Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Byrne-ing to Read: Emergency! #1

By early 1976, Charlton Comics had done away with their second wave of original superhero/sci fi/adventure comics. Gone were E-Man, Doomsday +1, and Yang, replaced by an adventure line based on properties licensed from television and newspapers. The Phantom and Korg, the only survivors of the previous adventure line, were joined by the Six Million Dollar Man, Space: 1999, and the subject of today's post: Emergency!

Emergency!, the TV show, had been a fairly popular staple of NBC-TV beginning in 1972. Produced by the venerable Jack Webb (producer of Dragnet and Adam-12), Emergency! followed the exploits of a squad of firemen, their paramedic team (this was during the time paramedic teams were only just beginning to form around the U.S.), and the hospital staff they worked with. The show was classy, well written and acted, and often exciting. The show could also be pretty stiff and stodgy, and was tragically unhip. By early 1976, the show was on its last legs.

Leave it to a comicbook company--particularly Charlton-- to nab the rights to create a comic (and even a black and white comic magazine!) based on a dying TV show. Well, at least they got John Byrne to draw a few issues of it!

Emergency! #1 (March 1976) featured "Hot Cargo" written by Joe Gill featured art by "Byrne Robotics" (cover by the ever-amazing Joe Staton), which meant that Byrne had help, probably with inking, on the art. It definitely looks like his lettering, too. This issue give you a really good idea about what the show was like. Gill's story could have been an actual script for the show, and Byrne does a not too shoddy job of capturing the likenesses of stars Randy Mantooth, Kevin Tighe, Julie London, Robert Fuller, and the rest.

If you're interested in learning more about the TV show, or if you're just a big fan of it, then you've gotta visit the Emergencyfans website. Tell 'em Ol' Groove sent ya!


  1. Thanks again for some more obscure (to me anyway) Charlton-era Byrne. Wouldn't it be great (Fantagraphics are you listening?) if somebody would collect all of Byrne's Charlton stuff including all the Rog shorts (but with the exception of Doomsday which has already been done) into a nice color trade?

  2. First let me say...Thanks for posting this great find.
    Second...I never found the show stiff and stodgy, myself.
    Thirdly...The show was still in the top five when it was canceled because NBC wanted to try a new show that didn't take at all. They should have left well enough alone because there are alot of us fans that wished it had continued for awhile longer.

  3. Ooh, my younger brother had this one, too. He was a sucker for the Charlton TV tie-in comics. A handful of years later, I stumbled upon its coverless remains and then realized that the artist was the same fella then doin' the X-Men. I couldn't believe it since the art style was so different. Byrne's FF and Alpha Flight work in the eighties remind me of his early Charlton style.

  4. Emergency was a Saturday cartoon
    called Emergency +4 that was
    very popular and very close to
    the prime-time show's premise.



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