SUPER HEROES VERSUS SUPER VILLAINS No. 1 (1966); cover by Paul Reinman ⇒
also in this issue:
Fly Man: The Creature from the Abysss; story: Jerry Siegel; art: Paul Reinman and Frank Giacoia; 8 pages.
Fly Man: The Fly Man’s Partners in Peril; story: Jerry Siegel; art: Paul Reinman; 8 pages.
Fly Man: The Wicked Web of the Wily Spider; story: Jerry Siegel; art: Paul Reinman; 5 pages.
The Web: The Mad Cap Capers of the Madman; story: Jerry Siegel; art: Paul Reinman; 10 pages.
The Shield: Evilo the Tempter; story: Jerry Siegel; art: Mike Sekowshy and Paul Reinman; 12 pages.
Mighty Mystery Men
However, by the time I first got my hands on a coverless copy of the comic (circa 1967), Radio Comics had folded or was about to fold. So all my searches for more funny books like this were doomed from the start.
For a little more about that see: MY FAVOURITE FUNNIES No. 4: SUPERHEROES by any other name would . . .
But there’s a certain advantage to having only one comic of its kind. And I think that’s why it has become my favourite, because I kept reading it over and over to figure out everything I could about the heroes in this book, based on the little evidence therein.
Each story holds its own secrets and will not give them up so easily. How did Fly Man get all his powers? Fly Man has a lot of powers and they don’t always correspond to those of a fly. Who are these super-heroes–and where have they been all these years? What’s the deal with the Web? What happened to the Shield’s father?
The tone of the art and the stories is somewhere between ’60s Marvel and DC, without being either. There’s an oddball quality to the writing that makes one think the BATMAN TV show was an influence–but, in fact, all these stories are reprints from comics published in 1965–with the exception of the Web story, first published after the Batmania craze begins
The Creature from the Abyss–reprinted from FLY MAN No. 34 (November ’65).
The Terrible Titan–a giant hulking man-monster–emerges out of the subterranean depths, cracking open the pavement of West Broadway, and transmits his X002 radiation along the surface of the Earth to weaken anyone who would stop him.
The towering Titan is unphased by Fly Man’s ray gun, and the Winged Marvel is incapacitated by the X002 radiation in the ground. Rendering him the mere plaything of the towering Titan.
A military unit using top-secret technology likewise has no effect on the Terrible Titan. Meanwhile, Fly Man’s buddy, the Black Hood swings into action, kicking our hero off the ground. Freed from contact with X002, Fly Man is back at full strength.
Using the cyclonic power of his wings, the Fly Man knocks the Terrible Titan off his feet. That’s just for starters.
Fly Man uses yet another super-power of his to grow to giant-size.
Removing the back pack that powers the Titan’s X002 radiation, the two giants now go at it in a big brawl. Although Fly Man clearly has other powers he could use, he fights his subterranean nemesis on equal footing. But the Terrible Titan is not above playing dirty and just as he’s about to stomp our hero, the Black Hood uses his ray gun to even the balance.
Fly Man overpowers the behemoth, and weaves steely threads about his beaten foe (another power?), returning the renegade Titan to the advanced civilization of Subterrania far below the Earth’s surface. The Terrible Titan was a science experiment gone amok. The Subterranians take custody of the prisoner and seal off their underground civilization after the Winged Marvel leaves them.
A caption at the end urges reading on for more action and excitement in the next story . . .
An epic 3 part adventure(25 pages in all)–reprinted from ADVENTURES OF THE FLY No. 31 (May ’65).
The Fly Man’s Partners in Peril, Part I—
This Fly Man adventure advertises the action ahead, at the beginning of each part. The splash page for the first part previews Fly Man under attack by the Spider and his minions, as three other heroes arrive to protect him (this is a symbolic splash page, since that scene never takes place in the actual story).
As the actual story begins, we witness a spectacular escape from prison by the Spider (a heavy-set guy with mad skills). In Capital City, hearing of the prison break, attorney Thomas Troy rubs his magic ring to become Fly Man and corners his arch-enemy in his mountain lair, but the villain escapes detection.
The next day, the Spider releases a giant claw to threaten the city fairgrounds.
However, it’s really an electric trap that would have subdued the Fly Man if not for the intervention of a helmeted hero. This good guy calls himself the Comet and he’s from the planet Altrox, where he used to be ruler, but now he’s on Earth to revive his career as a crime-fighter.
Later, insects transmit telepathically to Fly Man news of a home invasion at a high-class party by the Spider’s three minions. Another super-power: Fly Man can communicate with all arthropods.
Battle of the Super-Heroes! Part II—
As the train bears down on him, the Winged Wonder is scooped up by the Shield. The gangsters fire their guns at the Shield, but bullets just bounce off the G-Man Extraordinary and he knocks the thugs unconscious.
Fly Man is surprised to meet the Shield, who has been missing for many years. But the red, white and blue hero doesn’t want to talk about it.
The next day, while on patrol, Fly Man spots a forest fire and shrinks down to insect size, communicating with the bugs that live in the forest.
He beats his wings to put out the fire, but as he returns to full height, a bomb drops from the skies and emanates an energy that drains Fly Man of his life force–another trap engineered by the Spider.
This time the Black Hood rides his robot horse–Nightmare–to the rescue, melting the bomb with his ray gun. This adventure must have taken place before the first story in this issue, as the Black Hood announces that the Man of Mystery has returned to crusade against blackguards of all varieties, again!
The next day, Fly Man, the Comet, and Black Hood are beckoned by sky-writing: This-a-way, Super-Heroes! Form . . . “The Mighty Crusaders!” They arrive at an abandoned amusement park where the Shield is already waiting.
None of the four know who wrote the message in the sky, but most of them think it’s a good idea to form a group. However, Fly Man objects, saying that Mighty Crusaders sounds like something dreamed up in a comic book and he doesn’t think the other three are good enough to join up with him.
This starts a fight and the other three gang up on Fly Man. It turns out that Fly Man’s powers can only last for an hour–yet another revelation–so he can’t put up a fight. The others take off and leave the hero to stew. Regretting his harsh words, Fly Man is taken by surprise when a seeming inanimate clown in the amusement park comes to life and reveals himself as the Spider!
The Mad Caper of the Madman–reprinted from FLY MAN No. 38 (July ’66).
This Web adventure begins with the writer addressing the Mighty Readers directly in a long caption. There are a few things revealed in his prose. One is that this isn’t the first Web story–apparently there have been others which Mighty Readers think are pretty funny. The caption is also written in a knowing way, revealing that the writer knows this is funny, almost to the extent of bragging about how good this gag is.
That’s the major flaw in this kind of story. If it wasn’t for that intruding voice from the writer, this Web story could be read straight as a kind of melodramatic but still interesting character study. But because we’ve been told to read this whole thing as a farce, the many good things in the story are undermined at the outset.
Anyhow–it’s made clear through the Web’s thoughts that he’s been in retirement for some years and getting back into crime-fighting is testing his body. A macabre mob of villains called the Acro-Bats are giving the Web a beating. The final humiliation is when they dump a waste basket on his head, but the crime-fighter throws that basket at their getaway flyer, bringing them to a crashing defeat.
Going into a closet in an office building, to change into his civilian identity as Prof. John Raymond, the Web gets locked in and has to wait there until released by the cleaning lady. As a result, he gets home late, where his wife and his mother-in-law are waiting for him–and not in a good mood.
Wwhen I read this story as a kid, this family situation reminded me of the dynamic between Samantha, Darren and Endora on BEWITCHED. While this was supposed to be laughable, my mother once got into a tantrum over her kids watching that TV show which showed such an appalling family relationship. Family strife isn’t so funny.
The Mad Caper of the Mad Man can be read straight, if you ignore the preamble. Always one for getting out his inner frustrations through his stories, Jerry Siegel’s angst, vented through these characters, is likely sincer. Laughing it all off at the outset might be a smoke-screen to protect the author’s ego.
It’s certainly on the level of the same sort of soap operatic stuff that Stan Lee is peddling in his super-hero comics around this time. And that’s how I took the story when I first read it.
Spoiler: The yarn ends with the Mad Man–the leader of the Acro-Bats–tracking down the Web to his house. But while John Raymond is busy changing into his costume, the two women in the house defeat the Mad Man all on their own. Get it–nudge nudge–the women are more powerful than the man–that’s the joke (maybe).
Evilo the Tempter–reprinted from FLY MAN No. 34 (November ’65).
The Shield interrupts a robbery at the Modern Museum, where two second-rate crooks are trying to steal pop art paintings of the Mighty Crusaders.
He pursues them into the museum’s Hall of Black Magic, where they are easily overcome. But, they have unwittingly revived Evilo the Tempter, who rises from his crypt to exact vengeance upon the world.
Meanwhile, the Shield has to climb down the cavernous walls into his hidden sanctum–no stairs, poles, or elevators for him. There he communes with the statue of his father, which isn’t really a statue but the original Shield himself turned to metal by the villainous Eraser. The son recommits to finding some way to bring his father back to life.
When Evilo is caught using his arcane powers, the Shield tries to put a stop to him; however, the Tempter’s magic transformations are too much for our patriotic hero and the Comet flies in to save his fellow Mighty Crusader.
Evilo then summons a terrible flying dragon, called a gryphorg, to menace the city. The Comet tries to stop him, but Evilo uses his magic to corrupt the hero and turn him. Having dispatched the Comet, the Tempter seeks to win the Shield to his side by promising to revive his father. They make a deal and to seal the bargain they drink from twin goblets.
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