Dynamite Entertainment’s ‘Gold Key Alliance’ new comics mini series: A Review, of sorts!

kings-quest-1I’ve been a comic books, newspaper comics strips, and Pulp magazines collector for pretty – well my entire life.

And I was born at the perfect time, during the early years of The Silver Age of Comics!

The comic books that I read as a young child within the following five to six years after my birth, included numerous Marvels, DCs, Tower Comics, M.F. Enterprises (which, by the way, produced six issues in two titles, featuring a humanoid – looking masked, costumed robot from another planet, who, on Earth, became a superhero by the name of…Captain Marvel-!)

This was, of course, a version of the superhero by that name, that most younger readers have very likely, never even heard of.

kings-quest-2Other companies’ titles that I read at the time included Dell ComicsGold Keysand various other companies’ comics wares.

My older brother, James, was old enough at that time to BUY all these comic books; and thus, he as well as I were the lucky readers of many of these comics of the 1960’s! He funded this hobby, at the time, with a paper route, delivering the daily newspaper in our then community, for numerous subscribers to that publication.

My brother bought all these comics, which he then read, and then stored in very large cardboard boxes under his bed, which contained, at the time, probably somewhere in the neighbourhood of four to six hundred comic books! That, in my opinion, was an awful lot of comic books for one buyer and reader to own in the 1960’s, mostly before much of comics fandom, or the collecting of comics, existed, for most people who bought and read them.

kings-quest-3Because, let’s face it, in the decades before large scale collecting of these periodicals’ mindset existed, these were mostly read, passed around, and then discarded, by many!

Due to my older brother’s initial interest back in The Silver Age of Comics, I myself, therefore, developed a great interest in comic books, from very early on! And thus, by the time I, as a wee tike, entered grade school, in Grade Primary, (I was probably all of five years old at that time, or a little less), I ALREADY had a very impressive vocabulary, from the reading of comics!

And therefore, even at that age, I was ALWAYS the last person still standing, in class SPELLING BEES-!

Which – I hasten to add – made me enormously UNpopular, among my peers, at that time!

magnus-robot-fighter-1-feb-1963-gold-keyAmong my brother James’ comics, in the 1960’s, he had, as well, a number of Gold Key Comics, including Walt Disney’s Zorro,  (reprints from the Dell Comics series), Doctor Solar, Man of The Atom superhero comics,
some of artist Russ Manning’s’ Magnus, Robot Fighter comics (including the 1963 premiere issue of that title), the unique western series Judge Colt, The Twilight Zone, and Turok, Son of Stone comics, among many others. 

‘Magnus, Robot Fighter’ and ‘Doctor Solar, Man of The Atom’ both became runaway favourites of mine then, despite the fact that the robot fighter appeared to be wearing a red, chain mail mini skirt, along with white go-go boots! Which, at that age, of course, honestly, never,ever even occurred to me! 

magnus-robot-fighter-2-gold-key-1963I say this now mostly in jest, since Russ Manning’s Silver Age Magnus, Robot Fighter series still stands up today, in terms of high quality work! And, besides, how do we know that men WON’T be wearing togas, by the year 4,000 A.D? Hmm-? Thankfully, you and I won’t be alive to see it happen!

I’ve also, over the decades, found and bought most other, later ‘Magnus, Robot Fighter’, (as well as) ‘Doctor Solar/Man of The Atom‘, and ‘Turok, Son of Stone’ titles, from numerous other publishers, since! Although, post – Gold Key Comics’ series of Doctor Solar, Man of The Atom runs were simply entitled, ‘Solar.’

magnus-robot-fighter-25-gold-keyWhich, of course, pretty much brings us all the way up to the present. Especially since, right now, Dynamite Entertainment is currently putting out a ‘Gold Key Alliance’ – titled comics mini series, bringing most of those Silver Age Gold Key comics series characters back to life, yet again. Only this time, these Gold Key Comics’ characters are, finally, “together again, for the first time”, in a new (sort-of ) hero team title! The Gold Key Alliance comics series features Lee Falk’s The Phantom as well as his Mandrake The Magician and friend Lothar, Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim, as well as Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant!

mighty-samson-several-issues-gold-keyWhen Dynamite Entertainment brought back a new version of the studious occult researcher character from the 1960’s Gold Key Comics title, ‘The Occult Files of ‘Doctor Spektor,’  in a new comics mini series, just a couple of years ago, it was simply titled ‘Doctor Spektor.’ Oddly, the previously always bearded Michael Spektor from that new Dynamite version of his title,  now was clean-shaven, he physically looked much younger, and indeed, he appeared downright ‘boyish.’

Which, by the way, was not a change I approved of. But then again, you can’t ever please EVERYBODY, right?

the-owl-1-1967And speaking of original Silver Age 1960’s Gold Key Comics‘ titles from those many decades back, at that time, Gold Key revived, in the 1960’s,  a World War Two (1940’s) era costumed superhero title and character – namely, The Owl!

I mention this character for a very good reason, as you will see, while you continue reading this article….

The Silver Age Gold Key revival of The Owl, in his own titled 1960’s series, lasted only two issues, but to my extremely young eyes at the time, I was thrilled; and of course, I retain those The Owl vintage issues as well, to this day.

the-owl-2-1967The grey costumed The Owl, replete with a purple gliding cape, which made it appear to his enemies that he could fly, first appeared just before World War Two actually began. During which time, and throughout that Second World War, The Owl fought numerous ordinary, plain clothed criminals of all sorts; saboteurs, as well as enemies of The Allies! 

The Owl bowed, initially, with his first numerous stories having been illustrated by Frank Thomas, in Dell Comics’ Crackajack Funnies # 25 (July of 1940 issue), up to and including # 43 (Jan of 1942 issue.) In the following link is a look at the cover of Crackajack Funnies # 41, from The Golden Age of Comics:

Crackajack Funnies #41 (Issue) In those nineteen issues, (Crackajack Funnies # 25 through # 41.) The Owl’s partner in crime-fighting was Owl Girl, who of course was clad in a similar owl-inspired costume and mask. She was secretly Ms. Belle Wayne, and obviously, no relation whatsoever, to a certain Billionaire Dark Knight Detective!

crackajack-funnies-31Whereas The Owl himself, was secretly Nick Terry, a policeman.

Just as the World War Two-era comics superhero (who also appeared in three issues of his own Pulp magazine title (!), The Black Hood, was ALSO a police officer, when out of his superhero duds. The Black Hood 1940’s comics title was, of course, published by MLJ, which later become ‘Archie Comics.’ There was even a ‘The Black Hood’ long – running radio show at the time, but now, we’re really off topic!

The Golden Age The Owl and Owl Girl were also romantically linked. After the ‘Crackajack Funnies’ nineteen issues which featured (among other features), The Owl, with Owl Girl, The two heroes later resurfaced, in additional new at the time stories, in ‘Popular Comics’, from issue # 72 through # 86.

crackajack-funnies-32-the-owlWhen The Owl returned to comics life decades later, in the 1960’s, and again published by Gold Key Comics, in two new comics issues, this time in his own title (if only for two issues), he was still Nick Terry, behind the mask. No surprise, there, right?.

However, his partner, Owl Girl, this time, for unexplained reasons, was now a different female partner, behind her mask. This particular Owl Girl,  was in fact named Laura Holt!

These 1960’s two new ‘The Owl’ issues were penned by Superman’s own co-creater, Jerry Siegel, whereas Tom Gill took care of the art chores, for this version.

crackajack-funnies-33-the-owlWhereas Nick Terry had been a uniformed police man in his 1940’s civilian Dell Comics adventures, when not fighting crime in his Owl costume, Nick Terry had, by his two 1960’s Gold Key adventures, by now been promoted from police constable, to a plains clothed  ‘Special (crime) Investigator’ to the police department! And so, presumably, he’d been promoted to the rank of Detective, complete with a police detective’s Gold Shield!

Bat Mania was loose on televisions pretty well near everywhere at this time, thanks to the Adam West and Burt Ward starring ‘Batman’ campy (and enormously popular) 1960’s television series. And so, it came as no big surprise that The Owl and the second Owl Girl had, themselves, a rakish Owl Plane and Owl Cave – (which, to be fair, had appeared in the 1940’s series, as well.) And then, there was The Owl Mobile, of course!

crackajack-funnies-34Because, if that OTHER dark clad creature of the night over at National/-DC Comics was going to have a Batmobile — and all those other wonderful toys to help him fight crime … then, by golly, The Owl was going to have HIS own awesome fleet, too!

In one of his two Silver Age ‘The Owl’ issues, The Owl, in full costume, in one scene, slid down a wooden slide, into The Owl Cave, and thus, he then ended up with a wooden SPLINTER in his butt! He remarked his displeasure over this to Owl Girl, explaining to this second Owl Girl that he was going to have to sandpaper that slide down, all over again! Ouch!

Although, it suddenly occurs to me, that real owls don’t live in caves!

crackajack-funnies-37-the-owlDecades ago, I had read in one of the annual editions of Bob Overstreet’s The Comic Book Price Guide, that The Owl later came out of retirement still later, again, some years after those mid mid-1960’s two issues of ‘The Owl’ had been published, in the # 22nd issue of Gold Key’s ‘The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor.’

Nick Terry  had not having aged a day, since the 1940’s.

Only recently did I learn, online, however, that Doctor Solar, Man of The Atom also in ‘The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor # 18 and # 23.

And so, for Doctor Solar completists, you can now add # 14, # 18, and # 23 of that title to your Solar Want Lists, like I did!

crackajack-funnies-42-the-owlSee, it had taken me decades to finally locate ‘The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor’ # 14 (for a book-length Man of The Atom team up with Doctor Spektor), as well as # 22 of the same title, with the return of the costumed The Owl book length team-up! In fact, I located those two issues only very recently, at a local Sunday flea market, of all places!

For those interested, here is a complete roll call of Doctor Spektor appearances, prior to his Dynamite Entertainment comics mini series, of a few years ago:

Doctor Spektor – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In that same twenty-second issue of The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor – all issues of that series having been written by Horror’s Own Don Glut – at story’s end, Michael Spektor’s long time girlfriend, named Lakota, who he was still deeply in love with – left him forever, at story’s end, leaving a ‘Dear John’ note behind, asking him not to try to find her.

kings-quest-5-of-5A question I have been pondering: If Doctor Solar, alias The Man of The Atom, also a.k.a Phil Seleski, (yet another guy with a cool first name; an atomic powered costumed superhero), can be considered an important enough comic book character, as to be worthy of appearances in the new Dynamite Entertainment’s ‘Gold Key Alliance’ title … and yet, this said, we had to settle for the new female version, who, nonetheless has thus far appeared only on a cover of that series thus far (and in her male counterpart’s costume, instead of her own) …. where is the original Doctor Solar, Man of The Atom? And, for that matter, why is it that the writer of this series never deigned to see fit to include The Owl and Owl Girl in this title? Hmm-?

And then, a few issues later, the original Doctor Solar Man of The Atom DID appear in this series, thankfully, but still no appearances by The Owl and Owl Girl, which I found disappointing.

My point to all this, of course: Dynamite’s new ‘Gold Key Alliance’ title IS worth the price of admission. However, I myself feel that this mini series would have been MORE interesting, with the inclusion of Gold Key’s The Owl, as well.

mighty-samson-1-gold-keyBecause, not only was The Owl an original Gold Key’ 1940’s AND 1960’s comics character, there is still further precedence for him to be included, in ‘Gold Key Alliance’: and that is the fact that Dynamite Entertainment, in 2013, published a four issue comics mini series entitled – naturally enough- ‘The Owl’, updating this character, both in story, costume and art, to the present day!

In addition to Doctor Spektor, Doctor Solar, The Man of The Atom (who, these days, in costume, is usually just referred to as Solar or Doctor Solar – his secret identity of Phil Seleski was an invention of a writer in the Valiant Comics’ revival of this character) – in the original 1960’s Dell Comics’ Soctor Soar, Man of The Atom first series, ‘Man of The Atom’ was his superhero name, oddly enough, and his secret identity at that time was Doctor Raymond Solar.

mighty-samson-2-gold-keyFrom Wikipedia, on the world wide web, “Solar is an American fictional comic book superhero created by writer Paul S. Newman, editor Matt Murphy, and artist Bob Fujitani. The character first appeared in Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom #1 in 1962 by Gold Key Comics and has since appeared in other incarnations in books published by Valiant Comics in the 1990s, Acclaim Comics, Dark Horse Comics in the 2000s, and Dynamite Entertainment in the 2010’s.”

In addition to Solar and the occult practitioner Doctor Spektor, the five issue mini series title ‘Gold Key Alliance’ also featured Turok, Son of Stone,  his friend Andar, Magnus, Robot Fighter, Flash Gordon, and Lee Falk’s colourful purple costumed jungle hero, The Phantom. In fact, two versions of The Phantom appeared in this series, , including a female version! Lee Falk’s Mandrake The Magician also appeared as a main character in this series, along with his pal, Lothar, and Mandrake’s love interest, Lara.

mighty-samson-23-35-gold-keyPreviously, in 2013, Dynamite Entertainment put out a prequel five issue mini series entitled KINGS WATCH, which featured many KING FEATURES SYNDICATE characters, including Lee Falk’s The Phantom, and Mandrake the Magician, Flash Gordon,  all of these same characters teamed up in a grand adventure! Flash Gordon’s main foe, Ming The Mercilless was the main foe in this intriguing storyline! In that series, Dale Arden, Flash Gordon’s beloved, was brainwashed by Ming, who he had plans to make her his bride!

mighty-samson-several-issues-gold-keySince then, the newest five issue Dynamite mini series is KINGS QUEST, and the final issue of this mini series (# 5) was released in late September of 2016.  Interestingly (or oddly, depending upon your point of view), Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant also appeared in this series, along with, once again, Mandrake The Magician, Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim, two (Lee Falk’s) The Phantoms (one of which is female.); Flash Gordon and Dale Arden.

kings-watch-5-issue-mini-series-dynamiteStill, Prince Valiant was always a KING FEATURES character, so I suppose they had to find a way to shoe horn him in there, too! What — no Steve Canyon???

In the first series, KINGS WATCH, the current ‘The Phantom’ is, apparently, tragically(and heroically)  killed, while fighting Mandrake The Magician’s evil Cobra group, in the final issue, # 5. He is then replaced (as the NEW Phantom), by Mandrake The Magician’s life long friend, Lothar! So here we have at last, the first black ‘The Phantom’-! About time, right?

Previous to any of these Dynamite mini series, there were separate comics’ mini series for Flash Gordon, Prince Valiant, The Phantom, Mandrake The Magician, Prince Valiant, and Jungle Jim.

If I confess I bought and read them all, with the exception of Jungle Jim. And of course, I also quite enjoyed the four issues of Dynamite’s The Owl update, and I fervently hope they do something with the character, again!

Not published yet, the sequel mini series to KINGS QUEST is going to be Dynamite’s upcoming KINGS CROSS mini series, which I am greatly looking forward to! I mean, how can you go wrong with a pantheon of heroes line up like this?!?!?

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