Hero-A-Go-Go!: Campy Comic Books, Crimefighters & Culture of the Swinging Sixties
Review by KC Carlson
For some reason, the 1960s suddenly descended upon the Carlson household over the last few weeks. Johanna has been binge-watching DVDs of Doctor Who (the earliest Doctors, of course). And the recently released Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Series on DVD from Time Life unexpectedly plopped down on our front porch the other day — not too surprising, since we ordered it (but I, of course, had forgotten about it an hour after Johanna pressed the “Place Order” button). It’s been an exceptional surprise as we slowly work our way through the 38 DVDs, which include all 140 one-hour episodes from the six seasons of the show that originally began in 1968, plus some amazing special features (including the seldom seen 1967 pilot/special). Laugh-In’s a great show (at least early on), but its intensely relentless comedy pacing means that it’s not a good idea to binge-watch, so we’ll be watching this all summer long!, an episode or two at a time.
There are also two great pop culture books about the 1960s out from TwoMorrows this summer as well. Holy Embarrassment of Riches, Batman! When will I find time to read these? Well, no time like the present I guess…
GOING TO A GO-GO!
Already available is Hero-a-Go-Go! by my old buddy Michael Eury! (Michael and I spent several years, from the late 1980s to the mid-90s, trading editorial positions at DC Comics back and forth — mostly on various Legion of Super-Heroes projects: how 1960s can you get!)
The subtitle for the book is “Campy Comic Books, Crimefighters & Culture of the Swinging Sixties”. Besides our love of the LSH, Michael and I obviously have similar comic book collections, because reading Hero-a-Go Go! is like reading a carefully curated history of MY comic book collection — with the best part being that Michael has unearthed huge, heaping amounts of previously seldom-discussed details about some of the more obscure and esoteric comic books in history, as well as new interviews with many of the still-living creators/survivors.
There are close to 80 chapters and interviews in this book, arranged in five major sections. The characters and comics are broken down into such categories as “Campfire: the Super-Hero Explosion”, featuring Metamorpho (with an interview with Ramona Fradon), Dial H For Hero, Harvey Thrillers, Dell Comics’ Monster Heroes, Blackhawk’s “Junk-Heap Heroes” era, and most certainly last, B’Wana Beast! (But be careful not to blink, or you’ll miss some tasty Batman ridiculousness, as well.)
1960s hero revivals have to be seen to be believed (or quickly forgotten before they damage your brain), and Euryman covers everybody from the Shadow and Captain Marvel to Fighting American and Plastic Man — not forgetting (like I did) The Owl and I.W. Super Comics.
The section called “Campus Clowns” was great fun as Michael manages to uncover previously unknown background (at least to me) about silly series like Jerry Lewis (One-Man Justice League), The Inferior Five, Go-Go (finally explaining those 5 or 6 six “teen spoof comics” from Charlton that have been in my collection for decades!), The Mighty Heroes (with a new interview with creator Ralph Bakshi), Marvel’s Not Brand Ecch!, and Fruitman (the super-obscure character in the back of the also-obscure Bunny comic book — so obscure that the last two issues were published 10 years apart!). Plus some guys you might have heard of (but only if you were alive back then): Super Goof, Herbie the Fat Fury, Pureheart the Powerful (plus, The Man From R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.), the Nice-Terrific War (that’s TV’s Captain Nice vs. Mr. Terrific (not the DC one), but only Captain Nice had a comic book, albeit just a one-shot), MAD’s Captain Klutz, and Fatman, the Human Flying Saucer. There sure were a lot of funny fat guys back then…
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL, FOLKS!
There’s also all kinds of ‘Mania in the sixties: Batmania!, Bondmania!, Bill Mumy-mania (sorry, I made that one up…), and all kinds of media-mania — both live action and Saturday morning animated, including Tarzan, the Green Hornet, Dick Tracy, Wonder Woman, and about a billion Hanna-Barbera cartoons. (I watched ‘em all!) Finally, if you’re not all Mania’ed out, there are all the live action, animated, or comic book-ed (or all three!!!) 1960s bands, including the Beatles, the Monkees, the Cowsills, the Archies, Swing With Scooter, Super-Hip!, and more!
Other real-life folks interviewed include Bill Mumy (Lost in Space, Barnes & Barnes), Bob Holiday (who played the title character in It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman!), Dean Torrence (Jan & Dean Meet Batman), Joe Sinnott (The Beatles comic book), Jose Delbo (The Monkees comic book), Dick DeBartolo (Captain Klutz), and more!
I should make a real effort to point out here that while these essays aren’t always serious about characters and comics (which actually is the point of the book! Pay attention!), Euryman treats the history and the creators of same very seriously here. This is one most awesome comics history book! And exceptionally very much fun to read. (I spent many very, very late nights, because I. Could. Not. Put. It. Down! (The publisher provided a review copy.)
The other TwoMorrows 60s pop culture book Groovy: When Flower Power Bloomed in Pop Culture by Mark Voger is previewed today over at the Westfield Blog. How’s that for a crossover!