By Ted White (Bantam Books)
One thing you could never accuse Stan Lee of was reticence, especially in promoting his burgeoning line of superstars. In the 1960s most adults, including the people who worked in the field, considered comic-books a ghetto. Some disguised their identities whilst others were “just there until they caught a break.” Stan and Jack had another idea – change the perception.
Whilst Jack pursued his imagination waiting for the quality of the work to be noticed, Stan pursued every opportunity to break down the ghetto walls, college lecture tours, animated shows (of frankly dubious quality at the start, but always improving), and of course getting their product onto “real” bookshelves in real book shops.
In the 1960s on the back of the “Batmania” craze, many comics publishers repackaged their old comics stories in cheap and cheerful paperbacks, but to my knowledge only monolithic DC and brash upstart Marvel went to the next level and commissioned all-new prose novels starring their costumed superstars.
The iconic Captain America was given the solo prose treatment following on from his starring role in Avengers Battle the Earth-Wrecker with relative newcomer and devoted fanboy Ted White given the assignment of a lifetime.
Ted White won the 1968 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer, and had been a dedicated music, science-fiction and comic-book devotee for most of his young life, winning much acclaim as an amateur author. He had published fanzines since 1953, written for many others and organized the 1967 World Science Fiction convention in New York City.
Beginning professional life as a music critic in 1959 he soon broke into another beloved field when he collaborated with Marion Zimmer Bradley on ‘Phoenix’ which eventually became his novel Phoenix Prime. Other novels followed and he became a respected SF editor too. In 1970 he contributed the opening article to the landmark paperback All in Color for a Dime, often credited with establishing the legitimacy of comicbook criticism.
The Great Gold Steal is a delightful blend of James Bond and Doc Savage, with the Sentinel of Liberty tracking three nefarious villains – the Eagle, the Starling and the Raven – as they instigate a bold plan to steal America’s entire bullion reserves. But behind their bold scheme is another villain, one who has a far longer history with the Star-Spangled Avenger…
Fast-paced, exuberant and deftly plotted, this tale is a huge amount of fun, written by a man clearly in love with his job and possessed by a deep love of the parent material (I certainly can’t think of another novelisation that footnotes specific issues of the parent comicbook as a source and encourages book readers to read comics). This is a terrific little read that deserves another release…
© 1968 Marvel Comics Group. All rights reserved.