charlton comics

Charlton Bullseye v.2 #1

Cover of Charlton Bullseye #1 by Dan Reed“The Enigma” – June 1981

Story: Benjamin Smith
Pencils: Dan Reed
Plot: A. Committee
Dialogue: Anon O. Mouse
Sound Effects: B. Pearson
Inks: Dan Reed and Al Val
Colors: Wendy Fiore
Published by Charlton Comics

The Blue Beetle stands poised against a wall, a grimace of both fear and determination on his face. Around him, bullet holes and cracked plaster. Pointing at him, five very large gunbarrels.The Question sinks downward into the water, bubbles streaming up from underneath the featureless mask. His arms, coat and tie float upward in the water, while his feet seem to be kicking toward the business end of a robot shark. A portent of things to come in this team-up adventure!

Flashback: Vic Sage, Nora Lace and cameraman Al Kert race in the WXZ-TV news van to the scene of a robbery. Nora has a foreboding feeling about the assignment: “There’s something wrong about this Vic…It’s no simple robbery!” Vic agrees: “You’re right, Nora. It’s more like an army assault than a street crime! They’ve got the whole block cordoned off!”

Outside an exclusive Eastchester store, police officers shout commands at the crooks inside. One of the crooks replies: “Our only concern is our objective! Kill everyone who gets in our way!” Another crook, bracing a large gun against his stomach while aiming with both hands postulates, “Wait’ll they see this arsenal! They’ll be too stunned to shoot back!”

Like a pack of mad dogs, the narration tells us, the gang of heavily armed men burst out onto the street! Vic tells Nora to get back just in time as the crooks fire indiscriminately, setting the store ablaze and exploding half the city block.

But a “bold, blue-clad figure” swoops in behind them, planting a double-footed kick across two criminals with a mighty THOCK! The hero parries punches and delivers some of his own, sending the crooks flying.

Around a corner, Vic Sage looks on, excited at the chance to meet and help out the Blue Beetle! Sage dons his faceless mask and charges into battle: “I just hope my indigo friend realizes I’m on his side!”

Around another corner, a rental truck raises a laser cannon skyward and fires, hitting the Blue Beetle’s flying Bug right between it’s anthropomorphic eyes! As the Beetle is momentarily distracted, one of the crooks ZZAT!s him with a laser rifle!

Injured, but still alive, the Beetle lies prone on the ground. One of the crooks decides to finish the Beetle off, but a compatriot mentions that the boss wouldn’t like it. “…And I wouldn’t either!” comes a voice from behind. As the Question appears with fists in tow, the crowd of criminals scatters to escape. “Some kind of advanced weapons, yet they run…why?” wonders the Question.

Regaining consciousness, the Beetle thinks he has the answer: The whole robbery was a ploy to take over the Bug! The two heroes watch helplessly as the Bug is towed away by the tractor-beam of a rocketship that, “unknown to them, is piloted by a silent manipulator, miles away…”

Who is this diabolical villain? What are his sinister motives? The Blue Beetle has forgotten the man known as the Enigma! The Enigma, a criminal previously caught by the Beetle, refused to speak at his trial and spent the next ten years of his jail sentence in silence, contemplating his anger at the blue hero. After his release, the Enigma managed to shake the cops who kept him under surveillance as he dropped out of sight. Having lost the cops, Enigma dug up the grave containing loot from his criminal career, planning to use the money to exact his revenge against the Blue Beetle!

Back in the present, Blue Beetle and the Question have managed to trace the Bug, via homing device, to a warehouse near the river south of town. “You’ve walked into one trap already…are you sure you want to risk another?” asks the Question. No sooner is this asked than the door slams behind them and a heavy block with stalactite spikes falls just feet away from the Beetle!

The heroes find themselves surrounded by interesting multi-colored futuristic architecture: “What looks, on the outside, like a modern, inner city ruin, is actually a highly sophisticated, robotically controlled fortress!” Distracted by the spectacle, the heroes aren’t ready for what happens next: A wall of flame explodes into the room, forcing the heroes into a corner! The Question drops through a trapdoor, and even as the Blue Beetle looks on startledly, he falls through a trap door of his own! Inside the control booth, the Enigma clenches his fists with excitement!

A lesser man would panic… the caption tells us, But the Question maintains his composure despite the odds against escape! The Question has found himself underwater, facing the most heinous of villainous traps: “What the–A ROBOT SHARK!

The Beetle in the meantime, finds himself on firm ground, but as soon as he feels relief to be out of the proverbial frying pan, he finds himself in the proverbial fire. A series of doors open in the room and from them protrude a series of lethal laser weapons!

The Question thinks quick, as his air runs out. “The only discernable openings on the shark,” he thinks, “are its eyes! They must be cameras!” He throws his coat over the shark’s eyes, hoping that the controller behind the shark will be similarly blinded. The robot killing machine strikes the side of the metal aquarium, and the Question goes rushing out with the flow of water: SLOSH!

Meanwhile, the Blue Beetle rends a laser gun from the wall with all of his strength. He can’t dodge the laser beams much longer, and his only hope lies in turning the guns on themselves. With a “supreme effort,” Beetle manages to tear a gun free, blasting the other guns, and the room to bits!

“As the dust settles,” a wet Question appears, saying there’s no time for review. Beetle agrees. They have to find the villain who’s set up these elaborate deathtraps. They set out in search of the Bug and find it, but, as the Question asks, “What’s that thumping sound?”

ROOAAR! screams the mighty giant who leaps out of nowhere to separate the heroes from the Bug. Standing twice as tall as the Beetle-ship, “like some mammoth modern day Golem, an armored giant lumbers into the room! …A man transformed into a thundering monstrosity of living flesh and bone, a living man mutated by the twisted scientific genius of the Enigma!”

Beetle theorizes that the only way to stop the man-monster is with the Bug’s weapons system. The Question offers to distract the giant while the Beetle makes a run for it. The Question takes a swing at the giant’s shin with all his might, to no avail: “You miserable little worm! You have only succeeded in angering me! I shall crush the very life from your body before you can take another breath!”

The ruse worked, though! The Beetle dashes into the control room of the Bug and starts pushing buttons. The Bug rises into flight, and the giant turns to fight the spaceship. Beetle lets him have it in the face with thousands of volts of electricity! But it’s still not enough! The Beetle uses all energy that’s not needed to keep the Bug aloft for a final BIIZZAATTTT! that drops the giant to the floor unconscious!

Beetle and the Question dash out of the room in search of the villain behind their predicament, but the Engima has one more surprise in store. He furiously pushes a button.

“Whoever created this deathtrap is undoubtedly a genius, but what’s his motive?” Beetle wonders. “Do madmen ever have rational motives?” The Question philosophies.

At the end of the hallway, Beetle and the Question find themselves facing down a large group of the criminals they’d fought earlier. “A shot from my flash-gun ought to buy us a few seconds!” yells the Beetle. “And my fists should win a couple more!” returns the Question. The pair easily overpowers the thugs, infuriating the Enigma, who pledges to finish the job himself. He rushes into the room with a gun drawn: “You two have won for the last time! You may have bested by mindless musclemen, but you won’t beat me!”

The Question applies blame where blame is applicable: “You were sent to prison because you were guilty of robbery and murder! You sent yourself to jail!” The Enigma turns on the Question with the laser pistol, but the Question uses one of the thugs as a human shield. Beetle shatters the gun with an uppercut, but the Enigma plants a good one across the Beetle’s face, yelling, “We’ll all go together when I blow this place to hell!”

The Question helps Beetle to his feet as the Enigma returns to his control room, activating the self-destruct mechanism: “All my carefully laid plans, all my money and energy…wasted! And the Blue Beetle still lives!” His finger hovers over the destruct button even as the Question and Beetle reach the Bug. Beetle kicks in the stand-by power system to fly out just as the villain’s lair explodes with a mighty BA-ROOM!

As the heroes fly off into the sunset, the Question wonders: “I realize it’s a little premature to know for sure, but..we make a good team, don’t you think?” Beetle replies, “If that maniac still lives, we may need each other’s help again!”

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