Secret Origins #12: Golden Age Fury and Challengers of the Unknown

Ryan Daly and guest Greg Araujo review the origin of the Golden Age Fury from Secret Origins #12. Then, Doug Zawisza joins Ryan to cover the story of the Challengers of the Unknown.

Listen to Episode 12!

Subscribe to Secret Origins Podcast on iTunes!

Sample pages from Secret Origins #12, written by Roy & Dann Thomas with art by Tom Grindberg and Tony DeZuniga (Fury), and Mark Evanier and Chuck Patton (Challengers), and a cover by Paris Cullins and Karl Kesel.

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Plus, sample pages from Fury’s origin teased in Infinity, Inc. #35 by Roy & Dann Thomas and Todd McFarlane, and Young All-Stars #1 by Thomas and Michael Bair.

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Also, the cover to the Challengers of the Unknown novel.

Challengers-of-the-Unknown-1977-Cover

Check out Doug’s Doom Patrol blog, My Greatest Adventure 80 at: http://mygreatestadventure80.blogspot.com

“Premonition” (Theme for Secret Origins Podcast) written and performed by Neil Daly.

Additional music this episode: “Livin’ on the Edge” by Aerosmith; “Marry the Night” by Lady Gaga.

Leave a comment, Secret Admirers!

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23 thoughts on “Secret Origins #12: Golden Age Fury and Challengers of the Unknown

  1. There are some characters that I have an affinity for that I don’t particularly understand. But these minor characters hold a special place in my heart and I feel the need to defend them. Usually that soapbox is over at the Fire and Water Who’s Who podcast. It is there that I have waxed poetic about The Gang, Hyathis, Manhawks, and Reactron.

    The Golden Age Fury is one of those characters. I like this character, or at least the concept of this character.

    I was already a grizzled comic veteran when the Crisis rewrote the DCU. And one of the things I was interested in following was how DC was going to smooth over some of the continuity speed bumps that happened as a result of the new History of the DCU.

    The Golden Age Fury works the best for me in helping smooth over the early Earth 2 conundrum Roy Thomas was facing. (Iron Munro is a close second.) I like that Thomas kept a strong Greek myth wrinkle to this Diana analog. I like that her power level is akin to Wonder Woman. I like that there is a sort of Incredible Hulk feel to the Blood Avenger, an out of control element that adds a new feel to this character, differentiating her a bit from Diana. I like that her costume color scheme matches the Infinity Inc Fury. And I like the costume aesthetic overall. I dig the ‘mail armor’ look on heroes. And she looks great.

    As for this issue, I agree that the splash page feels off. There are other moments that might be better suited for a splash – the actual oath to the Furies, or the transformation into the monstrous Tisiphone. Tony Dezuniga really adds a lot to the art here, giving a beautiful polish to Grindberg’s work. (Compare the Skyman origin by Grindberg and Gustovich which is much more muddy.) Page 10 is just slick.

    While the character has a lot of elements I love (young hero, learning the ropes, trying to hold back on rage and do what’s right), it isn’t like I stuck with her always. Young All-Star sort of fizzled quickly. I don’t know Fury’s later adventures. Maybe I like the look and concept only?

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  2. In regards to Fury’s origin, I actually have to disagree with both of you guys on the issue of her needing a stronger motivator than her mother’s heart attack. I think this fits perfectly with the Furies MO, that being revenge. In a more even handed world, yes the brother having a more direct hand in the mother’s death would have been better and would have been more just. But the Furies aren’t about justice, they’re about vengeance which by its very nature is retribution in excess of the original wrong. The vibe I got from Tisiphone was that she was taking advantage of the Furies being summoned to reinforce their presence in the world as much as she possibly can, regardless of the original context of their summoning. The Furies aren’t just there to allow this woman to have revenge, they have their own agenda as well and having the inciting incident feel like a relatively minor slight feels correct to me.

    Having said that, I have to admit to little knowledge of the character outside of this story and a few offhanded mentions on some other podcasts (which have only gone so far as to identify her as an analog for Wonder Woman.) This means I don’t know if vengeful overreaction was ever an inherent part of the character, which this origin to me would indicate as the way to go or at least as something to explore down the line. If that was never the case then this original would be a bit out of place.

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    1. Good point about vengeance being sort of inherently over-reactive, and the notion that the Furies could be using Helena for their own ends is really intriguing. I could see the power they offer being likened to a performance enhancing drug that grows painfully out of control. Somewhere in between the Venom symbiote and the Incredible Hulk comparison that Anj made.

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  3. The Chals’ story is definitely the better story; I love its light touch. Chuck Patton’s art is clean and crisp, and could have been better scripted after it was drawn, but I’m not blaming him for the discrepancies.

    My favorite Challengers book was probably the Loeb/Sale deconstructionist mini-series. I loved weird takes on DC concepts that were being tried at the time (Animal Man and Doom Patrol are much more fondly remembered from this era, but the Challs could have been contenders). But I think this issue had built up some good will and made me recognize them and buy the first issue of that mini, more than their appearance in Who’s Who, probably.

    If Human Target could work as a fun action TV series (and it did, at least in the first season), then Challengers would work too.

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  4. I love the Young All-Stars concept, I’m actually planning on giving that series a solid re-read here in the next few months. I’m hoping that it still holds up to my liking since the last time I visited the series (probably 5-7 years ago).

    That said, yeah this Fury story isn’t spectacular by any means. I appreciate what Roy was trying to do here and marry the Greek Mythology with the WW II strife to create the character, but it fell a little flat.He just wasn’t quite able to capture the same aesthetic here as he did with the other Golden Age origin stories that he was simply retelling with minor embellishments.

    As I’m sure you’ll gather from reading Siskoid’s write-up, Neptune Perkins was the analog for the Golden Age/Earth-2 “Yellow Glove” Aquaman, a character the DC Editorial staff never wanted to admit existed in the 70’s and 80’s pre-Crisis DCU. Tsunami seemed to serve as a psuedo-Mera analog, even though she had terrestrial origins and Mera herself never appeared in the Golden Age (first appearance in Aquaman #11 from 1963).

    Nice choice going with Living on the Edge by Aerosmith there, I dig it!

    I agree that the Doom Patrol is a very underused team. I’ve always had a fondness for them, as a big Fantastic Four fan, the parallel and similarities were not lost on me, and so I had a built in affinity for the team. I really wish they could find a footing in the current comic landscape, just think how awesome they could be if they got the Sandman Mystery Theater treatment in a Vertigo book. If nothing else I’d like to see them treated as a modern day Johnny Quest team, and like that CGI cartoon from the 90’s, travel around the world investigating myths and legends. Bring on a Challengers hunting Bigfoot mini!

    Another fantastic episode! Two very interesting and entertaining hours of enjoyment (well 1 something for me, I listen on 2X Speed.)

    PS. I don’t agree with your or Frank’s sentiments on Roy Thomas’s DC work, but I can see where you’re coming from. It really boils down to personal taste. I know from hearing Frank talk, he gravitates to the darker more mature storytelling style of comics that were popping up at the same time Roy was desperately trying to hold on throw back to the Golden Age comic characters and tone. They are two very different styles of comic storytelling, if you have a strong affinity for one of those tones/storytelling methods, you probably don’t have as strong of an affinity for the other. With that in mind, I think the Target Audience for Roy’s books really had to be people who wanted to stay away from that darkening up of the DCU. Little did people know that the 80’s trend of grittier stories were just scratching the surface of what would continue to come down the pike still 30 years later. With that in mind, that actually makes me think that Roy’s writing style and affinity for a more innocent or nostalgic time would be better received by today’s audience of disgruntled DC fans. Nowadays his 80’s DC stuff is probably more well regarded and better received than it was when it was originally published, just because it is so different in tone from the oversaturation of dark and gritty that plagues DC’s lineup. I for one have always enjoyed his writing, whether that was his DC or Marvel work, but I would say it resonates and appeals to me even now more than ever. Maybe that’s me just finding an even greater appreciation for his work as I get older, maybe it’s because of how disgruntled I am with DC’s current offering, or maybe it’s a combination of both.

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  5. About halfway through the episode and I figured, since I’m all caught up and listening in real time for once, I might take a moment and head over to leave a comment on the site.

    With regards to Fury, and keeping in mind that I haven’t READ the issue for myself. I wonder if the splash page in question is just as much of a Roy Thomas homage/love letter to the Golden Age as the rest of what Roy tried to accomplish within this and his other series at DC. Remember, Fury is a stand in for Wonder Woman. Outside of her origin and the content of the stories themselves, what are Golden Age Wonder Woman comics known for? Bondage. William Moulton Marston was known for putting Wonder Woman in situations, often nearly every comic if not MULTIPLE panels within that comic, wherein the Amazing Amazon was tied up or restrained in very provocative positions by her captors.

    Granted, upon looking at the splash page, it seems that IF that is what Roy was going for, perhaps he could’ve given his artist better direction as to what he wanted. Or maybe Roy thought this was as much as he could safely portray within this comic and still get it published. Perhaps he thought an out and out bondage scene as it was in the pages of Golden Age Wondy comics was TOO much to be put to paper by an artist with a more modern and realistic style.

    The only other complaint I would level at the splash page, other than its obvious discomforting qualities, would be the negative space within the page. That is, the unused background. We’re in GREECE here. Surely there’s something stunning and ancient that could be placed within the background. Not that the characters themselves aren’t wonderfully rendered, just…there COULD have been MORE there.

    Next, I’ve been wondering this whole time if Roy can safely be referred to as the “writer” of this series. Shouldn’t his credit be more of an “adapted for this series by” rather than “writer”? Sure, in cases like Furys, Roy is most certainly a “writer”, but the rest of it? Eh, minor quibble.

    Lastly, I’ve heard a few criticisms leveled at Roy over the episodes. Granted I actually AGREE with most of them, but I just wanted to pipe up and provide a bit of positive spin on Roy to keep in the back of our minds. Roy Thomas is now the editor of ‘Alter Ego’ from TwoMorrows Publishing. ‘Alter Ego’ and ‘Back Issue’ from TwoMorrows are, to my eye, the SINGLE BEST COMICS HISTORY RESOURCE out there. I mean that wholeheartedly. Roy may not have been the BEST guy for the job all the time, but it’s clear his passion and love of these characters is something to be respected and admired, especially when it’s channeled into such an informative publication like ‘Alter Ego’.

    PLEASE NOTE that I am NOT, in any way shape or form, saying that your guests or you are downright bashing and disrespecting Roy in ANY way. To my ear it just sounds like leveling an unbiased and valid criticism of a published work, and not a witch hunt. I’m just saying, as people listen and perhaps are exposed to the contributions of Roy Thomas for the first time, understand the WHOLE of his contributions to the comics industry.

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  6. Plugging the holes left by vacant Wonder Women seemed to be a part time job for Secret Origins. We get Fury here, and soon we’ll get Miss America, who further muddies the waters of just who was in the JSA filling in for the now non-existent Diana. On top of that, Black Canary steps in for the late-to-the-party “modern” Wonder Woman, who was too new to help form the original Justice League.

    I appreciate the backstory of Fury, and on her own I think she could be an interesting character, but as a Golden Age analog to Wonder Woman, I think her look and dark demeanor don’t seem to really work. She’s a bit too intense to imagine as the JSA’s secretary.

    One more appearance by Fury that may be of interest…sorta. It’s been a long time since I watched it, but the Justice League animated series had a two-parter from season 1 called “Fury”. I’m a bit foggy on the details, but I believe the war-related origin is partially there, although the young girl who will become “Fury” (also called Aresia) is adopted by Hippolyta and raised on Themiscyra, but her experience plus the Amazons teachings cause her to hate all men, and she sets loose a virus that will kill every male on Earth. The look of the character seems to have touches of both Furies. It’s a stretch, but obviously the creators of the series were aware of these characters, and freely adapted them for this.

    I’ve always liked the Challengers. Like you two, I can see a lot of potential in the concept…but mostly outside of comics. Try as they may, creators just can’t get fans excited about series based on “normal” people, without capes, spandex or powers. The fact that the Fantastic Four is still going (well, kind of, once this steaming pile of movie is forgotten) is proof that the concept would work better in comics IF the Challs had special abilities…but that would also kill their unique place in the DCU…whatever it is this month. Better for them to go off to a TV series or movie.

    Greg and Doug did fantastic jobs on their segments, and Ryan wasn’t too bad either. Great show!

    Chris

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  7. This was an issue I scanned on the racks, hoping for an interesting story for the new Golden Age Fury; but, it didn’t do much for me. I was so-so on the Infinity, Inc Fury, Lyta Trevor, mainly because, other than being Wonder Woman’s daughter, she seemed kind of bland. Actually, that describes a lot of the Infinitors, at the time. After that initial storyline, that series seemed to be in search of a direction. It had moments; but, it was one of those I read because the concept was loaded with potential. I read more than a few series for that reason and was often left disappointed. To me, this story seems to start out like a filler classic DC war comic story, then goes off on a weird supernatural tangent, almost like a leftover from Weird War. I don’t know; but Roy seemed to do this kind of stuff much better in Invaders.

    The costume design is more than a bit ridiculous, for something created in WW2. It reeks too much of modern design; not to mention the outfits seen on the ladies who hung around a diner, outside the gate of Naval Base Charleston, when I was stationed there. Not that I ever went over there. Honest……………Ahem……………………

    Page 12 is rather jarring and does look like a rape scene. It reminds me of when I met Tamora Pierce. She had recently done a White Tiger mini-series, for Marvel, and said she’d never work with them again. The artist had a male attacking the character (a female) in a similar manner, in disregard for Pierce’s script, and the editor couldn’t seem to understand why Pierce objected to it. The ironic thing is that she was a fan of classic Marvel action comics, particularly the character Misty Knight. She could have done an awesome Daughters of the Dragon series.

    Roy seemed to have more fun with the Invaders and seemed so serious at DC. With All-Star Squadron, it worked relatively well, though I thought the series kind of ran out of steam a while before it was cancelled (apart from the Jerry Ordway art), for my money. By this point, Roy really seemed to be spinning his wheels. I think Greg nails Thomas at DC, by that point. To me, James Robinson did much more interesting stuff with the Golden Age characters. They still felt like classic heroes; but, they seemed more “real.”

    The Challengers story is a bit more fun, especially since Mark Evanier draws on his experience as a tv variety show writer. Man, Real People crossed with That’s Incredible; that takes me back! See, even our “reality tv” back then beat the stuff today. I also like the fact that Evanier doesn’t just “copy and paste” the Kirby story.

    I always liked the Challengers, given I was schooled on Jonny Quest. Unfortunately, outside of Kirby, few people seemed to know what to do with them, though I enjoyed them in DC: The New Frontier. Darwyn Cooke “gets” characters like that. Karl Kesel also did some nice stuff with them.

    I do have to laugh at Rocky being a wrestler, “…when the sport was legit!” Professional wrestling was never legit. Even the matches of men like Frank Gotch were worked. I would have made Rocky someone more like Danny Hodge (who was both an amateur champion and a Golden Gloves boxer) or Lou Thesz (a noted submission expert, or “hooker.”). Those guys worked matches; but, could easily win real fights. Real pro wrestling would have been a fun setting for Rocky, instead of fighting sumo wrestlers (who have never fared well in MMA fights).

    Challengers wasn’t continuously published over 20 years. It was revived, briefly, in the 70s, before being cancelled again.

    Ron Goulart specialized in pulp fiction and did a lot of licensed work and ghost wrote novels of this type. he wrote the bulk of The Phantom novels, from Ace, based on Lee Falk stories. He ghost-wrote William Shatner’s Tek-War novels and also wrote a pretty decent history of comic books (mostly focusing on the Golden Age and 1950s, but covering the Silver ge, as well). I used it as a reference for a paper I did on comic books, in a college history class (got an A!). He also did a comic-related encyclopedia, a little after that.

    I never came across the novel, here; but, I did find the William Rostler (another pulp sci-fi writer and pornographic film industry writer!) Blackhawk novel. It was pulpy fun and a decent story.

    I would love a Challengers movie or tv series. The best properties for DC and Marvel movies aren’t the superheroes; it’s the fringe stuff, like Challengers, Killraven, Master of Kung Fu, Sgt Rock, Bat Lash (well, that was swiped from Maverick), Secret Six (a Mission Impossible swipe), Dominic Fortune, etc… Metal Men would be an awesome animated series (as was seen on Batman The Brave and the Bold.)

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    1. ps Man, Kelly Clarkson, then Lady Gaga? That’s some girly music collection you got there, Ryan! We need to dig out some heavy metal for the podcast; get some testosterone going, musically. 8)

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  8. Re: feedback section. Roy Thomas. I liked some of his Marvel work. His Conan was outstanding; probably his pinnacle. He did a pretty good Fantastic Four. I loved Invaders, until Frank Robbins left. Robbins gave it a pulpy dynamism, that matched those classic Alex Schomburg Timely covers. Frank Springer and (others) were kind of stiff. Loved his Avengers. He started well with All-Star Squadron, but seemed to run out of steam quickly (for me, anyway). Same with Infinity, Inc. I didn’t think a whole lot of Last days of the JSA or America vs the Justice Society. These Secret Origins stories were very hit and miss and it was often the other writer’s stories that were the good ones. I did like Captain Thunder and blue Bolt, which he did for Hero Comics. Alter Ego is a great read. He did become a nostalgia act at DC; but, in becoming a comic historian, he really seemed to get back to his true calling (based on the earlier Alter Ego).

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  9. This podcast is like Last Week Tonight to Who’s Who’s Daily Show, except you drop three hours on us every week to their every sixth or so. I still wish you’d break the issues in half for a more leisurely 100+ episode run, but the Fire & Water Podcast can take comfort/forewarning that I’ll return to regularly comment vomiting there by the summer of 2016.

    So, the cover is… there. I actually think I prefer the Skyman one by Grindberg, since it was bad in a more interesting way than Paris Cullins’. I respect him for giving everybody different body types and language so that all those honkeys aren’t just a blob of purple, but I can’t seem to care about the Challengers of the Unknown and their big dumb hourglass. When I see the cover, I tend to tune them out as background noise and just see Fury, who’s no great shakes herself, but that’s how my brain works. I don’t think all that green is helping either.

    I quite liked “The Secret Origin of the Golden Age Fury,” surely in no small part because this one actually was a secret and I haven’t seen it told anywhere else. Greg mentioned a Legends of the DCU arc that featured a new version, and I surely bought it if it had Wonder Woman as the lead, but I have no recollection of Fury turning up in one of those (just her few appearances in the Jimenez run, and even then only vaguely.) I was thinking the exact same thing as you guys while reading it– that this did not feel like a period origin, but absolutely came across as a late ’60s/early ’70s Neal Adams horror anthology piece that somehow spawned a super-heroine. That’s a pretty unique place to come from, and I dig it.

    In the areas of the Hawkman origin where I could spot Tony DeZuniga’s hand, it struck me as a very Ill fit with McDonnell. He’s a much better inker for a horror feature, and brings an ominous quality to Tom Grindberg’s lighter Continuity Studios inclinations. Their stylistic tension reflects the unexpectedly harmonious marriage of EC vengeance tale and super-team fodder.

    I was mostly on board with Black Canary replacing Wonder Woman in Post-Crisis Justice League continuity, but it didn’t have much impact on my feelings toward that character. What I like about analogs like Fury and Moon Maiden is that by serving as a Wonder Woman stand-in as their primary purpose for existing, the Amazing Amazon takes “ownership” over those characters to expand her somewhat anemic “family” and better keep up with the World’s Finest duo. Thankfully, instead of making Fury another slavish “translation” with just a few changes in names/costumes/powers/etc., Roy & Dann Thomas rethought the story of Princess Diana from the ground up and swerved into a very different direction with this replacement. Fury reflects a moral ambiguity present in the post-flower power times, recalling films like Easy Rider, Straw Dogs & High Plains Drifter.* Helena Kosmatos is Greek and derives her power from ancient mythological figures like Diana, but her persona, motivation, and circumstances are vastly different. Helena clearly despises her brother for reasons beyond his treason, which we’re not privy to, and it feels like she’s using his collaboration as merely a weapon in a greater war. She contributes to the death of her mother, but even as she sheds a tear for the departed, Helena never truly wavers from her assaults on Michael’s character and desire to mete out punishment. She doesn’t cradle her mother and mourn throughout the night, but leaves the departed lying on the floor as she gives chase, without regard for the obvious, immediate consequences. Helena isn’t fit for consideration by the Furies because of her virtue or any specific act committed by Michael, but because of the depths and relentlessness of her anger towards her brother and any others she feels have wronged her. She’s more of an anti-Wonder Woman than Artemis could ever hope to be, and therefore an exciting contribution to the Amazonian library.

    The modern era Fury’s costume is a mess of ugly without excuse, but I like her mother’s suit as a not entirely successful stab at period wear. I think there’s too much skin in the wrong places, I find the asymmetry questionable, and the shoulder guard is dumb, but I like the basic color scheme and scale armor. I do wish a tiny bit more effort was put into making her chest symbol look like anything identifiable, which is kind of the most basic and essential job of an icon. I also feel that they needed one more color for the costume to be believable as period, because it’s nigh monochromatic with the modest shift from orange to yellow, and contrast was king in the ’40s.

    I can easily see how Roy might have scripted a splash page where Fury is a damsel in peril along the lines of a spicy pulp novel cover, only for his heroine to buck the trend and save herself in action. As someone who has seen commissions go afoul many times, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the Thomases had failed to adequately convey this intention, or if Grindberg had willfully misinterpreted instructions to avoid drawing a quasi-cover in favor of a more simple, salacious angle. I love how horrifying and brutal Tisiphone-Fury is, quickly sidestepping any cute Hulk comparisons to display a truly pants-browning entity. I did not need Johnny Chambers in this story, and he mildly derails the ending. If I were to have written this in 1986, I would have totally run with a Steve Trevor analogue and other elements discarded by Perez’s Wonder Woman, which Moon Maiden also did. However, The Fury is a stronger anti-heroine for the Thomases restraint.

    As for Kyle’s comments, while I do prefer Iron Age storytelling sensibilities, “darkness” isn’t that big a factor. My favorite DC books from around this time period were Blue Devil and Ambush Bug, which I read not as a reaction to anything, but simply because they were good fun. Even as a kid, Roy Thomas at DC left me cold. By and large, I find DC works better at extremes of light/comedic and dark/mature, with looser continuity, focusing on individual stories. Marvel tends to fit best in between tonal extremes, with tight universal continuity that’s an endless nerd soap opera. Roy made Earth-2 a drag of flat cold minutia, and I think he helped kill the multiverse through exsanguination.

    *Also: The largely forgotten Kirk Douglas vehicle “The Fury,” about a young person with extraordinary powers twisted horrifically by a quest for vengeance.

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    1. Love this comment, “This podcast is like Last Week Tonight to Who’s Who’s Daily Show, except you drop three hours on us every week to their every sixth or so.” But I’m afraid I don’t necessarily understand it. Is this a good thing? Does that mean they are complimentary, or one is better than the other?

      Also, as much as it pains me type this, I agree with Frank in liking the Golden Age Fury’s costume. Maybe I’m alone here, but I think it is someone evocative of the Golden Age costumes. Sure there is a lot of skin, but Wonder Woman showed a lot also. Fury’s costume is pretty plain looking, like many Golden Age costumes. Simple design, basic insignia. I’m on board. Oh yeah, she’s totally hot too.

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      1. Last Week Tonight wouldn’t exist in a world without The Daily Show, but John Oliver took all the wonderful things he learned from Jon Stewart and crafted something much richer and smarter, less commercially viable to the mainstream and less beholden to the stupidity of everyday political science. The Who’s Who Podcast is a “Headline News” show while Secret Origins does longer in-depth features.

        Also, I guess I’m more pasty and British…?

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  10. I can’t believe I forgot to do this until now but this week has been extremely hectic.

    I’ve posted the revised Golden Age Fury origin from Legends of the DC Universe #31 at neverendingreadingpile.tumblr.com

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  11. I have never read an issue of the original Challengers of the Unknown feature, so anything I could say about them comes with the caveat of my ignorance for the most essential source material. I think I read an issue of the ’70s series, maybe one of the Loeb/Sale issues, and definitely some of the late ’90s “X-Files” take. I enjoyed none of these, nor their many undesired guest appearances in various books. I think the only time they halfway worked for me was in The New Frontier. I dig the name though, and since DC never had a “Defenders” style team, I wanted to use it for a not-appropriate-for-JLA majorish hero collective I’ve had in mind for years. However, that would kind of breach a personal line in the sand I’ve since drawn about concept misappropriation, so I guess even the name can’t be put to better use.

    Challengers of the Unknown was Jack Kirby’s last unqualified hit comic for DC, and a major reason why he left. The same creative team worked together to develop the Sky Masters of the Space Force newspaper strip out of Kirby’s failed Space Busters proposal. After its success, Kirby and his Challengers editor Jack Schiff had major disputes over Sky Masters and ended up suing each other. Depending on who you ask, Kirby either quit working for DC over his discomfort with Schiff related to the lawsuits, or was fired because Schiff said elements of stories developed for Challengers were turning up in Sky Masters. Either way, it set the stage for the birth of Marvel Comics, and the only other original title Kirby produced at DC that could halfway be considered a sales success was Kamandi.

    As a personal friend, fan, and recognized authority on Jack Kirby, I figure Mark Evanier pitched the Challengers of the Unknown origin to Roy, and not the other way around. I think Evanier was taking a page from Dan Mishkin and going into the script trying to figure out how to subvert the Secret Origins formula by telling a modern story wrapped in the skin of an old one. It doesn’t quite work, because I’d still rather read the Kirby original than a summary, and that being what this is, I think Evanier should have condensed the original more to better tell his new tale. The eleven pages of recap has nothing to propel it since the reader is keenly aware that everyone involved cheerfully cheated death and are actively telling their tale. Two-thirds of a page of Prof, Ace & Red telling origins tiresomely similar to Rocky’s in his sad little 1/3 page, especially told after two pages of the group origin that spoiled those flashbacks for what little they were worth? I see a panel of art and a brick of text for each solo origin and maybe three panels for the group version. Two pages, tops. All that stuff with the box on the island is another two pages, max, if told more succinctly with caption box exposition. Similarly, I got the sexism without it being belabored so, and the TV stuff wore on my nerves. The bit with the scaffolding helped show the Challengers’ teamwork and ingenuity, but the stakes couldn’t be lower and in the comic book medium I can’t get invested in a scenario so mundane. I usually like Chuck Patton, but Bob Oksner’s inks polish the pizzazz out of him, and the story he’s stuck rendering is pedestrian. The new twist on the old story’s ending was cute, though.

    To my mind, the best use for the Challengers is as a period team. Their adventures could take place after the JSA retired and before the modern age of super-heroes. That was almost their role Post-Crisis, but it was fouled up by their being stuck in the early part of the 12 year timeline, when they should be in the 1960s with Cave Carson and the Sea Devils.

    This is Fox Force Five. It reminds of an an article I read in Amazing Heroes years ago about comic book properties that never should have been adapted to other media. A licensor was once talked out of acquiring screen rights to Werewolf By Night, by Marvel, because it wasn’t worth the paperwork when werewolves are in the public domain so anyone can do their own take on them. As cool as the Challengers name is, anybody could do the exact same premise under a title like “Death-Defiers.” The Challengers are the smart guy, the pilot, the bruiser, the young Turk and the girl. As noted, Kirby ripped himself off for Fantastic Four, which is a far better and more viable team that Marvel still struggles to market. Also, even Kirby recognized that the team dynamics were flabby, and combined two “types” for Ben Grimm. This team has too many dudes who are indistinguishable from one another aside from their specialties, which themselves aren’t all that special. Everybody in the Blackhawks can fly a plane, throw a punch, do a little detective work and shoot a gun, plus they have more diverse personalities and looks. Even when cover inker Karl Kesel revised the concept with Tom Grummet as Section Zero (featuring Dr. Titania Challenger) he included an alien and a reptile being. Whatever potential the concept has, the Challengers require such drastic rehabilitation that you might as well just start from scratch on a new property.

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  12. Loved hearing Doug talking about Doom Patrol with their connection to the Chals. Doug sure does talk good about Doom Patrol. May have to get him to do it some where else sometime.

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  13. I was always intrigued by the Challengers but never got into them. Also, I never realized Fury was a stand-in for Wonder Woman. Learn something new every day.

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