Retro Comics are Awesome

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andersonh1
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Flash Comics #5
May 1940

Case of the Murderous Art Collector
Writer: Gardner Fox Art: E. E. Hibbard

The story opens with a paragraph summarizing who the Flash is and how he got his powers, and I still think that as new as the character would have been at this point that it was smart not to assume readers understood why he was so fast. As the story itself opens, Jay removes an artist named Boleau from a spot by some sand dunes where he was painting, just in time to rescue him from some gun-toting, suit and fedora-wearing gangsters. Jay explains what's going on to the old artist: it's the old "kill the artist to make his work more valuable" scheme, and the villain behind it is "The Vandal", a collector of rare art. Jay just happened to hear a couple of men discussing the award-winning mural the night before (it won the Knight award, which I couldn't help but connect with Ted Knight/Starman, even though the character doesn't exist yet, but it would make a good retcon) so since their discussion sounded suspicious, he followed them and overheard their meeting with the Vandal.

I love the gag with the train engineer eating his hat because Jay outran him to Junctionville, where Jay foils the theft of a statue by the Vandal's men by going to a sculpting school and using his super-speed to create a similar statue to take it's place. Of course no one can see him sculpting the work since he's moving so fast and it freaks everyone out. It wouldn't be an E. E. Hibbard-drawn Flash story without lots of shocked people every other page. Jay's congratulating himself for creating a nice piece of art while the others in the studio think it's a ghost, or "dead Michelangelo". I enjoy how Gardner Fox takes a little time to not just show Flash in action, but to show reactions to him, which he continues to infuse with some humor. There's no blase "oh, it's just the Flash" reactions here, people react with shock, as they would. That first issue of Action Comics where Superman is chasing Butch's car and catching up and Butch shouts "it's the Devil himself!" has always struck me as pretty realistic. Someone moving this unnaturally fast would be pretty freaky.

Now it wasn't really necessary to make the fake statue to put an end to the Vandal's plans, and I get the feeling Flash just did it to mess with him. What really gives the Vandal a breakdown is when Flash decides that the way to make him suffer and confess is to steal his collection, which he does at super-speed, dropping everything in front of the closed museum. He then proceeds to frighten the Vandal and his whole gang into confessing to the police. With the art crime problem ended, Flash takes Boleau back to finish his seascape, remarking that his day has been "unexciting" and that he needs some exercise. The next issue box disagrees with Jay, saying that we'll get "another exiting adventure" next month.

Joan is not present in this little adventure, not even when Jay's in the nightclub where he overhears the two crooks, so she doesn't get him into this one. More and more this series comes across to me as a light-hearted mix of comedy and adventure, and I think it's an approach that works very well. Hibbard's art suits that approach very well, and he's carried on the approach that Lampert took in that first issue of depicting slightly grotesque lead villains, though the gangsters that work for them are fairly typical. Flash continues to use his ability to remain unseen as often as he dashes from place to place and doesn't seem to aware of how he affects everyone around him. I think it's the lighter touch that elevates this series abov e man of its contemporary GA super-hero adventure strips, at least for me.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Flash Comics #6
June 1940

The Case of the Drugged Olympic Athletes
Writer: Gardner Fox Art: E. E. Hibbard

Just as I got going good, and started to perspire... I felt funny all of a sudden - there was a burning in my chest, and I couldn't breathe!

I'm not going to get into current events, except to say that with athletes around the world having heart attacks and suffering from myocarditis, this story starts out looking very topical. Disturbingly so. Jay and Joan attend Olympic tryouts, and see that athletes who should easily be competitive are having major physical problems, including their friend Wally (not Wally West, sadly). Jay is sure they've been drugged. Jay decides to enter the tryouts himself. There's illegal gambling going on, and even before the story makes it clear, it's evident that athletes are being drugged somehow to make sure the right ones win so the gamblers make their profits.

Now here's where the story gets, shall we say, unusual. Jay enters the competition and uses his super-speed openly, in front of everyone, with no concealment of his identity. He wins race after race, freaking out the announcer and making the gamblers lose every bet they placed, which was his goal. He learned that his friend's racing jersey had been treated with a drug which he absorbed once he really started to sweat, and he is able to recommend an antidote. Even with his display of speed, his friend Wally didn't put two and two together and realize that Jay is the Flash until he shows up in costume later on. He and Wally compare notes and determine that it's the trainer who works for the gamblers and dopes the athletes. In a great little sequence, Jay uses his super speed invisibility trick and claims that he's the trainer's conscience, getting him to sign a confession. With that evidence he's able to force the head gambler to confess as well, and breaks up the gambling ring.

The story has a nice ending as the tryouts are clean again, and Jay says he can't actually compete with his "unnatural" speed, because it would not be fair. That last panel sure does make it look like Joan and Jay are a bit more than friends!

So no secret identity for Jay Garrick this time around, that's for sure! I love the thug who isn't smart enough to keep his mouth shut calling Joan a "dumb dame", after which the narrator assures us that she's actually pretty smart, something regular readers already know quite well. Jay now has his own "private research laboratory", where he puts his chemistry knowledge to good use, and it's good to see this character trait return from the first story. I like the mention of his college football days as well. So far, continuity in this strip is pretty good. Normally these "crooked sports" stories don't do a lot for me, but I liked this one better than most of them.

Flash Comics #7
July 1940

The Metal Disintegrator
Writer: Gardner Fox Art: E. E. Hibbard

Black Mike is an entitled jerk, no doubt about it. At a car factory in Duluth, he out and out tells an inventor named Smith that he's not only going to get his latest invention, but his daughter too. The old man tries to run with his daughter, but is captured by Mike. Some time after, Jay Garrick is driving through Minnesota (which strikes me as odd since he could run so much faster, but I guess he's just enjoying the drive) when his car vanishes from under him, though the tires and steering wheel are still visible. Jay immediately notes that all the metal is gone, but the other components are still there. A man in a horse and buggy pulls up and Jay changes to the Flash right in front of him. "Wasn't you dressed different a second ago? Oh well, my eyes ain't what they once was!" Sure enough, the old man has also seen metal items vanishing. He notes strangers have just moved into the area recently, so the Flash is off to investigate and finds Smith and his daughter Belle, and the machine. The Flash steals a critical component and heads to FBI headquarters to see if they have any information, freaking a number of people out along the way. It wouldn't be an E. E. Hibbard-drawn Flash story without several shocked faces reacting to the Flash's actions.

Flash goes to see his old friend Jimmie Dolan, a racecar driver, and makes zero effort to hide his identity from him, so once again the secret ID is something Jay just isn't all that concerned about. Interesting to see that decades before the whole "is a secret identity still relevant" debate of modern times, we had super-heroes like Superman and Batman who carefully guarded their dual identity, and then there's the Flash, who doesn't seem to give it much thought. In any case, Dolan isn't able to offer much help in identifying the component, but he does persuade Jay to stick around for the races and Jay agrees. Once again he goes about his super-speed business even while doing something mundane like buying a suit. Why didn't he go back and get his suitcase? It was clearly visible among the remains of his car when he was talking to the old farmer. Admittedly, the sequence where he buys the clothes while "invisible" is more fun.

At the races, Jay spots Belle and when he follows her, he learns the whole truth. Black Mike is forcing Smith to cooperate by threatening his daughter. We see that the idea is to fix the auto race by dissolving any car that might beat Black Mike's car. Jay promises to help. He spends a little time helping Jimmie out first, but when a car vanishes right off the racetrack leaving the drivers (why two?) holding the steering wheel, Jay doesn't waste time putting an end to the scheme by dismantiling the machine at super speed and then giving Black Mike the super speed treatment by whirling him around, tossing him out the window and then running to catch him. I like the panel explaining that to the Flash, because he's so fast, something falling looks like it's falling in slow motion. Gardner Fox is thinking the implications of super-speed through, a bit at a time.

The final page of the story shows Jay prevent some dirty business as one of the other racers is attempting to hit Dolan on the head with a wrench in the middle of the race. Jay grabs him and removes him from the car. "You can't do this!" the main exclaims. "I'm doing it!!" Jay insists. The racer is disgusted that someone on foot outran the cars as he's being led to jail. Black Mike is turned over to the FBI, and the government buys Smith's weapon, so all ends well.

"A novel new scientific invention miused by crooks" is something we'll see a lot of down the road, in many different comic book series, but it's new here for the Flash. As always I'm enjoying Jay's antics, he does things at super-speed that have a dramatic effect on those who experience it, while he just seems oblivious or mildly annoyed at the reactions. He's just doing his thing. There's a definite vein of humor in this series, which is clearly deliberate on Gardner Fox's part, and I enjoy watching the matter-of-fact Flash inadvertently scare people to death. And while sports stories don't do much for me, the auto racing in this story is only a part of the larger plot, and not the main focus, so it's fine.

I wanted to include the two non-JSA Flash stories from the All-Star Comics Archives in this read-through, and a little mapping courtesy of Mike's Amazing World places the first one here, in between Flash Comics 7 and 8.

All-Star Comics #1
Summer 1940

The Murder of Widow Jones
Writer: Gardner Fox Art: E. E. Hibbard

This eight page story could be titled "Flash bullies his way on to the police force (temporarily)". While out on his "morning run", Flash passes a police officer trying to get into a house. We're still exploring the implications of super speed here, so Flash initially talks way too fast for the officer to understand him, a potential problem for someone so fast that we don't see often, which I enjoyed seeing. But Flash catches himself and slows down, and finds that the officer thinks something is wrong with the widow Jones. Flash searches the house at super speed after finding the back door open and discovers that widow Jones has been murdered, and an open wall safe in her house emptied out.

At this point Flash decides that he wants to be an official detective for the force so he can help solve the crime. He creates his usual havoc with gusts of wind while running to the police station, and when the police commissioner turns him down, he steals the uniform off of a policeman and demands the job again. When he's again turned down, he runs rings around the commissioner until he gives in and pins a badge on him. From there the Flash, dressed as a policeman for the entire remainder of the story, follows a trail of clues until he determines that a torn scrap of a tie he found at the murder scene belongs to John Widdles, "well known crook". I guess he must be well-known, at least Batman keeps files upon files about these crooks, while there's no indication that Jay does anything of the sort. Having determined who committed the murder, Jay roughs up thugs until they point his way to Widdles's hideout, whereupon he makes short work of arresting both Widdles and his accomplice.

So the Flash bullies policemen and crooks in just about the same way to get what he wants? At least the commissioner praises his work after the fact. Flash solves a murder and captures the killers in ten minutes? And he calls it "just a little exercise", though it's "not bad for a morning's effort." He definitely got lucky that a scrap of tie was left at the murder scene, and that John Widdles likes to be well dressed for robbery and murder, otherwise I guess he'd still be looking. But we only have eight pages to tell the story, so there's no time to draw things out. And I have to admit, the pace of this story never slows up, it's one event after another as the Flash runs around the city causing his unique brand of chaos as he tries to solve a murder.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Flash Comics #8
August 1940

The Building Swindle
Writer: Gardner Fox Art: E. E. Hibbard

Feels like Gardner Fox is borrowing an idea from Superman, who took on this exact same "shoddy building materials for profit" swindle. The Flash is on one of "his regular tours of inspection" when he spots a collapsing wall, and saves a woman who would have been injured or killed if it fell on her. He chides her for walking so close to a building that's being torn down, but she says it's a new building, currently under construction. The Flash spies on two men on site and learns about the cheap building materials. He ends up rescuing a number of construction workers as other portions collapse, and they confirm that the boss is buying cheap materials, trying to make a profit by spending less on construction.

Flash hitches a ride in the materials salesman's car (and we get an explanation again of how he can remain generally in one place and remain unseen) so he learns where the materials are being purchased: the "Clever Construction Company." The salesman does figure out he's there and freaks out at the invisible man in his car. Flash listens in on the phone call to the boss, runs to the phone company and searches their records with his super speed, learns the address, and heads there to confront the boss. Flash is still pulling the old "invisible man" trick here, so the boss sics his manservant Omsab on him and runs to his secret bolt-hole. Flash is unable to find him.

Back at the building site, the workers have gone on strike, which is completely understandable at this point. Flash convinces them to go back to work, cajoles the foreman into ordering quality construction materials, returns to Clever Construction to swipe their records, and then runs to the DA to deliver the incriminating evidence. After another run-in with Omsab, he learns the boss is at the wrestling matches. Jay decides to take part in the wrestling matches to flush the boss out of the crowd and mess with his head. He gets him to confess by tossing him into the air again and again (I presume he's using momentum to do this, since Jay does not have Superman's strength), which makes the boss more than willing to confess all to the DA.

So once again, Joan is nowhere to be seen in this story, and I definitely miss having her around. We know the routine at this point: Jay encounters a problem, works his way through the chain of criminals and gathers information, then when he has some evidence or a confession shuts the whole enterprise down. He really likes to rely on that "invisibility" trick of his, to the point that several crooks in this story are convinced that an invisible man is out to get them. But Jay does use his speed for other things: rescuing people from the collapsing building, getting from A to B quickly, and searching the telephone company files before the phone call can be completed. He uses his speed to punch really hard and we get a discussion of the speed of his punches vs. that of Joe Louis or Jack Dempsey, so there's a bit of real world grounding of the fantasy here. Lastly he uses his speed to build momentum to toss the boss into the air over and over, so Jay gets to have his fun in a variety of super-speed ways this time around. I can't help but draw comparisons with Superman, who got this plotline before Flash, and while for Superman it feels like a part of a pattern of behavior on his part as "champion of the oppressed", we haven't established much other than "fights crime, has fun doing it" for Jay, so it's just another adventure for him. Feels like the invisibility trick might be overused, but then it's so useful to keep the plot moving. And it's like watching early Superman toss thugs a mile in the air in story after story: if a method is effective, it makes sense that the character would continue to use it.

Flash Comics #9
September 1940

The Giant Animals
Writer: Gardner Fox Art: E. E. Hibbard

The Flash takes on mad science! Although I don't think the scientist who causes the problems in this story is actually crazy or power-mad, he just has the misfortune of living in a world where gangsters lurk around every corner and eavesdrop, ready to take advantage of any opportunity to make a dishonest dollar. Deep in Canada, an old scientist has been trying for years to discover a way to turn tiny animals into giant animals. He talks a bit too much and is overheard. Months later, Jay Garrick gets a message from his friend Jim Evans, another college friend, about problems where he lives up in Canada. The Flash races north, and I was a bit surprised to see his speed described as only 1000 mph. We're a long way from the Flash being able to hit the speed of light, I guess! He takes three hours to run 1735 miles, which is a snail's pace for the Flash. I think it's hilarious that his friend is shocked that he could do this, and Jay's just like "sure, whatever, let's get to the important stuff!" And once again, there's no attempt to hide his identity here. In fact, it seems like Jim called Jay precisely because he knew he was the Flash. Jim tells him about the giant animal, that gangsters are using to rob banks. Why don't these idiot gangsters just sell the formula? Stay legal and get rich at the same time, but no... I guess if they were bright, they wouldn't be crooks.

As you can imagine, it doesn't take Flash long to find one of these giant Gila monsters, which is about the size of a bus. He rescues an Indian from being eaten alive, though the poor guy still dies, seemingly from a heart attack, which is no surprise given what almost happened to him. I like the Flash respectfully removing his helmet, though his comment in the next panel is (unintentionally) amusing. "I had to give him a decent burial - it only took me a couple of seconds!" Flash manages to finish off the giant lizard by getting it to charge him while he is next to a cliff. He spots a house in the valley which turns out to be the old scientist's lab. Jay goes and collects Jim and they head to get the police to round up the gang.

But they're too late, a herd of five or six of these giant lizards are rampaging through town while the crooks use the distraction to rob the bank. Flash has to rescue people from being eaten or trampled and then lead the giant lizards out away from town. He tries to catch the bank robbers using his usual "invisible man" routine, but the lizards become his top priority when they break through the bank walls. By the time he leads them out of town and gets back, the gang is gone with their loot. While the police are on their way, Flash messes with the crooks again, running them ragged. He finds and rescues the old scientist from where they crooks had imprisoned him. I love how the old man has a scientific interest in the Flash's speed, and Flash actually tells him how it happened. The giant lizards are killed by bombing them, which is a bit sad, and a bit wasteful. Surely they could capture one and put it in a zoo or something? Jay doesn't care, those things are "monsters" that had to be killed for everyone's safety. Which is fair, I guess safety does come first.

This is just a fun monster story that easily stands out from everything we've seen so far. I like it a lot. It's notable the way Flash's current speed is quantified for the reader, something we haven't seen before. We're practically at the early Wally West Flash days here, when he could only hit about the speed of sound, 750 mph. That was seen as slow for the Flash in the late 80s after Barry Allen had hit light speed, but nine months into the character's existence, the conception of what the Flash could be has only stretched so far, and 1000 mph is clearly meant to be impressive. And it honestly would be, if we didn't know what was coming down the road. I always laugh at the limited imagination of the crooks in these stories, who have gained control of an amazing scientific breakthrough, and still can't think of anything to do with it other than rob banks. Jay is in costume and in action for the majority of the story, and visible for most of it too, which is nice after a few stories have featured him barely in costume or frequently invisible, depicted as swirls of speed lines.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Looks like we're finally getting what is essentially the first Bronze Age Green Lantern omnibus, though it looks like they've rebranded it.

https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/marvelm ... 39093.html

Green Lantern/Green Arrow: Hard Travelin' Heroes Omnibus
Image

On sale Mar 19, 2024 | 1152 Pages $125.00 US

The Emerald Archer and the greatest space lawman who ever lived team-up to take on problems in society
right under their own feet on planet earth.

Should a hero be concerned with the galaxy when they can’t help their own planet? It’s a pointed question that Green Arrow
asks to Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) point blank in the Green Lantern/Green Arrow: Hard Travelin' Heroes Omnibus. Dennis O’Neil
and Neal Adams tackle subjects in this superhero story that had never been seen in mainstream comics prior.
Travel across the United States with Oliver Queen and Hal Jordan as their superhero alter egos to understand the subtleties
of issues that our country was facing in the 1970s.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Green Lantern #54
July 1967

Menace in the Iron Lung
Script - John Broome Art - Gil Kane

Though I'm a prisoner in an iron lung, I have devised the perfect formula for defeating Green Lantern - divide and conquer! Split him and his alter ego apart and overcome each of them separately!

That's it, that's the entire plot explained on page one. This is a strange one.

The paralyzed Baron Tyrano complains that Green Lantern damaged his property, so Hal is sent out to investigate the claim. It's a trap by Tyrano, a man paralyzed and living in an iron lung who is nevertheless a crime lord with a "gigantic" intellect. He reminds me of the Thinker over in the Fantastic Four with his precise calculations and plans. He fires a missle that looks like him that punches Green Lantern so hard that it somehow separates Hal from Green Lantern. I don't think that's how it would work, but we'll just run with it. Hal fights Tyrano's thugs in Coast City, while Green Lantern fights the robot missile in the skies, and if one takes damage so does the other. Green Lantern figures it out since he still has the power ring, and contacts his alter ego, explaining it this way:

Hal... somehow we've been separated with your part of my personality re-created elsewhere in material form.

So Green Lantern is the real thing and "Hal" is a construct? It doesn't make a lot of sense, but that seems ot be the explanation. At any rate, Hal is knocked out and thus so is Green Lantern, allowing Tyrano's men to capture him. Tyrano's plan is to switch bodies, leaving GL in his paralyzed form while he obtains the body and power ring of Green Lantern. It's up to the powerless Hal to find Green Lantern using the invisible power battery. Of course he has to get in another fistfight with some of Tyrano's guards, in which the invisble power battery is very handy. Hal finds the now-powerless GL (the ring's 24 hour charge has expired) and struggles to help him charge his ring, but in the end he manages it. Green Lantern destroys Tyrano's robot, the police are called, and the ring is able to recombine Hal and Green Lantern.

The "high concept" of this story is obviously making Green Lantern and Hal into two different people. How it's done, via "the hardest GL has ever been hit" doesn't really work for me. Naturally it's the powerless Hal who wins with his fists, and these fight scenes have long since become tiresome. I can't help but feel that there's the germ of an interesting story here somewhere, but John Broome never really gets there.

Green Lantern #55
September 1967

Cosmic Enemy Number One
Script - John Broome Art - Gil Kane

Obviously the Guardians are concerned that some unique energy has been discovered - capable of piercing the power ring protection!

What a great cover. It's obvious of course that there will be some twist to explain the situation, as Hal stands before the central battery, about to be "power ringed to death" by his fellow Green Lanterns as a Guardian directs them. After the splash page, the cover leads right into the opening of the story, where Hal is seemingly executed, firing squad style, by his fellow Green Lanterns, only for it to be revealed that it's actually a live tv show and that the actor playing Hal, Charles Vicker, really is dead and without a mark on him. The real Hal Jordan has been watching the show and heads to the tv studio to investigate. He gave the studio the information about the Guardians and the GLs that allowed them to make the show, so he already feels involved. Turns out that it wasn't Charley Vicker who died, but his brother Roger who understudied him in the role, and he begs GL to help him find out what happened.

The mystery is much bigger than the dead Roger Vicker. A Guardian contacts Hal to tell him that thirteen Green Lanterns died at the exact same time, including Davo, who Hal rescued just five issues ago in GL #50. Hal's guess that Roger died because whoever killed him thought he was Earth's GL is correct. Charley begs to go along and help, and while Hal can't take him, he uses the ring to implant a signal in his brain so he can contact him. GL hasn't even gotten past the moon when he spots an alien craft firing a strange energy at him, and he ends up in a fight with the occupant, who had indeed been sent to kill him, but got Roger Vicker in the tv studio instead, mistaking him for Hal.

Hal arrives on Oa to the relief of Tomar-Re and Katma Tui. The Guardians lead a meeting to explain the threat, and it all goes back to Earth gangster "Al Magone", who the Guardians sent Abin Sur to arrest in 1928. I always enjoy when we get a glimpse of Abin's time as Green Lantern, which seems to have spanned decades. His race must be longer-lived than humans. At any rate, he imprisons Magone on a planet where the prisoners are kept apart in various different time zones. Magone in attempting to escape found a crashed spacecraft and accidentally broke down the time zone barriers (shades of Patrick Troughtons's last Doctor Who story here!). The criminals on that world collaborated, some to escape, while others organized under Magone to "put a hit" on the Green Lanterns.

We get another great panel of the various GLs all charging up on the central power battery before they head to the prison planet to deal with the threat. It's a rare thing in this era to see the Corps (still not called by that name) working together as a group. And we're given a number of different names, some for the first time. Davos of Pharma and Chogar of Tyraea are both dead. I think this is the first named appearance of Chaselon, the crystalline GL. He's in GL #9 but identified as "Green Lantern of Barrio III, but here he's named and gets his own fight scene. There's Zborra, the reptilian GL, who can regenerate his limbs. Those two defeat their opponents, but other GLs are killed during the fight. Hal takes temporary refuge inside a crashed ship, but is trapped because the interior is entirely yellow (I'm rationalizing this unlikely scenario with the idea that the criminals made the interior yellow on purpose to trap Green Lanterns, though the story does not say so.) Hal uses the mental link he established earlier with Charley Vicker to contact him and bring him to the planet to get him out of this trap. He plans to send Charley back to Earth, but Charley begs to help with the fight, so Hal gives him a power ring from one of the dead GLs and deputizes him as a temporary GL. And we get a cliffhanger ending as the story ends with Hal and Charley headed off into the fight once more.

Great issue, one of the first to really put the Green Lanterns into a huge conflict where they are the target and it's all hands on deck to defeat the menace, with not every GL living through the conflict. Making this a two-part story only adds to the feeling that this is something big. I definitely prefer seeing Hal out in space involved in major cosmic threats, with all the power that the GL ring gives him, over taking on small time crooks on Earth, so this storyline is right up my alley. Yes, he has to get in another fistfight, but thankfully it's just a few pages and then the more interesting storyline continue. I'm not sure I buy a Prohibition-era gangster as the brains behind it all, but the story uses him as the organizer while all the aliens do the actual fighting, so I'll go along with it.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Green Lantern #55
September 1967

Cosmic Enemy Number One
Script - John Broome Art - Gil Kane

Obviously the Guardians are concerned that some unique energy has been discovered - capable of piercing the power ring protection!

What a great cover. It's obvious of course that there will be some twist to explain the situation, as Hal stands before the central battery, about to be "power ringed to death" by his fellow Green Lanterns as a Guardian directs them. After the splash page, the cover leads right into the opening of the story, where Hal is seemingly executed, firing squad style, by his fellow Green Lanterns, only for it to be revealed that it's actually a live tv show and that the actor playing Hal, Charles Vicker, really is dead and without a mark on him. The real Hal Jordan has been watching the show and heads to the tv studio to investigate. He gave the studio the information about the Guardians and the GLs that allowed them to make the show, so he already feels involved. Turns out that it wasn't Charley Vicker who died, but his brother Roger who understudied him in the role, and he begs GL to help him find out what happened.

The mystery is much bigger than the dead Roger Vicker. A Guardian contacts Hal to tell him that thirteen Green Lanterns died at the exact same time, including Davo, who Hal rescued just five issues ago in GL #50. Hal's guess that Roger died because whoever killed him thought he was Earth's GL is correct. Charley begs to go along and help, and while Hal can't take him, he uses the ring to implant a signal in his brain so he can contact him. GL hasn't even gotten past the moon when he spots an alien craft firing a strange energy at him, and he ends up in a fight with the occupant, who had indeed been sent to kill him, but got Roger Vicker in the tv studio instead, mistaking him for Hal.

Hal arrives on Oa to the relief of Tomar-Re and Katma Tui. The Guardians lead a meeting to explain the threat, and it all goes back to Earth gangster "Al Magone", who the Guardians sent Abin Sur to arrest in 1928. I always enjoy when we get a glimpse of Abin's time as Green Lantern, which seems to have spanned decades. His race must be longer-lived than humans. At any rate, he imprisons Magone on a planet where the prisoners are kept apart in various different time zones. Magone in attempting to escape found a crashed spacecraft and accidentally broke down the time zone barriers (shades of Patrick Troughtons's last Doctor Who story here!). The criminals on that world collaborated, some to escape, while others organized under Magone to "put a hit" on the Green Lanterns.

We get another great panel of the various GLs all charging up on the central power battery before they head to the prison planet to deal with the threat. It's a rare thing in this era to see the Corps (still not called by that name) working together as a group. And we're given a number of different names, some for the first time. Davos of Pharma and Chogar of Tyraea are both dead. I think this is the first named appearance of Chaselon, the crystalline GL. He's in GL #9 but identified as "Green Lantern of Barrio III, but here he's named and gets his own fight scene. There's Zborra, the reptilian GL, who can regenerate his limbs. Those two defeat their opponents, but other GLs are killed during the fight. Hal takes temporary refuge inside a crashed ship, but is trapped because the interior is entirely yellow (I'm rationalizing this unlikely scenario with the idea that the criminals made the interior yellow on purpose to trap Green Lanterns, though the story does not say so.) Hal uses the mental link he established earlier with Charley Vicker to contact him and bring him to the planet to get him out of this trap. He plans to send Charley back to Earth, but Charley begs to help with the fight, so Hal gives him a power ring from one of the dead GLs and deputizes him as a temporary GL. And we get a cliffhanger ending as the story ends with Hal and Charley headed off into the fight once more.

Great issue, one of the first to really put the Green Lanterns into a huge conflict where they are the target and it's all hands on deck to defeat the menace, with not every GL living through the conflict. Making this a two-part story only adds to the feeling that this is something big. I definitely prefer seeing Hal out in space involved in major cosmic threats, with all the power that the GL ring gives him, over taking on small time crooks on Earth, so this storyline is right up my alley. Yes, he has to get in another fistfight, but thankfully it's just a few pages and then the more interesting storyline continue. I'm not sure I buy a Prohibition-era gangster as the brains behind it all, but the story uses him as the organizer while all the aliens do the actual fighting, so I'll go along with it.

Green Lantern #56
October 1967

The Green Lanterns' Fight for Survival!
Script - John Broome Art - Gil Kane

This month's cover: Hal fights the Thing! Okay, not really, and the alien on the cover doesn't look the same on the interior pages, but on the cover he looks a lot like a pink Ben Grimm with orange hair. Maybe he's combed the Beatles wig back. :D

The story picks up right where last issue left off, with Hal and Charley Vicker headed in different directions to take on more criminals. I forgot to mention in last issue's review the "mini-nucleo" energy these aliens are using to get past the Green Lantern ring defenses, though once the GLs are aware of it they can counter it. Hal takes on Ashez of Jubelo, the alien from the cover, who has already killed three Green Lanterns. The body count of GLs in this story is pretty steep, more than I would have expected in the Silver Age. I know at one point a few issues back I commented that it felt like the Bronze Age might have started earlier than the GL/GA issues, and dead Green Lanterns feels like something we would not have seen as much of (Abin Sur excepted of course) in the earlier Silver Age. Hal has to resort to his fists since the ring energy and mini-nucleo cancel each other out, and goes temporarily blind after a blow to the head and has to listen for Ashez breathing and try to remember the terrain to carry on the fight. He knocks the guy out cold, and repairs his optic nerves with the ring once he has a moment to stop.

We cut to Charley who takes on an alien and gives a good accounting of himself, though he nearly gets killed before the alien's thoughts communicate that he was the one who killed Charley's brother. Charley gets his second wind and resolve from the revelation and takes out the alien. He and Hal both discover energy rays and track them to their source. In the meantime we get to see Tomar-Re fighting a fellow Xudarian (misspelled Zudar here) and we learn that Xudarians have wings on their back. Tomar removes his shirt and unfurls his wings to fight his enemy on equal terms. He wins the fight, and uses his ring to read his enemy's mind, learning that the nucleo energy comes from a single source.

Hal, Tomar and Charley all track the energy and meet up. The rings lose power as they close on the fortress where the nucleo energy comes from, so they resort to physical force. And for once, it doesn't bother me, it fits the rules of the story and is not just Hal showing unnecessary bravado. Green Lanterns who are effective both with and without their rings are a solid story trope of Green Lantern tales that can show that it's not just the ring that makes these GLs what they are. The ring picks them for a reason. The three reach Al Magone, who guns them down with his tommy-gun. The rings may be out of power, but that reserve power that protects the wearer from mortal harm still works... somehow... and keeps them alive. Hal and Charley wake up before Tomar and go after Magone. Hal figures out that it's Magone's massive bodyguard who is the source of the mini-nucleo power, and is in fact a robot, who Hal punches into his component parts, ending the power drain on everyone's rings.

The fight is over and the Green Lanterns have won, though at the high cost of many of their fellow GLs. The crypt on Oa becomes the final resting place for the fallen Lanterns, and the Guardians eulogize the fallen and charge the living with carrying on as replacements are sought. It's a scene that we'll see over and over again through the years: Green Lanterns giving their lives for the Corps, and others being chosen to take up their fight. And one of the newest as the story ends is Charley Vicker, inducted into the ranks for the Green Lanterns and sent to patrol his sector, far from Earth. He's proud to wear the uniform. This is a good story that really taps into the potential of the Green Lantern concept and which gives us so many good moments, as well as our third-ever human Green Lantern after Alan Scott and Hal Jordan. Making it a two parter to give the story room to unfold naturally and giving more Lanterns than Hal a chance to shine was a good choice. I really enjoyed this one.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Green Lantern #57
December 1967

The Catastrophic Weapons of Major Disaster!

Script - Gardner Fox Art - Gil Kane

There have been some great covers lately, and this one is no exception. Unfortunately both the cover and the splash page give away the villain when the mystery of just who was pointing at Green Lantern and making the threats might have been a better teaser to build interest in the story. So that's strike one, the question of how the crazy things we see as the story opens can possibly have been happening is already spoiled, which sucks all the intrigue out of the scenario. Strike two for me was the timing in that opening sequence of the meteor about to hit the man in the rowboat, because it would have been going so fast that by the time the girl could notice it and point, it would already have hit. Or not, in this case, because it stops, hovers in mid air, then goes around him and hits the lake. Intriguing and strange and mysterious.... if I didn't already know that Major Disaster made it happen. And the idiot in the rowboat, Jonas Parnell, thinks that the insurance policy he took out is what protected him. That's not how things work, Jonas..... yeah, we're off to a bad start here.

This sort of thing has been happening all over High City, where Hal has been sent to sell insurance in what his boss assured him was a tough market. He wonders if he's subconsciously ordering his ring to do these things, but we're reminded of the story way back in GL #7 where he turned Tom Kalmaku into a bird and afterwards put a block on subconscious use of the ring, so that's not the answer. And again, if we didn't already know it was Major Disaster, this would have been a more interesting puzzle, but the story does the main character no favors by putting the readers miles ahead of him. I like to solve the mystery with the protagonist, not wait page after page for him to catch up. I'm not going to go through all the plot mechanics here, but I will say that it's nice to see GL using the ring, first to make a giant hand, and then to turn bullets fired at him into numbers floating in the air, though the bad pun is unappreciated. It's a fun use of the power ring, which we seriously need more of in this book at this point.

Long story short: Major Disaster survived his apparent death in his last appearance and set out for revenge on Green Lantern, who he knows is Hal Jordan. I had forgotten that he learned Hal's secret last time. He makes an appearance in the insurance office to taunt Hal and beats him pretty handily. Hal can't even charge his power ring with the "disaster energy" Major Disaster has put around it. GL could not even land a punch on Major Disaster, but he is able to defeat him by hitting him with the invisible power battery. GL does not erase his knowledge of his and Barry Allen's secret identities, but puts a mental block on him that won't allow him to tell anyone. Yeah, that won't come back to bite Hal later....

I've given my opinion already: this could have been an interesting little mystery if they hadn't given it all away at the beginning. That and the unbelievably gullible people who attribute their survival to an insurance policy ruined this one for me before it even got started. There are things to enjoy in it, including Hal winning the fight by smacking Major Disaster in the head with his invisible power battery, but most of the story just did not work for me.

Green Lantern #58
January 1968

Peril of the Powerless Green Lantern!
Script - Gardner Fox Pencils - Gil Kane Inks - Sid Greene

What's Batman got that I haven't --- except Robin? Oh, yeah --- and Batgirl!

This issue has another great cover, not spoiled right off the bat by a reveal of who the villain is. As the story opens, Hal is praised by his boss for his good work, and he's rewarded by a pay raise and a week's vacation. Hal takes off to the country to enjoy some camping and fishing. Even on vacation he can't avoid trouble as he has to head to nearby Cosmidor City to help put out a fire. A chemical explosion nearly kills him, if not for the ring protecting him. It's here that after rescuing a couple of women from the burning building that GL starts to have problems. He can't make himself go back to fight the fire, but he instead crashes a jewelry store to stop some thieves, because he wants the jewels for himself. He comes to his senses and returns them. But it's not over yet. At a nearby drive-in movie, Hal sees a girl making out with her boyfriend, and really wants to go and kiss her, though thankfully an earthquake spares us a very awkward scene. Hal still isn't himself, he's running in panic with the crowd, only for his fear to suddenly vanish so he can go into action as Green Lantern.

Across the universe, the Guardians are performing a spot check and catch Hal's behavior. "Combat fatigue" is the diagnosis. The Guardians remove Hal's ring and order him to rest, and they're very reasonable about it, assuring him that he's far from the first GL to need a break. So Hal goes back to his vacation, only to get in the most ridiculous fist fight we've seen in this book as he attacks a bear that's chasing a woman and her younger brother. This whole sequence is utterly unbelievable, and on top of everything, we get a bad pun by Hal as he throws a beehive at the bear. It's quite possibly the stupidest thing I've seen in this series. I'm willing to suspend my disbelief quite a bit for a super-hero title like this one, but there's a line somewhere and this crossed it. About the only redeeming feature here is that it's the introduction of Eve Doremus, Hal's new love interest, who likes him for himself, not because of Green Lantern.

Meanwhile the Guardians are checking and cleaning Hal's ring and discover some damage. The flaw redirected the emotions of others into Hal, so it wasn't him that was at fault at all, but his ring. On Earth, Hal has come to the same conclusion, but he's forced to deal with a break-in at the Doremus estate and dives in as Green Lantern without his ring. His bluff works at first, but the crooks notice he doesn't have his ring, and for the third time this issue we have to suffer through another drawn out fistfight. Hal gets taken down by a blow to the head, but the Guardians return his ring just as the crooks fire a barrage of bullets at him. Finally, Hal uses the power ring properly to wrap up the fight. The Guardians even put a duplicate of Hal in his room when Eve goes to check on him so the real Hal's secret id is preserved. I have to say, I really like the Guardians of the Universe in the 1960s. They're friendly, reasonable and helpful, and even explain the situation to Hal afterward.

Okay, that was not a good issue. Not at all. We get a few good moments out of it, and Hal certainly deserves a vacation from both of his jobs, but three fistfights are three too many, and that one with the bear was as dumb as it gets. At least Hal got a new girlfriend out of this mess of a story.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Green Lantern #59
March 1968

Earth's Other Green Lantern
Script - John Broome Pencils - Gil Kane Inks - Sid Greene

Ironic that even in the Silver Age, that cover accurately depicts what Hal and Guy Gardner's relationship will be for a long time to come. At least they did become friends once Guy was allowed to grow a bit as a character.

As the story opens, Hal is on Oa, talking with the Guardians, and then reveal that they brought the body of Abin Sur to be buried in the crypt on Oa. Before that, they took thoughts of his last few hours of life by scanning his brain. They allow Hal to view these last moments of life, and it is revealed that Abin's ring actually found two men identically worthy of being a Green Lantern: Hal Jordan and school instructor Guy Gardner. Abin Sur chooses Hal since he's closer and time is of the essence. The story introduces here not only the retcon that Guy was a potential Green Lantern, but that Abin Sur planted the name Green Lantern in Hal's mind, explaining how Hal could have invented the name that everyone else turned out to already be using. So it's a twofer.

The existence of Guy intrigues Hal, and the Guardians not only show him where Gardner is living, but also run a simulation that shows what would have probably happened if Guy had been given the ring. Guy goes on to have a similar career to Hal Jordan, fighting many of the same enemies. Events diverge when he comes across a planet where all the adults have died due to a disease, but the children live on though arrested in age and mental development. If you've ever seen the Star Trek episode "Miri" (which aired around the same time this issue was published... coincidence?), it's much the same setup. Only in this case, the children are fighting a war using robots, and they have enough mental abilities to be able to control Guy for a time. He finally breaks free and helps them end their war. Guy returns to Earth, but he too has contracted the disease, and as he is dying, he sends his ring out to seek a replacement. The ring chooses Hal Jordan. Guy might later resent Hal being first choice over him, but as this story demonstrates, had he been chosen over Hal, Guy would be dead. Sometimes being second choice works out for the best.

The simulation over, Hal gets permission from the Guardians to visit Guy when he returns to Earth, and the two of them hit it off, becoming friends rather quickly. They part ways with Hal convinced that he'll see Gardner again. I'm not sure when Guy actually turns up for his next appearance. I know he's briefly in John Stewart's first story, where his injuries make the Guardians decide that Hal needs a new backup, but presumably Guy appears somewhere in between those two issues. I don't know.

So the recounting of Hal's origin might seem like a waste of pages, but for any new readers this might have been the first time they read the story. It was probably a good idea to review the origin from time to time. The two retcons are the acceptable kind to me, things that add to what happened before without really changing anything. I hate retcons that introduce some massive change and try to convince the reader that "it was always this way", regardless if what appeared on the printed page contradicts that. Nice to see early Guy Gardner before he became just a vile character who I found impossible to like. From around the Crisis to the mid-90s, the character had no redeeming qualities. He's a lot better now, even if he's still not my favorite. Nice to see how he began, and I'm honestly looking forward to a return appearance, though I think maybe his cameo in John Stewart's introductory issue might be the next time we see him, so it's not a very substantial return.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Green Lantern #60
April 1968

Spotlight on the Lamplighter!
Script - Gardner Fox Pencils - Gil Kane Inks - Sid Greene

The splash page promises a story focused on the non-superpowered bystanders who are caught in between some of these superhero/supervillain conflicts. Will it deliver? We'll see. As the story opens, a man named Arthur Blount is writing and thinking about his need to obtain the money needed for a crucial operation that will save his life. He finds himself paralyzed and then robbed by "a costumed character - like someone out of colonial times". Tell them the Lamplighter was here, he is told. Evergreen Insurance insured Blount's loan company against theft, so Hal is sent to check out the truth of the crazy story. He uses his ring to determine that it did in fact happen, but though he searches the city for the Lamplighter he can't find him. He directs the ring to alert him if the Lamplighter shows up again.

The confrontation comes when the Lamplighter robs a jewelry store, and in the process changes plain Cindy Corbett into a beauty for 40 minutes. Interesting that he would do such a thing, probably the most interesting part of the story so far. The Lamplighter and Green Lantern get into a fight, and thankfully it's not a fistfight, but a competition of power between GL's power ring and Lamplighter's prism-cane, which appears to either change objects or create them. It's a battle of wits as the two constantly try to one-up the other with their power creations. They're pretty evenly matched, and the Lamplighter finally decides to bail out, disgusing himself as a tree. His power has a time limit, and after another half hour he changes to his true self, a blind man, Dr. Lee Carver, who lost his sight in an accident at a nuclear research center. Carver had been working on the secret of transmuting matter from one form to another. The blinded Carver attempts to continue his research, but only when an accidental chemical spill combines with "ultra high frequency waves" can he see again, under a certain kind of light (shades of Dr. Mid-Nite here!). Unable to finish his work, even with this discover, Carver turns to crime using his prism and the "ultra light" that allows him to see.

The story picks back up as Carver becomes the Lamplighter to rob a recovered treasure from a shipwreck. When Green Lantern appears, the Lamplighter tries to destroy his power ring, but GL had created a fake one to draw his fire. Lamplighter puts a gold sheath around GL as he did all the other people in the vicinity and by sheer luck stops GL via the yellow weakness he knows nothing about. But in a fairly clever counter move, GL shrinks himself down and escapes between the molecules of the gold, resuming his fight with the Lamplighter. He finally wins via a punch to the jaw, but at least this time it's only one punch, not three pages of them. I can live with that. And we do get three normal people affected by the Lamplighter's rampage: Arthur Blount finds his disease has been cured, Cindy Corbett finds a man who appreciates her inner beauty, and old miser Jabez Morley has lost all his money, as the battle ended up turning it into feathers and he tossed them out the window.

This book is just a roller coaster when it comes to quality, and thankfully this issue is one of the better ones recently. I honestly liked it pretty well, and appreciate a battle between super-powered opponents that requires them to use their powers creatively against each other. Hal feels like his old self here, using the ring creatively and thinking his way through situations rather than simply using his fists. Here's hoping we see this reversion to an older characterization of Hal continue. As a villain the Lamplighter isn't up there with Sinestro or Hector Hammond, but he's a decent one-shot opponent. I suppose we could look at him as the third handicapped villain to take on Hal after Hammond (who can't move), Baron Tyranno (ditto, he's paralyzed) and now the Lamplighter, who is blind. Variations on a theme. I wonder if the writers noticed?

Green Lantern #61
June 1968

Thoroughly Modern Mayhem!
Script - Mike Friedrich Pencils - Gil Kane Inks - Sid Greene

Whatever the flaws in the storytelling lately, the covers have been great, and this issue is no exception. A giant Hal Jordan in the background berating Alan Scott for destroying everyone on Earth is a hook that would certainly make me want to see what this story could possibly be about. And I believe we have here the first story in the series written by someone other than John Broome or Gardner Fox. Mike Friedrich starts us out mid-action as Hal and Alan capture "Captain Challenge", a criminal refugee from Earth-2. Challenge is turned over to the authorities to be tried on Earth-1 before he can be taken to Earth-2. Hal and Alan part ways and Alan heads through the dimensions to his home.

While the opening narration casts Hal and Alan as co-stars, this is very much a story focused on the Golden Age Green Lantern. It may be the first time he drove the plot and was the main focus of a Green Lantern issue since his series ended. He fights criminal after criminal in a major Gotham crime wave, with even his friend Bruce Wayne's home targeted. Alan gets angrier and angrier as the night goes on, and the last straw is finding his own home has been burglarized. He's had enough. Alan charges his ring and then commands it to "get rid of all evil on Earth that is plaguing mankind!" The ring does what it's been commanded to do, and Earth-2 is depopulated. Because, as Alan should have known, and will remember once he calms down, there's some evil in everyone.

Hal returns to Earth after helping a fellow Green Lantern, and comes across billions of people standing motionless in the desert in Utah. He figures out that they must have come from Earth-2. A trip there reveals that the planet is empty, and in checking in on Alan, Hal finds his ring left behind. He returns to Earth-1, finds Alan, hears the whole story and is able to offer some perspective and encouragement. Between the two of them they send everyone back to Earth-2, and Hal even manages to track down the source of the crime wave that gave Alan so much grief. There's even a moral to this story: "to conquer the world, you have to start small."

Great story, and I like that Alan is front and center with his own problems to deal with and his own moral dilemmas, and he even makes a pretty major miscalculation. It shows just how powerful that Earth-2 Green Lantern ring really is when Alan puts all his willpower into it. This seems to me to be a great example of an ideal crossover that makes good use of the "guest star" rather than simply bringing him into the story as a novelty. The only thing that just doesn't quite fit is the title. I think it references a movie that was out at the time this was published, but it doesn't really fit and tells nothing about the story itself.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Green Lantern #62
July 1968

Steal Small - Rob Big!
Script - Gardner Fox Pencils - Jack Sparling Inks - Sid Greene

A thief steals a series of seemingly worthless items: an empty jewelry box, a pair of shoes and a jacket button, the last item at gunpoint. Meanwhile Hal just barely makes it back to Earth and his apartment before the last of the charge in his ring expires. He reports in to work and is assigned to investigate insurance claims on the three thefts (would anyone really file an insurance claim and make their rates go up because any of those items was stolen? Not likely), after which he goes on a hot date with Eve Doremus. Hal is just happy to be given her affection for Hal and not Green Lantern (so he's still got Carol on his mind). Sadly, they're hit by the same crime wave as men attack them and steal Eve's ballpoint pen. They also steal a gold locket that Hal gave to Eve.

Hal has no luck tracking them down, not even with the power ring, but a clue from his boss about a major theft leads him to set a trap at the house of Eve's uncle. Sadly, as he's about to capture the crooks, the mighty Green Lantern is defeated by... yellow light from a spotlight in the getaway car. On the positive side, GL throwing his ring outside the light and commanding it from a distance is a nice trick on his part. But the coolness is short lived as the guy in the car effectively neutralizes GL by keeping the spotlight trained on him. No one ever make fun of Alan Scott for being vulnerable to wood again, this sequence has to be one of the worst ever in terms of lame ways to stop a Green Lantern. Still, GL gets all the crooks in the end and turns them over to the police, only to be told that forcing a confession would violate their constitutional rights. "Yeah - that's the way it goes these days" GL gripes.

The next few pages explain the entire "steal tiny seemingly worthless objects" plot as the crooks have possession of a "chronolometer" that shows what happened around objects the last few days, meaning they've been using these stolen objects to get the location of jewelry or the combination of safes. When the crook who stole the locket uses the machine on it, he discovers Hal's secret identity as Green Lantern and lures him in with an insurance claim, locking him in his house while he and his men carry out another robbery. They didn't kill him because Hal kept claiming they had the wrong man and showing them he had no ring or uniform (the ring is invisible, as usual these days) and the leader decides that if GL doesn't show up to stop them, because Hal is at their hideout, that proves he is GL. Hal easily escapes and stops the robbery, convincing the crooks that he must not be Hal Jordan. Idiots. These guys aren't too bright, they just happened to stumble across a scientific invention that gave them an edge and took advantage of it. With the gang all captured, Hal returns to see Eve and gives her back her locket.

The long run of consistent Gil Kane art is done with this issue, as we get several other artists drawing the book for the next six issues. Gil Kane won't be back until issue 68. I can't say I know anything about Jack Sparling's career at DC, these Green Lantern issues are the first time I've run across his art. With Sid Greene on inks, there's enough similarities to Gil Kane to make the characters reasonably familiar. Honestly, it's nice to have a change from Gil Kane after nine years worth of issues featuring his artwork. I can't say the story does a lot for me though, "crooks with a gimmick" can sometimes be interesting, but here it really isn't. This whole theft problem seems like a waste of potential for someone with Green Lantern's power levels. On the personal side of his life, Hal is clearly still resentful of Carol preferring Green Lantern to him, even though it's at least partially his fault that situation arose in the first place. I don't know how long Eve will be around as a love interest, but I'm pretty sure she's gone by the time the GL/GA issues begin, so not too long, however well the relationship is going now.

The Green Lantern series was definitely in a rut at this point. The quality was variable with a great issue followed by a mediocre one, followed by a good one, then a poor one, etc. I think some new art and new writers bringing in some new ideas were what the book probably needed, despite a pretty solid series from John Broome, Gardner Fox and Gil Kane up to this point. Sadly one of the writers who was probably least suited to a character like Green Lantern will be up soon, and won't leave for a long, long time.

Green Lantern #63

September 1968

This is the Way... The World... Ends!
Script - Denny O'Neil Pencils - Jack Sparling Inks - Sid Greene

Denny O'Neil makes his first appearance in these pages with a story that starts small and domestic, as Hal returns to Coast City to visit his brother and sister-in-law for his nephew's first birthday. As Hal blows out the birthday cake candle, the world turns negative all around him, and a voice warns him to "vanquish Gracchus" or mankind is doomed. Hal finds himself on an alien world, where he attempts to contact his fellow Green Lanterns, to no avail. His messages return unanswered. Hal cannot get to Oa and fears that this means all of the other GLs and the Guardians are gone. And then to apparently be weird for the sake of being weird, a little girl skips by even though they're in outer space, and sings a song telling GL to go back to where he was. Hal does so and helps rescue a woman from some yellow, smoke-like aliens.

It was the woman who brought GL to her planet to fight Gracchus. Hal listens to his story, doesn't believe it, and threatens him into telling the truth. Long story short, Hal is in the distant past (which explains the lack of Guardians and other GLs), and Gracchus has looked into the future and decided that human history is nothing but violence, so he wants to wipe out humans before they can evolve. Hal refuses to help, and a few pages are spent with him fighting Gracchus and his spacecraft before defeating him and destroying the ship. He stablizes Earth's moon and stops Gracchus and his daughter from burning up in the atmosphere, but the explosion of his ship injured Gracchus and he doesn't make it. Hal sends his daughter to her home and returns to the present day to confer with the Guardians. The little girl was how their message into the past manifested itself once they became aware that someone was tampering with history.

So, the good and the bad... on the positive side, this is a plot well tailored to Green Lantern's powers and abilities, and in that respect it's preferable to Hal fighting jewel robbers or some other mundane (for him) criminals on Earth. I like the scope of the story which takes place in two different time periods with consequences that are about as big as it gets if mankind were to be prevented from existing. Hal's despair at apparently finding all his comrades gone and at being the last Green Lantern is a nice character moment, as is his declaration that "there's no one left except me to judge you - so unless you give me a better story, I'm finding you guilty!".

On the negative side, I don't like the form of the little girl that the Guardians' message takes. It's odd for the sake of being odd, and though the end of the story shows that the little girl was in fact real, there's no explanation as to why the message took her form, and no indication that Hal knew her. Maybe little Howard should have been the one speaking (even though he's one and can't really talk yet) for a link to the opening of the story. And how did he explain his vanishing to his brother and sister in law? The story never goes back and addresses that.

I'm going to call this story a success, for the most part. There's a definite change in tone and I liked the plot and a lot of the character moments. So I'll give O'Neil credit where credit is due. However, when I mentioned last review about one of my least favorite Green Lantern writers, I was referring to Denny O'Neil. I think he will regularly write for the series until around 1980. I have several problems with his work. 1) He's the writer who changed the Guardians from the wise and benevolent bosses of the Silver Age into the jerks we see from the 1970s onward (though in this story they're still good). I think, given some of the things he wrote, that this came from his antipathy towards police and authority. He's very much a product of his time and generation. 2) He never seems all that comfortable with the outer space power set of Green Lantern. Read his issues later on and it's pretty clear that he favors and was probably far more comfortable writing Green Arrow than Green Lantern. I'll have more to say about this when we get to the GL/GA stories down the line. On another note, Neal Adams drew the cover for this issue, meaning that unless I missed some earlier art, this is his first Green Lantern work. Despite my gripes about O'Neil, it is admittedly pretty cool that both men who are well known for the GL/GA Hard Traveling Heroes era began working on Green Lantern with the same issue.

Green Lantern #64
October 1968

Death to Green Lantern!
Script - Denny O'Neil Pencils - Mike Sekowsky Inks - Joe Giella

Four crooks, Silver Skates, Torchy Thomas, Franky Steiner and Natty Natwick meet and vow "death to Green Lantern" wearing what appear to be some kind of power rings of their own. Meanwhile Hal is at a charity show at the Doremus estate, where he has to appear as GL, so he creates a duplicate of himself and appears to entertain the children. He tells corny jokes and pulls stunts with the ring, including picking up all the water in the swimming pool and dropping it on himself. Some of the crooks are incognito and apparently wanted this to happen, because the pool water has the effect on GL of making him uncaring about those same crooks stealing charity receipts. GL would rather go take a nap than catch them, but Eve convinces him to stop the car, after which he heads into space, feeling dull and listless. Hal is not himself at all, and it seems to me that we just had a plot similar to this in Green Lantern #58. Hal acts irresponsible and steals the Statue of Liberty, only to return it, and as a consequence, a Guardian appears and takes his ring, suspending him from the Corps.

Natiwick contacts him via the want ads, and when an incognito Hal goes to meet him, Natwick gives him the four power rings that the crooks had, saying he got a raw deal. GL accepts the rings, and goes on a rampage of irresponsible behavior, turning the public against him. After a while the replacement rings stop working, and GL resigns himself to having to live a normal life again. Some hippies befriend him and want to help him, but the police come and arrest him... though like the crooks at the Doremus Charity ball, they can't quite remember who gave them their orders.... turns out that it's Hector Hammond, who planned the whole thing to ruin GL's reputation before killing him, with the help of the four crooks. The hippies rescue him from jail... somehow... and Hal goes after the four crooks, without a ring and quoting Shakespeare as he punches them out, one by one. A Guardian appears, applauding him and explaining that his ring was always there, and that the Guardian who appeared and took it was an illusion created by Hector Hammond. It might have been nice to know that before Hal ran around making a fool of himself. Once again, the story just ends, with no indication that anything will be done to safeguard against Hector Hammond, or that Hal will be able to restore his reputation.

There's next to nothing redeeming about this story. Mike Sekowsky does a terrible job with the art, with characters that are off model and badly proportioned all the way through the story. I like his work over in the depowered Wonder Woman's book and in the early Adam Strange issues that he drew, but he's not all that good when it comes to superhero comics, despite years of drawing Justice League. And the story fails to wrap up a plot thread or two, just like last month, and features the Guardians apparently aware of Hal's problems but perfectly content to let him make a fool out of himself before nearly getting killed if not for some hippies. This was just a bad issue all around, I'm sorry to say. Bad storytelling and bad art, and characters acting out of character.
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