Saturday, April 12, 2014

Americomics #3 "He's Back! Blue Beetle!"

As I've mentioned before, there was a short period after Charlton and before DC, when Blue Beetle (and some of the other Charlton Action Heroes) were published by AC/Americomics. That short period was 1983, and Blue Beetle appeared twice in Americomics...well Ted Kord appeared twice. In "Americomics Special #1: Sentinels Of Justice" and in "Americomics #3"...which is what we're looking at today! And it also featured Dan Garret and Dan Garrett...sort of. Read on my friends!

"Americomics #3" actually has 3 stories, two of which feature Blue Beetle(s). First up is "Return From Pago Island!" with story and art by Rik Levins and inks by Bill Black. Right out of the gate Ted Kord is swinging into action busting up three guys playing poker in a warehouse. We quickly find out the money they're playing for was stolen in a bank robbery. While Ted is busy taking down two of the criminals, the third tries to make a run for it. Unfortunately for him, he runs right into Dan Garrett?! The thugs take a few shots at Dan, to no effect, before jumping into their car to make a getaway. Ted radios the BUG to intercept, but before it arrives Dan smashes through a brick wall and flips their car with his red-gloved hands! "Well Ted? No word of greeting for your old friend and college roommate?"* Ted is pretty surprised to see Dan alive, but probably even more surprised when Dan punches him! 

After tossing a few more put downs like "The world doesn't need you, Ted Kord...and I certainly don't want you!" Dan disappears into the night, leaving Ted to wonder just what's going on. Filled with self doubt Ted heads home "I was never anything more than a fill-in...a pale imitation!" He then retells his origin to his girlfriend Tracey, for the benefit of the plot. Flashbacks to crazy Uncle Jarvis Kord and his plans for world domination, his army of robots on Pago Island, and Dan's ultimate sacrifice. Tracey, the voice of reason, points out that if Ted saw Dan die and Ted is sure there was no way Dan could have survived then this Beetle must be an impostor! Ted agrees, but says it's one alive could know about Pago Island. Tracey replies " Sherlock Holmes once said 'When you've eliminated the impossible..." and Ted immediately understands, finishing the quote, "...whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." He then suits up, hops in the BUG and goes looking for "Dan". Ted locates him pretty quickly too! Why? "I helped design you, remember?" Yup! It's not Dan...its one of Jarvis' "prototype super robots"! The battle of man versus machine begins! Ted kicks! Robo-Dan punches! Ted throws Robo-Dan through a window! Robo-Dan throws Ted into a brick wall! And just when things look bad, I mean really bad...Robo-Dan is about to smash Ted with a car...the BUG blasts the robot with a bolt of energy! 

Ted wonders if maybe he accidentally activated the BUG...but the smiling spirit of the real Dan watching from above hints at something else. End of act 1.

Next up, Leo J. Laney (plot/art), Neal Stannard (script) and Bill Black (inks) bring us "The Blue Beetle To Live Again!" Two Kirby-like gods fill us in. Dan Garrett is being resurrected! A couple quick flashbacks tell us something new...Garret and Garrett were reincarnated! Like Hawkman! The gods explain that in the 1940's with the help of vitamin X-K**, Dan Garret brought the scales of justice back into balance before falling victim to a mad scientist's bomb. Then in the 1960's "a less memorable career" (ouch!) who was also snuffed out, and then replaced by someone without powers...Ted Kord. "But now the true Beetle shall rise!" the god continues, as he fills Dan with the life force, the power of the eternal warrior, before sending him back. 

Of course Dan wakes up screaming "NO! I don't want to go back!" so we're not off to a great start here. The gods have also been kind enough to leave Dan a note..."Dan, Appointment 9:00am at C.I.B. building. Good luck on new job. The Gods, PS- Try not to get killed this time." If that doesn't inspire confidence, nothing does! So Dan heads down to the Central Intelligence Bureau, but when he arrives they can't find his file. The gods do a quick checklist...and realize, they forgot it and quickly put it in place (ugh!). 

Dan gets assigned a partner, Ms. Norel, and an assignment...accompany her while she exchanges a mob boss for a captured C.I.B. agent. They head to the rendezvous, driving a blue Volkswagen Beetle (not sure if I should laugh or cry) and guess who the other agent is? Blue Beetle, Ted Kord!  Ted smells a double cross brewing among the mob and tries to make a break for it, but gets tackled by a thug with a blackjack. By the time Dan arrives on the scene, all hell breaks loose. The mobsters shoot their boss, and continue to beat down Ted...until Dan transforms into the Blue Beetle! The thugs are confused...two Blue Beetles? They don't have time to process though, Dan begins throwing punches and laying them out! When the dust settles it's just Dan, Ted and Ms. Norel left standing. Ted continues to get put down (I get the feeling the folks at Americomics...specifically the ones that worked on this second story...didn't like good ol' Ted much). He describes Dan as a "true hero" and himself as someone who just wears "a fancy costume". He then gets sent off by Norel to report this to the chief, so she can get to know Dan a little better.

Yeah...apparently in the Americomics universe, Dan is a super pimp! The first story wasn't too bad, but this second one? A little too campy for my tastes...though I was intrigued by the reincarnation spin. The art was ok, the first story feeling "animated" at times, and the second giving a very Silver Age, though somewhat inconsistent, impression with the art reflecting influences from Kirby and Gil Kane among others.

See you next week!

*Roommate? I thought Dan was Ted's professor? 

**Someone didn't research, or didn't care...but, for the record, it should have been vitamin 2-X

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