A Tribute to the of

The Sea Devils book ran only 35 issues under its own title, although some modern runs would be envious of even that number. The covers inevitably featured some massive terror the quartet of divers was dealing with and many also had the wonderful ink wash work of Jack Adler to further enhance Russ Heath’s immense artistic talents. I still kinda wonder what you can do with a diving team long term, though and apparently, so did the readers of the day, but the Sea Devils did make their mark and it’s been quite a while since we’ve visited one of their adventures, so for this edition of the Silver Age Sage let’s take a peek at issue #9 from January/February of 1963 when they learn the “Secret of the Coral Creature!” Written and edited by the ever-prolific Robert Kanigher, our cover and exterior art was done by the incomparable Russ Heath.

By the way, the house ad on the inside front cover is timely and a bit intriguing. It features Johnny DC, decked out for Christmas and It’s for a Comicpac, Superman #158 [Sage #53] and three other issues of DC comics in a bag for only 47 cents. Here is a nifty example.

I remember seeing 3-pack bagged comics in the spinner racks when I was a kid, but at the time it was kind of a gamble as they’d often show only the front book, which was typically an issue of interest, but then shoehorn something in the middle that maybe you wouldn’t want, like a Jerry Lewis, for instance. Consequently, I never purchased one of the bags, but I’d love to have one now to put into my spinner rack.

On to our story, where things begin with a bang when Dane Dorrance, Biff Baily, Judy Walton and her kid brother Nicky are flying in a military plane on a mission to help out an astronaut who has successfully splashed down in his capsule, but has not been in communication for a couple of hours. After a successful mission, they’re aboard an aircraft carrier where the skipper offers them another mission, described as both top secret and dangerous. The Sea Devils immediately volunteer. I wonder how they got a security clearance?

So after about a week, they’re riding down into the depths on an experimental atom bomb, sort of saucer shaped, into a vessel graveyard where they’re to guide it into a natural crater prior to detonation, where its effects on ship’s armor will be studied.

Well, it wouldn’t be an adventure if everything went smoothly, would it? As they disembark, the lowering cable snaps and they’re trapped beneath it in the crater, but before they can figure out an escape channel, they’re caught in a powerful undersea current, closing out Part I.

Part II has the bomb beginning its ominous ticking cycle and the divers are pulled down further and further into the crater when they suddenly find themselves falling into a duplicate sea beneath the earth’s sea. Free falling, but without the benefit of parachutes, they manage to successfully dive into the body of water without injury.

They pause on some coral while they try to figure out how to get back and more importantly how to do so before the bomb goes off in approximately an hour when the coral abruptly shifts beneath them and reveals itself to be human-like as it begins to wickedly laugh. The creature is apparently telepathic, too, as it seems to read Judy’s thoughts and, gripping the divers, gives its background.

Hroodo is a being from another galaxy, who had been banished as a habitual criminal and was sent to wander forever in the barren reaches of space. As the ship transporting the creature came within the gravitational pull of the Earth centuries prior, it plunged into the sea, then pierced the crust of the sea bed, finally coming to rest in the sub-sea. Using a natural shape shifting ability, it formed itself into coral to survive and then simply waited for something to happen. Now that the Sea Devils are here, it plans to use them as loyal slaves.

Dane tries to explain the imminent danger of the bomb above, but the sea creature merely scoffs, ending Part II.

Part III has the coral creature explaining the tasks it will put the divers through and warning them that if any fail, they will all be doomed, but success will include taking Judy as a queen. Dane can only consider the triple threat facing them of the bomb, the creature and the finite air supply they carry.

The task presenting itself immediately is a crazed whale, hurling itself into a coral reef due to a toothache. Their decreed job is to cure it. Nicky is hurled into the gaping mouth of the whale. He locates a cracked tooth and uses a syringe he has in his first aid pack loaded with painkiller. It seems to do the trick as soon the whale is feeding and when the massive jaws open, Nicky is able to exit.

Next up is Biff, who is instructed to “ride” a massive flying fish. He uses his rope to lasso the huge creature, but before he can mount up, Part III ends.

Part IV opens with the flying fish taking off at full throttle, dragging Biff along, but when it breaks the surface, he spots a massive water spout, that just may afford them an exit, if they can escape the clutches of the coral creature. Biff tries to ride the fish, but gets bucked off. He does have the presence of mind to use the rope to tie the fish off to a coral outcropping and then returns.

The team can only continue to worry about the half hour that has elapsed and the ticking bomb, but the creature dishes out a final task to Dane, sending him into a underwater maze that he must navigate. He tries to use some chalk he just happens to have on hand to mark the way, but it breaks and he’s left to flounder about until a giant eel comes along. Hitching a ride, Dane successfully emerges and uses his unusual mount to ram the coral creature, freeing his companions.

They are all aboard the eel now, with the coral man in pursuit. Catching the water spout, they travel upward, ever upward, past the bomb and ultimately breaking the surface where a Navy chopper awaits with a gladly accepted rescue line. They board just as the bomb goes off, ending the menace of the coral creature forever.

Not a bad little yarn with some science fiction thrown into the mix for a more dramatic adventure beneath the sea that was…beneath another sea. Leave it to Kanigher to come up with something way out of the norm. Russ Heath’s artwork is always a treat and I’ll give this one a 6 on the 10-point scale, though I must admit, a giant pink menace is a little bit of a stretch.

Happy New Year, readers. May 2018 be a great one for us all and please continue to follow us here at the Silver Lantern for all your classic DC comics yearnings. We promise to keep delivering. If you have a specific request or comment, drop a line! You know the address: professor_the@hotmail.com.

We'll be back on the 15th with a new review and as usual…

Long live the Silver Age!

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