Friday, 18 July 2014


Images copyright DC COMICS

What's wrong with the above cover illustration?  For a start, the
Challenger (ACE MORGAN) hitting the egg with Thor's spare hammer
(allegedly) is standing too far away to even connect with it.  Secondly, what-
ever is emerging from the egg is just far too big to be in there to begin with.
(Yeah, okay - maybe it's expanding on contact with air, but I don't buy it!)
Thirdly, it's hardly one of JACK KIRBY's better cover compositions, what
with the other three Challs clumsily positioned behind a wall to avoid them
'merging' into their colleague.  And thus the CHALLENGERS Of The
UNKNOWN made their debut in SHOWCASE #6 in 1957.

They made another three appearances in Showcase (7, 11 & 12)
before being awarded their own mag in '58.   For part one of this cover
and splash page gallery we present a triple dose of those first Challengers
try-out tales.  (Part two will feature Showcase #12, plus Challengers #s
1-3, so don't miss out!)  The title continued for another 46 issues after
Jack's departure, but it's only the ones with which he was involved
that will fall within the purview of these palpitating posts.

Now - let's brave the unknown together!


Colin Jones said...

Perhaps the egg was bigger on the inside like the Tardis :) I'm surprised stuff as exciting as this was even still around at this time - I thought all that Seduction Of The Innocent hysteria had reduced comics to harmless tripe like Superbaby and Bat-Mite. Surely the sight of these monsters and aliens would be very traumatic for young readers and would cause them to go out and mug old ladies or whatever !

John Pitt said...

The only Challs I ever read were with the Doom Patrol crossover, but I understand that I missed out on a good title. I must get around to reading them one day. I remember once hearing that they were the inspiration for the FF? Anyway, look forward to reading all the forthcoming splashes.

Kid said...

Aha! You don't fool me, CJ. I recognise irony when I see it.

On the question of whether comics can influence people, a certain detractor of mine claims that some comics influenced him for good. If a comic can be a good influence, then it is entirely reasonable that, depending on content, some comics could likewise have a negative or harmful influence. A bad example is a bad example after all, regardless of the format it comes in, whether it be TV, movies, video games or comics. Whether such a comic has ever been published is perhaps a different matter, but the possibility that such a thing could happen is a sound, logical one in my view. Fredric Wertham may have over-egged the pudding, but he wasn't entirely without a point. I doubt that seeing monsters and aliens in a comic would cause young readers to mug old ladies (not that you were being serious), but anyone who says that it would be impossible for a comic to influence readers in a negative way is hardly on sound ground.

Remember when U.S. Marvel comics were anti-communist? Betcha a few kids whose parents were suspected of being 'reds' got a hard time from other kids in the neighbourhood because of comics reinforcing the anti-commie stance prevalent at the time. Surely that was a negative influence, wouldn't you say?

As for the egg being bigger inside - why would it be? It's an EGG!


JP, there's a DC Omnibus edition of the Kirby run of Challengers currently available. The Wally Wood inked stories are a particular feast for the eyes. Personally speaking, I think too much has been made of what is essentially an extremely superficial resemblance to the FF. In the Challs' case, they survive a 'plane crash and embark on dangerous missions because they're living on borrowed time as, by rights, they should be dead. In the FF's case, they survive a crash-landing after being bombarded with cosmic rays that give them superpowers. Not really much of a muchness in my view.

karl said...

Who doesn't love the Challs?
Even tho the Ff are their inheritors and prob are too much similar to them, there is that indefinable 'something' about the Challs that gets me where it hurts. Ok, the characters are broadly defined at best, and the Silver Age monsters angle is pushed a little too far, but you cant deny there is that olde-world charm in these comics that we all wish was still present today.

Kid said...

As I've said, Karl, I think any similarity between the two groups is stretched because of Kirby's involvement - the two are very different types of mags after all. However, I'd agree that they're entertaining enough romps, competently drawn in the main. The Wood-inked issues are in a different class 'though.

Colin Jones said...

Kid, I wasn't being entirely serious about the egg but it is a sci-fi story and anything can happen in a sci-fi story - perhaps the "egg" is a portal from another dimension or something. I've read your item about the Gorbals Vampire and though it was strange I was still amazed that you, as a comics fan , could sympathise with Frederic Wertham but here you're doing it again. Was it right to destroy the whole EC line of comics just because they MIGHT influence somebody ? It seemed like a classic moral panic which then moved on to rock 'n' roll/television/video games/video nasties and so on and so on - all of these things were supposedly going to destroy our youth but none ever do. In my opinion "newspapers" like The Sun have done far more to debase and brutalise society than horror comics could ever do so let's ban The Sun - and the Daily Mail while we're at it.

Kid said...

The point about the egg, CJ, is that as an IMAGE, in my opinion, it just doesn't work. Kirby did this a lot, especially in the latter part of his career. People looking out of building windows, when they clearly couldn't have any legs to be able to fit in to begin with.

Back to the Gorbals vampire and an important point. Hundreds of children (some as young as four) roaming a graveyard for three or four nights armed with sticks and knives, seems to indicate pretty conclusively that children are susceptible to suggestion and are easily influenced. Although, in this instance, it's unknown precisely what set them off, don't you agree that such an occurrence suggests that caution should be observed when it comes to what they should be exposed to, regardless of the format it's presented in? Wertham's point was wrapped around a kernel of truth, but it was exaggerated beyond what it could be properly applied to. And the EC line would have faded in time anyway - comics always have popular fads which come and go. If not for the so-called 'anti-comics crusade', we might never have had Marvel Comics, and Eagle and all sorts of other good things that rose, phoenix-like, from the ashes. If you're saying that parents shouldn't be allowed to express concerns about what their kids are exposed to (even if it impacts on the commercial interests of publishing companies) then I'd guess that lots of parents would disagree with you.

And CJ, I'm bound to say that if you really don't think our youth have been affected for the worse by some of the things of modern society, then frankly I'm amazed. Although I suppose it all depends on what you see as 'bad' or 'wrong' though. To me, kids swearing, drinking, taking drugs, being sexually promiscuous, etc., are far from positive aspects of our society.

Interesting that you think that newspapers can debase and brutalise society, but not other types of periodicals. If newspapers can, then anything can, in my opinion - whether it sets out to do so or not.

Colin Jones said...

I didn't say that I agree with kids swearing and drinking etc just that nothing has influenced them to do that and certainly not comics - well,comics have never influenced me to do anything malign. I think a lack of discipline at home and school is more to blame - I do think there must be discipline when children are growing up. And yes, I've read that the end of the EC horror comics led to the rise of superhero comics and Marvel which I'm grateful for but I still think the EC comics were basically harmless.

Kid said...

Nothing has influenced them to do that? Wow! What about peer pressure, advertising, parental example, cultural influence (of which comics are a part), etc. I think the mistake you're making, CJ, is you're assuming I'm claiming that comics are solely and exclusively responsible for every negative aspect of modern society as far as kids are concerned. All I'm saying is that, potentially, comics are just as capable of influencing readers (either for good or bad) as anything else - depending on the content. Why else do you think Marvel Comics introduced black characters in the '70s? It was to portray them in a positive light to their readers and to try and effect a change in society's thinking. That's a good thing. However, if comics can influence for good (and my most vocal detractor claims that they can), then it makes no sense to claim that they could never influence some readers in a negative way - whether intentionally or not.) That's why comics in the '60s & '70s avoided showing certain things - because they knew that there was a chance that some kids might imitate them.

I'm also bound to say that it's a bit cavalier to evaluate horror and crime comics of the '50s by today's far more 'liberal' standards. They should be viewed in their own era's context - and if parents of the time thought that they went too far, then really it was their call, don't you think? Frankenstein was once considered a shocking film (for different reasons) - just because we don't view it as such today doesn't mean that it once wasn't. Different sensibilities were in operation back then.

I also think you might have a different idea than I do about what is harmful. I consider society to be debased - and harmed - by the fact that people (kids included) now watch scenes of graphic, gratuitous violence in computer games for entertainment. Decapitation, dismemberment, etc., all without turning a hair. I'm not saying that it's going to turn viewers into mad axemen (although neither would I dogmatically assert that it couldn't ever happen) - what I AM saying is that when we sit around watching such things to entertain ourselves, then society is the worse for it. There's the harm in itself.

The bottom line is that when it comes to kids - who are demonstrably more susceptible to outward influences - then we should exercise caution over what we let them read, watch or listen to. What's the big deal about that?

Marionette said...

I'm always stunned by the obviousness of the speech balloons on those covers. Did the editor think that if he didn't describe what was happening in the picture that some readers might not get it?

Kid said...

It would appear so, eh, Marionette? It didn't just happen on the covers 'though, but also in the stories inside - and JK was one of the worst 'offenders' in stating what was visually obvious to the reader. U.K. comics often did the same thing.

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