Welcome to Longbox Junk! It's the blog absolutely STUFFED with comic book reviews nobody ever asked me to write.
Every now and then, I like to take a step back away from my usual bargain bin fare and shine the spotlight on one of the older (and possibly, but not always, more "valuable") comics in my collection. This is one of those times.
Strap into the Longbox Junk time machine, because it's time for a Retro Review!
The comic at hand holds a lot of nostalgia for me. Reading it takes me back to my younger days in the 1970's in a big way because it's a comic book tie-in to one of my favorite T.V. shows back then. . .Emergency!
The show (and the comic) follows the day-to-day exploits of a team of paramedics (John Gage and Roy DeSoto of squad 51). As a kid, I LOVED this show! My brother and I used to watch it any time we could. And when we couldn't watch it, we were in the yard playing it!
After my brother left active duty in the Army, he actually became a paramedic. I think maybe those days in the 70's playing and watching Emergency! might have had a little something to do with that.
The show itself was a pretty big hit in its time (lasting a respectable 6 seasons). I'm not sure how well it's remembered these days, but I have the feeling it's one of those kinds of shows that people don't think about much now, but when you mention it to someone of a certain age there's an "Oh yeah. . .I remember that" sort of thing.
I was never aware that Emergency! Even HAD comics until recently, when I found this issue at a little antique shop a few towns over that my wife wanted to check out. I could NOT wait to get home and read this baby!
So yeah. . .big fan of the Emergency! T.V. show. Now the question is whether or not the comics can stand up and deliver some of that nostalgia I have when I think of long-ago afternoons playing paramedic with my brother. That's a pretty tall order, but let's find out!
COVER: Jack Sparling
We're off to a good start because THAT is one great cover! Beautifully painted by prolific Bronze Age artist Jack Sparling, this cover has a real sense of motion and action. The splashes of bright and dark colors combine to give this a feeling of chaos barely being controlled by the featured firemen. This isn't just a great comic book cover, it's a great piece of art, period. Let's get inside!
Two stories in this issue. . .an extra-sized comic story and a short two-page text piece (With some of John Byrne's earliest comic work illustrating it!). Let's take a look at each one in their own turn.
ONE BIG HAPPY FAMILY
SCRIPT: Joe Gill
PENCILS: Jordi Franch Cubells (As J. Franch)
A new fireman is transferred to Station 51 from another station for personality conflicts with the men there. Joe Diskin quickly lives up to his reputation as rude and unfriendly at the station, but when he's on the job, he's a skilled and brave firefighter that helps the paramedics of Squad 51 through a rough situation while rescuing people trapped in a raging fire.
Thinking that the men of Station 51 just got off on the wrong foot with Diskin, Paramedic John Gage decides to try and make friends with the new man. Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, Gage runs into a brick wall of unfriendly behavior from Diskin, causing Gage to wonder if maybe there's no getting through to him.
Despite Gage's failure to make friends with Diskin, the new firefighter once again proves his worth while assisting the Paramedics during a harrowing rescue operation during a blaze at a power plant, risking his life to keep the flames at bay while Gage and his partner, Roy DeSoto, save trapped workers.
As the days go by, Gage is more determined than ever to break through Diskin's hard shell, even though the rest of the men at Station 51 have given up. Finally, Gage manages to get Diskin to socialize with him by challenging him to a handball game.
After returning to the station, Gage and DeSoto discover that the other men of Station 51 are passing around a petition for their Chief to transfer Diskin to yet another station. The Paramedics immediately stand up for Diskin, telling the others that the new man may not be friendly, but he's a good firefighter that deserves as much of a chance as anyone else. Unknown to them, Diskin overhears the whole thing.
Later, as Diskin assists the paramedics during another fire, he finally has a friendly word for the team as he challenges them to another handball game. It seems that Diskin has decided he wants to be part of the Station 51 family after all.
Okay. Not bad! I wanted some of that nostalgia from Emergency! and I got it. This story reads like a "lost" episode of the show! I like that it took just as much time with what was going on at the station as it did with action scenes, just like many of the T.V. show episodes did.
There's really not that much to the story. . .a new guy has trouble fitting in and Johnny Gage takes it on himself to try to bring him into the "family". . .but it's that simple framework that allows the writer to provide a story where I can almost HEAR the voices of the actors from the T.V. show as I read it.
The art for this story delivers in a big way! A lot of the Charlton comics had great covers and not so great art inside. This comic is not one of those. The artist manages to mostly capture the likenesses of the T.V. actors, but where the art REALLY shines is during the action scenes of billowing smoke and chaos! Some of the station scenes are a little sketchy, but the firefighting action more than makes up for it.
All in all, just a great little story! I'll tell you true. . .it makes me want to go watch some Emergency!
Let's see what the backup text story is about, shall we? We shall!
TRIAL BY FIRE
ILLUSTATIONS: John Byrne
While his usual partner, Roy DeSoto is on vacation, Johnny Gage is teamed up with a new paramedic who transferred from the firefighting team. Although the new man seems to be a good paramedic, one of the other firemen warns Gage that the new guy quit firefighting because he lost his nerve after being injured in a fire. Fortunately, after being rescued by the new man, Gage realizes that the warning was off base and the new paramedic will fit in just fine.
The entire story is scanned below. . .
This story follows the same theme as the main comic offering above. . .a new guy having trouble fitting in and John Gage helping him along. It's. . .okay. It's not bad, but I would have rather seen a bit more page space given to the main story instead.
I guess the main draw here is that this actually has some of John Byrne's earliest comic work. There's not much of it, being spot illustrations for a text piece, but you can definitely see a master's hand at work here, even in the tiny amount we're given.
Overall, this backup story is okay. I personally think the space could have been put to better use expanding the main story for a couple more pages. The art is an interesting artifact of comic history.
So there it is. Emergency! #3.
I'm glad I found this comic and now have it in my collection. It really DOES read just like an episode of the T.V. show. . .to the point that I could almost hear the voices of the actors in my head when I read it. This story could EASILY have been adapted for the show.
Is it the best comic I've ever read? No. Not even close. But what this DID do for me was take me back in time to the 70's like I was taking a trip in a paper time machine and left me wanting more! I really don't think there's much more I could ask from a comic book.
If you were a fan of Emergency! Then I heartily recommend this comic. If you're looking for something a little unusual that doesn't involve superheroes, then check this out. I'm probably a little biased because the T.V. show holds some great memories for me, but it's really a decent comic even without that connection.
The series was very short. . .four issues only. There was a second Emergency! series (also from Charlton) that also ran for only 4 issues. I don't see that they've been collected in any way, so I guess finding these in the wild or buying the issues online is the only way to get them. Luckily, it doesn't seem the prices are too bad.
Up Next. . .
I'm not really sure! It's flea market and yard sale season and I've had a REALLY good run of luck finding great comics out there so far this year. So I might do a few more retro reviews spotlighting some of them.
In any case, be there or be square!