Magicman isn’t one of those oldtime superheroes who made a huge impact on the world (or even the world of comics), but he’s not without his charms, no pun intended. Set during the Vietnam War, Magicman was a feature in ACG’s Forbidden Worlds series. While most comic books firmly ignored the war, Magicman placed its protagonist, Tom Cargill, right in the line of fire and gave him a place fighting the Vietcong.
He also fought his insufferable troop leader, Sgt. Kilkenny, a foil for Cargill who remained with him throughout the entire run, even, oddly enough, after Cargill returned home to the States.
Cargill’s secret is that he was really born in the 18th century. His father was a powerful magician who ran afoul of religious leaders, who decided to put him to death. His son escaped, however, and remained quite hale and hearty over the years, assuming new identities along the way. And so he arrives in 1960s America.
Magicman’s powers are, quite obviously, magic. He does pretty much whatever the plot requires him to do, whether it’s firing blasts from his hands, flying, or using telepathy. Perhaps it’s this lack of focus and definability that did Magicman in and caused him to be cast away with so many other forgotten heroes, but his adventures are exuberant and fun in a 1960s-comics kind of way (despite the war—the blood and gore of that never seem to get in the way). Besides Vietnam, Magicman takes on aliens and evil scientists and the like.
Making the entire book more entertaining is the artwork by legendary comic-book artists Pete Costanza and Kurt Schaffenberger, two of the unsung greats of the industry. Costanza was pivotal in the look of Captain Marvel, and Schaffenberger drew just about everyone in the DC superhero universe at one time or another.
The stories in Magicman aren’t complex, deep, or intellectual, by any means. But it’s a pleasure to enjoy these simple tales from a bygone era, a time vastly different from ours—at least in our outlook, if not in its propensity for violence.
The book is appropriate for all ages, although younger readers probably won’t be hooked on its stylings very easily. It doesn’t have the over-the-top pizzazz of today’s comics or manga, but for those who remember these long-ago times in comics with fondness, there are some nice treats to be found inside.
Reviewed by John Hogan on July 10, 2012