It’s a strange paradox. You can love Star Wars but hate all the recent “Star Wars“ movies. You can be a passionate Batman fan but not buy a single issue of current Batman comics. Star Trek might be your favorite thing, but you can still vehemently loathe the most recent Star Trek TV series. And you might even be hate-watching them each week.
All this opens the can of worms as to who “owns” characters and intellectual property (IP)? Is it the creators? Corporations who buy the IP from creators? Or is it fans?
Look, I get it. It’s easy to understand each side of the argument, and I find myself hopping from one point of view to the other depending on the particular fandom.
And in certain fandoms, the fans get very pointed and passionate. Star Wars fans, for example, can articulate their hatred of certain movie executives and directors with a high level of understanding that one might expect in academia or at The Hollywood Reporters internal meetings.
I was surprised to see this level of toxic fandom in 1967 in an issue of a “less popular” comic…that was about to close up shop.
“If I Had a Thunderbolt In Mine Eye…”
Thunderbolt was a unique superhero series that was ahead of its time. As noted on the covers of this Charlton series, Thunderbolt was in reality Peter Cannon, a reluctant hero who was trained by in the mysterious ways of Asian spirituality. He learned to unlock the power of the “90% of the human brain that lay unused”. Unlike typical 60s heroes, Thunderbolt would often lament that solving problems via superhero fisticuffs wasn’t the best way.
Even if you never read a Thunderbolt comic, you may feel like you know the character. One reason is that Thunderbolt sort of borrowed his costume design from the Golden Age Daredevil, created by Charles Biro and Lev Gleason. (And have you read Bret Dakin’s bio of Lev Gleason yet? It’s been nominated for an Eisner.) The character lived on recent, subsequent iterations in both DC and Dynamite comic series. And, most famously, Ozymandias, the Watchmen character, was based on Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt.
For a couple years in the mid-sixties, Thunderbolt was published by Charlton Comics. Each issue was signed by the mysterious PAM. He had a distinctive, almost Alex Toth-ian style, heavy on drama and storytelling. At the time, PAM’s true identity was a better kept secret than Thunderbolt’s true identity. PAM was actually a NYC local, originally from Park Slope in Brooklyn: Peter A. Morisi who had a whole ‘nuther career as an NYPD policeman. In addition to Thunderbolt, PAM worked on several other series, including Vengeance Squad and created Johnny Dynamite.
The numbering was a bit wonky for Thunderbolt comics. It all officially started with issue #51, but by issue #59, in an Elvis-has-left-the-building moment, Morisi only supplied the cover. The interior Thunderbolt story was written, penciled and inked by Pat Boyette.
Boy, were fans steamed!
I recently rescued a copy of Thunderbolt #60 from the bargain box at Fat Cat Comics in Binghamton. The cover is fascinating as it showcases, in a last-ditch effort, an entirely new logo. The series is edited by Dick Giordano, and both the lead and back-up features are written by Denny O’Neil. The back-up series is an odd one, deserving a whole column of its own, and is illustrated by Jim Aparo. With three major (future) Batman creatives contributing to this issue, it almost should be filed under “B”.
And in this last Thunderbolt issue, it’s astounding to see the fan letters commenting on the previous issue, #59. These fans were NOT HAPPY with PAM’s departure in that issue, nor with Pat Boyette picking up the art chores. They let editor Giordano have it with both barrels.
Like fans today (fans of Star Wars, Doctor Who, etc.) these fans knew their stuff and weren’t afraid to let the “higher ups” and the world at large, know how they felt!