Comics Pro Mailbag 8

For this latest look into the Comics Pro Mailbag, we turn our attention back to the Silver Age DC titles and find a story to warm every fanboy’s heart.

On the “Hawkman’s Roost” page of Hawkman #13 (May 1966), we find a very interesting letter from a young sailor and aspiring artist named Dave Cockrum. Best known for redesigning the Legion of Super-Heroes in 1972 and relaunching the X-Men in 1975, it seems that Cockrum’s long comics career began earlier than anyone might have suspected.

It is a well-known and popular fact that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, and we should take note that Dave Cockrum broke into the industry as an assistant to Murphy Anderson, upon whom he heaps his praise here.

Incidentally, “NAS” stands for “Naval Air Station,” referring to the military base in San Diego at which Cockrum was stationed at the time.



Terror of the Silver Age

Few horror stories have been as memorable to me as the one featured in Strange Adventures #128 (May 1961), the terrifying tale of “The Man With the Electronic Brain!” In a world where science could run amok at any moment, nightmares stalked the streets -- threatening an idyllic America with utter destruction.

The story begins with a fateful discovery by world-renowned geophysicist Jason Evans as he tabulates the findings for the International Geophysical Year, a concentrated 18-month study of our planet by scientists of all nations. A subterranean shift of rock and magma is causing the earth to wobble badly, and if unchecked, it could cause the planet to fall into the sun or spin off into the freezing depths of space!

Earth’s scientists leap into action. With only a week to solve the crisis, an emergency project is initiated: Operation Wobble World! Under its auspices, Jason takes his “electronic brain” device deep into the earth, riding inside a special tunnel-boring machine. However, while in the bowels of the planet, Jason contracts a rare, deadly disease. A desperate solution is proposed!

In a freakish perversion of nature, Jason Evans is turned into a frightening half-man, half-oscilloscope -- ready to calculate the best means of saving the planet, but unable to communicate in any conventional manner.

Unforeseen complications arise when the polonium isotope powering the computer runs wild and alters the structure of Jason’s body, turning him into a living engine of destruction!

His hands disintegrate the all-important punch-tape as soon as it emerges from its slot! Jason is unable to reveal what must be done to save the earth, and time is fast running out! As his wife and child look on in horror, Jason seems to go on a rampage!

The world’s greatest thinkers are baffled by Jason’s desperate actions! But then --

Can Billy Evans help his dad save the world? Find out the spine-tingling answer in Strange Adventures #128! On sale March 28th (1961)!

Story by Gardner Fox. Art by Murphy Anderson.


Comics Pro Mailbag 7

In this edition of Comics Pro Mailbag, we take a second dip into Marvel’s letters pages for some coruscating correspondence from an aspiring professional, one who a mere four years later would be receiving fan mail instead of sending it.

The “Mutant Mail-Box” page of X-Men #60 (September 1969) is dominated by this letter from Don McGregor, who would soon make his mark with well-respected takes on the Black Panther and Killraven in Jungle Action and Amazing Adventures, respectively, as well as a brief run on Luke Cage, Power Man. Later, he would be known for penning the pioneering graphic novels Sabre and Detectives, Inc.

About 23 years old at the time, McGregor provides an insightful analysis of the soon-to-be-cancelled series’ shortcomings, especially in terms of character development.

It may have been gratifying to McGregor when the late-‘70s relaunch of X-Men essentially followed the advice he offers here, and became one of Marvel’s flagship titles.



Comics Pro Mailbag 6

And now for another installment of Comics Pro Mailbag, in which we present some of the early fan missives from future comics professionals. Let’s switch companies and see what Marvel’s letters pages have to offer.

On the “Amazing Mails” page in Amazing Adventures # 9 (November 1971), we find this communiqué from a teen-aged Jeph Loeb. This young scamp would go on to write such well-known comics as Superman For All Seasons, Batman: Hush, Spider-Man: Blue, and Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America, as well as working on such popular TV shows as Smallville, Lost, and Heroes. As we can see below, however, none of those rank as the highest achievement of his life.

Yes, the “PMM” prefixed to young Master Loeb’s name stands for “Permanent Marvelite Maximus,” one of the highest of the Hallowed Ranks of Marveldom. I’m sure none of the awards and accolades lavished on him by the entertainment industries mean as much to Jeph Loeb as the exalted position he worked so hard to attain in his childhood.