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Peacemaker 1

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND Having run through issues of the other 1966-67 Charlton "action-hero" titles, I may as well finish with the last of the titles to debut, even though it's not a particular favorite of mine, so....

THE PEACEMAKER #1 (actually listed in the indicia as "Vol. 3, No. 1"-- given Charlton's bizarre numbering system, Ghu knows what Volumes 1 and 2 were); March 1967; Charlton Comics; Dick Giordano, editor. The cover scene by artist Pat Boyette depicts an obviously symbolic figure of The Peacemaker, in his brown and white combat outfit, charging forward gun in hand.... as in the background tanks roll, fighter jets fly, and rockets are fired. The cover blurb reads, "COLLECTOR'S EDITION! A man who loves peace so much that he is willing TO FIGHT FOR IT!" Another blurb at the bottom of the cover advertises, "Also featuring THE FIGHTIN' FIVE in 'Ruler of Darkness""

The Peacemaker first appeared as a backup feature in FIGHTIN' 5 #40-, Nov. 1966. He made one more appearance as second banana to "Charlton's Blackhawks", and then, as Dick Giordano put it in this issue's lettercol, "when the decision was made to cease publication of the Fightin' Five we thought we'd just make a little switch...THE PEACEMAKER in his own book with a revamped version of the FIGHTIN' FIVE as a companion story." The decision was evidently made suddenly, as the Peacemaker stars here in two short stories that were obviously originally intended as F5 backups. In fact, it would be issue #3 before the Peacemaker would star in a full length lead feature.

Who was the Peacemaker? He was Christopher Smith, an American diplomat who ranges the world's trouble spots, averting war by negotiation and persuasion. But when these methods fail, he dons his Peacemaker armor and makes use of a wide variety of high-tech weaponry to put down those who scheme and plot against world peace. The Peacemaker is drawn by the unmistakable (though not, to me personally, terribly appealing) hand of Pat Boyette. Later stories in the series are credited to Joe Gill as scripter, so I'm guessing these are too, though possibly they were scripted by Boyette himself. The first tale is "The Killer on the Reef!" A splash panel shows us the armored Peacemaker, with scuba attachments, observing a passing submarine deep underwater, while the caption informs us that tensions between the fishing fleets of various nations (including the U.S.) are rising. Christopher Smith goes aboard a fishing trawler and is told by an oceanographer how the fishermen are accusing each other of sabotage and diverting the fish from their normal habitats. But who is behind it all? "A malignant force, Mr. Smith! Not American...not Russian, not Japanese or any one nation!" As the trawler arrives at Thousand Mile Reef, site of the most recent incidents, a mysterious skin diver plants tiny explosive devices that tear the trawler's nets apart-- and then attaches a larger bomb to the underside of the ship itself. "In accordance with my instructions from The Commodore, I hereby warn have sixty seconds before a shaped charge destroys your ship!"

Diplomat Christopher Smith excuses himself, and, donning his Peacemaker outfit, dives off the side of the ship, startling the crew. Counting off the seconds, PM fights off a shark and, with a single second to spare, removes the charge from the ship. As he swims deeper, he is attacked by more sharks, apparently under the control of the "eerie frogman". But PM uses the shaped charge he confiscated to destroy the sharks, while using the jet-pack he wears on his back to speed away from the explosion. Trailing the frogman, he discovers his base, a nuclear submarine. Peacemaker battles the frogman, sending him "drifting, groggy, toward the bottom" (evidently PM's pacifist principles don't keep him from dealing as ruthlessly with enemies as a Ditko hero) and gains entrance to the sub, where he finds the bulky, red-haired, ornately uniformed "Commodore". The Commodore sneers at PM for not keeping the shaped charge to use against him, but Peacemaker warns that he has even more powerful explosives on his person, and he will use them if necessary. PM demands an explanation of the Commodore's activities, and the latter-- who may be a seagoing type but nonetheless doesn't seem to have all his oars in the water-- replies, "The fish are mine! All of the wealth of the seven seas will be mine! Other men have invaded the depths to wage war or destroy! Now I protect everything beneath the sea...and will destroy all who trespass!" Unimpressed, Peacemaker fires a bolt from his helmet laser into the sub's controls, and the Commodore and his crew are forced to surface and jump for their lives before the ship's atomic engine explodes. (Which seems kind of counter-productive to what Peacemaker was trying to accomplish in the first place... at least, I don't think I'd want to eat fish caught in waters where an atomic explosion just took place.) Taken into custody on the trawler, the Commodore rants, "If you hadn't interfered...I was heading south! Once I reached the South Pole, I would have had partners... and we would have CONQUERED THE WORLD!" Peacemaker dismisses him, "Well, the best laid plans of men and RATS...etc. etc." but, back in his base in Switzerland, Smith worries, "WHAT DID HE MEAN? Who was at the South Pole that he would join? WHO?"

The second Peacemaker story is "The Hidden Power!" A sensation is created when, at a diplomatic reception, U.S. diplomat Christopher Smith is slapped and insulted by an emissary from a "minor Balkan nation". Moreover, Comrade Fedornich warns that if the U.S. attempts to retaliate for the national insult to their envoy, "YOU WILL ALL DIE...!" Conferring with U.S. officials in Washington, Smith is shocked to learn that Fedornich's nation, weak, poor, and traditionally bullied by both the Russians and NATO, now has nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Where did they come from? Returning to his Swiss base, Smith assumes his Peacemaker guise and emerges from a camouflaged door in a mountain in a "long range Mach 3 fighter I developed!" (Where Christopher Smith got all this weaponry is a bigger question than where Fedornich's country got it... apparently Smith is both rich and an inventive genius, but Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne together would be hard pressed to come up with some of the Peacemaker's toys.) PM tracks one of the Balkan nation's planes south to Antarctica, where he finds that a scientific team sent by that nation has found "unbelievable mineral wealth...including almost pure URANIUM...which in today's nuclear world means POWER!" They have built an "under-ice atomic installation", and are about to develop a "bomb that weighs less than a hundred pounds but can wipe out a continent!" "We can bring democracy and the Communist slavemasters to their knees now! We can rule the world!"

The Peacemaker's plane is targeted by a heat-seeking missile from the secret base, but PM eludes it by cutting his jet engine. With the plane no longer emitting heat, the missile loses its target and doubles back and strikes its own base. Landing his jet safely with a giant parachute, Peacemaker disables a patrol of troops hunting him with "Nerve gas....quicker than bullets, and not as fatal!" (Funny, I never heard of nerve gas as being exactly benign stuff....) But the odds back at the base are too high even for him to launch a "frontal attack", and he sneaks in through a ventilation shaft... only to be spotted and caught by the "jet-fans" that feed air to the nuclear furnace. (Does a nuclear furnace need air to burn?) Caught helplessly in the air flow, unable to escape using his jet backpack, PM resolves, "If I must die, then let my death serve a useful purpose! Instead of slowing down, I'll go even faster!" He hopes to destroy the furnace, but in some bizarre fashion, the sounds waves building up around him shield him from the heat of the furnace, and he crashes right through the furnace and into the nerve center of the base without being hurt. "The shockwaves which built up around me cushioned the impact!" The base is destroyed; the Peacemaker aids the survivors, and then returns home for another confrontation with Comrade Fedornich, who is eager to apologize once he learns that his country's secret installation has been destroyed. "Typically, Christopher Smith does not publicly humiliate Comrade Diplomat Fedornich" as he graciously accepts the apology and offers to resume cordial U.S. relations with the unnamed Balkan nation. It's not explicitly stated, but apparently Fedornich's people are the "allies" the Commodore hoped to link up with in the first story.

The Peacemaker went on to appear in four more issues of his title before disappearing into limbo along with the rest of the Charlton "action-heroes". Gill and Boyette didn't get around to telling his origin until issue #4... it seems Christopher Smith was the son of an "army officer turned statesman" and a scientific researcher, and so inherited both combat abilities and a love for peace from his father, and scientific/inventive abilities from his mother. He became a diplomat while creating super-weapons as a "hobby", and one day when he found that an evil mastermind was plotting against peace he realized that he could use his weaponry to keep the peace in the alter ego of the Peacemaker. Later, Peacemaker was sold along with the rest of the "action-heroes" to DC.... he appeared in a four-issue miniseries in 1988, which I haven't read, but I gather that DC, then in its "deconstructionist" phase, turned PM into a homicidal maniac of some sort. Peacemaker was my least favorite of the Charlton heroes, but he deserved better than that. For that matter, all of the "action-heroes" deserved better than what DC ended up doing with them, IMHO. (The one Charlton-turned-DC series that was really good in its own right was Denny O'Neil's QUESTION...but I'm still uncomfortable with that series because O'Neil turned the philosophy behind Steve Ditko's Question around 180 degrees... arguably O'Neil really should have created a character of his own to express his own philosophy.)

The Fightin' Five backup tale in this issue , "Ruler of Darkness", (signed by artists Montes and Bache, script probably by Joe Gill) starts abruptly in mid-story, leading me to suspect that Giordano actually took a full-length story originally prepared for the F5's cancelled title and simply lopped off the opening segment. The Five were a blue uniformed para-military group that fought assorted enemy agents and menaces; their original membership included leader Hank Hennessy; a U.S. Special Forces veteran; "Frenchy the Fox," former jewel thief; Granite Gallero, mercenary and weapons expert; pro wrestler "Tom-Tom," and Israeli private eye "Irv the Nerve" Haganah (who may possibly be the first explicitly Jewish "action-hero" in comics). They ran 14 issues in their own book before being relegated to backup status. Here, as we join the story already in progress, Hank Hennessy is being held at gunpoint by a Communist security agent named Sonya as he confronts "Comrade Jrozva," the Communist leader of a small Balkan nation who hates even the Soviets "because they have not attacked the Free World" and "dreams of the day when the world is destroyed and only he and his few followers are left alive!" Even the other Communists are concerned about Jrozva, and they have dispatched agent Sonya to corral him, but she has changed sides....or has she? "You are Hennessy, the leader of the thugs who call themselves by the immature name of the Fightin' Five!" Jrozva roars. "You have interfered with my plans in the past, but you cannot stop me now!" Hennessy replies, "You may murder millions, Jrozva...but you will still certainly die with them!" Jrozva goes on to boast that he has acquired nuclear weaponry from his former Soviet allies and has created a "secret cavern" base stocked with food and necessities... he will ignite World War II and then go underground to emerge after the world is destroyed to rule the ruins. He orders Sonya to kill Hennessy, and despite Hank's pleas, she shoots him point-blank. But after summoning the rest of the Fightin' 5, she reveals that Hennessy is still alive...she shot him with a "paper wad", not a bullet. The Five plus Sonya get airborne in the team plane, and Hennessy shoots down one of Jrozva's jets with a tiny rocket fired from a pistol... but their job is not finished, for Jrozva's plan must still be neutralized. The Five and Sonya get agreement from their respective governments to team up to stop Jrozva, and they parachute into his "communications center". But they arrive too late to stop Jrozva before he pushes the button to activate his nuclear missiles. Only one desperate chance, as "Irv the Nerve" uses wire cutters on the live wire carrying electrical impulses to the missile launchers. "The electrical impulses which meant death to millions means death instead to the Israeli fighter!" Hank Hennessy as well is severely injured. But Sonya succeeds in triggering a self-destruct mechanism that buries Jrozva and his secret base, and as the survivors limp away from the scene, "Irv the Nerve is dead...Hank Hennessy's arm is terribly injured...and none of them knows if he will ever see again! Yet none of them regrets doing what had to be done!" Sonya replaced the late Irv as a regular member of the Fightin' 5 in the remainder of their run as Peacemaker backup, and Hank Hennessy carried on as leader despite the loss of an arm and an eye.