charlton comics

Blue Beetle v.1 #2

Cover of Blue Beetle #2 by Steve DitkoUntitled – AKA “The Banshee” – Aug. 1967

Plot: Steve Ditko
Art: Steve Ditko
Script: D.C. Glanzman
Lettering: A. Machine
Published by Charlton Comics

Years of experimentation have finally paid off for the Flying Dundo, or so he thinks, as he leaps from the side of a cliff somewhere on the outskirts of a midwestern city. The bald inventor is shrouded in a multi-layered green fabric cape that arches like the rooftop of the Sydney Opera House and allows the wearer to fly like a sugar glider. Dundo flies aloft, excited about the implications of his invention: “Next season, the ‘Flying’ Dundo will startle the circus world! My act will be internationally acclaimed!”The cape operates through a complex mechanism of helium pouches controlled by a “palm pressure device.” Dundo controls the flow of helium to regulate vertical movement, and he steers the cape by manipulating his body to increase or decrease surface area. The rest, says Dundo, is, “practice…practice and patience!”

But unbeknownst to Dundo, there’s another figure doing a bit of scheming. Dressed in a lesser-abled “glide cape,” Dundo’s pupil Max Bine resents the thought of practice and more practice. He sees a career opportunity greater than the Big Top: “I don’t want to waste my life as he did…slaving to become a mere circus performer! But that cape…it’s a golden opportunity for me! I must have it…I will have it!”

That night, Bine murders Dundo in a scene unseen by the reader through the external view of a building. Two outbursts of speech dominate the panel — first, Dundo’s death-throes, “Who’s there? Max…stop! Put the cape…AAAH!” and then Bine’s revelling in his teacher’s death: “With you gone, Dundo, the pupil will graduate to master! And with the cape, I will have the means to obtain everything I have ever wanted!”

A short time later, we’re told, a series of amazing thefts begins in small towns across America: “He swooped in and out like a…a Banshee!” Bine has adopted a mask with two large yellow eyes similar to Ditko’s design for Spider-Man, and is using Dundo’s advice of “practice” to hone his bankrobbing abilities to set up a big score. And where might that big score take place? “Crown City! Even the name has a wealthy ring to it!”

Two nights later, Vic Sage is arriving at an exclusive jewel exhibit, where the local celebrities resent the lack of attention they receive from the aloof newscaster: “He never even mentioned us in any of his broadcasts!” says one, who then confronts a fellow socialite, “What do you see in him, Ceila?” Ceila Starr, daughter of the WWB station manager, loves the hard-to-get types, chimes in failed suitor “Available Alex.” Ceila pardons herself from the group and starts to work her womanly charms on Sage when the Banshee totally kills the moment by swooping in through a conveniently open window! The Banshee grabs a big hunk o’ gemstone and starts sailing back toward the window, thinking to himself, “Strike fast before anyone can react…and be gone while everyone is in a state of shock!”

But one person isn’t in a state of shock — Sage leaps up and flips the Banshee to the ground, saying, “I’m going to make the Banshee’s first Crown City appearance his last!” Sage gives the Banshee the old one-two as the crowd looks on dumbfounded: “Whatever possessed Sage?…Someone should stop them!” Two men come forward from the crowd to give Sage a hand, restraining the Banshee until he stops struggling. Unfortunately, a moment of careless relaxation allows the Banshee to re-inflate his cape and fly out the window. Ceila runs after the heroic Sage, full of praise for his actions. But he rebukes her advances, saying, “I can’t help you, Ceila! I’m not a three ring circus for your moods. I have work to do!” If only if Vic wasn’t stuck on that Nora Lace, thinks Ceila.

The Banshee regroups, without the gem and almost arrested. But this little setback won’t bother him for long: “There are plenty of opportunities just waiting for me to swoop down and collect. I won’t wind up penny-pinching like Dundo!” Cut to the offices of World Wide Broadcasting where the crack team of investigative journalists break the news to Sage that the Banshee is really Bine, having murdered Dundo for his cape. “You want him real bad, don’t you, Vic?” asks Nora. Sage replies in the affirmative: “Yes, for murdering a man better than he was, for destroying a rare inventinve mind, for stealing and corrupting a work of art! I want him very badly!” Vic sets about studying where he thinks the Banshee will strike next, but, as the Question always winds up one step behind.

The Banshee decides to skip from hotel to hotel to avoid suspicion and Sage decides to visit his old friend Professor Rodor to prepare some more of the quick-change gas. Rodor gives Sage a fresh supply along with a few words of encouragement, and Sage sets out to take on the Banshee as the Question. That night, Sage studies the stormy skies, thinking that the Banshee wouldn’t show his face, or more specifically, his cape, in such windy weather. But no sooner is this said than the Banshee appears. Sage releases his mask from his belt buckle, applies the mask to his face, releases the gas to start the color-change / mask adhesive reaction, and the Question leaps out into the night!

The Banshee makes his move, swooping in on a bunch of socialites (who also, despite the impending storm, leave their window open), and leaves with a bag of ill-gotten gains while hollering, “No one has been able to stop me yet and no one ever will!” He should’ve knocked on wood, because the Question is there to meet him. Together, they plunge from the side of the building, the panicking Banshee’s now-uncontrollable cape caught up in the wind. The Question thinks fast and swings down from the Banshee’s waist to restabilize the situation. “Keep holding my belt or we’ll both be killed!” exhorts the Banshee. But the opportunistic badguy takes advantage of the situation, touching down on a nearby rooftop and backhanding the Question across the face. “Whoever you are, I’ll fix you for spoiling my…” he begins, but the Question delivers a kick to the chest that sends the Banshee flying off the roof, where the wind catches his cape and carries him off toward the horizon. Says the Question: “The Banshee’s being blown out to sea! He got just what he deserved!”

Meanwhile, back at WWB, Ceila Starr is bending Nora Lace’s ear: “I’m being more than a friend, Nora! You know an ordinary girl like you doesn’t have a chance with Vic Sage!” Replies Nora: “Then you don’t have a thing to worry about! Except…Vic makes up his own mind!” Ceila is telling Nora she just doesn’t want to see her hurt when who should arrive but Sage himself: “Let’s go, Nora! That about wraps it up for tonight! We have the rest of the evening to ourselves.”

Says Nora: “The perfect end to a working day!”

2 Responses to “Blue Beetle v.1 #2”

  1. Anthony Lloyd says:

    Another great story and lovely retort from Nora at the end !

  2. Anthony Lloyd says:

    Another typically philosophical Ditko story and lovely retort from Nora at the end !

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