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DYNAMO 1

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND Aug. 1966; Tower Comics; featuring (fourth story in the issue) "Dynamo Meets the Amazing Andor!" Scripter not known to me; pencils by Steve Ditko, inks by Wally Wood and Dan Adkins.

One of the more memorable storylines in the 1960's THUNDER AGENTS series was the confrontation between the THUNDER Agents and the strange, superhuman outcast known as Andor, which ran through the first issue of Dynamo's solo title and three later issues of the regular THUNDER AGENTS title. I've decided to review this series of stories.... The moody Ditko/Wood splash page is a simple shot of the trenchcoat-clad Andor, looking upward from a manhole cover opening with mists drifting up from underground. The blurb tells us, "Out of the unknown comes the mysterious figure of ANDOR the humanoid to challenge the mighty THUNDER AGENTS! With powers equal to those of the THUNDER Agents combined, ANDOR is a mindless slave to the forces of evil...." But is he really? We shall see.....

The story begins some 20 years before the formation of THUNDER (The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves, the international police organization for which our heroes work) as the malevolent, green-skinned Subterraneans-- the chief villains of the early issues of the THUNDER AGENTS series-- lay their plans for the future conquest of the surface human race. One of their projects is the creation of Dynavacs, powerful though mindless androids (which appeared in previous THUNDER stories). But the most promising project of all-- under the supervision of the subterranean Lord Uru-- is "the creation of a being of tremendous strength and mental powers but under our control-- PROJECT ANDOR!" And the experimental subject for this project will be a human infant "found abandoned and alone" on the surface. He will be subjected to a lifelong series of treatments to increase his physical and mental powers. As a human, he will be able to walk among humans undetected, but he will receive mental conditioning to hate his own race.

As the years pass, Andor grows from infancy to adulthood and the promised treatments have their effect, making him a physical superman. He is introduced to the culture and speech patterns of the surface humans by watching their TV shows (that might be enough to sour anybody on the human race) "but he gets none of the affection needed by humans to develop their humanity!" Trained for combat, Andor ruthlessly hurls a subterranean opponent into a deadly pit. At last the day comes when Andor is needed as the subterraneans' secret weapon against THUNDER and humanity, and he undergoes a series of final tests. Chained to a pair of giant tractors moving in opposite directions, instead of being torn apart he stops and overturns the tractors. (If the conquer-the-Earth thing doesn't work out, Andor might have a career at county fairs....) Targeted for rapid gunfire, Andor dodges all of the shots but one-- and then heals almost immediately from a wound near the heart. And his purely mental powers are also formidable; he can lift an anvil telekinetically by thought-power alone and hurl it through a wall. In short, Andor has become the ideal opponent for the subterraneans' archfoes, the THUNDER Agents. "He has the powers of the THUNDER Agents.... but REALLY and PERMANENTLY! He needs no mechanical devices.... He may not be as fast as Lightning or as strong as Dynamo, but he has no time limit and so will defeat them!" Speaking for himself, Andor declares, "The true test of course will be on the field of battle! I can hardly wait!" And his first mission will be to fight and kill Dynamo, mightiest of the THUNDER Agents.

Andor is brought up through the subterranean caves into the surface world, to wait for his chance, dressed inconspicuously in trenchcoat and fedora, while a squad of subterraneans carres out an attack to lure Dynamo into a trap. Observing "the passing parade of humanity," Andor's ingrained hatred of humanity is at first only reinforced. But then, he spots a car deliberately trying to run over a young woman.... and by some instinct, he intervenes, tearing the car apart. The woman, by amazing coincidence, is THUNDER Agent Kitten Kane, and she declares, "There's only one man who can do that, and you're not him! Who..." Our anti-hero is equally nonplussed; "My name is Andor! You're...a...woman?" "Yes! Ha! Ha! Haven't you ever seen one...?" "No! I mean... not like you!" When Kitten reveals her THUNDER affiliation and thanks Andor for saving her from an attack by foreign agents, Andor is reminded of his mission; "This is great! She's my ticket into the enemy H.Q.!" And indeed, Kitten leads Andor to THUNDER central, intending to suggest him as a potential agent. But THUNDER's savvy Chief worries, "I hope you haven't played along with some plot to infiltrate THUNDER...." Meanwhile, Andor is puzzled by his own reactions; "Why did I save her? She's a human...and a THUNDER Agent! But she's so lovely...how can she be evil?'

Then Dynamo returns to THUNDER HQ, leading a group of "zombie" subterranean prisoners. He is puzzled by their behavior, since they seemed to be attacking with no purpose other than to lure him into a trap, but no trap materialized. When our hero is introduced to Andor by name, he recalls, "Andor! One of them (the subterraneans) mentioned that name! He said, 'Where's Andor?'" With his cover blown, Andor admits, "I'm Andor of the subterraneans, and I've come to kill you!" "Dynamo, watch out! He can do it! He's as strong as you!" With the time limit on his ThunderBelt that gives him super-strength and invulnerability nearly up, Dynamo's only chance is to finish Andor off quickly. But Andor's strength is nearly as great as Dynamo's, his speed greater, and he is able to keep the fight going until Dynamo runs out of power and is helpless before Andor's attack. Other non-super THUNDER agents join the fight, but to no avail, even when they riddle Andor with bullets. But one thing, surprisingly, can stop him.... the pleading of Kitten Kane, as she clutches Andor's shoulder and urges, "You mustn't kill him! Stop.... please...." "I...I...what's the matter with me? I can't refuse you somehow!" Baffled by his own motivatiions, Andor breaks off the fight and crashes through a window, pursued by agents and leaving behind Dynamo, who isn't seriously hurt except for his pride. Following a mental call, Andor descends through a manhole back to the subterranean world, where he confronts his master, Warlord Uru. Uru accuses Andor of betrayal, and Andor suddenly realizes why he has done what he did; "I am human! Somehow you turned me into a monster....denied me my birthright!" (but) Somehow your mind machines couldn't erase every trace of human feelings!" Uru tries to kill Andor in order to wipe out his "mistake", but in a Samson-like feat of strength Andor collapses the subterranean roof upon them both. Andor is the only one to crawl out from the rubble; "I live...but why....? An outcast...an enemy to human and subterranean alike!" The final caption: "A stranger in a strange land....doomed to wander the far corners of the Earth until.... The End?"

But it was not The End yet, for the tale of Andor would continue in future issues of THUNDER AGENTS (and future reviews). I'm not going to review the rest of this issue of DYNAMO in detail (though it would be worth the effort if I wanted to devote all day to it), but will note that the other stories in the issue include Dynamo in "Menace From the Moon!" (Dynamo battles alien invaders on the Moon), "A Day in the Life of Dynamo!" (the only Dynamo story, I think, drawn by Mike Sekowsky) and "Back to the Stone Age!" Not to mention a humorous Thunder Agent Weed filler story in which the cigarette-smoking, beatnik-ish agent gets his big chance as "Wonder Weed, Super Hero!" I believe this entire issue is reprinted in the first volume of DC's currently in print THUNDER AGENTS ARCHIVE series-- or is it the second volume?

@@@@@ WRHBill THUNDER AGENTS #14; July 1967; Tower Comics; featuring Dynamo vs. Andor in "Return Engagement!" According to the Tower index in COMIC BOOK ARTIST #14, this story was laid out by Wally Wood, pencilled by Steve Ditko and inked by Wood and Dan Adkins; the writer is not known to me or the indexers.

Continuing my series of reviews of the ongoing struggle between the agents of THUNDER and their most tragic foe, Andor.... in the previous story in DYNAMO #1 (subject of my last review) Andor was captured by the evil subterraneans as a human infant and raised to become a superhuman with no human sympathies.... but he turned on his subterranean masters and found himself an outcast from both races. On the splash page, Andor stands in the doorway of a decrepit building, his face in shadow, confronting the shadow of a foe who is presumably Dynamo. But before that, we find Andor trying with little success to make a place for himself in the human world. An employment agency wants his Social Security number...a cop demands to see his draft card.... a restaurant refuses his services as a dishwasher because it is a union shop....finally the police are puzzled by a robbery in which no money was taken, only "Food! A ton of canned food.... and a whole side of beef!" For months, Andor seems to vanish from the face of the Earth..... then, one day, we find a beatnik hangout in "the Village section of New York City" suddenly invaded by a squad of mobster types who claim the represent the "Spider Casualty Company" and demand protection money. The proprietor, however, refuses; "This whole area is under the protection of the GREAT ANDOR!" And indeed, Andor-- now sporting a neatly trimmed beard and dark glasses-- makes his appearance and proclaims, "This is my domain....tribute is paid to ME!" Andor singlehandedly gives the bum's rush to the whole gang of Spider mobsters, but one of them decides to report the incident to Spider Central. (SPIDER was the international criminal organization which served as THUNDER's chief foe following the defeat of the subterraneans.) SPIDER's chief is delighted with the information; "Dynamo and Andor are enemies, right? And they are BOTH enemies of SPIDER, right? So if they fight, no matter WHO wins WE win!" And so, an anonymous call is made to THUNDER, and Dynamo is dispatched to track down Andor who is supposedly "terrorizing the Village". Andor finds Dynamo first, however, smashing through a wall to confront our hero. "You are looking for me?" "That's right! Will you come quietly, or....?" Andor answers the question by kicking a chunk of pavement into Dynamo's face. "Why does everybody always have to do things the hard way?" An intense and destructive fight follows, with Andor and Dynamo hurling pieces of the landscape at each other. "Something's got to give! He's hit me.... with everything but the....." In the next panel, Dynamo is clobbered with a kitchen sink thrown by Andor.

Impatient for an end to the evenly matched fight (and apparently not realizing that if they just wait long enough Dynamo will run out of power and be at Andor's mercy) the SPIDER mobsters, who are better armed than the average Mafia hit men, call in an "air unit" which fires a pair of air-to-ground missiles at both combatants. Knocked unconscious, Dynamo and Andor awake in SPIDER's clutches; Dynamo's belt has been removed and he is tied up, but how will the gangsters restrain Andor, whose powers are part of him. The answer seems to be evident as a shocked Andor realizes, "It's dark...so DARK! I can't see.... I'm BLIND!" His eyes have been damaged by the missile blast. The SPIDER agents try to convince Andor that they are his friends, but Dynamo warns Andor that they intend to kill them both, and convinces the blinded superman to ally with him. Dynamo guides Andor to the table where his belt is being kept, and once he has the belt and it is turned on, he easily breaks his bonds. As Andor pursues the fleeing SPIDER henchmen, Dynamo (whose weight and mass are increased, as well as his strength, by his belt) leaps up in the air and crashes down through three floors of the building, landing at the foot of the stairway the SPIDER men are descending. The bad guys are caught between Dynamo and Andor, who between them roll up the staircase to make a makeshift cage.

But capturing the SPIDER henchmen is not Dynamo's only duty... Uh.... I hate to do this, but you'd better come with me too...." "WHAT? Is this your gratitude? You'd lock me up like an animal?" "But it's for your own good....you're BLIND...HELPLESS!" "Andor is NEVER helpless? Don't attempt to stop me....I am still the strongest, fastest...." "Okay, so you're still the greatest.... I still can't let you walk through that door!" In a last effort to peacefully dissuade Andor, Dynamo puts a hand on his chest; "Thank you for laying your hand on me...now I know just where you are!" and Andor knocks Dynamo through a wall. Then, before the battle between them can resume, Dynamo's belt clicks off; his half hour time limit is up and his power is gone. Seizing Dynamo, Andor declares, "I could KILL you with one punch...." "Well, get it over with!" But the superman hurls his helpless foe aside; "No, you aren't worth it! But if I ever see you again..." Ignoring Dynamo's protests, Andor smashes through a wall; "Blind or not, nobody better get in my way!" "And he is gone....into the night made darker by his blindness...Andor, now more desperate and thus more dangerous than ever...."

The issue also features stories of Lightning, NoMan, Raven (cover featured, the only time the flying agent got a solo cover slot on TA) and a THUNDER Agents team-up.