When we left off, we were about halfway through IDW’s 2012 Rocketeer story, Cargo of Doom. Series creator Dave Stevens had, in his original stories about this character, included fond “guest appearances” of Doc, Monk and Ham, though they were not officially named, as Rocketeer comics were not authorized to openly use those names. After Stevens’ passing, the creators taking up the reins of his series continued the tradition, as writer Mark Waid and artist Chris Samnee included none other than John Sunlight in their Cargo of Doom story…unnamed, but also unmistakable.
Here is the cast of that tale…and over on the left, towering somewhat over all the characters, is the villainous Sunlight.
Of note among the characters, second from the right, is not a Doc Savage character, but a very engaging pastiche of another memorable personage, sex symbol Bettie Page.
So far in the story, Sunlight had engineered an expedition to Skull Island (which adventure-film aficionados will recognize as the home of King Kong, along with a menagerie of prehistoric creatures). The titular “cargo of doom” refers to what he has brought back to civilization from that expedition.
However, Sunlight is distracted upon discovering that Cliff Secord, the Rocketeer, is in possession of a singular piece of Doc Savage-designed equipment: the rocket pack from which the Rocketeer takes his name. Sunlight, of course, has stolen instruments of Doc’s technology before, and he cannot resist adding the rocket pack to that list.
So after quelling a violent altercation with the mysterious creatures he has brought from Skull Island, as well as arguing openly with an ally in his intended crimes, he sets off to appropriate the rocket pack from Secord. Never hesitant regarding the unleashing of mayhem, Sunlight attacks.
What ensues is an intense aerial struggle between Sunlight and Secord, which sways back and forth as to who has the upper hand.
Though things didn’t quite go Sunlight’s way, it is not long before he has the upper hand again, as Secord trails him to his cargo ship, but is promptly captured. Sunlight describes his (entertainingly nutty) idea to put rocket packs onto dinosaurs (which are the mysterious Skull Island cargo) in order to shake things up in the world at large…after which he prepares to drop Secord into the jaws of one of the captive saurians.
Things then go all wrong for Sunlight. Using a remote control, Secord activates the rocket pack while Sunlight is holding it, with catastrophic results for the criminal mastermind.
Things blow up right and left, the dinosaurs break loose, and chaos reigns.
In short order, it’s all over for Sunlight. Intriguingly, realizing he is fatally wounded, he instructs his men to save the ship’s crew. One of his flunkies later says that the order was because Sunlight would always choose to dominate rather than kill (a trait of the original pulp Sunlight)…but that doesn’t quite jibe with Sunlight’s realization that at point he was already one step from the grave. Hard to dominate when you’re going to be dead in a few seconds. Sunlight, despite his extremes of violence, had a streak of idealism in him too, and it’s interesting to conjecture that his last act in this tale was to try and protect his underlings.
In any case, the final panel of the climactic scene shows probably the most conclusive death of Sunlight in any of his many stories.
And that is the end of John Sunlight in this wild and woolly pastiche.
Of course, it was pastiche, and “official” tales featuring Doc’s archenemy were far from over.
Next…John Sunlight, pseudo-pulp comic book supervillain.