March 28, 2013

Heroes, Inc. #2 [1976]

As discussed recently, the first issue of Wallace Wood's HEROES, INC comic came out in 1969, designed to be sold to members of the armed services. With the first issue printed but getting little to no distributfeion, there obviously wasn't a second.

Then in 1976 HEROES, INC. #2 was published, this time as a larger sized black and white magazine from the fan publishers CPL/Gang, best known for their Charlton Comics themed fanzines. Two of Wood's features from the first issue continue here, The Misfits and Cannon. I assume the stories were at least written and penciled back around 1969, the tonework was probably added to compensate for the lack of colour the art was intended for.

This small press distribution means that, while HEROES, INC. #1 is probably the easiest 1960s Ditko comic to find, #2 is among the most difficult 1970s Ditko comics to find for a decent price. And I doubt there'll be a warehouse find of 70,000 copies of it. A tip of the hat to Brian Franczak for getting me my copy.

The story that concerns us here is the 14-page untitled "Cannon" story drawn by Ditko, written and inked by Wood. As I mentioned before, Wood continued Cannon without Ditko for military newspapers in the 1970s, and various subsequent reprints, heavily increasing the "adult" content, especially nudity. I haven't read those later Cannon stories, but this one seems to have a partial move in that direction, no nudity but definitely a more salacious rendering of the female character, and a bit more violence, though often partially obscured or implied.

As you can tell by the page below, the story this time is Cannon versus Nazis, who have taken over a small South American country. Cannon falls into a trap trying to help a woman in distress, only to find out she's a Nazi official named Erika Meissner, and is captured by her team of Specialists with self-explanatory names, Gunner, Lash, Blade and Archer (not unlike the Enforcers from a previous Ditko comic). Taken to their gorgeous castle base in the middle of the jungle, Cannon proves resistant to persuasion by torture or drugs (as a nod to his double-brainwashing origin), but turns after some seduction by Erika. Or at least he fakes it long enough to get more information, radio in for back-up and then take the Specialists and everyone else out.

Pretty decent story, well worth picking up if you can find a reasonably priced copy. The Wood inks are a bit more overpowering on Ditko's pencils than in the first story, but it's still very noticeable, especially with the Specialists and the head Nazi.

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