The Cougar #1, April 1975

“Vampires and Cougars Don’t Mix!”

Writer: Steve Mitchell

Art: Dan Adkins and Frank Springer

Jeff Rand is a stuntman working on a vampire movie shooting in an east European location. When not pursuing that line of work Jeff wears a skintight red outfit and calls himself The Cougar. This appears to be common knowledge: no secret identity for Jeff.

One evening after the cameras stop rolling, a prop man finds a coffin lying around in a castle that’s to be used as a location the next day. This coffin just happens to contain a cape pierced by a stake. Naturally enough Roger, the prop man, pulls out the stake, and is promptly killed by the vampire that subsequently materialises!

Having tasted fresh blood, the vampire heads for the nearest tavern. Unfortunately, it’s the tavern in which the Cougar is entertaining his pals with a little after work drink up. Spying the make-up girl, the vamp pounces, forcing the Cougar to spring into action. However, his lightning fast reflexes are not sufficient to dispatch the fiend — and neither are the umpteen bullets pumped into him by the local constabulary.

The next day shooting resumes on the movie, and poor Roger’s blood-soaked body is discovered. Deciding that a vampire must be responsible, the Cougar goes to a bookshop to do some research and finds that the vampire is most likely a Count Krolok, the 17th century owner of the castle. Jeff is concerned for the safety of Kathie the makeup girl, but the police just laugh it off.

Thinking that Kathie is the reincarnation of his lost love, Krolok comes calling that night — but finds the Cougar waiting for him. Unfortunately, our hero once again proves no match for the vampire’s might, and Krolok kidnaps the girl.

In hot pursuit, the Cougar commandeers a car and makes his way swiftly to the castle to confront Krolok. There, he finds the beast ready to drink Kathie’s blood. A bloody battle ensues in which Krolok is speared — to no great effect — with a sword. As the fight goes on, the Cougar engineers a situation whereby he brings his whole weight to bear on a rickety wooden table. The table splinters, and the Cougar uses a large shard to impale Krolok’s heart.

The vampire dissolves, and Jeff leads Kathie to safety. “C’mon babe, let’s go home!” he says in a manly manner, as Kathie caresses his barrel-like chest.

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This is actually a pretty solid comic, one of the better ones from the Atlas stable.

When Atlas was being set up, the initial ideas included licensing some well-known tv and film properties to add name recognition to the fledgling line. One such property considered was Kolchak: The Night Stalker, a 1973 tv show that featured Darren McGavin as a reporter that investigated supernatural goings on (it was kinda like a 1970s X-Files). When publisher Martin Goodman deemed the licenses too expensive, he ordered that Atlas merely copy the ideas instead.

Yep, The Cougar is basically a super-hero version of Kolchak. Whereas Kolchak, being a journalist, just wandered around with a notepad, Jeff Randall, being a stuntman, was able to provide the necessary super derring-do required in an action adventure comic. And, it works. The only slightly odd thing is the notion that Jeff has no secret identity as such, he pretty much always dresses in his super-threads — even when going out for a drink of an evening! But then I guess Evel Knievel was doing much the same thing at the time.

To make the association even more obvious, note that one of the cover blurbs highlights the phrase “Night Stalker”, and Kolchak creator, Dan Curtis, receives a dedication on the splash page.

Steve Mitchell’s script is a little repetitive, and low on character, but there’s plenty of action, and it’s all extremely entertaining. The art, by Dan Adkins and Frank Spinger is very pretty. I can’t see a lot of Adkins to be honest, so I suspect he mainly provided layouts with an occasional more finished panel here and there. Good, solid draftsmanship and storytelling.

The beautiful cover is by Frank Thorne.

©2009 Atlas/Seabord/the respective copyright holder