Comics Should Be Ridiculous #2: Jigsaw #1

In 1965, at the tail end of what we comics fans call the Silver Age, superheroes were all the rage. Spurred by the runaway success of rival publisher, Marvel Comics, and the popularity of the ultra-campy Adam West Batman television show, Harvey Comics sought to cut themselves a wedge of the superhero pie, luring legendary comics creator, Joe Simon, to spearhead an entirely new line of comics. Gone were the little rich boys, good-natured ghosts, and precocious pixies from which the company had built its reputation, replaced by deliciously off-kilter interpretations of the heroes making big waves at Marvel and DC.

Dubbed Harvey Thriller, the short-lived line included titles like Blast-Off #1 (featuring work by Simon and his buddy, Jack Kirby), Thrill-O-Rama (starring The Pirana, Deadliest Creature in All The World, created by Otto Binder and Jack Sparling), Unearthly Spectaculars (home of the awesome Tiger Boy and Jack Q(uick) Frost), The Spirit (Do I really have to tell you?), Fighting American (Ditto!), Double Dare Adventures (Bee-Man!), Spyman (created by snappy-dresser, Steranko) and, the subject of this week’s shindig, Jigsaw #1!

Jigsaw #1
Chapter One: A Nightmare in Space!
Chapter Two: A Puzzle for Jigsaw!
Chapter Three: Space Agent to the Stars!
Written by Otto Binder
Illustrated by Tony Tallarico
Letters: Gaspar Saladino

Created by Joe Simon, the hero Jigsaw, Man of a Thousand Parts, was brought to life by the team of genius wordsmith, Otto Binder, and illustrator, Tony Tallarico, who has the distinction of illustrating Dell Comics’ Lobo, the very first American comic to feature an African-American hero. The cover of the first issue, illustrated by Bill Draut, warns readers not to laugh at the title character because he is in fact the GREATEST CRIMEFIGHTER ON EARTH! Obviously, the entire stables of DC and Marvel heroes were off-planet at the time of the cover’s creation.

Astronaut, Gary Jason, orbiting the Earth in research vessel Star Gazer 1, is suddenly thrust into a very precarious situation. A giant whirlwind appears and begins to suck up everything into which it comes in contact!  Rocks, trees, bears and, wouldn’t you know it, the Star Gazer 1 are yanked into the cone and pulled toward the moon! Buffeted by all sorts of crap (and eventually impaled by a giant fossilized tree), the Star Gazer 1 is destroyed and poor Gary is ejected into space. Luckily for him, there was oxygen in the cone but, not so lucky, his body is battered by the same things that destroyed the Star Gazer 1. A fleshy bag of broken bones nearing his expiration date, Gary finally arrives at a secret Krellite moonbase hidden in the Ptolemy crater, presided over by researchers Si-Krell and his buddy, Plentha. The aliens don’t want Gary to expire because it would dash all of their efforts to create peaceful relations with humans (even though no one on the planet is aware of their existence), so they do what any benevolent aliens would do: employ a brain decoder to mind-rape the battered astronaut, extracting pertinent details of his life, before taping him back together. Yes, you read that correctly, the aliens use living tissue tape to mend Gary’s broken bones.

Never having operated on a human before, the Krellites are amazed at the byproducts of their operation. A multicolored amalgamation of human tissue and alien technology (I guess the Krellites didn’t have enough of a single color of tape to do the job), Gary was infused with tremendous strength and the ability to stretch and alter the shape of his body! When Si-Krell receives word that the Pulots have attacked the Krellite M-1 base, Gary is hastily sent back to earth in his repaired capsule. His reception is far from rosy, however, as everyone he comes into contact with believes him to be an alien.

Mirroring his physical makeup, Gary is a hodgepodge of conflicting emotions. Seen as a freak by his buddies, to whom can he possibly turn? In a flash of inspiration, Gary seeks out his science fiction author friend, Chet Mansfield, the only one with a brain big enough to understand his predicament. The level-headed Chet urges his frantic friend to call Space Headquarters and explain his situation, a sensible idea to which Gary agrees, but not before touching base with his fiancé, Betty.

Gary meets up with his squeeze and is seconds away from revealing his secret when a train carrying circus animals runs off the rails. Shredding his finely-tailored suit in the process, Gary leaps into action, safely sequestering all of the animals in their battered cages before anyone can be mauled or eaten.

A good deed done, Gary turns to his woman, who, lacking the knowledge Susie Richards possesses on the benefits of a partner that can alter the proportion of various body parts, promptly loses her proverbial shit.

As if being ostracized by his friends and loved ones that aren’t Chet Mansfield wasn’t bad enough, Gary soon learns that not only did the Krellites invade his mind without permission, while they were in there they planted a radio receiver so they can track and contact him wherever he may roam. With friends like these…

Gary is whisked away to the Krellite moonbase on a magnetic beam (also, thankfully, loaded with sweet, sweet oxygen) and shown images of the handiwork of the vicious Pulots throughout the universe. Unaware of how these developments concern him, Gary is informed that the Pulots are IN HIS SOLAR SYSTEM and have established bases on both Pluto and Neptune. Si-Krell believes the only way to beat them is to use espionage! Someone has to infiltrate the Pulot base and destroy their energy machines of evil. Fortunately, the Pulots look exactly like Earthlings and, even more fortunately, Si-Krell knows of a Pulot traitor who can help Gary sneak into the base. Enter the curvaceous Zilla!

Jigsaw and Zilla tiptoe into the Pulot base, bust a lot of heads, and put the kibosh on the nasty energy machines. Though the battle was won, the war with the Pulots still looms.

Unfortunately, Harvey pulled the plug on the entire Thriller line after the second issue of Jigsaw (which doesn’t focus on the Pulot war at all; Gary’s newfound fame prompts Si-Krell to enter the fledgling hero in the Interplanetary Olympics), so we never learn how the storyline panned out. We also never see flaky Betty again. Do she and Gary (JIGSAW) every reconcile? Thankfully, we can glean a shred of hope from the letter to the editor she penned as published in Jigsaw #2.

Expect to see further investigations into the strange universe of the Harvey Heroes in future installments of…Comics Should Be Ridiculous!