Comic readers of a certain age and fan of 70s retro comics may be familiar with the ubiquitous ad for this comic, but the reality of it is something else entirely… Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of The Adventures Of Holo-Man: Birth Of A Hero #1 awaits!
Writer(s): Vincent A. Fusco/Donald M. Kasen/Jason V. Fusco/Barry Van Name/Donald White/Joseph Giella/Audrey Hirschfeld
Artist: Joe Giella
Editor: Barry Van Name
Publisher: Atomic Comics/Wavelength Holographics/Power Records
Cover Price: $5.00
Current Near-Mint Price: $14.00
Previously in The Adventures Of Holo-Man: Birth Of A Hero: Back in the day, Peter Pan Records was probably best known for their read-along record/book combinations featuring famous cartoon characters. (Sharp-eared fans will recall Stephan and I talking about the Disney versions during many a Top 5.) During the 1970’s, under their Power Records imprint, they created multimedia adventures for G.I. Joe, Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, and even the Marvel & DC heroes. I fondly remember at least one Star Trek story from my youth, played incessantly on my personal turntable as a child, including the vocal effects for the talking dinosaurs, which in retrospect, make it a weird Star Trek episode. 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 by nature a completist, the existence of this strange, unknown hero captured my imagination, making me wonder about his unseen adventures. A few years later 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. I was well over forty when I was finally able to finagle a copy of this oversized edition (though, sadly, 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!
The Commander-In-Chief has come to view a revolutionary (non-pollutionary) power experiment by Doctor James Robinson (who was still a couple of decades 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 Dr. Robinson’s new friend, Laserman, in addition to looking remarkably like my mental image of the prophet Elijah, is NOT the bearded man who appears on the cover. That man is more mysterious, but we’ll get to that… Laserman 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!
I was surprised, given the nature of this book how much I enjoy the art by Joe Giella, one of DC’s Silver Age workhorses, whom I remember from work on ‘The Flash’. To be honest, Doc Robinson looks a bit like his rendition of Barry “Shoulda Stayed Dead” Allen, with freakier power effects. The colors in this story are quite a bit more intense than an average comic as well (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 scientific explanation of how real holography works, before he awakens to discover that he has been unconscious for hours.
Oh, and his peevish assistant is an unwilling enemy pawn…
“Criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot… I shall become… A TEST PATTERN!!!” (Also: Every time he says “I’ve become a Holo-Man”, I hear the guitar riff from ‘Chemicals Between Us’ and want to respond “We are the naked ones.”) This origins feels pretty Silver Agey for the end of the Me Decade, but this particular comic is a throwback in more ways that one. Case in point: After 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…
…where Holo-Man is not immediately dispatched by the Secret Service. Indeed, a quick display of holography convinces President Carter than Holo-Man is on the up-and-up, and he accepts the warning of an impending invasion. While the President sets off to notify the chiefs of staff, Holo-Man walks through the White House walls, only to find that things have progressed much more quickly than he could have imagined…
That promised next issue was sadly never delivered, at least for some value of ‘sadly.’ Holo-Man’s cliffhanger remains hung to this very day, for reasons unknown. Were the sales underwhelming? Did the science lesson confuse children? Was it Jimmy Carter? The Power Records range of comic adaptations did continue after this, which makes me wonder if their home-grown caped hero just plain didn’t pull the sales of a Wonder Woman, Spider-Man or 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…
“I’m Joe Friday. Holo-Squad.” Remember the mysterious mystical guy from the cover? He’s here again, and the page seems to imply that he IS Laserman, even though his face and facial hair are completely different. (My personal headcanon involves youthification by holography, but that’s just me.) We also get a look at the proposed Holo-Man Extended Universe of chracters, none of whom ever appeared anywhere other than this particular page.
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 Silver Age premise, accepting foreign spies, a topical Presidential reference that feels somehow quaint circa 2018 and “future time dimension” powers as easily as radioactive spider blood or rockets from dead planets. (To be fair, all of those are all pretty “out there” as science fiction concepts.) The Adventures of Holo-Man: Birth Of A Hero #1 is flat-out fun, totally worth the decades-long wait to find out what that half-page ad was about, featuring some solid art and psychedelic coloring but making me wonder how and why it took seven writers to finish, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall.
Oh, and if the splash page is any indication, Captain Planet may have stolen his catchphrase from here…