Charlton Premiere #1 cover

Charlton Premiere #1, September 1967

Charlton Premiere was an attempt by the Connecticut publisher to copy DC’s perennially popular Showcase title, presenting a series of try-outs for new ideas to if any hit a chord with the public. None did, apparently, as the book ran for just four issues.

This first issue features a trio of stories, each introducing a new concept or character. The Shape is a super-hero who can change into a variety of forms (a bouncing ball, for example, or a knife, or a car) to fight crime with his red-haired pal Kevin. Created by a certain Professor Scuba Duba (hmmm…), the Shape was a statue accidentally animated by one of Duba’s “fantastic contraptions”. With the mind of a child, the Shape needs the sensible Kevin to keep him out of scrapes and away from the clutches of the Professor. Last seen as a backpack slung over Kevin’s shoulder, the Shape was a one-hit wonder. Drawn by Grass Green, one of the movers and shakers in the early days of organised comics fandom, and written by his pal Roy Thomas (yes, that one), this is a lighthearted effort in the Plastic Man vein.

The Tyro Team, by Steve Skeates and Bill Montes, are three teenage lads (Swift Scott, Specs Anders, and Creeps Blaine) who are in constant telepathic communication with each other. Though at university the trio manage to find time between attending lectures and homework to fight organised crime. Donning a mask and sweater with a big “T” on the front apparently aids them in this, though Creeps seems to shun the sartorial choices of the other two — perhaps wisely.

Spookman, by Pat Boyette, is, in reality, archaeologist Aaron Piper, who, along with his pal Crispin X. Crispin (oh yes!), finds the legendary Moonstone and is transformed into a “terrifying monstrosity of strength.” The Moonstone, it seems, can do almost anything, including teleportation and even time-travel, allowing the writer great scope for future adventures. Sadly, there weren’t any, which is a bit of a pity as this one sees Crispin accidentally cause the burning of Rome when he gives Nero a cigarette lighter. Spookman himself seems almost a guest character in his own strip! Still, it’s easily the best of the three stories in this issue —  though that’s not really any great praise.

The issue has no copyright information, so, presumably, should anyone wish to create a grim ‘n’ gritty revival of Tyro Team or Spookman (give Crispin his own series, I say), then they’re free to do so. It’s revealed in the next issue, that Spookman was originally to be called Sandman but that name was already being used (at that time by a Marvel villain) — so perhaps it’s time for a Neil Gaiman-led campaign to bring the terrifying monstrosity back to comics. Whaddaya say Neil?