Charlton Action Heroes: A Count Down To Retcon..

Posted: January 14, 2014 in Uncategorized
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The following post is a prequel of sorts and sequel all in one. In partnership with fellow Super-Blog Team Up member Silver Age Sensations, The Super-Hero Satellite proudly brings you the precursor to a huge blog event. Before you read this however..Visit Jeff over at Silver Age Sensations who has set the table for us at the Satellite to begin our next big event. So click here first and come right back!! Visit Silver Age Sensations Now! Transmission date: Jan 14 2013 Welcome back Heroes. You have all been summoned to the time stream analyzer in the middle core of the Satellites observation deck. Today we will pin point a moment in comics history that impacted the way we read comics. One man walking off a big job impacted the comics industry to this day. Strap in Heroes..we are going to a point where Super-heroes do not exist..where only Action-Heroe’s protect us..we are setting time stream coordinates to the 1960s to the Charlton Comics Universe..Let me begin by saying some of my favorite memories of comics collecting as a young child was discovering Charlton Comics. They were not commonly on newsstands in our bigger markets where I lived in Canada but I would always discover a handful of these titles from time to time in  convenience stores and old book stores. My favorites were E-man, Bionic Woman Hercules, Judo Master, Blue Beetle and Captain Atom. Charlton books were always low quality, but as a kid growing up I didn’t mind as much. The paper was cheap to the touch and the books never really smelled the best, but the content was always provoking and had me come back to these over and over again. Even the ads in the books were a little more sleazy than what was featured in the big two at the time. Heck I even coined my pen name “Charlton Hero after the company! I had no idea that some of that some the characters I was reading would one day become the basis for one of the biggest comics property of all time. More on that later.. When one of comics biggest artists walks off a flagship title from a major company to join a small publishing company it is a risk no matter who you are. Steve Ditko was that person. Co-creator of Marvels biggest icon Spider-Man with Stan Lee, Ditko is one of comicdom’s greatest talents. With his most famous 1962 debut of Spider-Man in the pages of Amazing fantasy #15 Ditko went on to craft 38 issues of the iconic Amazing Spider-Man title for Marvel comics. Ditkos reach also extended to characters like Doctor Strange where he connected with his free form abstract side of his work. Steve Ditko an opinionated, idealistic, work horse was known for his unique output. It would also be the story of this comic book legends career as Ditko refused to compromise his beliefs and in turn this would impact his own profitability and success in the long run. His long-standing values based on the Objectivist teachings of Ayn Rand many times put Ditko in opposition with creators in regards to story lines and character development. Such is believed for his reason for departing the Amazing Spider-man after a grand 38 issue run that many site as the best of the series.

The End of Steve Ditkos legendary run. An end of an era for Spider-man the beginning of a universe is upon us..

A storied feud with Marvel head honcho Stan Lee at the time over a rumored storyline concerning the identity of the Green Goblin and several editorial decisions would be the deal breaker for Ditko. Marvels loss would be another publishers gain as Ditko walked into Charlton Comics offices and went straight back to work. Having the hugely popular Ditko back helped prompt Charlton editor Dick Giordano (Who would later go on to more fame in DC!) to introduce the company’s “Action Hero” line of books which would years later long after cancellation have a major impact in ways that could not have been predicted.

Dont call them Super-Heroes..Charlton Action Heroes debut!

Charlton Publishing,  A small publisher known for their music magazines such as Hit Parader, by the late fifties was also a small force in the comics industry. At this time the industry had fallen on a financial depression period as it was many publishers were quickly exiting the low profit Comic book market as they could not compete with the big guns like DC Comics. Charlton however took the opposite approach. Instead of jumping away from the comics medium, they took advantage of the down period in the market and greatly expanded their line ups, which originally consisted mainly of Horror, Western, Crime and Romance titles. Buying many properties from faltering companies, Charlton introduced their Action hero line! The acquisition of Ditko would lead Charlton into their most storied well-known part of their history the Silver Age. Making the leap for Ditko was not as big a deal as many warned as Charlton offered low page rates for the work created but gave the artists creative freedom to experiment and publish pretty well what they wanted as long as the titles sold. Steve Ditko was known as a very fast artist who could turn out pages at a very high rate with a very high level of quality attached to them which endeared him to all publishers he worked for as he always met or exceeded deadlines and at many times brought even more work than expected! Ditko was back in his creative sandbox. Little did he know that his time at Charlton would be the Blue print for a big part of a rival comics publishers biggest successes. More on that later.

The Charlton Action Heroes Subscription Offer! This was actually a VERY good deal!

The Action Hero line was in hindsight a critical success, one however that Charlton would never reap the financial benefits . The debut of Ditko/ Joe Gills creation Captain Atom (in Space Adventures #33 (March 1960) was the spring-board for the line. Captain Atom aka Allen Adam was a technician who specialized in special experimental rocket development. He becomes trapped inside his own device and is accidentally atomized when the rocket enters the atmosphere. Allen Adam gains nuclear superpowers and is able to reform his body back on earth. He dons a red and yellow costume that shields humans from nuclear radiation his body emits as a result. One of the ongoing characteristics is his unique silver hair which results from his transformation into the Captain. many suggest the concept was a little more than inspired by the character Doctor Solar of Gold Key comics fame.

Rise of the Atom. Captain Atom of of Ditkos biggest contributions to the comics industry!

Ditko would revive a character purchased during Charlton’s “Acquisition period” another insect oriented character whose inspiration comes from the Green Hornet. Charltons most significant acquisition from that period was from Fox Features Syndicate, a character known as the Blue Beetle!. His alter ego, was rookie Police Officer, Dan Garret, who donned a special bulletproof costume and was chemically enhanced to fight crime with a dose of “Vitamin 2X” which he secretly was enabled by a local pharmacist to become the Blue Beetle! No joke! Charlton did away with this origin mercifully and now Garrett obtains a mystical Scarab from an archeological dig in Egypt which gave him actual non medically enhanced Super Powers such as energy blasts, super strength and flight.

The Original Blue Beetle would be FAR different than the Blue Beetle we were used to today!

Ditko however in 1966 did away with this concept and revamped the character to closely resemble many traits of Green Hornet. The Ted Kord Blue Beetle ran as a backup feature in Captain Atom #83-86 (November 1966 – June 1967) before getting his own title, which ran for a total of only 5 issues in June 1967 and November 1968. The revamped Beetle ,Ted Kord’s used all new amazing High Tech equipment like his bug-ship aircraft. His crime fighting arsenal included a pistol that made a blinding burst of light and, an explosive air blasts paired with a solid hand to hand combat technique!

Everybody Loves Ted Kord…Ditko Created The Definitive Version Of Blue Beetle!

The debut of Ditko’s Blue Beetle #1 (June 1967) also brought forth the debut of another iconic Charlton creation…Vic Sage..aka..The Question! The Question is a result of Ditkos objectivist views in the sense he was a hard-line crime fighter who dispensed justice in a very harsh way. Vic Sage himself was an outspoken journalist who pushed his investigation a little too far when tracking down a story on a criminal Dr. Twain. As the Question went on to expose the truth of the good Doctor he understood the need to elevate his crime fighting mystique by covering his face with “Pseudoderm”, an applied skin-like bandage which concealed his identity with the help of specialized bonding gas. The Question ruthlessly hunted down vilains in a very Ditkonian method and was a vehicle for Steve’s views on justice in society. Read all about The Question at one of our Super-Blog Team Up partners by clicking here Silver Age Sensations

Who is The Question..That is The Question!

Ditko also created a small subset of ancillary characters that would become important as well in time. Nightshade was another Ditko/Gill creation who debuted in the pages of Captain Atom V2 #82 (Sept. 1966) Originally created as a crime fighting Love interest for captain Atom. Has the ability to teleport herself and others by passing them through the Land of Nightshades. Another key power is her ability to manipulate shadows into solid state. She would go on to form with Atom and beetle to form the Sentinels Of Justice super team. Rounding out Charlton’s Action Hero Line were The PeaceMaker, Judo Master and Peter Cannon Thunderbolt. The Action Hero line was fondly remembered by comic book enthusiasts and by myself in particular.

Charlton Action Heroes..go!

We had something we did not have for quite a while, an alternative to the big two, DC and Marvel. The books were not the highest quality and the characters somewhat derivative ..however years after cancellation..something interesting happened. Writer Alan Moore approached DC about doing a story based on the final days of these Charlton Heroes. In the early 80s Charlton had relinquished the rights to many of their Super-hero characters to DC comics almost in the same way in which they acquired them. Moore who saw this as a blank canvas to craft a tale of the fall of this group of heroes approached the previously mentioned Dick Giordano who now years removed from Charlton has risen to managing editor of DC comics, with his proposal. Giordano upon review of Moore’s story proposal noted that his story would eventually leave the characters in the story rendered unusable in the aftermath…He convinced Moore to draft his story using characters based around the Charlton heroes and history was made. The result…a 1986 DC Comics Limited Series..WATCHMEN!

Yes The Watchmen were based directly on the Charlton Action Hero line of characters. Can you see who inspired who?

DC Comics buy out of Charlton would be a big deal for fans of the industry. Several independent publishers had kept several of Charlton’s Heroes in circulation with reprints and even some original Sentinals stories. The Charlton Action Heroes would finally debut in the DC Univ…………………… Warning: Transmission Terminated Unexpectedly To Be Continued: Satellite Fans..Tune in Feb. 19 2014 when The Super-Blog Team Up reunites for an explosive full-blown multi part Limited Series that covers the far reaches of the Comic Book Universe. As for the fate of The Charlton Action Heroes and their connection to The Watchmen, come back to The Satellite when Super-Blog Team Up Presents….RETCON. (Name Subject To Change) Support Our Team: Silver Age Sensations: Click Here! LongBox GraveYard  Visit The Graveyard! Chasing Amazing Join The Chase! Flodos Page Rings On Lanterns! Fantastiverse  Get Fantastic!

  1. Dave B says:

    Nice little trip through Charleston history. I’m. Not the biggest fan of Ditkos art but he is a great designer. I recently picked up an issue of Juror Master in a dollar bin and thought it was quite good.

    • charltonhero says:

      Ditko has his devoted camp of fans for sure! Its not everyones cup of tea but I have an appreciation of his contribution to comics and plus he created what I feel is the next big thing with comics …Speedball!

      I would reccomend anyone who wants to experiment with Charlton Ditko would try out his horror titles with Charlton were quite well drawn!

      Check em out!

      Tell em Hero sent ya!!

      • Dave B says:

        Based on the scans here, the art is better than the 70’s and 80’s Ditko stuff that has actually been my main exposure to Ditko. His Spider-Man stuff is pretty good, too.

  2. Merco says:

    Then there was “Mercury Man” with great powers to help protect peace on Earth and the Universe..

  3. Pork Pie Hat says:

    You have no idea how pissed I was when I opened Spider-Man #39 that summer day in 1966. First off, the Romita cover worried me. There was STILL hope however, surely Ditko illustrated the inside. The most recent Spidey & Strange Tales covers had been swipes from the inside story pages; maybe Steverino was slavin’ away on the third Spider-Man annual and couldn’t do covers till finishing it. I clutched at nonexistent straws as all of you know. Seeing the credits for #39, good ol’ Peter and Stephen died in the summer of ’66, for me anyway. Never to issue from Steve’s pen again.
    A pity of Hamletic proportion. What’s my point?
    I cheerfully followed Ditko right over to Charlton to watch him make an almost seamless shift from spiders to beetles; beetles aren’t arachnids but all them creepy crawlies move a lot alike. The great unwashed had a Ditko pseudo-Spidey on the shelf in less than a year. Sitting in for the irreplaceable MIA master of the mystic arts was my new favorite: the Question. Hail yeah! The character always felt so right, too bad Ditko drew less than 60 pages of the faceless everyman. But along came the Creeper and the Hawk & Dove and Jim Steranko was making Strange Tales worth buying again yo!
    The world hadn’t come to an end although ditching Strange and Spidey just when things were getting real good was incomprehensible. That traumatized this 13-year-old Ditko fan when it happened. Two years later I was reading The Fountainhead, not knowing that’s where Ditko’s head was at. I read it again every ten or 15 years, easier reading each time. The ending is absolutely absurd and I’m about to divulge it in my next sentence so if you haven’t read Fountainhead and wanna be surprised (and oh will you be!) read no further. A collectivist architect vested with no more emotion than a bag of ice dynamites an apartment complex after it was built (but unoccupied) because the balconies had been changed slightly from his original design, the judge completely understands the architect’s artistic sensibilities and bangs his gavel down: “Not guilty.” The guy gets away with raping a debutante too because she provoked him and she liked the abuse enough to marry him at the end of a 700 page novel she’d spent 650 pages of hating on him. That wouldn’t even happen in the Marvel universe.
    But I like the propoganda-esque Fountainhead’s icy hero and its icky black hats are slimy vermin, villains you love to hate. You’ll like all of them too if you read it. It ain’t Ditko but it’ll give you a perspective of the extremely confined niche of thinking the artist chose to restrict himself to. That’s discipline worthy of respect, the man who could have had everything decided live a life as Spartan as a monk’s.
    A pity of Hamletic proportion. Peace, one and all.

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