Often times, the comics of the Golden Age are bizarre and terrible.  But every once in a while, you find an issue that makes you wonder why it’s characters aren’t still being published today, and this one is a doozy!  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Clue Comics #1 awaits!

ClueComics1CoverCLUE COMICS #1
Writer: Charles Biro/Bob Wood/Tony DiPreta
Penciler: Alan Mandel/Tony DiPreta/Al Ulmer/Pierce Rice/John Cassone
Inker: Dan Barry/Tony DiPreta/Al Ulmer/Pierce Rice/John Cassone
Editor: Ed Cronin
Publisher: Hillman Periodicals
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $2400.00

Previously in Clue Comics:  Founded on a solid foundation of true confession and true crime magazines, they quickly branched out into the burgeoning field of comic books.  Unlike some publishers, Hillman covered all the bases, with westerns, crime books, sports comics, and the legendary Air-Fighters comics helping to pioneer aviation action heroes in comic books.  Most everyone has heard of Airboy these days, thanks to repeated revampings/relaunches, but not as many are familiar with Hillman’s other superhero output.  Brace yourselves, dear friends, ’cause things are about to get AWESOME.  Fade In: The small European duchy of Swisslakia…ClueComics11

Unfortunately, as sharp-eyed Spoilerites will have noticed, this is a story that takes place in 1943, a time things in Europe had erupted into all-out World War…


Lots of superheroes of the time period were forged in the shadow of war, and even the heroes who predated America’s entrance into the conflict spent a lot of time fighting fifth columnists and such, but I can’t think of any who are so directly affected by Nazi aggressions as our young King, as he and his entire village are SUMMARILY EXECUTED by the invaders to their land.

Or, so it seemed…


Prince David finds that his father, too, has survived, but only long enough to pass along a prophecy to his son.  Years ago, the great seer Nostradamus foresaw war enveloping Europe, and prepared for the day by creating a mechanical giant to rebuff such perfidy.  For centuries, the Giant has lain dormant under Swisslakia, it’s location known only to the monarchy.  Seconds before he dies, the King passes his crown to young David, naming him the new kind and sending him off to uncover the powerful artifact…


As he stomps away in a petulant rage, The Boy King is stunned to feel the Earth shaking beneath his feet, turning to find that his desperate gambit has worked.


His first act as King-without-portfolio-but-with-massive-stone-slave is to return to the capital and literally stomp a mudhole in those who would attempt to occupy his homeland…


The quisling who sold out his mother and father nearly gets away, but The Giant swoops in and…

…crushes him to death.  On-panel.  Without a shred of hesitation.  This, my friends, is why you don’t tick off a prepubescent, because someday they might have a giant.  As the issue ends, The Boy King sets off for New York (by having the Giant wade across the Atlantic, natch), leading us to this issue’s second super-star: NIGHTMARE.  Weirdly, the first five pages of his feature are dedicated to setting up a villain called The Checker, who is evil enough to punch out an old man for trying to hide assets while being robbed.  Cue our heroes!


The glow-in-the-dark costume idea is pretty clever, to be honest, although it doesn’t necessarily deal with the problem of getting shot by thugs in your heroic identity.  Our heroes make short work of Checker’s thugs, but he has planned ahead enough to have a system to dump them and his robbery victims into the sewer, where they’re forced to save the day and earn their heroic noms de guerre in the process.


I’m gonna be honest, this story is super-long for the Golden Age, and might be a tiny bit incoherent, involving missing buildings and flooding the city and…  Let’s just cut to the chase, shall we?


Nightmare’s unorthodox costume eventually gets replaced by a more standard blue jumpsuit with a big “N” chest symbol, but his skeleton-suit is one of the few costumes of the age designed to frighten mooks that might actually be frightening if found in nature (at least if you encountered him in the dark.)  Hey, speaking of awesome costumes, meet Stupid Manny!


For 300 bucks, I’ll cosplay this guy at Nerdtacular 2015.  Though he’s clearly a joke character, he has honest-to-Kal-El superpowers, which is more than we can say for most of the protectors of Gotham City.  Next up in our parade of guys who probably could have been huge, we meet the mighty Micro-Face!


Micro-Face, aside from being clearly colorblind in the way that only a Golden Age superhero could be, has created a super-mask which gives him a number of powers, from broadcasting his voice…


…to x-ray vision.


His name (which I assume is a play on “microphone”) isn’t the most dynamic, and his look is frankly freakish, which is one of the reasons why I love him some very much.  He takes down the thugs who killed his brudda, thanks to a confusing scam involving a loaded lottery, leading us to the real star of this issue, the sensational character find of 1943…

The man called ZIPPO!


Young do-gooder Joe Blair is brought in by the owner of a local plant, involved in the war effort, to find out why his best men keep leaving and crippling their (unspecified) production.  Turns out the answer is pirates!

Because reasons…


Discovering that the whole thing is about racketeering and putting the Du Port plant out of business, Joe Blair quickly leaps into action as the crime-busting motorman on wheels, rushing to the competing Pittsfield planet and engaging the criminals mano-a-wheel-o.


But before the thugs can spill their guts, The Pirate arrives and spills their blood, shooting both men down and locking up Zippo and Du Port, leaving them to starve.  He doesn’t figure on Zippo’s motorized, razor-sharp attachments!


Slicing free, Zippo takes to the streets, intercepting the saboteurs and paying them in the coin of the 1943 comic book realm: Swift and blinding violence.  Up next, Jackie Law and The Boy Rangers…


Their adventure, like all those in this issue, is oddly dark and violent, with Jackie’s father being executed in the early pages, and the five middle-schoolers teaming up to beat the tar out of the men who did the deed, leaving them strung up for the police.  The last panel promises more Jackie Law adventures to come, which sounds an awful lot like a threat to me.  Rounding out our parade of characters that could have been HUGE, we have Twilight, whose costume is as brilliant as it is inexplicable…


It takes a certain kind of man to dress up as a monogrammed Muppet and fight crime, and Terry Gardner is that man.  Not only does he fight crime in a strange gorilla suit, he does so with the help of a talking parrot called Snoopy, who provides important commentary on the heroic exploits of his fuzzy master.  While not all of these heroes have the staying power of a Superman or a Wonder Woman, several of them have immense potential (Zippo and The Boy King especially) and it’s kind of a shame that they faded so quickly.  Of course, most of them have been revived in Project: Superpowers, but given the huge cast of that book, that’s just a series of cameos in group shots.  Clue Comics #1 is first of all HUGE, and filled to the gills with characters who could have been the next big thing with the right resources behind them, and is extremely well-drawn by the standards of the day, earning a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. 

Somebody needs to get a Zippo revival up-and-running, post-haste!



A wild ride through some wild concepts, with lovely art and less nonsensical stories than many contemporary books.

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


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