Bronze Age Beginnings

Saturday, 29 September 2012

“I must be dreamed before midnight…but where is my dreamer?”


In The Defenders #21 (cover date March 1975), Steve Gerber introduced The Headmen, a villainous team of two mad-scientists and a mystic. Curiously, as announced in that issue's letter column, all three characters had appeared previously; but where?



SPECIAL BULLPEN NOTE:
Okay. So now you’ve met the Headmen – Dr. Nagan, Jerry Morgan, and Chondu. But you probably didn’t realise all three of these characters have appeared before! No, not in THE DEFENDERS…not even together as a team…but recently, in a Marvel mag published during 1974.
So guess what? It’s contest time! We’ll award a special prize – and a no-prize as well! – to the first reader who’s able to tell us where and when Nagan, Morgan, and Chondu last appeared. (And when you figure it out…hoo boy, are you gonna be surprised!).

Well, for those of us who were no-prize challenged (and 49 Bronze Age Marvelites got it right!) the answer was Weird Wonder Tales #7 (cover date December 1974), which reprinted a number of science fiction/horror tales from the 1950s.

Dr. Arthur Nagan, the Gorillia-Man, originally appeared in Mystery Tales #21 (art by Bob Powell); Chondu the Yogi first appeared in Tales of Suspense #9 (art by George Evans); and Dr. Jerry Morgan debuted in World of Fantasy #11 (art by Angelo Torres). The art was superb on each of the strips, but each had ‘shock’ endings a blind man could see coming. They must have intrigued Steve Gerber, however, for him to pluck these three Atlas era bozos from obscurity and cast them successfully in new Bronze Age Marvel roles. It was certainly a Weird (Wonder Tales) thing to do, but not entirely without precedent. Xemnu, the big white hairy fellah that menaced The Defenders early on, had made a similar transition.

It struck me, though, that Gerber may have lifted something else from that issue of Weird Wonder Tales. The Black Rain that emanates from Chondu’s brain after it is injected with a serum is described thus:

“…A sinister dream that dissolves into black rain and seeps into sleeping minds throughout the city.”

One of the other reprints in that issue of Weird Wonder Tales is Nightmare at Midnight, about a dream, depicted as a black floating mass, looking for a dreamer. Could it be that dream-without-a-dreamer that Chondu pulls from another dimension? I would like to think so.

This ‘prelude’ to The Defenders #21 is an interesting curio that makes me wonder what Gerber may, or may not, have been imbibing while reading Weird Wonder Tales #7 late one night in 1974. 


There was also an interesting item hidden away in this issue’s Stan Lee’s Soapbox. Stan mentions a Hitler documentary mag… say what? Surely Marvel didn’t? I haven’t been able to find anything on the ol’ web about it, so if anyone knows any information, please share. That just sounds so….ill considered!

Buy Weird Wonder Tales #7 at My Comic Shop

5 comments:

  1. Fascinating. Kinda makes you wonder if there was similar inspiration for Ruby Thursday.

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  2. That would be interesting...

    The fifth story in that Weird Wonder Tales was about a living boy doll called Marty. I keep on expecting to come across some allusion to him/it while I'm re-reading Gerber's Defenders run.

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  3. I wonder if Gerber set himself a challenge, to use some random characters.

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  4. I've always liked the Headmen after their appearance in The Defenders, and other than Chondu's unfortunate transformation into a creature (which seemed to detract from the "headmen" premise), wish that they popped up more often.

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  5. Yes, Marvel really did publish a "Hitler" one shot. I've never seen an actual copy of it but here's a link to the cover:

    http://www.amazingco.com/amazingco.com/comics/marvel/items/ma362.jpg

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