Captain Action: Riddle Of The Glowing Men by Jim Beard. Book review


Airship 27, POD p/b $14.99, pdf $3.00,

Reviewed by David Brzeski

Had I not previously read and enjoyed a book by Jim Beard (See my review of Sgt. Janus, Spirit Breaker on this website) I may never have picked this one up. Captain Action to me was not much more than an advert in the US comic books I read in the 60s. He was a G.I. Joe/Action Man style doll for which you could purchase costumes for an interesting array of licensed characters. He could be Superman, Batman, Captain America, The Phantom, and Flash Gordon. DC comics did license the character and produce 5 issues of his own comic book in the 60s. They made him into a fairly powerful superhero, who gained his powers from ancient gods, who had transferred their special abilities to coins, before leaving our solar system forever. It wasn’t at all bad actually, but it didn’t last long.

A few years ago, Moonstone picked up the license and began to produce their own Captain Action comics. They went for a much pulpier based hero, with no actual super powers, but some useful equipment. He works with the A.C.T.I.O.N. Directive, who are an organisation set up to combat alien threats on Earth. In feel it’s similar to T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, or Man From U.N.C.L.E., with a bit of Gerry Anderson’s U.F.O thrown in. As a character, Captain Action would fit right in with T.H.U.N.D.E.R.’s group of technically enhanced agents.

Thankfully, this version of the character lends itself to the new pulp style fiction that Airship 27 is becoming known for much better than the DC comics version.

Set in the 60s cold war era, Jim Beard gives us some nasty Russian villains, a sexy, miniskirted Russian spy, who turns out to be much more than she seems, a lost city under the Earth’s surface and the return of Dr. Evil. What’s not to like? We also get one of the best realised kid sidekicks I’ve ever come across. Indeed, it’s the birth of a hero element of Sean Barrett’s part in the story (which takes place before he officially takes on the mantle of Action Boy) that appealed to me the most in this book.

I admit that one of the things about Captain Action that I always found silly, was the mariner’s cap he wears. It was particularly silly when DC comics made him into a superhero with abilities to rival Captain Marvel and Superman. Jim Beard obviously realised this and made this affectation for the cap a fully-fledged feature of the character. He also added a few gadgets to give it some practical purpose. Now I like the cap, but could probably live without the spandex costume.

There is much of the cliché about this book, but that’s pretty much the point. It’s an homage to the classic pulp fiction of the 60s. Yes, the pulps were history by then, but the tradition was certainly continued in many TV shows and paperback series of that era. It’s great to see that tradition continuing to be upheld in the new millennium.