Tuesday, October 16, 2012
TONY’S BACK PAGES: MOD WHEELS
Hot Wheels have been popular toys and collectibles since 1968. The
cars had a short-lived cartoon series in 1969-1971, which went off
the air when the Federal Communications Commission ruled the show
was nothing more than a half-hour commercial. DC Comics published
a Hot Wheels title for six issues in 1970, a title most notable for
some outstanding Alex Toth art and early scripts by Len Wein. The
latter fact becomes amusing when one realizes that Wein also wrote
the earliest issues of Mod Wheels, a Gold Key title than ran from
1971-1976 and for 19 issues.
Mycomicshop.com says the series featured “the adventures of Wheels
Williams, Lump Logan, Li'l Bit Bannon, and 'Scot McCall, a
road-racing group that encounters mystery and adventure in between
races. In the first issue, they were also a rock'n'roll group, the
Modniks. Later issues did not feature the musical group very much.”
Mod Wheels #3 [August 1971] presents two stories: “Danger Road” (13
pages) and “Uneasy Rider” (12 pages). The first has the characters
being stalked by jewel thieves while the second has them facing a
vicious motorcycle gang come to reclaim a member who quit the gang.
The ex-member is the older brother of one of the Modniks. At that
tale’s end, despite the gang being in jail, the brother decides to
hit the road again. He says:
“I still haven’t found whatever it is I’m looking for! If ever I
do, I’ll send you a postcard from Eden!”
The final caption:
Rick Bannon turned around and rode quickly away–-never looking back
for fear he’d turn to salt!
Lines like those are where the Wein we know and love shines through
otherwise so-so storytelling. The Grand Comics Database doesn’t
identify the artists of these tales, but I definitely see Jack Abel
and Sal Trapani in some panels.
Call them comics oddities, but I get a kick out of titles like Mod
Wheels. You might enjoy them as well.
After the above feature ran in CBG, I received the following note
from reader Sergio Andrade:
In your “Tony's Back Page” segment in the November Comics Buyer's
Guide you wrote about Gold Key Comics series, Mod Wheels. The four
characters in Mod Wheels first appeared in another series one or
two years before called The Modniks.
The Modniks was an Archie type 1960's teen humor book draw in a
more cartoon-ish style than Mod Wheels. There were a few attempts
to establish teen humor books at that time mostly because of the
success of The Monkees television show.
I'm doing this from memory but the only story I recall involved a
"square" friend of the Modniks called “Cube” who dressed in classic
nerd fashion. Flattop haircut, horn rim glasses, plaid jacket,
slacks. The Modniks decided to help Cube get a girlfriend by
updating his look, despite the fact he was totally uncomfortable
with that. The story ended with Cube going back to his original
look and finding a "square" girlfriend of his own.
Thanks for the information, Sergio. A quick check of the Grand
Comics Database shows only two issues of Modniks were published.
There are no credits for the first of those issues, but the second
was drawn by Lloyd White with a non-Modniks story drawn by Jack
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2012 Tony Isabella