Retro Comics are Awesome

A general discussion forum, plus hauls and silly games.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Batman #85
August 1954

Batman - Clown of Crime!
Writer: David Vern Reed Pencils: Sheldon Moldoff Inks: Charles Paris

It's Freaky Friday as Batman and the Joker switch bodies. As Batman chases the Joker through a lab, they get caught in an experimental "epsilon ray", which causes a "transfer of personalities." When the Joker in Batman's body smashes the machines, which is the only hope of reversing the process, it's up to the professor who built it and Robin to make repairs and gather the needed isotopes to fuel the machine.

So as out-there as the story concept is, there's some bizarre entertainment value in seeing Batman with big toothy grins and pulling practical jokes, and of course the danger of revealing that Batman is really Bruce Wayne, something the Joker plans to do for the right payoff. And of course the world at large knows nothing of the mind-swap, so the news reports Batman turning to crime and the Joker helping enforce the law. The Joker almost exposes Bruce's face in a giant magnifying glass high atop the city (from the Acme Magnifying Lens Co., which is too funny), but Bruce manages to stop him, and by that point the machine has been repaired, and the minds are switched back. All is right with the world.

Best just to treat this one as a comedy, because nothing in it can be taken seriously. Enjoy the sight of "Batman" laughing his head off and pulling pranks and don't think too carefully about why the Joker doesn't just take the cowl off privately and learn the truth while he has every opportunity. And a law-abiding "Joker" is a novelty, to be sure.Alfred gets a few panels to be freaked out, and that golf outfit that Bruce/Joker is wearing in Dick's fear about the future has to be seen to be believed. This story does not stand up to any sort of scrutiny, so don't try.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Batman #85 concluded....

The Guardian of the Bat-Signal!
Writer: Edmond Hamilton Pencils: Bob Kane Inks: Charles Paris

Sergeant Harvey Hainer is a veteran of the Gotham Police Force, but has become to old to effectively work the streets, so Gordon is forced to retire him. Batman comes up with the idea of having Harvey maintain the Bat-Signal. It seems like a kind idea, but it doesn't work out, as Harvey fails several times to shine the signal when he should have. Batman trails and observes Harvey to be sure he's not working for the crooks, and learns the truth: Harvey is blind. I presume the idea is that he's legally blind, not totally unable to see, because surely someone other than Batman would have noticed. According to Harvey, his eyesight is "failing me - because of that old bullet wound", but his doctor says he should recover.

The story throws one more curve at poor Harvey. A system is worked out where Gordon will relay orders to light the signal via phone, but Harvey blows the fuse. He gropes his way down to the photograph room, working from memory, and creates a signal with the drapes and photographers lights. In the meantime Batman has figured out how the crooks operate and is able to catch them when properly alerted. Harvey earns a vacation with pay for his quick thinking, and wants to keep the bat-signal job when his sight returns.

This is the type of feel-good human interest story that I enjoy from this series. Batman trying to help an old vet keep his dignity and continue to serve the police force that has been his life is the type of thoughtful gesture I expect from Batman in this era. And Harvey proves to be a real hero, retrieving the situation with the inoperable Bat-signal by relying on memory and touch.

The Costume of Doom!
Writer: Bill Finger Pencils: Sheldon Moldoff Inks: Stan Kaye

Vicki Vale, angling for a story for her magazine, comes up with the idea of a write up about all the men that have impersonated Batman. This would have been a great opportunity for some continuity and looking back, but I think all of these men that the story introduces are seen here for the first time... except for Bruce Wayne, who posed as Batman in a charity parade! I don't really need to explain the foolishness of that. And when Vicki calls, Bruce agrees to pose in costume with the other four men, because otherwise "Vicki might get suspicious." But while the men are gathered in the photo studio, someone shoots one of the men in the leg. Batman and Robin wonder why anyone would shoot a fake Batman?

As the story goes on, attempts are made on the lives of the other Batman impersonators. The villain turns out to be one of the impersonators, actor Hubert Hall, working with "Twisty" Rhodes mob to steal some gold. Hall was working on a movie that was shooting a scene at the Gotham Mint, and had planned to let the mob in, but he was such a poor actor that the movie director was going to replace him with one of the other Batman impersonators, so they all had to be eliminated.

I'm not a big fan of this one. The basic plot is fine, I just always cringe when Bruce is publicly associated with Batman in any way, when he should stay as far away from Batman as he can. No one needs to link the two, but Bruce appearing in the costume in public as himself is just asking for trouble. I understand why it's done here, so that he can be involved in this plot, but there had to be some other way to go about that.

And that's a wrap for Golden Age Batman volume 9. I've now read and reviewed 543 stories in 9 omnibuses. I've got Silver Age Batman volume 1 on the way, but I really want to read the final Golden Age volume first, so I hope one will be announced sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I love seeing 9 volumes of Batman covering the first 15 years of the series sitting on my bookshelf. What a great set of reprints.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Superman #61
November-December 1949

Superman Returns to Krypton!
Writer: Bill Finger Art: Al Plastino

Haw! The great Superman... too weak to hit back!

I had actually read this story long before I bought the omnibus, because it's in "The Greatest Golden Age Stories Ever Told", a great little sampler of 1940s DC. I'm not sure it's among the best of the best stories from that era, but I suspect it was chosen because it not only introduces Kryptonite to the comics, but it's also the first time Superman learns that he's not human. He'd been around since June 1938, and made it all the way to the very last story of the 1940s before learning his origin, which had been revealed to readers in the very first issue. It's also pretty cool that Bill Finger, co-creator of Batman, wrote this particular story.

Perry White assigns Lois to interview and expose as a fake, Swami Riva. Clark overhears and figures he'd better watch over her as Superman, because of course Lois is always getting into trouble. When Lois is exposed as a reporter, the Swami attacks her, so Superman rushes to her rescue. Desperate, the Swami tries hexing him, only for it to actually work... Superman loses his strength, staggers around, and is knocked out by Swami Riva. Of course Riva knows that he's a fake, but this incident convinces them that he must actually have "astral powers", so he decides to cash in on this and "rent" his ability to hex Superman to the Metropolis underworld. And once again, it works. Superman comes to stop a jewel robbery, is "hexed" by Riva and is too weak to hold off an attack by a bunch of gangsters. He recovers once they've left. "What a nightmare that was!" he observes. "But what could I do? I felt like a feeble old man."

Superman does not believe in hexes, so he figures there must be some other explanation. He investigates Riva and finds that his real name is Dan Rivers, former carnival conman. Superman questions Rivers' former partner and ends up tracking down a rock that Rivers bought for his turban. The jewelry shop has another of the same stone, and it has the same effect on Superman. He then tracks down the man who found the stones, rock collector Harry Peters, who can't identify the two stones and thinks that they're meteorites.

So here is where ultra-powerful Superman of the pre-Crisis days is able to do things that modern Superman can't. Under his own power he travels back in time and follows the light left by the meteorites to track them back to their source: the planet Krypton. This method of time travel renders him intangible and invisible, so he can observe the past but not interact. He is astonished at how advanced the civilization is on this planet, and then he spots someone who looks a lot like him. It is of course Jor-El, who speaks to his wife Lara about how the planet is about to explode. Jor-El told the council "the core of our planet is uranium, which for untold ages has been building a cycle of chain reactions." Sure enough, the destruction begins, so Jor-El and Lara launch their infant son out into space. Superman follows the rocket to see if the child survives. Looking back, he sees the destruction of the planet as he heads out into space. But even then he doesn't put two and two together until the rocket lands on Earth and he sees his adoptive parents rescue the child. For the first time Superman learns that he is not human, and that he came from the planet Krypton, and is the last survivor.

His explanation for Kryptonite: "when Krypton exploded, all the atomic elements fused to become one deadly compound. That compound gives off rays which apparently can only affect Kryptonites (what they call Kryptonians at this point).. and that's why it weakens me... the last survivor of Krypton!"

So Superman returns to the present, knowing now that it's the stone on Riva's turban that is the problem. He blows it off his head and into the ocean before he gets close, and is easily able to subdue the criminal. He buys the second piece and drops it into the ocean as well. The whole "Superman was hexed" incident is written off as a hoax, and in the final panel of the story we see Superman silhoetted against the horizon, thinking that there must be more Kryptonite out in space, and he hopes it never falls to Earth again....

Of course Kryptonite will be back, over and over and over again. I think it appeared on the Superman radio program years before it first showed up in the comics, but as far as those comics are concerned, it was almost 12 years before Superman had to worry about it. I also find it interesting that he hasn't known his own alien origins all this time, and apparently simply believed he was human, albeit obviously quite different from everyone else around him. I can't imagine Kryptonite being introduced in such a low-key way today, this is obviously from a very different era with a different style of storytelling. I do like Superman using his investigative reporter skills (albeit as himself rather than as Clark) to track down the source of the Kryptonite. I'd enjoy reading more stories in the years immediately following this one and see what kind of effect the revelations in this story have on the series.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Some thoughts after nearly finishing Golden Age Superman volume 7, which covers mid 1948 through August 1950.

I have enjoyed GA Superman 7, so let me preface everything that follows with that. I like the book, and I hope for more volumes. But I think volume 7 is my least favorite of the seven Golden Age volumes we've seen so far, and if I had to judge by tone and approach to the character, I'd say that what I generally think of as the "Golden Age Superman" was gone somewhere in volume 6. We're already in Silver Age territory, or "proto Silver Age" perhaps. The earlier volumes are the ones I enjoy the most, when Superman is wisecracking and tossing thugs a mile in the air and generally running rampant through Metropolis standing up for the underdog and terrorizing crooks. There's more edge to the original approach to the character, and the series is more of an adventure strip, which is honestly the approach I prefer.

I'm not quite sure what to make of the Superman we see in volume 7. Dennis once referred to late 1940s and 1950s Batman as the "masked milquetoast", a tamed version of the figure he once was, and I think the same is true of Superman. The series isn't really an adventure strip any more. I can't quite figure out what it is, honestly, sort of a comfortable, good natured, "day in the life of" type of series where a mildly exasperated Superman has to constantly rescue Lois, where odd people invent odd things that cause trouble, and the occasional fairly harmless criminal stays a few steps ahead of Superman until they inevitably get what's coming to them. I really don't have much use for the Prankster or the Toyman at this point. Luthor is still a threat, and his stories probably the most to my liking, maybe because they're the closest to the old approach and Luthor actually feels like a threat. I like Wayne Boring's art, and I think it may consistently be the best we've seen, though I still like Jack Burnley the best out of all the early Superman artists. I think Superman's use of his powers to make things is creative, and something we didn't see in quite the same way early on.

While I enjoyed most of the stories in this book, it feels like Superman in the late 40s has become very comfortable and safe, and I can't imagine the Superman of 1950 sealing a crooked mine owner in his own mine to show him the error of his ways, or helping a struggling boxer regain his confidence, or demolishing slums so new housing could be built. He'd be too busy appearing on quiz shows, or helping some bearded, thick-glasses wearing eccentric scientist test his latest invention, or acting in a bizarre way that only makes sense once all the facts come out. It's a completely different storytelling approach that makes Superman feel like a completely different character. One approach is as valid as the other, and both produce fun stories, but my preference is for the version closer to Siegel and Shuster's original idea rather than the softie we have in this latest volume. Maybe he just needs some new challenges to bring out the best in him?

That I prefer the 1938 version doesn't mean the 1950 version of Superman isn't worth reading. He's just perhaps the familiar and comfortable protective big brother rather than the slightly dangerous defender of the underdog, and I like the latter better.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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There's no "anniversary issue" hype for 50 issues of Green Lantern in 1967. It's just another issue. Seems like a modern day approach would have left the big changes in Hal's life that we got in #49 until #50, with a big "It's a major turning point... for GREEN LANTERN!!!!" blasted on the cover. But the writers of the day just kept on telling stories. These days they wouldn't wait until issue 50, they'd start with issue 25!

Green Lantern #50
January 1967

The Quest of the Wicked Queen of Hearts!
Script - John Broome Art - Gil Kane

Someone's definitely copying Marvel with the credits here. ""Big John" Broome did the script, "Good-Looking" Gil Kane did the Artful Rest" is some Stan Lee-hyperbole for sure, if a bit tame compared to the genuine article. This is the first story since Hal left Coast City, and I assume the start of the period on Hal's life where he takes on various jobs beyond the one he's most well known for, being a test pilot. He's still a pilot here though, flying tourists on sightseeing trips in Idaho. Hal's more parochial than I'd expect for someone who works with and counts as friends various aliens, not trusting the "foreigners" he's flying around. Maybe his earlier experiences with spies account for his attitude? He turns out to be right as the two men attack him, and an unlucky fall leaves him down for the count while the men steal his plane.

Meanwhile, Hal's employer is talking with his daughter Joan (who's mooning over Hal, of course!) and missing his son who died in WW2, over twenty years earlier. The significance of the two tourists being German becomes perhaps more clear. They're busy ransacking the hostel looking for something (I have to chuckle at the Green Lantern poster from a few issues ago on the wall in one panel), and they find it: a painting of a seated woman, the "wicked queen of hearts."

Back to Hal, whose ring has protected him from drowning, and we get some of what's been going through his mind since he left Coast City: interest in Joan, a feeling that he's missing his old self-confidence, and a resentment of his Green Lantern identity. I don't mind a bit of this, it makes sense after what he's been through with Carol, but I hope we don't get months of self-pity and "I'd rather use my fists than my ring" from Hal. Once he's fully awake he easily captures the men as they attempt to escape in the plane, but he makes it hard on himself because he's determined to use his ring as sparingly as possible. That drags out the fight for a few pages (and really, how else would Broome fill the page count, because these two men are no match for Green Lantern) before he catches them. The story is resolved as Hal reveals to Joan that her brother, who her father admires so much, was in league with the two men to steal the painting and split the loot once it was smuggled out of the country. Hal promises not to tell Joan's father since it would break his heart to learn the truth about his son.

But the bitter Hal Jordan is done with this job by the end of the issue, since Joan praising Green Lantern is just too much for him. "Green Lantern is becoming my worst enemy!" he melodramatically thinks to himself. As I said, I don't mind some of this, but I hope it doesn't go on for too long.

Not the most compelling story. I like the twist about the son's guilt at the end, but the two thieves are absolutely no match for someone with Green Lantern's power level, and seeing Hal limit himself due to his resentment of what he thinks being GL cost him will get old very fast if it goes on too long. But we'll see how things progress.

Thraxton the Powerful vs Green Lantern the Powerless!
Script - Gardner Fox Art - Gil Kane

You're finished, Green Lantern - thanks to your quixotic desire to show you can fight as well with your fists - as with your power ring!

So I noted that Hal wanting to use his fists instead of his ring was fine, as long as it didn't last too long. And it looks like Gardner Fox is addressing it right away, if the splash page is any indication. Hal is driving and camping, so he's really taking this "I'm NOT using my ring" seriously, but a call from the Guardians through the power battery short circuits that plan. The Green Lantern of the planet Pharma, Davo Yull, is overdue, and Hal has to check on him. Neat to see him charging his ring while in flight. Hal visits Davo's house, and is momentarily envious that Davo is married, as he had hoped to be. He finds out where Davo went and sets out to track him down, when the energy begins to drain from his ring and his power battery becomes visible. I love the sequence where the sea creature comes after him, and Hal hits him with the power battery! Sadly for him the creature swallows it and swims off, but at least Hal is still alive.

He makes it to a nearby island, which is exactly what Davo had done, and Hal's fellow GL fills him in on the threat he had come here to fight. It's Thraxon, who is creating a weapon to force the people of Pharma to accept him as ruler. Knowing the planet's GL would be a threat, Thraxon created a device to drain the power ring when it got near the island.

So Hal's next move is the kind of "so crazy it ends up working" stunt the character pulls off so often: swimming back into the sea and confronting the creature so he can get his power battery back. He cites Jonah in the whale as he dives into the creature's gullet and is swallowed up, only commenting that it's "sort of stuffy in here!" The man has nerves of steel. Lucky for him, the rays that affected his power ring can't penetrate the creature's hide (or else Hal would presumably have been digested, so he took a big gamble here) so Hal uses the creature as a sort of living fortress/battering ram to smash up Thraxon's stronghold. Hal's refusal to use his ring once he starts fighting Thraxon himself is annoying, and his victory in the fist fight consequently not as satisfying, because he wasn't smart, just stubborn.

There's an interesting twist at the end as Hal reasons out that the only way for Thraxon to have learned "the special frequency" of the power batteries was from his wife. Turns out she didn't betray her husband, it was mind control by Thraxon that got the secret out of her. Problem solved, and Hal heads back to Earth, reflecting that if he ever gets married, he'd better hide his power battery from the wife!

I'll say it again: I get Hal feeling resentful that his role as Green Lantern contributed to losing Carol, though if he'd be honest with himself he largely did it to himself. But he's hurt, he's missing Carol, and he's going through a tough time, and he's honestly probably made it worse by leaving his friends and the familiar surroundings of Coast City. So his attempt to rely on himself and not his ring makes sense... for now. But it would not make sense to have a book about Green Lantern where Green Lantern rarely appears, so I'm hoping Hal settles down and gets back to embracing his job as GL.

Those early panels of the story with Hal camping out beside his car, looking for jobs in the newspaper, could have come straight from the early Green Lantern/Green Arrow road trip across America, and I'll admit that the first time I read these stories, I didn't expect to see this side of Hal this early. The dividing line between Silver and Bronze Age GL isn't as clear cut as I expected. Looks like we're in for a mix of tones and approaches as the book continues to make some major changes from the formula we saw for years. I think it's a healthy thing to mix things up like this. I just hope it doesn't get dragged on too long.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Green Lantern #51
March 1967

Green Lantern's Evil Alter Ego!
Script - John Broome Art - Gil Kane

While on the road, moving from town to town, Hal finally takes the time to investigate various items that have come back with him from his trips to the future, trips that he knows nothing about. Using his ring, he determines that the items are from the year 5707, the 58th century. As a helpful editor's note reminds the reader, Hal was taken to the future in issues 8, 12 and 47, and now Chairman Dasor and his assistant Iona are seriously considering bringing Green Lantern into the future to deal with another crisis: a rogue scientist calling himself "Dr. Strangehate" (ha!) who turns out to be none other than... Pol Manning! But how can this be, since Pol Manning doesn't actually exist? It turns out to be another unconcious use of the power ring, which somehow made Hal Jordan's fictitious 58th Century identity into a real person, who plans to control the Earth.

Hal, sensing a mental appeal for help as he scans the future items recharges his ring and for the first time travels into the 58th century under his own power rather than being brought there, so the amnesia of the earlier trips is avoided. And he's immediately forced into conflict with Pol Manning, ultimately defeating and capturing him. After that, Hal finally learns of his three previous visits to the future and what he experienced while he was there. He agrees to again assume the role of Solar Director and supervise the trial for treason of Pol Manning.

But Manning has been conducting experiments and has evolved physically and mentally strong "neomen", one of whom comes to rescue him. Once again, Hal's ring seems to be not as effective as his fists, though he loses the fight and Manning leaves, taking Iona with him. Hal pursues him and has to fight an army of his neomen and their willpower. He pulls a rope a dope trick on them, making them think they were beating him, and then takes them out when their defenses are down. He rescues Iona, and once again it's a fistfight that Hal uses to defeat his opponent. One wonders why he even bothers with the power ring?

Hal requests that Manning be rehabilitated rather than punished, and is able to remove the evil from his mind with the power ring (finally putting it to use, eh, Hal?), and all the loose ends are wrapped up. Hal is now aware of his past adventures in the 58th century and has solved the problem of Pol Manning for them. And the story even gives us an epilogue answering the question of why the Green Lantern of the 58th century wasn't summoned. The answer is that the Earth doesn't have one. According to one of the Guardians (speaking directly to the reader of course!), after Hal the Earth won't need another Green Lantern for thousands of years. Don't anyone tell John Stewart, Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner or any of the others about that!

The final two panels remind me a bit of the final scenes of a Doctor Who story, "The End of the World" where Rose has traveled to the far distant future and seen incredible things, and at the end is right back in her own time, surrounded by people who know nothing of where she's been or what she's seen. That's Hal in the last two panels, surrounded by familiar 20th century sights, with everyone around him not knowing who he is or where he has been.

For the most part I enjoyed this story. It was nice to see the 58th century again, and to finally have Hal made aware of his adventures there. I like the idea of the fictional identity being made real, though I think more interesting things could have been done with the idea. I'm getting a bit tired, in a book named Green Lantern, of Hal solving so many problems with his fists. I want to see clever and creative Green Lantern power uses, not Hal punching someone multiple times an issue. Yes, he likes to brawl, and that's fine. But there's no point in having superpowers if he's not going to make better use of them.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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I bought a couple of the New 52 Flash collected volumes at Ollies and the more recent "Flash War" storyline. I got the New 52 volumes entirely for the art by Francis Manapul. I had read about the first six issues of that series when it was first published, and I wondered if I'd feel differently this time around. Nope, it's pretty much the same: middle of the road writing held up in large part by excellent art, which is just so enjoyable. The volumes were worth the $4 each they cost me, certainly.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Sparky, check it out: the first version of the Sinestro Corps appeared in this Silver Age issue.

Green Lantern #52
April 1967

Our Mastermind, the Car!
Script - John Broome Art - Gil Kane

Incredible! It's as if the old cab has somehow come alive and taken up crime!

Giving the story a title that's clearly riffing off of "My Mother, The Car" does not inspire me with confidence. At least we get the novelty on the cover of Sinestro speaking his own variation of the Green Lantern oath long before Geoff Johns gave him his own oath and his own Corps. The splash page doesn't help, with Doiby Dickles' taxi Goitrude paralyzing Hal and Alan Scott with beams from the headlights. This is not a promising beginning....

The story begins with Tom Kalmaku reading a letter from Hal while Terga listens and comments. Tom ends up speaking directly to the reader as he relates a story from his casebook set back when Hal was still living in Coast City. Alan Scott had come to visit Hal, and over breakfast they discuss the recent adventure with Prince Peril that left Doiby Dickles married. On Doiby's first wedding anniversary, Alan wants to send him his taxicab Goitrude, which is still on Earth. Hal's been keeping the car in his garage, but when they go to collect it, it's gone. Goitrude is driving around town all on her own, thinking about her telepathic powers and rescuing a gang of bank robbers. Goitrude intends to become the leader of this gang. One of the crooks even name drops "Our Mother the Car" just in case the reader didn't get the reference. Goitrude is now a crime boss! Gasp! The shame! The silliness of it all! Hal and Alan should turn in their rings and retire when the old cab uses headlights in their eyes and exhaust fumes to defeat the mighty Green Lanterns. I'm not sure how much worse this can get... but I will bravely press on.

Clearly unable to handle this threat, Alan sends for Doiby Dickles to come to Earth, which he does. Because a cabbie is far tougher than a Green Lantern. But the plan to have Doiby appeal to his car's better nature fails, because it's not really Goitrude causing the crimes. It's ... well, the cover gave it away, so there's no real surprise when the car paralyzes the GLs and Doiby and uses the Green Lanterns' own power beams to free... Sinestro! His mind was imprisoned in the car... somehow. The story assures us we will learn how that happened later. Sinestro flies off to carry out his evil plans, leaving the GLs paralyzed but alive.

Let's not mince words here: this story has been pretty hard to take, so far. But it thankfully takes a turn for the better as Sinestro uses the dimensional exchanger he took from Doiby to steal the Central Power Battery, after which he taunts the Guardians. They in turn declare a "cosmic emergency" to all the Green Lanterns... they only have 24 hours to recover the battery, or all the GL's in the universe will be powerless. Hal gets the message and turns all his willpower, assisted by Alan, to breaking the paralysis. Sinestro has taken the power battery to Earth-2, so Hal and Alan ditch Doiby and head straight there. But the stalwart cabbie is not going to be left behind, and he's learned a thing or two while living on Myrg. He constructs a new dimension changer and follows the GLs to Earth 2. Hal and Alan encounter Sinestro's followers all around the central battery, dressed just like him and made up to look like him. It's the original Sinestro Corps, essentially, complete with an altered GL oath. Experience allows Hal and Alan to defeat the dozen or so EGLs, and the two of them combined are able to defeat Sinestro, though the final blow comes from Hal's fist against Sinestro's jaw. You know Hal had to throw a punch at some point.

The Guardians personally take on the problem of containing Sinestro and the power battery is returned to Oa. Turns out that after Sinestro was imprisoned in the block of amber back in GL #18, almost four years ago (I had forgotten all about it), Sinestro was able to mentally escape into Goitrude.... somehow. Sinestro has never been shown to have that type of mental power, so it's not a satisfying explanation, but it's the story we're given.

Okay, the first half of this story is just absurd, and I was rolling my eyes a lot as I struggled through it. I'm sure it's meant to be comic, but the whole sitcom takeoff just does not fit in Green Lantern's world, not even in the Silver Age. I did enjoy the second half with the power battery theft, and of course it's always good to see Alan Scott and Doiby Dickles again. I'm pretty sure Geoff Johns got the idea for the Sinestro Corps from this issue, because that's exactly what Sinestro is building during his brief possession of the Central Battery. He uses both his yellow ring and a Green Lantern ring at the same time as well, making this the first story with someone wielding more than one ring at a time.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Green Lantern #53
June 1967

Captive of the Evil Eye!
Script - John Broome Art - Gil Kane

Robbing Earth of its oxygen is the worst form of crime! It's a brazen attempt at mass murder -- and it's my duty to stop it!

Even though Hal left Coast City behind, we still get glimpses of his supporting cast as Carol asks Tom Kalmaku about Hal, and Tom follows Hal's wanderings on his map, both of them clearly missing their friend. Hal meanwhile has a job in Washington State, at Evergreen Insurance Company. That's quite a change from test pilot and flying tourists. In fact, it's a pretty mundane sort of job for a super-hero, but Hal seems to be fairly enthused as the story opens. He's sent out to check on a meteorite that's fallen to make sure it doesn't damage an area insured by the company, and Hal takes the time to charge his ring and head out as Green Lantern in case there's a need. And it's a good thing he did, there's an alien giant sucking up oxygen. Hal probes his mind and learns that he's Thotan, from Nabgor, a planet at war with a neighboring planet. Since the opposite side breathes ammonia, oxygen is a deadly weapon against them, so Thotan has been sent to Earth to take all the planet's oxygen, and he doesn't care that it will kill everything on Earth.

So the stakes are about as high as they could get. GL takes on Thotan, who has unfortunately run across Green Lanterns before and is immune to the ring. GL decides to take the fight inside the giant to see if he's more vulnerable from the inside, but he's not. And now he's trapped. But he manages to make Thotan sneeze so he escapes, but the problem of oxygen depletion remains. Hal decides that his fists are the answer (sigh... yes, again) and uses the ring to grow to the same size as Thotan, and we're treated to the bizarre sight of a giant Green Lantern fighting the giant Thotan, rolling down the mountain like an avalanche towards a small town below, while people run for their lives. The world is saved by a barrel of pepper as GL throws it in Thotan's face, and timing his knock-out blow with the resulting sneeze. He is then easily able to release all of the oxygen and take Thotan back to his planet, threatening them to stay away from Earth, which is under the protection of the Green Lanterns. The story ends with Hal reporting no claims issues to his boss, who is ready to send him on his next assignment.

This is a fun story that gets by on how bizarre it is. An alien giant plans to inhale all the oxygen on Earth? Sure, why not? Green Lantern's ring has no effect on him? Hal has grow to 300 feet tall and resort to another fist fight to beat him? Of course! Only in comics would you see something quite like this.

Two Green Lanterns in the Family!
Script - John Broome Pencils - Carmine Infantino Inks - Sid Greene

If I've counted right, this is only the second time in 53 issues and 8 years that someone other than Gil Kane has drawn a story for this series. Carmine Infantino steps in to give us another Jordan brothers story, which I always enjoy. It's been six months (but only four issues) since Hal left California, but he's back to visit his brother Jim, Jim's wife Sue, and their infant son Howard. Sue still thinks Jim is Green Lantern. While she and Jim go on a date, Hal babysits Howard. If there's anyone less suited to babysitting than Hal Jordan, I'm not sure who it would be. Sure enough he resorts to using the power ring to quiet down a crying baby. That works great until Jim calls to check on his son, and a robbery takes place while he's on the phone. Hal leaves Howard safely in a power-ring bubble and heads to the theater to deal with the problem.

He catches the crooks easily enough, but the big guy named Rhino says he could beat him easily without his power ring. Yep, Hal is all ready for another fist fight, and takes off his ring, thinking that after Carol dumped him he really could use a win as Hal Jordan rather than Green Lantern. And sure enough, he beats Rhino and takes the gang off the police station. The next morning, Sue, as usual, thinks it's quite a coincidence that GL showed up to stop the robbery and she gets frustrated with Jim for not admitting it. Hal just laughs. Hal sends his little nephew a Green Lantern costume.

I'll be honest, at this point I'm tired of Hal's brawling saving the day. The name of this book is Green Lantern, not The Fists of Hal Jordan, and I want to see Green Lantern win the day. I get Hal wanting to "prove himself", but enough is enough. On the positive side, it's nice to see the status quo continuing to move forward. Jim and Sue met, got married, and now have a son. Time passes for these characters, even if it does happen in "comic book time". Hal is a rare superhero with family that makes an appearance in his book on a fairly regular basis, and I'm always glad to see one of them turn up again.
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andersonh1
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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I've been reviewing the Golden Age Flash over on the Collected Editions message board, so I thought I'd post those here too. There's a Golden Age Batman volume 10, the last one, coming out this fall, and after reviewing every story in nine volumes, I'll certainly tackle the new book when it's out.

The Golden Age Flash Archives vol. 1

Flash Comics #1

January 1940

Origin of the Flash
Writer: Gardner Fox Art: Harry Lampert

Faster than the streak of the lightning in the sky... swifter than the speed of light itself... fleeter than the rapidity of thought... is the Flash. Reincarnation of the winged Mercury... his speed is the dismay of scientists, the joy of the oppressed - and the open-mouthed wonder of the multitudes.

I go back and forth on whether Jay Garrick or Wally West is my favorite Flash. I like cool old man Jay, but I also like the young college student we meet here, who is already asking Joan Williams out on a date on the very first page of his first appearance. She turns him down because she doesn't think he's living up to his potential. On the football team he's "Leadfoot" Garrick, but in the lab he's described as "brilliant". Jay is studying "hard water", by which I presume Gardner Fox was referring to heavy water used to help produce the first atomic bomb. While taking a smoke break (!!) at 3:30 in the morning, Jay accidentally knocks over a beaker of the hard water and collapses, overcome by the fumes, which he breathes and absorbs for hours before he's found. He's taken to the hospital where he "lies between life and death for weeks" before recovering.

An interesting aspect of the story is that Jay's newfound speed is known to both his college professor and the doctors examining him, who explain that Jay is now "a freak of science" who has gained incredible speed by inhaling the hard water fumes. Jay makes no effort to hide this from Joan or anyone else at first, even using his new speed to singlehandedly win the big football game for the university. Time moves on and Jay and Joan graduate college, with Jay headed to New York to work at an assistant professorship. But his life will really change when a newspaper story about racketeers spurs him to use his speed to stop them. He's found his calling: to fight crime and aid humanity. No explanation for the creation of his costume is given. And he doesn't always operate in costume either, saving Joan from being killed in a drive by shooting just after playing tennis with himself in full view of Joan and her friend.

And here's where the final part of the plot kicks in. Joan's father, a Major, has been kidnapped by the "Faultless Four", a group of saboteurs attempting in these pre-WW2 days to hobble America's war effort. In this case, they're after the plans of the atomic bombardier, which they plan to sell to various enemy nations for millions. Jay takes them on and easily rescues Major Williams before returning to spy on the Four as they make plans. He lets them go ahead with their plans for an aerial attack on Coney Island so he can get them for attempted murder, and then confronts them in their lair. But it's Sieur Satan who kills three of the four with an electried floor (while trying to kill the Flash), and then panics while trying to escape in his car, crashing through the guardrail to his death. Jay makes no attempt to rescue any of these men, he's just happy to see the end of the Faultless Four. That's a little cold-hearted of you, Jay! And then suddenly on the final panels Jay and Joan are sharing the secret of who the Flash is and keeping it from Major Williams, after it's been fairly out in the open for this entire story.

This story covers a lot of ground in a short time and subverts some of the well-known conventions of the superhero genre. There's no tragic backstory that propels Jay into the life of a superhero, he gains his speed in an accident that almost kills him, and once he figures out that he has it, he enjoys being super-fast. There's no angst about using his speed to win at sports, and there is no attempt to hide it from his future girlfriend. It's really only after Jay takes on the Flash identity that he starts to keep his civilian and superheroic identities separate. His reason for fighting crime, that he "feels useful to humanity", speaks to a sense of responsibility on his part. The one real oddity is how ruthless Jay is here, and maybe we can chalk that up to early days for the character. He doesn't kill any of the Faultless Four, but he has no problem with their demise, even telling Sieur Satan that he'll die just like the others, and then not making any attempt to pull him from his falling vehicle (as the Flash surely could do). It's very odd to see Jay smoking, though I guess the story was produced in a time when that was far more common. It's a pretty good beginning, though I really don't quite understand how "hard water" is supposed to grant super-speed. At least it's not radiation!

Flash Comics #2
February 1940

The Opera House Shootings
Writer: Gardner Fox Art: Harry Lampert

The second story starts with a brief recap of Jay's origin and his power of speed, which seems like a sensible approach for any readers encountering this new character for the first time. As the story begins, it's a winter night in 1940, and a group of girls are dancing in the "Fancy Follies" when one is shot, right on stage. Panic grips the people in the theater and they run for the exits. Joan Williams just happens to be passing by and spots an acquaintance, an old college friend named Theo Parker, who tells her what happened during a taxi ride back home. Jay, spotting them on the street, decides to have a bit of fun with Joan and race the taxi home, peeking in the window and freaking Theo out along the way. As Theo tells her story to Joan, it turns out that the girl who was shot was not the first. Jay overhears the discussion and then goes into action as the Flash. He searches the girls' dressing rooms at the theater, questions Theo (surprising her in her nightie, it appears, which I did not expect in the innocent days of the early Golden Age) and having learned of a "Lord Donelin", heads to investigate his home after reading through the phone book in seconds flat. We're only halfway through page four... this story sets quite a pace.

Donelin is under the influence of a man named Goll, and the story spells out his goals very quickly: to control the world's entertainment industry. I guess that's reasonably ambitious of him. In an early idea that won't last long, but which appears twice in this story, the Flash hurls a metal lightning bolt into the wall in front of Donelin, describing it as "my metal calling card." The story depicts his speed either as a series of lines making up the Flash's silhouette, or by showing the effects on those he passes by, or by having him appear to be somewhere else instantly, as they do on page 5. He takes Joan home the moment she arrives at Donelin's house to investigate (again surprising Theo in her nightie) and having obtained Goll's orders for various killings, sets out to prevent them. We saw him prank Theo earlier by peeking in the taxi window, now he stops one of the would-be assassins with a prank: he strips him down to his boxers and undershirt so he can't go out into the crowd to carry out his killing.

Goll and Donelin have not been idle. They set a trap for the Flash in the form of several guns that fire when he enters the room. Flash is able to dodge the bullets, after which he pursues the two villains. "I'll get them if it kills me!!" He apparently causes a few fender benders in Times Square, is accused of being a peeping Tom when he looks in a taxi (he's searching vehicles for the fleeing Goll and Donelin) searches a trolley and outraces a train. No luck. He should have just asked Joan's friend who informs Joan that Donelin has a mountain cabin. Of course the girls decide to go there (Joan is easily as determined as Lois Lane is in this era... she's no shrinking violet) and Jay tracks them because he finds the remnants of Joan's imported European cigarettes that she prefers. That is a detail that certainly dates the story. Joan actually pulls a gun on Goll and Donelin, but the Flash is the one who disarms and captures them to turn them over to the police.

The thing that jumps out at me about this story is the level of humor. It's not a comedy by any means, but Jay's speed and how he uses it and how it affects others are often written in a light-hearted way, such as when he peeks in the car window or strips the bad guy. Not for the last time, Joan is the gateway into a problem that requires the Flash's speed to solve, but she doesn't just sit back and wait for him to catch the crooks. She's on their trail herself. In fact, the only time she interacts with Jay is when he takes her home in the middle of the story. I've read this before, but I had completely forgotten that she points a gun at Goll and tries to capture him, when of course she really should have involved the police rather than do it herself! The villains are pretty cold-hearted since they're willing to commit multiple murders in order to obtain what is in many ways a petty goal, even with the wealth it could bring them. On the other hand, Jay is clearly having a good time and is rarely actually challeged by the villains of the story, only really having to work to avoid being shot by the ambush they left. His playful attitude towards Joan (described here as a "friend" rather than girlfriend) is a refreshing contrast with Clark and Lois over in the Superman titles. It's ultimately the characters and how they respond to the situation rather than the plot that makes this story so enjoyable for me. I like spending some time in the company of Jay and Joan as they deal with some pretty loathsome criminals.


Flash Comics #3
March 1940

The Trial of Major Williams
Writer: Gardner Fox Art: Harry Lampert

Jay is at breakfast reading the newspaper (the unfortunately named "Town Cackle", which sounds like a tabloid to me) and sees the news that Joan's father, Major Williams, has been arrested and will face trial. He's accused of being a spy. Joan, being a good daughter, is sure that Major Williams has been framed, and Jay is determined to find out. I love how he rushes through the Cackle building, the wind whipping papers and people's hair all over the place. "The wind! It... it's speaking!!" exclaims a shocked copy boy at being told "out of my way, youngster." Sure enough, Jay overhears the city editor telling a fedora-clad reporter to "make sure Williams is found guilty!" Joan was right, Major Williams is being framed.

Jay gets a little rough here in his pursuit of answers. He races the cab that the reporter takes, strips him down to his boxers, steals him from the cab and deposits him on top of the Empire State Building to suffer the wind chill until he confesses. The reporter won't talk, so Jay leaves him there and heads to the jail to see Major Williams (I love the old guy reacting to Jay's usual breeze as he flies by "must be the blizzard of '88 returning!") where he steals the keys to the cells and lets himself in. Jay picks up a technique here that he will use often, moving so fast while remaining in pretty much the same place that he can't be seen. The art depicts him as a whirlwind, but the text makes it clear that he's invisible to the other characters. I think this use of super speed may be unique to Jay, I can't recall Barry or Wally using their speed in the same way. Jay talks to Major Williams and learns that he thinks the Cackle is under the influence of a foreign government, and that they've been after his secret of "the neutronic bombardment of uranium to get tremendous energy into our war machinery." I don't know how accurate the science is here, but it really doesn't matter. It's clear that Major Williams is apparently working on the atomic bomb. The plans are in a wall safe in his home, but by the time the Flash arrives, someone has already found them.

At this point, the reporter on top of the Empire State Building is ready to talk and confesses everything when the Flash returns. Jay retrieves his clothes (and the running gag of people responding to the wind and the invisible Jay talking to them continues) where he has the reporter introduce him to the Cackle editor as a cub reporter, and secretly records incriminating statements on a dictaphone, both from the editor and from Berstoff, the man who stole them. It's interesting to note that Jay spends the rest of the story in civilian clothes rather than his Flash costume. Jay easily steals the blueprints and takes them to army headquarters. When the guard won't let him in, he runs in anyway and provides the evidence to the commanding officer that clears Major Williams. Williams is well aware that Jay is the Flash, and Jay himself makes little effort to conceal his identity. Even the Cackle editor know that "a man named Garrick" is the Flash and he telephones Berstoff to tell him. Berstoff tries to run, but of course can't escape the Flash, who whirls him at super speed until he agrees to confess all. Jay and Joan get a kiss at the end, though Jay moves them at super-speed to keep them invisible so Major Williams can't see them.

We've actually get a bit of continuity with the origin story here with the recurring character of Joan's dad. I think this is his final appearance and we never see him again. He's learned that Jay is the Flash since the end of the first story, and so do a number of other people. It's interesting to me that Gardner Fox wasn't too worried with Jay having a secret ID at this point, even with Superman and Batman having established reasons to keep civilian and heroic identities seperate. I'll be curious to see if that changes down the line, or if Jay and his alter ego remain something of a public figure. I like the topical nature of the work that Major Williams is doing, given that in real life the atomic bomb would be used to end WW2 not that many years in the future. I think more could have been done with the character after this, but the series would go in different directions. Once again, it's Joan that propels Jay into his adventure, and I find that I'm really enjoying this relationship between a superhero and his significant other that doesn't involve him trying to keep his identity secret from her. There's no reason every series had to follow the same formula, and as I've noted before, the relationship between Jay and Joan is part of the appeal of this comic for me.

Flash Comics #4
April 1940

The Gambling Ship
Writer: Gardner Fox Art: Everett E. Hibbard

Just to spend a second on the secret identity, or lack of, the introductory blurb for the story notes that Jay is "widely known and feared as the Flash". As the story opens, he's patroling (so not waiting for Joan to get him involved) when he hears a woman crying out and is able to rescue her from drowning. He takes her to his house and of course Joan walks in. She says Flash is "harboring a socialite", and the lady reveals that her name is Marcia Van Doorn, and that she and her fiance were kidnapped while on a gambling ship. She was pushed overboard, and her fiance was captured. She tried to swim for shore, which is where Flash found her. Joan knows that Jim Norton is "a steel magnate's son", so it's not hard to guess where this story is going. Joan had come over to talk about a weekend trip, but figures it can wait. Flash heads into action.

The gambling ship is out beyond the three mile limit, so far enough out to sea that it's beyond the jurisdiction of state or local law enforcement. Once again, Jay swipes a man's clothes, this time to disguise himself as a gambler. Jay hates gambling (gambling is bad, kids!) but needs to look like he belongs there. With his speed he easily wins thousands and ends up searching the ship in between spins of the roulette wheel, which is just fun. And of course, being the prankster that he is, Jay has to mess with the men running the ship, squirting ink at them and making them think there are "spooks" on board their ship. Jay finds the motivation for kidnapping Jim Norton: his father backs a bill prohibiting gambling. He searches the entire ship and finds Norton, promising to return.

I like the quick scene where Joan is helping fix Marcia's hair... she just makes friends with all the ladies. Of course the moment she's back to being made elegant, Jay drags her off through the bay and back to the ship, so she's bedraggled and soaked again! Having arrived to late to stop the elder Norton from going to the ship, Jay prevents him from signing anything and gets both Nortons and Marcia back to the docks, before messing with the boat and the crooks running the ship so the point that they willingly turn themselves in and confess to kidnapping and attempted murder. Jay heads home and tells a sleeping Joan that he's ready for the week-end trip!

I'll say this for these stories so for: they know how to show Jay having fun with his speed, and if it's fun for him, it's generally fun for me to read. I enjoy a superhero comic not mired in misery, Jay is clearly having a great time running rings around the bad guys. Quite literally at one point as he swims in circles around the speedboat carrying the three main villains. I'm not quite sure if he and Joan are an item yet or not, but she's refreshingly not jealous or accusatory towards Jay when she finds Marcia in his home in the middle of the night. She's smart enough to see that he's been helping her, not putting the moves on her. Gamblers running an illegal operation and using kidnapping to extort opposition to an anti-gambling bill is a decent bit of crime for Jay to fight, and it gives him plenty of opportunities to use his speed.

And we have a new artist this time: E. E. Hibbard, whose cartoony illustration for the Flash I like quite a bit. His main villain is distinctive, with his bald head, prominent jowls and a squint in one eye. Hibbard will be around for art duties on the Flash for a long time, though I think he's moved over to All-Flash once that book begins. All in all, another enjoyable issue.
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