A Tribute to the of
When you look at the Silver Age of DC comics as a whole, it's incredible to consider all that was accomplished in such a short time span. During approximately 15 years the entire genre was given a shakeup like nothing seen before. New characters were created to include Robby Reed and the Dial H for Hero series he starred in; J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter; Adam Strange, Bizarro; Metamorpho the Element Man, the Doom Patrol, the Challengers of the Unknown; Supergirl; the Teen Titans; Rip Hunter, Time Master; the Metal Men; Eclipso and Deadman. Old characters were given a makeover and reintroduced. Classic heroes like The Flash; Green Lantern and The Spectre. Golden Age greats showed up like Doctor Fate; Hourman; Alan (Green Lantern) Scott; Starman and Black Canary. The multiverse was created, allowing even more classic heroes to not only exist again, but to join with their Silver Age contemporaries. We soon saw team-ups involving Jay (Flash) Garrick, Al (Atom) Pratt and of course the entire Justice Society of America teamed up with the Justice League of America. Even the villains got into the act, both new and old. That roster includes the Composite Superman, the Scarecrow, Star Sapphire and Sinestro. Well-known characters like Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen were spun off into their own titles. All in all, not a stone was left unturned to create this incredible era and unparalleled results followed. It's been a flat-out joy to explore this wondrous era here and to have you join us. I'm pleased that most of the formidable, but far from comprehensive list above has been tackled here at the Silver Age Sage and the Webmaster and I have high hopes of continuing in that same tradition for a long time to come. Be certain to check out the archives for yourself and by all means enjoy. The era deserves nothing less.
With that, I'd like to introduce yet another first. Even though the primary focus here is the super hero offerings of the day, we cannot neglect the other members of the DC stable and the focus this time is the debut appearance of Cave Carson, subtitled Adventures Inside Earth from Brave and the Bold #31, the August-September 1960 issue, edited by George Kashdan. The story by France Herron is titled "The Secret Beneath the Earth!" and while the intriguing cover by Bruno Premiani, he's also responsible for the interior art, shows a giant lava creature, the splash page has another menace in the form of a huge dragon-like beast. It looks like we're in for a ride.
The story begins in an unlikely venue, as we join a pair of mountain climbers working their way up a peak when they spot and manage to capture a balloon with a bottle attached to it that has just risen from a nearby dormant volcano. Sure enough there's a note within the bottle and it says, "It's down here—I've found it—come and get me—I'm trapped…" The climbers return to the town square with the message and they are approached by a man and woman who insist on seeing the note. They are "Bulldozer" and Christine, respectively and they are colleagues of Cave Carson. The note was written in his hand and they believe he's solved the mystery.
Said mystery is explained in the next few panels as the writer takes us back 48 hours to some strange occurrences including the sudden loss of a radio tower into a huge sinkhole. A local scientific party is contacted to investigate and that party consist of Cave Carson, King of underground cave explorers, Christie Madison, renowned geologist and "Bulldozer" Smith, former sandhog (a laborer who works inside a caisson, as in the construction of underwater tunnels), strongman and expert on tunnels. No sooner do local authorities contact them than another similar disaster happens, this time with several freight cars falling under the surface.
The trio observes the site of the freight car cave-in and "Bulldozer" wishes aloud that the "Mighty Mole" were ready so they could investigate first hand. Carson says that the specialty vehicle won't be ready for another day, so he has decided to descend on a solo mission to check things out.
Fast forward back to the present and Christie and "Bulldozer" are donning protective spelunking gear just prior to jumping into the "Mighty Mole." Let me attempt to describe the Mole for you, difficult as that may be. Try to feature a sort of weird hybrid of the old Batman television series' Batmobile crossed with a bullet-nose Studebaker with jet intakes where headlights should be. Yep. Pretty bizarre. I'll let "Bulldozer" describe her attributes for you: "The Mole can climb, swim or dive…and in its nose is located a thermo-ray that can burn through solid rock! It's got lights, a big oxygen supply, guns! What more does a man need below the ground?" Does anyone out there remember the old Speed Racer cartoon with his Mach Five racecar? The one with the robot bird, retractable saw blades and automatic jacks that allowed it to jump? This is the Mach Five on steroids. Or maybe "Chitty-chitty bang bang" after slurping up some high octane. Down below the surface they go, piloting the Mighty Mole and following the air currents, indicating the pathway of the signal balloon, in search of Cave Carson. They soon locate their team member behind some boulders, which they burn away with the aid of the thermo-ray. Cave is pinned beneath one of the freight cars but is unharmed. He explains that a sudden slide occurred that caught him fast and that he's discovered the cause of the sunken tower and rail cars. Before he can elaborate further, however, an eerie shrieking sound fills the subterranean chamber, pulling the cars up. Cave directs his teammates into the Mole and to quickly turn on the anti-magnetic switch. (Did they think of everything or what?) Once safely inside the unique vehicle, Carson explains that the noise is from the magnetic monster, which was also the cause of the strange surface phenomena. Soon, Cave is putting the pedal to the metal to escape the immediate area. Unfortunately they're soon surrounded by lava with only one method of escape. Turning the thermo-ray on high, they begin to bore down, down, down until at last they emerge into a subterranean sea. Since the Mole is also fully submersible, this is no problem…until they encounter the next challenge in the form of a pretty aggressive and massive marine plan that has snagged the vehicle. Since their protective suits also work as scuba gear, the men exit through a hatch lock and use magnesium guns to free their craft. Another nasty surprise waits, though, as they encounter on the surface the giant sea beast. Chapter One closes on that ominous note.
Before Chapter two begins there's a pretty spiffy two page feature showing "Spelunking Around the World" with illustrations of some famous caverns and the formations to be found.
Chapter Two then begins with a bang as the two adventurers try to escape the big lizard. They make a break for it, but the monster grabs Carson. Their sidearms ineffective, a distress call goes to Christie and she blasts the beast with the thermo-ray. It soon beats a retreat into the depths.
The team next dons some asbestos (not asbestos!) suits (that vehicle must have unbelievable storage capacity) prior to entering some tunneling. This turns out to be a pretty prescient precaution as they soon begin to feel extreme heat just before running into a huge man-like figure composed entirely of lava. Talk about the ol' frying pan and fire shtick. Needless to say the trio is on the run again back to the Mighty Mole and giving it the gas while the bizarre creature pursues them. Shortly they come upon a forest made up of strange flowering plants the size of trees. Yeah, I know, how can foliage live wi thout sunlight? I didn't write it. Realizing they cannot hide from the lumbering giant, they speed around it and exit the chamber until they ultimately run into a dead end. In a last ditch effort; Cave fires the Mole's thermo-ray at a massive stalactite to thwart the creature's advance. It's not enough, though and the lava man now has the Mole in its grip. In the next fateful moment, however, a shrill sound is heard and Cave reports that it's the magnetic monster. The force of the magnetism causes a huge cave in, affecting the metal ore in the surrounding walls, trapping the creature at last. Wouldn't you know, though, that the same magnetic force is drawing the Mig hty Mole toward the magnetic menace? Fade out on Chapter Two.
Chapter Three finds our heroes in luck yet again as the magnetic force comes to an abrupt halt. "Bulldozer" asks Cave just what this magnetic monster is and Carson proposes that it's a result of the natural, cataclysmic forces beneath the surface of the Earth that somehow evolved into this "living" magnetic force, dwelling in the depths.
The next task at hand is breaking out the climbing gear in order to find a way out of their current surroundings. Cave again utilizes a balloon to track air currents and they ascend behind it. Fate intervenes yet again as Carson loses his footing and begins to plunge over the side of a ledge. Christie, tied onto her partner follows leaving only the strongman "Bulldozer" to stand fast and bring them back up. Naturally right about then the magnetic monster decides to play again, once more creating turmoil within the cave walls. The two teammates of "Bulldozer" make it back up to the ledge, though and it's back to the relative safety of the Mole again. In moments, the vehicle is caught in the magnetic pull of the monster and is inexorably drawn toward it. In a daring move, Cave announces that he's throwing off the anti-magnetic switch, putting the thermo-ray on full power and essentially going to ramming speed in mid-air.
The next panel reveals the mysterious being at last. It appears to be a flat black monstrosity, vaguely looking like one of the old rock 'em, sock 'em robots, but practically like a silhouette. Cave's gamble pays off as they hurtle straight through the mass, melting through the middle of the torso, effectively destroying it.
A very full and stressful day completed, the team heads for the surface and they sigh with relief at the welcome vision of blue skies and of course no more menacing monsters. The end.
As I've said before, my first and best love from this timeframe are the super hero titles, but even these specialty or niche titles have their place. Many other characters in this era were cut from the same cloth as Cave Carson, such as Rip Hunter, the Sea Devils, Blackhawks and Challengers of the Unknown. They are similar since they put mere mortals into extraordinary circumstances with only their wits, cunning and often some special skills or scientific know-how to work their way out of a fix, even when it's one they walked into with their eyes wide open. They tend to usually have a sci-fi bent as well, which is something many others and I enjoy. So, despite some of the implausibility found in this book-length feature, it was an entertaining diversion with more than enough action to satisfy vicarious thrill-seekers. After exploring the cosmos, the surface of the Earth and the depths of the seas in other titles, a trip beneath the surface of the Earth was something of a novelty. For some reason I'm reminded of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but of course the Mole Machine hasn't come to pass the way the submarine has. I'll give Cave and team a rating of 7 for their first appearance in comicdom.
Do you have a comment or question? If so, I'd like to hear from you, so take advantage of my address at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your patronage and I remind you to return in about two weeks for the next review.
Long live the Silver Age!
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