Pop Quiz

Tonight’s subject: Police Procedure:



In the face of an overwhelming crime wave, FBI Agent Pat Murphy is told that he has “free rein” to work on the case his “own way.” Does this mean that he will:


A) Strictly operate within the bounds of the law, gathering information from known informants and cooperating with local law enforcement to ensure that all information is available before making arrests?

B) Take his superior’s words as tacit approval to “bend” the rules by using unconventional or “strong-arm” tactics such as intimidating persons of interest with threats of violence or incarceration, conducting searches without a warrant or provoking suspects into violence?

C) Assume the identity of a hobo clown named “Chauncey Throttlebottom III” and beat criminals with each other until finally throwing their boss off of a windmill.





The Strange Creature Known As Marvex!

Comics from the Silver Age–and I’m looking at you here, World’s Finest–often have a reputation for not making any sense, but if you read enough of them, you’ll start to realize that the stories are actually pattered on a rigid set of rules. Of course, the rules themselves are often completely nonsensical, but they actually are there, and that’s got to count for something.

Now the Golden Age, on the other hand… that’s where things are really crazy.

At the dawn of the medium, nobody’d even had time to figure out if there were rules yet, let alone what they were. After all, this is an era that gave rise to the work of Fletcher Hanks, and that alone should give you the idea that “making sense” was, at best, a tertiary concern.

That said, Marvex the Super-Robot is completely insane.



Marvex, as you might recall from our previous discussion of his romantic entanglements, is a devastatingly handsome robot who has difficulty committing, but the more curious among you may have been wondering how he got himself into that situation to begin with, so allow me to enlighten you.

The whole thing gets started, as you might expect, in The Fifth Dimension, which–back in 1940–had yet to become the sole intellectual property of DC Comics, although it does play host to the same kind of large-headed all-powerful being that would show up to cause trouble for Superman four years later. In this case, though, they’re a lot more scientific, and after deciding to
“take some strange humans” to be their slaves, they set about building themselves a robot man.



How exactly Bolo’s “clever idea” to kidnap and enslave some humans turns into him building a robot in the space of one panel isn’t really made clear, but before long, he’s finished, and the first order of business is to inform Marvex that he’ll be working as a slave from here on out.

This, as you might imagine, would prove to be a mistake.



PROTIP: If you’re going to build a robot that can think for itself and then make it do menial labor, don’t make it twice your size, indestructible, and strong enough to pick you up and use your body to beat your friends to death. Alas, such is ever the folly of man. Or at least, the folly of imps from the Fifth Dimension.

Anyway, during his rampage, Marvex inadvertently causes an explosion that knocks him all the way through the dimensional barrier to Earth, and this is where things start to get weird…



…because for the rest of the story nobody can figure out that he’s a robot. Heck, Marvex is made of metal, has hinges for joints, and his torso’s held together with visible rivets, and they can’t even figure out that he’s not a regular guy. They do, however, recognize that he’s a darn handsome fellow:



Incidentally, “The Visible Rivets?” Great name for a band.

Anyway, once Marvex makes it to the Big City, he eventually tires of people looking at his “strange costume”–rather than, say, the fact that he’s a robot–and thus “decides to purchase a more rational outfit.”

No, really: That’s what it says:



Oddly enough, the fact that he’s a robot in a snappy blue suit makes him look even stranger than he did when he was a standard-issue naked robot*, but it does the trick, and people seem to ignore the fact that they can still see his metal face. Although now that I think about it, the story never actually says which city he ends up in, so I guess it’s possible that he’s rolling around Callander, Scotland–home of Clan Destro–where that sort of thing is completely normal.

Anyway, no sooner has he left the Men’s Warehouse when he stumbles across a damsel in distress, Clara Crandall, who is so important to the plot that we don’t even find out her name until three pages after she’s introduced… in a seven-page story. The distress in this case turns out to be the evil machination of presumable Ratzi* Von Crabb, who sets off a bomb in a high-rise office buliding, killing her father and making off with his secret battleship armor formula.

Needless to say, Marvex saves her by leaping up to the office and then jumping back down to the street with the Crandalls in tow and then sets off to mete out some harsh robot justice*:



Of course, this being the Golden Age, “justice” pretty much translates into “robot killing spree,” and after dishing out a move that would later gain fame as “The Reverse Kool-Aid Man”…



…which is made all the more terrifying by the fact that he went to the trouble of putting on a suit and tie before handing out the massive spinal trauma, he heads back to Clara and nips her womanly thoughts of romance right in the bud.

Sadly, this appears to be the high point in Marvex’s career: By the time he shows up again in Daring Mystery #4–which is also handily reprinted in the recent Masterwork–his initial design has been replaced with a far more traditional robot look, although still in a suit.

On the bright side, though, he does get a better grasp of fight banter…



..which apparently causes Hitler, seen at the right, to swoon. Ah well. That’s the Golden Age for you!



*: These would also be fantastic band names.

And Now…

The ISB is proud to present:

Relationship Troubles with Marvex the Super Robot




I don’t think I’m exaggerating here when I say that, based entirely on those two panels, Marvex the Super-Robot is the greatest Golden Age Character of All Time.

But you can find out for yourself by reading about him–and a bunch of also-rans who are currently cropping up in The Twelve–in the pages of the Daring Mystery Comics Masterwork, which, pound for pound, has more quick disrobing than any Golden Age Comic outside of Disrobed Action Tales.

Dimestore Merlin All Up In This MF

I’m not trying to pull off an entire week of Golden Age-themed content or anything, but even after going through the entire saga of Rockman and the Underground Pixies last night, I still find myself inexplicably drawn to this picture:



Yes, it’s the gentleman I’ve dubbed Dimestore Merlin, who is actually the unnamed King of Jugoslavia, who lets his daughter run around in Flash Gordon pants and a gold bra and then wonders why she keeps getting kidnapped by midgets. And maybe it’s the fact that he looks like Santa’s gay cousin, maybe it’s the little patch on his pajama top that sort of looks like Bully in a crown, but whatever it is, it’s enough to drive me to the brink of obsession.

So in honor of the comics being pushed back this week (and subsequently pushing back the Week in Ink to Friday, since I actually like to read the comics before I buy them), I’m offering it up as a special Tuesday edition of the ISB’s Monday Meme!

I mean, just look at the guy: He’s so expressive! That look on his face could be angered disappointment…



…or abject shock:



The possibilities, dear friends, are endless. Join me, won’t you?

Challenge of the Underground Pixies!

Oh what do we have here?



1. A barrel-chested hero in tiny pants and what appears to be a plastic racecar helmet from the dollar store, fighting to save…

2. A tied-up blonde in what appears to be a solid gold bra from the menace of…

3. A small army of communist midgets.

Conclusion: This Story Is Awesome.


Say hello to Rockman, folks, fresh from the pages of 1942’s USA Comics #3. According to the indefatigable Jess Nevins, this particular Rockman is not to be confused with his Japanese Counterpart, who would go on to far greater fame after saving the world from Dr. Wily’s sinister robot masters something like thirty-eight times.

This guy, on the other hand, was Stan Lee and Basil Wolverton’s “Underground Secret Agent” (here drawn by Charles Nicholas), which might seem like a redundant excuse for an acronym until you realize that, as the monarch of the subterranean kingdom of Abysmia, he’s an underground agent in a slightly more literal sense.

Man. Abysmia. The tourism board really dropped the ball one that one.

Anyway: This mind-boggling adventure opens up in “Jugoslavia,” one of those minor European monarchies where people dress like there’s a Rennaisance Faire all year long that were pretty common in the Marvel Universe right on up through the ’80s, where the sentry standing guard outside Princess Alecia’s room is suddenly clubbed from behind by a pair of “pixies,” presumably raiding the surface world for women at the sinister command of Frank Black:



Exactly how a pair of Keebler Elves manage to club a palace guard whose head is about four feet out of their reach, we may never know, but within three panels, they’ve got the Princess tied up, gagged, and kidnapped.

The pixies, it seems, are nothing if not efficient.

Say, it sure would be nice if there was someone around to provide some exposition for this odd turn of events. Dimestore Merlin, you want to field this one?



Thanks, DM. That clears everything right up.

Before long, Rockman and his Crash Helmet show up, and after being informed that the pixies are causing no end of trouble, decides to hop into his vaguely vibratoresque “Mole Ship” and go settle their hash, because that’s what they damn well did back in the day.


Down, ever down. For adventure.. and pleasure.


Princess Alecia, meanwhile, has been dragged on what one can only imagine was a pretty long walk down to the underground city of the pixies, where she’s confronted with your standard-issue golden age villain, a guy who looks like a cross between Marvin the Martian and Ming the Merciless, is never actually given a name, and is only remarkable for having the tiniest pants in the entire story.

And given what we’ve already seen from both Rockman and the Princess, that’s no mean feat:



Of course, as you might expect, Rockman and a crew of his brown-singleted countrymen show up just before the Queenly Crown gets placed and proceed to hand out a liberal dose of beatings, which is made infinitely more hilarious by the fact that it looks like they’re kicking the crap out of a gang of Marxist hobbits.




Ah, the Golden Age: When you couldn’t go six pages without somebody getting spanked.