Monday, November 18, 2013

365 Comics...322: The Cougar #2 (1975)

By the time the second issue of The Cougar appeared (cover date was July '75) Atlas was on its last legs.  This issue of the comic is as much mail-order catalog as it is comic book, with only 18 pages of story.  Fan reaction was mixed with as many negative letters as positive found in the letter columns of later books.  Meanwhile, with Jeff Rovin leaving his editorial position, all the work fell on Larry Lieber's desk and so it was up to him to become the face of the company, the bullpen booster, like his brother was.  Debuting in the comics with July cover dates, "A Letter From Larry Lieber" appeared on the bullpen pages (and the same letter was still appearing in October cover date comics).

Half the "letter" was treading on his (sort-of) family name, and his past with Marvel before getting to talking about the company at hand.  Atlas gets name-checked in his letter less than Marvel does, which is telling.  He talks, briefly, about the talent on board (mentioning only omnipresent Atlas writer Gary Friedrich and illustrator Frank Thorne).  He then attempts to summon some good words on Chip Goodman, but the best he can say is "his father founded Marvel Comics way back when."  The letter ends with saying:

"And now, to the overdue point of all this.  Every comics company in this industry wants to give you, the reader, the best written and best illustrated stories possible.  Here at Atlas, our intent is no less.
"I'm certain that we'll succeed! Just wait and see!"

Not exactly the most enthusiastic portrayal or hard hitting sales pitch, certainly not providing much excitement for the books or confidence in the publisher.  It's amazing that it ran for four months, but then Larry likely didn't have any more time to write another one.

As for The Cougar, he's Jeff Rand, Hollywood stuntman, who starred in a superhero movie ("The Cougar") that was intended to be career-making but bombed instead.  But Rand decided to keep the outfit and be a real superhero.  I'm not certain what happened the first issue, but the cover promises "Beginning in this issue... the Origin of the Cougar"... and we learn about Rand's childhood history in the Bayou (Friedrich was so busy with all the books he was writing he couldn't even be arsed to fake a cajun dialect for his characters) and his brother getting cursed by a witch, turning him into a werewolf who murders his family and for some reason has arrived on set of Rand's latest production to chew out the necks of other people.  It's a nonsensical story, and unfortunately not in a fun way.  It's tedious, the art from Frank Spinger (who would go on to illustrate my favourite Action Comics Weekly segment, The Secret Six you may recall) seems equally bored with the proceedings so as not to pay attention to finer details.  Consistency wasn't much of a concern and creativity was negligible (the "bayou witch" looks like the witch from Snow White, because, hey, the script said "witch").

In the climax of issue 2, the Cougar takes a fall with his brother the werewolf and, after being rushed to the hospital, is declared permanently paralyzed.  The next issue box proclaims "A crippled Cougar -- helpless in a jungle of evil?! Don't miss Ish #3 -- introducing the most devastatingly different superhero of all time."  Was this a play on Daredevil, but instead of making him blind he would be paralyzed?  I actually would like to have seen how they pulled that off in the 1970's.  Alas, this was the last issue of the Cougar so we never found out.


KENT! said...

A Kolchak The Night Stalker riff perhaps?

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