Leading Comics #3 – The Tyrants of Time!

The Tyrants of Time
Famous conquerors from history are snatched out of time. Alexander the Great, Nero, Attilla the Hun, Genghis Khan and Napoleon are all brought to New York in 1942 by Dr. Doome (no relation, though it would be funny if there were!). Doome has invented a time machine, obviously, and he offers the five men a chance to rule the world in the future, if they’ll help him steal what he needs to finish another machine that will send them into the future. The five men all like the idea and agree to help Doome. I like that all these historical conquerors are shown as intelligent and able to at least cope with the 20th century and to understand that they’ve traveled in time.

Meanwhile, on Wall Street, Oliver Queen and Roy Harper are testing a new short wave radio when the villains of history rob some of the brokers of their cash. When Roy tries to intervene, he’s knocked down by Genghis Khan, and his radio is taken by the curious Mongol. A plane carries the five conquerors to Dr. Doome’s lighthouse hideout, with Nero and Genghis Khan marveling at the miracle of flight. Deciding that this is too much for Green Arrow and Speedy to tackle alone, Oliver calls a meeting of the Seven Soldiers. The tale of tyrants having traveled through time is accepted readily by the group, with the Shining Knight noting that he comes from the past, so why couldn’t they? Can’t argue with that logic. And it’s fortunate that Khan stole the radio, because he’s left it on, and the plans come through loud and clear with each of the villains going to different places to steal different metals. Naturally, the Seven Soldiers split up to take them on.

1 – Defeat before Waterloo
The Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy go after Napoleon near the Canadian border, where the Frenchman is after a shipment of gold. Napoleon isn’t too happy with the disrespect the gangsters working for him are showing him, and he runs the theft like a military operation, with himself as the general. They blow up the tracks and cut the telegraph wires. The Kid takes on Napoleon and his men, but even with Stripesy’s help, they are overpowered. Napoleon has them tied up and thrown into the river with a stone to weigh them down until they drown. Stripesy saves them both by managing to get their heads above water, where some nearby hoboes pull them out of the river. Using the Star Rocket Racer, the gangster’s plane is brought down and the men captured, though Napoleon gets away, lost in the woods. When he finally gets out at the site of a carnival, he’s mistaken for a madman, and rather than submit to the disrespectful treatment, he uses the device that Doome gave all five conquerors and returns to his own time.

Dr. Doome is watching PIckett’s charge at Gettysburg when he sees Napoleon fly by, headed back to his own time. Amazed that he’s failed, Doome figures Alexander can get the gold after he brings back the radium from Florida.

2 – The Radium Robots
Green Arrow and Speedy head to Florida to stop Alexander the Great from stealing radium, stored in the hidden Everglades workshop of Leo Starr, who has created robots powered by radium to fight America’s wars instead of humans. But one robot, Oscar, has somehow developed a prankish sense of humor, something even Starr doesn’t quite understand. But he has very little time to ponder it when he’s killed in Alexander’s attack. Oscar accepts orders from whoever he perceives as the “boss”, so when Alexander demands the radium he brings it, only to drop it on his toe. Meanwhile Green Arrow and Speedy are captured and brought to the workshop by the other robots. As usual in these stories the status quo goes back and forth. At first GA and Speedy disable Alexander and the robots, but Alexander recovers and captures Speedy. With the help of Oscar, GA reverses the situation and Alexander runs into the swamp, dodging snakes and gators, only surviving because GA is killing the animals before they can kill Alexander. A robot appears to lead Alexander to safety, but it’s Green Arrow in disguise, which amuses Oscar to no end. Alexander has had enough and returns to his own time, once again observed by Dr. Doome, who wonders if some organization is working against him….

One question: why does the reprint in the Archives keep giving Oliver Queen brown hair when he’s blonde?

3 – The Man Who Told a Fish Story
The Shining Knight chases Genghis Khan to Alaska, where Khan is at the town of Jackpot, planning to steal platinum en route to Seattle. The Knight lands and gets involved with fisherman Bill Bates, who has bet his friends that he can catch a whale. If he doesn’t, he’s out a hundred dollars. Bates leads the Knight to the docks just as Genghis Khan and his men attack the guards and take the platinum, hiding inside a hollowed out iceberg. Puzzled by their disappearance, the Knight is able to find them. Their guns don’t hurt him, but they toss him overboard, expecting his armor to weigh him down and drown him, but the Knight uses his sword to stab the iceberg, stop his fall, and climb out of the (presumably freezing) water. Does the magic armor keep him warm as well? The story breezes past this point, and the Knight ends up riding a whale and capturing Khan, while Bates is able to tow the dying whale back to port and win his bet. Just like the others, Genghis Khan returns to his own time. This time, Dr. Doome hears the news on the radio and hears of the presence of the Shining Knight, making him realize the Seven Soldiers are after him.

4 – The Spirit of Wild Bill Dickson
The Vigilante pursuies Atilla the Hun to the Black Hills of South Dakota and gets mixed up with old Wild Bill Dickson, a former old west sheriff now living as a hermit. This is a nice character touch, since an old man in the 1940s would have been alive during the heyday of the “old West”. Dickson survives an encounter with Atilla, but is nearly lynched by the local townspeople, since a surviving guard who had been taking the tantalum out of the hills accuses him. In another great little character moment, Atilla sees Mount Rushmore and thinks the carvings of Washington and the others must be “the idols of the land”. Despite an attempt to trap him, Vigilante survives and he and Billy Gunn capture Atilla and save Dickson’s life, only for Atilla to retreat into the past like the others. Dr. Doome has only Nero to rely on now.

5 – Fiddler’s Farewell
The Crimson Avenger and Wing take on Nero out at sea as the Roman emperor tries to steal a shipment of uranium. The story opens following young Sammy Singer and his dog Scraps (whose barks are helpfully translated for the reader), who stow away on a ship for adventure, but find out that all they’ve earned is trouble and hard work for months until the ship hits port. There’s a running gag where Nero plays his fiddle and all his flunkies tell him it’s great music while secretly thinking about how bad it is. Crimson Avenger and Wing take on the Roman soldiers but are badly outmatched and left to die on the burning yacht that the Romans have plundered. While the captain and crew fight to save their ship, the Avenger and Wing pursue the Romans, only to be captured again. Sammy helps free them from rowing in the galley, and iwth the help of the rest of the galley slaves, the third time is the charm and they capture Nero. However Nero had nearly reached Dr. Doome’s lighthouse hideout, which Crimson Avenger sees before Nero returns to his own time, so now the Seven Soldiers will know where to find him.

6 – The Tyrants of Time, conclusion
The Seven Soldiers head for the lighthouse, foil some death traps and confront Doome, who escapes into the past. The Soldiers rather rashly charge after him, while Speedy takes the time to grab one of the hand-held time travel wands that all the historical conquerors had used before following the group. They end up in the past at the battle of Troy, where Doome had been busy convincing Ulysses that they were a threat. However, Ulysses is impressed by the fighting prowess of the Seven Soldiers and after talking with them, decides that he believes them rather than Doome. Doome sneers that he came to Troy to trap the Soldiers and returns to the 1940s. And his plot would have worked if Speedy hadn’t been smart enough to grab that time travel device. Doome is shocked to see the Soldiers return to his lab, and in desperation his uses his unfinished time machine, the one that he needed all the components the tyrants were stealing for him to complete, to travel into the future. The machine explodes, and no one is sure if Doome lived and made it to the future or not. But the threat is over, and the Shining Knight salutes his comrades.

Like so many stories of the 40s, it’s inevitable that when one of these mad scientist types like Doome invent a miraculous invention, the first thing they do is turn to crime. Never mind exploring time for the sake of learning and exploration (though Doome is shown observing past events and enjoying them), science is there to exploit for power and wealth. That being said, in a crazy comic-booky way, picking successful military leaders and conquerors to help carry out his plan makes a certain level of sense, and showing the five tyrants as smart men who can grasp the situation they’re in is a nice touch. The five individual chapters are typical runarounds of the day where the hero fails to capture the villains at first and then his fists ultimately solve the problem. A few details elevate some of the chapters for me, from the funny robot in the Green Arrow story, to the Shining Knight’s jousting on the back of a whale, to Atilla’s assumption that Mount Rushmore is an idol. And everyone is saved by the sidekick in the end, or Doome’s trap would have worked. Not a bad issue for this non-powered team.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

All-Star Comics #5 concluded

ALL STAR 5008The Spectre

Close this place coppers – but just try and stop me from opening elsewhere again!

The Spectre leaves the JSA meeting. bored to death because there’s no crime to fight, so he goes looking for some. He finds it when he learns that some crooks are trying to frame the Spectre for running an illegal gambling hall. It’s all part of Mr. X’s plan to destroy the Spectre. Baretti, the crook, is carrying it out, because he doesn’t think the Spectre is dead at all. He thinks it’s all a bunch of tricks.

The Spectre infiltrates the new gaming joint and after allowing all the gamblers to win, goes after Baretti and his thugs. He makes short work of them, until a ring that one of the thugs is wearing renders him nearly powerless. They take him out, shoot him and dump him, but of course it doesn’t kill him. Restored to full power, he returns and finishes off the thugs, and then goes in search of Mr. X.

  • I was going to gripe about the plot hole of a dead man running a gambling joint, but the story explains that nicely with Baretti not believing the Spectre is a ghost at all.
  • Where did the henchman get a ring that neutralized the Spectre? Without knowing about it? I bet Roy Thomas explained it somewhere.
  • This is pretty small-scale stuff for the Spectre, honestly. The character feels a little wasted in this plot.

ALL STAR 5009The Green Lantern

All subtlety goes out the window as Mr. X begins bombing the city and daring Green Lantern to try and stop him. He accepts, and is able to find the plane that was bombing the city with the help of his ring… which is just what X wanted him to do. When he follows the plane back to its base, he’s surprised and disabled by an electric charge. He finds himself held captive, whereupon the thugs shoot him at point blank range, only for his ring to protect him.

Thug: Look! He ain’t dead! He ain’t even bleedin’!

GL: Maybe I’m anemic!

Naturally GL whips the bad guys and then heads for the power plant to stop it from being destroyed. He’s too late, and the entire city is without power. GL is determined to do something, and he consults the lamp of the green flame. Green Lantern manages to repower the entire city, marveling at just how powerful he is, something he never realized before.

  • This is much better. A gambling joint is pretty small potatoes for someone like the Spectre, but bombings and city-wide blackouts are good large scale challenges for someone like Green Lantern to take on.
  • Having a problem too big for GL to handle, so that he has to go ask the lamp for more power is very interesting. The lamp is mostly unexplained at this point, and since so much Golden Age Green Lantern is unavailable to read, I don’t know how much is ever explained.
  • Similiarly, having Alan use his power ring to re-power an entire city is pretty amazing. It reminds me of modern day JSA stories where he really cuts loose and shows just how powerful he can be when circumstances call for it.

ALL STAR 5010Conclusion

The Justice Society return to base, all of them admitting they failed to find Mr. X. Then they spot him heading into the police station, though they still don’t realize it’s him. They all encountered him, so they follow him in, and are shocked to find out that he’s the criminal mastermind.

Mister X: Yes Gentleman, I am Mister X! Just when I had a good living set for myself with incomes from all organized crime, you all had to come along and smash my rackets! You’ve taken my livelihood away! So now I’m going to jail – and live off the state! Good day, gentlemen!

  • Living off the state? Are we sure this was written 75 years ago?
  • So technically this guy beat the Justice Society… they could not catch him. But he turns around and admits defeat, because they’ve cut off all his sources of income. So it’s an indirect victory for them.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Busy reading, not much blogging…

Sorry folks, I really need to get caught up on reviews. I always tend to read a lot and write a little. I will try to get back on track sooner rather than later!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

All-Star Comics #5 continued

ALL STAR 5004Hawkman

I was going to use a little subtlety in this affair, but you spoiled it all. Maybe this is the best answer to your type after all!

With the JSA meeting adjourned, Hawkman flies home to “catch up on my researches”. He’s shown in a laboratory, complete with beakers, vials and test tubes. Meanwhile some underworld thugs plot a trap to catch, kill and frame Hawkman for a jewel robbery. The plan is spoiled when Shiera overhears one of the mobster’s girlfriends looking forward to the new jewelry she’ll soon be wearing after the robbery. Shiera calls Carter to warn him.

He springs the trap and beats the bad guys with his fists, causing them to run, just as Shiera approaches the shop. He berates her for getting into trouble, and then is forced to fly and take her with him as the hidden gunman nearby takes a shot at both of them.

Deciding to try a ploy to fool the gangsters and trap them instead, Hawkman gives Shiera his extra wings and flight harness, dressing her up in a costume similar to his. Shiera’s enjoying it all immensely, but Carter warns her that they have a lot of work to do first. He confronts the crooks in their hideout while Shiera is left on the roof. But sadly for her, the hitman drives up and, thinking she’s Hawkman, shoots her. When he finds out, he stops with his “fun” and just pummels the bad guys until they’re down and out. He checks on Shiera, full of remorse that he’s responsible for her being injured. Thankfully it’s not serious, and he takes her for medical attention before going to look for Mr. X.

  • This is effectively the first appearance of the Golden Age Hawkgirl, though I’m sure having Shiera dress up in costume was meant to just be a plot device for this one story.
  • I’m thinking that Carter rarely shows any signs of being any sort of chemist, so this is one of those “new skills to fit the plot” instances.
  • At this point, it’s fairly obvious that the little guy in the bowler hat is Mister X. How he’s able to find every last JSA member isn’t explained, but in a way it does underline the fact that he is dangerous, despite his harmless appearance. He’s in Jay’s apartment a few chapters ago, meaning he found out the Flash’s secret identity. Why he doesn’t try blackmail or something is hard to say.

ALL STAR 5005Doctor Fate

Doctor Fate returns to his tower to find Inza waiting for him. She has a story about a woman, Mrs. Vera, who has been swindled out of thousands of dollars by a fake magician, named … Magico. Fate is curious about the situation, so he goes with Inza to see Magico. He’s in a suit rather than his Doctor Fate costume, and together they attend the “seance” with Mrs. Vera. Mister X puts in an appearance, and even gets in a dig at Mrs. Vera.

While Magico attempts his seance, a hidden gunman takes a shot at Fate, only for Inza to step in the way. This makes the second story in a row where the hero’s girlfriend is shot! Inza’s wound is far more serious than Shiera’s, and it takes a powerful spell to save her life. Doctor Fate is angry now, and heads out to teach Magico a lesson.

He steps into Magico’s building, only to have the fake magician try to destroy it with explosives. Fate survives of course, and drags Magico off to show him some real magic, freaking Magico out. Fate mocks him, and gets Magico to spill the whole story about the trap set by Mister X. After checking on Inza, Doctor Fate heads out to look for Mister X.

  • Doctor Fate really can’t be harmed in these early stories, though I suppose since Doctor Fate is invulnerable that Inza has a use in that she can be hurt or threatened in a way that he can’t.
  • Shouldn’t Inza know that the bullets won’t harm him?
  • This story gives us a nice mix between mundane swindle plots and weird magic that typifies Doctor Fate tales at this point.

The two page ad-spread featuring all the comics on sale this month appears next. Thanks to reprints, I’ve actually read every issue, or at least the ones featuring the title character. Good stuff.

ALL STAR 5006Hourman

The crooks try to frame Hourman for stealing hubcaps by having one of them dress up in costume, and then allowing the police to see him. The scheme works, and the police put out an alert. In the meantime, the genuine Hourman heads to the scene of the crime to bust the tire theft ring, and is making short work of the crooks until a barrel from the storefront roof knocks him out, and the crooks turn him over to the police.

Hourman easily escapes, since he’s taken his Miraclo pill, and the trails one of the thugs to the gang’s hideout, where he once again overpowers them all. Once he’s scared the truth about Mister X out of them, he turns them over to the police, clearing his name.

  • The art is good, but this isn’t a very compelling story. Not that tire theft wouldn’t have been very topical in the days leading up to World War 2, so I suppose that would be a serious enough crime to merit a hero’s attention.
  • Hourman always seems to be in trouble with the police. It never takes much to get them to believe he’s gone bad.

ALL STAR 5007The Atom

The Atom gets involved in Mister X’s plot when a group of thugs attack him on the street while he’s in his civilian identity of Al Pratt. He beats them, and discovers a note that reveals they were after the Atom, and had just attacked Al because he’s a “shrimp” and they’re not nice. Okay… pretending to have fallen victim to their attack, Al allows them to take him to a gym, where a scheme to bilk would-be bodybuilders out of $500 each is underway. Al humiliates the would be instructor, and then turns up in his Atom costume and proceeds to beat the tar out of the thugs and learn about Mister X’s plans. Mister X gets his usual cameo.

  • The Atom is probably my least favorite JSA character, and this is probably my least favorite story of the issue. At least the writer knows the thugs don’t have half a brain amongst the lot of them, so the whole situation isn’t played too seriously.
  • And of course, watching the bad guys all knit at the end is admittedly pretty funny.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

All-Star Comics #5

ALL STAR 5001Chapter One

The Justice Society members are pretty bored. It seems they’ve done their job too well, and crime is down across the board.

But the criminals have not given up… they’ve just been laying low. The big boss, “Mister X” has a plan to go after the Justice Society and to get them out of the way so business as usual can resume. As they meet to hand out assignments, a balding man in a derby approaches the group and asks for a light. He leaves, with everyone wondering just who he was…

With the crooks each having been given their assignment, they head out to take on members of the Justice Society, with the aim of destroying them.

Chapter Two – The Flash


Flame Farmer and his arson gang are sent to finish off the Flash. Mister X has narrowed down where he lives, and the hope is that by setting fire to numerous apartment buildings they can kill the Flash in the process. They set fire to the buildings, but the heat wakes Jay up, and of course once he’s up, there’s no chance of the fire killing him. He employs various super speed tricks to put out the fire, including sucking the oxygen out of the rooms, and hitting the buildings with the fire hose from a nearby fire truck. He also rescues a number of people from the flames. With the help of a kid who witnessed the arsonists, he chases them down and gets them to confess to what they did and tell him where their boss is. Jay rounds up the gang and learns about Mister X, but no one knows who or where he is, due to the way he gives out orders. Jay drops the crooks off at the local jail, before sending telegrams to warn the other JSAers about the threat.

  • Why would the Flash send telegrams??! Wouldn’t he be faster?
  • Mister X is hiding under Jay’s bed when the fire starts. So he has apparently figured out Jay’s secret identity since passing on the info about the neighborhood to the arson gang. For such a nondescript fellow, he’s pretty ruthless, if he’s willing to burn down multiple buildings just on the off chance he might kill the Flash. Lots of people in those buildings would certainly have died a horrible death.
  • There’s an ad for All-Flash Quarterly #1 after the story

Chapter Three – The Sandman

ALL STAR 5003Wesley Dodds is searching the city for crime when he decides to call on his friend Dian Belmont. He finds her apartment ransacked and Dian herself missing. A note has been left by the Kidnappers Union (seriously), telling whoever finds it to send the Sandman after Dian. When he tunes his radio in the hopes of getting a message from the kidnappers, he gets directions on where to go: the Lone Tower Inn. The crooks are waiting on the only road leading to the inn to ambush him when he arrives.

Wesley takes the cliff route thanks to his wirepoon, noticing the same bald, smoking little man with the derby as he swings over to the hotel. He finds Dian quickly enough, and could get out without the crooks being any wiser, but the two of them decide to bust up the racket instead of running for it. And the Sandman mops them up with relative ease. He leaves the defeated thugs in Dian’s care, after she’s been armed with one of their tommy-guns. He gets Jay’s warning telegram after the whole thing is over!

  • Apparently the relationship between the Sandman and Dian is known to Mister X, meaning he’s gotten very close to two JSA members. This guy is looking like a decent threat to the team.
  • I love the chief thug taking out accident insurance after Dian warns him that he’ll need it. There’s a humorous undertone throughout this whole story, if you couldn’t tell.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Some 1940s Green Lantern reviews…

Comic Cavalcade #6

Green Lantern – “They Are Invincible”

Alfred Bester, Paul Reinman

Anyone remember the old “What if?” series that Marvel used to publish? I read the occasional issue back in the day, and the book would take some well-known Marvel story and then ask “what if it happened this way?” and the run with an alternate version of events. The alternate version would almost always end in disaster or have Wolverine save the day, but anyway… this Green Lantern story from the Spring 1944 issue of Comic Cavalcade is a “What If?”. The author, an unnamed Al Bester (sci-fi writer from the 40s – 70s) speaks to the reader, saying that his wife complained to him that Green Lantern and Doiby Dickles always win through luck rather than by being smart, so he’s decided to prove that the opposite is the case. He posits a “hypothetical story” to make his point.

GL and Doiby return from a case and head to the apartment building where they live. It’s a densely foggy night, so they’re a bit careless, and two thugs spot them entering the building. The thugs can’t believe their luck… they think they’ll be able to learn just who Green Lantern really is under his mask and put an end to his crime fighting. So they hang around waiting for the two men to come back out of the building, and once they do they follow them. Here’s where the “what if” comes in, because Alan and Doiby reach an intersection where they can walk left, right or straight ahead. The story has them do all three. First they go left, and a sequence of events plays out. Then Bester winds back the clock and they go right, and again we see a different sequence of events. Finally they go straight, and a third sequence of events happens. Each time Alan and Doiby manage to beat the thugs and preserve Alan’s secret identity, though circumstances are entirely different each time. Doiby even starts griping that the author won’t let him punch out the thugs before switching narratives, and Alan tells him to just be quiet and pretend he doesn’t know they’re in a comic book story. You’d almost expect Deadpool to pop up and start talking about the little yellow boxes and how much he’s missed them.

In the end, Bester insists that it’s all been just a hypothetical story, and that Alan and Doiby never actually left the apartment. They were enjoying a hot dinner, courtesy of Alan’s well-stocked fridge, and the two men that came out of the apartment were someone else entirely, so the thugs end up foiled. Bester’s editor shows up, declares the story a failure and fires Bester. The end. It’s a lighthearted and fun little story, and a nice change of pace from the stories with villains and death traps that Doiby wishes they were in.

Oh, and this is apparently the first appearance of the modern day Green Lantern oath, the one that Hal Jordan still uses to this day. “In Brightest Day, in Blackest Night…” etc. I knew it first turned up during the 40s, but wasn’t sure when.


Green Lantern #30 – Feb/March 1948

“The Saga of Streak”

Robert Kanigher and Alex Toth

Alan, you shouldn’t have adopted this dog as a pet. He’s going to take over your book. It’s the beginning of the end, pal.

I’m not sure this story was the best one to choose to represent the latter years of Alan Scott’s run as Green Lantern. In any case, only in the 1940s would we get a story narrated by the dog, as Streak tells us the story of his life. He’s not a talking dog (because that would just be silly, right?), but the book has his internal narration by Streak as we go through his life. He’s the pet of brother and sister Luke and Sara Dale. He goes with Luke, and after some time witnesses Luke gunned down by gangsters. Enraged, he attacks them, only to be shot by the thugs, and then rescued by Green Lantern, who takes him to the vet to recover.

Through a series of events, GL learns that Sara Dale is being targetted by former Nazi scientist Dr. Malorgo, who puts him and Sara on a giant death trap. Yay for giant death traps…  Streak attacks the guards and distracts them long enough for Alan to get free and take out the bad guys. Sara asks Green Lantern to take care of Streak for her, and he says that while he can’t, his friend Alan Scott can. Streak is of course aware that Alan and GL are the same person, but he says he’ll never tell…

I wonder what readers at the time thought of having a Green Lantern story that revolves around a dog that can think like a human? I think I’d have felt a little ripped off. A lot of the stories in the Green Lantern 75th anniversary book are of the “first appearance of…” variety, so maybe the editors wanted to put Streak’s first appearance in the collection, regardless of the quality of the story. It’s not a bad story per se, but it’s hardly the type of thing you’d expect to see in a superhero comic. I think they were trying to adapt to whatever was popular at the time in order to keep these books selling, but the final issue of Green Lantern was a little more than a year later in 1949.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Who is your favorite JSA member?

How did I miss posting in September? I guess I’ve been busy! How about a new poll?

I forgot the Sandman!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

All-American Comics #16 – Green Lantern’s origin

I think Alan Scott’s origin story is fairly well-known to GL fans. In July 1940, young engineer Alan Scott is on a train, traveling with his friend Jimmy towards a trestle bridge that the engineering firm employing both has built. They won the bid over a rival company owened by a man named Dekker, and Jimmy is concerned that Dekker will do something drastic. Alan doesn’t think so, but is soon proven wrong when the trestle bridge explodes and the train is derailed, killing all aboard… except for Alan, who can’t understand why he’s still alive. He is drawn to the light of a green lantern, and as he approaches it, it begins to speak to him and relate its long history.

The lantern originated as a meteorite that landed in ancient China, and the voice from the meteorite promised that it would bring three things: death, life and power. A local lampmaker fashions a lamp from the meteor, and when the superstitious locals kill the lampmaker, the lamp kills all of them, fulfilling the first promise. Centuries pass until the lamp falls into the hands of a man in an asylum, who refashions it into a more modern lantern. It restores his mind, giving him life. And Alan is the third individual, the one to be given power. The lamp advises him to use part of the metal to make a ring, and that he has to charge up once every 24 hours for the ring to remain powered up, and that Willpower is what will fuel him. Without will, he has no power. Alan takes all this in, and seeing all the dead bodies around him in the wreckage, including his friend Jimmy, is enraged and promises to kill Dekker. He makes the ring as advised, has time to cool down, and wonders how he could ever have thought murder was the solution. There has to be another way.

So Alan, still in the same clothes he was wearing when the train crashed, discovers that he can fly and heads for Dekkers. He is able to phase through the wall (something he refers to as “passing through the fourth dimension”) where he finds Dekker and his cronies celebrating the train crash. They recognize him, try shooting and stabbing him and decide that he’s the ghost of Alan Scott since he won’t die. A wooden club on the back of the neck knocks him to the floor, leading Alan to decide that he must be immune to metals, but not organic objects. One of the things the lantern says is that its light is green, “like green growing things” (and this is probably where James Robinson got his ideas for the source of New 52 Alan Scott’s powers), so it’s possible there was meant to be a link between the source of the power and Alan’s vulnerabilities. The story isn’t explicit though, so it’s hard to say.

Alan gets up and this is too much for the thugs, who run for it. Alan takes Dekker and flies him around, threatening to drop him if he doesn’t confess. Dekker does and writes out a full confession, only to die of a heart attack from the shock of the night’s events.

Alan muses that it feels like destiny has taken a hand in his life, and that he is meant to go on to do big things with the power he’s been given. He decides to design a costume so that “once it’s seen, it won’t be forgotten!”. And if you’re familiar with the Golden Age Green Lantern costume, he certainly succeeded in creating something garish and colorful.

  • Martin Nodell’s art is probably the most crude of the Golden Age artists that I’ve seen. There is a redrawn version of this story in Green Lantern Corps Quarterly #1 that’s very faithful to the original while being much easier on the eyes.
  • Art aside, it’s a very strong origin story, and the history of the lantern is something that is wide open for exploration. I find it interesting that even the original Green Lantern’s power source is extraterrestrial, since the metal used to make the lantern came from outer space. Of course in the 70s Denny O’Neill would explain it was the Starheart, the magic from the universe that the Guardians had collected and removed from their universe, but here the source of the power is left vague, beyond allusions to “green growing things”.
  • There are no energy constructs. Alan uses the ring to fly (which does surround him with a green light in this origin story)and to pass through a solid wall, and it automatically protects him from bullets and knives.
  • The first story, and they’re already using the old standby of “the forced confession”. I always wonder how well those will hold up in court.
  • James Robinson borrowed elements of this story wholesale for Earth 2. He mainly used the train crash and the green flame appearing to Alan and offering him power afterwards, so the revised Alan’s origin is much closer to the original than most other Earth 2 characters. (The exile of Grundy to the moon is from All-Star Comics #33).
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who is your favorite Soldier?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Leading Comics #2 – The Black Star

Leading Comics #2

ssov2003The story begins with Pat Dugan driving Sylvester Pemberton and his father to the bank. Mr. Pemberton wants his son to learn some practical things about the world of finance, but Sylvester feigns disinterest, much to his father’s disgust. Dugan apologizes for having to drop them off some distance from the front door due to road construction.

It turns out that the construction is a ploy by a gang of criminals who burst a water main and use the tremendous pressure of the water to break into the side of the bank and rob it. Sylvester feigns cowardice, but he uses the chaos to meet up with Dugan, who has identified the five criminals as Falseface, Captain Bigg, Hopper, the Brain and Rattler. The two decide to gather the Seven Soldiers of Victory to track down the five criminals.

Meanwhile, the criminals discuss among themselves how brilliant their leader the Black Star is. He’s sent them a filmstrip via the reluctant driver of their getaway van with further instructions for crimes in various locations around the country. The group breaks up and heads out to pull off the various heists. Meanwhile, the Seven Soldiers question the driver of their getaway vehicle and learn where the crimes are supposed to take place, and each one picks a villain to capture.

  • Keep an eye on that driver. He’s more important than he appears.
  • It’s refreshing to have some actual colorful villains for the heroes to fight rather than the simple gangsters so prevalent in these early Golden Age stories. The villains aren’t costumed and super-powered, but they’re quirky enough to be a little more memorable.
  • The only Star Spangled Kid I’ve ever read are the chapters from Leading Comics, and from what I can tell he’s cut very much out of the Clark Kent mode. He affects a disinterested and cowardly outward persona, and bullies his driver Dugan. Inwardly he is of course brave and athletic and a secret costumed hero. I do have to question the judgment of Pat Dugan as the adult of the duo in helping a teenager lead such a dangerous life. I guess it’s no different than any adult hero with a kid sidekick, and if I can suspend disbelief for those characters I can do the same thing here.
  • As we see here and we’ll see down the line, the stories often begin with different individual characters encountering problems and then calling the rest of the group together. Unlike the Justice Society, who meet together on a regular basis, the Seven Soldiers appear to work individually until a bigger problem appears, and then they’ll call the team together on an as-needed basis.

Chapter Two – The Shining Knight

Sir Justin heads for New Orleans to pursue Falseface, who has used the occasion of Mardi Gras to have his men in costume commit robberies. They’re all camouflaged, as it were. The Knight foils their plans at first, but then they trap him and coat him and Winged Victory with a substance that will turn them both into statues. The Shining Knight manages to escape and free his horse, and then finally subdues Falseface and his gang, while the Black Star steals a seemingly innocuous item in the background, laughing that Falseface has played his part well.

  • I first read this story a few years ago, and I didn’t see anything notable about FalseFace. He was a throwaway villain who committed his crime, was caught, end of story. Fast-forward a few years, and I’m watching the 1960s Batman series on DVD where a villain named False Face appears. I go back to re-read the Seven Soldiers and suddenly it becomes apparent that a villain I thought was created just for the Batman tv show had actually appeared in DC Comics some twenty years earlier. They aren’t exactly the same, and the television writers may not have been aware of the older character, but still, I like to think there’s a connection.
  • There’s an interesting scene where Sir Justin comes across some people dressed as King Arthur and Lady Guinevere, and he thinks they’re the genuine article for a few seconds before realizing that they’re yet more people in costume. He’s shocked to see them, and it makes perfect sense that he might reason that if he survived to the present day that they could have as well. It makes you think that the poor guy deep down really wants to go home, but can’t. Not that his characterization is that deep in these stories from the 1940s, but the scene could be read that way.
  • The villains’ plan to essentially embalm the Knight and his horse alive is pretty creepy.
  • The formula is fairly typical for this era. Villains stage a crime, hero confronts them, gets captured, escapes from whatever death trap he’s been put in, and then defeats them the second time.

Chapter Three – The Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy

Captain Bigg is the target of the American Avengers out at sea. Bigg has been playing the part of a pirate (I’m not making this up) dressed as Santa Claus. He boards ships with his crew, but gives them money and jewels rather than taking it. It’s all a plan to get everyone’s guard down so he can pull the really big heist and make far more than he ever gave away. The Star Spangled Kid and Stripesy ultimately foil his plans after a long swim in the ocean from his ship, and after nearly dying when Bigg leaves them tied to a floating marker buoy with a bell.

  • Robin is almost killed the same way in the 60s Batman series. Another connection between that show and Leading Comics….
  • How far did the Kid and Stripesy swim in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean anyway? The art makes it look like they swam a mile from Bigg’s ship to theirs, across the choppy ocean. Those guys have to be in terrific shape.
  • Some of these villains just have no pride. Dressing up as the Santa Claus pirate? Really? I think I’d have told the Black Star where he could take that idea and shove it.

Chapter Four – Green Arrow and Speedy

ssov2004GA and Speedy are after the Hopper, a criminal with a large nose and a tendency to hop around on a pogo stick. The Hopper and his thugs are trying to trap Coburn, an eccentric millionare, and they’re posing as carnival barkers to do it. When a rich guy named Coburn appears at their booth, they think they’ve found their man, and they award him a prize from the booth. The prize is set to release gas and kill the man at a certain time, at which point the Hopper enters his room and robs him, only to learn that it’s the wrong man. It turns out that Coburn is a bit crazy, and while he is a millionaire, he lives like a homeless man at the fair. The Green Arrow and Speedy try to gain his trust, but he’s so paranoid that he thinks everyone is out to get him and his wealth. In the end, the heroes stop Hopper from robbing the guy, but he’s still ungrateful, and the Black Star collects yet another seemingly harmless object while no one is looking.

  • Speedy gets a great running joke, asking “Is he kidding?” every time Coburn does something crazy after he and Green Arrow try to help the guy.
  • There’s not a lot to say about this story. It’s definitely elevated by some eccentric adversaries in the form of Hopper and Coburn, and by a streak of humor running through the narrative. George Papp’s art is great.

Chapter Five – The Crimson Avenger

The Avenger and Wing pursue the Brain to Twin Cities and end up investigating a convention of twins at the Double Hotel. They check in and get settled, only to notice gas coming from the air conditioning. Heading down to investigate, they get in a fight with some hired thugs tampering with the AC. They win, but fail to stop the thugs from leaving. Wing discovers an unusual item left behind which turns out after some investigation to be a rare medical instrument.

To make a long story short, the Brain is extorting a dying man, who needs the blood from one of the twins, Bobby Leeds, in order to survive. The dying man turns out to be the Brain’s twin brother, and the gas in the hotel was designed to reveal the correct twin needed for the blood transfusion. The Avenger and Wing capture the brain, and Bobby volunteers to help the dying man. Meanwhile the Black Star takes the fourth item…

  • The plot feels a little convoluted, but it actually makes fairly good sense and the revelation that the Brain himself is a twin is a pleasant bit of detail about the villain that fits thematically with the storyline.
  • The Crimson Avenger makes good use of his crimson gas pellets to distract and surprise his opponents in this story. He so often just goes in and throws punches that it’s easy to forget that he started out very much in the mold of the Green Hornet or the Sandman. Considering that the gas pellets offer some camouflage, they aren’t all that different than Dr. Mid-Nite’s blackout bombs.
  • I love Wing’s quips when he’s fighting.

Chapter Six – Vigilante

ssov2005The Vigilante and Billy Gunn head west in search of the Rattler, who they determine is in disguise in an old folks home… that lets the residents act like children again. Weird. They check on the new residents, and determine that one of them is Rattler in disguise. After an ambush by the Rattler’s men, and after escaping from a poisonous snake, Viglante and Billy Gunn finally manage to unmask the villain, and they finally see the Black Star in the act of committing a crime as he grabs the final item.

Chapter Seven

The Black Star, in reality the supposedly reluctant chauffeur from the first chapter, has collected all the components he needs to assemble his growth ray. He first uses it to make himself larger and stronger, and then when he sees that the Seven Soldiers have tracked him down, he uses it to enlarge otherwise harmless animals such as a rabbit or an ant to attack them. The Soldiers are able to stop the animals and enter the Black Star’s house. In the ensuing fight, he falls in front of his active enlargement ray and grows so large that he can’t breathe and is essentially crushed by his own weight, falling through the floor to his death.

  • This is a well-written story, with the throwaway character of the driver, Mowse, actually the villain all along. The individual chapters all have some color that makes them interesting and fun, and the final battle with the giant creatures is better than it has a right to be.
  • The Black Star is crushed by his own weight. Ouch.
  • The art is consistently good throughout the story, and probably better in many cases than contemporary art  over in All-Star Comics.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment