Son of Vulcan vs. his arch-enemy, Dr. Kong. Artists: Bill Fraccio and Tony Tallarico.


Medium: Comic Books
Published by: Charlton Comics
First Appeared: 1965
Creators: Pat Masulli (writer), Bill Fraccio and Tony Tallarico (artists)
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For a popular comic book character, Marvel Comics' superhero, The Mighty Thor, was notably lacking in knock-offs. Maybe that's because so many of his trappings were so clearly identifiable. It's hard to give a wielder of mythic weapons such close ties to a pantheon out of Bullfinch, without somebody suspecting there might be an attempt going on to ride …

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… someone's coat-tails. In fact, the only publisher with the courage to give such blatant imitation the full exposure of debuting it under its own cover logo was Charlton Comics, the one that gave us such gems as Timmy the Timid Ghost and Space Western.

Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds began in 1956, offering a steady fare of monsters, sci-fi adventure, and whatever else of that nature the publisher thought it might be able to sell. In the middle '60s, the trend was for such comics to add superheroes, so the 46th issue (May, 1965) debuted The Son of Vulcan. He got a relatively prestigious send-off, his logo appearing larger than that of the title itself. He was the biggest thing on the cover, decked out like a somewhat modernized version of a Roman or Greek warrior from about the Zeroth Century or so, complete with sword, shield and helmet with a brush on top.

The hero started out as Johnny Mann, a reporter for the Worldwide News Syndicate. He got involved with Olympian gods while covering a civil war in Cyprete, an island in the Aegean or eastern Mediterranean that doesn't seem to appear on real-world maps. He incurred the particular wrath of Mars because he disliked that deity's work, war. (He had a wooden leg from his own earlier participation in it — and by an odd coincidence, Thor's human aspect was also lame.) But Venus (only vaguely related) and Vulcan took his side. She healed his leg and muscled up his body; and he provided access to the best weaponry his forge could produce. Johnny then sallied forth on a mission to eradicate crime and/or evil as The Son of Vulcan.

The story was written by Pat Masulli, a former editor of the Charlton line who had also drawn many of its covers. It was pencilled by Bill Fraccio and inked by Tony Tallarico. The latter is the one generally associated with such features as Dell Comics' Werewolf and Harvey's Jigsaw, but Fraccio was a frequent collaborator on them.

That first story also introduced an arch-villan for The Son of Vulcan to fight, Dr. Kong (no relation). Another that frequently menaced him was Mars himself. Also, Kong and Mars teamed up once or twice. There wasn't time to develop much more of a cast, because the character came and went so quickly. He cavorted a little while through a superhero landscape that also included The Blue Beetle and reprints of Captain Atom, then went away. After three issues with him as the biggest thing in it, the title Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds was changed to Son of Vulcan. But two issues after that, it was changed again, taken over by a new superhero, Thunderbolt, and Son of Vulcan was gone.

He did manage to grab hold of a tiny claim to fame. His last story, appearing in Son of Vulcan #50 (January, 1966), was also the first professional sale of writer Roy Thomas, who went on to co-create The Invaders, Captain Carrot, Iron Fist and many others.

A couple of decades later, DC Comics acquired the Charlton superheroes. Like most, Son of Vulcan made his DC debut with a bit part in the 1985-86 crossover event, Crisis on Infinite Earths. After that, he was in another crossover, War of the Gods (1991), where he was killed off. He didn't even get an analog in the cast of Alan Moore's Watchmen.

DC has recently introduced another character named Son of Vulcan, very different from this one. It's too soon to tell, but maybe the new guy will generate more interest.


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Text ©2005-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Charlton Comics