RETRO REVIEW: The Adventures Of Holo-Man – Birth Of A Hero #1 (1978)

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Or – “I Seriously Looked For This One FOREVER!”

I’ve mentioned it before, but comic collecting is a very hit-and-miss kind of hobby.  For every time someone walks in with a Budweiser box full of Claremont/Cockrum X-Men, there are half a dozen people who want 1,000,000 bucks for the 1994 reprint copy of Action Comics #1.  (These are, by the way, true stories.)  For me, my most difficult finds include a complete run of Howard The Duck Magazine, all the 70’s Atlas Comics, the Defenders issue of Marvel Treasury Edition, and a complete run of Jack Q. Frost.  (The Q stands for Quick.  It’s best not to ask…)  But even those peculiar gems were easier to find than today’s book, a strange and esoteric gem, featuring a guest-appearance by President Jimmy Carter!  I’m about to have some 1970’s-era fun, Faithful Spoilerites, and y’all get to come along for the ride.

THE ADVENTURES OF HOLO-MAN – BIRTH OF A HERO #1
Writer(s): Vincent A. Fusco/Donald M. Kasen/Jason V. Fusco/Barry Van Name/Donald White/Joseph Giella/Audrey Hirschfeld
Artist: Joe Giella
Colorist: Uncredited
Letterer: Uncredited
Editor: Barry Van Name
Publisher: Atomic Comics/Wavelength Holographics/Power Records
Cover Price: $5.00 (Current Near-Mint Price: $14.00)

Previously, on The Adventures of Holo-Man: Back in the day, Peter Pan Records was probably best known for their read-along record/book combinations featuring famous cartoon characters.  During the 1970’s, under their Power Records imprint, they created multimedia adventures for G.I. Joe, Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, and the Marvel & DC heroes.  I fondly remember at least one Star Trek story from my youth, played incessantly on my personal turntable back when recorded audio required vinyl (and required care and extreme patience to play with.)  I wasn’t yet reading comics at the time this book came out, but when I discovered the concept of back issues, I was fascinated by one particular advertisement…

Being the person that I am, the existence of this strange, unknown hero captured my imagination, making me wonder about his unseen adventures.  It should be noted that I had that feeling a lot in those days, but as I aged, many of those adventures became available to me.  In college, I purchased a copy of Jeff Rovin’s invaluable ‘Encyclopedia of Super-Heroes,’ but even that book only gave a brief paragraph and one still-shot of the painted Bob Larkin cover.  Visits to Mile High Comics in Denver gave me no joy, and even Ebay didn’t help.  (In a fit of poetic irony, as I write these words, there are TWO copies available for less than fifteen bucks.)  Luckily, I work for a comic book store, and I was finally able to finagle a copy of this oversized edition (though mine did NOT come with the record.)  Our adventure opens with two foreign spies sabotaging an unseen experiment, in the hopes of an explosion.  Their target is none other than the President of the United States, Jimmy Carter!

The Commander-In-Chief has come to view a revolutionary non-pollutionary power experiment by Doctor James Robinson (who was still a few years away from deciding that what the DC Universe needed was Supergirl in tears and the brutal murder of a little girl) to create a controlling thermo-nuclear fusion blah blah blah phlebotinum.  Dr. Robinson (whose assistant peevishly points out, only works for PEACEFUL purposes) doesn’t find the duplicity until it’s too late, heroically pushes the Prez to safety and finds himself bathed in a strange energy blast that images his body onto one of the holographic plates and shoves him unprotected into the time-space continuum.

It should be noted that Laserman, in addition to looking remarkably like my mental image of the prophet Elijah, is NOT the bearded man who appears on the cover.  He tells Dr. Robinson that he has become a LIVING HOLOGRAM, and lists his powers:  generation of lifelike holograms, teleportation, invisibility, and looking like a head-shop black light poster.  Laserman gives him one final gift before sending him back to reality (OH!  There goes gravity!) as a whole new (super) man!

Art here is by Joe Giella, one of DC’s Silver Age workhorses, and Doc Robinson looks a bit like his rendition of Barry “Shoulda Stayed Dead” Allen, with freakier side effects.  The colors in this story are quite a bit more intense than an average comic (I suspect the paper is to blame) and I imagine they might be quite enjoyable after a “sandwich” or two with Kevin Smith.  Jim’s psychobilly freakout is interrupted by a two page explanation of how holography works, before discovering that he has been unconscious for hours, and that his assistant is an enemy agent…

“Criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot…  I shall become… A TEST PATTERN!!!”  This is a pretty Silver Agey origin for the end of the Me Decade, but this book is a throwback in more ways that one.  Quickly and breezily accepting his career transition from super-scientist to human rainbow, Holo-Man instantly teleports from Dallas to Washington DC to confer with the man in the Oval Office…

A quick display of holography convinces President Carter than Holo-Man is on the up-and-up, and accepts the portents of an impending invasion.  The President sets off to notify the chiefs of staff while Holo-Man walks through the walls, only to find that things have progressed much more quickly than he could have imagined…

That next issue, sadly, was never delivered, at least for some value of ‘sadly.’  Holo-Man’s cliffhanger remains hung to this very day, for reasons unknown.  The Power Records range of comic adaptations did continue after this, which makes me wonder if their home-grown caped hero didn’t pull as many sales as Wonder Woman, Spider-Man and Superman.  Either way, there were clearly plans for more Holo-Man, as the last page gives us this interesting glimpse of things that might have been to come…

Remember the mysterious mystical guy from the cover?  He’s here again, and the page seems to imply that he was Laserman, even though his face and beard are completely different.  That mystery continues to elude me, making this purchase absolutely justifiable, no matter how much the missus complains about my comics budget.  Another mystery comes in the fact that this book was advertised in comics during 1976 and 1977, but seemingly didn’t come out until 1978.  Given the lead time on comic books in those days, the issues were on the stands three to four months in advance of the publication date, but even so, I wonder how many kids ended up very frustrated by the wait for the actual book.  Or, could there have been an earlier printing?  The mind boggles.  Even if it’s a pretty standard story, there’s so much enthusiasm in the execution of this book that you kind of have to play along with its particular lunacy, accepting foreign spies, a topical Presidential reference and “future time dimensions” as easily as radioactive spider blood or rockets from dead planets.  The Adventures of Holo-Man: Birth Of A Hero #1 is flat-out fun, earning an unqualified, unrestrained, loopy as a *#&@$ loon 5 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★★★

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: What in the name of Magno Lad is a “future-time dimension,” anyway?  (And does anybody have a copy of the record that they want to share?)