Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Plot / Script: David Michelinie
Pencils: Geof Isherwood

Touching two-parter about a guy who gains super powers in the 1950s, and spends the next 30 years fighting crime disguised as a super hero.

No, not Peter Parker, or Clark Kent, but this time the unalliterated Fred Hopkins.

Fred's alter ego is called the Smithville Thunderbolt, because he spends his life in a similarly-named small town. However come retirement, Fred's powers wane considerably. It could be old age, although it's actually something else, but to Fred it makes no difference. His days of being a secret super hero are over.

Or are they?

In what now looks like a gentle old man's hobby, Fred actually stages disasters so that, as the Smithville Thunderbolt, he can continue to be thought of as still saving the local inhabitants. He uses smoke bombs, springs in his boots, pre-weakened walls, that sort of thing.

Ultimately however he comes up against two big challenges that most long-serving heroes face sooner or later: someone who's stolen his powers, and the loss of his secret identity.

It's the second one that does him in, tragically. In the final scene, as the townsfolk swarm upon his house to declare him a huge local hero, he misinterprets their intent as being that of a mob, and takes his own life.

Peter Parker is gutted. So is the local reporter who exposed him. So was I.

There's really no need for such a depressing final page to such a charming story, but that's what really makes everything that came before it so meaningful.

So long, Smithville Thunderbolt. You deserved more than two issues in someone else's mag.


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