All-Star Comics #2 – Fall 1940

 AS02 HawkmanHawkman – Sacrifice for Yum-Chac

The story opens with Hawkman flying around the city when he spots police at a home. He waits until they’ve left to investigate and finds a body that appears to have drowned, though the room is completely dry. Further investigation produces a knife with the words “Yum-Chac” on it. Hawkman recognizes this as the name of an Aztec rain god, so he goes to consult with an expert on Aztecs, only to find the man ‘s sister Irene has been kidnapped. Rather than rescue her right away, Hawkman follows the kidnappers as they take a boat from New York back to Mexico. Hawkman is waiting to catch the kidnappers in the act, and once he learns where they’re going, he informs the local police. He rescues Irene as she’s pushed into a water-filled pit, and the Mexican police mop up the cultists, with Nyola the high priestess throwing herself into the pit rather than submit to capture.

  • Another international adventure with Hawkman puts this story more in line with his solo series than most future All-Star Hawkman stories will do, since future stories will usually be tied into the main plot facing the Justice Society.
  • The artwork continues to be among the best of the era.
  • Apparently, as the story itself claims, the idea of sacrificing maidens to the Aztec rain god is based on actual history. I’d have to read up on the topic to determine just how much is factual, but I had assumed the whole thing was made up. Evidently not, although the information I’ve been able to find states that Yum-Chac was a Mayan deity rather than Aztec.
  • Was Nyola so afraid of capture that she would rather die? A reaction like that among criminals does occur reasonably often in this era of comics. It’s possible that she was enough of a true believer in Yum Chac that she figured he was going to be really mad about the botched sacrifice and she’d better step in and take Irene’s place.
  • Hawkman going to the local police instead of acting like a one-man army is one of those small touches that elevates a story like this, in my opinion. Of course, the criminals are usually turned over to police at the end of a story, but here we have Hawkman knowing his limitations, having time to plan, and wisely involving the authorities.

Green Lantern – The Robot Men

Alan Scott makes his debut in All-Star Comics with a story about a gang of bulked-up, zombified men who are wreaking havoc in cities around the country. The police are taking them on and have killed some, but they are unable to find the source of the problem. Alan steals a corpse from the morgue (!) and does his own autopsy (!) and is able to determine what is causing these men to go mad and become super-strong, and is also able to formulate a cure. I could buy Dr. Mid-Nite doing this, or Dr. Fate later in his career after he goes to medical school, but Green Lantern? Not so much.

At any rate, Alan disguises himself as a homeless man since it’s known that they are disappearing. He’s taken by thugs to the base of operations for this plot and locked in with the others. There he removes his disguise and takes on the thugs as Green Lantern. He is captured and taken to the ringleader, Baron von Zorn, who plans to destroy the country’s morale, cause a revolution to destroy American democracy, and install a dictatorship in its place. After pretending to succumb to the drug, Alan frees the captured men and then flies to confront the Baron. He uses the antidote on the Baron’s soldiers and then captures the Baron, reflecting later that this is what any good American would have done.

  • The plot of this story reminds me somewhat of the Mirakuru storyline in the second season of Arrow. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, it’s the CW network’s adaption of Green Arrow. Season two is partially concerned with a drug called “mirakuru” (which surely has to be based on Hourman’s Miraclo) being used to turn men into super-strong soldiers for the villains of the season. And here we have a substance turning mainly homeless into super-strong soldiers for the villain of this story. Of course the other details are all quite different, but I was just struck by this particular parallel in a comic book story and a television show created over 70 years apart.
  • Alan’s medical knowledge is a pretty blantant example of “new skills as the plot demands”. That being said, the guy did switch careers a few times early on, so perhaps we could speculate that he did the same with majors in college. Perhaps at one point he wanted to be a doctor. I doubt this particular skillset ever comes up again, but with so little Golden Age Green Lantern available and easy to read, I can’t say for sure.
  • That being said, stealing a corpse from the morgue is pretty creepy, Alan.
  • The art is easily the poorest in the issue. But if you’ve ever read any early issues of Alan Scott’s regular series, this is typical for the character at this point in time.

The Spectre – the Curse of Kulak

An evil entity named Kulak has been released from his imprisonment, and he’s bent on destroying the Earth with the “whispering death”, which involves casting his shadow over the Earth and causing people to hate each other for any or no reason at all. The normally insanely powerful Spectre is not strong enough to stop Kulak, though he does what he can to interfere with his actions. Kulak is actually on the point of destroying the Spectre when he calls for help and receives the Ring of Life, and is able to defeat Kulak’s minions. Kulak himself is only destroyed when the Spectre interrupts him mid-incantation, and the evil that Kulak was unleashing consumes him instead.

  • Kulak not only causes people to attack each other, he also causes epic flooding. Check out the image of the skyscrapers being washed away! AS02 SpectreLook at the people falling to their deaths. How many billions of people had to have died in Kulak’s attack? I shudder to think. A catastrophe on this scale would wreck human civilization, surely. It doesn’t, and the retreat of the flood is even depicted with some humor. Maybe the Spectre’s magic repairs the damage. Who can say? It’s as good an explanation as any.
  • You can’t really say “the golden age has no continuity” and leave it at that, because sometimes villains and characters do return, and some stories have sequels, so there is some reference to the past. But this is one of those instances where what happens in the story stays in the story. Whereas if this story was told today, it would be like “Final Night”, and every book would get a tie in issue with some big character death to make things extra dramatic.
  • I’m not used to seeing opponents who can defeat the Spectre, but then I’ve never read his solo series from the 1940s, just the All-Star chapters. So maybe this sort of thing was more common in his own book.
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