Thursday, May 28, 2015


"I was actually just swearing, Lieutenant."
Not the gap-toothed Superman villain, but rather the one-shot superhero appearing the back of Peter Cannon Thunderbolt vol.1 No.60 back in November of 1967, this hero’s tactics actually bore a lot in common with the baddie who preceded him under a shared name. Facing off against a totalitarian regime in the futuristic world of Ultrapolis, this Prankster also used the art of deliberate annoyance to frustrate his foes into committing fatal mistakes, only in this case it was on behalf of human dignity.

Decked out in one of comics’ most singular outfits – a mish-mash of polka dots and stripes, in five or six different colors with a sly jester’s hat motif worked into the mask – the Prankster counted among his weapons such diverse and daffy tools as laughing gas, a cartoonishly large magnet (for swiping enemy armaments) and a rocket-powered hot air balloon capable of outrunning even the fastest pursuit ships owned by the enemy.

And who is the enemy? Well, the future world Ultrapolis is ruled by the tyrannical Bane, an obese nitwit crammed into a Jetsons costume and ruling his city with both a feeble mind and an iron fist. Serving Bane directly is the officious, monocle-sporting, Dirk Dastardly-lookin’ Captain Wratt, and Bane’s personal computer – a clanking, sputtering robot with child-bearing hips which the tyrant treats like a wilting hothouse flower.

On his side, the Prankster is aided by scientist Hiram Grave, the inventor of his many amazing gadgets, including a “magic flute” which we never get to see in action, owing to the Prankster’s abbreviated run. Also possibly joining the Prankster was an innocent, red-headed citizen whom the Prankster rescues at the last minute from the harassment of Wratt’s guards, because that’s usually how it works in these older comics.

Created by Denny O’Neil and Jim Aparo, the Prankster is a damn fine looking story with some damn fine scripting and it is a damn shame that it’s completely disappeared. Apparently not picked up with the Charlton Action Heroes, Prankster didn’t make the crossover to new owners DC Comics, which is likely for the best if just to avoid confusion between the Prankster they already had…

"He also said 'Up yours, Hiram."


James W. Fry 3.0 said...

>sigh< THE PRANKSTER! Another childhood fave. I was delighted to see this feature apparently replace THE SENTINELS----only to see the book canceled before a second installment could be presented!The disappointment I felt only doubled a few years later when I read Harlan Ellison's "REPENT, HARLEQUIN!" for the first time. I know I'm not the first fevered fanboy to imagine that JESTER was "inspired by" HARLEQUIN---and I probably won't be the last. While the comics version would likely never have approached the sophistication of its forebear---still woulda been awesome!

Bram said...

Hm. Makes think of Tangent's Joker.

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