Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Classics - Challengers of the Unknown #35

Having spent the better part of a couple of decades going to comics conventions, I love to hit the back issue bins.

There are comics I look for to fill gaps in a particular collection, there are others I pick up just for fun, and there are issues I track down out of a sense of nostalgia.

Among the many titles I look for in the last category, there are several old DC comics I love to find in almost any condition just because they return me to the warm glow of my childhood. Among those are Blackhawk, Doom Patrol and Challengers of the Unknown.

For the longest time, all but the earliest issues in those series could be picked up cheap - and they were always fun.

There is a remarkable consistency to those comics as we look at them in hindsight. None reaches the heights of its earliest, prototype stories, but they all maintain a professional level that (almost) always promises an entertaining tale.

Let's take this issue, which I picked up at a small convention a few weeks ago for a couple of bucks. Released in 1963, it offers two Challenger stories.

The first follows the usual format for this series: a gigantic menace appears after a laser experiment somehow awakens a monster that had been trapped on the moon. It immediately rockets to Earth and begins wreaking havoc.

The Challs investigate and discover the secret behind the creature's original imprisonment and they fight to use that knowledge to save the day in the face of an impossible opponent.

It's all a bit silly and extremely far-fetched, but it still manages to be a solid story from start to finish, with professional, clear artwork by longtime series artist Bob Brown.

The second story is a style that DC fell to in moments of weakness: the "look through time at the children of the Challengers." DC apparently loved these imaginary / fantasy stories (they did loads of 'em), though I suspect they left readers cold (at least I never much cared for them).

It's fine for what it is, but it's mighty thin stuff.

Still, overall, it's an entertaining comic and it makes me smile.

That's pretty good for a 50-year-old comic that cost less than a new issue!

Grade: B-


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