Brand Echh – Charlton Bullseye #4

In the early 1980s at the beginning of the end of their tenure as a publishing house, Charlton came up with a way to produce a book more cheaply. They outsourced the creation of the content to fans and would-be professionals and paid not a penny–publication itself would be the only compensation these creators would receive. The book was called CHARLTON BULLSEYE, named after the fanzine, and it lasted only ten issues despite Charlton being flooded with material with which to fill it.

The best issue of CHARLTON BULLSEYE, and one of my favorite comics of the period, was issue #4, which featured the first and only appearance of the Vanguards, an all-female outer space super hero team. The Vanguards was the creation of Larry Houston, who would go on to have a long career in animation–he’s probably best remembered for his work on the 1990s X-MEN cartoon, though he worked on dozens of other shows beyond that.

The Vanguards was a pretty wonderful fusion of all sorts of different influences–everything from the X-Men to the Space Sentinels to Charlie’s Angels to Star Wars. At its heart, though, it feels like a Marvel-style comic–which is probably why I liked it so much.

The Vanguards themselves are Celestra, who could transmute into a destructive energy form; Cerebra, the telepath and telekinetic; and Corona, who could surround herself with an aura of flame. Each one came from a different planet, Legion of Super-Heroes-style, and they were united in trying to overthrow the evil empire that had taken over their star system.

The strip wears its influences on its sleeve. And there are some places where the art isn’t quite as polished as it could be. But for sheer verve and enthusiasm, it gets the nod.

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