My original thought with this blog was to work my way through All-Star Comics in chronological order, and to branch off to other characters and stories as the mood hit me. That way I could see the roster as it changed, note milestones in the series development, and just generally comment on stories in order.
But why? Why not jump around? The early 40s seem fairly familiar with many more reprints to choose from, but the latter part of the Golden Age isn’t as well represented. And so I was interested in jumping ahead. In fact, all the way to the end and the last adventure of the Justice Society of America from 1951’s All-Star #57, “The Mystery of the Vanishing Detectives”.
The Justice Society invite four famous detectives to solve a crime which they have created in order to test the abilities of these detectives. They are Harry Wan the Honolulu Police Chief, Mustapha Hakim the Turkish detective, Jacques Durand of the Paris Surete, and Detective Drew Dawes of Scotland Yard. The JSA have built a set and stage a crime, then challenge the detectives to solve it. In the middle of the attempt, the lights go out, and when they return, the four have vanished without a trace. The Flash informs everyone that the wires were cut with a knife, and then they find a silver skeleton key. About that time, four telegrams for the four detectives arrive marked “urgent”, and the JSA decide to send four members to handle the cases while the other three remain to search for the missing detectives.
Doctor Mid-Nite heads to London where he works with Scotland Yard to solve a bank robbery, where another skeleton key has been found. The robbers escaped by means of a long-disused and forgotten air raid shelter. He catches up with the robbers and outfights them, only for one to escape to the foggy streets above. Due to his unique vision, he follows them through the fog to a train, where he uses his blackout bombs and subdues them all. This leaves one question… who is the key?
The Flash heads to Paris to solve a bizarre mystery where stone gargoyles are being stolen from atop the Notre Dame Cathedral. The Flash uses his old trick of moving so fast that he becomes invisible, and he catches the thieves red-handed. They have a secret passageway leading to the top of the cathedral that they’ve been using. Jay is a little careless and knocks himself senseless, allowing the theives time to escape, but he follows, tracking the thieves down thanks to a note from the Key that they carelessly left in the passageway. The trail leads to a seedy club, where Jay locates the criminals pulling a fortune in gold out of the gargoyle. The crooks knew there was gold in one of them, and kept searching until the found the right one, but the Flash ends their plot, also wondering who the Key is.
Wonder Woman heads to Turkey where a swindle is taking place. The Emir of Kasdan gets his weight in gold every year from his subjects, but it turns out that an impostor has substituted himself for the genuine Emir and is in the process of stealing the gold. Wonder Woman follows the limousine tracks to the Black Sea, where the thieves are escaping by boat to a waiting submarine. She lassos the sub, then hoists it out of the water, capturing the thieves and recovering the stolen gold.
And finally, Green Lantern heads to the port where an ocean liner is about to set sail for an around the world cruise, only a millionaire industrialist on board has had a short-shorter bill worth tons of money stolen from him. Green Lantern investigates and sets a trap for the thief to bring him out into the open, where after a brief struggle, he captures and imprisons him. He also learns about the Key, but the thief claims to have never seen him, only to have been given orders remotely.
When the four arrive back in Civic City, Black Canary fills them in. Hawkman and the Atom found a hidden passage leading away from the Civic City Arena. They were attacked by the Turtleneck Gang, the “toughest hoodlums in the city”, but it turns out that the thugs were hired to delay them while the Key made his getaway. The JSA follows the trail, and Flash deduces that one of the detectives is the Key in disguise. That turns out to be true as they find the missing detectives, free them from the Key’s hypnosis, and attempt to capture the fleeing Key, who jumps to his death rather than submit to capture.
And that’s the end. The Golden Age of DC Comics closes out with this issue of All-Star Comics. Five years later would see the debut of Barry Allen as a new Flash, and these characters would eventually return, though they’d never again be A-listers.
The Golden Age ends along with the adventures of the Justice Society…
- With the solo magazines of almost all of these characters having been cancelled a few years before, this story contains the final solo adventures of Dr. Mid-Nite, the Jay Garrick Flash, and the Alan Scott Green Lantern. It’s kind of nice that we got some old school solo chapters so these guys could have one last chance to get the spotlight.
- How in the world does Wonder Woman get away with wearing her star spangled bikini in a Muslim country?
- Though the characters are completely different, did the Key from this issue inspire the future Justice League of America villain?
- This story feels very much like something that would have been written during the Silver Age Justice League era. All-Star and the Justice Society were evolving both in format and in storytelling style, and it would have been interesting to see how far that change would have taken them, had their series continued.
- The art is pretty good in this story, and indeed has been for some time. Two different artists share the art chores, but the styles blend together very nicely.