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John Candy in a Charlton cameo? – The Peacemaker #1

February 11, 2013


Charlton’s Peacemaker, who’d one day go through several degrees of separation and morph into the narrative-propelling Comedian of Watchmen, wasn’t one of his original company’s leading lights. It was hard to compete with the Steve Ditko-infused titles like Blue Beetle and Captain Atom, but there he was. His book had its share of goofy charm, though it was cancelled after only half a year’s worth of books. And Peacemaker wasn’t anywhere near as dreadful as Son of Vulcan. So there’s that.

The original Peacemaker finally got his own book — after backup stories in Fightin’ 5 — in March of 1967, with his former betters now in the backup role. The tables were flipped. This first incarnation was less the martial character of later decades, and more a one-man amalgam of Ditko’s Hawk and Dove. Christopher Smith was a career diplomat, one devoted to the cause of non-violence and peace, who would, when forced, strap on his rather odd outfit (with a curvy helmet that foreshadowed John Byrne’s Shi’ar Empire designs — there’s some Stilt-Man in there too) and pummel the living hell out of evildoers. And his Reed Richards gray temples looked FAN-TASTIC all the while.

The two Peacemaker stories in this first flagship issue, both written by Joe Gill with art by Pat Boyette, are, fittingly, prime examples of his goofily bifurcated adventures. In the first, a rogue submarine is preying on international shipping fleets, and when mild-mannered Smith finds himself on a ship about to be blown to smithereens, its the Peacemaker who steps in to save the day:


Who’s menacing the seas? An erstwhile suave, debonair Captain Nemo, settling scores in his very own Nautilus? Not quite. It’s actually Del Griffith from Planes, Trains and Automobiles:


For the sake of comparison:

Del Griffith

Maybe you can white-out the Commodore’s dialogue and insert some of your favorite John Candy Planes lines. While “Between two pillows…” would top anyone’s list, “I’ve never seen a guy get picked up by his testicles before…” has to rank right up there.

Here’s your Peacemaker Patter intermission, with a word from Dick Giordano (early in his lengthy editorial career) and some background info on Pat Boyette — with a bonus photo of the latter at work:


In the second story, Smith gets his face slapped by some mealy-mouthed little Eurotrash ambassador:


Most of us would bop this Balkan back like an enraged Moe Howard, but Smith (literally) turns the other cheek. An investigation into why this gent seems so full of himself — and his country — leads Smith, as Peacemaker, to Antarctica, where a secret base is arming this small nation. (Perhaps they’re subleasing space from the South Pole Nazi hideout.) Our hero gets in a bit over his oddly-shaped head during his investigations, and displays some questionable judgment while trying to extricate himself:


Comics once taught me that you can swim in quicksand. Now I know that, if I’m ever falling into a nuclear reactor, I should speed up if I can. Because why not? Anyway, Peacemaker triumphs, and the once-strutting ambassador has a good pants-wetting. U S A! U S A!

Thoughts: Boyette’s artwork is a forgotten component of Charlton’s golden era, which is a shame. His style was never as aesthetically pleasing as the heavyweights of his day, but it was solid, and the volume of output was impressive. Open up a second-tier book, from Korg to Space:1999, and you’ll see Boyette’s panels. There’s something reassuring about his presence. Something steady?

And Peacemaker? He wasn’t much of a character, and was undermined by his internal contradictions, contradictions that were never explored to any degree of satisfaction in his Silver Age adventures. There’s surely a deep, psychologically complex, fascinating story involved with a diplomat who sneaks out in a high-tech costume to wreak havoc on those who’d upset the delicate international balance. That’s not what we got, though. His comic book hijinks were understandably superficial, and hell, anything more might have had the book cancelled after issue one instead of a few issues later. But there was an unexplored void always hovering around the character and his good deeds, a mystery that no one seemed to care very much about.

So the Peacemaker remains in the shadow of Captain Atom and the Blue Beetle. But he once dealt with a crazed seafaring Del Griffith and triumphed in the end, so he has that going for him. Maybe he and Steve Martin can compare notes.

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