Archie/Impact: The Rest of 'em

BLACK JACK
Archie: In the Golden Age, Black Jack was a policeman who was kidnapped, escaped and went underground to become a "mystery man". It's an intriguing way to set up a secret identity! For some reason, most of his villains have card-inspired names: Poker Face, Black Seven, "Deuces" Wilde... He was never very popular and his feature in Zip Comics was given over to the Web. Interesting because...

Impact: ...This Black Jack (now Blackjack) has a Web connection. He actually appeared in The Fly as Las Vegas' single hero, a sort of roguish figure who used to work with the Fly's mysterious dad - a member of the Web! We didn't see much of him, and for some reason, he didn't score a page in Impact's Who's Who (robbing us of another Mike Parobeck splash), but he was fun enough. Throwing poker chips around and posing as a casino legbreaker in his alternate identity.

BOB PHANTOM
Archie: The Golden Age Bob was a gossip columnist who frequently ridiculed the police by day, the same way he showed them up by night as a superhero with unexplained ghostly powers. Also in the unexplained file: Why he called himself Bob when his actual name was Walt. Perhaps because he's so campy, Bob has a lot of fans out there, so expect his name to fill many blogs and letters pages in a future near you.

Impact: This revival traded on the silliness of his name and made him the assistant associate producer of a news station trying to get an interview with the Comet by posing as a superhero, and later to stalk heroes full time. All existing shots of him apparently have him falling all over himself. It takes more coordination to be a hero than we sometimes realize. I do think we're now ready for a "serious" hero called Bob Phantom though. I do.
CAPTAIN FLAG/COMMANDO
Archie: There was a very obscure character called Captain Commando, basically a soldier who put on a costume to get lead Allied forces in battle. The other Archie Captain is Captain Flag: Effete playboy Tom Townsend's father is killed before his eyes, but before he can do anything about it, an eagle crashes through the window and flies him out to its aerie where it cared for him. That, along with the mountain air and an American flag brought to the nest had the same effect as a super-soldier serum on him. Maybe DC could use him as the new Black Condor? Maybe not.

Impact: Captain Commando has shades of Captain Flag in his costume, but is a much harsher, deadlier patriotic hero for the Vietnam era. This kind of thing is what's missing from the DC Universe since the 60s apparently happened no more than 15 years ago DC time. That kaki military suit is pretty cool too, and a good if different look for a American-themed hero. Let us hope he didn't share Captain Flag's origin story.

FIREBALL
Archie: Here's a guy who could control and absorb flames, dedicated to fighting crime and in particular, arson (he's a fireman in real life). DC apparently acquired him too late to save the Martian Manhunter. The Golden Age costume looked a lot like the original Blue Beetle and not very "fiery".

Impact: This version of the character discovered the fireballs of a Native American legend in a swamp and followed them back to a rift in spacetime. A visit to the other side endowed him with fiery powers and he teamed-up with the Fly soon afterwards. This Fireball fared better than the original, getting to star as the token "I don't have my own title" character in the Crusaders team book.
THE FOX
Archie: Archie's Fox dresses kind of like Tasmanian Devil, kind of like Timber Wolf, kind of like the Black Panther, and was a news photographer who used his alter ego to take pictures of crime scenes, kinda of like Spider-Man. They stole everything from this guy. His girlfriend (and editor)'s name was Ruth Ransom, which is really like begging to become a hostage, but I'd still like to see HER in the DCU.

Impact: One of the heroes least changed as far as looks go, this Fox was instead a Native American (Apache) ecological terrorist and a human/fox hybrid (who can fly and heal others... FOXY!). Environmentalist heroes rarely, if ever, work, probably because people don't like being preached to, so a revamp might do away with it. However, I'd love to see a superhero that hangs out in nature instead of the usual urban landscapes.
HANGMAN
Archie: The Comet's brother who took a name and costume when his brother died, he spent his days inside the pages of Pep Comics choking criminals to death. Yeah! He even had his own comic for a bit. Though the kind of horrifyingly violent stuff that would play well in today's market, Archie's all ages direction has kept him under wraps for decades (the 1983 comeback didn't do a thing for him).

Impact: Except for this version. Not the new Comet's brother, but the link is maintained by having him guest-star in his comic. The Comet erred, in my opinion, by continually throwing supernatural elements into what was essentially a science-fiction premise. This Hangman worked for Native American rights (I'm not sure what Impact's obsession with Native Americans came from) and was beaten and blinded for it. Cue the mysterious shaman who gives him a magic medicine bundle and a raven that acts as his eyes. Not that Native Americans are known for hanging people.

INFERNO
Archie: Full name "Inferno the Flame-Breather" because, guess what, that used to be his job at the circus. Guy was just too good, so he took to fighting crime, melting doors and bullets as he went. He had an Olympic torch on his shirt, probably so he couldn't be mistaken for Archie's other fire-themed heroes, Fireball and Firefly (sorta).

Impact: The 90s weren't kind to Inferno. His name was repurposed for an armored menace who fought the Comet in a number of issues. He used to be a patriot who let the military turn him into a cyborg, but the computer controlling his actions went a little HAL 9000 on him. Something similar was done with jungle hero Kalthar the Giant Man, who consumed magic grains that gave him powers, whose name was more or less borrowed by interdimensional monster Kalathar in Impact Comics. I'm not sure what the point was (same size, I guess).
STEEL STERLING
Archie: If being dipped in steel doesn't kill you, it'll make you super, like Mr. Sterling here. He was a fairly popular feature in the Archie line-up, but wasn't really picked up by Impact (see below). His place in comics history is assured thanks to his nickname: Man of Steel. Yep, Superman is a big thief. Especially now that they might be in the same universe!

Impact: If Impact had published a 7th solo book, it would have been Sterling's. In fact, Impact Comics Phase 2 was going to feature a Steel Sterling series, but the line collapsed before those comics could be completed. He did manage to squeak through at the end of Crucible, but I missed out. Apparently, this Steel Sterling had something in common with the T2000.

FIREFLY and other AMERICAN CRUSADERS
Archie: The other Archie characters that turned up in Impact books were lumped together in the American Crusaders, a team of heroes from the past. Aside from Captain Commando and the Shield, the only recognizable name is Firefly's. This hero gained the proportional strength of an insect by studying how their muscles moves and imitating them(!). See below for possible links to other Archie heroes among the American Crusaders.

Impact: Impact's Firefly actually does something with the "fire" part by giving a flamethrower. Not all gimmicks have to be fancy. The team also features a Doc Savage kind of character called Doc Strong, a possible allusion to Private Strong, a flag-themed hero by flag experts Simon & Kirby. Sorceress-later-turned-villainess the Black Witch is probably alluding to Archie's terrifying Madam Satan, who enticed men to commit crimes, then killed them, accumulating souls for her master. Wow.
Untouched Heroes
Among the heroes Impact never got to reinterpret, we find:
-The Wizard: Archie's first, if I'm not mistaken, a sort of masked Mandrake type.
-Zambini Miracle Man: If the Wizard was Mandrake/Zatara, Miracle Man was Sargon the Sorcerer. Or maybe that's Kardak. How many heroes with turbans did Archie have anyway?
-Hercules: Technically, the Greeks invented this one and the Romans retconned him.
-The Falcon: AKA The Press Guardian who protected the integrity of journalism. Marvel stole his name, and Grant Morrison kinda made sure a newspaper-themed Guardian's been done already.
-Mr. Justice: Archie's Spectre analog was 11th-century prince who haunted a castle until it was dismantled by the Nazis. His archenemy? Satan himself.
-Mr. Satan: Would you begrudge Madam Satan a boyfriend? Actually, there's no relation. Just another Satanic-sounding character from the good people who brought you Betty & Veronica Digest.
-Red Rube: A Captain Marvel rip-off, he shouted "Hey, Rube!" to become an adult superhero (it's apparently the carny's battle cry). Instead of lightning, it was a tornado. Instead of working in radio, he worked in the papers. Instead of making sense, he was pretty stupid.
-Scarlet Avenger: Think Crimson Avenger, but using super-science. His story was something of a tragedy, losing his family and the muscles required to smile in a plane crash.

Does DC own them all? Does it need to? That's not for me to say. I might have missed some too. We'll soon see, won't we?

6 comments:

rob! said...

what's with all the short shorts on these guys???

Siskoid said...

I believe a couple of them are actually man-skirts.

Diabolu Frank said...

An important clarification: DC does NOT own the MLJ characters. They are just licensing them and integrating them somewhat into the DCU. I expect this is similar to the way DC licensed Captain Marvel throughout the 70's and early 80's, and I wouldn't be surprised if they ended up acquiring the characters, but they have not as of yet.

The !mpact Black Jack had a really nice design. One of the reasons I buy reference material for defunct lines like !mpact is to check out concepts and costumes that could be repurposed. The color scheme makes me think Parobeck himself carried over elements of Elongated Man he liked while on that mini-series.

I like the idea of a super-hero openly critical of police. That's different. Not a bad costume on the original, either. It seems like both the !mpact Captain Commando and Fireball borrowed from it. Captain Commando really did have a great look for a soldier, for more practical than patriotic colors, or even Snake-Eyes all black.

I'm surprised the Fox didn't amount to more, but I'd have to blame the name myself. There's only so many jaguars, but just take a look at a Wiki disambiguation for "fox." Oy!

The 40's Hangman stories really looked fantastic, but he's never had a good costume in my estimation. That !mpact revision sounds terrible. Enough with the damned injuns already! Was there a single black, Latino or Asian !mpact hero? Oh yeah, my favorite, but besides Jaguar...?

Siskoid said...

There were three black members of the Web and one of three Black Hoods was indeed black (Hit). Otherwise, black characters were either villains or supporting characters.

Minority representation is low in the line, with white men taking up the bulk of it (maybe proportionally higher than standard DC or Marvel fare, maybe not).

Diabolu Frank said...

Yowza! Thanks for the statistical data!

Bill D. said...

A friend of mine used to really like the original Bob Phantom, and often lamented there were no other superheroes with real first names, like Ray Superman or something.

 

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