Friday, September 30, 2016

"Only one thing to do... go all the way!" Heroes, Inc. #1 review

To follow yesterday's His Name Is Savage #1 review, let's turn the clock ahead by one year to 1969 and Wally Wood's Heroes, Inc. #1, first of an aborted anthology series.

Wally Wood drew some of the most appealing art to ever grace the comics medium. He drew gorgeous gals, tough guys, weird creatures and wrote plenty of funny gags. With Heroes, Inc. he had an opportunity to step away from the major publishers and do his own thing; it was at this time he was producing his immensely fascinating pro-zine witzend. Marketing this new book to military bases offered a chance to be a little more adult and sophisticated.

Joining Wood for the lead feature, Cannon, was Steve Ditko; the duo had previously worked together on T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and would collaborate again on Atlas' Destructor (issue #1 covered here). Ditko would also unveil his first batch of Mr. A comics via Wood's witzend. Yet for all that, they're not an obvious collaborative team; Wood drew lovely ladies while many charged Ditko incapable of that; Wood liked free-wheeling sick humour while Ditko was (and is) a very tightly-wound conservative. And yet, Cannon would prove to be the one section of this book to truly catch on. Cannon is a CIA agent who suffered brainwashing at the hands of Communist agents; the CIA couldn't reverse his condition so completed his brainwashing to make him the perfect CIA killer - at the cost of his emotions. In this tale, Cannon is sent to rescue a beautiful woman who holds vital knowledge of the US's anti-missile defenses. It's really not that different from His Name Is Savage, except done in fewer pages with lots more vitality. Also, Cannon has an identifiable hook as a character - his emotional detachment.

The second feature, Misfits, is an odd science fiction tale. The Misfits are Mystra (psychic woman), Shag (tiny furry psychic alien) and Glomb (giant mutant). In this tale they meet each other while being held by the government and come to the Earth's rescue when alien invaders begin conquering the planet with their own mental powers. There's a funny non-PC moment I quite enjoy regarding the invaders:

Reporter: "A man just emerged from the ship... hey! It's a white man..."
Off-panel advisor: "Well, that's a good sign anyway... try to talk to him!"
Reporter: "No... I mean white! Like a sheet of paper!"

The Misfits breezes by a little too fast, given the many characters with various origins and the matter of an alien invasion! It's certainly not boring - and it certainly helps that Wood loaded his pages with panels (12 panels on one page!), but it's not as neatly done as Cannon.

And yet there's still more: a third feature, the comedic Dragonella. A beautiful lady has been raised by a race of saurian creatures; one of them, St. George, is smitten with Dragonella, but she wants a handsome man. Accompanied by St. George she begins her quest and encounters one Prince Hal (parody of Hal Foster's Prince Valiant). It's all basically an excuse for jokes about the fantasy genre with a few mild sex references. My favourite bit is above, where Dragonella suddenly begins talking like a comic book action hero as soon as a fight scene begins.

That's all for this book; Cannon would return a little later as a strip Wood prepared for the army. It contained all the lurid sex & violence Wood specialized in. Heroes, Inc. would not see another issue until 1976 via a different publishing team. Wood efforts in witzend and elsewhere contributed a lot to the eventual success of independent comics, but Heroes, Inc. was something of a dead end in its own time. Still, I feel it holds up much better than Kane's His Name Is Savage. Give it a whirl, if only for a few laughs at Dragonella.

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