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Whatever Happened To…? Congorilla/Johnny Thunder – FIRE & WATER #103

Firestorm and Aquaman: The Fire and Water Podcast

The 103rd episode of THE FIRE AND WATER PODCAST is now available for your listening pleasure! THE FIRE AND WATER PODCAST is the official podcast of FIRESTORM FAN and THE AQUAMAN SHRINE.

This episode Rob and Shag present the next installments of, “Whatever Happened To…?” We love these back-up strips from DC Comics Presents! This time we’re covering adventures from DCCP #27 & 28, featuring Congorilla (plus Congo Bill) and Johnny Thunder (plus Madame .44)! Congorilla by Bob Rozakis, Romeo Tanghal, and F. Chiaramonte. Johnny Thunder by Mike Tiefenbacher and Gil Kane! Enjoy… we certainly did!

You can find the 103rd episode of THE FIRE AND WATER PODCAST on iTunes. While you’re there, please drop us a review on the iTunes page. Every comment helps! Alternatively, you may download the podcast by right-clicking here, choosing “Save Target/Link As”, and selecting a location on your computer to save the file (43 MB).

As always, thanks to my co-host Rob Kelly, Sea King of THE AQUAMAN SHRINE, for doing all the post-production on these episodes! Opening theme, “That Time is Now,” by Michael Kohler. Special thanks to Daniel Adams and Ashton Burge with their band The Bad Mamma Jammas for our fantastic original closing theme! This episode brought to you in part by!

Have a question or comment? Looking for more great content?

Below you’ll find the splash page to each story. Click to enlarge!

DC Comics Presents 27 - What Happened to Congorilla

DC Comics Presents Whatever Happened to Johnny Thunder

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  1. I remember being totally flummoxed by Congorilla in this story when I picked DCCP #27 off the rack. The panels of the savage Congo Bill with the gorilla’s brain really freaked me out. Nice sting from his movie serial at the end. Hard to imagine he garnered one when big DC characters like Flash, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman didn’t!

    I missed out on DCCP #28 (thanks crappy newstand distribution!), but I believe I read about the Johnny Thunder coda in either Back Issue, or maybe an All-Star Companion? Either way, it piqued my interest, and now it’s piqued even more! I would say Johnny Thunder was DC’s biggest Western star of the first push of western heroes, but he’s definitely been eclipsed by Jonah. Too bad he didn’t make the cut for that JLU episode.

    I think Shag must have cloned himself. How else could he possibly do any more podcasts and blogs? I didn’t follow the Ultraverse closely, but would skim the books during my comic shop clerk days. They always seemed to be the best of the “new” universe glut going on at the time. Lots of Marvel expatriate writers there. I just read a quote from Steve Gerber in Sean Howe’s “Marvel: The Untold Story” concerning Marvel buying Malibu and shutting the Ultraverse down. He said something to the effect of becoming paranoid that Marvel was following him around and trying to put him out of work.

    Goes without saying I’m really enjoying the revived Power Records blog. Lots of great stuff I’ve never seen before, in addition to many memories being jogged.


  2. Kyle Benning says:

    Another great, fun episode of Whatever Happened To stories! Some classic back-ups! I agree I’d love to have comics bring back the back-up story concept. All recent attempts have simply been a 24 page comic broken up into 8 page stories that run through 3 issues. It seems like the 8 page story is a lost art form, most current writers who use a decompressed storytelling method to drag out stories into 6 issue long arcs aren’t able to then compress a complete beginning, middle, and end of a story into 8 pages. I wish DC would have kept around the New 52 DC Universe Presents title; that book would have been the perfect format to a return to the 8 page story. They could have made it into an anthology book with two or three 8-10 page stories each issue, and had them actually been complete stories, not simply small chapters of a full length story that had been broken up. I think that would have given the title a little more legs and resulted in lasting longer than 20 issues and been a good way to introduce many characters that didn’t have their own ongoing New 52 Ongoings. Perhaps that is what DC is doing now with their Secret Origins title, I will admit that they have pretty much lost me as a reader, so waiting 3 years before introducing that book, which should have been one of the original 52 books at the launch, they missed the boat as gaining me as a reader. Oh well there’s always getting the trades at a severely discounted price on Instock Trades after the fact. :)

    I really dig the love for these Whatever Happened To stories, I can’t wait for you guys to cover the next wave of these. Fan the Flame and Ride the Wave!

    Shag, I’m looking forward to the Ultraverse converage! Yeah the focus on the artist in the 90’s was a bit absurd at Marvel and Image, especially given how bad a lot of that art was. I recently was re-reading the Byrne written run of Iron Man from the 90’s, and in all of those issues they actually list the writer last in the credits. They would list penciller John Romita Jr and inker Bob Wiacek in giant letters on the opening splash page and then in small print as almost a footnote, list written by John Byrne. Que Ridiculo!

  3. Shag – Thank you for reminding your listeners that the Detroit era wasn’t even close to the lowest point for the Justice League. The Dwayne McDuffie and James Robinson-scripted issues that came out around the time of Final Crisis and Blackest Night were unconscionably awful, and your failed attempt to shill for Robinson’s “Justice League of All-New Teen Titans” only served to reinforce how little anyone ever gave a crap about Congorilla.

  4. Anj says:

    I definitely liked these backup features and since I love the DCCP 3-parter these are a part of, I have read them often.

    Like many, I usually cringe at late Gil Kane but his art and this story just works.

    I thought the Robinson/Bagley JLA was decent. Grayson Batman. Supergirl. Donna Troy. Sort of a legacy Trinity. I don’t know why Congorilla and Starman deserved a spot. But it was, at least, a different take.

    I hope you keep covering these. DCCP was a staple in my comic diet as a kid. So I have read many of these and feel nostalgic.

  5. Frank says:

    I love the concept behind Whatever Happened To…? and wish it had been its own title with a nice little run like Secret Origins or What If…? That might have helped with my main complaint about the feature, that the stories were hit & miss, but the art was typically not so good. Congorilla did a perfect job at getting nothing right, with a lame story that in no way advanced the character and ugly art. Congo Bill is a bigger scumbag than the guys he confronted as another white imperialist exploiting Africa. The silver ape was working for comparative chump change. Meanwhile, the Johnny Thunder story is probably my all-around favorite, since it had a nifty story coupled with lovely Gil Kane art on two characters I think are swell which does exactly what the feature was supposed to do. Contrasting against the Marvel formula, we get a fun final adventure for Thunder and Madame .45 that isn’t overwrought or tragic and allows them a happy future of fruitful domesticity.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say that any given issue of Johnny Thunder playing to a large mainstream audience when comics were still in their heyday outsold any given issue of Jonah Hex as an outlier cult favorite whose glory days were a period in the 1970s when everyone thought the industry wouldn’t survive the coming decade.

    The Question’s special gas changed his hair color and caused his mask to adhere/detach.

    Dang Count Drunkula, you sound like you’re vying for my spot as top troll among the Nuclear Subs. Besides, we all know the Dan Vado/Extreme Justice League was the absolute nadir of all JLAs.

    I’m with Kyle in wishing more modern writers knew how to craft short self-contained stories, and the only DC titles I’ve followed regularly since the New 52 have been anthologies like the short-lived, underrated National Comics.

    Of all the 1990s comic book universe launches that weren’t complete out-of-the-gate disasters, I still would rate my interest in the Ultraverse on the lower end of the spectrum, below Comics Greatest World but above Defiant. I expect I’ll try the podcast at least long enough to write one long comment on the “zero” episode and then ignore every subsequent release for at least thirteen weeks and counting. But do call me if you ever get around to including the Bravura sub-line, as it would give me an excuse to pull down my hardcover copy of Last of the Heroes (a.k.a. Edge by Steven Grant & Gil Kane) and read it for the first time since the original floppies came out. If nothing else, this emboldens me to consider an occasional side Broadway Comics podcast in the future.

    Oh, and Shag needs more of a monotonal drone and to talk into his nose to nail that Frank impression.

  6. Benton Grey says:

    Howdy guys! I have been under radio silence for a while now, but I managed to find some time to listen to the last several Fire and Water episodes, and I wanted to leave y’all some feedback about them.

    First, let me say, congratulations Rob and Shag on 100 (plus!) episodes! What a great accomplishment that is. Y’all have every right to be proud of having managed to stick with your podcast (and your respective blogs) this long and at such a continuing high level of quality. That is really impressive, especially in a world where folks routinely start online projects with the best of intentions but burn out sooner rather than later. I’m very glad that y’all are still at it, and I will happily be a faithful listener as long as y’all keep casting!

    On the subject of your 100th episode, what an extravaganza! I can’t believe y’all got Gerry Conway to do your intro! What a coup! The whole show was great, and I loved every bit of it! I can’t stop using exclamation points!

    All of your guest commentators did an excellent job, and you couldn’t have chosen a better story to form the center of your 100th episode. That’s a great tale from my favorite era, both of JLA in particular and of comics in general. I loved hearing everyone cover their own favorite characters, and the parallels to the all-star talent on this comic are really quite apropos.

    As for the comic itself, I was a little sad to see Aquaman’s bout with Tornado cut short that way. I’m pretty sure the Sea King could have taken Reddy fair and square! He doesn’t need the Phantom Stranger shilling for him! That being said, it’s a shame Red Tornado never got treated to better stories in the League. He’s got miles of potential, but very little of it was ever realized.

    Also, the Hawkman/Superman matchup…ha, wow! It really does speak volumes about Katar that he’d face down Superman with a simple mace. That gesture paints him as both INSANELY courageous and not terribly bright! While I love this scene, the latter implication bothers me a bit. Katar is a smart hero, not the brainless brawler of other incarnations, and it seems silly that he wouldn’t beef up his firepower for a tangle with the Man of Steel! I suppose you could argue that he was counting on facing just Super Bots because of the kryptonite, but still, he should have had something in his back pocket. The whole episode reminded me of Hawkman’s much more successful match with The Man of Tomorrow during the Batman/Superman Public Enemies book a few years back:
    Of course, the context for that fight was pretty ridiculous, but still, I’d have liked to see the Winged Wonder come up with some type of Thanagarian tech that would have given him some kind of chance here.

    And the I.Q. hate continues! I still say he’s got potential!

    Rob’s response to the discussion of Hal’s sex life is mine as well. I have to say, I don’t much care about these characters’ sex lives. I like my heroes a bit more old-fashioned, I suppose.

    I disagree Rob, Snapper Carr doesn’t deserve to be there. No way! We’d be better off just forgetting him entirely!

    103: This was a fun listen. I only know of these two characters from Who’s Who and general reputation. These sounded like cool stories, and I love the wonderful weirdness of the DCU, inhabited as it is by such a diverse cast of characters.

    102: This was a particularly interesting episode, and there’s plenty to respond to.

    Continuity – Rob, y’all are right about many of the points you make, and I’ve heard this argument before from other quarters. The trouble is that the sins you lay at the feet of continuity are not really the fault of that particular contrivance; they are the result of a number of different factors that are contributing to the slow strangulation of modern superhero comics. As the Nuclear Subs have discussed before, as long as DC and Marvel continue to fight desperately for the same shrinking market-share of aging fanboys, they are dooming themselves, and their increasingly frantic attempts to grab parts of that all-too limited market are, combined with good old-fashioned incompetence, the source of the problems you blame on much-maligned continuity.

    Many of the very real problems you describe, like impenetrable story arcs, constant events and crossovers, a pathological fear of the status-quo, and a myopic self-focus are results of that doomed marketing plan. One flaw feeds into another, and the constant lurching from one failed attempt at boosting readership to another prevents anything like a coherent plan from guiding or maintaining these shared universes, leading us to the mess that is DC’s New 52 continuity just a few years in. More on this in a minute.

    Continuity is, by itself, just a neutral quality, though the special relationship that American superhero comics have with continuity has allowed them to become something pretty much unique in human accomplishment, as strange as that may sound. As Marco Arnaudo described it in The Myth of the Superhero (an excellent book), American superhero comics like DC and Marvel form “a collective narrative millions of pages long that has developed over several decades, and, as a result, has taken a particular path, encountered particular challenges, and articulated certain responses in a way that has no parallel in any other form of modern narrative” (4). In other words, superhero comics are culturally significant, in part, because of the existence of continuity. There’s a book there somewhere, I suppose.

    Having the various characters share a universe and a history makes for a metatext that has more potential narrative power than the unconnected serial form, and I think that is born out by all of our own experiences with comics. There’s a reason we love DC or Marvel, and a large part of that has to do with the feeling of a universe created by continuity. The very emotions that moved Rob so powerfully during his his reading of the comic for episode 100 were shaped by what had come before, both within and without that book.

    The key is, continuity can be an asset for comics, especially superhero comics, but the books in question need more than just a shared history. They also need something approaching a master plan. Without a strong idea of where you’re going and attempts to keep everyone on the same page, you end up looking like DC these days, tripping over your own feet and backpedaling frantically to address the ways you contradicted yourself this week. Additionally, when you you attempt to break with the serial nature of your form, you end up with over-wrought soap-operaic plots constantly trying to outdo themselves, which are impossible for anyone to follow unless they’ve been onboard from the very beginning. So, we need stories that aren’t constantly trying to, as y’all described it, explode a character’s world. Instead, plan for some gradual change, have an idea where your characters are headed, but become comfortable with a certain amount of stability in the interim, and you’ve got a book that can be picked up at almost any point.

    I’m reminded of both the Batman:TAS tie-in book, Batman Adventures, and the set of Marvel all-ages books, Marvel Adventures. They were generally done-in-one stories, well-written, completely accessible, and sporting recognizable versions of the best characters of their respective franchises, versions that very often couldn’t be found in the mainstream books at the same time because they were dead, or suddenly evil, or who-knows-what. They had some internal consistency, and the stories built upon one another in such a way that you benefited from having read previous issues but were never lost if you didn’t. I’ve always thought that the various ‘Adventures’ titles, at their best, represented what superhero comics really should be. They told good stories, were completely accessible to kids, yet entertaining enough for adults, and did interesting things without constantly telling you to ‘forget everything you thought you knew about X!’

    Of course, the eventual cancellation of those books brings us back to the old problem of putting comics where kids are, but that is only a problem if you want kids reading your books (and thus want a future for your business), which DC and Marvel clearly do not. I suppose we’ve beat that particular dead horse clean through the Earth’s crust at this point, but I admit I rarely tire of the topic.

    That’s part of the problem with another one of your points, though I happen to agree with it. You both said that there should be room in comics for everyone, different books with different takes on characters, etc,, and I think that is a good idea. The trouble is, there isn’t even room in comics, economically, for what is already out there.

    The Comic Con Brain Trust –

    Urg, I HATE that grim-n-gritty version of Green Arrow. I cannot express how much I despise the trends that those books represent.

    I liked the One-Million series! It’s flawed, sure, but I like the hopeful, positive outlook of the stories, and the concept was a cool one. I think it’s problems have more to do with the era from which it sprang rather than weaknesses with the concept itself. Thus, it involved a bunch of lame characters that just happened to be popular at the time, crowding out more interesting possibilities. It’s just a shame that Aquaman’s description of his adventures was way more awesome than the actual adventures themselves.

    Identity Crisis…I can’t believe all of these people liked that crime against literature! I’ve lost ALL respect for all of you! These kinds of stories just don’t have any place in a four-color superhero universe. It’s things like this that sent me to play in my own sandbox (like the only one of y’all with sense), creating my mods in Freedom Force.

    Poor Aqualad. He doesn’t get a whole bunch of love, but I’ve always liked the character. I love the Aqua-Family as a whole, in fact. That’s a wonderful piece of comics mythos, and it works particularly well for Aquaman. The sea is a vast place, and Aquaman by himself can become limited, story-wise. A good supporting cast is something he needs.

    I suppose that’s everything (I imagine it’s far more than enough). Thanks for a very entertaining set of episodes, gentlemen!

  7. Benton Grey says:

    Just to be clear, the tone in the Identity Crisis section of my post was meant to be teasing. I certainly hold no ill-will against those folks. I know tone in text can be tricky, so just a heads up.

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