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Wally Wood, Steve Ditko, boobs and a comic book that might be stolen goods – Heroes, Inc. Presents Cannon

April 25, 2012

There’s an interesting little side-story with this book, one that goes beyond the apparent preoccupation with breasts. Self-published in 1969 by Wally Wood for a military audience — to be sold in a PX instead of the regular newsstand spinner rack — Heroes, Inc. Presents Cannon was never released. For many years there were few of them on the market, the result of a (daring?) warehouse theft that procured about a thousand nice copies and released them into the comics-collecting community. This past decade another big Ark-sized crate of the comics was dumped on the market via auction, all in nice shape as well.

And all this means is that Wally Wood was about the only person on Earth to not turn a buck off the book.

(I’m not sure which lot my copy came from, though according to simple odds it was probably the second cache. But, like Morty Seinfeld with his Wizard/tip calculator, I prefer thinking that things in my possession are “hot.”)

Outside of the restrictive purview of the Comics Code, Wood could go a little wilder with the sex and violence here, though all the content in the three stories advertised on the cover is relatively tame, especially to the eyes of later jaded generations. It takes a hell of a lot more than cleavage to adequately titillate these eyes, know what I’m saying? But this was Wood’s own little playground, one where he could (theoretically, at least) capitalize 0n his Sally Forth readership with more aggressive fantasy themes. It was a forerunner of the creator-owned comics that would become so familiar in subsequent decades.

This target armed forces demographic can most readily be glimpsed in the advertisements. Assorted commemorative military rings and similar tchotchkes are hawked within, and you also have these simple but charming ads for the USO and good old savings bonds:

Yes, every Army grunt dreams of one day having his daughter serve him dainty little sandwiches. Whatever gets you through shitcan detail, I guess.

Here’s a feedback solicitation from the man behind the curtain himself, “Wallace” Wood:

Perhaps more letters would be answered if they were surrounded by bikini-clad babes. It’s a question worthy of careful scientific scrutiny, at the very least.

Enough preliminaries. The Wood artwork is the attraction here, not the backstory and whatnot. And in the “Cannon” feature he gets an assist on pencils from none other than Steve Ditko. THE MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN. It’s a partnership that we’ve looked at before (in the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents book Dynamo) here on the blog, and it’s one that works, in a word, WELL. Cannon as a hero is a monotone killing machine with a crew cut, but the talents of both Ditko and Wood can invest the action with a force that’s more than the proverbial sum of parts. Check out Ditko’s sequential design sense combined with Wood’s detail and bold shadows in this resplendent page:

(I’m reminded of the classic Golden Age Daredevil and Norman Maurer’s art. Not sure why — maybe the shadows and detail on the walls. The association is a tribute to both books and all the artists involved, though.)

Cannon, the only character in this book to have any sort of life beyond these pages, is a doubly brainwashed tool of the military who has no room in his one-track mind for romance (Chris Cooper in American Beauty would love this guy). How narrow is his focus? Not even another set of giant mammaries can pull him off course:

I wonder if Wood got Ditko’s pencils and found the chestular size wanting. “Let’s amp those melons up a bit. Into a nice, average E cup.”

The rest of the book is pure Wood. The Misfits story (inked by Ralph Reese) is just what it sounds like: a tale about oddball freaks working together blah blah blah. And Dragonella (co-scripted by Ron Whyte) seems to be nothing more than a breast delivery system garbed in a tattered, clingy red dress and living in a world of crappy magic:

Warning: Breasts in crystal ball may be smaller than they appear. Or larger. WHATEVER THEY’RE HUGE.

There was one other issue of Heroes, Inc. produced seven years later — one that didn’t rely on robberies and giant Heritage auctions to see the light of day — and that was it for this early, tentative foray into independent publishing. There’s not much else that can be said about this odd little relic, though for Wood aficionados it’s a must-have, I’m sure. In my brief, superficial reading about the book, I wasn’t able to come up with the reason for why the comic was never released. I’m assuming it was a deal falling through, events intervening, those sorts of things. If anyone out there knows the answer and pities me here wallowing in my ignorance, feel free to chime in with a comment. Sorry that I can’t surround this request with bikini chick drawings.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 26, 2012 8:03 am

    A few years ago (4 or 5 maybe) this comicbook was on sale on the shelves of my local comics shop, priced (if I remember correctly) at around whatever the standard price was for a mag at the time. I supposed that it had been lying in a warehouse for years and only just discovered, hence the immaculate condition. I bought two copies.

    • April 27, 2012 8:48 pm

      I think I bought mine for about $3, so that sounds about right.

  2. Thelonious_Nick permalink
    April 26, 2012 1:46 pm

    Hey, I got one of these free with an order from a mail order comics company a few years ago. Maybe I’m more easily impressed than you, as I quite appreciated the way the ladies were drawn. Didn’t know the backstory. Odd that this was such a rare item at one time, but nowadays must be one of the most common of 60s comics, since it never had the chance to get thrown out with all those “mother cleaning out the attic” mishaps that have robbed the world of so many comic collections.

    • April 27, 2012 8:48 pm

      There’s definitely a glut of high grade copies of this book out there — doubly so if they’re being given away free.

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