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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Adventure Comics #181 - Oct. 1952

Comics Weekend "The Evil King The Sea!" by George Kashdan(?) and Ramona Fradon.

It's Adventure Sunday!

After literally years of would-be pirates and ordinary crooks, Aquaman takes on an actual super-villain! Or does he? Yes he does. Or does he?
Fake Aquaman says he can make a shark do a somersault, which he summarily does, thanks to one of his cronies piloting a fake rubber shark (because those are so easy to get). He then follows up "commanding" an octopus to make like a tilt-a-whirl and give some kids a wild ride.

Aquaman is confused as to how this is possible, not realizing that it, too, is a fake with a crook inside. Now it's the Sea King's turn to prove his mettle:
...and with that, so ends another adventure with Aquaman!

Okay, so I lied (again)...this Jim Hall guy isn't a super-villain at all, but an ordinary crook (albeit with a kind of evil guy face) who dresses like Aquaman. Why the writer(s) of the strip were so determined not to give the Sea King any sort of fantastical foe, when they were all over the place in Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman comics, remains a mystery. Aquaman by his nature is a science fiction-y/fantasy concept, so I don't think it would have been a stretch of the imagination to have him face some actual "super" villains, yet he keeps dealing with guys who were probably moonlighting over in Green Arrow's strip.

Ramona Fradon does her usual wonderful job, and as I mentioned I love Jim Hall's cartoony, evil guy face. You'd think anyone taking a look at the two of them would be able to tell who the real hero was!


Richard said...

At a guess, the absence of super villains may not have been the choice of the writer(s) but an editorial quirk of Jack Schiff. You notice the Superboy stories in Adventure during this period were short on major bad guys as well. Even when Schiff edited Batman -- a character well known for his colorful foes! -- Schiff was responsible for the notorious "science fiction" era that put Batman up against monsters and alien rays more often than costumed baddies. It seems like he just didn't care so much for the super-hero versus super-villain dynamic.

Anthony said...

Think it's even bigger than that---comics as a whole during the 50s seemed heavily reliant/overreliant on ordinary crooks/gangsters more than supervillains.

Possible reasons for this:
1. The popularity of gangsters in popular culture of the time: cop shows on radio/early television, movies, or even DC's rival comic companies (EC's crime comics, etc.).

2. The decline of superheroes' popularity in general during the 50s. Given they just axed the Justice Society some months ago, perhaps they figured they may as well pair their few remaining superheroes up with one of the more popular genres, and since the Western wasn't possible (no doubt to their disappointment, per the ludicrously excessive dominance of that genre back then *everywhere* in media), gangsters would work---they're criminals, right? And they rob stuff, right? So why not face them off against Supes, Arthur, etc.?

3. Easier to make up gangsters than a new supervillain, perhaps...in Supes' case, his main foes at this point were Luthor, the Toyman, the Prankster, and Mr. Mxyztplk (note the spelling ;-) ), and even Toyman/Prankster mostly fell out of disuse by the decade's end. Though for every story with one of those, there seems to be 10-20 Superman stories where he's fighting gangsters...

Of course, the rise again of superheroes in the late 50s with the Silver Age (maybe coupled with the increased interest in science-fiction/real world science) might've led to the resurgence of supervillains in comics along with the increased sci-fi themes...

Re: Superboy: The plot: a masked hero appears in Smallville, with everyone wondering if he's really a crook.

Joseph Brian Scott said...

Jim Hall was Carter Hall's bitter, twisted brother; as Carter reached for the skies, Jim took to the sea.
And not all the Necro wafers in the solar system could get him to see the error of his ways.

Boy, the Smallvillians have a funny way of showing gratitude: "He's our hero! Get him! Strip him!"

Anonymous said...

Viva Adventure Sunday

Jim Hall should've gone after a few endorsement deals, instead of the undersea impersonation business. That's where the real money is. Now he's really screwed. Even if he could get out of jail and get a Sports Illustrated cover, where would he put the money? He still can't use Aquaman's bank.

This kind of plot really reminds me of the Superman TV show in the 50's. Too bad DC never pitched an Aquaman show back then. It might have worked

James Chatterton

Anonymous said...

Ramona Fradon & Aquaman !
My favorite team !