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Word War Z.

I've made another surprising discovery while working my way through the glossy, hardcover, and expensive, DC Archives series: this time said discovery was collected in The Doom Patrol Archives Volume 3 (2006), which collects The Doom Patrol Vol. 1, No.s 98 through 105 (Sept. 1965 through Aug. 1966 issues).

No, no "DC could be so inappropriate!" revelations here; but what I found is surprising to this comic book nerd, nonetheless.

As all good comic book nerds know, the Comics Code Authority ("CCA"), established in 1954 in the wake of Bellevue psychiatrist Fredric Wertham's best-selling attack on American comic books of that year, Seduction of the Innocent, served as the de facto censorship board for comic books, and came close to killing them off in the 1950s. (EC Comics in particular was reduced to a single publication: Mad Magazine.)

The CCA forbade the depiction of horrific characters such as vampires, werewolves, ghouls, and zombies, as well as grisly and/or explicit violence, which was one of the main reasons why EC was nearly driven out of business. While the CCA relented slightly in 1971, allowing for Marvel Comics to begin publishing a proliferation of four color comic books and black & white over-sized graphic art magazines featuring the world's most famous vampire, the world's most famous patchwork man-cum-golem, a teenaged werewolf, a satanic offspring working as an exorcist, and a flaming skeleton riding a chopper, the word "zombie" was still strictly verboten; why, when the one-off hero-villain Wonder Man, from Avengers Vol. 1, #9 (Oct. 1964), was revived in the mid-1970s by an erstwhile foe of Brother Voodoo's (currently known as "Doctor Voodoo" due to his supplanting Doctor Strange as Earth's Sorcerer Supreme -- thus flying in the face of a definitive downgrading of BV's "mystical" powers by scribe Roger Stern in Doctor Strange Vol. 2, #48 [Aug. 1981]), he was referred to as a "zuvembie," not a "zombie."

Yes, Marvel had a b&w magazine called Tales of the Zombie featuring a one-off character named Simon Garth created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett a year before the CCA came into existence; but this was part of Marvel's "adult" line, and, as such, did not carry the CCA seal of approval. (TotZ's premiere issue was dated Aug. 1973.)

What to my wondering eyes should appear whilst perusing The Doom Patrol Archives, Vol. 3, but a late 1965/early 1966 reference to zombies, as well as non-gory depictions of same. This from DC, a publisher more conservative at the time than Marvel; indeed, DC would wait until the CCA amended its rules against the depiction of illegal drug use in 1971 before publishing its own anti-drug tale in Green Arrow/Green Lantern. Just take a look at page 8 of Doom Patrol Vol. 1, #102 (March 1966):

(Keep an eye on that map that "Prof" of The Challengers of the Unknown is pointing to in the first panel, boys n' girls: where he's pointing is where writer Arnold Drake locates the sunken kingdom of Atlantis; never mind DC's Aquaman continuity, or the simple fact that "Atlantis" locates the mythical kingdom in the Atlantic Ocean, not the Pacific. Why Drake didn't call his sunken kingdom "Lemuria" or "Mu" -- which supposedly were located somewhere in the Indian or Pacific oceans, respectively -- is anyone's guess. Then again, I gather that DC's editorial board didn't have nearly as great an interest in continuity in the 1960s as Marvel's [essentially a one-man board of Stan Lee] did.)

On the very next page -- page 9, for those keeping count -- the chapter heading is lettered large enough to guarantee the attention of the CCA; and yet, DP V. 1, #102 went out with the CCA stamp proudly emblazoned in the upper-right corner.

Yes, comic book nerds, those are indeed two members of the -- *sigh* -- "Challenger-Haters" team: the Tobor-looking tin can robot on the left is Kra, from a world of intelligent robots; the midget with the bobble-head and pointy ears is none other than Multi-Man, whom I first made the acquaintance of in the pages of the intentionally humorous Justice League International. This was my first time reading a Challengers of the Unknown story.

I'd love to know if DC had to pay the CCA a fine for the use of the word "zombies," as well as for the -- non-gory; non-gory! -- portrayal of same.

EXTRA CREDIT MYSTERY FOR COMIC BOOK NERDS: Given all the love thrown at Doom Patrol artist Bruno Premiani for his realistic, romance comic book-schooled art, why-oh-why is there so little love expressed for the contemporary X-Men artist Werner Roth (initially credited as "Jay Gavin," after the first names of his two sons)? Even Roy Thomas, who wrote the X-Men at the time (and who provided the introduction to The Doom Patrol Archives, Vol. 2), admitted in an issue of his Alter Ego fanzine (sorry, fellow nerds, but I don't have the issue at hand; however, IIRC, it has a late Dave Cockrum cover featuring the new X-Men) that he was gulled into expressing his true (i.e., less than flattering) feelings about Roth's artwork by a "friend" of one of Roth's sons at a comic book convention.

Honestly, it was Roth's artwork in the X-Men reprints that led up to the oh-so-celebrated relaunch in Giant Size X-Men #1 that piqued my interest in the team as much as -- if not more than, at that early point in my life -- Thomas's writing. For my money, no one drew the Super-Adaptoid better, aside from Jack Kirby himself, than Roth did in X-Men Vol. 1, #29 (Feb. 1967); and I've always preferred Roth's blatant Iron Man ripoff version of the Cobalt Man (in X-Men Vol. 1, #31 [Apr. 1967]) to any of the subsequent, bulked-up iterations (beginning with Herb Trimpe's in Incredible Hulk Vol. 2, #173-74 [Mar. & Apr. 1974]). Besides, the Iron Man rip-off suited the Cobalt Man's (Ralph Roberts) personality better than the NFL gone even stupider look he sported from IH #173 onwards.


The supreme space lord who will now DEST
The Feckless Wonder

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