[Dime-A-Dozen Projects is so named from a conversation with creative friends of mine as we lamented that when we were working full-time for someone else, we get these (in our minds) original million dollar ideas, that would, somehow, turn into "dime-a-dozen" ideas when we were out of work and on our own.]
Sabre Squad. (1964-1968, 14 -18 years old)
My next Dime-A-Dozen project was my first attempt at a superhero group. Sabre Squad were agents of a secret world government organization, S.P.R.I.T.E. (Secret Police formed to Repress International Terror and Espionage) (Well, actually I got that name from the soda) They seem to spring from a several media source happening in the mid -1960s, when these first drawings were done. I can recall, James Bond movies (Dr. No - 1962) and the spy movies and TV spin-offs, like Man from Uncle (1964), and possibly T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents comics (1965).
Plus, the Cold War with the Soviet Union was still in full swing. Those were more than enough to fuel my young artist mind. I also remember making a conscious effort to draw from my imagination, not copy comic art, and to make up my own characters.
The members of Sabre Squad were Warrior, Marauder, and Ramrod. Looking back, they are more a costume team of spies than superheroes since none of them have any super powers, just fighting abilities, hi-tech weapons.
The Sabre Squad Members:
Warrior (Janus Gordon)
I can only go by the dates of my drawings that Warrior was the first of the Sabre Squad to be created, and his name was first Weapon Master. That make him the apparent leader of the group. I can only remember their names from a comic book script written by Terry Benjamin, friend and classmate (more on that later).
Marauder (Richard Lance, also Raymond Lance)
Although member of Sabre Squad, from my drawing it seems Marauder may have started out as a independent character with a two different additional origins. I’ll mention he is also a Black character, only since at the at time there were no black comic characters. Adding him to Sabre Squad may have been the result of watching Bill Cosby in the TV show “I Spy”. ( I admit Cosby was a childhood hero of mine, and it pains and disappoints me to see his downfall)
One of his origins has him as a willing test subject in the cross-dimensional experiment. as seen in the sketch page. There is a mountain observatory, with him in a transmission device (transporter, pre-Star Trek). He zipped across the galaxy and emerges where to have an adventure, Adam Strange like.
The other origin has him as a test pilot in a X-!5 type rocket plane dropped from a B-52, with co-pilot. They seem to have a successful flight. So, I’m not sure where I was going with this story line.
As a member of Sabre Squad, Marauder is the weapons and gadget tech. Although he also is shown being a good in hand-to-hand combat.
Ramrod (Walter Mason)
Ramrod seems to be team’s hand-to-hand combat expert, a ”savate master” from the various poses of him in karate stances, and a black belt he wear on later drawings. Ramrods costume did go through some revisions.
All heroes need villains to fight so Sabre Squad had several. First were the Hussians, a mercenary trio. I think the leader was called the Baron (shown with the cane), but I can’t remember the other member’s names, if they ever had one.
The Centipede is another opponent. He seems to be in the Dr. Octopus / mad scientist mold and like to ride a giant mechanical centipede. He even had some costumed henchmen.
The Sabre Squad Comic Pages
There are two sets of incomplete attempts putting Sabre Squad on the comic page. I started one written and drawn my myself. It a first mission, with no set up, just an excuse to show them kicking ass. Production wise, I knew nothing about how to produce comics. I don’t think there were any book on comic book production back then, at least I don’t remember seeing any until years later. So, my pages were drawn on regular 8 1/2” x 11” typing paper and the panels laid out like the Marvel Comics page, 3 tier, 2 or 3 panels tier. The title was made using a common stencil guide.
The other attempt was a collaboration with classmate who wants to be a writer. Terry Benjamin write the “Origin of Sabre Squad” script, and I offered to do sketches of his original property “Spy Smashers” (I’ll post that at the end of this) This version introduces the group in training, in martial arts, and shows them getting there assignment to be Sabre Squad. Then, rather surprisingly their jump into fight jets and repel an enemy attack. WTF? Well, this made perfect sense as novice teenage comic book creators.