A Tribute to the of

About 70% of the Earth's surface is covered by water.  Because of that simple fact of nature, many of us are drawn to the water, particularly the deep or blue water for recreation and adventure.  During the time period that encompasses the Silver Age, there were plenty of media, particularly in television and the movies, focused on exploration and adventure in the depths.  We had Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, Sea Hunt and yes, even Flipper.  DC chose to capitalize on this interest by introducing a team of ordinary folk who were also avid divers and adventurers.  They were called the Sea Devils.           

The Sea Devils made their debut as so many of the Silver Age greats did, between the covers of Showcase.  Showcase #27, the July/August 1960 issue, to be precise.  Unfortunately, I don't have access to that issue at this time, but after consecutive follow on appearances in Showcase #28 and #29, they went on to their own self-titled series and this review will focus on Sea Devils #8 from November/December of 1962 where the foursome face "The Curse of Neptune's Giant!" Credit for this issue is divided among: Creator-editor/writer, Robert Kanigher ; grey tone cover, Russ Heath & Jack Adler; interior pencils and inks, Russ Heath.

The splash page very nearly echoes that gorgeous cover except that you can see the menacing giant, who vaguely resembles that old Creature Feature mainstay, "The Creature From the Black Lagoon."  Each of the divers are being transformed into a half-fish, with their lower bodies being replaced with that of a sea-horse, manta ray, shark and perhaps a dolphin.  Let's turn the page now and get to the tale at hand.   

Dane, Biff, Judy and Nicky are experiencing some cabin fever at the beginning of the story and decide to get out of the office for a change of scenery by attending the circus.  There they see a sideshow act with what is purported to be a genuine half-man, half-fish.  The carnie offers a prize of $50,000.00 to the audience member who can stay under water as long as the Merman.  Biff immediately takes up the gauntlet and dives into the nearby pool with the creature, determined to prove he's a phony.  After several minutes grappling underwater, however, it is the Sea Devil who is brought to the surface, barely conscious, by the Merman.  Shaking the creature's hand and thanking it for saving him from his own stubbornness, Biff is a bit unnerved when he seems to receive a telepathic message from the Merman echoing, "Come back…" Unable to shake the feeling, he returns after dark in his full gear to try and get to the bottom of matters. 

A short while later, a rowboat is making its way toward the Sea Witch III, where the Sea Devils have their living quarters.  The small craft contains both Biff and the Merman, who he promptly introduces to his fellow divers as Nurro.  Nurro has a fantastic tale to tell the Sea Devils and does so telepathically. 

Nurro explains that he was once a fish; living with his loved one, Serra (an Angel fish, of course) under the sea in peace and happiness.  Nurro was so devoted to Serra that he wanted to prove his love by fetching her a priceless jewel from a nearby sunken vessel.  She cautioned him against it and part one draws to a close on their thought-communications. 

Part II continues with this thread and we learn that Serra is the king's daughter, while Nurro is a commoner fish and he therefore feels he must prove his worthiness by getting her the prize from the shipwreck.  As he swam toward it, however, he heard Serra crying out to him and was astonished to see her in the grasp of a large hand emerging from an undersea geyser.  Without a second thought, Nurro swiftly swam into the geyser and was greeted by the amazing sight of the giant man-like creature we saw on the splash page, still gripping Serra.  The behemoth, also communicating telepathically, states that all trespassers must pay a penalty.  Immediately pow erful forces emanate from its fingertips and transform Nurro into the Merman that he is now.  "Neither whole fish—nor whole man—you belong neither to the sea—nor the land!  You will be an outcast!  A wanderer!  To the end of your days!"  So speaks the fearful giant and then Nurro is forced upward by a waterspout.  Soon he found himself caught in a net, which led him to the carnival existence he had endured before encountering Biff.  He finishes his story by telling the Sea Devils that he will now go back to rescue Serra, no matter the cost.  The quartet agree to escort Nurro back to the proper place in the ocean and then don their gear to help their new friend. 

As they approach the geyser that leads to Neptune's giant, Nurro insists on going first, but Dane sweeps him aside and fearlessly goes forth, putting an end to Part II.

Part III opens with a startling sight.  Dane re-emerges from the geyser, radically changed into a half-man, half-shark figure.  The leader of the Sea Devils is apparently oblivious to his relationship with his fellow divers, too and silently and malevolently circles around, a mimic to the predator whose form now occupies part of his body.  The other team members manage to elude him and Biff decides to enter the chamber through another entrance, leaving Judy in charge. 

Now I've got to mention here that there is dialogue between the Sea Devils at this point, but it's in the form of "thought bubbles."  Oddly enough, they seem to be able to read and respond to them.  There aren't any apparent communication devices, so I don't understand it, but it's an interesting side note.  Back to the story.

In the next few minutes, an eerily familiar scene plays out.  Biff emerges and is now part man, part Manta and is just as hostile to his former companions as Dane was.  In the misspelled thoughts of Nicky, "Neptune's Giant made an undersea 'Jekel and Hyde' out of him!"  The cat and mouse game begins anew and the two remaining Sea Devils along with Nurro discover an undersea arsenal of harpoons and torpedoes on one shipwreck, but they don't want to use them on their own teammates.  Part III draws to a close there.

Right before Part IV begins, we have a page of questions and answers under the "Undersea Breezes" title.  Apparently rather than getting commentary on prior issues, this magazine entertained questions about the sea.  Included on this page were queries about where most of the undersea caves are located, what underwater plants are attached to and which are the deepest parts of the ocean.  I thought it was an interesting twist on the letters page format.  It reminds me a little of the scientific facts offered in the Metamorpho comics.     

Part IV starts with Judy deciding she needs to be the next Sea Devil to try and set things right.  Her kid brother, Nicky, pleads with her to stay, but she is determined and soon Nurro and Nicky anxiously await the outcome of Judy's descent.  Soon they hear her singing and go down to investigate.  To their horror, Judy has been transformed into a mermaid and is locked in the clutches of Neptune's Giant.  The fearsome creature then unleashes it's force yet again, this time toward Nicky, uttering that he will change him into the fish he most resembles, which in Nicky's case is a seahorse. 

Turning his attention to Nurro, the giant places the merman into a cage with Serra.  Meanwhile, the mermaid Judy sings her siren song and draws the other Sea Devils toward her.  No sooner do they gather than the giant seizes them and informs them that they will provide him with unique sport.  He leaves his lair with them and goes to the surface where the graveyard of treasure ships lie.  Near an aged floating mine, the giant tells the transformed Sea Devils that they are now natural enemies to one another and soon will destroy each other. 

Unexpectedly a shark arrives, drawn by the commotion.  It makes a pass at Judy, but Nicky grabs the killer from behind and struggles with it.  Soon a swordfish appears, also intent on doing the mermaid harm.  This time it's Biff who intervenes, battling the predator toward the sea floor.

Finally the half-shark Dane swims toward Judy, intent on her destruction.  He pauses momentarily when tears form beneath her diving mask, but in the next moment, she proves irresistible to yet another denizen of the deep in the form of an octopus.  Dane hurtles toward the beast, but is flung back by a giant tentacle straight into the floating mine.  Fortunately his contact isn't enough to cause detonation and the leader of the Sea Devils notices Biff and Nicky attacking the octopus and freeing his love.  All this proves quite unacceptable to Neptune's Giant, who rages that he will seal their doom himself.  Dane reasons that their only hope is to use the mine against the creature and he swiftly drags it with the help of his teammates to a nearby catapult.  Quickly placing it into the ancient weapon of war, the Sea Devils are in luck when it performs its function, hurtling the mine into the giant and blowing him to kingdom come. 

Following the creature's destruction, all it's influence is nullified and the Sea Devils have returned to their natural form, as has Nurro, who contentedly rejoins Serra as the Sea Devils head for the surface and the end of this story.   

The Sea Devils had a relatively short run.  After the three initial appearances in Showcase, their magazine went for only 35 issues until the middle of 1967 when the title was discontinued.  It's a bit of a shame, really.  Even though they weren't super powered, you would think that the depths of the oceans and seas would afford plenty of interesting adventures and that the average reader could relate just a bit to their human strugglings in that exotic environment.  Much like other heroes who explored the unknowns of outer space, our own unexplored worlds under the ocean's surface can be just as mysterious and enticing. Maybe there just wasn't enough room down there for them and Aquaman with the rest of the citizens of Atlantis, or perhaps they were a little too much like the more popular and somewhat similar Challengers of the Unknown.  Only the editorial staff of DC could say for sure.       

Regardless of that, for some exceptional artwork and an enjoyable tale of adventure, I give this issue of Sea Devils, the very first I'd ever read, a solid 8 on my 10-point scale.  I look forward to catching up with them again in the future.

Mark you calendar so that you won't forget to return to the Silver Lantern in about two weeks for another adventure and review.  I promise to make it worth your while.  Also, check in with me at silveragesage@thesilverlantern.com.


Long live the Silver Age!

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