Armagideon Time

The world is aflame, so I might as well add to miserable pyre with another recap featuring the most unloved of Charlton’s “Action Heroes.”

SON OF VULCAN! An intrepid reporter named Johnny Mann who lost a leg covering a brushfire conflict, cursed the gods, and was rewarded the the Deity Formerly Known as Hephaestus by getting a gig as a low-rent Thor knockoff! Hated by Mars, swooned over my Venus (who is technically his stepmother, but when in the Roman pantheon…), the rock-jawed demigod boldly strode through a seemingly random assortment of panels assembled into the semblance of a funnybook story.

Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds #48 (September 1965) begins with Mars getting called onto the carpet by Zeus for instigating the escalating “police action” in Southeast Asia. The war god professes his innocence in that debacle, and is let off with a warning about interfering in mortal affairs…which he promptly chooses to ignore by funding anti-American riots in some “Near East country.

Zeus retaliates by stripping Mars of some of his godly powers and casting him to earth, where he couldn’t possibly get up to more mischief.

Meanwhile, Johnny Mann’s bureau chief has sent the intrepid reporter off to chase a hot lead about Captain Tusk — a “noble” whaler with a fleet of military-grade warships — and some scientists who have gone missing near the whaler’s hunting grounds. As luck would have it, this is also where Mars had landed and assumed the identity of the captain after imprisoning Tusk and his daughter in a block of ice.

Mars uses the cetatean-vaporizing firepower of Tusk’s fleet to blast the bejeezus out of every civilian and military craft he encounters. The Son of Vulcan tries to to put an end to the tomfoolery without realizing the true identity of his adversary.

Mars gets the better of Sonny Boy and chains him to the front of his flagship so that folks will think the hapless demigod is the real villain. It may seem a bit flimsy as far as ruses go, but it was enough to convince Zeus to turn against the Son of Vulcan and forbid the forge god from lending his foster kid a hand.

Sonny Boy breaks free after the navy targets him with a nuclear barrage, which the captions repeatedly insist the hero could not survive yet only manage to destroy his enchanted bindings. Mars tries to blow up the hero with an explosive harpoon (because if a nuke didn’t work, surely that would). Tusk’s daughter futzes with his aim, causing the shot to destroy the ship instead.

The real Tusk and his daughter are tossed into the ocean where — as per superhero funnybook conventions — they are immediately set upon by some hungry sharks (described as “killer whales” in the caption box). Sonny Boy only has the time to save one of the mortals, but gets an unexpected assist from a selectively remorseful Mars.

The story ends with a scowling Johnny Mann wondering what the hell actually happened, making this the first and only time I’ve ever identified with the Son of Vulcan as a character.

(“Fury of the War God ” written by Joe Gill, pencilled by Bill Fraccio, and inked by Tony Tallarico. Typeset letting.)

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