Thursday, August 13, 2015

Best Character Ever 8: Armor

So far this series of columns usually focused on characters I love because of my long history with them or because I came to understand their coolness as I grew up. Today, I’m going to focus on a character I love because of how little I knew of him for the first couple years I found him.

Even as a kid, I could notice when comics were different from the rest. I knew Marvel’s books. I knew DC books. But even in those heady days of buying comics at first Bostrom’s SuperValu in the tiny town of West Union, Iowa, and later at Newsland in Knoxville, I knew something different when I saw it. The first non-Big Two title I remember finding there was Green Hornet by Ron Fortier and Jeff Butler. An older friend had several early issues, but I had the misfortune of stepping on to the book with issue nine. Sadly it would be the last issue with the young female Kato that interested me enough to buy a title based on a character I only knew from old radio serials.

But it was Continuity Comics that really caught my attention. And specifically, it was a man named Armor. And more specifically, it was one issue of his title.

Armor #8.

Best. Costume. Ever.
While Jack Keaton, the man behind the alien suit of armor that gives him his name, usually hangs out with his brother Silver Streak and friend Megalith, Armor 8 gives him his first solo earth story. And it is the kind of thing twelve year old Nick loved.

Jack picks a fight in a bar and accidentally exposes that the “cola” vendors there are actually dealing the less legal kind of coke. Along with his currently not-costumed compatriots, he escapes the killers (and their machine guns) after leaving a few hurting.

But ol’ Jack is way wiser than his friends. He knows that these guys will mean business and that they’ve probably already figured out where Jack and friends live. When their boss calls and sets up a chat with them, Jack knows something is out of sorts.

So he stays home and sends his two super powered friends out. He does this knowing that the criminals will instead take their house and plan an ambush on the super-powered characters. Jack plans to stay home and take care of the problem himself.

Now let me point this out quick. Outside a gem eye that works like a real eye, Armor has no powers whatsoever, just lots of weapons. And he plans on taking on an army of thugs single-handedly.

This wouldn’t be a comic book if he didn’t succeed. Thirteen pages of the comic are spent with Jack beating the living daylights out of dozens of enemies, really showing off the insane arsenal of weapons he keeps hidden in his armor. It’s an amazing action sequence choreographed by an all star art team: Frank Springer, Kelley Jones and Neal Adams himself.

Armor was amazing in my mind. Unfortunately, it would be years before I found another issue of his title. Only a few appearances in Samuree gave me any other ideas about the character, but I knew he was cool.

Sadly, I’ve found the rest of Jack Keaton’s adventures were often far weaker than this issue, but I still can’t help but look at that amazing costume and not help but think about what could have been if the book survived the subsequent Deathwatch 2000 and Rise of Magic events.

Alas, we will probably never know. While Neal Adams still owns the character, the Continuity characters haven't appeared for almost 20 years with no signs of making a comeback.

The armored hero fighting out of his league trope though continues and will probably continue for years to come. A version of that concept even makes an appearance in Lightweight: Beyond, as I introduce the substitute Lightweight still trying to defend Federation from evil. I am not sure if you will ever see an illustrated version of the character, but he certainly won't have a costume half as cool as Armor.

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