It's Not About The Answers: Behind The Mask Of Vic Sage, pt 3
Intermission: Hangin' With Beetle (pt 1) with special bonus: Vic Walks In Two Worlds
In 1981, after thirteen years of surviving on licensed comics, Charlton was falling apart. A new volume of Charlton Bullseye was launched to feature new talent and hopefully strike gold, and the first issue went to writer Benjamin Smith and artist Dan Reed, who decided the thing Charlton needed was something it already had.
They'd been featured between the same covers in '67, why not in the same story? Vic had appeared in the main story in Blue Beetle v5 #5, after all, so it's not like there's no precedent for it! (7 1/3 pages out of 22)
We begin with our hero racing to the scene in a van marked for a completely different station. And is it just me or did Fred (or was it Bob? those two were basically never referred to by name!) kill Al so he could take his name without any competition? Yes. Yes, he did.
Some jerks in goofy costumes are holding up an Eastchester store. That's right, no Crown City, no Hub City, not even Chicago. Ted and Vic apparently operate out of New York now. Anyway, the jerks take their very large guns and blow up some police cars and Vic's van. We never see Nora or Fred Al after that, so it's safe to assume they're dead. Ted swings in from the Bug and starts beating guys up.
The jerks shoot Ted with a big stun gun, and the Bug with an even bigger, even more phallic, stun gun.
The funny thing about that last line is I had to double-check whether or not it had a comma. If Ted is riffing on Vic's name, Vic has yet to develop the sense of humor to recognize it. I'm not even sure if Ted has the sense of humor yet to have done it deliberately!
Ted brings Vic's attention to more jerks in some kind of aircraft as they steal the Bug. The jerks ran away 'cos they got what they came for! The Enigma, a guy Beetle put away ten years ago, explains to the reader how he got out and his plan for revenge.
They find a sophisticated robot-run fortress, and it's full of traps!
The Enigma gloats as Vic and Ted fall into their own traps.
50% shark, 50% robot! 100% terror! It's the Terminator meets Jaws! Meanwhile, Ted finds himself in a room full of lasers! I'd include it if I had enough room. :(
Vic's lucky this artist decided to give him an overcoat! Ditko hadn't since the first splash page, after all (though Toth did). Ted, tired of dodging lasers, uses all his strength to bend them around to destroy each other. There was a pretty cool panel of him running away from the explosion, but again, I'm hitting the limit as it is.
They find the Bug in a garage, but Vic's too busy wondering what's making that thumping sound. A giant, that's what! They beat it up and run deeper in to find out who's behind it all.
There he goes again! The more immediate question, huh? They're probably not even paying attention, when you get a writer paying attention to this kind of thing you get Rucka. This is pure work-for-hire stuff, there's no way it wasn't an accident.
Enigma gets fed up with Vic and Ted beat his guys up. You know the old saying, so what do you do if you want something done?
That's some classic Vic ruthlessness there, using a jerk as a human shield against a death ray while bitching out a guy for being a criminal. It's a little better when he's not justifying his ruthlessness the whole time, but I'm betting Ted's "You're not killing anybody" there was about one panel too late.
The story ends exactly as all action stories should...
...With explosions and friendship.
The story didn't take, of course. Bullseye v2 lasted for nine more issue and had other superhero stories, including #7, which featured Captain Atom and Nightshade. But the Action Heroes revival was short-lived, and Charlton soon went under '86.
The Action Heroes had one curious stop-over between their Charlton days and their sale to DC. In '83, AC Comics acquired the license to the Action Heroes, which lasted it all of two issues, Americomics #3 featuring the Blue Beetle, and Americomics Special #1, featuring a brand new team called the Sentinels of Justice. And just who were these Sentinels, you may ask?
Well, maybe you'll recognize them.
They even wrote up a history of the characters to that point on the inside front cover.
whether D.C. Glanzman and Sam Glanzman were the same person or this is misinformation isn't clear, but considering Sam was an artist, not a writer, and they misspelled his name, I'm inclined to believe the latter.
Plotted by Dan St. John, with script and art done by Greg Guler and backgrounds by Matt Feazell (yeah, that Matt Feazell) (a little over 8 pages out of 25)
Hub City, now we're getting somewhere familiar! It may have have been Ted's city before, but it's where Vic would make himself at home from here on out. And again, it's not like there's no precedence for it. Some gang of villains are plotting and planning. I don't recognize any of them except the Madmen and a familiar looking caped green silhouette, but I also didn't pay much attention to the non-Vic Charltons (hell, I only flipped through the Ted parts and found Vic's appearance in #5 to see if the Enigma was a recurring villain, but he could've been in Ted's Captain Atom back-up, so I don't know!). Anyway, the Sentinels of Justice get called in. The mayor complains bout Hub City get overrun with super freaks, but everyone just tells him to shut up. Eventually, Vic shows and they begin their meeting.
It's kind of hard to keep up with the narrative here. The only previous mention of the "crimes" discussed in the second-to-last panel here were in Vic's broadcast in the previous scan, but with all the infodump on the pages in-between you're likely to lose that plot line. Anyway, Dr. Rockwell makes his fake presentation while Ted and Vic keep watch.
Iron-Arms, Fiery-Icer and the Madmen attack the demonstration, with their boss, the Manipulator coming down on a flying chair. Captain Atom and Nightshade hold the bigger two off, but there are still a lot of Madmen around.
Kord is an anagram for Dork. I don't think this is an accident. :D
I don't care for the plot of this comic, it isn't really going anywhere. It's really just set up for this half-issue brawl. But there are two things I do really like about it: a) the colors are kind of muted and everything looks like it happens at sunset, and there's something really aesthetically pleasing to that, and b) Vic and Ted play off each other beautifully. Even if they only had a few overlapping appearances beforehand, the kind of chemistry they show here definitely sheds some light on how they might've inspired the friendship between Rorschach and Nite Owl.
Cap and Nightshade do some fighting, blah blah blah, the Manipulator's flying chair blows up, blah blah blah
The Banshee! Vic's first and only recurring villain makes the scene for the third, and prolly last time!
Cap takes Iron-Arms down, goes after Banshee.
Firey-Icer brings more trouble.
But Manipulator never comes back. The last page ends with a concession that we'll never now because the Charlton Action Heroes were bought out by DC, and AC's license ran out. The Sentinels of Justice were subsequently populated by AC's original heroes, advertised in the back of this very issue.
As for Vic and Ted, they still had a long future ahead of them as they made the transition from what is now being called Earth-4 in the DC Multiverse, introduced only to be destroyed in Crisis On Infinite Earths #6, by Marv Wolfman and George Perez.
Harbinger's team appears on Earth-4 to do what they can to save it, but it's covered in unnatural rain. Due to a misunderstanding, as will happen whenever superheroes are involved in a crossover, a fight breaks out. Thunderbolt almost hits the anti-matter wave when Jay Garrick saves him. We then cut to the Bug.
The Crisis resolves itself, and a new Earth emerges. Blue Beetle makes his debut in Chicago instead of Hub City, which is now home to The Question on this new Earth, and they settle into their new home at DC Comics, which is where we leave off with this installment.
As a taste of things to come, I'll leave you with a lead-in to the next post. This comes from Blue Beetle v6 #4, from September 1986. Written by Len Wein with Paris Cullins on pencils, this is Vic's second DC appearance and first post-Crisis.
While Ted pursues the Alchemist inside a research building, outside the cameras are rolling.
Four pages go by, the fight progresses. Vic's finger does not move.
Afterward, everything's settled down, the clean up crews are in, and everyone's gone home, but Vic's still looking for answers.
Keep watching this space, it'll be a good one (or three)!