Saturday, March 7, 2009

Watchmen Weekend Continues with Blue Beetle and Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt

Welcome back to Ol' Groove's Watchmen Weekend party, Groove-ophiles! Yesterday we took a look at the Question, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's template for Rorschach, and Peacemaker, who inspired the Comedian. Today we're gonna get down with the ever-lovin' Blue Beetle and Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt! If you're keeping score, Blue Beetle begat Nite-Owl and Thunderbolt morphed into Ozymandias. Or, for you visual learners:
= and
= . Got it? Good!

Blue Beetle has a long and checkered history in comicdom. Created early in the Golden Age (1939 to be exact!), BB has appeared in comics under no fewer than five different publishers and enjoyed nearly as many secret identities and costumes. The Groovy Age Blue Beetle, the one published by Charlton (and later Americomics and DC) and created by Steve Ditko is the one we're focusing on today. It was this version, sporting one of the all-time greatest superhero costumes, that led Moore and Gibbons to create Nite-Owl. Ditko's Blue Beetle was not only an awesome character, visually, but just doggone cool all the way around. In his secret identity of Ted Kord, BB was an inventor and industrialist a la Tony Stark. He created all kinds of far-out gadgets, not the least of which was his high-tech, beetle-shaped aircraft lovingly referred to as "Bug". He first appeared as a back-up in Captain Atom #83 (August 1966) and fandom immediately took him to their hearts. Check out this snippet from his debut by Ditko with scripting by Gary Friedrich...

Blue Beetle is on the prowl in his "Bug" when he hears gunshots coming from the City Bank. Wasting no time, he's on the scene and ready to bust heads!

BB drops the bad guys off at police headquarters, thus ending his first outing as a costumed crimefighter. Short and sweet, but all-in-all not a bad intro!

Ditko wisely kept his Blue Beetle mysteriously tied to the original, and you know how us comicbook fans love our mysterious pasts and ties to Golden Age continuity. Between the mysterious back story, costume, gadgets, and fun characterization BB should'a been a huge, huge hit. Charlton had faith in BB, faith enough to give him his own mag with its own first issue (something rare for Charlton) beginning in March, 1967. They even created a house ad trumpeting BB's comic.

The Blue Beetle's mag lasted a mere five issues. The tardiness of its final issue made it seem to have held on a bit longer than the other members of Charlton's Action Heroes line, but it finally bit the dust in August, 1968. Ted Kord went on to become a cult favorite and starred in a very successful DC mag in the 1980s. Sadly, DC recently killed him and replaced him with yet another Blue Beetle. Hopefully they'll fix that one of these days...

Peter Cannon...Thunderbolt was created by Peter A. Morisi (a Golden Age comicbook artist who went on to become a policeman who moonlighted as a comicbook artist, compelling him to sign his name as P.A.M. so as to hide his cartooning career from his superiors). PC...T was inspired by the Golden Age Daredevil, to whom Morisi had tried, unsuccessfully, to attain the rights, hence the very similar costume designs. Morisi also pinched the origin of another Golden Age character, Bill Everett's Amazing Man, for Thunderbolt's origin (AA's origin was also homaged by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane when they did Iron Fist, but you knew that already...). So, while not wholly original, Peter Cannon...Thunderbolt was still a great deal of fun. Morisi's beautiful art was a throwback to the great days of the Golden Age, his stories were globe-trotting romps in the tradition of Terry and the Pirates, and PC...T enjoyed an 11 issue run (Peter Cannon...Thunderbolt #1, October 1966; Peter Cannon...Thunderbolt #s 51-60, December/January 1966-August 1967). Here's a partial look at PC...T's origin from Peter Cannon...Thunderbolt #1!

Told ya it was fun stuff! Be back tomorrow for our grand finale starring Captain Atom and Nightshade! Pax!

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