Saturday, May 28, 2016


Today’s bloggy continues my 136-plus-part “Nostalgia or obsession? You decide!” series on the comic books that hit the newsstands in the month of July 1963. That month was pivotal to my comic-book career because it was the month when Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comics.

Adventures of the Fly #27 [September 1963] was published by Archie Comics. Archie himself makes a cameo appearance in a paid ad, but, save for the address on the letters page, there’s no mention of the company. The indicia lists the publisher as Radio Comics.

John Rosenberger is the cover artist, though the cover is nothing more than a slightly better rendered copy of the splash page of the cover story. Charlton Comics did this frequently with its covers and other comics publishers did it as well, albeit less frequently.

The inside front cover of this comic book features four “no cost” ads from the Dean Studios of Des Moines, Iowa. The “no cost” items are a male or female miniature dog that you can hold in your hand; a 10-second Polaroid camera; a tiny, powerful Bulovia Radio; and a new real, live miniature monkey that, like the dog and the radio, you could hold in your hand. The advertising copy is really small. Near as I can figure, these “no cost” items are a come-on for the company’s hand-painted photo enlargements. The supply of each item was said to be limited.

A modicum of online research turned up a terrific article from 2009 titled “Top 10 Outrageous Comic Book Advertisements.” Here’s what the article says about the miniature dog offer:

Please give me a home at no cost – Paris Hilton must have read this ad to get her tea cup dog, poodle, or whatever it is. They give you good advice and say you can keep it in a box and enjoy teaching it tricks. Yes, like play dead, because keeping your dog in a box will suck all the life out of it. But hurry, they only have a limited supply of miniature dogs. Imagine the storage facilities.

The Truth – You could get a dog (and some ads offered a monkey) if you could get 20 of your friends to order hand colored enlargements of photos they send in to Dean Studios, the ad’s sponsor. I’m betting not many people could sucker 20 other people to pay for this rip off, but I assume a few did. Getting the mutant dog or the half-dead monkey with HIV must have been quite a reality check.

Did anyone of my beloved readers ever fall for this one?

Written by Robert Bernstein, a regular contributor to DC Comics at the time, the cover story is told in two chapters: “The Great Z-17 Mystery!” (8 pages) and “The Menace Of The Invisible Planet!” (12 pages). Rosenberger pencils and inks both chapters.

Warning! There will be SPOILERS AHEAD!

A test pilot (Captain Greer) and the experimental plane he’s flying go missing in space. The government calls on the Fly and Fly-Girl to investigate. But, before we get to that point of the story, we get some quality time with their civilian identities.

Attorney Thomas Troy defends a chorus girl charged with murder on the basis of circumstantial evidence. The district attorney and the judge both think Troy did a great job. The jury agrees and acquits. She’s grateful. Troy asks her out to dinner and she accepts. The D.A. is envious:

Don’t judge me too harshly, Miss Leroy. As district attorney, I must prosecute whomever the grand jury indicts! Personally, I, too, thought you were innocent!

That sounds wrong to me, but I’m no Bob Ingersoll, master of legal stuff in comics. Maybe if I loan him this issue, he’ll write about it in his “The Law is a Ass” column at ComicM!x. End of free plug.

Meanwhile, actress Kim Brand is impersonating a chorus girl so she can “absorb the night club atmosphere” for her new movie. Neither this scene or the courtroom scenes have much to do with the rest of the story beyond the foreshadowing observations that people aren’t always what they seem.

Cut to the testing and disappearance of the Z-17 plane. When said plane disappears beyond our atmosphere, Troy and Brand change into the Fly and Fly-Girl to find it. Almost as soon as they hit space, they are surround by force spheres and drawn toward a space ship. Inside the ship is...Captain Greer.

The two chapters of the story are separated by a page of half-page ads for products we’ve already discussed in earlier installments of this JULY 1963 series. There’s the Convoy of Terror nuclear naval battle game and Task Force. The latter is described as “America’s most exciting war game.”

Back to the main story...

Greer is an alien spy who can control his protoplasm and change his body into any shape we wishes. Knowing the Fly and Fly-Girl would be the greatest threats to his world’s planned invasion of Earth, he became the most qualified test pilot in the world. He needed to be the pilot for the Z-17 to capture the heroes.

The would-be invaders, who have mastered the science of illusion, take the Fly and Fly-Girl to their invisible planet. They intend to test the powers of the heroes and discover their secrets. Fly-Girl does a little flirting with Greer, hoping to turn him into an ally. It’s a silly plot development that goes nowhere.

Because the Fly and Fly-Girl’s powers are magical in nature - given to them by the Fly World - the scientific devices of the invaders are useless. When they learn the Fly World will send its armies to battle them if they invade Earth, the alien shape-shifters decide to cut their losses and run.

Fearing punishment for his failure, Greer murders the small group of scientists studying the Fly and Fly-Girl. He then disables the force field surrounding the invisible planet so he can escape with the heroes. They leave Greer behind because he’s an arrogant dick. Just because you’re a villain doesn’t mean you have to be so darned unpleasant.

That final chapter of the cover story is followed by a page of ads we’ve seen before. One is for U.S. Royal Bike Tires - with Archie as spokesperson - and the other is for Popsicle.

“On the Fly” is a single-page letters column.  From Freehold, New Jersey, reader Donald Schank wants to see THE BLACK HOOD.  The Hood does appear in this issue...teaching karate in a one-page feature by Bernstein and Rosenberger.

Ian Darwin of Ontario, Canada points out a lettering error.

Jeff Baker of Fort Worth, Texas asks why the comic doesn’t publish an imaginary story where THE FLY and FLY-GIRL’s secret identities are exposed to the world. The editorial response:

Probably because we’re afraid the sensational revelation will push the Cuban, Berlin and Viet Nam crisis off the front page. But it’s definitely a thought.

Mark Leland of Covington, Kentucky would like to see a FLY cartoon series on television.

From Nottingham, England, George Taylor requests a story where THE FLY falls for FLY-GIRL.

John Yanacek, Woodbridge, New Jersey asks a question about the buzz guns use on occasion. He would also like to see THE FLY published every two weeks.

Kenny Siw of Berkeley, California, wants to see “a crime-fighting team-up of all your heroes.” The editorial response:

THE FLY, FLY-GIRL, THE JAGUAR, THE BLACK HOOD and all the others are discussing it. It’s definitely in the planning stages.

Finally, Jimmy Down of Adelphi, Maryland, would very much like to see THE SHIELD again. The editorial response says that nothing is impossible in comics.

In case you hadn’t noticed, on the letters page, the editors always used all capital letters for the names of the heroes.

“The Black Hood Teaches Karate” in the afore-mentioned single-page feature by Bernstein and Rosenberger. During my brief tenure as the editor of Marvel’s The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, I ran such martial arts teaching features by Frank McLaughlin, creator of Judomaster. If I’d remained as editor longer, I would have tried to get more of these training features and more of McLaughlin’s writing and art in general.

Next we get a page of half-page ads offering “amazing sea-shrimp” for only $1 and 100 Toy Soldiers for $1.25.  Outside of Marvel t-shirts, I never bought anything from comic-book ads. All my money was going towards comic books, trading cards, Famous Monsters of Filmland and monster movies at the neighborhood theater.

Fly-Girl sort of solos in “Fly-Girl’s Pet” (5 pages) by Bernstein and artist John Giunta. The Grand Comics Database sums up the short story thus:

Professor Drexel creates a perfect assistant for Fly Girl: a large robotic insect named Insecto. But while the two are on patrol, Insecto attacks Fly Girl unexpectedly.

Wrapping herself in a cocoon to protect herself from Insecto, Fly-Girl summons the Fly telepathically. The Fly saves her lovely ass. We then learn Fly-Girl was responsible for the robot going crazy. It’s a mechanical device and, when she tried to communicate with it telepathically, she broke it. This theme of this story was clearly not female empowerment.

Before I sum up my feelings about the Fly and Fly-Girl, we have a few more ads to cover. The first is a full-page pitch for Daisy B*B guns and related items. The Daisy B*B Range lets you have shooting fun indoors. Because what could possible go wrong with that.

The Junior Sales Club of America takes over the inside back cover to recruit youngsters to sell greeting cards and earn “nationally  famous prizes” that number in the dozens: Lady Sunbeam Hair Dryer, a chemistry set, a Daisy pistol, a rocket-firing airplane and many others. I didn’t fall for this one either.

The back cover is a contest sponsored by the makers of the Bendix Automatic Bicycle Bake. To enter, you had to fill out the form and complete this sentence: “The Bendix Automatic Gear Shift and Power Brake makes a bike more fun because...”

The contest was open to boys and girls who had not reached their 15th birthdays before September 1, 1963.

The cherished first prize in this contest was a one-week. expense-paid trip for four to Disneyland via United’s DC-8 Jet Mainliner.  The 1000 other prizes included General Electric portable TV sets, General Electric transistor radios, Kodak flash camera sets, Etch-a-Sketch drawing boards and Ray-O-Vac magnetic flashlights. Had I seen this comic in 1963, I would’ve entered the contest.

I don’t think I ever bought an issue of Adventures of the Fly until it became Fly-Man and started doing an awkward imitation of Marvel Comics super-heroes. I thought the Fly and Fly-Girl were two of the dullest super-heroes in comics.

I did occasionally buy or trade for Adventures of the Jaguar, also published by Radio Comics. I thought the Jaguar was a much cooler character and he had at least three gorgeous women fighting for his affections. I had started noticing girls by this time, thanks to a southern blonde who had transferred into the Catholic school I was attending and also to a taller blonde who was the first girl in my class to...ah...develop. Which she did...magnificently.

That’s all for today. I’ll be posting several JULY 1963 pieces over the next several days, all the better to get ahead of schedule and be able to spend some time with Barb and the kids. Coming up on the morrow: All-American Men of War #99.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. I had a fondness for those original tales of The Fly, when he was a teenager. Like Captain Marvel, he would become an adult through magic, this time by putting on the fly ring. I remember being surprised when I picked up a later issue that suddenly had him as an adult, with no explanation as I recall. I recall only the short-lived DC/Impact version of the character having the same sort of feel for me.