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SPYMAN #1
SPYMAN #2
SPYMAN #3
In the mid-sixties, the Batman TV show was at the height of its popularity, and America was on a superhero kick. Every comic company, even outfits such as Archie and Harvey who had never had much success with superheroes before, were jumping on the super-bandwagon. Harvey Comics hired Captain America co-creator Joe Simon to oversee their new "Harvey Thrillers" line. Simon met with new artist Jim Steranko and asked him to help develop a new line of characters for Harvey. An hour later, Steranko had created five new heroes, three of which were accepted for publication: Magicmaster, the Glowing Gladiator, and Spyman. Pictured below is Steranko's original concept sketch for the Spyman character.
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Spyman was an enemy agent fighter dedicated to combating foreign espionage, with his "Electro-Robotic hand." Steranko may have been inspired to create Spyman's hand by the "Outer Limits" TV .episode titled "Demon with a Glass Hand," .written by Harlan Ellison. The show, considered by many to be the best of the entire "Outer Limits" series, first aired October 17, 1964.

It starred Robert Culp as Trent, a man from the future with a hi-tech robotic hand (pictured left) who is being stalked by black-clad aliens. Trent's hand is missing three fingers, and he has to locate the missing digits in order to save the human race. Ellison's story was also adapted as a DC graphic novel drawn by Marshall Rogers (pictured right).

In September 1966, Harvey published the first issue of Spyman. Jim Steranko drew the contents page, and Steranko's schematic drawing of Spyman's hand was reused several times: in a box on the bottom of the cover, in the upper left corner of the cover, on the first page of each issue, and in the letter columns. The stories were penciled by George Tuska and Dick Ayers, with inks by Reed Crandall and others. Quite the mixed pedigree!



So what's Spyman's story? How did he GET his incredible electro-robot hand? Unfortunately, to GAIN his super hand, Spyman a.k.a. Johnny Chance first had to lose his regular left hand! It happened like this: After being knocked out and strapped to a loudly ticking atomic bomb...
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The operation is a success! Johnny Chance not only lives, his left hand is replaced by an artificial, super-powered hand known as the incredible electro-robot hand! Each of the hand's fingers has a different, amazing super-power, the palm contains an atomic power-pack, and the wrist opens to reveal a secret compartment which stores the life-like plastic skin which disguises the electro-robot hand when Johnny Chance goes undercover as Spyman. One question: Can I ask why the "X-Ray Probe" just has to be the middle finger?
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After just one issue, the electro-robot hand is improved! Now, the fingers are detachable, and each one can be replaced by a variety of fingers. Each finger has a different super-power! This "improvement" makes the Spyman character even more similar to Trent, the "Demon With A Glass Hand" hero! Here's Spyman getting his new hand from a guy just like James Bond's weapons-master, "Q."
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Sockamagee! Powered by his incredible electro-robot hand, Spyman takes on three of America's most dangerous super-enemy agents: The Whisperer, the ID Machine, and Cyclops! Then, Spyman is canceled after three issues. Johnny Chance retires, and is never heard from again!
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Here's a special, highly classified communication to YOU, the reader, from Spyman himself! This communiqué was intercepted from the Spyman letters page by DIAL B FOR BLOG.
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Bonus! This mini-poster of Spyman, America's Top Enemy Agent Fighter, taken from the contents page of Spyman #1, is supposedly Jim Steranko's first published work in comics! Happy spying, reader!
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COMING NEXT on DIAL B for BLOG:

Batman Power Record Story
Art by Neal Adams!

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