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Back Issues
DC Comics History: Sea Devils (1964 - 1967: The New Look)
By Deejay Dayton

February 17, 2020 - 11:21


Like many other DC teams, the Sea Devils adopted new outfits during the period 1964 – 1967: the New Look. The aquatic group also took on a more global flavour, with the introduction of the International Sea Devils. For much of this period, the stories centred on a new rival, Man-Fish, and the mysterious father of Dane Dorrance, Captain X. Despite this, the Sea Devils would hang up their flippers by the end of the era.


Sea Devils 22 is an important issue for three reasons. Firstly, Howard Purcell and Sheldon Moldoff give new costumes to the team. They also introduce the International Sea Devils. As well, the story centres on Dane Dorrance's father. The addition of the trident symbol to the costumes of Dane Dorrance, Biff Bailey, Judy and Nicky Walton, as well as the members of the new International Sea Devils, is a definite improvement. It suits the team members, and makes their drab outfits more distinctive. We only get to meet one member of the International Sea Devils, although we see that there are many more. Sikki is the representative from India, and he gets the main Sea Devils to help him deal with an undersea war between a creature called Man-Fish, and the mysterious Captain X. Captain X has a submarine shaped like a hammerhead shark, which is weird, and not likely to be very aerodynamic (aquadynamic?). He rams and destroys the Sea Devils ship, but the heroes get rescued by Man-Fish, who explains that he was transformed into this hybrid creature by Captain X.


Dane winds up getting captured by Captain X, who turns out to really be his father, who had been kidnapped and held prisoner by Nazis for many years. This directly contradicts the appearances (and even the first name) of Dane's father, who had appeared in their Showcase tryouts. I guess, with his real father having gone missing so many years earlier, maybe his mother remarried, and the father adopted the wife's last name, and raised Dane as his own son? Preposterous, but it avoids having an error in this story. The story climaxes with the Sea Devils, Man-Fish and Captain X all in battle with a different sea monster, the Horro. They defeat the monster, but Dane's dad is still stuck in the Nazi sub, and Man-Fish still wants to destroy him.


The International Sea Devils return in Sea Devils 23. After an opening scene in which a fortune teller at the Skin Divers' Ball informs the members of the Sea Devils, Dane Dorrance, Biff Bailey, and Nicky and Judy Walton, that they will become outcasts of the sea, the team meets with their International colleagues. This time around we meet Molo, who is presumably from Africa, being black and all. An automated weapons capsule has sunk off the coast of England, and when the Sea Devils head out to retrieve it, they encounter both a kraken, and a maelstrom that sucks them down. They are brought to the underwater lair of a Greek shipping tycoon who was responsible for the sabotage to the weapons capsule, as it had the sheer gall to touch the wreck of an ancient ship that one of his ancestors had piloted. Considering the vast number of years between the time of the wreck and the events of this story, pretty much every Greek, and a lot of other people as well, would be descendants of the people from that ship. But whatever. The villain uses a gas on the Sea Devils that makes their worst fears come true. This is what makes them believe that they are outcasts.


I find the scene with Dane and Judy just hilarious, as they fear being considered an "unfeeling brute" and "dizzy female," with the words themselves floating in the air. For a while the team wind up fighting against each other, but eventually they help restore each other's confidence, and return to confront and defeat the tycoon. I probably should have mentioned, in the previous issue, the underwater statue of Neptimus. This quasi-god stands at the entrance to the headquarters of the International Sea Devils, and sort of provides the justification for the trident symbol on their costumes.


Man-Fish returns in Sea Devils 24, as does Dane Dorrance's father. This whole story is one huge misunderstanding, really. Dane manages to make contact with his father and arranges a meeting, but when he arrives he finds the hammerhead submarine wrecked and deserted, and sees Man-Fish departing it. Dane and the other Sea Devils, including the usual Judy and Nicky Walton and Biff Bailey, as well as International Sea Devils Molo and Sikki, wind up dealing with a giant monster creature, which Dane assumes is Man-Fish, transformed for some reason. The other Sea Devils are not convinced that Man-Fish has murdered Dane's father, for good reason, and Dane winds up fighting against his own team. It turns out the others are right. The creature is not Man-Fish, and Captain X is not dead. He fled his submarine when it was attacked, and Man-Fish even helps the Sea Devils defeat the monster.


In Sea Devils 26 everyone winds up a pawn of the Gamester. The Gamester makes only one appearance in this series, but he seems to know a lot about the Sea Devils, Man-Fish, and Captain X. Even though none of the other Sea Devils, Judy and Nicky Walton, and Biff Bailey, know that Captain X is really the father of Dane Dorrance, the Gamester knows this. He wants to know the location of a magnetic warp, which somehow can endow people with eternal life.  Captain X knows the location of the warp, so the Gamester's overall plan is to get him to reveal this. This issue also plays on Man-Fish's unrequited love for Judy Walton. The Gamester gets Man-Fish on his side by promising to force Captain X to turn Man-Fish back into a human, and so Man-Fish uses hypnotic powers to make Judy fall in love with him, which distracts Dane. Oh, I should also mention that the Sea Devils, and International Sea Devils, now have much smaller trident symbols on the wetsuits.


The Gamester uses a variety of toys in the story, including action figures and a jigsaw puzzle, but the weirdest part is a pinball machine that he uses in order to figure out his plans. Which seems to imply that his plans are random and last minute, for all their intricate plotting. The Gamester does capture Dane, and forces Captain X to reveal the location of the warp. Man-Fish turns against the Gamester, and beats him to the warp, destroying it in a big explosion, which shocks Judy and releases her from Man-Fish's hypnotic spell.


Judy's acting career, which had been put on hold for an awfully long time, finally gets going in Sea Devils 28, as she makes her first movie. Sadly, the only reason she gets the part is because the producers want Man-Fish in the film, and he demands that Judy be given a role. Not that any of that really matters in this story, which deals with a scientist who retrieves the bones of the legendary manosaur from the depths. He then builds a robot version which kidnaps Judy. Man-Fish, Captain X and the Sea Devils all wind up working together, as the scientist uses the robot manosaur to find a sunken ship containing a real one, which then goes on a rampage. The real manosaur destroys the robot one, but the Sea Devils, Man-Fish and Captain X defeat the manosaur.


In Sea Devils 30 the team get involved when an experimental pressure suit, tested on a chimp, explodes and turns the animal into a giant gorilla, composed of pure energy, able to survive underwater and plotting to conquer the surface world. Man-Fish makes a deal with the gorilla, to aid the ape in his plans of conquest in exchange for capturing Captain X, who Man-Fish still hopes will transform him back into a human. They succeed in capturing the Sea Devils, which doesn't really advance either plan. Man-Fish wants the gorilla to give him Judy, but when the ape refuses, Man-Fish pretends that his shape changing powers are out of control, so that he can attack him, which incidentally frees the team. But the ape has now made contact with invading aliens, and hypnotizes Man-Fish into becoming his slave. Captain X plays a very small role in the story. The International Sea Devils, using the robot statue Neptimus, manage to defeat the aliens, who remove the energy from the ape, turning him back into a normal chimp again. It's not a great story. Few Sea Devils tales are. But it is the final one with Captain X, Man-Fish and the International Sea Devils.


Bob Haney, Chic Stone and Sheldon Moldoff bring the Sea Devils book to a close with issue 35, although the story in the issue is not a real conclusion or anything. The Sea Devils, Dane Dorrance, Judy and Nicky Walton, and Biff Bailey, are helping to rescue the crew from a cargo ship when they spot some weirdly glowing water. Dane goes to investigate, and disappears. Shortly afterwards, a monster appears, going on a rampage. The Sea Devils are convinced that the monster is really Dane, although it's a bit of a leap. They try to capture it, unsuccessfully, and then the army kills it. After the Sea Devils mourn Dane, they come across another patch of the same glowing water, and then find out that it is really a dimensional gateway.


Dane went through it, and is still alive. The glowing water is just a smokescreen to conceal it.  The monsters from the other side are building a machine that will make them invulnerable. The Sea Devils destroy the machine, and the explosion kills the monsters as well. I should also mention that the Sea Devils no longer have the trident symbols on their costume. Presumably the International Sea Devils broke up, and so the original group dropped the symbol from their costumes.

Sea Devils: Sea Devils 17 – 35 (May/June 1964 - May/June 1967)

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