Monday, November 25, 2013

Dakota North #4 (December 1986)

Title: Busman’s Holiday!
Cover: Tony Salmons
Script: Martha Thomases
Art: Tony Salmons
Colors: Christie Scheele
Letters: John Morelli
Editor: Larry Hama
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Cover Price: $0.75
Cover Date: December 1986
Release Date: August 1986
Synopsis:  Dakota runs franticly through the Gare de Lyon train station in Paris, desperately trying to get the attention of her younger brother Ricky before the Orient Express leaves the station. Onboard the train, Ricky sees Dakota, but can’t believe it’s her since he thinks his sister is still in New York.  In any case, he’s much more interested in his new friend Daisy and excited to ride the legendary Orient Express with her.  Daisy introduces Ricky to her fabulous friends and then takes him to the private car where they’ll staying.

Although she is an agent of Cleo Vanderlip and ostensibly supposed to be luring Ricky and his golden pen with the secret cache of nerve gas to the headquarters of their evil organization, Daisy is clearly falling for Ricky and reluctant to put him in harm’s way.  As she takes Ricky to their private car, which we learn is owned by Cleo’s friend Sheik Ibn Bheik, Daisy warns him about the new butler Pettishford and suggests that he keep his golden pen hidden. While the young couple settles in for chocolate malts aboard the Orient Express, Dakota phones back to the office to share what she’s learned about Cleo’s involvement in the plot.

Determined to win Dakota’s heart, Amos Culhane decides to fly to Europe to help her find Ricky and solve this mystery.  Oddly, when Amos goes home to pack, Cleo knocks on his door and volunteers to take care of his cat while he’s gone.  It’s a total non-sequitor, but far from the worst of the holes in the plot.  While Amos in en route to Europe, Dakota manages to beat the Orient Express to the station in Venice only to find that the train is missing ones of its cars.  What Dakota could not see from the station is that the car had retractable wheels and separated from the train in order to take the overland route to Grindelwald, Switzerland.

Amos arrives in Venice where tracks down a very grateful Dakota and he quickly puts his detective skills to work finding the missing boy. On board the land yacht, Daisy once again warns Ricky not to give the golden pen to anyone, igniting the fury of the butler, who is an agent of Sheik Ibn Bheik.  “You little tramp! You are going tell him everything!”  A scuffle ensues and the vehicle crashes while Pettishford is away from the wheel.  Ricky takes the opportunity to escape while Daisy stays behind.  Conveniently, the crash makes the papers the next day, so Dakota and Amos to head Grindelwald to find Ricky.

Daisy and Petishford are brought before Sheik Ibn Bheik, a sinister villain right out of central casting with a trained falcon that he unleashes on the poor butter as punishment for his failure.  The sheik decides to return Daisy to Cleo for punishment and sets his sights on tracking down Ricky and the lost pen with the nerve gas.  Setting out with a hunting party, he spots Ricky just as the boy is reunited with Dakota and Amos in the hills on the outskirts of Grindelwald.  Dakota manages to lure Sheik Ibn Bheik away so that Amos and Ricky and try to escape, but it’s all for naught as the three are all captured by the villain.

The issue ends with Dakota, Ricky and Amos tied up in chairs in Sheik Ibn Bheik’s castle in a scene that is remarkably similar to the one in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) in which Indy and his father are captured in Castle Brunwald.  It’s a fun cliff-hanger in what would turn out to be the penultimate issue of the Dakota North series. This issue includes the first letters page of the series entitled Fashion Statements.  To be concluded in Dakota North #5.

Source: Kraalo Archives, Marvel Comics

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dakota North #3 (October 1986)

Title: Active Tense
Cover: Tony Salmons
Script: Martha Thomases
Art: Tony Salmons
Colors: Christie Scheele
Letters: John Morelli
Editor: Larry Hama
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Cover Price: $0.75
Cover Date: October 1986
Release Date: June 1986
Synopsis: Ricky and Daisy are enjoying their time together in Paris. At least Ricky is enjoying himself and Daisy is playing along as she carries out the mission that Cleo Vanderlip has given her to deliver Ricky and his golden pen containing hidden nerve gas to their secret headquarters. Back in New York, with her brother having gone missing at the end of issue #2, Dakota is furious with her father and for putting the boy in danger and storms off to cool herself down. Ricky and Daisy visit an old friend of S.J. North to borrow money, so he calls back to New York to check in and let Ricky’s father know that the boy is in Paris.

Dakota heads to JFK to take the next available flight to Paris while Cleo Vanderlip dispatches a hired assassin to prevent the detective from rescuing her brother and thwarting her sinister plans. While Dakota embarks on her flight to Paris, Ricky and Daisy go to the bank with Monsieur Beaumontain where the young North “borrows” money from his father’s safe deposit box after cleverly forging his signature. They then head out to a cafĂ© for lunch where Beaumontain regales them with tales of fighting alongside S.J. North in the French Resistance movement during World War II.

While in-flight on the Concorde across the Atlantic, Cleo Vanderlip’s assassin ambushes Dakota. “I’m being strangled by a total stranger in an airplane lavatory! At least I know I’m not crazy.” The detective manages to fight off her assailant and kills him with a plastic knife that she had concealed in her boot.  Upon landing at Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris, Dakota is met by her assistant Yvon in an apparent homage to Tintin and Snowy while one of Cleo Vanderlip’s agents inquires about the now dead assassin in an nod to the very similar scene in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1985 Commando.

Ricky and Daisy ditch Monsieur Beaumontain at the restaurant, running off together just before Dakota arrives to meet them. Dakota learns from Beaumontain that Daisy knows about Ricky’s gold pen and realizes that she must be part of the plot. The next day, Daisy surprises Ricky with an envelope of money, a Walkman and train tickets on the Orient Express. She tell him that she has a modeling job that afternoon and that he should visit the Pompidou Museum while she’s gone and then meet her at the Gare De Lyon to take the train. “Oh, Ricky it’ll be so much fun to go together!”

We then learn that Daisy has sent Ricky on a direct path past Dakota’s apartment in an attempt to lure her out so that another assassin can make his move. The plan works almost perfectly as Dakota spots Ricky on the street and chases after him to the museum. The scenes that follow are comical as Dakota tried to get Ricky’s attention, but he can’t hear her because he’s wearing headphones. Meanwhile, the assassin keeps trying to get just the right vantage point from which to shoot Dakota without being spotted by witnesses. “Now, Ms. North, if you would be so kind as to sand in front of a red Pollack…Spatter on spatter, non?”

The assassin shoots and misses, alerting Dakota to his presence so she spring into action. Their fight moves from the museum floor the tunnel system on the outside of the Pompidou Museum where Dakota gets the best of her attacker. In a brief exchange before the assassin plummets to his death, Dakota learns that Cleo Vanderlip is behind the attack and that Daisy is one of her operatives who has lured Ricky onto the Orient Express. Dakota rushes to Gare De Lyon to find Ricky, but she arrives just too late. “Gee, that woman out there looks like my sister.”

Will Dakota catch Ricky in time? Will Ricky get the hang of iambic pentameter? Check out next issue, when Detective Amos Culhane takes A – “Busman’s Holiday!”

Source: Kraalo Archives, Marvel Comics

Friday, November 1, 2013

Dakota North #2 (August 1986)

Title: Pet Tricks
Cover: Tony Salmons
Script: Martha Thomases
Art: Tony Salmons
Colors: Christie Scheele
Letters: Phil Felix
Editor: Larry Hama
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Cover Price: $0.75
Cover Date: August 1986
Release Date: April 1986
Synopsis: Dakota trades her signature black leather pants for a short black cocktail dress and heads with her brother Ricky to dinner at the Rainbow Room to meet her father and a man who claims to be her husband. While walking through Rockefeller Center, Dakota is narrowly missed by a bolt from a crossbow fired by an assailant from a nearby rooftop. Unable to locate the source of the attack, Dakota and Rick continue to the restaurant where they meet their father and his former colleague from the CIA, Major George C. Cooper.

Major Cooper has written a book about his time at the CIA and he is apparently embroiled in some sort of danger, so he wants to hire Dakota as his bodyguard. Dakota gets into an argument with her father over the potential assignment and the ruse by which she was lured to dinner, but a handsome man named Timas interrupts and asks Dakota to dance. He whisks her away to the dance floor, where they engage in light banter, but Dakota is clearly suspicious of this perfect stranger with perfect timing who happens to know her name.

Back at the dinner table, Major Cooper starts to panic when he realizes that he cannot get in contact with his security detail. He randomly breaks out a deck of cards and starts playing poker with Ricky, deliberately racking up a steep loss of $200 and offering his solid gold fountain pen as collateral until he can reach his bank to get cash.  Ricky takes the pen and heads for home, passing a pair of serious looking thugs that are flanking the door. Having returned from the dance floor with Timas, Dakota tells Major Cooper that she’ll take his case. She also accuses Timas of being responsible for the crossbow attack...

Dakota, her father and Major Cooper leave the Rainbow Room and are attacked by the thugs that were watching them in the restaurant. Dakota fights them off and the thugs escape in a waiting limousine. The next day, Dakota is supposed to accompany Major Cooper on a series of interviews to promote his book, but his car is blown up by a bomb. Elsewhere, one of the thugs spots Ricky with Major Cooper’s gold pen and starts to follow the boy. Riding the subway to his next interview, Major Cooper reveals to Dakota that the villains are after him because he has an experimental nerve gas that he stole from the CIA in order to prevent his superior from selling it to terrorists. 

Major Cooper tells Dakota that the nerve gas is hidden in the pen that he gave to Ricky, which means that the boy is in danger!  Apparently nonplussed by the risk to her brother, Dakota continues to escort Major Cooper on his interview circuit, cutting through Central Park where she is once again attacked by Timas.  Threatening her with a knife, he tries to warn her off the case, but the assassin is too infatuated with Dakota to do her any harm. At the offices of Rycom, we learn that Cleo Vanderlip is involved in the plot and aware that Timas and his Russian employers are wasting their time chasing Major Cooper because they know Ricky has the pen.

Cleo dispatches a 16 year-old model named Daisy to find Ricky and bring him to their headquarters, saying that this assignment represents a chance for the girl to prove herself to their secret organization. Daisy has no trouble finding Ricky or ensorceling him and the unlikely pair are soon on their way to Paris on the Concorde.  Later in the day, Dakota and Major Cooper are attacked once more by Timas, who is intent on crushing them with a monster truck. Dakota deftly avoids near death and races through Rockefeller Center in her convertible, turning away from a barrier at the last minute and causing Timas to crash and nearly perish.

The next morning, Major Cooper stops by Dakota’s offices to collect his pen from Ricky and they learn that the boy never came home the previous night. Dakota is furious with Major Cooper and her father for placing Ricky in danger.  The issue ends with Ricky and Daisy touring Paris and visiting the Eiffel tower.  Blissfully ignorant of the danger he’s in, Ricky couldn't be happier to be by Daisy’s side in the City of Lights. Will Dakota  find Ricky? Will He want to be found? Will the pen write underwater? You won’t be able to live with yourself if you miss the next issue! To be continued in Active Tense!


Source: Kraalo Archives, Marvel Comics

Dakota North House Ad (June 1986)

Marvel titles dated June 1986 featured house ads for Dakota North in a half-page spread that looked more targeted to readers of Vogue than Marvel. Although I was unaware of it at the time, the ad apparently provoked a competitive response from Renegade Comics, which ran a house ad for its Ms. Tree comic entitled Substance in contrast to Marvel's Style ad for Dakota North. Zing!

Source: Kraalo Archives, Catspaw Dynamics, Marvel Comics
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