A Tribute to the of

After seeing the first two episodes of DCís Legends of Tomorrow, I think things are off to a pretty good start and much like seeing a live action portrayal of Jay Garrick a while back, the 12-year old boy in me was thrilled to see so many characters in one setting, from Vandal Savage to Chronos, the Temperature Twins, Captain Cold and Heat Wave, The Atom (played by a former Superman!), Canary (White? Black? Iím still a bit confused, though the webmaster told me theyíd done something odd with the character in Arrow, which Iíve not been keeping up with), Firestorm and Rip Hunter.

So it struck me that in over 375 installments of this ongoing feature, Iíve covered Rip Hunter, Time Master exactly once. Time to go visit our time-traveler again, Iíd say, so I went to my modest selection, generously provided by the webmaster, to see if there was a likely candidate.

Iíve settled on issue No. 17 from November/December of 1963. ďTrack of the Wizardís Beast!Ē was written by Jack Miller, edited by George Kashdan and illustrated, both cover and interiors, by Bill Ely.

One little thing of note is that it seems this is just the second issue in the series when the team has uniforms instead of Rip sporting that James Dean t-shirt and jeans sort of look and the other members of the team wearing whatever happened to be in the closet at the time.

Speaking of the other members, they include Bonnie Baxter, young Corky Baxter and Jeff of the unknown last name.

The somewhat odd premise of the story is that millionaire Lars Hawkins has gone into seclusion, according to the newscast Rip is watching, when he receives a pair of visitors who advise him to come along, since theyíre armed. Rip finds himself at a palatial estate and it seems he has been summoned by Hawkins, who is looking rough, to say the least. He displays a photo of a contorted, beast-like man and explains that heíll soon look like it, due to a curse upon all male members of his family, originally placed on his ancestor, the Duc De Ogilvie. He is enlisting Ripís aid to go back in time and gain the antidote before his transformation is complete.

Not one to back away from a challenge, Hunter rounds up his team, they get in their green suits and install their speech converter discs to their collars, board the time sphere and head off for July 8, 1360 in the country of Ponthieu.

Upon arrival at the castle of the Duc, (I wonder if thatís French for Duke?) they discover heís already got company in the form of a stereotypical wizard, complete with flowing white beard and conical hat. The wiz is in a blackmailing mood, demanding Ogilvie give up his lands or heíll do something about it. Rip tells the wizard to back off, but the mage tosses something that causes bilious clouds of smoke and then nails Ogilvie with another gas-like substance that transforms him into the beast as portrayed on the cover.

The transformed Ogilvie goes on the offensive, chasing the time travelers out of the castle, where they encounter the local peasantry, complete with farm implements to take on the beast. Rip gets them to scatter when he fires a pistol shot into the air, but the angry beast is still on the loose and Rip manages to lure him into a ditch as he leaps over to the other side, closing out Chapter I. Chapter II is entitled ďThe Wizardís Secret Weapons!,Ē and we see the youthful Corky standing watch at the ditch when he sees the Beast man has caught himself on a root as heís tried to get out of the pit. Corky uses his pocket knife to dig the root out and free the creature while Rip and the other team members seek out the Sorcerer Vareuaís dwelling.

Once they locate it, they pull a Santa Claus and go down the massive chimney, only to discover an enchanted alarm system that alerts the wizard. Pulling a lever on the fireplace, he causes Jeff and Bonnie to tumble into his chamber where he uses modified suits of armor to elongate their arms and grab the pair thanks to some levers on his desk.

Vareua gestures to a nearby shelf that contains the antidote they seek and tells them theyíll never get out alive and to illustrate opens a trap door with another lever leading to a quicksand pit, but before those steely limbs release them, Rip bursts through a glass window to disrupt the scene. The sorcerer loses control of the suits of armor and a brief melee ensues as Rip helps himself to a bowl of pods that cause the smoke the mage used on them earlier. The team flees to a door that Rip kicks down, but itís a decoy as they hide in a closet while the enraged Vareua rushes outside. Chapter 2 ends as they go back for the antidote, but they donít notice the wizard in a hidden portal above them.

The lettercol, ďDestinationóinfinityĒ uses a technique I recall from the Jokerís series where readers write directly to the characters, often to learn about some scientific principle or historical fact. I wonder how many of them were produced as ďplantĒ letters by staffers or certain fans? On to Chapter IIIís ďThe Beastís Revenge!Ē

Just as the team is about to scoop up the bottle from the shelf, the wizard pops out of a hidden panel and scoops it up. Rip slams it shut and they flee into the woods to regroup. Soon they attempt a scare tactic by appearing to hover in the air with shimmering light behind them. The frightened sorcerer is about to give them the antidote when disaster strikes and the wires suspending them, backlit by a fluorescent fixture operated by Bonnie, break and they tumble to the ground. Seizing the opportunity, Vareua tosses a new substance that locks the time travelers in nearly indestructible bubbles. Even Ripís pistol canít phase it, though I wonder how he could hear anything after taking a couple of shots.

Meanwhile, back at the pit, the former Duc Ogilvie has worked his way out of the ditch and Corky runs to alert Rip, only to become the latest victim of the bubble maneuver.

Right about then the beast arrives and goes about smashing each of the bubbles, but he then pats Corky on the head, in appreciation for the kindness he showed him in freeing him from the root in the pit. The wizard retreats to get a more powerful weapon from the house with the beast in hot pursuit.

Once Rip and his teammates get inside they discover the pair have destroyed each other, but they manage to scoop up the antidote and fulfill their mission.

Back in the 20th century, a grateful and restored Hawkins asks about the Duc and Rip replies that he was a brave man who sacrificed himself to save them, wrapping up this 25 page tale.

Okay, Iíve got to admit I had a few issues with this story. First and foremost, the art left me kinda cold. I canít decide if itís the flat inking or the dull color scheme, but it just didnít do much for me. Certain aspects of the story were a little less than stellar, too. For instance, how did Hawkins get a photograph of the beast and wouldnít the death of the Duc cause some sort of time paradox where Hawkins might not have even been born? Itís a small thing, but why didnít the writer bother to introduce the team?

None of these things are huge, but enough to be distracting and to make me rate this story a mere 4 on the 10-point scale. I wonít give up on the series, but if this is how they went, maybe thereís a reason heís kind of an obscure and nearly forgotten character.

Meanwhile, keep joining us here, faithful readers and let me know what you think of these new television offerings from DC, along with any suggestions or thoughts about our efforts here. You know how to reach me: professor_the@hotmail.com

Until next timeÖ

Long live the Silver Age!

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