Seven Soldiers of Victory Archives volume 2


By Joe Samachson, Ed Dobrotka, Pierce Rice, Jon Small, Maurice Del Bourgo & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1308-4

After the actual invention of the comicbook superhero – for which read the Action Comics debut of Superman in 1938 – the most significant event in the industry’s history was the combination of individual sales-points into a group. Thus what seems blindingly obvious to us with the benefit of four-colour hindsight was proven: consumers couldn’t get enough of garishly-hued mystery men and a multitude of popular characters would inevitably increase readership.

Plus, of course, a mob of superheroes is just so much cooler than one (…or one-and-a-half if there’s a sidekick involved…).

It cannot be understated: the creation of the Justice Society of America in 1941 utterly changed the shape of the budding industry. Soon after the team debuted, even All American Comics’ publishing partner National wanted to get in on the act and created their own squad of solo stars, populated with a number of their proprietary characters who hadn’t made it onto the roster of the cooperative coalition of AA and DC stars.    Oddly they never settled on a name and the team of non-powered mystery men who debuted in Leading Comics #1 in 1941 were retroactively and alternatively dubbed The Law’s Legionnaires and The Seven Soldiers of Victory.

They never even had their own title-logo but only appeared as solo stars grouped together on the 14 spectacular covers, the second quartet of which (by Mort Meskin, Jon Small, Maurice Del Bourgo and a sadly unidentified artist) preface each collaborative epic in this spectacular sequel of Golden Age delights.

The full contents of this bombastic deluxe hardback barrage of comicbook bravado were originally presented in the quarterly Leading Comics #5-8, spanning Winter 1942/1943 to Fall 1943 and, following an incisive discourse and background history lesson from comics historian Bill Schelly in his Foreword, that war-time wonderment resumes with the heroes’ fifth adventure.

The sagas all followed a basic but extremely effective formula (established by Mort Weisinger in their first case), and here the warped mastermind challenging the Legionnaires was The Skull, who devised ‘The Miracles That Money Couldn’t Buy!’ (illustrated over all seven chapters by Ed Dobrotka but again the work of a writer time has forgotten and sketchy records have not yet revealed – but most probably the amazing Joe Samachson…).

The drama began when publisher Lee Travis tips off his pal Oliver Queen to an imminent prison break in his bailiwick.

Green Arrow and Speedy are too late to stop vicious Bill “Porky” Johnson’s escape via skull-painted mystery-plane and that soon-to-be-executed convict’s feat is repeated four more times across the country, leaving a handful of Death Row inmates beholden to a strange old man dubbed who has found that, for all his wealth, there are still things money cannot buy.

However, for an unscrupulous businessman unwilling to get his own emaciated hands dirty but with the right criminal specialists, they can be stolen…

The Seven Soldiers meanwhile have briefly convened and now stand ready to face their specified nemeses as soon as they rear their scurrilous heads…

In ‘The Case of the Criminal Vigilante’ rustler and horse thief Bronco Slade steals Spinaway – the fastest racehorse on Earth – by impersonating the Vigilante, with the true Sagebrush Centurion helpless to stop him, and indeed even taken prisoner beside his hapless, interfering biggest-fan Mr. Meek

‘The Diamond of Doom!’ finds jewel thief the Sparkler targeting the fabulous, reputedly cursed Koram Diamond. Even though Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy are unable to bring the bandit to justice, a spookily fatal fate befalls him.

A similar outcome ends hijacker Bull Corbin after he outfoxes the Crimson Avenger and Wing whilst purloining a prototype spaceship. However rather than a clean getaway all that awaits the thief is a grim and final ‘Destiny among the Stars!’

‘A Knight without Armor’ reveals how the Shining Knight’s magic mail-coat is too tough a target for shifty Matt Grieder, but the thug’s subsequent attempt to pass off fake metal-wear ends in near-death for Sir Justin and execution for the villain, after which the Emerald Archers finish their hunt for Porky Johnson when the fugitive’s successful attempt to obtain a rejuvenation ray for the Skull prematurely rings down the curtain for The Murderer Who Couldn’t be Hanged!’

The untitled ‘Conclusion’ then shows how getting everything you want might not make you happy – or keep you breathing – as the Vigilante busts free just as his Legionnaire allies storm the triumphant Skull’s fortress…

Leading Comics #6 was also probably scripted by Samachson, but this time the penciller is unrecorded. At least we know he or she was inked by Maurice Del Bourgo…

‘The Treasure That Time Forgot!’ is a grand hunt for the hidden gold of the Incas. Archaeologist Mr. Milton publicly calls upon the Seven Soldiers to follow his old map and find Pizarro’s lost treasure hoard the plan is to bolster America’s war-chest by a billion dollars…

Said map, sketched by an explorer named Burton, comes with cryptic verses and false trails, so the archaeologist’s assistant Scrivener suggests the heroes split up to save time. They could even make a competition of it…

‘Crimes by Proxy!’ finds Green Arrow and Speedy clashing with Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy deep in the Andes as a hidden hand attempts to murder both teams using the weaponry of the other; a tactic repeated when Shining Knight and Vigilante discover a lost city and are tricked into conducting ‘A Duel to the Death!’

Their cataclysmic clash ends as an enigmatic and heavily disguised manipulator surfaces, confident the heroes have cleared all obstacles and booby-traps, only to fall foul of avian horrors in ‘Winged Masters of the Mountains!’

‘The Gold that Failed to Glitter!’ finds the man-&-boy teams still mistakenly battling each other until the late-arriving knight and cowboy forcibly restrain them. Soon after, aged Mr. Milton mysteriously turns up to help, but only succeeds in spreading further suspicion when the combined party discovers the legendary treasure vault… emptied!

Meanwhile the Crimson Avenger and Wing have followed ‘The Third Treasure Trail!’ and met the last of the Incas – as well as their real enemy – and everybody collides in the explosive conclusion which solves all the mysteries at ‘Trail’s End!’

Issue #7 – pencilled by Pierce Rice – takes the heroes on a similar fund-raising quest as War Bond Drive performers, but the tour is a scam by a strange individual who is an emissary of ‘The Wizard of Wisstark!’

He implores the Legionnaires to travel to his fantastic kingdom and liberate the Antarctic hidden city from the threat of invasion…

The Wizard is actually an elderly American stage conjuror who fell into the position of chief but now his peaceful, super-scientific subjects are being threatened by real magicians from the rival polar city of Stanovia

The fight back begins when Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy travel to ‘The Land of Giants!’ hoping to enlist the colossi in the struggle. Sadly the brutal hulks are already engaged in a struggle with a tribe of equally savage dwarves, but the boy genius has an idea and takes a few movie pictures before leaving…

‘The Wizard Archers and the Wizards!’ sees Green Arrow and Speedy strike to the heart of the matter and boldly invade Stanovia, where they discover a few intriguing secrets about the triumvirate of “mages” who rule the city…

Wing and the Crimson Avenger stayed with the Wizard in Wisstark, in case of fifth column attacks. They are unfortunately captured by ‘The Invisible Men!’ who have been despatched to sow disorder and terror. Whilst being taken to Stanovia, however, the mystery men discover a shocking secret about their foes…

Whilst that was happening the Vigilante made his own contribution to the cold war-effort, catching a Wizard doppelganger attempting to infiltrate the palace in ‘Double Trouble!’, before Shining Knight, patrolling the skies on his winged steed Victory, recruits timber-clad warriors to counterattack Stanovia in ‘The March of the Wooden-Armored Soldiers’

With their pre-battle preparations completed, the Seven Soldiers reunite for the final ‘Battle of the Wizards!’, much-heartened by the conclusion each has individually reached regarding the truth about the Stanovian sorcerers…

This second classic collection concludes with a stirring time-travel, super-villain mash-up as Leading #8 sees the heroes ambushed and reduced to ‘Exiles in Time!’ (illustrated by Jon Small & Del Bourgo) by old enemy The Dummy.

The diminutive demon of destruction subtly lures his foes into a cunning ambush which catapults the crusaders down the corridors of history, before turning his attention to plunder and mayhem, not realising that heroism is found in every era, such as 17th century France where the Three Musketeers ally with Green Arrow and Speedy to solve the theft of ‘The Queen’s Necklace!’

Crimson Avenger and Wing re-materialised in China but were utterly unable to determine when. Deductive investigation finally paid off as Japanese invaders trying to stop the completion of the Great Wall pointed to 225BC, when and where the time-travellers were happy to train the peasantry in how to fight them by displaying ‘Courage in Canton!’

‘Voyage of the Vikings’ found Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy deposited on a lost and ice-gripped dragon-boat, struggling for survival with their newfound comrades as they desperately sought solid ground. How astonished they all were when bold Leif Ericsson dubbed his discovery Vineland and he patriotic mystery men realised they had been part of the first discovery of America…

‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen’ saw Vigilante land in Rome and recognise a brace of 20th century mugs. Trailing the hoods to the house of super-rich Crassus, the Western Wildcat realised the criminals were using the Dummy’s device to plunder historical treasures but even after foiling their plans, he was still stuck in the past…

‘The Legend of Leonardo’ revealed how the Shining Knight came to the aid of the legendary Da Vinci and was rewarded with a quick trip on the master’s own recently completed time machine. Back when he started from, the Arthurian paladin then began toppling some temporal dominoes in the ‘Conclusion’, allowing his time-tossed companions to return and deal with the diabolical doll-man in the appropriate manner…

These raw, wild and excessively engaging costumed romps are amongst some of the best but most neglected thrillers of the halcyon Golden Age. Happily, modern tastes too have moved on and these yarns are probably far more in tune with contemporary mores, making this a truly guilty pleasure for all fans of mystery, mayhem and stylish superteam tussles…
© 1942, 1943, 2007 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.