Did you have an origin in mind for the Calculator ? HERO HOTLINE # 6 established a connection between him, Stretch and Harry but didn’t offer any details. (Just who was Harry supposed to have been, anyway ?)
John Wells [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Before answering that question, I should point out that John has written an extensive history of the Calculator and has agreed to let me reprint it here… after which, I will reveal some heretofore unknown facts about the character.
Take it away, John…
The pocket calculator entered the mainstream in 1975. First available in the United States with a $300 to $400 price tag during 1971, the amazing devices had fallen below $20 by 1975 as competition flourished and technology improved. By 1976, the liquid crystal displays (LCDs) which projected numbers on a small screen had become dependable enough to make them a standard part of the unit. The controversy had shifted from the price to whether the now-accessible calculators should be permitted in classrooms, potentially inhibiting students from acquiring math skills. Teacher protests notwithstanding, the calculator was on its way to ubiquity.
Bob Rozakis, whose wife Laurie was a high school teacher at the time, was well aware of the increasing impact of the pocket unit. What better way to connect with DC’s still relatively young audience than a villain called the Calculator ? The serial played out from June of 1976 through the end of December, creating a well-received new costumed crook and launching a bona fide artistic phenomenon in the process.
The Calculator wore a purple costume with white accessories, notably a keyboard strapped to his chest that was linked to the LCD visor on his forehead. By punching numbers on that keypad, the Calculator seemed capable of generating almost any energy construct from the LCD that he desired, from solid objects to beams of deadly force. At one point (ACTION COMICS # 522), he even traveled into a victim’s home via their computer! The technology was so far advanced by 1976 standards — heck, by 2001 standards! — that it almost seemed like magic. No details on the Calculator’s origin — or even his real name — have ever been divulged. There was, however, one secret that he was only too eager to reveal … but that would have to wait.
For phase one, the Calculator took on the Atom while attempting to steal an earthquake-inhibiting device from Richard Bagley, a friend of Ray Palmer. With his fingers constantly tapping on his keypad, the computer crook generated everything from a ring of fire to an energy-hand to keep the Tiny Titan at bay. And ultimately, after the fissure from a quake had swallowed Rick Bagley whole, the villain cackled, “Just as I calculated — an earthquake has been my accomplice … and together we have stolen the life of a most important man.” Seething over his friend’s murder, the Atom pummeled the Calculator into unconsciousness but failed to observe him pressing the asterisk at the bottom of his keypad as he collapsed.
BOBRO’S TRIVIA QUIZ
Part three of the four-part theme…
23. “Ever-lovin’ blue-eyed” applies to whom. (His real name, please.)
24. DC’s lawyers must have looked the other way when what caped character flew down Sesame Street?
25. Police inspector in Metropolis shared his name with a U.S. Postmaster General; who are they?
26. Everybody knows Dave Seville’s Chipmunks; can you name them?
27. Now she’s Mrs. Jay Garrick, but what was her name when she was single?
28. Not allowed outside because giant white blood cells would grow from his blood, what boy was finally cured by Superman?
29. Students trapped in a burning dormitory were saved by who when he dressed in a blond wig and long nightshirt?
30. You’ve seen Zorro in comics and films and TV; who played portly Sgt. Garcia on the Disney show?
31. Lollipops were the trademark of what rotund hero?
32. Victory is yours if you’re first to name Sue and Johnny’s dad.
BOBRO’S FUN FACTS TO KNOW & TELL:
1. Grover’s Mill, New Jersey, site of the Martian landing in the Orson Wells “War of the Worlds” broadcast of 1938, was a fictional town.
2. The only bestseller written by H.G. Wells was “Mr. Britling Sees It Through”; it outsold every other novel in 1917.
3. Cavorite is the anti-gravity element used in Wells’ “The First Men in the Moon.”
MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE CALCULATOR’S LIFE STORY…
Jailed in an Ivy Town holding cell, the red-headed killer chuckled that “Project-Atom is complete. Now for my next victim — The Black Canary!” (DETECTIVE COMICS # 463) He “boasted that when the judge pronounced sentence, the roof would cave in — and it DID … just as he calculated!”
The Calculator arrived in Star City just in time for its Tricentennial celebration and quickly crossed paths with Black Canary in the midst of a killer heat wave. With the temperature at an incredible 186 degrees, the bandit took credit for the furnace conditions, proclaiming, “I only steal things when they are most valuable — and today, Founder’s Day … is the most important day to the people of Star City.” As the temperature continued to climb, the Calculator revealed that he was channeling the Canary’s sonic scream into his computer circuitry, using “its vibrations to set the air-molecules moving. Molecules in motion generate HEAT … so you see, Canary, YOU are my unwitting accomplice in this crime. Taking a desperate gamble, the Canary turned loose an unrelenting shriek, momentarily sending the temperature to such a level that the Calculator’s keypad melted and turned off the heat. Before the keys disappeared, the villain managed to press the asterisk key.
More Star City hijinks ensued a day later when the Calculator (free once more) bathed the visiting Elongated Man in a ray that caused everyone he met to develop uncontrollable elastic properties. After the E-Man inflicted his foe with “the elongated plague,” the Calculator agreed to cancel the effect, pressing the asterisk button for good measure.
Still in Star City, the computer bandit continued a series of “thefts” that seemed more likely to generate publicity than profit. His new target was the World Series at Star Stadium, where he vowed to steal every baseball thrown by the Star City Stars and the Gotham City Giants. Green Arrow, who’d been on hand to make the first pitch (a baseball arrow, natch), gave it his best shot but wound up having his bow destroyed by the Calculator’s energy-bats.
Watching from the stadium, the Elongated Man found himself unable to intervene, shouting to GA that “it’s as if my feet were glued to the floor.” Determined to salvage the game, the Emerald Archer tied the Stretchable Sleuth’s feet to the railing and turned him into a makeshift bow that fired Green Arrow directly into the path of the Calculator. His punch also managed to hit the all-important asterisk key, saving his opponent the trouble.
Having exhausted the possibilities of Star City, the Calculator set his sights on Midway City. There, he attempted to skyjack Hawkman, doing his best to prevent the Winged Wonder from delivering a nuclear scientist to an overloading atomic facility in the city. Hawkman freed his wings from energy-cuffs only to be trapped in a Calculator-induced cyclone. Tapping into his innate aviation skills, the Winged Wonder stopped fighting the tornado and let its winds aim him directly into the bandit’s jaw. And, yes, the button was pushed.
The Thanagarian police detective suspected something sinister about the Calculator’s crime spree and decided that a visit to Gotham City was in order. After chatting with Batman about his latest case (in the issue’s clever lead story, which kept Hawman’s identity concealed until the end), the Winged Wonder related the circumstances of the Calculator’s latest capture — and escape. “Call it intuition — or calculation — but I think his next target is … The Batman!”
Next week, the continuation of John’s history of the Calculator.
A QUICK TRIP TO THE EMAILBOX…
Does Marvel have any plans to bring back the OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE?
— Tony Midyett (email@example.com)
I posed that question to my pal Bob Greenberger, now that he’s working there and he promised to pursue it. He did point out that the editors there refer to their copies of the original version all the time.
How many different publishers have done Star Trek comics? Does DC have the rights to them now?
— Chuck (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Star Trek comics (the original characters and the various offshoots) have been published by Gold Key, Marvel, DC, Malibu, and most recently, Wildstorm. The current deal was struck before DC bought Wildstorm, but the rights came with them, so they do indeed hold them again.
What is Dorothy’s last name in “The Wizard of Oz”?
— Frankie (email@example.com)
By the way, did you know that the Treasury-Sized adaptation, MGM’S MARVELOUS WIZARD OF OZ in 1975 was the first collaboration between DC and Marvel, preceding SUPERMAN VS. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN?
This week’s emailers get 10% off anything they order from Comics Unlimited through SBC. Want to get a question answered and save some money? Use the handy question box in the column on the left.
And on that note, I’ll see you in seven days….
23. Benjamin J. Grimm
25. William Henderson
26. Alvin, Simon and Theodore
27. Joan Williams
28. Woodrow Nescott
29. Warren Worthington III
30. Henry Calvin
31. Herbie the Fat Fury
32. Franklin Storm
Copyright ? 2000 to 2003 by Bob Rozakis. All Rights Reserved.