A Tribute to the of

Not being particularly artistically inclined, I can only guess what your average penciler has to go through to design a cover for a comic book. I’ll grant you they have a small ace in the whole by virtue of either a cover conference with the editor or a story to base it on, though as we learned from the likes of Carmine Infantino that it was quite often reversed, wherein the cover was done up and a story created from it after the fact. Not every editor worked that way, but odds were good for a number of years that if you were doing a story for the legendary Julie Schwartz, that was how it would go.

So, as I was pondering what title to review this time around I stumbled across two books with remarkably similar covers right next to each other on the shelf. They’re by two different artists who also did the interior art on their respective stories with two different editors and while the focus figure is a legendary one who would naturally have similar characteristics, I still found it fascinating how closely they resembled one another.

The first book is Showcase #29 with a publication date of November/December 1960 with a spectacular wash tone cover by the great Russ Heath featuring the Sea Devils being menaced by a huge King Neptune wielding a trident and astride a massive seahorse.

The other book is Aquaman #9 (+ splash page) from May/June of 1963 with a dynamic cover by the wonderful Nick Cardy depicting the Sea King and “his young ally Aqualad” being menaced by a more to scale sized King Neptune wielding a trident and astride a winged seahorse.

By virtue of seniority and the fact that we haven’t looked at a Sea Devils story in a while, let’s crack the cover of the 10-center and see what we’ve got:

The Last Dive of the Sea Devils! doesn’t have a credited writer in the Grand Comic Database, but the editor is Bob Kanigher and this is the third and final appearance of the dive team in the pages of Showcase before being launched in their own title.

Things begin innocently enough as the foursome known as the Sea Devils (Dane, Biff, Nicky and Judy) are aboard their boat, The Sea Witch, looking for likely spots to practice their dives. Abruptly they see a fantastic sight as three huge pointed shafts are sticking out of the ocean. Before they can alert anyone about their discovery, things get weirder as the shafts are revealed to be a massive trident held by an equally massive hand and it has literally speared a nearby fishing boat. Dane radios the maritime authorities and then he and Biff don dive gear to investigate.

It isn’t long before the pair discovers the wreckage of the fishing boat along with a huge spherical object that has a ragged gash in its side. They ponder if it could be the unidentified flying object they’d heard reports about earlier. Swimming inside to investigate, they encounter massive controls and instrument panels and then manage to activate a screen that begins to broadcast a message in various languages, finally settling on good ol’ English: “This is Vasto, ruler of Venus, speaking to whoever is unfortunate enough to hear me!,” (How they can hear this thing underwater is beyond me, but hey, this is the comics, right?) The narrative continues and explains that Venus underwent a sort of civil war between Vasto and his brother, Horro. They finally whipped Horro and exiled he and his steed into this satellite that was then placed into orbit as a perpetual prison, but if someone is listening to this message, obviously it didn’t quite work out. The message finishes with the ominous charge: “Destroy Horro—before he destroys you!

Meanwhile, on the surface, the Sea Devils’ vessel is speared. Fortunately Nicky and Judy had the foresight to get into their diving gear and they hit the drink. In moments they spot the horror that is Horro and the chase is on, with the giant using the boat itself to try to crush the divers, but they manage to find temporary cover under the wrecked vessel ending Part I.

As Part II opens, the foursome are reunited when Judy and Nicky swim to the sunken satellite and find their comrades. In the next harrowing moments, Horro attacks a submarine that just happens to be in the vicinity. The sub fires a torpedo, but it misses the target.

The Sea Devils deploy a signal buoy to alert the Coast Guard to place depth charges in the area. As they wait, the Sea Devils continue to dodge the menacing giant. When the charges begin to fall, Horro crushes them in his fists and then resumes his pursuit of the daring divers.

With little in the way of options, Dane decides they’ll use the drifting torpedo to go on the offense. The four divers guide it closer, ever closer to the looming giant and after successfully avoiding the dread trident they release the weapon and swim away for all they’re worth as the torpedo impacts the target, blowing Horro into the next world.

Thus ends this undersea adventure in a short 13-pages with masterful art by the legendary Russ Heath. Russ, in fact, was recently honored at the 68th Annual National Cartoonists’ Society Rueben Awards with the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award. [He is also the focus of Comic Book Creator #4.] Heartiest congratulations to Russ Heath!

The Sea Devils stories were pretty good in a pure adventure sense and as Russ told me during our delightful interview [Sage #186 & #187], he was always more interested in drawing non-superhero types, so the Sea Devils, Westerns and war titles were right up his alley. I often wonder how you keep coming up with new angles in a series like this, but they seemed to manage, at least for a while and with art like Russ’ to enjoy, how could you go wrong? I’ll give this short tale a 6 on the rating scale.

Interestingly, following the 3 Sea Devils appearances in Showcase, there was a series of 4 Aquaman stories, so the parallels between these two books continue.

Thanks as always for your time, dear reader. The webmaster and I appreciate your patronage and hope you’ll continue to use this site as your home away from home for all the goodness the Silver Age of DC comics has to offer. Don’t forget to take advantage and express yourself. I can always be reached at professor_the@hotmail.com. We’ll be back on the 15th with another tale, perhaps the Aquaman one mentioned above for purposes of contrast.

See you then and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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