A Tribute to the of






The tributes have been pouring forth in a torrent since the news came out on October 23rd that the wonderful Murphy Anderson had passed at 89 years of age. This is getting to be an old and sad story, my friends, as the webmaster and I watch pieces of our childhood disappear. Thankfully their work lives on.

Murphy was one of the titans of the Silver Age. It seemed like his covers were everywhere and if you take a few moments to scan through the archives here at the Silver Lantern, you’ll see evidence of his inking and occasionally his pencils scattered throughout. Murphy was well known for his inks over Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino and Curt Swan (the famed “Swanderson” team) and of course key efforts on the Atomic Knights, Adam Strange the Spectre and Hawkman. His versions of Doctor Fate and Hourman and Starman and the Black Canary in those coveted issues of the Brave and the Bold and Showcase were some of the most iconic when the Golden-Agers were reintroduced in the Silver Age.

Murphy Anderson inked like Michelangelo sculpted. The figures were simply flawless. That was one of the reasons I could not wrap my mind around Carmine Infantino telling me that he didn’t care for Murph’s inks on his pencils. I thought the results were consistently spectacular. When I asked Carmine who he preferred he said Frank Giacoia My mind said, “Who?” I came to understand a bit later that Murphy’s inks, much like Wally Wood and other talented inkers, tended to make the characters their own. It almost didn’t matter who penciled, because their work was so strong. Nonetheless, I adored Murphy’s work wherever I found it.

Speaking of Hawkman, it took me a while to learn to appreciate Joe Kubert’s version, because the first one I was exposed to (other than Mike Sekowsky in the Justice League of America) was Murphy, so that was the template, the standard, the beautiful rendition of the Winged Wonder and Shiera. Nothing else could touch it.

I wanted very, very badly to talk to Murphy and finally got my wish in May of 2008. I’ll admit, I was mildly disappointed with how the interview went. Murphy seemed happiest when having recollections about his days in the Navy, but I was just so tickled to talk with him that he could have been discussing needlepoint and I’d have happily followed along. A few months later he was very helpful with some remembrances of Jack Adler for that interview.

Other than that, I wasn’t fortunate enough to establish the same long-distance relationship that I enjoyed with some of the creators like Gaspar Saladino, Carmine, Joe Giella, Mike Esposito and of course Al Plastino. Murphy wasn’t unfriendly at all. In fact, he was all they say. A true gentleman from the Carolina’s, with a deep, rich voice, still tinged with a slight drawl, even though he loved Chicago and had lived on the Eastern Seaboard, but further north, for many years. He was just a busy guy and while he never said so, I sometimes felt like I was bothering him, so I eased up on the contact. It may have been my mistake to do so, but it seemed the respectful thing to do.

I did help arrange an appearance at a con in Ohio a few years back and I still regret not going myself to shake hands with one of my idols. I’ll miss Murphy and will always treasure our relationship, however brief.

For this edition of the Silver Age Sage and in honor of Murphy Anderson, I’m going to review a character that hasn’t yet been covered here. Frankly, I knew next to nothing about Captain Comet. He was before my comic book heyday and I think the first reference I can think of was in the early portion of Kingdom Come. He seemed to wear a spacesuit, vaguely similar to that of Adam Strange and he was described as a mutant, long before others took that title and ran with it. Captain Comet had a regular gig in Strange Adventures and thanks to the work of Jack C. Harris, I can offer some background from the “Via Rocket Mail” column contained in DC Super Stars of Space #4, June of 1976, which also contains the reprinted story we’re about to get into:

The courageous Captain Comet gained his powers in a unique way: he was born with them! Young Adam Blake was always aware of his uncanny ability to instantly learn and be the master of anything he encountered, but it wasn’t until he entered college that he found the reason why. After confiding in one of his teachers, the great Professor Zackro, Adam was put through many physical and mental tests. The results were conclusive: Adam Blake was a mutant—a sudden jump in the evolutionary process of man! Adam was born 100,000 years before his time. Adam Blake, the first man of the future! His story began in “The Origin of Captain Comet!” which appeared in STRANGE ADVENTURES #9, Jun., 1951. At the conclusion of his origin, Adam Blake heard reports of the atmosphere being stolen by a giant ‘top.” Donning his Captain Comet uniform for the first time, he rushed off and defeated “The Air Bandits from Space!” in the next issue (STRANGE ADVENTURES #10, May, 1951.) Until STRANGE ADVENTURES #45 came along, every issue contained a new adventure of Captain Comet, most of them being the cover feature. During his career, the Captain saved the Earth from a large variety of aliens, fearful giant bugs, synthetic men and creatures of stone. He journeyed from the depths of inner space to the furthest reaches of outer space. His last consecutive adventure was in STRANGE ADVENTURES #44, May, 1954. Two more exploits (STRANGE ADVENTURES #46, Jul, 1954 and #49, Oct., 1954) and Captain Comet was gone.

Okay, after that lengthy preamble, perhaps it’s time to get into the selected story, eh? Originally presented in Strange Adventures #14 from November of 1951, “Destination Doom!” was written by John Broome, illustrated by Murphy Anderson and edited by Whitney Ellsworth, though the Grand Comic Database informs us that the actual editing chores were done, appropriately enough, by Julius Schwartz. The cover was created by Gil Kane. The splash page could have come from Magnus, Robot Fighter, as the good Captain is shown duking it out with a mechanical man, giving us a little foreshadowing to the story at hand, which opens in Washington, D.C. A massive spacecraft is hovering near the Capitol, causing a frenzy amongst the populace and of course grim concern in the office of the Secretary of Defense, especially when some smoke-writing appears: “Attention! This is expedition three of World FV 782! Our mission is to collect samples of human life in this galaxy! Send one average specimen of your race to us in one of our skycrafts! This order must be obeyed within four of your hours!

A brief attempt at attacking the craft is met with swift defeat and the call goes out for Captain Comet, who happens to be millions of miles away in his own spacecraft. When he gets word via radio transmission, he kicks it into Spectrum-Drive, which allows his ship, the Cometeer, to exceed the speed of light. A tried and true Julie Schwartz editor’s note lets us in on this fact.

While hurtling earthward, Comet continues to monitor the transmission. The decision has been made to sacrifice one “average” volunteer for the good of the many and Captain Comet is instructed not to intervene. You know what’s coming, right? Captain Comet decides that Adam Blake is pretty average. After all, he’s a mild-mannered library clerk, so after landing he throws his name in the ranks of the volunteers and when the blindfolded official draws a slip of paper from the fishbowl, Blake uses his Telematic Force (mind over matter that he was born with—thanks, Julie!) to direct the hand to the slip of paper with his name on it.

Soon an Army Autogiro, which looks a lot like a helicopter, is delivering Blake to the spacecraft. A port automatically opens and a wall speaker informs Blake to enter the next compartment. Adam reasons that they must have the ability to read minds at a distance, just like himself, in order to speak English and know his name.

Soon he discovers that he’s not alone, hence the designation of “expedition three.” Fellow travelers are Octro of Venus and Nilor of Saturn. Once again a great little editor’s note informs us that due to Adam’s telepathic brain he can instantly communicate with his fellow captives in their own language. They inform him that they have yet to see anyone on the ship. Their only communication is through the broadcast voice.

Later, when his companions are in their racks, Blake switches to his Captain Comet garb and decides to investigate the ship. Using his “futuristic muscles,” he exits the compartment, but finds only a ship on true auto pilot. No one else seems to be aboard.

In a fascinating coincidence, he witnesses a breach of the hull by a meteor, but the ship quickly repairs it. He then notices they’re about to land, so he does another quick change and rejoins his companions.

Once on the planet’s surface, the three specimens are offloaded in a cage and see the ship address a robot, calling it “master.” Blake realizes he must use his mighty mental powers to get a handle on things and scans the robot’s brain, learning that in a true “rise of the machines” scenario, the robots took over from their human makers long ago and destroyed them, but now they wish to create humans of their own, hence the need for these samplings from around the galaxy.

Blake knows he must act, but he doesn’t want to reveal his Captain Comet identity in front of everyone. (Uh, what difference would it make in front of a bunch of aliens, Capt? Just wondering…) Fortunately, before he has to decide and prior to the paralyzing needle ray being utilized, Octro leaps into action, urging his companions to flee while he provides a distraction.

Seizing upon the confusion, Blake slips off out of sight and changes to Captain Comet. His fellow specimens have been recaptured and Nilor notes that it’s the great Earth space-warrior, Captain Comet. Fortunately, despite the fact that he looks exactly like Adam Blake and Adam is suddenly missing, no one suspects a connection. (eyeroll.)

The “master robot” decides to take matters into its own hands and uses a tempered steel ribbon from a metallic finger to truss up the “inferior” Man of Destiny, but Captain Comet swiftly bursts his bonds and then thwarts the robot’s attempts to use the paralysis beam, deflecting it with his super mental energy.

Spiriting Nilor and Octro away, our hero realizes he needs to put this threat away for good in order to assure that no humans will be made into slaves. He quickly discovers the generating station at the city’s center that makes it all possible and finds the two massive main poles of the generator, handily marked with positive and negative symbols. Calling upon his mutant strength, Comet pulls them together and shorts out the system, instantly bringing all the intelligent machines to a halt.

Later, Blake is explaining to his companions that after Captain Comet built the ship they’re traveling in, he vanished, wrapping up this space adventure in 10 pages flat.

I suppose it’s a little strange to spotlight a Golden Age tale for this Silver Age icon, but knowing how much Murphy loved doing Buck Rogers and the other space opera material he had mastered, it seemed fitting.

Godspeed, Murphy Anderson. The Silver Age would not have been what it was without your gifts and influence and you’ll be sorely missed.

Thanks yet again for spending some time with us, dear readers. The immortal Silver Age of DC Comics is our passion and it’s our pleasure to wax nostalgic about it and to share the copious amounts of facts and data right here at this handy website. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcome at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

The middle of next month will have a new installment in this ongoing feature, so be sure to come back on the 15th. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

See you then and…

Long live the Silver Age!



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