rather liked the idea of the floating city, which was also used in the early days of Star Trek and of course there were floating islands in the movie Avatar so its become a bit of a staple of science fiction. Red Raven was revived in the 1970s but retroed into 1940s stories. I may take a look at that incarnation at a later date. As for the action figure, I used the body from a Toy Biz Cloak (from Cloak and Dagger) and the head from an X-Force Kane. The wings were from some Batman toy or other than was languishing in my parts box. Just a reminder to all you customizers, always keep those spare parts. You never know when they'll come in handy.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Golden Age Hero - The Destroyer

I haven't featured many Marvel characters from the Golden Age so thought I would try to rectify that situation. Actually Marvel started out in the 1940s as Timely and then in the 1950s became Atlas and finally, as the Silver Age of comics dawned in the 1960s became the Marvel Comics we know and have loved since. At any rate, one of their more successful second-string heroes of the 1940s was a character called the Destroyer. He was actually Kevin "Keen" Marlow, an American journalist touring Europe who ran afowl of the Nazis (didn't almost everybody?). Keen was thrown into a concentration camp where he met a scientist named Professor Eric Schmitt, who coincidentally had created a variant of the super-soldier serum that had made Captain America the man he was. He was in the camp because the Nazis wanted the formula and he wouldn't give it to them. However, he just happened to have concealed (and I don't even want to know where he hid it) a vial of the formula, which he gave to Keen. Oh sure, just hand over your precious formula to some strange American with a funny name you meet in a Nazi concentration camp - how do we spell gullible?? Anyway, as it turns out Keen is actually one of the good guys and although he tries to bust them out of the camp the prof is killed and he must escape alone. He then procedes to establish a costumed identity as The Destroyer and takes on the Nazis as a one-man resistance fighter through occupied Europe. (This was a bit unique because most of the comic heroes of the period usually didn't do their fighting in Europe but back here in the states.) Initially appearing in Mystic Comics #6, The Destroyer ran through a number of titles including USA Comics, All Winners Comics, Kid Komics, Complete Comics, all of which bit the dust, and finished up in All Select Comics #11 in the fall of 1946. He was featured in nearly 36 stories and battled the Nazis, the Japanese and finally crime in America when he ran out of war. Not bad for a second-stringer. As for the action figure; I used the body and legs from a Toy Biz Daredevil, the arms from a Captain America and the head from a Superman Animated Series Lex Luthor. I did have to do a little sculpting on the tops of the boots, which were a rather unique design. For the little bib thingy around his neck I cut a piece of T-shirt. A word of caution for the fledgling customizer - painting stripes on legs is a real pain in the butt.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Camouflaged Sister - Europa

I recently posted a picture of the German liner Bremen in camouflage paint. I thought today I would follow up with the Bremen's sister ship, which I just completed, the line Europa. It was originally intended that these two liners would be completed at nearly the same time and make a transatlantic crossing together in 1929, which would have really been a sight. However, shortly before her completion the Europa, which was more nearly complete than Bremen, experienced a very serious fire. There was some who thought the ship was so badly damaged that she should be scrapped. But there was a certain pride on the part of the shipyard and its workers that the Europa would be made right and so she was. It took nearly a near but Europa did sail and on her maiden voyage, rather than run into an iceberg and sink like a certain British liner before her, she wrested the Blue Riband from Bremen for the fastest westbound crossing at 27.91 knots. Although Bremen later reclaimed the prize, clearly these were two fast, proud sisters, joining the international greyhounds of the north Atlantic. When war broke out in 1939 Europa was still in Germany and sat idle as an accommodation ship in the early part of the war. Like Bremen she was later camouflaged for the intended invasion of Britain (Operation Sealion), but once that operation was called off she remained idle for the rest of the war. There had been a tentative plan to convert her into an aircraft carrier but nothing ever came of the idea. At the end of the war U.S. forces found the Europa idling at Bremerhaven and took her in hand for reactivation. She was commissioned into the U.S. Navy as the USS Europa (AP-177) and served on repatriation duties (taking the troops home), but was not in the greatest shape. She was finally awarded to the French in compensation for the loss of their liner Normandie during the war. While undergoing renovation she broke her moorings in a ferocious gale and rammed the sunken French liner Paris at Le Harve, sinking on an even keel. She was subsequently raised and once again renovated, finally resuming transatlantic service in 1950. She sailed under the French flag until 1961 when she was finally stricken and scrapped the following year. In the picture the Bremen is in the background while Europa is in foreground. While they did have a similar color scheme (the contractor was instructed to use dark gray, black, white, olive green and blue) the actual patterns were different.
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Golden Age Really Nasty Villain - Tiger Man

Under my Angel post I mentioned he had experienced a really nasty villain and today I wanted to present him. This was during the war and the bad guy was a German, but even the Nazis had been terrorized by him, so that's really saying something. According to his own tale, Tiger Man started out as a normal German citizen working in a factory until one day when he got his arms caught in one of the machines. Now lacking arms he trained himself to use his teeth and legs until they became amazingly strong and dexterous. However, the work with his jaws made his face distorted and people avoided him. Now obsessed with an almost insane hatred of machines he began to visit factories and smash every machine in sight. Captured by the Gestapo they saw an opportunity to use his obsession by pointing him (from their perspective) in the right direction - namely the U.S. of A. When he began to smash American machinery the Angel became involved and soon managed to track him down and bring him to justice after a pretty violent battle. I found Tiger Man to be an interesting challenge since I had never really done a "disabled" character before. I used a Toy Biz Savage Land Ka-Zar, cutting the arms off at the appropriate place. I picked that figure because it was barefoot, which Tiger Man was throughout his story. Then I found a Hasbro Cops head (Bullit I believe), which I modified a bit to to make him look more like Tiger Man. All in all I think it made for a pretty good representation, if I can be excused for patting myself on the back a little.
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Monday, March 21, 2011

Golden Age Hero - Angel

The Angel is the third of the heroes with mustaches that I wanted to highlight (see Dr. Diamond and Stormy Foster). Created by Marvel Comics (then known as Timely) for their Marvel Comics #1, November 1939, he was an early entry in the history of the Golden Age. At first he was called Angel whether in costume or a business suit, but later he was revealed to be private detective Tom Halloway who, when his mother died in childbirth, was raised by his prison guard father within the confines of the prison itself. The warden apparently brought in experts who trained the boy in all manner of knowledge. The Angel inhabited the back pages of a number of different Timely titles until 1946, but never got his own book. The Angel didn't have any super powers although he could fly, which was attributed more to the qualities of his cape, called the Cape of Mercury, than to any power on his part. He wasn't one of Marvel's front line characters, nor was he one of the one-or-two-shot gang of also-rans, but he really didn't survive outside the Golden Age. I've only seen a couple of his adventures but he had an encounter with one of the most terrifying villains in any one's stable of bad guys, who I'll probably feature soon. The action figure used here was a Toy Biz Cloak, with the head from another Tony Stark, although not the same one I used for the other two mustachioed heroes I presented.
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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Liner Bremen - Dressed for War

As a departure from my normal action figure posts I thought I would offer up this 1:2400 ship model project I just completed. It is the German passenger liner Bremen, which was built in 1929 and camouflaged during World War II. The model is part of the Seabattle line produced by the company Viking Forge. Bremen was a holder of the Blue Riband for fastest Atlantic crossing, going westbound at 27.83 knots and eastbound at 27.91 knots, both records established in 1929. Although she later lost these records (westbound in 1930 to her sister ship Europa and eastbound in 1935 to the French liner Normandie) she was still considered one of the great ocean greyhounds. There is an interesting story about this ship upon the outbreak of war in September 1939. She had been en route New York upon the commencement of hostilities but continued west and dropped off her passengers. The British wanted the U.S. to hold the liner in port until they could get a cruiser in place to capture or sink the big ship. However, when Bremen finally departed New York on 1 September she managed to outrun the British cruiser and headed north, arriving in Murmansk, Russia on 6 September, the crew having painted her gray en route. At this time the Germans and Soviets had signed a non-aggression pact so they were friendly and Bremen received safe haven in Murmansk. By 10 December 1939 it was time to go home and the Bremen slipped out of Murmansk and headed south along the Norwegian coast, eluding British cruisers and a submarine that were searching for her, arriving in Bremerhaven, Germany on 13 December. When the Germans were gearing up for Operation Sealion in 1940, the planned invasion of Britain, both the Bremen and her sister Europa were painted in camouflage as they were intended to ferry troops for the invasion. After Sealion was cancelled and Hitler turned his attentions toward Russia the two great liners languished in German ports until a disgruntled crewman set fires aboard the Bremen and she became a total loss. Europa survived the war and was even commissioned into the U.S. Navy for repatriation service at the end of the war, eventually being ceded to France, who renamed her Liberte', under which name she operated until 1961. The contractor who did the camouflage work was instructed to use dark gray, olive green, white, black and blue paint in the camouflage pattern, which I have endeavored to replicate. Camouflage of this type was not intended to render the ship invisible, but merely to break up it's lines and make it more difficult to be clearly identified.
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Golden Age Hero - Stormy Foster - the Great Defender

I mentioned the other day under the posting for Dr. Diamond that very few Golden Age heroes had mustaches. I thought I might offer up a couple more just for a little variety. Next in line is Stormy Foster, billed as the Great Defender. Apparently Stormy was a meek, mild and frail pharmacy clerk when he accidently discovers a super vitamin pill that beefs him up and endows him with great strength and invulnerability. He was one of several Golden Age characters who acquired their powers with a drug, including DC's Hour Man and Fox's Blue Beetle. Published by Quality Comics, Stormy's adventures were featured in Hit Comics #18 through #34, starting in 1943, so he had a fairly good run for the period. There was also a Chinese delivery boy at the pharmacy named Ah-Choo who helped Stormy on some of his cases. Another case of racial stereotyping during the period. The action figure was made using a Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves Little John figure and another Tony Stark head. I rather liked the costume, which appears rather thrown together. Something a clerk in a pharmacy who decides to go adventuring might put together; a T-shirt with a patriotic star on it, some shorts and a pair of shoes with shite socks and a red cape thrown in for good measure. Far from fancy or expensive. Sort of the working man's hero, epitomized by the moniker of Great Defender.
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Golden Age Heroes - Dr. Diamond

In my last post I highlighted Strongman from Tem Publishing/Holyoke so I thought I'd stick with that publisher for this post, featuring their short-lived character of Dr. Diamond. Dr. Drake Gorden was traveling on a ship heading for the south seas when it was hit by a typhoon and he was swept overboard. He ends up on an uncharted island and climbs to the top of a high mountain where he meets a Tibetan monk. The monk just happens to have in his possession a black diamond which was used by an ancient Egyptian for good but was later misused for evil until it came to the Tibetan. OK, really now - an ancient Egyptian diamond, found by a Tibetan monk who's living on an uncharted island in the south Pacific. Where did these guys come up with these stories?? Anyway, sensing that Dr. Gorden was a good and honest man, the monk gives him the diamond, which has the ability to grant its possessor the power to rid the world of evil. OK, so why didn't the monk use it to fight evil himself rather than just hanging out on some lonely island waiting for some other guy to come along?? Maybe the monk was a pacifist. Anyway, Dr. Gorden returns to his own world where, now endowed with the power of 50 men, takes on the task of ridding the world of evil, adopting the name of Dr. Diamond. This is another example, like Strongman I featured the other day, where a superhero character is given powers through magic but is apparently not a magic user himself. Dr. Diamond's campaign against evil only lasted for three or four issues of Cat-Man Comics before he disappeared into comic oblivion - from which sometimes even a magic diamond can't rescue you. One of the things that drew me to this character was that he had a mustache. That was not a common feature of superheroes during the Golden Age, although a number of magicians sported them. I may feature more heroes with mustaches in coming days. Anyway, for the action figure I used the body of a Toy Biz Daredevil, the arms and legs of a Silver Surfer and the head from a Tony Stark. I realize that the picture shows Dr. Diamond with blue trunks and a red belt, but the next couple of pages had him in red trunks with a blue belt - a not uncommon phenomena during this period when comic "houses" might have several artists working on stories. I decided to go with the red trunks and blue belt. The little red bib piece was cut from cloth, as was the cape.
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Monday, March 14, 2011

Golden Age Hero - Strongman

The other day I profiled a Strongman from the early 1950s, but today I'll present his predecessor. From the Holyoke/Tem Publishing comic stable that later made Cat-Man famous, comes Percy van Norton, alias Strongman - the perfect human. Percy is another one of these apparently wastrel rich playboys (ala Bruce Wayne/Batman) who down underneath his polished facade has the beating heart of a superhero. Using knowledge he's gleaned from the secret book of Yogi he now has the strength of a hundred elephants, the speed of a racing car (and the power of flight) and skin as tough as a rhinoceros, he fights for the American ideals. As far as I can tell he appeared in five issues of Crash Comics before disappearing into comic oblivian. He was revived by Marvel Comics as a World War II villain in one of their Invaders story arcs and more recently Dynamite Comics for their Project Superheroes. In the couple of stories I have of his he seems to fight crime and oppression both at home and in fictional overseas countries. For the action figure I used a Super Power Collection Martian Manhunter figure with the head from a Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves Dark Warrior. I had to Dreml the Martian's chest straps off and cut a plastic dowel in half to make his belt buckle.
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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Golden Age Hero - The Magic of the Red Dragon

I've had a little trouble with this blog entry trying to put some of the material together but here goes. The Red Dragon was really Bob Reed, who's parents were murdered by the Japanese. He subsequently goes and studies ancient sorcery in Tibet so that he can develop enough power to seek revenge against the Japanese. He could activate his powers by clasping his hands together and reciting the words, "Po-She-Lo." These powers gave him the ability of flight (for both himself and others), firing destructive beams of energy and generating force fields. Bob has some help along the way in the form of a young Chinese boy named Ching Foo and his pet Komodo Dragon. In one story the Japanese challenge Red Dragon to defeat their champion, the Yellow Dragon. Turns out it's a fire-breathing dragon which is a construct operated by a couple of men. The Red Dragon defeats it anyway and the Japanese soldiers as well. Red Dragon initially appeared in Super Magician Comics #8 by Street and Smith and later got a book of his own so apparently he was a fairly popular character. He ran in print from 1943 to 1949 and concentrated his adventures in the Pacific theatre. One of the reasons I had a little trouble finding information about him is apparently because a lot of the "superhero" related sites don't cover him - maybe considering him more of a magic act than a super guy. As for the figures, Red Dragon himself combined a Toy Biz Savage Land Angel figure and the head from a Playmates young Riker, which is actually a pretty obscure figure. Since he was wearing sandals in the story I had I cut bass wood sandals for him and then glued them to his feet before gluing him to the base. Ching Foo was made using the GI Joe head from their Airborne figure and various body parts from GI Joe and similar action figures. I fished around a while for a good Komodo Dragon but eventually found one at a craft store.
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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Strongman and the General

I mentioned a couple of posts ago under Captain Flash another character from the 1950s called Strongman so I thought I'd go ahead and feature him this time around. Some of these characters were kind of interesting and this is one of them. Strongman is just that - basically a circus strongman, so there's an element of showmanship about him. He is advertised as the strongest human being alive who has also trained in judo, performs feats of prestidigitation and is an expert trip roper - all skills he uses to help the helpless and overcome the wrongdoer. He does this without the benefit of superpowers or some magic word that turns him super - he has trained himself to a level of physical perfection through hard work, exercise, clean living and eating the right foods. Of course other heroes - Batman springs to mind - are also not super powered, but I suppose I'm being picky. He seems to wander around and has a lot of friends who keep getting themselves into jams so Strongman can get them out. He has a short side-kick, but this is not some kid buddy, but an adult short person named The General. They also drive around in some hot machines, one of which (Jaguar XK120) I customized, which came out pretty well. Strongman only lasted four issues of his own comic in the mid-1950s published by Magazine Enterprises. The action figure of Strongman was made using a Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves Dark Warrior body and the head from a Cadillacs and Dinosaurs Jack Tenrec. The General was made using an approximate 75mm figure in a line called the Mask, which was about the right scale. The car is a Matchbox approximately 1:64 scale Jaguar XK120.
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Monday, March 7, 2011

American Crusader Revisited - From AC Comics

I'm sure none of you remember this but way, way back in the early days of this blog I presented the American Crusader from the Better/Standard/Nedor publishing house. At that time I mentioned that the character had been revived by AC Comics and given a revamped uniform that I might present at a later date. TA DA - that date has come!! Can't say I'm not a man of my word. I rather liked this version because the original, while it was red and blue, left out the white, with only a slash of yellow around the waist. Red, blue and yellow - blah - not very patriotic. The newer version from AC Comics really was red, white and blue - so American flag-like. In the AC Comics universe a number of superheroes and heroines from the 1940s and early 1950s were flash frozen in the Vault of Heroes with the intent of later revival when a bunch of real heroes were presumably needed once again. Some of them kept their Golden Age outfits and some of them - like American Crusader - were updated. I may feature more about the Vault of Heroes at a later date - and we know I keep my promises. Once again I used a Toy Biz Captain America body with the star on his chest and the head, arms and legs from a Toy Biz Daredevil. While it was handy to use the Captain America body, that doesn't mean it was easier. I had to Dreml all the plate armor from the uniform just to get the star on his chest, but I think it made for a nice appearance.
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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Silver Age Heroes - Captain Flash and Ricky

The Silver Age of comics followed the Golden Age and started in the mid-1950s. The real resurgence of the super hero genre actually didn't start until the early 1960s with the new and improved Flash, Green Lantern and Hawkman from DC and the invention of the Hulk, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, etc from Marvel. This mid-1950s period saw characters like Fighting American, Strong Man and the character I'm featuring today - Captain Flash. He was really Professor Keith Spencer who, as the result of radioactivity, could clap his hands together and create a miniature atomic explosion inside his body that, rather than spreading his atoms all over the walls, endowed him with super powers. He had a non-powered kid sidekick - just can't get rid of those pesky side-kicks now can we - named Ricky Davis. Ricky went by the superhero side-kick name of - are you ready for it - Ricky!! That's OK, they only had to worry about secret identities and such for a total of four issues before Captain Flash and Ricky faded into comic oblivion. I've actually read a couple of the stories and overall they aren't bad for the period, being published out of a one room comic company called Sterling comics that only had a couple of other (horror) titles. Captain Flash was their most successful book. As for the figures, Captain Flash was made by repainting a Toy Biz Daredevil figure. Ricky was a little more complex and I actually did him twice. The first go-around I used a Mattel Marvel Secret Wars Dr. Doom and the head from a Toy Biz Robin figure, but it looked a little too mature. So I went back to the drawing board and used a Star Wars (General Madine I think) which I had to use putty on for the tops of the boots. Then I married that figure with the head from an old Voltron figure and painted to match. Even the kid's outfit was kinda lame - yellow, red and lime green - worse than Robin the boy blunder, as the Joker would say.
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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Supersnipe - the comic book kid

Published by the publishing house of Conde Nast/Street and Smith, Supersnipe was actually an outgrowth of the popularity of comics in the early 1940s. He was Koppy McFad, reputed to be the kid with the most comic books in America. He loved his comics and the superheroes who battled baddies across their pages. It was probably not unexpected that he would want to emulate his heroes and not surprising that he would dress in a pair of red flannel long underwear with a cape and a mask and haunt the neighborhood looking for evil doers - who he actually used to find. Later he apparently created an inflatable costume filled with helium that would allow him to fly and make him at least appear to be as superheroic in proportions as he was in intention. Along with some of the other kids in the neighborhood he actually fought and defeated some bad guys, undoubtedly fueling his ego and imagination. I decided to do both versions of Supersnipe, using a Tonka-type guy in coveralls for the long underwear and a Toy Biz Superman body with Captain America arms for his inflated persona. The heads are from Jurassic Park Tim Murphy II figures.