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JOHNNY NERO

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Full Name: Johnny Nero
Nationality: British
Organization: MI-5
Occupation Agent

Creator: Unknown
Time Span: 1967 - 1968

ABOUT THE SERIES

       Johnny Nero is an agent with MI-5.
       Former agent is the way we should put it because when we first meet him, he has long since resigned from the department and now lives a life of luxury. Inheriting a fortune and then turning it into an even bigger one will allow a person to do that and Nero, not being an idiot, did so right away. Unfortunately for him but very lucky for his old boss, not to mention the fate of the Free World on occasion, Nero is first and foremost a man of action and while lying on the beach basking in the hot sun can be appealing, it is nothing as compared to putting his life in danger and testing his skills against dangerous adversaries.
       Nero is approximately 35 years old though the depictions tend to shift a bit on that matter. We know that because, according to the info given in a "looking-back" tale told towards the end of the run, around eight years prior to our meeting him, he was 27. He was born in London in 1931, "educated Whitgift School, South Croydon, and Exeter University ... outstanding sports: Boxing, swimming, foils. Received short service commission Army Intelligence Corps, 1953. Overseas service: Aden and Suez. Seconded to M.I.5 1955."
       How many years of those eight years he spent in MI-5 is not known but however many there were, they had to have been eventful considering the way that his former boss, Colonel Jason, thinks of him first when a mission comes up. Also pointing the age meter up a few notches is the fact that he has been in the business world long enough to have become bored with the lack of physical action as well as confident enough to know he can take the occasional side job without his "day job" suffering.
       When not jet-setting around the globe for fun or on one of Jason's nearly suicidal missions, Nero likes to relax at his posh Kensington Garden abode - known in the parlance of the day as his "groovy pad". He has the services of his highly talented and quite appealing business secretary, Jenny Bird. This young but skilled woman, likely in her early to mid 20s, is impulsive and often reckless when it comes to her own safety because she is constantly forcing herself into the missions from which Nero tries very much to keep her safe. He is good at many things but stopping her is not one.
       Interestingly, when it comes to Jenny Bird, though, Nero is extremely protective, wanting her to remain his secretary and out of harm's way. This despite the fact that on several occasions, she actually helps out a great deal, including saving his life more than once and even killing a man to save Nero.
       As we first see Nero in action, he has the use of a fair number of handy little gadgets provided by MI-5 experts like a belt buckle that can be used as a lock-pick and a "needle-like spike" in the toe of his shoe, activated by the tap on his heel. His pipe is not used for smoking but for a communication device back to headquarters. His hairbrush has a recording/transmitting device in the base. As time and the missions move along, though, his use of such tools drops away leaving him with standard action-fiction methods like fists and knives and guns.
       While the hair styles and the clothing show the activity as taking place in the mid 70s, the plots and the adversaries are as topical now as they were then. The Cold War may be over and thus the "other side" not quite the same but criminals and terrorists and power-hungry despots still ply their trade just the same as they did back when Nero fought them.

COMIC BOOKS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS

Number of Stories:13
First Appearance:1967
Last Appearance:1968

1 Meet Johnny Nero Meet Johnny Nero
Published by Fleetway Publishing
Contributors: Paulo Montecchi (artist)
Copyright: 01/16/1967

From Secret Agent Series #1 - A scientist has found a way to change the world's climates but his invention is stolen by a shadowy figure and the inventor is killed. Colonel Jackson persuades Johnny Nero to go back into the action to retrieve it.

2 The Devil's Secret The Devil's Secret
Published by Fleetway Publishing
Contributors: Paulo Montecchi (artist)
Copyright: 02/25/1967

From Secret Agent Series #3 - A natural-gas scientist involved in oil rig operation in the Baltic Sea backed by an international coalition has gone missing. He is suspected of being housed on an island owned by a former Nazi named Kruger, a man very much wanting to bring back the Reich. Johnny Nero is asked to act as an escaped killer to infiltrate the man's lair.

3 Assassins Anonymous Assassins Anonymous
Published by Fleetway Publishing
Contributors: Paulo Montecchi (artist)
Copyright: 03/25/1967

From Secret Agent Series #5 - A mysterious assassin is killing people who fought in the Resistance against the Nazis. When a noted British diplomat, one who once espoused pro-fascist beliefs but then turned, goes missing in the Med, Johnny Nero, nearby on his yacht, is asked to look into things.

4 Trail of Terror Trail of Terror
Published by Fleetway Publishing
Contributors: Paulo Montecchi (artist)
Copyright: 04/15/1967

From Secret Agent Series #7 - A series of shocking and deadly acts of terror in the Middle East have left evidence of British involvement, bringing anger towards the UK. A dying MI-5 agent sends word of an even bigger strike soon to happen, brought about by the Dragon. Johnny Nero is asked to head there to find who is behind it and stop them.

5 The Murder Corporation The Murder Corporation
Published by Fleetway Publishing
Contributors: Paulo Montecchi (artist)
Copyright: 05/13/1967

From Secret Agent Series #9 - A group of arms merchants from around the globe are increasing business tremendously by supplying both sides of small conflicts around the world with just enough munitions to continue their fights but not enough to end them. Johnny Nero is tasked with stopping them.

6 The Vanishing Astronaut The Vanishing Astronaut
Published by Fleetway Publishing
Contributors: Paulo Montecchi (artist)
Copyright: 06/1967

From Secret Agent Series #12 - An American astronaut is preparing for a mission to the moon but there are numerous people who would like to see it stopped, including a spooky undertaker and the spaceman's own mother. Johnny Nero has to flit to several different locales in search of him, with Jenny Bird on his tail.

7 The Master Minds The Master Minds
Published by Fleetway Publishing
Contributors: Paulo Montecchi (artist)
Copyright: 07/1967

From Secret Agent Series #13 - When a British scientist who did not drink is found floating in an American city's river from apparent intoxication, Johnny Nero is sent to investigate a series of disappearances of high tech people. In a city in the desert of the West, he finds a slave labor camp of big brains being used by a rich man who wants to become even richer.

8 The Double Agent The Double Agent
Published by Fleetway Publishing
Contributors: Paulo Montecchi (artist)
Copyright: 08/1967

From Secret Agent Series #15 - An agent with MI-5 is planning on going over to the other side in order to become a double agent against them. While Nero is not happy about such things, he is asked to help ferry the man to East Germany. Getting him there when a criminal organization has plans on kidnapping the fellow is difficult.

9 Traitor's Trail Traitor's Trail
Published by Fleetway Publishing
Contributors: Paulo Montecchi (artist)
Copyright: 09/1967

From Secret Agent Series #17 - A prequel adventure that morphs into an origin tale, this adventure shows a case where, while at MI-5, Johnny Nero saves his boss's life and helps ferret out a traitor. It then shows how Nero inherited his wealth and how he came to meet and hire Jenny Bird.

10 The Evil Shadow The Evil Shadow
Published by Fleetway Publishing
Contributors: Paulo Montecchi (artist)
Copyright: 10/1967

From Secret Agent Series #19 - A golden finger from a statue in a treasure lost during WWII shows up and MI-5 is interested in where it came from. Johnny Nero and Jenny Bird fly to the Sahara to investigate and land upon a huge treasure-for-guns plot with global implications.

11 The Mind Machine The Mind Machine
Published by Fleetway Publishing
Contributors: Paulo Montecchi (artist)
Copyright: 11/1967

From Secret Agent Series #21 - When Col. Jason disappears en route West Germany carrying top secret documents, defection is suspected. Johnny Nero is asked to find and bring home the spymaster. What he discovers is a man with a laser-powered machine able to turn all "evil" men docile.

12 Trouble In Turkey Trouble In Turkey
Published by Fleetway Publishing
Contributors: Paulo Montecchi (artist)
Copyright: 12/1967

From Secret Agent Series #23 - A descendant of Suleiman has a crazy plan to take over Turkey like his ancestor and from there much of the Middle East. To do so he needs to kill the current leaders and to pin it on the West. Johnny Nero and Jenny Bird want to stop him but instead become his intended weapons.

13 Shadows of the Samurai Shadows of the Samurai
Published by Fleetway Publishing
Contributors: Paulo Montecchi (artist)
Copyright: 01/1968

From Secret Agent Series #25 - A wealthy Japanese industrialist wants a return to the "old ways", the days of the Samurai, so he creates an army clad in the traditional armor and begins striking all over Japan, killing indiscriminately, to convince all foreigners to flee. Johnny Nero is asked by Colonel Jason to look into things and he and Jenny Bird soon land in the middle of the danger.

MY COMMENTS

       Except for the mean way he treated Jenny Bird, I really like Johnny Nero. He is good enough to be exciting and dangerous to his enemies and normal enough to get his head bopped more than a few times. His adventures are varied and full-length giving the writer a decent chance to tell a fine yarn and the artistry is very impressive. People look like people and they look different from each other. The black and white medium works very well.
       I read the stories while cleaning up the scanned copies I had found, doing some each night, and I frequently myself doing more than just some in order to see what happened next. Compelling storylines is not something one usually finds in a comicbook spy series but this one had it. It is indeed a shame there were only a baker's dozen of them.

GRADE

My Grade: A-

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