Friday, May 3, 2013

Retro-Reviews: The Fly & Private Strong

The Double Life of Private Strong, issues 1 & 2, August 1959, by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. 
Adventures of the Fly, issues 1 & 2. August & September, 1959, by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. This series and character lasted much longer, but Simon and Kirby collaborated on only the first two issues.
By 1959, Archie Comics thought it was a safe time to bring superheroes back into their comic books. These two titles reunited comic creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for a brief time, after which Jack moved to the warmer climes of California and Joe relocated to the center of the comic book world, New York City. These issues represent their final steady work together, the two only reuniting once after, for a single issue of The Sandman in the 1970s.

Private Strong is a straightforward action-adventure comic, telling the story of a boy raised from birth by his mad-scientist father to be a man of advanced physical and mental  power. His "double life" is as a recruit in the armed services, and as the costumed adventurer The Shield. Simon dialed back the over-the-top humor for these stories, and Kirby also dialed back the over-the-top art style -- the only memorable art scenes were the first few pages of the origin issue. So this ends up being a little more than a standard spy comic, telling standard spy stories. They were fun, they were fine, but they were nothing special.

The Fly is a more traditional superhero story, a mish-mash of their earlier character Captain 3-D, with a little Shazam and Supergirl thrown in. An orphan boy receives a magic ring from that along with a magic phrase, can turn him into the super-powered Fly, and speaking his own name turns him back into the young Tommy Troy.

In his first mission, he exposes the corrupt orphanage manager, and then moves into more traditional crime-fighting behavior. One adventure ended with the Fly tying up his quarry (the criminal mastermind The Spider) in a net and hanging him up for the police to find later, a feat that would come a common trick for a certain spider-based hero a few years later. There is some interesting art choices in the Fly stories, with many of the individual stories starting with double-page splashes, adding a sense of epic scope to the stories.

These were later reprinted in the early 1980s in Archie's Blue Ribbon Comics series.

Source: public library.

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