Thursday, April 19, 2007

Number 121

Bob Powell's Jet Powers Introduced!

Jet Powers is a science fiction hero who came out of the Buck Rogers school of comics. No super powers, but a super brain, and lots of brawn to go with the brain. For the four issues of the comic book series, Jet Powers was drawn by Bob Powell*, and scripted by prolific comic scribe Gardner Fox.

My goal is to run all of the science fiction Jet Powers stories in sequence. An issue of Jet contained three stories starring the title hero, and a separate story featuring a character called Space Ace. Powell didn't draw the Space Ace stories, but I'm going to feature them anyway. The last two in the series were drawn by none other than Al Williamson, so that alone makes them worth a look.

Jet Powers is represented in this first story as being a lone genius/inventor/scientist, living in a mesa laboratory somewhere in the Southwest U.S. He also wears tight clothes, including a shirt with an atomic symbol so we'll know he's a scientist, and knee-high boots. With his white hair he looks a bit more mature than most comic book heroes.

This story sets up a hero, a super villain (yet another racist Fu Manchu-styled Asian villain, replete with green, leering, hideous face), and a beautiful female assistant, in a short but action-packed 10 pages.**

I originally read the first two issues of Jet in reprint form in the late 1950s, when they were republished by I.W. Comics as Jet Powers #'s 1 and 2. I was really taken by the artwork as well as the science fiction elements of the strip. When I had my chance to buy the original issues in the mid-1970s I jumped at it, even though I recall I paid $15 apiece for the four issues, which was the most I had ever paid for comic books up until that time. How times — and prices — have changed…

From Jet #1, 1950:

 *Previous Pappy's Bob Powell postings are "The Shrunken Skull" in Pappy's #35, "The Man In The Hood," in Pappy's #90, and "Twice Alive," in Pappy's #110.

**One part of the story deserves note. Jet is put into a chamber where he's exposed to lights and noise. It looks psychedelic, a two decades-early precursor to a rock light show from the late '60s. He is driven instantly mad, which could help explain a lot of what happened to my generation.

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