Friends, last week over at the SHOW ‘N TELL PICTURESOUND VIEWER CLUB on Facebook, a member shared a link to Superman in The Flying Firefighter for the iconic GE Show ‘N Tell phono viewer. Just one in a series of DC Super Heroes film strip and 33 1/3 record combos produced by CBS Toys back in 1983, along with other DC characters such as Batman, Wonder Woman, and even the Justice League.
I have talked about the awesomeness that was the GE Show ‘N Tell phono viewer in a previous article, in which I was able to share some of the other stories produced for the combination filmstrip viewer/projector and record player. A ‘toy’ that lasted a remarkably long time, first being produced by General Electric in ’64 and lasting until the early ’80s, being released under a few brand names. And while I was never fortunate enough to obtain a GE Show ‘N Tell phono viewer for myself, I certainly enjoyed the model that was in the kindergarten class of my youth.
Besides the likes of DC Super Heroes, other ‘Picturesound programs’ included Marvel Super Heroes, Sesame Street, The Shirt Tales, Hello Kitty, The Berenstain Bears, and even adaptations of popular Disney films and animated shorts.
Of course the 33 1/3 records provided in the Picturesound programs meant the stories were generally kept to under 4 minutes in length, with the B side of the record offering music or in the case of Superman in The Flying Firefighter, something entitled Aerobic Adventures: Sailing Through Space.
The synopsis for Superman in The Flying Firefighter is by necessity pretty simple. While receiving an award for reporter of the year, Clark Kent must excuse himself and respond to the threat of a massive fire. On the scene, he learns of a small boy who is still within the burning building, the child was scared by the firefighters in their gas masks and gear. It is up to Superman to save the day and pass along some words of wisdom in the process!
Friends, the fifth entry in the classic Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe belongs to Aegeus – an arch-nemesis of Wonder Woman! While some of the other characters from DC Comics that we have so far shared in this Who’s Who series of articles, I either knew well or at least had a passing knowledge of, I must admit that I knew nothing of Aegeus before I picked up the first issue. Furthermore, as I have mentioned in the previous articles, while TheOfficial Handbook of the Marvel Universe might have beaten their long-time competitor to the punch by three whole years – Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, and Robert Greenberger in my opinion topped the Marvel version in both quality and range of characters they featured in their encyclopedic series. The trio managed to fill 26 issues with an all-encompassing roster of major as well as minor characters of the DC Universe, the latter of which in my humble opinion is the category that Aegeus happens to fall into.
The character of Nikos Aegeus made his first appearance in the pages of Wonder Woman #297, which was published in November of 1982 in a story entitled “Thunder on the Wind”. I must also point out that particular issue featured an incredible cover by Michael Kaluta (who I’ve talked about in The Shadow episode of the Pop Culture Retrorama podcast) and also featured a back-up tale involving the Huntress, in addition to a story involving Superman aiding He-Man and the other Masters of the Universe in defending Eternia.
Back to Aegeus though, the character was co-created by Dan Mishkin, Gene Colan, and Frank McLaughlin – although I’ve seen online where it says that Curt Swan also had a hand in the creation. Mishkin along with Gary Cohn and Ernie Colon were also responsible for co-creating the cult favorite comic series, Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld for DC Comics as well as joining with artist Paris Cullins to produce the Blue Devil comic book series. Gene Colan however might possibly be best known for his work at Marvel Comics with the legendary Tomb of Dracula but he would also co-create the Falcon and even Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel. Frank McLaughlin not only helped create the character of Judomaster for Charlton Comics but he worked on the Gil Thorp newspaper comic strip too.
As is stated in the character’s entry in Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe, which features artwork by Don Heck by the way (Iron Man, The Avengers):
Full Name: Niko Aegeus Occupation: Terrorist Marital Status: Single Known Relatives: None Group Affiliation: None Base of Operation: Greece First Appearance: Wonder Woman #297 Height: 5’10” Weight: 175lbs. Eyes: Blue Hair: Black
As we are introduced to Nikos Aegeus in the story “Thunder on the Wind”, it is through a summons of Diana to return to Paradise Island by her Mother, Hippolyta – Queen of the Amazons. She shows a disturbing vision to her daughter of a possible future where many of their fellow Amazonians fall to some great threat, which of course Wonder Woman vows to track down and stop.
The threat happens to be making itself known at that moment in Athens, Greece, as a poor ambassador is brutally executed by Nikos Aegeus. Realizing the murder will undoubtedly attract the attention of the authorities, Nikos and his fellow terrorists decide to hide out among some ancient ruins upon what they believe to be a deserted island. Only to find out that the ruins aren’t really deserted at all, as the single resident is none other than Bellerophon, the Greek Hero punished for his attempt to fly to Mount Olympus.
The origin of Aegeus pauses there as we find out that days have passed with Diana Prince still attempting to locate the source of the threat her Mother sensed. She is doing this in her military role at the Pentagon as Captain Diana Prince but isn’t coming up with anything, which is when Steve Trevor invites her to participate in an inter-service combat exercise between the Air Force and Navy. During this exercise though is when Aegeus decides to make himself known, appearing in the sky atop the mighty Pegasus and striking down Trevor’s plane with a thunderbolt of Zeus that he fires from a magical bow.
Thankfully for Steve though Diana calls forth her invisible jet to help him land his plane while she confronts Aegeus. The encounter doesn’t go exactly as you might imagine as Aegeus is more amused than concerned by the heroine lassoing his flying steed. Wonder Woman attempts to force Pegasus to land but it is then revealed that it can only be controlled by Aegeus. Before she can reach her foe the villain uses one of Zeus’ bolts to teleport safely away, and when Wonder Woman goes to check on Trevor, as the issue ends we learn that Aegeus has whisked him away as his prisoner.
It would be in the pages of Wonder Woman #298 where it is revealed that Bellerophon is merely using Aegeus to help him achieve vengeance against the Gods of Olympus, Zeus in particular. Blinded and shunned by mankind, Bellerophon waited for the likes of Nikos Aegeus to arrive, and the reason he instructed the now magically augmented terrorist into capturing Trevor was to learn the location of Paradise Island. Doing so in an attempt to gain access to the Purple Ray of the Amazons, which can give Bellerophon back his eyesight and even restore his youth.
The conclusion of Aegeus’ origin story was in issue #299 of the Wonder Woman comic book. I’ll cut to the chase and let you know that not only does the Princess of Paradise Island best the still formidable Bellerophon but she also thoroughly trounces Aegeus… after a mighty swing of a tree up against the side of his head. However, the villain is able to make an escape with the aid of his single remaining thunderbolt of Zeus, vowing vengeance of course in the process.
As the Powers & Weapons section of Aegeus’ entry in the Who’s Who points out, Wonder Woman’s foe returns after managing to acquire the six daggers of Vulcan, which happen to be weapons that are able to cut and penetrate almost all objects, including our heroine’s lasso of truth and her bracelets!
Closing out this article, you might be interested to know that shortly after Aegeus was given the spotlight in the Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe, the character was wiped out – one of the many victims of the Multiverse collapsing courtesy of the Crisis on Infinite Earths maxi-series. Since that time however, versions of Nikos Aegeus have made appearances in both the 2010 New Earth and 2015 Prime Earth versions of the Wonder Woman comic book series.
Friends, I hope you weren’t alarmed by that signal in the sky today, I can assure you that all is well and that it just means we have a brand new Super-Blog Team-Up. That time when the finest collection of bloggers and podcasters unite to discuss a subject that is too large for just one site. In this case it happens to concern comic book, comic strip, movies, television series, and even music that relate to doctors. While some of my esteemed Super-Blog Team-Up members will be sharing articles relating to the likes of such characters as Marvel’s Doctor Voodoo and the tortured Dr. Bruce Banner – I have decided to discuss an interesting character from DC Comics. Dr. Thirteen the Ghost Breaker, a man who decided to take it upon himself to prove to those in the DC Universe that the supernatural doesn’t exist, that there is always a rational explanation. That is a big order to fill when you consider the likes of The Spectre as well as the Phantom Stranger are wandering around.
The creation of Dr. Thirteen the Ghost Breaker, who is also known as Dr. Terrence (Terrance) Thirteen is interesting to say the least, a mystery worthy of the character’s “…razor sharp powers of observation and his keen analytical mind.” The character made his first appearance in the pages of the November 1951 issues of Star Spangled Comics in a story entitled “I Talked with the Dead”. And while it is known that the character was co-created and illustrated by Leonard Starr (Little Orphan Annie) and that the editor-in-chief at the time was Whitney Ellsworth (Congo Bill) – it is not known who actually wrote that debut story for Dr. Thirteen.
The origin for Dr. Thirteen presented in “I Talked with the Dead” sheds some backstory on how Terrence Thirteen took an oath handed down by his Father before his untimely death, to embrace reason above all and rebuke the supernatural and expose them as being fraudulent. It turns out that the Thirteen family has something of a tragic history, as their ancestors were accused of witchcraft and sorcery for embracing of science, having said that though it appears as if members of the family are often murdered or die prematurely.
As part of that sacred oath though, Terrence agreed to return to his family home of Doomsbury Hall at midnight on New Year’s Eve to see if he could make contact with his late Father. Bringing his fiance Marie with him to visit Doomsbury Hall, calling out and asking questions that were supplied by his Father – the duo are shocked to hear the elder Thirteen’s voice answering them. Dr. Thirteen however is true to his word, and after a quick investigation discovers a tape recorder hidden in a grandfather clock. It turns out that this was a test, one helped along by Marie, who swore to the elder Thirteen that she would challenge his Son’s oath. Having passed the test, the two leave Doomsbury Hall and prepare to get to the bottom of the so called “Curse of Thirteen”.
Dr. Thirteen ended up marrying Marie and thanks to their investigations into supposed supernatural happenings, Terrence decided to set up operations in an office in the city as a professional “Ghost Breaker”. It would appear that the two had a successful career, one that once found Dr. Thirteen investigating Wayne Manor, a case that eventually revealed a connection to the Man-Bat. Another time he found himself trying to debunk the vengeful and extremely powerful Spectre, which seems like a really stupid thing to do. Things would change though when Terrence crossed paths with the likes of the Phantom Stranger, as he was unable to explain away the supernatural abilities of the paranormal hero – especially when the entity stepped in to save Terrence and Marie on a few occasions.
In the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths era, Dr. Thirteen would retire and begin a new career as a popular writer, detailing his adventures in debunking the supernatural. In addition, Marie and Terrence in the post-Crisis stories have a daughter named Traci… who happens to be a sorceress. It probably goes without saying that Dr. Thirteen the Ghost Breaker is less than thrilled about this situation, right?
Check in on the other Super-Blog Team-Up participants and their “THE DOCTOR IS IN” offerings:
Friends, we are shining the spotlight today on Adam Strange, the fourth entry in the fondly remembered Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe encyclopedic series. Not to belittle the other entries featured in our series of Who’s Who articles so far, but my initial feelings when I realized we would be tackling this science fiction hero is to state that we finally have our first entry in that 1985 compendium that isn’t a B-list character. Having said that though, while I truly love the character of Adam Strange, I will have to admit that he was probably seen as a second-stringer in the DC Universe by both fans as well as his creators. But that was what made the Who’s Who series so great – for 26 issues – Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, and Robert Greenberger made sure that many such characters were honored with an entry. As a way to celebrate those artists and writers who had helped forge the legacy of DC Comics fifty years earlier at the time Who’s Who was published. And as would be proven in Adam Strange’s first appearance, he certainly lived up to his moniker of ‘The Man of Two Worlds’.
Adam Strange was created by Julius ‘Julie’ Schwartz and Murphy Anderson, first appearing in Showcase #17 in a story entitled “Secret of the Eternal City” from back in 1958. Schwartz was a legendary editor – with some notable personal issues I am sad to say – who helped to usher in the Silver Age version of the Flash and Green Lantern. In addition he helped both Dennis “Denny” O’Neil and Neal Adams make their mark with none other than Batman. Anderson had a long history with DC Comics and was a very well regarded inker, it turns out he had first crack at the cover of Showcase #17, but Schwartz rejected it, instead getting the equally legendary Gil Kane to step in and provide the artwork that graced the comic itself. However Schwartz did like the costume design that Anderson came up with and it’s more or less stayed the same since 1958.
Interestingly enough the creation of Adam Strange came about due to a mandate by editorial director Irwin Donenfield, as he felt that DC Comics needed some new heroes, science-fiction ones at that. So he presented a choice to both Schwartz and fellow editor Jack Schiff, one of the men would help create a sci-fi hero set in present day and the other would tackle a character that hailed from the far future. Schiff had first choice and chose to go with the future hero, co-creating Rick Starr aka Space Ranger, along with writers Edward Hamilton, Gardner Fox, and artist Bob Brown.
Schwartz, after giving the task of writing the Adam Strange stories to Fox for Showcase #17 through #19, then gave the penciling job to Mike Sekowsky. It was perhaps a surprise to all involved when Adam Strange wound up capturing the interest of the readers, so much so that he began a long run in the series entitled Mystery in Space (47 issues straight). The art chores for that comic book series went to none other than Carmine Infantino, with inking handled by Murphy Anderson. As a matter of fact the two also provided the illustration used for Strange’s entry in the Who’s Who.
As stated in the entry for the first volume of the Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe:
Alter Ego: Adam Strange Occupation: Archaeologist Marital Status: Married Known Relatives: Alanna (Wife), Sardath (father-in-law) Group Affiliation: None Base of Operations: Ranagar, City on Rann, third planet of Alpha Centauri First Appearance:SHOWCASE #17 Height: 6′ Weight: 175lbs. Eyes: Blue Hair: Blond
We are introduced to Adam Strange in “Secret of the Eternal City” moments after the archaeologist has discovered the lost Inca city of Caramanga – deep in the jungles of Peru. Exploring the ancient city, Adam manages to find the buried treasure of the last Emperor of the Incas – Atahualpa. Seconds later though his joy at discovering such a find is soured when some understandably angry Incas decide to halt any attempt at his sharing the news… by hurling spears and firing arrows at him. Adam begins running and dodging the projectiles, stopping momentarily at the edge of a cliff before deciding to take his chances by leaping across the chasm. Which is fortuitous as at the height of his frantic jump for safety from the Incas he is struck by what we will later learn is a Zeta-Beam.
Strange finds himself whisked from the jungles of Peru to the jungles of Rann, with his life still in peril as a dinosaur-like beast chases him. Suddenly a futuristic flying vehicle appears and manages to capture the beast with a giant net in the nick of time. It is then that Adam comes face to face with his first citizen from the city of Ranagar, Alanna, the daughter of the brilliant scientist known as Sardath. Strange senses that Alanna means him no harm even though he can’t actually understand her language, and finds himself being flown back to the city, where thanks to a device called the Menticizer he instantly learns their language. After spending a little time answering questions from Sardath – Adam learns that the Zeta-Beam was originally intended as a means of communication between Rann and the Earth.
After explaining to Strange the reason for his arrival on Rann, Alanna is more than happy to give Adam a tour of some the cities and features of the planet. While in an open market the duo are shocked to see the arrival of three space craft, it turns out that Rann has no spaceships of its own, and quickly the vessels begin to launch an attack. They turn out to be an alien invading race known as the Eternals, because they gained eternal life from a metal called Vitatron, collected from a meteor that crashed on their home planet in the past. Unfortunately overuse throughout the centuries has depleted the precious ore, they have arrived on Rann because their sensors are picking up a deposit of the metal somewhere on the planet. Alanna informs Strange that she has a theory that the desired metal is located in the city of Samakand, a mysterious place that appears for a brief period of time every 25 years.
The young Woman is quite correct and the scientists of Samakand reveal they do have a block of Vitatron in their possession. They too have used it to prolong their own life but in the hopes that one day upon their return to Rann they will find conflict and war completely eliminated. With the threat of the Eternals as they arrive at Samakand to claim the Vitatron, the scientist decide to aid Alanna and Strange by lending them an experimental vessel that can travel into the fourth dimension. Strange leads the Eternals on a chase into the fourth dimension, both Adam and Alanna abandon the vessel, landing safely thanks to personal jet packs. Leaving the aggressive alien race trapped in the fourth dimension courtesy of the tech of the scientists of Samakand.
Perhaps Adam Strange would be celebrated as a hero of Rann upon his return with Alanna, but it’s then that the Zeta-Beam wears off and he is transported back to the jungles of Peru. As “Secret of the Eternal City” comes to an end, we can take some small comfort in the knowledge that Strange was at least given the location of the next Zeta-Beam strike. Knowing that soon Adam will be able to see Alanna and Sardath once again and experience a new intergalactic adventure on the planet Rann!
Friends, it has been far too long since I last tackled an entry in the ongoing look back at Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe, time just managed to slip away from me it would seem. Which is most assuredly something that the third entry in the first issue of the Who’s Who series would know all about, as Abra Kadabra hails from the 64th Century. Before we dive into the history of the character though, here is a brief recap on the Who’s Who series.
Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe originally saw publication back in 1985 and the initial 26 issue run was a rather amazing deep dive into the then current history of the characters of DC Comics. The series was headed up by Len Wein (Swamp Thing), Marv Wolfman (The New Teen Titans), and Robert Greenberger (Starlog). And for those of us of a certain age the Who’s Who series was a beloved guide into the rich lore of the Golden and Silver Age characters of DC Comics – many who can still be found appearing in recent animated and live action series. Such as Abra Kadabra who showed up in the 18th episode of Season 3 of The Flash and was played by David Dastmalchian.
Abra Kadabra first appeared in The Flash #128 in May of 1962 and was created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino, the duo also co-created the characters of Detective Chimp, Elongated Man, and The Phantom Stranger among others. Broome would be hired by DC Comics in 1946, his first story is assumed to be “The City of Shifting Sand” in All-Flash #22. Infantino would join with DC about a year later and the first story he illustrated from a script by Robert Kanigher (Co-Creator of Sgt. Rock) was entitled “The Black Canary”, it was a Johnny Thunder feature and was the first appearance of Black Canary, who began as a villain but would show up as a member of the Justice Society of America just a few issues later!
The entry for Abra Kadabra in the first volume of the Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe lists this personal data:
Alter Ego: Unknown
Occupation: Former Stage Magician, now Professional Criminal
Marital Status: Unknown
Known Relatives: None
Group Affiliation: None
Base of Operations: 20th and 64th Century Earth
First Appearance:TheFlash #128
Weight: 195 lbs.
As we learn in his first appearance, Abra Kadabra is a devoted practitioner of stage magic in the year 6363, while it is commendable that the magician is devoted to his craft, the technology of the era has rendered it all but obsolete. This is something that is obviously distressing to Abra, although upon hearing that scientists have managed to develop a working time machine, the scoundrel decides that it is time to travel back to the 20th Century with his advanced technology, where a stage magician might properly find both an audience and admiration. Upon entering the lab Abra uses the “Hypno-Ray” installed within the gem-flower he wears on the lapel of his suit, stunning the scientists just long enough to get into the time machine and whisk himself away to the Central City of the 20th Century. The trip back in time will only work once, especially since the machine is destroyed when the stage magician arrives at his destination.
Abra Kadabra wastes little time in trying to impress an audience, performing sleight of hand on a busy street corner, while they are indeed impressed they fail to applaud. The offended stage magician then turns his Hypno-Ray on those gathered before him to force their cheers and clapping. And although it is not specifically stated, it is highly suggested that he uses that piece of technology dishonestly to obtain enough enough money to pay for a theater – unfortunately his big debut is overlooked thanks to the final game of the World Series.
Realizing that he needs to come up with an exceptional way to capture the attention of the public, Abra decides to steal the Statue of Freedom during its dedication at the Central City park. Barry Allen is in attendance at the event but as he is about to change into his Flash costume, the magician once again uses that Hypno-Ray to paralyze the stunned audience before teleporting away. This daring daylight heist gets the attention of newspapers as well as the Flash, but Abra Kadabra has no plans of slowing down just yet, showing up at the Central City library to steal (teleport) the oldest book ever printed. The Flash almost reaches the villain before he is blasted by the magician’s Hypno-Ray once again, forced to stomp his feet and clap his hands while Abra gets away.
Embolden by getting away with his crimes as well as showing up the Flash, the magician realizes that the hero could be a true threat to his crime sprees. Abra Kadabra decides to lay a trap for the speedster by publicly announcing that he will host a free exhibition – in addition to performing the greatest magic trick ever seen. When the Flash shows up at the theater to arrest the magician, Abra uses his ‘magic’ to rocket Barry Allen sans costume into space, thankfully the hero’s speed aura protects him while hurtling through the solar system. Landing upon an asteroid, the speedster runs so fast that he is able to launch himself back to Earth.
In an attempt to track Abra Kadabra down, the speedster vibrates until he matches the radiation left behind by the magicians ‘magic’. Upon finding where Abra is holed up, the Flash moves faster than light, physically placing the villain smack dab in front of his own paralyzing Hypno-Ray. The Flash not only returns all of the items that Abra Kadabra stole but deposits the paralyzed trickster in jail, wondering where the magician came from and how he came by his dangerous abilities.
In closing out this article, it should come as no surprise that Abra Kadabra eventually shrugs off that paralyzation beam and has managed to become a recurring thorn in the Flash’s side since his debut 59 years ago in the pages of The Flash #128. Over the years the villain has managed to obtain actual magical abilities instead of just relying on his superior technology – courtesy of making a deal with the demon Neron in exchange for his soul during the Underworld Unleashed mini-series event.
Friends, it was in 1982 when Mattel toys released the initial first wave of action figures for their new Masters of the Universe toy line, and it was a massive success. Perhaps kids of the day were primed to accept the sword and sorcery setting thanks to the likes of Dragonslayer, The Beastmaster, and Conan the Barbarian to name a few of the movies released during that time. Whatever the reason was, I can definitely tell you that I was bowled over the first time that I laid eyes on both He-Man and Skeletor at a little toy shop in our local mall. While money was extremely tight when growing up, for some reason my Father allowed me to pick out two action figures that afternoon. And my choices that day were limited to only four characters from the Masters of the Universe toy line, the aforementioned He-Man and Skeletor as well as Beast Man and Man-At-Arms. It seemed like a rather easy choice however and both the ‘Most Powerful Man in the Universe’ as well as ‘The Lord of Destruction’ came home with me to begin their long battle of good versus evil.
Thanks to my Grandparents I was gifted the impressive Castle Grayskull playset on my birthday the following year, it stands as was one of the biggest surprises in my youth, I had not asked for it and when I ripped the paper off and saw that beautiful artwork by Rudy Obrero… I started jumping up and down in excitement. And while I may no longer wage epic battles between He-Man and his fellow Masters of the Universe against the evil legions of Skeletor for the fate of Castle Grayskull – those adventures of my youth still echo in this ‘fortress of mystery and power’.
It was two years after that first wave of Masters of the Universe figures had hit shelves when Kid Stuff Records and Tapes released The Thief of Castle Grayskull, a book and cassette tape set. Interestingly enough the read along book is totally the same as the Golden Storybooks version released the previous year, featuring a story by Roger McKenzie with illustrations courtesy of Fred Carrillo. The former might be best known for his work on Warren Publishing’s line of horror magazines like Creepy, Eerie, and even Vampirella, although in addition he did write for both DC and Marvel Comics. Carrillo also worked with Warren Publishing but was perhaps better known for illustrating a slew of the DC Comics horror tiles such as Weird War Tales, Ghosts, and House of Secrets.
The story for The Thief of Castle Grayskull finds He-Man, Teela, Stratos, Man-At-Arms, and Battle Cat with a serious problem – Skeletor has used his magic to summon a vortex that rips Castle Grayskull from the very ground to transport it to the Land of Shadows. Can He-Man and his allies prevail against the threats of a demon army and Skeletor’s minions?
Friends, it was in 1978 when Kenner toys managed to change the history of action figure and toy lines after securing the license for the first Star Wars film the previous year. Much has been written about how the toy company found itself completely caught off guard by the success of the film as well as the demand for the toys in ’77, although some sources claim the company was hamstrung by Lucas not providing reference material in time for he design of the toy line. Personally I think the truth falls somewhere in the middle, especially if you take a gander at this Nashua Telegraph article from December 17th of 1977. However I firmly believe that Kenner also made history when it released the first 12 figures in the still-impressive Super Powers Collection in 1984.
In a roundabout way the Super Powers Collection came about thanks to the success of the Star Wars line of action figures, vehicles, and playsets. But as Return of the Jedi marked the end of the lucrative line (although they would produce the Droids and Ewoks toys in ’85) and with rival toy company Mattel making a splash with Masters of the Universe, Kenner needed a new concept. And what better concept than one that already had years of mass market appeal – the legion of characters from the pages of DC Comics. After all the likes of Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, Aquaman, and others had been a staple in Saturday morning cartoons since 1973 with the various Super Friends animated series.
Now I personally didn’t get into the Super Powers Collection until the second wave had been released and that was thanks to Kenner producing a figure for none other than Darkseid, which among other Fourth World characters were designed by their creator Jack Kirby. This was also the time I was becoming educated on the history of many of the DC Comics characters thanks to the Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe.
As I understand it, most fans of the Super Powers Collection feel that it was Kenner not sticking with the more recognizable characters that caused the line to peter out after three waves. That might be the case but it would appear that in 1988 the toys were still popular enough to receive four Super Powers cup holders from Burger King.
In closing out this article I can only say how much I truly adored the Super Powers Collection, especially because they were making action figures for the likes of Dr. Fate, Martian Manhunter, Mr. Miracle, and Cyborg. I think it is easily one of the greatest toy lines ever produced, but I would love to hear your personal memories of the toys or the Super Powers cup holders from Burger King in the comments section.
The three entities known as Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast who are collectively known as The Demons Three are the second entry in the well regarded Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe, which was originally published back in 1985. Over 26 issues were produced and thanks to the likes of Marv Wolfman, Robert Greenberger, and Len Wein – many of us comic book fans became aficionados of the vast history of the then current DC Universe. The sometimes exhaustive Who’s Who were quick to shine the spotlight on the big names such as Batman and Superman but were also quite willing to give the likes of lesser known characters such as Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast a chance in the light too. As the recent Justice League Action animated series frequently did – beginning with the very first episode when it introduced Abnegazr, Rath and Ghast as part of the demonic Brothers Djinn.
Abenegazar, Rath and Ghast were created by none other than Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky for Justice League of America #10 – which saw publication in March of 1962. Gardner Fox in particular had a hand in the creation of not just the Justice League of America but before that in 1940 he managed to create another legendary team of super heroes, the first gathering of heroes in comic books in fact, The Justice Society of America. In addition it is believed that Fox might have worked under many different pseudonyms and had a hand in the co-creation of The Sandman, The Flash (Jay Garrick), as well as Hawkman (Carter Hall).
Mike Sekowsky might best be known for being the artist and co-creator of the Justice League of America beginning with their appearance in The Brave and the Bold #28. Mike would pencil 63 issues of the Justice League of America comic book – in addition to acting as writer, artist and even editor on Wonder Woman beginning in September of 1968. Although Fox and Sekowsky didn’t just create the Demons Three in that issue of Justice League, they also came up with the magically maniacal Felix Faust but we will talk about him more in his own entry.
The art chores for Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast’s entry in the Who’s Who is courtesy of both Craig Hamilton as well as Dick Giordano. Interestingly enough it appears that it was around this time that Hamilton got his start at DC – you might know his work better from the extremely popular and quite fantastic Fables series. Giordano was an absolute icon in the sequential arts scene, having worked as an artist and editor for DC Comics among others, and he had a hand in creating the likes of Johnny Thunder and his Thunderbolt, Peacemaker, The Human Target, and Batman’s underworld identity of Matches Malone to name just a few.
The entry for Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast in the first volume of the Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe list this personal data:
Alter Ego: Inapplicable
Occupation: Inapplicable (Although I would have listed troublemakers as their occupation)
Marital Status: Inapplicable
Known Relatives: None
Group Affiliation: None
Base of Operations: 20th Century Earth
First Appearance:Justice League of America #10
Eyes: All Black
Hair: Black (Ghast), none (Abnegazar, Rath)
The Demons Three existed over a billion years ago, lording it over the pre-human species with their magical powers. An intergalactic group of wanderers known as the Timeless Ones, whose job it is to keep cosmic balance, became aware of Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast running rampant – so they imprisoned the trio. But the Demons Three while not as powerful as these Timeless Ones were at the very least more clever as they crafted three mystical talismans that anchored their physical beings to the Earth. The Silver Wheel of Nyorlath, the Green Bell of Uthool, and the Red Jar of Calythos. Even the power of the cosmic Timeless Ones were unable to destroy said artifacts or even remove them from the Earth, so they did their level best to hide them, Ghast was imprisoned beneath the waves in the South Atlantic, Abnegazar is hidden under the desert sands of Sin-Kiang in Western China, and Rath is locked under the ice of the Arctic. It is the villainous Felix Faust with aid from the trapped demons who attempts to use the Justice League to free the trio.
Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast as is pointed out in their entry for the Who’s Who are able to fly through space and even time travel if need be, conjure destructive force bolts, craft various matter, and even bring to life inanimate objects. Shortly after their entry was published it appears that Abnegazar got a little too mouthy with Dr. Fate who slew the demon for his insolence – granted over the years he has apparently managed to cheat death and rejoin his brothers once again.
Besides the Justice League Action animated series the trio showed up in the 1985 The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians in an episode entitled “The Case of the Stolen Super Powers”, which is just a retelling of their and Faust’s first appearance. The Demons Three also made an appearance in the Justice League Unlimited series in an episode called “The Balance”, where Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl take Abnegazar hostage, forcing him to reveal the location of Felix Faust!
Friends, Abel is the first entry in the well remembered Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe, a 26 issue run from DC Comics that acted as an encyclopedia of sorts for their iconic heroes and villains. While I was a rabid fan of comic books as I stated on the Starman episode of the Pop Culture Retrorama podcast – it was when Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, as well as Robert Greenberger put their heads together and released the first issue of Who’s Who in March of 1985 that my true education of the DC Universe began in earnest – although to be totally honest it’s first entry of Abel was already well known to me.
As I’ve pointed out in the past, when I was younger I was always drawn to things related to horror movies – which included the various horror titles being produced by DC Comics at the time. However my Father was usually dead set against me actually picking them up – especially if they had any demonic artwork on the covers. Thankfully by the mid-eighties that ban had been lifted, just in time for a local five and dime store to open up literally down the street from my house. I began to make up for lost time by grabbing up as many horror titles as I could – for the grand sum of one dollar I could walk out with ten comics in my hands.
I should point out that the Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe was in answer to Marvel Comics’ The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe which had been released in 1983. In my humble opinion though the likes of Wein, Wolfman, and Greenberger did one better with their encyclopedic offering. The layouts for the individual characters or super teams were a little more flashy and offered the opportunity to have guest artists provide illustrations to boot. Such as Joe Orlando providing the artwork for the first entry in the Who’s Who which was Abel – the caretaker of the House of Secrets.
Orlando was an absolutely amazing illustrator to say nothing of the fact that he wore many hats over the years – before passing away in 1998. He worked at EC Comics and Mad magazine – was the editor and story idea contributor to the fantastic Creepy magazine from Warren Publishing before beginning work at DC Comics as a freelancer in 1966. Two years later he received an offer for the full-time position of editor in 1968, for the likes of All-Star Comics, Bat Lash, Swamp Thing, The House of Mystery, and Weird War Tales to name a few.
As a matter of fact Joe Orlando had a hand in the creation of Abel along with Bill Draut and Mark Hanerfield. Although it was Bob Haney that originally co-created the comic book series House of Secrets with Lee Elias in 1956, a series that managed to run for 80 issues. It was in 1969 when the comic would make a return starting with issue #81 and getting the new title of The House of Secrets – not only was Abel the new caretaker of the mysterious lodging but in addition he appeared with his brother Cain as well as their cousin Eve in the humor mag entitled Plop! – which frequently featured artwork by future Groo creator Sergio Aragones. Although Abel acted as host to the collection of horror and weird tales beginning in issue #81, he was actually first introduced in the September 1969 issue of DC Special.
Abel’s personal data as described in the first entry of the first issue of Who’s Who: The Definitive Dictionary of the DC Universe is as follows:
Full Name: Unknown
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: Cain (brother), Eve (sister)
Group Affiliation: None
Base of Operations: The House of Secrets, somewhere in the Kentucky Hills
First Apperance: The House of Secrets #81
Height: 5’7″ Weight: 396 1/4 lbs.
Eyes: Blue – Hair: Black
Since the Who’s Who deals with many of the costumed adventurers and would-be world conquerors, Abel’s entry makes sure to point out that he has no fighting abilities whatsoever and that while he does indeed posses the ability to entertain with his dark stories – he will give up immediately when threatened. Which goes a very long way to explain why readers constantly saw him being abused, both verbally and otherwise by his brother Cain, the caretaker and host of The House of Mystery comic book.
Abel’s House of Secrets as explained in his Who’s Who entry is a pretty strange place – the sprawling edifice was built by one Senator Sandsfield, as a place of residence for himself and his Wife, using only materials that originated in Kentucky. His love of the residence was so strong that he made a vow only a pure-blooded Kentuckian could ever reside in the home. Tragedy stuck however as his Wife went insane in one of the upper rooms and the Senator eventually sold it off… but the following four owners didn’t hail from Kentucky, and it was said none of them could stay there for more than three months. The next owner attempted to have the house itself moved across state line but it appears that structure revolted at the idea – freeing itself from the truck cab hauling it, sliding free atop it’s trailer bed – chasing the would be owner – forcing the poor man to leap off a cliff face to his death in an attempt to avoid being crushed. The House of Secrets stopped 200 yards from the state line – adjacent to a cemetery… in fact on the far side of that place of eternal rest lies Cain’s House of Mystery. This dark history was presented to Abel as the very first story in The House of Secrets #81 – moments before he would become it’s caretaker.
In closing out this article, our first entry in the Who’s Who in the DC Universe, The House of Secrets would run for a total of 73 issues – ending in November of 1978. With a memorable storyteller like Abel and his brother, that hasn’t been the end of the duo however. Beginning in 1985 they made reappearances in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing comics – fitting as the character made his own debut in The House of Secrets #92. Neil Gaiman would next include the brothers in his award-winning TheSandman comic book series – and both Cain and Abel made appearances in the then new House of Mystery series under the Vertigo imprint in 2008. And while Abel didn’t show up in the 2017 episode of Justice League Action entitled “Trick or Threat” – his brother Cain and the House of Mystery most certainly did. Furthermore it has been announced that the brothers will appear in the upcoming The Sandman series on Netflix, with Sanjeev Bhaskar (Yesterday) as Cain and Asim Chaudhry (Wonder Woman 1984) playing Abel.
Friends, thanks to the likes of the iconic Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe series that ran from 1985 until 1987 – I became a huge fan of the Justice Society of America. That encyclopedic series from Marv Wolfman (The New Teen Titans), Len Wein (X-Men, and Robert Greenberger (Starlog) filled in a lot of details on the roster of the JSA. Although as I have already explained in various articles and podcasts in the past – my first introduction to that team of Golden Age heroes was courtesy of Roy Thomas, Rich Buckler, and Jerry Ordway’s All-Star Squadron comic book series. I mention all of this as way to help explain just how excited I was earlier this afternoon when the first trailer for the upcoming animated Justice Society: World War II film was released. One that appears to hurl Barry Allen aka the Flash into the dark days of World War II – where he must team up with the Justice Society and beat back the armies of Nazi Germany.
A quick look at the IMDB credits for Justice Society: World War II reveals that it is Matt Bomer (Doom Patrol) who will be playing the Silver Age and possibly most recognizable version of the Flash. In addition the film boasts the talents of Matthew Mercer (Overwatch) as Hourman, Stana Katic (Castle) as Wonder Woman, Elysia Rotaru (Arrow) as Black Canary, Armen Taylor (Spider-Man: Miles Morales) as Jay Garrick, Chris Diamantopoulos (Mickey Mouse) as Steve Trevor, and Omid Abtahi (American Gods) as Hawkman. Although I should add that the credits list for Justice Society: World War II list more iconic comic characters than were featured in that trailer.
The official synopsis for the film states:
“Justice Society: World War II finds modern-day Barry Allen – prior to the formation of the Justice League – discovering he can run even faster than he imagined, and that milestone results in his first encounter with the Speed Force. The Flash is promptly launched into the midst of a raging battle – primarily between Nazis and a team of Golden Age DC Super Heroes known as The Justice Society of America.
Led by Wonder Woman, the group includes Hourman, Black Canary, Hawkman, Steve Trevor and the Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick. The Flash quickly volunteers to assist his fellow heroes in tipping the scales of war in their favor, while the team tries to figure out how to send him home. But it won’t be easy as complications and emotions run deep in this time-skipping World War II thriller.
This is the first film in the DC Universe Movies series — of which this film will be No. 42 over the past 14 years — to feature the Justice Society. Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, DC and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Justice Society: World War II will be available on Digital and home entertainment later in 2021.”
In closing out this article, I will admit that I do wish that we fans of the JSA could have seen the likes of the Sandman, Starman, the Spectre, Green Lantern (Alan Scott), Wildcat, and the Atom among others in Justice Society: World War II trailer. But with this upcoming animated feature as well as the likes of the Stargirl series – the Justice Society of America appears to be getting some long-overdue time in the spotlight.