Friday, June 14, 2013



Collects Blue Beetle Nos. 1-5, Captain Atom Nos. 83-85, Charlton Bullseye Nos. 1, 2, 5, Charlton Portfolio Nos. 9, 10, and Mysterious Suspense No. 1 (cover dates November, 1966 -September, 1975)

Writers: David A. Kaler, Gary Friedrich, Steve Ditko, Roger Stern, and Michael Uslan

Artists: Steve Ditko, Rocke Mastroserio (inker), Frank McLaughlin (inker), Al Milgrom, John Byrne (inker), and Alex Toth

These comic books are below average for the era storywise, with nothing exceptional going on here except for Steve Ditko's artwork. I kept thinking of these characters as the ones that Alan Moore re-purposed for Watchmen. It read like an untold tales/ prequel, and I couldn't help but think of them not as Captain Atom and Nightshade, Blue Beetle (II), and The Question, but Doctor Manhattan and Silk Spectre (II), Nite Owl (II), and Rorschach. 

The Question is the most interesting of the bunch. Ditko made this his most personal creation, the personification of his Objectivist beliefs. While this Ayn Rand created method of thought has been adopted wholesale by Tea Party nuts, I doubt that Ditko would have much use for them, either. 

Ditko was a counterculture fan favorite thanks to his runs on his creations/ co-creations Doctor Strange and Spider-Man. He openly detested and mocked these same fans in The Question. He was not a fan of then-modern art and his perception of the self-centered beliefs of the Baby Boomers and hippies. Ditko has conviction and brass balls. 

Alex Toth's take on The Question is just incredible. Like all of the Charlton Bullseye and Charlton Portfolio stories (approximately 50 of the 380 pages of this book), they are presented in black and white as they were originally published. 

The Question, as drawn by Alex Toth.

The lettering is tiny and can be difficult to read at times. Fortunately, Ditko's great artwork and unique panel composition more than make up for this shortcoming. I really enjoy his fighting scenes. Ditko himself wrote The Question, and I have to say that his dialogue is hilarious. It's long-winded, and at times can make Don McGregor look like Brian Michael Bendis by comparison. The Question is far and away my favorite character in the book. I couldn't help but read his dialogue in the same internal mental “voice” that I read Rorschach from the Watchmen in. I really enjoyed the Blue Beetle (II), and again, couldn't help but think of these as old Nite Owl stories. The ship, the basement base, the aircraft coming out of the's all there. 

Charlton was the minor leagues during the '60s and '70s. Many future Marvel favorites got their start here, such as Gary Friedrich, Roger Stern, Al Milgrom, and John Byrne. Ditko was a Marvel alumni when he came to Charlton after he left Marvel over a disagreement. No one knows for sure what it was, but the popular story is that Ditko got into a fight with Stan Lee over the identity of the Green Goblin. Ditko wanted it to be someone that we never saw before, while Lee favored Norman Osborn. We all know who “won” that argument. 

The Ghost is the most common foe in this series, fighting the rebooted and depowered Captain Atom. Punch and Jewelee are as cheesy as Silver Age foes can get. I love them all the same. Most of the foes are unremarkable, and that is being kind. 

If the notion of Before Watchmen offends you but you'd like more then I would recommend both of these Action Heroes Archives. Fans of Steve Ditko should also give this a look-see.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone- DC Archives are great. I like the faux leather texture of the hardback on this book.

Linework and Color restoration rating: 4.25 out of 5. The linework is excellent but some of the color choices are simply too dark when compared to scans of the original comics, the blues and greens being the worst offenders. The original color palette is maintained for the most part, although the covers are a tad different here or there. Nothing huge, and nothing most of the people who read these things would give a hoot about.

Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Good weight coated stock with a dull mate finish, with the paper being closer to cream colored than bright white.

Binding rating: 5 out of 5. Sewn binding, lays perfectly flat. What's not to love?

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