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Sunday, 26 September 2021

Weird Adventure Comics #436, the Gasmen... and the Spectre!

Thanks to Charlie Horse 47 and Killdumpster for their sponsorship of this post, via the magic of Patreon

Weird Adventure Comics #436, the Gasmen and the Spectre
Everyone knows this is the site that can't help revolutionising the internet. A mere 11 years ago, I did it by publishing a review of this issue that, at no point, actually involved me reviewing the issue, as I blathered on about virtually everything except the comic.

So, after recent requests, in the same manner as Russell T Davies has returned to Doctor Who, I've decided to return to this issue.

But because I still can't be bothered to do a proper review, I'm launching the daring experiment of tackling it as a read-along experience dictated upon my phone.

That means you can read along with it too.

What can go wrong?

Everything can go wrong.

Can this madness succeed?

Yes, it can - just so long as everyone who ever encounters this post has a copy of the comic to read along with.

Which I'm sure everyone does.

After all, how could it be possible for anyone in the world not to have that?

So, let's get stuck in.

First, it's the splash page... 

...and it's just a replica of the cover but not as good.

It does, however, tell us this tale's called The Gasmen and... The Spectre and it's written by Michael Fleisher, and drawn by Jim Aparo who I'm assuming also does the inking, colouring and lettering, as is his habit.

It also credits Russell Carley for script continuity, whatever that is.

We also have a caption telling us the Spectre is hard-boiled detective Jim Corrigan on a mission to eliminate all evil from the world.

Mostly by killing people one at a time.

This may be a lengthy mission.

Page 2.

Weird Adventure Comics #436, gas attack
A car show at the New York Coliseum [sic] where a father takes photos of attractive women while pretending to be taking photos of cars.

Unfortunately, it's at this point a bunch of men walk in, wearing gas masks and promptly gas everyone, including a young girl whose mother looks old enough to be her grandmother.

It does strike me the father has the same face that all Jim Aparo men do - and so does the mother. Jim, clearly, never saw a face he couldn't recycle.

Page 3.

Everyone at the show's dead while, at the offices of Newsbeat magazine, an unnamed reporter's trying - and failing - to get his editor to accept an article about something that's seemingly incredible.

Page 4.

Weird Adventure Comics #436, Earl gets finger-wagged
We learn the reporter's called Earl and is yet another character with that face. However, he distinguishes himself by wearing glasses.

The editor, however, for his way to be recognisable, has a chubbier version of the face.

He's not happy because Earl's proposed article is about an angry ghost flying around New York, in his underpants, and killing crooks. To him, this sounds unlikely.

That conversation's cut short when a woman barges in and tells the pair about the car show massacre. The editor tells Earl to get down there and to stop going on about ghosts in underpants.

Page 5.

Jim Corrigan's at the Coliseum and pondering the situation. He's told that everyone was killed by the same gas the Germans used in World War II. It's never explained how the man who tells him this knows this.

Earl shows up and asks what's happened. Jim Corrigan's pointlessly rude to him.

Page 6.

At last, we meet the man to blame for all of this. 

He's a German in a World War II uniform who lives in an abandoned observatory on a cliff. I am struck that this set-up feels very Golden Age to me. This might be shrewd writing by Fleisher to reflect the WWII nature of the villain or it might just be the way Fleisher writes.

Readers of his work for Atlas comics'll be pleased to know that, so far, there's no sign of cannibalism.

The German's underlings are clearly not military personnel and think him a loon, merely acting like soldiers, in order to humour him.

Page 7.

At the mayor's office, we discover the German is called Field Marshall Offal. I'm willing to bet no German has ever had the surname Offal.

Impressively, for a tale from the mid-1970s, Offal's demanding New York gives him one billion dollars or he'll launch another gas attack. It's good to see he's not demanding a sum that, in 1974, is massive but, in 2021, would seem pitiful, Dr Evil style.

Not so impressively, he wants it in $1,000 bills, which means, by my reckoning, the city will have to give him a million bank notes. Isn't that a little impractical? Where, exactly, is he going to keep one million bank notes? For that matter, how's he going to count it, to make sure they've not short-changed him?

We then get a joke I don't understand about the Watergate burglars not having that sort of money. I'm sure it made more sense to people at the time, especially ones who weren't ten years old and British and were, therefore, more familiar with the financial details of that scandal.

Weird Adventure Comics #436, DC house ad
Next page.

It's a house ad for some of DC's publications this month. There are eight books in total. Of them, I've read the Kamandi and Witching Hour issues. The Jonah Hex cover looks the classiest.

Page 8.

The mayor decides he has to give in to Offal's demands.

Jim Corrigan tells him that'll just encourage more gas attacks.

But the mayor's a spineless jellyfish about it all, thus guaranteeing he's going to have to hand over a billion dollars to crooks, on a regular basis, from now on.

However, Jim requests the man let him deliver the money to the extortionists, and the mayor agrees, seemingly never considering Jim might just run off with it. It seems to me that one billion dollars is a lot of temptation to put in a man's hands.

Weird Adventure Comics #436, Jim Corrigan and his car
And, so, that afternoon, we find Jim in the woods, by his nicely drawn car, with the money, waiting for the villains to arrive.

Jim has the one million bank notes in a middling-sized case he's holding. I would love to know how they got a million bank notes into it. I'm assuming currency compression is one of his magic Spectre powers.

Page 9.

A helicopter shows up and the gas mask clad pilot tells Jim he's coming along with him, or else.

However, they're not alone.

Earl the reporter's been tailing Jim and is determined to follow the helicopter, in his car.

Happily, the helicopter flies away really slowly and makes sure to stay above the road, at all times, so it's possible for Earl to pursue it.

This does remind me that, in Earl's previous appearance in the book, Jim Corrigan kept referring to him as Clark Kent, which mightily confused me as a child. I couldn't work out if he was literally meant to be Clark Kent or not.

Now, as a grown-up, I realise Corrigan was merely being sarcastic and that Superman doesn't exist as anything more than a fictional character in these stories. Just as he doesn't in the Black Orchid stories that are being published around this time.

Does this mean those Black Orchid and Spectre tales take place in the same universe?

I like to think they do.

Page 10.

The helicopter reaches its destination and, here, the pilot decides to kill Corrigan to prevent him from spilling the beans about the hideout's location.

Weird Adventure Comics #436, The Spectre appears from gas
It does make you wonder why he's even taken Corrigan there when he could have just taken the money off him and left him in the woods.

Then again, he could have taken the money off him and not even bothered delivering it to Offal, keeping it for himself.

The man's clearly a fool.

But no sooner is Corrigan hit by a cloud of the fool's deadly fumes than he turns into the Spectre whose green cape merges nicely with the gas. This is what I love about Aparo, he always makes the Spectre look stylish. 

So, that's the end of the pilot, and the ghost goes on the hunt for the big fry.

He finds him inside the observatory and, at the very sight of the deadly do-gooder emerging from a wall, one of the henchmen gasps out loud.

Page 11.

Offal declares the intruder to be a spy and orders him shot.

Weird Adventure Comics #436, the Gasmen and the Spectre!
Tragically, bullets are useless and the ghost slaughters the henchmen by making a pair of dividers grow to huge size and impale them.

Deciding cowardice is the better part of valour, Offal flees and heads along a jetty, towards his motorboat.

As he gets there, he compares himself to Napoleon retreating from Russia, which is a nice bit of characterisation from Fleisher, signalling just how puffed-up, delusional and conceited the man is.

However, it's in vain, as the Spectre appears before him, mentally declaring, "Some men will always choose the path of evil..." which feels an awful lot like the kind of stuff the Shadow loves to spout.

Page 12.

It's the big showdown between the Spectre and Offal.

Not that it's much of a showdown, with the creepy crusader ignoring Offal's demands to be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention, and turning his motorboat into a giant squid that promptly eats the man, making it the third time this issue - when the cover and splash page are taken into account - we've seen him being eaten by the thing.

Page 13.

Earl's finally arrived at the scene and finds the helicopter pilot's been turned to stone and embedded in a cliff face.

Suitably spooked, the reporter goes in search of Corrigan and finds him.

Corrigan's pointlessly rude to him again and, as they depart the story, cuts short Earl's querying of whether he's seen a ghost in underpants lately.

And, with the word, "Nope," ringing in our eyeballs, Jim Corrigan and we wave goodbye to this tale of Heavenly retribution.

How great was all that?

It was muchly great. It's a tale of zero subtlety, sophistication, depth or fleshed-out characterisation, totally devoid of twists and turns. In the final analysis, it's just, "Here are some bad men and here's the Spectre killing them."

In plot terms, there's no need for Earl to be there. He has no impact upon anything.

But he is necessary for mood, in order, to inject some intrigue into events, thanks to his not knowing what's going on.

For that matter, Jim Corrigan isn't really needed in this story either. Given the Spectre's powers, he could, presumably, find and destroy the bad guys, with no involvement at all from his cop alter-ego. However, without him, it'd be a very short story and one damagingly deficient in human involvement.

None of this matters, one way or the other, of course. All that matters is Jim Aparo's showing villains being killed and, sometimes in life, Jim Aparo killing people is all you need.

Weird Adventure Comics #436, Nope


Anonymous said...

Great piece of writing, Steve! My attention held from start to finish - a refreshing change.

Isn't "Fleisch" the German word for meat? So could the evil Mr.Offal (the meat's 'off-cuts') be, perhaps, some punning reference to "Fleischer"? Although, I doubt the writer wants to draw parallels between himself & a villain!

Wasn't Corrigan the name of James Darren's character, on T.J.Hooker? He was a cop on a hair trigger, who could 'flip' at any time! With Stacey, Corrigan certainly got the better partner than Shatner.


Anonymous said...

By "a refreshing change" I meant, a change from the norm - not that your writing doesn't normally grab my attention!


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Imagine Charlie's delight to discover this posting while watching the north-london soccer match between Tottenham and Arsenal!

Charlie bought all the Aparo Spectres off the spinner. Month after month for how many months?

The formula was simple and successful(?) Aparo art, tight script involving a ghastly crime, and the more ghastly come-uppance of the perp(s) at the hands of the Spectre!

Charlie loved it like he loved this review!

SDC you've earned yourself a chilled PIMMs on ice, amigo!!!

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Philip - Speaking of Shatner, he is now on the "old TV show" stations hucking hearing aids, reverse mortgages, and diapers for the over-55 crowds!

Anonymous said...

Charlie - The SDC gang'll soon be buying all 3!

Shatner also presents Blaze tv's "Weird or What?"


Anonymous said...

Steve - I've just checked. James Darren's character's name wasn't just any old Corrigan - it was JIM Corrigan! The Spectre infiltrating Shatner's team? Doubtful.


McSCOTTY said...

Adventure comics was one of my favourite comics at the time and was a must buy for me. I had all the Aparo's Spectre and Aquaman runs and still have most of them. I thought the journalist Crawford, looked like Clark Kent. This issue also had an Aquaman back up by Steve Skeates and Mike Grell that didn't feature Grell's best art .

Anonymous said...

Arsenal beat Spurs, and then it turns out your latest post is another DC review Steve. Great.
I have to admit to preferring your usual approach to the reviews, but thats not a complaint as this was still a pretty good read.

Funnily enough - seeing as you bought up recurring faces - the first thing I thought as you got to page 4 is that Earl looks a lot like Clark Kent.
The later in story references to that are a bit odd, as you'd expect the writers and editors to be thinking more in terms of all their superheroes occupying a shared world (especially as I'm pretty sure the Spectre had turned up in JLA stories).
Still, I suppose it could be argued Kent was a minor celeb on WGBS in the DC universe.


Anonymous said...

PS Good that you included the house ad Steve. At the risk of seeming like a bit of a sad case I really like that kind of ephemera, and that one is a nice reminder of the era.

I read 3 of the comics at the time - Kamandi #23 has the best cover imo, and was always fantastic for the first forty issues; OMAC #2, quite possibly my fave single issue of the 70s; and Star Spangled War Stories #183, which was reliably ok in a DC war comic kind of way.
Much, much later I read Swamp Thing #13, which is... well, nice to look at thanks to Nestor Redondo.

Seems like November '74 was a great month at DC.


Dave S said...

Jim Aparo Spectre comics are truly things of beauty. I owned a series of reprints at one time which were printed on fancy paper and recoloured and they were gorgeous. The stories can be a little samey when read all at once, but of course they weren't intended to be.

Great post!

Dave S said...

Ps - I believe Russell Carley was a co-plotter or someone who suggested ideas at least. I did read an interview worth Fleisher where he explained this, but I remember not whence I read this.

Colin Jones said...

William Shatner is 90 years old but he could pass for late 50s/early 60s. He does look amazing for his age!

I saw him on YouTube just a few days ago - he was judging Captain Kirk impressions.

Steve W. said...

Colin, it does strike me that 2021 William Shatner looks nothing like he did in that Star Trek episode where Kirk got a disease and rapidly aged. It's destroyed my faith in TV makeup people.

Dave, I remember reading something about Carley's role, as well, but can't recall exactly what the story behind it was.

Sean, the house ad in this post has given me an idea for a new feature but I don't know exactly when it'll appear.

McScotty and Charlie, I too snapped up every Spectre issue I could find.

Phillip, could it be that TJ Hooker was a Spectre adaptation and we never realised it?

Colin Jones said...

I've been listening to Nirvana's 'Nevermind' and you were right, Steve - 'Night Flight To Venus' is much better!