This blast-from-the-past is the compilation of two columns that originally appeared online more than a decade ago...
In the previous installment, I gave you some background about the “DC Explosion,” how it came to an abrupt end, and how the resulting “Implosion” spawned a near-mythic double-volume series that have sparked fan interest for more than two decades. Some of the material in CCC did eventually see print, but much of it never did.
Though the cover of the volume was blank blue cardstock, CCC #1 did have a “cover.” Drawn by Allen Milgrom, it depicts a virtual army of DC characters lying in the road as a truck with a DC bullet careens away from them. The price box reads “Still 10c! No Ads!” but you couldn’t buy it for a dime or a dollar or even $1,000 at the time.
Leading off the volume are the complete contents for Black Lightning #12. In “Lure of the Magnetic Menace,” former Green Lantern foe Doctor Polaris shows up in Metropolis’ Suicide Slum to do battle with Black Lightning. But is he really the old Green Lantern enemy? The Polaris in this tale is Baxter Timmons, a fact discovered by his runaway nephew. In Who's Who, DC’s official guide to the characters, Dr. Neil Emerson is Dr. Polaris and he’s listed as having no known relatives. One wonders if writer Denny O’Neil was the one who ignored continuity or if the editor did. In either case, this particular Polaris never appeared anywhere else.
The back-up feature stars The Ray and retells (with some revamping) the origin of the character. The story provides another little tidbit didn’t make it to Who's Who: “Happy” Terrill’s first name is given as Langford. Also of note is that this story begins where The Ray’s appearance in CCC #2’s Secret Society of Super-Villains #16 ended. As you’ll discover when we get to that tale, The Ray is presumed dead by the villains. And obviously, had I been able to continue with my plans for the Freedom Fighters, they would have been short one member.
This first chapter concludes with an ebony-costumed character named The Dark vowing to destroy our hero. Alas, we shall never know what writer Roger McKenzie (who scripted from a Mike W. Barr plot) intended. John Fuller and Bob Wiacek did the art.
Nor will we know what would have happened to Black Lightning, though this section concludes with the cover of #13 which shows the hero unconscious and chained to a wall.
Claw the Unconquered #13 is next. In case you don’t remember him, Claw was DC’s answer to Conan, created to cash in on the then-hot sword-and-sorcery market. As “The Travelers of Dark Destiny” begins, Claw is involved in a barroom brawl, but it suddenly concludes when a silver-gowned woman named Trysannda arrives on the scene.Though Claw had managed to chop off the monstrous hand that gave him his name in the previous issue, it manages to find him and reattach itself. All this as the hero joins Trysannda on a quest to Ravenroost. Despite having a full 25 pages for this tale, not much more is accomplished Claw-creator David Michelinie’s story (with art by Romeo Tanghal and Bob Smith) is continued in the next issue.
This issue was complete with a letter column too. Marty Greenberg, who in the 1950s published Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories in hardcover, offers “constructive criticism” of Claw on the page.
We’re not left to wonder what happened to Claw and Trysannda as Claw was one of those titles that was ahead of schedule back in 1978. The complete issue #14 follows, though this time it’s Tom DeFalco taking up the scripting chores. Tanghal and Smith are again the art team while the cover, which features Claw and Trysanndra battling Rat-Men, was provided by Joe Kubert.
“When the River of Ravenroost…Ran Red” (Ah, such alliteration… the titles just rolls off your tongue, doesn’t it?) pits Claw against a living mountain (more like a hillock, actually), those aforementioned Rat-Men, and a giant mystical snail. But, despite another 25 pages, this saga is still not at an end. The cliffhanger finds Claw and Trysanndra in “a world gone suddenly and irreversibly mad!” A grotesquely gloating foe warns them, “Welcome to the Lair of Lunacy—from which you’ll never leave alive!” One suspects he was right since there was no fifteenth issue.
The Deserter #1, a western series created and scripted by Gerry Conway and illustrated by Dick Ayers and the prolific Romeo Tanghal. This series was originally slated to appear in Showcase (as confirmed by the fact that all the pages are labeled with that book’s title), but instead got the go-ahead for its own book. Ultimately, of course, it never appeared anywhere but in CCC.The story opens in 1874 with a stranger riding into the town of Cooper’s Canyon, Arizona. Within moments of his arrival, he stops a potential shoot-out between the town’s sheriff and a gunman. When the stagecoach to Dry Water arrives with its drivers shot to death, we find out that Jase Carson, the “biggest landowner this side of St. Louis,” is behind it. Seems Carson wants to buy part of Dry Water, a part owned by newspaperman Will Olsen, and threatened to burn the town down if the people in it didn’t force Olsen to sell. A coded letter to Olsen from Washington D.C. is on the stage, so the stranger volunteers to deliver it.
Not long after the stranger leaves on his mission, a former Union soldier arrives in Cooper’s Canyon. Ex-Sergeant Willie Dredge tells the sheriff the story of Aaron Hope, who deserted the Union Army during a Civil War battle. Dredge, who’d been maimed during the battle, vowed to bring in Hope and, ten years later, was still in pursuit. The sheriff, though he recognizes a picture of Hope, does not help Dredge.
Meanwhile, Hope avoids an ambush by Jase Carson and his men and, after a confrontation in Dry Water, the villainous landowner is arrested for murder.
Back in Cooper’s Canyon, the sheriff confronts Hope about whether he deserted the army. The issue ends with Hope telling him that perhaps the sheriff should first hear his side of the story. Alas, no one but Gerry Conway and editor Paul Levitz know Hope’s side; the second issue was not completed.
Next up in the volume is “Tapestry of Dreams” by Cary Burkett, Juan Ortiz and Vince Colletta. This 25-page story, sporting a Michael Kaluta cover, was originally scheduled for Doorway To Nightmare #6, but eventually saw print in an issue of Unexpected.
Gerry Conway, Al Milgrom and Bob McLeod provide “The Typhoon is a Storm of the Soul,” originally scheduled for Firestorm #6. Most of the first half of the issue focuses on the Nuclear Man testing his powers of transmutation. At the same time, a private detective named Liam McGarrin, hired by Professor Stein because he’s concerned about his “blackouts,” is trying to figure out why Professor Stein keeps disappearing. Firestorm fans already know it is because Stein and Ronnie Raymond are “fused” into the hero and the professor is only cognizant of his role when Firestorm is in action.
Back in New York, McGarrin spots Ronnie Raymond leaving Stein’s lab and decides to follow him. (Uh-oh, is Ronnie’s double identity in jeopardy?)
Meanwhile, in the South Pacific, one of the ship’s crewmen spot a swirling column of water headed towards them and calls it a tornado. “Not in the South Pacific,” corrects another sailor. “It’s a typhoon!” (Actually, a typhoon is the Pacific version of a hurricane. What they’re seeing is a waterspout, the oceanic version of a tornado. Obviously, Gerry Conway did not think Waterspout was as effective a name for a villain as Typhoon.) Typhoon makes short order of the ship and heads away.
Back in the Big Apple, Ronnie Raymond has an argument with his father, gets into a shoving match with classmate/ pain-in-the-butt Cliff Carmichael, and spots the school’s principal being kidnapped by “Spit” Shine, brother to guess who.
When Firestorm arrives to rescue the principal, his mission is interrupted by the arrival of Typhoon, who has made his way across the Pacific and the United States to Brooklyn. The mandatory battle ensues, ending when the Firestorm, using his newly-tested transmutation powers, is able to change Shine back to normal.
Closing out CCC #1 is a pair of 20-page Green Team stories by Joe Simon, Jerry Grandenetti and Creig Flessel. Unlike the other material in this volume, there were no plans to actually publish “The High Price of Food” and “The Deadly Paper Hanger” as part of the DC Explosion; both had been written off in 1977.
The Green Team, something of a cross between Richie Rich and the Boy Commandos, made their only official appearance in First Issue Special #2. Between the giant lobster attack in the first story and the wallpaper designs that come to life in the second, it’s not hard to see why they never got an encore.
Next time, a look at the contents of CCC #2.