Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Trio of Terror

It's really not a bad idea. If you own a circus that is struggling financially, then finding a new act to attract crowds is a reasonable goal. If you live in a world where superpowers exist, then getting someone with superpowers to sign with your circus is a good move.

But when a trio of partners who own a circus ask the Marvel family to join up, it's quickly (and a little rudely--the Wisdom of Solomon doesn't include empathy?) explained to them that the Marvels don't do any super-stuff for money.

What sympathy we might have had for the circus guys quickly evaporates, though, when one of them steals a book about sorcery and witchcraft. It's a real magic book--something the Marvels acquired on one of their adventures. Apparently, the Wisdom of Solomon also doesn't include the idea of locking up potentially dangerous items. 

I'm not making fun of the story, by the way. "The Trio of Terror" appeared in Marvel Family #21 (March 1948) and is a typical Otto Binder/C.C. Beck triumph of bizarre plotting, humor and adventure. I actually love the casualness with which the people of this universe react to fantastic occurrences. Maybe it doesn't make sense to lock away your magic books. People are probably stumbling across that sort of thing at used book stores every day anyways. 

The Marvels soon notice the book is missing, but not before the circus owners use it to summon up
three creatures from mythology. I love that one of them is the Argus--a creature with a hundred eyes. He's one you don't see turning up in fantasy adventures very often.

Though the creatures are initially caged, the circus owners don't realize how powerful they are, nor that they will return to the Nether Realms in an hour unless they get three others to take their place.

They break out of the cage and stalk the circus owners. The Marvels arrive to stop them, but initially have trouble figuring out how to deal with the creatures' various abilities.

But the Wisdom of Solomon does apparently kick in from time to time. The Marvels soon figure out how to deal with the creatures. But not long after that, they return to their civilian identities at a bad moment--the Marvels are actually kind of dumb in that regard.

Billy, Freddie and Mary are captured and gagged. The creatures read the spell to send them to the Nether Realms. Are the Marvels doomed?

Find out for yourself. It's available to read online HERE

As is typical with Binder/Beck Marvel stories, this one is a delight. As usual, Comic Book Logic is stretched as far as it will go without breaking. The story generates a real sense of danger from the creatures, but retains its goofiness and sense of humor at the same time. It's also a model of concise storytelling--neatly fitting a lot of story into just 9 pages. In fact, I think many readers would be surprised to find that it is so short after reading it. 

Well, next week we'll travel from the circus to the jungle of 'Nam and join a couple of Marines with odd nicknames as they battle the Viet Cong.

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