This comic was the first in series called The Next Issue Project, put together by Erik Larsen and published by Image Comics. The idea is that each issue would be an over-sized anthology, where various writers and artists would create new stories using old obscure comic-book characters, whose copyrights had expired and therefor were now in “the public domain.” Each issue would also have a different title, reviving a previously published series (which has also fallen into the public domain), being numbered as if it were the next issue in that series.
Fantastic Comics was first published in December 1939 by Fox Feature Syndicate, and lasted 23 issues, ending in November 1941. #24 was published in February 2008 as the first installment of the Next Issue Project. It’s 64 pages, and features 9 short stories.
Written and drawn by Erik Larsen.
This story stars the superhero SAMSON. Like his Biblical namesake, Samson possess superhuman strength. Samson has a young orphan boy named David has his sidekick. Child sidekicks were, of course, a stable of superheroes back in the 1940’s, but this story takes place in the modern day. And early in this story Samson and David find themselves confronted by an agent from Child Protective Services, who take David away because running around with a superhero is not safe. David is devastated, but Samson reluctantly agrees, and vows to carry on with him. But when evil blue-skinned supervillain named Monstress attacks the city, overrunning it with her army of monsters, Samson is overwhelmed, and realizes how much he needs his partner.
This is a great opening to this issue. The character is perfect for Larsen, certainly if you’re a fan of his work on Savage Dragon, you’ll love this story.
2) FLIP FALCON IN THE FOURTH DIMENSION
Written by Joe Casey and Bill Sienkiewicz
Flip Falcon is a scientist who invented a machine that can take him into other dimensions, as well as time travel, where he has various adventures. In this story, Flip had long given up on using the machine, because of negative effects it was having on his body. Yet, when he finds out that his girlfriend Adele has been transformed by the machine into a demonic-looking monster, while attempting to save the world by altering historic tragedies, Flip must risk his life to save the woman he loves and restore the proper timeline.
I enjoyed the story, I’ve long been a fan of Casey’s writing, but Sienkiewicz’ art has always been a little messy to me, and makes it hard to follow.
3) CIRCLE OF POWER
By Thomas Yeates and Bryan Rutherford
This mid-evil tale features The Golden Knight. When his companion Alice if kidnapped by a beautiful but vain sorceress, The Golden Knight must fight ogres and a sea monster to storm the castle and free Alice.
A nice little action adventure story, with a funny twist ending.
4) YANK WILSON, SUPERSPY Q-4
Written and drawn by Andy Kuhn
Yank Wilson was like an early American James Bond. In this story, he leads a team of Special Forces agents to storm the compound of a renowned terrorist and capture him. But if they thought the terrorist was going to be dangerous, wait until they meet his wife!
This story also has a funny twist ending, and I very much enjoyed it.
5) CARLTON RIGGS AND THE FLAMING CAVERN
Written by B. Clay Moore
Strangely enough, I can’t find any info on the character of Carlton Riggs. I suppose it’s just as well, though. This is a two-page prose story. But the font is a little too small for my aging eyes to read, even with my glasses. So I can’t comment on this one.
6) SPACE SMITH
Written and drawn by Tom Scioli
Space Smith and his girlfriend/co-pilot Diana find themselves the lone survivors in a battle against a vast alien armada. This is fast-paced excited space battle.
7) CAPTAIN KIDD, EXPLORER
By Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca
Captain Kidd lands on an undiscovered island, and is surprised to find that it’s being run by an eccentric adventure who kidnaps famous people to kills them, and then stuff their bodies and put them on display in his trophy room like an animal hunter. Captain Kidd must now face him in a dangerous air battle or else he’ll be the next trophy.
It’s pretty good.
8) PROFESSOR FIEND
By Fred Hembeck
This is another character that I couldn’t find any information on, so he may be original. Professor Fiend is the proverbial Mad Scientist. He’s preparing to show off his newest invention to a group of scientists, but his plans go awry when his neighbor drops off her baby for him to watch while she goes out. This is a hilarious short story, as only Hembeck could tell.
9) STARDUST THE SUPER WIZARD
Written by Joe Keatinge and drawn by Michael Allred
Stardust is probably one of the most bizarre superheroes ever, in terms of the kind of stories he was in. Keating and Allred tell a story of a former love of Stardust’s, now an old woman, who remembers her time with him years earlier, when he and other superheros filled the world with hope. And then he returns to make things right again. But I must say that I am unclear as to if these events are meant to be real, or this is her imagination. But either way it’s a good story.
So overall, this was a very good collection of stories, nicely put together. Most of the stories are printed and colored as if to resemble old newsprint comics, which also gives it a nice retro look. Whether you’re familiar with these character and are happy to see them return, or this is your first time every discovering them, I think you will enjoy this.
Unfortunately, this issue has not been made available digitally yet, so you would need to order a print copy online. It can be found on AMAZON