Anticipating the sell-out success of Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #1 (an easy call, given that all 35 copies were earmarked for the creators, copyright office, and Robert Overstreet (“… to show the world it actually happened.”), the DC staff assembled a second volume of unpublished material, appropriately titled Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #2, to be distributed with the first issue. The cover by Alex Saviuk depicts some of the hapless heroes featured within kicked to the curb in front of DC’s headquarters (at the time) at 75 Rockefeller Plaza. The cover price was increased to $1.00 from ten cents, but the subscription rate was cut from $10,000.00/year ($9500.00 international) to merely $7.65 in West German Marks.
The second volume of Cancelled Comic Cavalcade included yet more finished and near-finished comics that were unceremoniously dumped in the “DC Implosion.” A few stories would live again in other titles, while for others, this was the end of the road.
Army at War #2 by Joe Kubert
Battle Classics #3 by Joe Kubert (later published in DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #18)
Demand Classics #1 by Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin
Demand Classics #2 by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano
Dynamic Classics #3 by Jim Aparo
Mister Miracle #26 by Michael Golden and Russ Heath
Ragman #6 by Joe Kubert
Western Classics #1 by James Sherman and Maurice Whitman
Western Classics #2 by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano
Weird Mystery Tales #25 by Joe Orlando (later published as the cover for Secrets of Haunted House #20)
Weird Mystery Tales #26 by Mike Kaluta (later published as the cover for House of Mystery #265)
Leading off the collected issues is Kamandi #60, written by Jack C. Harris with art by Dick Ayers and Danny Bulanadi. Kamandi was one of Jack Kirby’s more successful creations for DC, lasting for 59 issues in his own series. In the unpublished issue #60, titled “Into the Vortex,” lucky readers got to see the resolution of the cliffhanger from the previous issue, as Kamandi was pulled into a dimensional vortex. As Doctor Canus and his other companions fight the kangarats who opened the rift, Kamandi views the entirety of the multiverse. A voice from the vortex gives him a choice: he can either return to his world or step into any of the realities he sees before him; however, once he exits the vortex, the reality he chooses will become the “real” world, and his old reality will cease to exist. Torn between the tantalizing possibility of living in a world without the Great Disaster and losing his friends leads him to choose to return home. The vortex agrees to send him back via the Dream Stream, but as he passes through, Brute and Glob (from Kirby’s Sandman series) catch him and, calling him Jed, take him through another portal to meet the Sandman!
The backup story features “The New Origin of OMAC!” by Jim Starlin. In it, OMAC is given previously unknown details of his origins, a glimpse of his future, and a new costume. The story was eventually serialized and published in Warlord #37 and 38.
Following Kamandi #60 is issue #61, featuring the third part of Kamandi’s vortex adventure, “I’ll See You in My Nightmares!” This is actually two issues in one; the framing sequence by Jack C. Harris, Dick Ayers, and Danny Bulanadi brackets the previously unpublished Sandman #7, written by Michael Fleisher with art by Jack Kirby and Mike Royer. In the opening sequence, Brute and Glob bring Kamandi, whom they have mistaken for their friend Jed, to the Sandman’s Dream Dome. Sandman recognizes the error, and proceeds to show Kamandi the “… true meaning of faith, belief, and devotion” by playing one of his old adventures on his “Dream Screen.” This provides a convenient segue to…
“The Seal Men’s War on Santa Claus,” which begins when Jed is sent out in a snowstorm to request a donation for the Christmas fund from Titus Gotrox, a wealthy man in town. Jed makes the request, and an amused Gotrox tells him he will donate $1 million if Jed can prove the existence of Santa Claus by midnight. Eagerly agreeing, Jed heads out and calls the Sandman with his special whistle. Sandman agrees to help and takes Jed to the northern polar reaches of the Dream Stream to meet Santa. When they arrive, however, they discover Santa’s been kidnapped by the Seal Men, and soon after, Jed and the Sandman are captured too. The pair are locked in a cell with Santa, although Sandman easily effects their escape. The Seal Men recapture them, however, and take them before their king. The king explains that the reason for Santa’s kidnapping is that for years he’s been leaving them useless gifts like mittens and SCUBA gear, and so if they cannot receive good gifts from Santa Claus, then nobody will. Jed postulates that it’s simply a mistake, and Santa agrees to exchange the gifts. The king releases them just in time for Santa to make his deliveries, but when they return to his workshop to retrieve the sleigh, they discover Gotrox’s greedy nephew has kidnapped Mrs. Claus. Rodney Gotrox had followed Jed in order to prevent his uncle from giving away his inheritance. Sandman comes to the rescue again, though, and the three make it to Titus Gotrox’s home by the deadline. Santa delivers Gotrox’s nephew and scolds Titus for no longer believing in him. Gotrox hands Santa the million-dollar check, admitting he had decided to give Jed the money regardless.
Returning to the framing story, Kamandi remarks that what he just saw seems familiar. The Sandman explains that it should; in another reality, he IS Jed! He then takes Kamandi back through the Dream Stream to his world, where they arrive in the midst of the battle from the previous issue. Ben Boxer and the other mutants had managed to defeat the kangarats by joining their minds and creating an energy monster, but their creation was out of control and attacking Doctor Canus, Spirit, and the others. Sandman breaks the men’s link, dispersing the monster and ending the danger. As Sandman leaves, he tells Kamandi that his world is actually OMAC’s nightmare, and as his grandson, his job is to turn it into a pleasant dream.
The Sandman story has the dubious distinction of being canceled twice, first when the original Sandman title was canceled, and then again when Kamandi was axed. All in all, it’s a pretty fun read, and seeing never-published Kirby art is a bonus!
Next up is another issue from DC’s Vault: Prez #5. Prez was a creation of the other half of the Simon-Kirby team, Joe Simon. Like the Green Team in Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #1 and Brother Power the Geek, Prez was an another of Simon’s “empowered” kids. The concept was a play on the ’60s youth movement, set in a world where not only was the voting age lowered to age 18, but so was the age of eligibility to serve as an elected official in the government. Prez Rickard was elected as America’s first teen president, and in his short-lived series, he fought such threats to national security as corrupt politicians, militant revolutionaries, chess-playing Russian spies, and legless vampires (seriously). In this unpublished adventure by Joe Simon, Jerry Grandenetti, and Creig Flessel titled “The Devil’s Exterminator,” Prez hires a mysterious exterminator named Clyde Piper who claims he can rid the White House of bugs without using insecticides. Instead, he uses his flute to round up all the insects and lead them out of town. Clyde disappears, but leaves a bill for $5 million! Prez refuses to pay, so a month later, Clyde reappears and kidnaps a group of children from the White House lawn. Prez and his friend/sidekick/Attorney General Eagle Free mount a search into the mountains, where they find the kids and defeat the bad guy. Sound familiar? Of course, it’s a retelling of the “Pied Piper of Hamelin.”
Prez is followed by Shade, the Changing Man #9 “The Deadly Ally!” by Steve Ditko and Michael Fleisher. Shade is heading back to Earth from the Meta Zone to stop Doctor Z.Z.’s machinations and clear his name. While transiting the Zero-Zone between worlds, he is captured by Zekie, a warlord who has conquered the Zero-Zone and is massing his forces to invade both Earth and Meta. Fitted with a collar of obedience, Shade is forced to march with the other slaves and discovers Xexlo, the former ruler of the zone, is similarly captive. Shade manages to break out of his collar but is forced to free Xexlo, too. They are discovered and pursued, though, until Xexlo comes across an acid pool, which re-energizes him. Together, they defeat the soldiers and make their way to Zekie’s stronghold. They confront Zekie, but Xexlo blindsides Shade and attempts to defeat Zeckie himself but fails. Shade awakens and uses his M-Vest to turn Zeckie’s power back on him, freeing the slaves and bringing down the warlord. As he attempts to find his gear and leave, Xexlo attacks, forcing Shade to toss him into a pit of anti-acid, presumably destroying him. As the story draws to a close, Shade returns to Earth and prepares to begin his mission to stop Doctor Z.Z.
The backup story for the issue introduces the Odd Man in “The Pharaoh and the Mummies!” Written and drawn by Steve Ditko, the Odd Man works to track down a killer dressed as a Pharaoh who uses a gun that mummifies his victims in a plastic cocoon. He discovers the killer is stealing particular Nile jewels to reassemble an ancient necklace for the museum’s Egyptian specialist, believing she’s a reincarnated Egyptian queen. The Odd Man foils the pair, but the Pharaoh accidentally mummifies the queen, and in despair, mummifies himself. This story eventually was published in Detective Comics #487.
Had Showcase Comics not ended with issue #104, the next two issues would have featured Deadman and the Creeper. In Showcase Comics #105, by Len Wein and Gerry Conway, with art by Jim Aparo, Deadman has to contend with forces that can harm even him. As “Requiem for a Deadman” opens, our hero is floating through the city lamenting his immaterial state, when suddenly a voice tears through him. Surprised, and in pain, he follows it to its source: a research lab built on the very spot he was murdered. Inside, a group of scientists are performing a seance to summon him, thinking he is the poltergeist wreaking havoc around the facility. As Deadman appears before them, a fire breaks out, freeing him but forcing him to help the people escape. Determined to find out their motivations, he decides to stick around. He soon discovers Annabelle Lee, one of the scientists, has unconsciously been causing the strange occurrences with telekinesis. Her powers go haywire, and Deadman dives into her mind to try to help, but he is foiled by some unknown force, and Annabelle is left in a coma. He eventually discovers Annabelle has been controlled by Dr. Conrad Cabel, another one of the scientists, who is an omnipath — his powers can affect ghosts and other psychics, but not “normal” humans. Deadman returns to Annabelle’s mind, where Cabel attacks him again, only this time, Annabelle breaks free and comes to his aid. Back at the laboratory, the psychic backlash causes Cabel’s body to spasm and fall into a bank of computers, which short out and kill him. Freed for good, Annabelle promises to help Deadman find a way to communicate with the rest of the world, but when she returns to the facility, she finds it destroyed, leaving her without resources to make good on her promise. This story eventually made its way into Adventure Comics #484, minus a few pages.
Also included is Showcase Comics #106. The Creeper is featured in “Enter Dr. Storme” by Steve Ditko. Sunny Daze, Cosmic TV’s weather girl, is the object of attacks by Dr. Storme, a crazed villain with weather-manipulating devices that trigger Jack Ryder’s change into the Creeper when he’s in the vicinity. Jack has to keep dodging his co-workers to protect his secret identity as he randomly transforms back and forth. Eventually, he deduces that Dr. Storme is none other than Al Whetly, the former weatherman whom Sunny replaced. When Dr. Storme attacks again, the Creeper is prepared with protection against his lightning and suction cups to anchor him against the wind. Confounded by his inability to dislodge the Creeper, Storme pushes his devices past their limits, overloading them and killing himself. Without Dr. Storme’s devices interfering with his activator, Jack Ryder regains control over his transformations and everything goes back to normal (after they repair all the damage to the studio, that is).
Oh, and the Odd Man makes a cameo in this story, too!
Two of my favorite series from the 1970s were Freedom Fighters and The Secret Society of Super-Villains, and my favorite team of all time is the Justice Society of America, so how great is it to have all three appear together in Secret Society of Super-Villains #16 and #17? The two-parter begins with “Murder Times Seven” by Bob Rozakis, Dick Ayers, and Mike Vosburg. The Silver Ghost hires members of the Secret Society of Super-Villains (SSoSV, for short) to capture the Freedom Fighters. Meanwhile, in their undercover guise as a troupe of circus performers, the fugitive Freedom Fighters receive a tip that the Silver Ghost has been spotted in five different cities at once. The Ghost was responsible for their current outlaw status (in their own recently-canceled book), and they needed to capture him to clear their names. Splitting up to chase down the leads, the Ray heads for Metropolis, where he’s attacked and knocked out of the sky by Killer Moth and Quakemaster.
Meanwhile, on Earth-Two (this is set pre-Crisis, where the JLA and JSA exist in parallel universes), another group of SSoSV members led by the Wizard are plotting to capture the Justice Society. The Wizard’s “War of the Worlds” plan is to defeat the JSA with villains from Earth-One and the JLA with Earth-Two villains, counting on the heroes’ unfamiliarity with the villains to give them the advantage. Having captured the Atom and Dr. Mid-Nite of the JSA, the next target is Mr. Terriffic, who proves to be no match for Blockbuster.
As the issue draws to a close, Doll Man and Uncle Sam arrive in Sun City to find the Silver Ghost, but instead find Sizematic and Copperhead are waiting for them. Good thing the next issue’s only a page away!
Only Dick Ayers’ pencils for the first half of the story were completed for Secret Society of Super-Villains #17, and this issue, “Death in Silver,” was also scripted by Bob Rozakis. Picking up where the last issue left off, Uncle Sam and Doll Man are confronted by Copperhead and Sizematic in Sun City. After a short battle, the pair of heroes are captured. Shifting to Central City, Black Condor and Phantom Lady are searching for the Silver Ghost when they encounter Chronos and Mirror Master, and Chronos exhausts them with a time-based weapon. That leaves only two Freedom Fighters left: Firebrand and the Human Bomb! The duo are on a plane to Coast City, and along the way the Human Bomb shares a quick recap of his origin story. When they arrive at the airport, they’re met by Killer Moth, Quakemaster, and the Silver Ghost himself! The fight begins, and the Human Bomb makes short work of Quakemaster, but Killer Moth wraps him up in a cocoon that neutralizes his explosive powers. Meanwhile, Firebrand confronts the Silver Ghost, who disarms him by calling him by his true name, Rod Reilly, and unmasks, revealing a familiar face (at least to Rod). Sadly, the story ends there.
Steel was the star of his own short-lived series that was another victim of the DC Implosion, and he’d probably be forgotten today if Roy Thomas had not integrated him into the All-Star Squadron (with a commission to Commander Steel, no less!). Steel, the Indestructible Man #6 would have been the next issue of the original series had it survived the implosion, but, alas, it became part of Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #2 instead. “Super Soldier,” by Gerry Conway, Don Heck, and Joe Giella, shifts the action from the United States to embattled Europe, as Steel joins the front lines in World War II. Volunteering for a suicide mission to kidnap Adolph Hitler, he parachutes behind enemy lines but is captured and thrown into a concentration camp. After a failed escape attempt, he is examined more thoroughly by the camp commandant, a man known only as “the Butcher.” Once again attempting to escape, Steel grabs a vial of acid and hurls it at a guard. Striking the commandant instead, it sears his face. Of course, “the Butcher” would later re-emerge as Baron Blitzkrieg.
This issue was re-edited and finally printed as part of All-Star Squadron #8 & 9 to introduce Commander Steel to the team and explain his whereabouts up to then.
The final story in Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #2 was intended to be the introduction of DC’s first African-American super-heroine. Vixen #1: “The Vixen is a Lady Fox,” by Gerry Conway, Carla Conway, Bob Oskner, and Vince Colletta, introduces Mari Macabe, a fashion model enjoying a successful career in New York, until she sees a face on the television — President C’Tanga Manitoba. A flood of repressed memories return, and Mari remembers her childhood in Africa and the rebel leader who killed her father, now ruler of her home country of D’Mulla with designs on ruling the rest of Africa. Mari had been rescued from the coup by a priest who spirited her to America, where she had been adopted. Consumed by her memories, she looks to the one item left from her father, and discovers it’s the Tantu Totem, an artifact that provides its wearer with great abilities. After performing a ceremony which unlocks its power, Mari puts together a costume and heads to the United Nations to confront Manitoba. Tracking him from the building, she discovers he is heading out to kill the one witness to the massacre that killed her father — Reverend Peak, the man who had rescued her. Vixen fights Manitoba with her new animal-based powers, and he dies after a heavy cross falls on him. With her ghosts put to rest, Mari decides to continue using her powers as Vixen.
Unfortunately, Vixen’s “official” debut would have to wait a few years until Action Comics #521 in 1981, but she’s enjoyed a long career since then as a member of the Justice League.
And there you have it! Two obscure pieces of comic history that showed how even “throwaway” stories can become collectible gold. An original set of Cancelled Comic Cavalcade sells for thousands of dollars on the rare occasion a copy comes to the market, and it’s mystifying why DC doesn’t print this as a Trade. It seems like a no-brainer. After all, the compilation contains unpublished stories and art from Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Jim Aparo, Steve Ditko, Joe Kubert, Dick Ayers, Len Wein, Gerry Conway, Bob Rozakis, and so many more classic creators! This could even be a collectible event! DC could produce a standard TPB for a reasonable price (after all, it’s in black and white), and for the hardcore collector, they could produce a replica set of the originals, complete with the plain blue cover and loose Xeroxed pages. If it were successful, it could even lead to new compilations of old, unpublished file stories that clutter the DC Vaults.
I would add it to MY pull list!