There were other comic books that I got in those Modern Comics 3-Bags as well as the aforementioned super hero titles. The company also reprinted a smattering of suspense, martial arts and heroic fiction books. And as you probably know by now if you’ve been reading this feature consistently, those were of only limited interest to me. Most of them became trade-fodder and were swiftly disposed of. But this issue of HERCULES remained for some reason. I seem to think that my younger brother Ken adopted it for a while, and then it came around to me when he abandoned his comic books once his attention had shifted elsewhere. I can remember justifying keeping this issue to myself on the grounds that Hercules was a member of the Avengers, and therefore this counted as a super hero comic book. But I was never genuinely convinced.

The series was an extended retelling of the legend of Hercules, revolving around his mythological twelve labors. As you’d expect, each issue’s story would concern one of the labors. The book ran for 12 issues in total, so that worked out. The story was written by Joe Gill, one of the most prolific comic book writers in history. Because Charlton paid such crappy rates, in order to meet his financial needs, Gill would write reams of stuff every day–often, I suspect, in the manner of Robert Kanigher. Which is to say, one draft, straight onto the page, with only the broadest sense of where the story is going. When you’re only earning two bucks a page, there isn’t a whole lot of time to work out complex plots. It’s about volume, volume, volume. His body of work is impressive, but I must confess that I’ve never come across a Joe Gill story that had any real impact on he. I found his work stiff, wooden, cardboard. And this issue of HERCULES was no exception.

The real star of the show here, if anyone can be said to embody that role, is artist Sam Glanzman. Eventually, Glanzman would come to be known for his series of stories concerning his service on the Navy destroyer U.S.S. Stevens for DC. But at this time, he was a regular contributor to teh Charlton line, jamming out stories for little pay. On HERCULES, he uses a wild style seemingly influenced by the growing counter-culture, with stylized figures, sweeping quasi-psychedelic lettering and improvisational page layouts. It’s very interesting stuff to look at, though even to this day, I don’t know that it entirely works. The effect creates a distance from the characters. The reader admires how pretty the page looks but is removed from being invested in the story. But given that I didn’t think all that much of the story, I was happy simply to look at the pictures.

The issue opens with Zeus and Hera, having observed Hercules’ noble deeds throughout his first ten labors, deciding to reward his heroism with a banquet in Olympus. But Hera is still scheming against Herc and determined to foil his quest to find favor in the eyes of his father and to be promoted to a full immoral. So while the Gods dine, Hera uses her magic to cause accidents to plague Hercules as he takes his meal–accidents that make him look uncultured and uncivilized. Eventually, when Herc’s half-brother Mars gets in his face about his manners, Hercules has had enough, and he takes a swing at the God of War. This is enough to cause Mars to eject him from Olympus, and he finds himself back on Earth at the site of his eleventh labor: capturing the golden-antlered stag. Gill’s script tends to flit back and forth between archaic-style English and a more modern vernacular–I wonder if he was at all influenced by Marvel’s THOR comics in writing this.

As in the legend, Hercules wastes no time in hunting down the stag, but as he attempts to transport it back to his cousin King Eurystheus for credit, the pair are caught in the middle of the desert into which Herc has pursued the beast–and it’s only because the stag digs up water that Hercules survives the ordeal. Indebted to teh stag, Hercules is loathe to see it killed so that Hera can display its antlers as a showpiece. So when he gets the beast back to his cousin and the King recognizes that he’s caught it, Herc frees the stag, allowing it to race off and elude execution. Still counts as another point on the labors-tally, though, so Hercules has won out this time. But there’s still one more labor to go…next issue.

The back-up story was Thane of Bagarth and concerned events in medieval times, a popular period for romantic fantasy. It was written by Steve Skeates, who was a bit more modern in his flavor than Gil, and drawn by Sanho Kim, a Korean manhwa artist who found some success breaking into teh American marketplace at a time when few others had done so. He contributed all across the Charlton line, albeit usually on stories that were one-offs rather than a continuing feature. This installment of Thane is odd, in that it opens in the far future where a man and a woman search the wreckage of a destroyed laboratory for information about the girl’s father’s time machine. It seems that Dad has sent himself back to Celtic times, where he’s about to become a participant in the ongoing story. It’s a very weird choice, but somehow not out of character for Skeates.

But what is weird is that, having spent a page and a half introducing the concept of teh time-traveling scientist, Skeates doesn’t mention him at all for the remainder of the story–he never gets involved, it never comes up again. The rest of the feature is about Hrothelac, the Thane of the title, who is a loyal retainer of King Beowulf. While palace intrigue plays out all around him, the stricken Hrothelac is unconscious in a coma, his life force ebbing from him. At the end of this chapter, he falls over and is declared dead. To Be Continued. It’s a weird thing, this story is–the best thing I can say for it is that it’s distinctive, for all that it’s bunglingly plotted and inept at building up any interred in or empathy for its characters. It really did nothing for me as a reader–it felt like history homework, despite that small hint of a time travel element at the top.

3 thoughts on “BHOC: HERCULES #11

  1. I remember reading at least one Charlton Hercules (vaguely) but my favorite will always be DC’s short lived Hercules book. Not to say Layton’s work was unloved or that the most recent Marvel series wasn’t amazing. DC’s Hercules just clicked with me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Adventures of Hercules never showed up in northeast Oklahoma, so I “didn’t see it originally. To my surprise, I found the “legendary last issue” b&w magazine sized black and white issue at a Thrifty (?) drug store near Pensacola Florida in 1977, years after its printing. IIRC, Hrothelac was called something else for some reason and was alive due to the time traveler. Sorry I don’t remember more.


  3. The page 11 drawings of the stag remind me of some Glazman work most comics readers may not know about. He drew a feature for Field and Stream in which readers would write in accounts of their hunting adventures and Sam would adapt them into comics stories.

    Earlier episodes of Thane of Bagarth had been drawn by Jim spark who gave the feature a much more Prince Valiant look.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s