Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Sensational Silver Scarab!

Roy Thomas must really love bugs! Last week we took a look at Marvel's Scarlet Scarab...created by Mr. Thomas. This week we look at the introduction of DC's Silver Scarab...also created by Roy Thomas.

First up, lets look at "All-Star Squadron" #25, written by Roy Thomas with art by Jerry Ordway and Mike Machlan. In Washington DC, the All-Star Squadron learn that the Ultra-Humanite has challenged them over a radio broadcast. Hawkman points out that several members are already rumored to have been captured, and Sandman confirms that Atom, Dr. Fate and the Spectre are all MIA, so Wonder Woman suggests splitting up to track the villain down. 

While they formulate a plan, another team of heroes (including Batman, Green Lantern, the Tarantula and more) faces off against Amazing Man in New York. Amazing Man got his powers from the Ultra-Humanite, and is loyal...until Liberty Belle reveals his sinister plan to several cities, including Amazing Man's hometown of Detroit. 

That's all it takes to turn him. He quickly swears his allegiance to the Squadron and they all head off to track down Ultra and put an end to his plans!

Meanwhile, in the villain's hidden lab, we learn that Superman, Robotman, and Firebrand have been captured! 

Ultra tells Cyclotron that she plans to place her (yep...this is the female Ultra, not the albino ape) brain in Robotman's body. And with the heroes of America tied up fighting her new minions, no one and nothing will stop her! New minions you ask? Yup...just a page turn later we get the debut of Nuklon and the Silver Scarab, as the duo arrives at a Brooklyn shipyard to destroy US warships. 

Guardian, Sargent Steel, and Liberty Belle are quickly on the scene, but something strange happens! As Belle grabs the Scarab, and Steel wrestles with Nuklon...the heroes disappear, leaving Guardian to wonder how they can be stopped! In Los Angeles, Batman and Tarantula suffer similar fates trying to take down Northwind and Fury...

...leaving Robin and the Phantom Lady behind and baffled. 

Then, in Detroit, Green Lantern and the Atom (guess he wasn't as MIA as Sandman thought) fall to the touch of Jade and Obsidian, and Amazing Man is left to wonder just who these new costumed beings are? Finally, Brainwave Jr. hears a radio broadcast about the All-Star Squadron's defeat at the hands of the Ultra-Humanite and he jumps into action! He has to organize the remaining All-Stars to defeat Ultra! He's travelled back in time from 1983 and if he doesn't act the world's going to go up in smoke!

Silver Scarab and company stuck around the pages of "All-Star Squadron" for a few more issues (26, 27 and Annual #2 according to comicbookdb) before debuting in their own title, "Infinity Inc". This time, even though the creative team was the same, things were a little different. The JSA have recently returned from Limbo and are about to hold a meeting when...BAM! The doors fly open and 4 costumed people leap into the room. 

The team has no idea who these young heroes are, in fact...they're not even convinced they're heroes at all, so a fight ensues. Hawkman, the Atom and Wonder Woman seem to recognize at least a few of them though, and the Amazon lassos them to try and figure things out. At that point the truth is revealed. 

Hawkman recognizes his son, Hector, as the Silver Scarab and his godson, Northwind. Wonder Woman reprimands her daughter, Lyta aka Fury, for interrupting an important meeting. and Atom scolds his godson Al, aka Nuklon...for his mohawk! Turns out the JSA is on edge because ever since their return Dr. Fate has been sensing trouble was fast approaching. The older members, like Hawkman are firmly against the youth becoming full fledged members, but  Robin argues for them getting a shot. As the JSA debates, we get a quick rundown of each youngster's origin. Fairly quickly the JSA comes to a tied vote, with Hawkman as chairman being the deciding ballot...the kids are out! Not so fast...

...two more applicants arrive on the scene.

But as quickly as they arrived, they're out too! The 6 young heroes decide to head off for a meeting of their own leaving the JSA to resume their conference. There's some ruffled capes though. Huntress, Power Girl, Robin and Star Spangled Kid all think Infinity Inc deserved a shot...and the ladies feel so strong about it, they walk out!

So many questions! See what I mean about Roy Thomas and bugs? Scarlet Scarab last week...Silver Scarab this week, both with ties to archaeology and Egypt. It's as if he was a fan of the golden age Scarab...or somethingNo one remembers the events of "All-Star Squadron" #25? I'll be honest, I didn't read #26, 27 or Annual #2 for this write-up. Maybe its made more clear in those issues? Maybe it's the fact that the JSA and All-Star Squadron have huge memberships...but Atom, Green Lantern and Robin were all around in that adventure and faced off against the members of Infinity Inc, not to mention the fact that Infinity Inc working with Ultra-Humanite would bear some kind of mention in the older team's records. The closest we get is during Nuklon's origin, where he mentions his grandfather Terry Curtis, aka Cyclotron, working for Ultra (a very short reference to the story from #25). That's it! Brainwave Jr. showed up, Terminator style in #25, saying he was coming from to the past to protect the future...but is nowhere to be seen in #1 (except on the cover). I guess we'll just have to keep diving deeper! 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Scarlet Scarab Strikes!

In 1977, writer Roy Thomas, and the art team of Frank Robbins and Frank Springer, introduced "Marvel's most sensational new super-villain!"...the Scarlet Scarab, in the pages of "The Invaders"! The two part story covered issues #23 and #25 (skipping #24) and saw the Scarab taking on some of Marvel's mightiest heroes...but enough set up, lets jump into the action!

During WWII, Marvel's Invaders fought with the Allied forces for truth, justice, and...uh...well, they helped fight the Axis powers...y'know, Nazis...bad guys! War can be dirty business though, and even heroes suffer casualties. That said, the issue #23 opens with the original Human Torch and the other heroes in Britain as doctors work to save his sidekick Toro who was injured by a Nazi bullet. Things go from bad to worse when we learn that Toro has a bullet lodged next to his heart, and his best chance of survival is a surgeon back in the USA! Then Spitfire arrives on the scene to tell Captain America and the heroes that they're needed. Allied command wants them to rendezvous with Union Jack to prep for their next mission. Torch is none to happy, he wants to stay with Toro, but the combination of Namor offering one of his ships, and Bucky offering to stay with Toro manages to sway him. 

Meeting up with Union Jack the team finds out they're being sent to Egypt, where two political faction are waging war. One sides with the Allies, the other, a group calling itself the "Sons of the Scarab" are fighting alongside the Nazis. In no time at all the Invaders are in Egypt, knowing that if they can't stop the Nazis and the Sons of the Scarab the country, and even all of Africa, may fall to the Axis powers. They quickly meet up with their liason, Major Harrison and an Egyptian archaeologist, Dr. Faoul. The doctor says he knows the fanatics are hiding among the pyramids. Since the pyramids are national treasures Faoul says the Egyptian government has given them permission to go in and find them, and with that they're off!

Faoul accompanies them, to make sure the artifacts remain undamaged as Torch and Namor tunnel into the pyramids. That is, until the doctor's true plan is revealed...he used them to help him locate a sacred talisman, a red beetle which transforms him into the Scarlet Scarab! 

The Scarab is insane with power and believes anyone who is not Egyptian is out to oppress his homeland...and he quickly goes on the attack! Meanwhile, Cap, Spitfire and Union Jack are pinned down my enemy fire. They need back up, and fast...but Namor and Torch are under fire themselves! Talk about a cliffhanger!

Issue #25 picks things right up as Invaders battle the Scarlet Scarab across the deserts of Egypt! Captain America, Spitfire and Union Jack take on the German troops, while Namor and Torch battle the Scarab! With flight, super strength and energy blasts, Faoul is more than a match for the heroes...but add in the fact that at close range the scarab drains the energy of his opponents (something Namor discovers much too late) the villain is down right deadly! 

After gaining the upper hand, the Scarab leaves the fire and water team broken and bruised and goes in search of more "would be conquerors" to vanquish. He decides teaming with the Nazis to take out the Allied forces is the right course of action...but little does he know the Germans only plan to play along while his power suits their purposes. Afterwards? The outlook isn't so good! Cap and the rest of the Invaders regroup and jump right back into the path of the Scarlet Scarab and once again Namor is on the receiving end of an energy sucking beat down! Before his team members can save him though, the Scarab is distracted by German soldiers abusing an old Egyptian man who dared to oppose them. In a flash the tables have turned!

Realizing that the Nazis are "the devilish curse of this land", the Scarab decides it's time to purge his country of the Germans...and the Invaders are ready to fight by his side! When the dust settles though the Invaders learn a hard lesson...Faoul still views them as outsiders, potential enemies of Egypt. He makes his intentions very clear...he'll use his new found powers to act for his country's good, and no one else's..before taking off, leaving the Invaders to wonder if their next meeting will be as friends or foes...

Wow! What a debut! Not entirely sure how I feel about the costume, but the character and his motivation are pretty anti-hero of sorts, and a patriot. Even more interesting to me is the archaeologist, historian, discovering a sacred relic that gives him power. We saw something similar last week with the golden age Scarab...and in the origin of a certain blue clad silver age hero, too. Very interesting...

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Scarab!

Travel with me to 1945, when Startling Comics #34, by Better Comics, brought us a brand new hero! Truly ahead of its time, the Scarab's origin is steeped in Egyptian lore. By wearing a sacred scarab ring, and rubbing it, Egyptologist Peter Ward becomes...the Scarab!

(click each page to enlarge)