Welcome back, Jolly Whackos, to The Mighty Crusaders Number Four! It’s time for the third ultra-page of sequential narrative so get excited!

Listen to The Mighty Crusaders Number Four Supplemental at https://www.patreon.com/SILENCE

Send your correspondence to [email protected] for all your questions and comments. 

Transcript and pictorial reference below for all true monkey winners.

Hi, Jolly Wackos. This is Gary Lactus, back again with another provocative dose of controversial truth that you probably can’t handle regarding The Mighty Crusaders Number Four in this, The Mighty Crusaders Number Four number three. Did you notice something different about the start of the episode? No, it’s not the increased levels of dignity, good looks, confidence and humility that comes with each new read of The Mighty  Crusaders number Four. No, it’s something else. Can you guess? Will you win a monkey? That’s right, we have a brilliant new theme tune. The Mighty Crusaders Number Four listener Gary Ferris-Barns wrote in to The Mighty Crusaders Number Four Supplemental number two and suggested that The Mighty Crusaders Number Four podcast should have a theme tune worthy of its greatness. I was more than happy to oblige.  If you want to hear The Mighty Crusaders Number Four Supplemental then all you have to do is pledge a single paltry unit of currency (or more if you’ve finally come to your senses, you disgusting oaf) to the SILENCE! Patreon at patreon.com/silence. There’s lots of other exclusive content there, none of which matters as it is unrelated to The Mighty Crusaders Number Four. Send your comments and questions regarding The Mighty Crusaders Number Four to [email protected] that’s [email protected] for inclusion in the next The Mighty Crusaders Number Four Supplemental. 

In the last episode of The Mighty Crusaders Number Four, we looked at page two of The Mighty Crusaders Number Four. And what a page it was, introducing the reader to three of the five sacred ultra heroes who comprise The Mighty Crusaders; Black Hood, Fly Girl and Fly Man. We saw what makes them tick and what kind of ticks they make when they’re ticking and what those ticks mean. There are two more Mighty Crusaders to tick off the list so let’s get those ticks done before tick, tick, tick, tick, boom! Boom! Shake, shake, shake page three of The Mighty Crusaders Number Four. Like page two, the panels on this page are set out in three tiers. Unlike page two, we have five panels instead of six. A square of four even panels occupy the top two thirds of the page. Below them, a luxurious, page-wide panel that we shall come to in time. For now, jolly whackos, let us command our eyes to fall upon the first of these ultra panels then talk about it once we have looked at it with all our might. 

We see a light red-haired man in blue workmen’s dungarees and white, short-sleeved shirt carrying an ornately framed mirror down some stairs. Atop the stairs, a woman looks on, hands held anxiously up to her face. Next to her, another bedungareed man looks on with body language suggesting apprehension at the task currently being undertaken by the mirror-carrying man. 

The ultra caption reads,

“Simultaneously, Bill Higgins labours at his first day’s employment for a moving-van company…”

And the mirror carrying man bellows inside his mind, 

“Just remembered… There’s a Crusaders meeting soon! Must get away, fast! Oh how I hate to do this deliberately! I need this job but here goes…!”

There’s so much to unpack from this massive suitcase of a panel. The mirror-carrying man is Bill Higgins.  Our research lets us know that Bill Higgins is actually Ultra Hero, The Shield.  Oh, the poetry of America’s best number one patriotic American Ultra Hero secretly working an honest, menial job.  This deftly echoes the truly admirable American dream that literally anyone can become President of the United States of America (as long as they’re a natural-born citizen of the U.S., have lived in the U.S. for at least 14 years, are over 35 years old and can raise around 236.8 million dollars for advertising).

Let’s now look at the idiosyncratic use of descriptive language that we’re becoming both familiar with and elevated by. Ultra-type Writer Jerry Siegel continues to write like no one else, using phrases that have never been used before or since such as “moving-van company” rather than boring old “removals” or “moving” company.  Originality of expression like this keeps the text alive and jumping in the brain and in no way comes across like someone who can’t quite remember the right name for something so they spout some different, related words in the hope that they’ll be understood and it doesn’t matter anyway because this script needs writing – and fast!

Bill Higgins is carrying a Mirror so let’s learn about mirrors. Natural mirrors have existed since prehistoric times, such as the surface of water, but people have been manufacturing mirrors out of a variety of materials for thousands of years, like stone, metals, and glass. The earliest manufactured mirrors were pieces of polished stone such as obsidian, a naturally occurring volcanic glass. Examples of obsidian mirrors found in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) have been dated to around 6000 BCE.  Mirrors of polished copper were crafted in Mesopotamia from 4000 BCE, and in ancient Egypt from around 3000 BCE.  Polished stone mirrors from Central and South America date from around 2000 BCE onwards.  By the time of The Mighty Crusaders Number Four, mirrors were almost exclusively made of glass with a silvered backing.  Effective but notoriously fragile.  In Greek Mythology, the act of looking into a mirror was often thought to reveal the future. It was believed too that if one gazed into a mirror for too long their soul would be stolen. To the ancient Greeks, mirrors were like pools of water where souls could be trapped, a theme that is reflected in the story of Narcissus. The connection of the soul to mirrors has given rise to many superstitions. For instance, one of the reasons that breaking a mirror causes seven years of bad luck is that the soul, thought to regenerate every seven years, shatters with the broken mirror. Vampires, who have no souls, are thus invisible to mirrors. It’s also dangerous for babies, whose souls are undeveloped, to look into mirrors before their first birthday or they will become stutterers.  It is fitting then that this Ultra-Hero is not looking into this mirror but straight ahead, strong and true.  BUT WAIT!  We see Bill Higgins’ reflection in the mirror.  It is no normal reflection.  Instead of showing the mirror-image of his noble face,  it’s impossibly showing the back of his head!  What could this mean?!  My extensive research has turned up nothing about the significance of mirrors that magically reflect the back of heads, although I did stumble upon an article pointing out that you could face a £1000 fine for hanging an air freshener from your rear view mirror. While not actually illegal to drive with dirty windscreens or large air fresheners, according to the Highway Code and the Road Traffic Act, drivers are breaking the law if their view of the road is obstructed in any way. It’s a crazy world.  I can only guess as to the significance of this curious mirror.  Having studied the panel and read, copied and pasted some stuff off the internet about mirrors, I think what’s happening here may have nothing to do with the mirror but everything to do with Bill Higgins’ soul.  We have learned of the dangers to the soul that looking in mirrors can cause. Bill Higgins is clearly immune from getting his soul stolen, trapped or shattered by having a soul that either refuses or is unable to look into mirrors. How this is achieved is a mystery. Research into “soul reversal” uncovers “Sally’s Soul Therapy! Intense Skin Reversal” which is irrelevant and sounds painful.  However, further research on Soul Rotation tells us that Soul Rotation is the Dead Milkmen’s sixth studio album, released in 1992, also irrelevant.  All I can add to this theory is that Bill Higgins must have been born with this uncanny ability as he is not a stutterer.

Now, what does Bill Higgins’ internal monologue tell us about the man?  Well, the fact that he’s, “just remembered there’s a Crusaders meeting soon” lets us know that The Shield is not a master strategist. So, he “Must get away fast!”. Bill is able to think on his feet and react quickly to do what’s right, even though the circumstances he’s reacting to are caused by his own disorganization. “Oh, how I hate to do this deliberately!” He has the moral fibre to make difficult decisions for the greater good.  “I NEED this job but here goes…”  These decisions are not without personal sacrifice.  How privileged we are to have this glimpse into the mind of a true, patriotic American ultra-hero! This last sentence also asks the question, “here goes what?” And so, we are pulled inexorably into panel 2 of page three of The Mighty Crusaders Number Four!

Bang! The action-ready ulra-reader is treated to Bill Higgins’ lying at the bottom of the stairs (which have now changed colour for some reason), his head and right arm have smashed through the frame of the mirror with shards of silvered glass lying about him.  The mirror is broken. To make sure we know the mirror is broken, “M-My lovely mirror!” stammers the devastated woman (clearly she looked into a mirror before she was one year old, thus causing this impediment).  Bill’s boss both reassures and rages with, “Don’t worry, lady! We’re insured! As for you, Higgins, YOU’RE FIRED! Scram, you clumsy lout!!”.  These words are continued in the shouting brain of Bill Higgins himself as his thought bubble reveals, “After which I’ll become… THE SHIELD!”.  It is telling how neither the boss or the woman express any concern for the guy whose head has just passed through a sheet of glass.  The woman is concerned only for her mirror.  The boss seeks only to mollify his superior and to rid himself of an inconvenience.  Bill Higgins, who occupies the lowest position in this hierarchy, is barely treated as human, yet he is The Shield; the protector of these so-called superiors, the one whose efforts secure their comfort.  Where else would you find (not that I’ve looked) such a poignant critique of capitalism, breathtaking in its brevity, it being summed up in a single panel of what some might wrongly describe as a piece-of-shit comic?  Nowhere is the answer (probably).

Every single imaginable reader of this panel is left stunned. You would be forgiven for turning away from this comic as one would if one found oneself suddenly staring directly at the sun from a distance of roughly three metres, such is the brilliance of this panel. The comic knows this. 

The third panel of page three of the Mighty Crusaders number Four puts a sympathetic arm around the reader’s shoulder with a panel that begins in its top left panel, 

“Touching, eh?”

Yes. It IS touching. The sympathy is perfectly  judged here. “Touching, eh?” The comic is somehow with you, reading itself and, in it’s own earthy way, telling you that it’s okay to have your mind blown with truth. “Touching, eh?” Yes, you live within an inescapable hierarchy. How you accept this is up to you. Will you resign yourself to your place? Will you attempt to scale this ladder whose rungs are made of chips? Or will you, for a moment afforded you by a comic, look at the ladder and think, “huh! Look at that ladder thing there. I’m going to spend an unreasonable amount of my limited time thinking, writing and talking about The Mighty Crusaders Number Four” as if it’s somehow going to create your own helicopter that will fly around and above all ladders as if that’s a reasonable thing to do? 

But wait! Touched eh that we are, let’s read this caption in its’ entirety,

“Touching, eh? But now for the most heart-rending scene of all, we look in on scientist John Dickering (alias The Comet) at the Winslow Labs where he toils…”

What is the Winslow Labs? Is it a physics laboratory? A prized collection of labradors? The text doesn’t specify. That’s where lady word’s doting husband, Mr. Pictures comes in. The panel depicts a man in a white coat with a parted pencil moustache, holding both a liquid-filled glass flask and a blue vapour emitting test tube. This perfectly choreographed waltz of Lady Words and Mr Pictures tells us that this is a chemistry lab and the speechless panel of ballroom judges are all awarding tens, probably feeling frustration that they can’t give out elevens. Also in this this panel we see a very high breasted blonde woman.  She is parting her red coat to reveal a yellow dress and a necklace of big pearls, her red lips motioning towards the mustachioed John Dickering. Everything about this woman screams desirability, particularly the very high breasts which appear to grow from the bottom of her neck – every red blooded heterosexual man’s dream. Not only is this woman desirable, her lips indicate her availability, both in their positioning and the words they are uttering which are as follows,

“I… Can’t resist you, anymore! Kiss me, John!” I hope my delivery there conveys the typically adventurous placement of a comma and the ultra-use of exclamation marks.  As the eye flick right to the face of John Dickering, our expectations are confounded by the expression on his face. This is not the pleased hubba-hubba face of a man who has just potentially attracted a mate, far from it. His eyes are wide, his mouth open and his eyebrows betray a sudden concern. His exclamation mark riddled thought-yells explain,

“Yipes! I just remembered! The Crusaders meeting!!”

Much like Bill Higgins two panels ago, John Dickering, alias The Comet has been preoccupied and only just remembered that he has a scheduled meeting with his ultra-hero colleagues. I can only assume that this sort of absent mindedness is common in those who choose to lead double lives and this detail serves to help convey the sort of pressures these people endure. In Bill Higgins’s case, the need to earn an honest crust whilst, one presumes, John Dickering’s scientific brain gets lost in his work. This hits home hard with me, living as I do the double life of husband, father and provider whilst secretly undertaking my true calling of ultra-interrogator of a reasonably obscure comic book from the 60s which I am compelled to do for all humanity. When my wife and son arrive home, I will no doubt slam the laptop closed and spring to the kitchen to make dinner.

In panel four of The Mighty Crusaders Number Four, John Dickering is springing from the room having dropped the glass flask he was holding (the liquid has changed colour from blue to red by the way, and the flask is now at least twice the size, which must mean something but I need to start cooking dinner soon and can’t think about the no-doubt-huge significance of this mystery right now).  As he sprints from the room, white lab coat billowing behind, Dickering shouts,

“No, Lulu! I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU! Find someone truly worthy of your fabulous lips! Good-bye!” This is a tough lie to tell for John to tell as his thoughts immediately Express,

“(Moan)”, he says in his head in brackets, “And here I’ve been trying to get someplace with that chick for MONTHS!”

Lulu, as we now know her, is dumbstruck. Her lips still held expectantly aloft, eyes wide in disbelief and breasts high with confusion. All she can say is three question marks with, of course, an exclamation mark on the end. 

There is another possible reading of these two panels featuring John Dickering but I have to admit, it may be spurious as it mostly comes from my dislike of his moustache. The parted pencil style makes Dickering look weasley and dishonest like a spiv.  This dishonesty is not the noble protection of a secret identity like in the case of Bill Higgins, The Shield.  Dickering in his own thoughts seems less to be making a noble sacrifice to do his duty as The Comet but more annoyed that he won’t be able to “get somewhere” with “that chick”.  The fact that in his private thoughts, he doesn’t use Lulu’s name is telling. There is something predatory about Dickering which makes me suspicious of the substance in the test tube in panel 3.  The visible blue emission is passing very close to Lulu’s upturned nose, as if she is smelling it.  Could it be too big a leap to think that this chemist who used his knowledge to give himself powers of flight and the ability to shoot disintegrating beams from his eyes might also be capable of creating a mind-altering love potion that would cause the object (for I believe Dickering DOES regard Lulu as an object) of desire to give herself to him? If Lulu’s will has been manipulated, is that consent? What I’m saying is, I’ve got my eye on Dickering. I don’t trust him and I don’t like his moustache. 

Pages two and three have thus far concerned themselves with an ultra-glimpse into the private lives of these remarkable people.  It is now time for the jolly whackos in charge to return to the  ultra-reader to the scene we were presented with on page one of The Mighty Crusaders number four as we hurtle unerringly onwards, ever onwards to panel five of page three of the Mighty Crusaders number four!  In typical ultra-style this panel begins with a caption. But this is no ordinary caption. This caption is shaped like an arrow, dynamically pointing from left to right at a downward angle towards the action.  There is no way the reader is doing or thinking about anything other than reading this comic.  From left to right in this rectangular, page wide panel that graces the bottom third of the page we see The Comet, Fly Man, Shield and Black Hood.  Fly Girl is not pictured.  Perhaps she is off thinking about boys or checking her hair or nails or dreaming longingly about a more simple life as a happy housewife.  Above the becostumed men is what appears to be a luminescent globe, gently exploding with blue smoke wafting across it.  The Comet explains and exclaims,

“The Emergency Globe is dissolving! Since there’s no present emergency to picture, it seems to have made a PROPHECY, instead! Looks like there’s some big aggravation in store for us!”

If you recall, page one of The Mighty Crusaders number four featured the ultra-heroes looking at their own miffed heads depicted in the globe. Comet’s assertion that there are no emergencies right now in the world they inhabit is testament to the great job they’re doing as heroes.  Comet’s other assertion that this all-seeing orb is showing a prophecy is another clever move by the Jolly Whackos, propelling the reader onwards.  We NEED to know what could possibly cause these, the world’s best humans, to get a bit annoyed.  What earth-shattering ultra-catastrophe could send these paragons of ultra-excellence into a bit of a grump.  Could it be the prophecy is a self-fulfilling one? Shield feels the need to express,

“If you quit The Crusaders and went back to being a loner, Black Hood, that wouldn’t aggravate ME at all!”

To this deliberate provocation, Black Hood retorts,

“You’ll get a crack on the jaw for that crack, Shield!”

This is a worrying exchange.  These harsh words could be disregarded as mere banter, for these are men and as we all know, men – especially heroic men – cannot express emotions. Male emotions are buried beneath the many layers of pressing concerns such as status, business, achievement, ball sports and really very high breasts. One emotion that can penetrate these noble layers is anger and we glimpse it here, certainly in the body language of Black Hood.  Whilst he responds to Shield’s banter with a witty play on the word “crack”, one senses real animosity between these titans of justice. Will these bastions of banter laugh it off?  Is this a foreshadowing of a coming darkness?  The only thing we can do is turn the page and turn the we shall… next time, when we look deep into the beating soul of page five of The Mighty Crusaders Number Four!
I hope you’ll join me, your ultra pal Gary Lactus next time. And if you can’t wait for more The Mighty Crusaders Number Four then why not join the SILENCE! Channel’s patreon to gain access to The Mighty Crusaders Number Four Supplemental where I address your questions and comments regarding the Mighty Crusaders number four podcast. But the Mighty Crusaders number four Supplemental can’t exist with you, so send your correspondence to [email protected] That’s [email protected] for all your questions and comments.

Comments are closed.