A Tribute to the of

His given name was Eli Katz and he was born in Latvia.  He used a few nom de plumes, but the one he is best known by, particularly for we enthusiasts of the Silver Age is Gil Kane.  For more details about Gil, check out the Wikipeida entry:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gil_Kane

Gil did plenty of important artistic work in the Silver Age and helped bring to life some key characters, most notably Green Lantern and the Atom.  To my knowledge, however, he only scripted one comic, when the newly established Captain Action was turned over to him with issue #3.  You may recall from my prior review that the original two issues were written by Jim Shooter, but issues 3 through 5 when the series was ended were given to Gil Kane and I've decided to take a look at that first scripting effort this time as Captain Action #3 from February/March of 1969 gets the Sage treatment.  That dramatic cover is done, of course, by Gil Kane with inks by Dick Giordano.  As mentioned, Gil handles the interior pencils and script with inking done by Wallace Wood and editorial duties courtesy of Julius Schwartz.  The title of the effort is, "…and evil this way comes!"

Our point of view on the splash page is from a jet-liner coming into San Francisco from a trans-pacific flight.  As they begin to taxi in, to their horror the pilot and co-pilot witness a devastating earthquake.  After several panels of carnage we are taken back in time a few minutes in the same city of San Francisco where Clive Arno and his son are in a sophisticated laboratory owned by Dr. Stefan Tracy, father of Arno's deceased wife.  Tracy apparently is the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in converting part of the Sahara desert into agricultural land.  Arno and his son are running tests on the power coins of the gods we learned about in the prior issues of Captain Action.  Arno comments that he wonders how Tracy is doing on his work on the San Andreas Fault.  Carl Arno replies that he'd just spoken with him and real progress is being made.

We segue now to where Dr. Stefan Tracy is putting the finishing touches on his atomic nullifier, which has the ability to avert earthquakes, but fate intercedes with a shattering earthquake at the moment he is prepared to activate the device.  In the next bizarre sequence of events, Tracy is pulled into an explosion that drives him into a slip-stream vortex of spectral radiance that transcends time and space.  To look at it, he's on a bad acid trip.  His mind and body are radically transformed and when he returns from his strange journey and sees the results; blue skin, exposed brain matter and bulging eyes more bloodshot than a career drunk, he proclaims that he is Dr. Evil, the next step in human evolution.  Resistance to his newly enlightened state will bring destruction!

We then rejoin the Arno's and they are recovering from the quake in much less dramatic fashion.  Clive's main concern after ascertaining the soundness of his son is the coins.  They discover that they've been lost in the quake with the exception of the Mercury coin and the Zeus, Hercules and Heimdall, which have been fused together.  He gives Carl the Mercury coin, checks on Dr. Tracy, who was apparently in an adjoining room and calls from behind the door that he's well and then switches to Captain Action and Action Boy.

Interestingly, once they are garbed in their uniforms, Arno speaks what could be a passable oath at a power battery:  "…and we will never rest until the forces of evil, destruction, and suffering no longer plague mankind!  Let justice be done!"  Then it's off to assist other victims of the earthquake.  The fused coins still retain their properties and the Captain is able to call on the abilities of the gods including, dramatically, the forces of Zeus to bring down sheets of rain to drown the flames.  Little does the pair of heroes realize they are being watched.

Dr. Evil, nee Dr. Tracy is observing their efforts via a sophisticated monitoring system and scoffs at them.  He looks like his old self, but in a few panels he rips off the mask as he proclaims that Northern California will be his own new land to perpetuate his superior version of humanity.  He throws a switch on his new equipment and phase one begins.

Part II opens in a NORAD-like tracking station in Northern California where rescue and evacuation units are being rapidly deployed in response to the disaster.  Back in San Francisco, the police have caught up with Captain Action and Action Boy, passing along reports of the carnage for their attention.  They continue in grand fashion to control movements of rivers and stopping landslides, but Carl gets cold-cocked in the landslide.

Dr. Evil intervenes from his remote location, engaging a magnetic grapple beam to move Action Boy to a safe ledge while the amazed Captain looks on.  (I'm not sure why a magnetic beam would affect the boy…)  The Captain then quickly takes his son to a hospital and then returns to his duties.

Soon he's in matters up to his armpits as the earth's crust itself sends new mountains thrusting into existence, some with the aid of Dr. Evil, who switches tactics and has the rocks directly attack the hero.  Calling again upon the powers of Zeus to transport the rocks away in a tornado, Captain Action realizes he needs the help of Dr. Tracy and returns to the lab to plead for help.  To his utter shock, however, Dr. Tracy has no interest in assisting him and indeed goes on a wild rant about the unworthiness of humanity until emphasizing his little sermon by activating a force-field traction beam that places Captain Action in stasis.  Dr. Evil removes the mask again and Part II closes. The two pages leading up to Part III are a few panels submitted by Sam Viviano, chronicling his visit to the DC offices where he speaks to Carmine Infantino and an unidentified artist who presents him with a piece of original artwork for his trouble, specifically a page of Joe Kubert's work on the Viking Prince.  At the end it says, "MORAL:  If you practice reverence and awe, are diligent and ingenious, buy and enjoy D.C. comics, eat your breakfast every day, go to bed early each night, and will be in New York next July 16th…who knows?"  I don't know exactly what it was alluding to, but it was kind of a different plug and must have given Sam a thrill to see his original depictions published.  On to Part III

…where Dr. Evil again replaces the Dr. Tracy mask while Captain Action struggles with the immobility beam, somehow managing to mentally summon Zeus' control of the elements and bringing a miniature rainstorm into the lab, short-circuiting the machine and freeing him.

Once mobile, Arno tells Dr. Evil that he may be outside humanity, but is not above it and that only a divine will can judge other intelligent beings.

Dr. Evil then tosses a gas pellet (and is suddenly sans mask again) that is only briefly effective until the winds of Zeus banish them.  Then it is fisticuffs (He's got the Tracy disguise on again!) and counter-arguments against the "superiority" of Dr. Evil as Clive pummels him repeatedly.  Just as he's about to triumph, however, Dr. Evil twists the gem on the 60's vintage medallion around his neck and disappears, leaving Arno holding his on-again-off-again Tracy mask.  Eerily the mask speaks, vowing to return.

The final panel shows the Arno's standing together in civilian clothes, leaving the hospital.  Clive has just finished relating the events to Carl, who tearfully notes that while Tracy is no longer what he once was, he was his grandfather.

In the "Action Line" letters column on the page following the end of the story, the first letter is from none other than Gil Kane, as follows:

Dear Julie:

It hardly needs saying that I was enormously pleased when you took over the editorship of Captain Action; it definitely demands proclaiming that I was thrilled at your suggestions that I involve myself in the plotting and writing of Captain Action!  For years I've been looking forward to the time when I would be afforded the opportunity to develop and evolve a character in my own fashion—and now that it has been handed to me like this on a silver platter…well, it sorta gets me right there!

I've always maintained that the best art came out of a continuity, either wholly created, or at least broken down dramatically, by the artist himself.  I eagerly await the verdict of the readers on how well (or poorly, to offer a reluctant alternative) I made out.

In the development of this issue's yarn, I ran into a problem:  how to convincingly explain the corresponding change in skin color as Dr. Evil turns into Dr. Tracy, and vice versa.  I played around with the idea of having some chemical composition in the Dr. Tracy face-mask turn Dr. Evil a human flesh color whenever he wore it—but abandoned it as not being an entirely satisfactory solution.  Accordingly, this skin-change is not explained in the story.

Which brings me to my grand plan:  how about my offering an original drawing of Captain Action to the reader who presents the best solution?

Thanks for the use of this space, Julie.  It's great to be back in the old saddle again!

--Gil Kane

Considering the body of work Gil Kane left behind, you sort of wonder where he found the time to script even the few issues that he did, but obviously he pulled it off.  Although I did learn during a telephone interview I conducted recently with Gaspar Saladino, premiere letterer for many years in the industry, that Gil had the ability to rough out a story in 10 minutes flat.  He was that accomplished.  Be on the lookout in the near future for more on my interview with Gaspar.

Clem Robins, who I mentioned in my last review, tells me that he knew and worked with Gil Kane and that Gil was pretty proud of his work on these few issues of Captain Action.  Clem had the highest regards for Gil, but confided he wasn't all that impressed with the storylines in this series and frankly neither was I.  Kane had a true gift for art, but his scripting, at least in this case, left something to be desired.  Maybe this licensed action figure just had some constraints that were tough to overcome, but I've got to give it a 4.

Please don't forget to join us in about two weeks for the next installment of this feature and don't pass up the opportunity to share your own observations, questions or requests at professor_the@hotmail.com.

I'll be waiting, reading and writing and in the mean time…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2007 by B.D.S.

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