A Tribute to the of

I think it's safe to say the superhero is back.

Looking over the last couple of years and also at the approaching offerings on the silver screen, how can you reach any other conclusion?  We're seeing everything from the deadly serious like "Batman Begins," Fantastic Four," the "X-Men" series and "Superman Returns" to lighter fare such as "Sky High," "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" and "Zoom."  In the very near future we can also look forward to "Spider-Man 3" and "Ghost Rider."  While I'm not much of a Marvel fan, I must confess that the trailer for "Ghost Rider" looks wicked cool!

I was doing a little idle research on the character since I've never read any of the magazines and was surprised to learn that the original concept, dating back to 1949 was that of a cowboy who uses various tricks in order to appear to be of supernatural origin. This link gives further details and here's a cover gallery. In 1967 Marvel Comics revived the series with a short 7 issue run (in 1974 these stories are reprinted under the new title Night Rider). Not wanting to waste a good title, it appears in the racks and newsstands again in 1972. This time 'round the book cronicles the trials of a true supernatural being astride a motorcycle in place of a glowing steed. I also discovered that Jim Mooney was the penciler on issues #2 to #9 plus inks on #30 (with covers by Gil Kane; Carmine Infantino serves as penciler for a few issues on a later run).  We fans of the great Silver Age are familiar with Mooney's work in the Supergirl stories and of course Robby Reed in the Dial H for Hero stories.  It's been a little while since we've checked in on Master Reed, so let's do so in issue #164 of House of Mystery.  It's the January 1967 issue and the cover story by series creator Dave Wood is titled "Dr. Cyclops–The Villain with the Doomsday Stare!" Cover and interior artwork is, of course, provided by Mr. Mooney. In the editor's chair sits Jack Schiff.

The story begins with a bang in Zenith City, which is apparently not far from Robby Reed's base of operations in Littleville and the locals are encountering for the first time a new menace who calls himself Dr. Cyclops, the Master of Lenses; not to be confused with the title fiend of the 1940 Sci-Fi flick.  (I do believe this is the first villain I've seen with male pattern baldness.  He has a wispy island on the top of his head and the ol' fringe around the back that I've heard referred to as the "bowling ball with a hula-skirt" look.)  His uniform is red with a green cape and matching green boots and on his chest is a large eye that seems to match his own lone eye.  He really is a Cyclops and seems to have a series of gimmick glasses that he uses to commit crime.  (A quick side note:  Cyclops of the X-Men predates this villain, who seems vaguely similar, by a few years since he appeared in X-Men #1, plus splash page, from September of 1963.)

Dr. Cyclops introduces himself by shooting some reddish rays at the nearby citizens and sucking the wallets and cash from them.  He calls it his "Magnetic Money Lenses," and dashes away with the goodies.

It isn't long before Robby, hanging out as usual in his lab shack, hears the radio report of this new villain.  He wastes no time in going to the secret panel in the wall that houses his mysterious "H Dial" that allows his transformation into a random hero when he dials the letters H-E-R-O.   The hero that appears is a human wave called Zip Tide.  He quickly discovers the advantages of being a living wave by flowing his body into the nearby stream and propelling himself at super-speed to Zenith City.  Before you know it, he's reached the canal in Zenith City and has spotted Dr. Cyclops, who is using another set of eyewear that allows him to peer into an armored car loaded with cash for a payroll.  Zip Tide emerges from the stream just as Dr. Cyclops switches lenses again and uses his Inferno Opticals to begin burning through the armor.  The human wave retaliates by pelting the crook with water pellets when he notices one of the guards of the truck is in distress.  Zip Tide flows over the truck, cooling it from the melting heat and rescuing the overcome guard.  Unfortunately while he's distracted, Dr. Cyclops slips away.  The timing is good, however, as it's nearly lunch time and Robby must get home to his grandfather and Miss Millie the housekeeper.  Reversing his path via the stream, Robby arrives at his lab shack just in time to also reverse the dial in an O-R-E-H pattern to revert to his natural state and to head for the table.

As Robby takes his seat, his grandfather comments about the new criminal in Zenith City, and as if to emphasize matters, the radio then squawks forth with a news bulletin that Dr. Cyclops has struck again and has been spotted at the diamond exchange.  Robby hastily excuses himself and makes a break for the lab shack while the puzzled Gramps and Millie look on.

Engaging the fantastic dial once again, Robby becomes Super Nova, named for the brilliant star with tremendous energy.  The new hero takes flight and swiftly arrives at the scene of the crime.  This time Dr. Cyclops is employing a set of glasses that create an anti-gravity field.  He's using it to float the gems out of the diamond exchange for easy pickings.  He can't seem, however, to create a narrow focus, so the hapless and helpless employees are also floating out of the second story window of the building.  Super Nova lands and smashes the apparatus on Dr. Cyclops' face, but in the process leaves the floating personnel vulnerable to a devastating fall.  Taking a page from the Flash, Super Nova uses his super-speed abilities to create an undercurrent that gently lowers the people to earth.  While he is distracted, though, Dr. Cyclops snaps on a new set of Freeze Lenses and encases our airborne hero in a paralyzing coating of ice, making Super Nova a falling star.  This cliffhanger brings Part I to a close.

Part II opens with Robby thinking frantically about the properties of a super nova and he remembers that they are saturated with atomic radiation from outer space.  Concentrating with all his will, he generates enough atomic power to melt the ice and free himself from his plummeting course.  When Cyclops sees what is happening he wastes no time in breaking out a new set of lenses from his optical utility belt (groan!) and the Eclipse Lenses soon put Super Nova and the surrounding city into an inky blackness that The Shade would appreciate.  Apparently Super Nova draws his powers at least partly from solar radiations as he feels his powers waning.  Fortunately he had the presence of mind to bring his dial with him, so he dials back to normal and then immediately dials the four key letters again hoping to become another formidable hero.  This is always a bit uncertain as sometimes he cannot do the transformations that quickly due to a quirk in the operation of the dial.  He is, however, successful this time and finds he is a robot.  He dubs himself Robby the Super-Robot (not to be confused with Robby the Robot of "Forbidden Planet" fame) and takes flight with built in jets in his boots.

Robby quickly takes advantage of another accessory, a built-in radar-sonar unit that tracks Dr. Cyclops to the Zenith City Museum, where the thief is in the midst of using another apparatus to shrink the valuable paintings to postage stamp size and spirit them away until he can use his Reverso lenses to restore them.  The ultimate plan is to blackmail the museum for ransom, but before he can get very far, here comes the Super-Robot to intervene.  Another quick change of goggles, however, puts a wrench in the works as the criminal uses his Anti-Metallic glasses to push Robby's metallic body off into the ether.

Quickly opening a panel on his chest, Robby activates a molecular transformer that converts his body to wood and then counterattacks by firing splinter spears at the crook.  Cyclops brings his Inferno Opticals back into play and burns the missiles to ash, and then dons Zoom lenses that allow him a super-speed escape.

The Super-Robot converts his body back to its metal state and then he discovers another handy built-in device; a sniffer that can literally pick up Cyclops' scent.  Ultimately he locates the fiend in a mountain cavern hideaway.  As our latest hero moves in for the capture, however, the villain activates a button on the nearby control panel that causes a giant optical icer to freeze Robby's metal body.  Before he becomes completely immobilized, however, Robby takes advantage of his metallic body by hurling it violently into the cavern wall, shattering the ice.  Time now to put the criminal on ice, so to speak.  He activates another function of this body and enlarges and extends his steel fist, tearing the optical utility belt from Cyclops and smashing all his toys.  He then grasps the fiend in an iron grip and subdues him for pick-up by the local police.  Before departing the Super-Robot has stacked up the spoils of Cyclops' robberies outside the cavern for easy transport back to Zenith City.  He then flies for home.

Just another day in the life of a teen-aged super-hero.

Fluff, as usual in the adventures of Robby Reed.  The stories are always short, leaving room for the backup feature of J'onn J'onzz, the Manhunter from Mars, so it's hard to develop any of the heroes or even the villains very far in about 15 pages.  As usual, I find these stories a fun little diversion, but more of a dessert than a main course.  As such, this one gets a very average 5 on the rating scale.

We appreciate you, reader and hope we'll hear from you with any comments or feedback you might have.  I can be reached any time at the following address, so if you get the urge, by all means use it:  professor_the@hotmail.com.

We'll be back, as usual, in about two weeks with another offering from the greatest era in comics, so c'mon back.

Until then…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2006 by B.D.S.

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