Batman in The Brave and the Bold: The Bronze Age volume one


By Bob Haney, Mike Sekowsky, Marv Wolfman, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito, Neal Adams, Bob Brown, Nick Cardy, Irv Novick & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-7517-4 (TPB)

The Brave and the Bold began in 1955 as an anthology adventure comic featuring short complete tales about a variety of period heroes: a format that mirrored the contemporary movie fascination with historical dramas.

Written by Bob Kanigher, issue #1 led with Golden Gladiator, the Silent Knight and Joe Kubert’s now legendary Viking Prince. From #5 the Gladiator was increasingly alternated with Robin Hood, but such manly, mainly mainstream romps carried the title until the end of the decade when the burgeoning costumed character revival saw B&B transform into a try-out vehicle like sister publication Showcase.

Issue #25 (August-September 1959) featured the debut of Task Force X: Suicide Squad, followed by Justice League of America (#28), Cave Carson (#31) and Hawkman (#34). Since only the JLA hit the first time out, there were return engagements for the Squad, Carson and Hawkman. Something truly different appeared in #45-49 with the science fictional Strange Sports Stories before Brave and the Bold #50 provided a new concept that once again truly caught the reader’s imagination.

That issue paired two superheroes – Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter – in a one-off team-up, as did succeeding issues: Aquaman and Hawkman in #51, WWII combatants Sgt Rock, Captain Cloud, Mme. Marie and the Haunted Tank in #52 and Atom and Flash in #53. The next team-up – Robin, Aqualad and Kid Flash – evolved rapidly into the Teen Titans. After Metal Men/the Atom and Flash/Martian Manhunter new hero Metamorpho, the Element Man debuted in #57-58.

Then it was back to superhero pairings with #59, and although no one realised it at the time this particular conjunction (Batman with Green Lantern) would be particularly significant.

After a return engagement for the Teen Titans in #60, the next two issues highlighted Earth-2 champions Starman and Black Canary, whilst Wonder Woman met Supergirl in #63.

Then, in an indication of things to come, and in anticipation of the TV-induced mania mere months away, Batman duelled hero/villain Eclipso in #64. Within two issues, following Flash/Doom Patrol (#65) and Metamorpho/Metal Men (#66), Brave and the Bold #67 saw the Caped Crusader take de facto control of the title and the lion’s share of the team-ups. With the exception of #72-73 (Spectre/Flash and Aquaman/Atom) the comic was henceforth to be a place where Batman invited the rest of company’s heroic pantheon to come and play…

For the sake of brevity and clarity and according to the wise ones who dictate such arbitrary demarcations, it’s also the point at which Comics’ Silver Age transitioned into the Bronze Age…

This first collection of unalloyed Batman pairings with other luminaries of the DC universe reprints B&B #74-91 (spanning October/November 1967 to August/September 1970) featuring the last vestiges of a continuity-reduced DC where individual story needs were seldom submerged into a cohesive overarching scenario, and where lead writer Bob Haney crafted stories that were meant to be read in isolation, drawn by a profusion of artists with only one goal: entertainment.

The Caped Crime-crusher took full possession of Brave and the Bold with #74’s fast-paced and dryly funny ‘Rampant Run the Robots’ as the Metal Men confront human prejudice and perfidious inventors whilst in #75 The Spectre joins the Dark Knight to free Gotham City’s Chinatown from an ancient wizard and ‘The Grasp of Shahn-Zi!’; both tales drawn by the new semi-regular art team of Ross Andru & Mike Esposito.

Illustrated by Mike Sekowsky & Jack Abel, Plastic Man helped solve the mystery of plastic-obsessed maniac The Molder in #76’s ‘Doom, What Is Thy Shape?’ after which Andru & Esposito return to limn the Atom’s participation in foiling a criminal circus performer in ‘So Thunders the Cannoneer!’

The vastly underrated Bob Brown stepped in to draw ‘In the Coils of the Copperhead’ wherein Wonder Woman found herself vying with the newly-minted Batgirl for Batman’s affections. Of course, it was all a cunning plan… or was it?

Neal Adams was a young illustrator who had worked in advertising and ghosted some newspaper strips whilst trying to break into comics. With #75 he had become a cover artist for B&B and with #79 (August-September 1968) he took over the interior art for a game-changing groundbreaking run that rewrote the rulebook for strip illustration.

‘The Track of the Hook’ paired the Dark Knight Detective with a justice-obsessed ghost. Deadman was murdered trapeze artist Boston Brand who perpetually hunted his own killer, and whose earthy, human tragedy elevated the series’ campy costumed theatrics into deeper, more mature realms of drama and action. The stories matured ten years overnight and instantly became every discerning fan’s favourite read.

‘And Hellgrammite is his Name’ then finds Batman and the Creeper defying a bug-themed super-hitman, and the Flash aids the Caped Crusader in defeating an unbeatable thug in ‘But Bork Can Hurt You!’ (both inked by Dick Giordano) before Aquaman becomes ‘The Sleepwalker from the Sea’ in an eerie tale of mind-control and sibling rivalry.

Issue # 83 took a radical turn as the Teen Titans try to save Bruce Wayne’s latest foster-son from his own inner demons in ‘Punish Not my Evil Son!’ but the next team-up was one that got many fans in a real tizzy in 1969.

‘The Angel, the Rock and the Cowl’ recounted a World War II exploit where Batman and Sgt. Rock of Easy Company hunt Nazi gold and a war criminal together, only closing the case twenty-five years later. Ignoring the kvetching about relative ages and which Earth we’re on, which raised a storm in an eggcup back then, you should focus on the fact that this is a startlingly gripping tale of great intensity and beautifully realised: one which was criminally discounted for decades as “non-canonical”.

Brave and the Bold #85 is arguably the best of an incredible run. ‘The Senator’s Been Shot!’ reunited Batman and Green Arrow in a superb multi-layered thriller of politics, corruption and cast-iron integrity, wherein Bruce Wayne stands in for a law-maker and the Emerald Archer receives a radical make-over that turned him into the fiery liberal gadfly champion of the relevancy generation…

Boston Brand returned in #86, as Batman found ‘You Can’t Hide from a ‘Deadman!’: a captivating epic of death, redemption and resurrection that became a cornerstone of Bat-mythology forever after.

What follows is a decidedly different adventure written and drawn by Mike Sekowsky and starring the venerable comics icon he had made fresh and exciting all over again.

Inked by Giordano and entitled ‘The Widow-Maker’, it tells of the son of one of Batman’s old foes who attempts to add to his tally of motoring murders by luring the Caped Crusader into a rigged high-performance car race. That’s when recently de-powered Diana Prince, once and future Wonder Woman, steps in…

Following Adams’ iconoclastic and influential run was always going to be a tough act, but veteran Irv Novick – who would also unfairly tread in Adams’ mighty shadow on Batman for years to come – did sterling work here on a gritty tale of boxing and Cold War mind-games as the Caped Crusader meets golden age troubleshooter Wildcat in ‘Count Ten… and Die!’ (B&B #88, February-March 1970).

Esposito inked that tale before reuniting with long-time collaborator Ross Andru for a brief return engagement that began with a spooky suspense-thriller pitting Batman against the mystery sensation Phantom Stranger (and his rationalist rival Dr. Terry Thirteen) in #89’s ‘Arise Ye Ghosts of Gotham!’

The team then switch pace and genre for a time-bending science fiction thriller ‘You Only Die Twice!’ guest-starring interstellar champion Adam Strange and threatening to record the fall from grace and death of the Gotham Guardian.

The comics content concludes here with issue #91, as ‘A Cold Corpse for the Collector’ provides a true gem of love and death. Haney was always at his best with terse, human scale dramas, especially “straight” crime thrillers, and his pairing of the Batman with Black Canary (transplanted from Earth-2 to replace Wonder Woman in the Justice League) saw the recently-widowed heroine searching for the Earth-1 counterpart of her dead husband…

What she got was self-delusion, heartbreak and imminent death in a masterpiece of ironic melodrama. It also signalled the advent of the superb Nick Cardy as illustrator: a short run of beautifully drawn and boldly experimental assignments that are still startling to see nearly five decades later.

These are some of the best and most entertainingly varied yarns from a period of magnificent creativity in the American comics industry. Aimed at a general readership, gloriously free of heavy, cloying continuity baggage and brought to stirring, action-packed life by some of the greatest artists in the business, this is a Batman for all seasons and reasons with the added bonus of some of the most fabulous and engaging co-stars a fan could imagine. How could anybody resist? Seriously: can you…?
© 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 2017 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Green Lantern/Green Arrow


By Dennis O’Neil & Neal Adams, with Elliot Maggin, Frank Giacoia, Dick Giordano, Dan Adkins, Berni Wrightson & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3517-8

After the successful revival of The Flash in 1956, DC (or National Comics as they then were) was keen to build on a seemingly resurgent superhero trend. Showcase #22 hit the stands at the same time as the fourth issue of the new Flash comicbook (#108 if you’re the kind who keeps count) with the architects of the Silver Age – editor Julie Schwartz, writer John Broome and artists Gil Kane & Joe Giella – providing a Space Age reworking of a Golden-Age superhero who battled injustice with a magic ring.

Super-science replaced mysticism as Hal Jordan, a young test pilot in California, was transported to the side of a dying alien policeman who had crashed on Earth. Mortally wounded, Abin Sur commanded his power-ring – a device which could materialise thoughts – to seek out a replacement ring-bearer; honest and without fear.

Scanning the planet, it had selected Jordan and brought him to an appointment with destiny. The dying alien bequeathed the ring, a lantern-shaped Battery of Power and his noble profession to the astonished Earthman.

Having established the characters, scenario and narrative thrust of the series that would become the spine of DC continuity, a universe of wonder was opened to wide-eyed readers of all ages. However, after barely a decade of earthly crime-busting, interstellar intrigue and spectacular science fiction shenanigans, the Silver Age Green Lantern became one of the earliest big-name casualties of the downturn in superhero sales in 1969, prompting Editor Schwartz to try something extraordinary to rescue the series.

The result was a bold experiment which created a fad for socially relevant, ecologically aware, mature stories which spread throughout DC’s costumed hero comics and beyond; totally revolutionising the industry and nigh-radicalising many readers.

Tapping relatively youthful superstars-in-waiting Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams to produce the revolutionary fare, Schwartz watched in fascinated disbelief as the resultant thirteen groundbreaking, landmark issues captured the tone of the times, garnering critical praise, awards and valuable publicity from the outside world, whilst simultaneously registering such poor sales that the series was finally cancelled anyway, with the heroes unceremoniously packed off to the back of marginally less-endangered comicbook The Flash.

America at his time was a bubbling cauldron of social turmoil and experimentation. Everyone and everything were challenged on principle, and with issue #76 of Green Lantern (April 1970 and the first issue of the new decade) O’Neil & Adams utterly redefined super-heroism with “Issues”-driven stories transforming complacent establishment masked boy-scouts into uncertain, questioning champions and strident explorers of the enigma of America.

At least the Ring-Slinger was able to perceive his faults, and was more or less willing to listen to new ideas…

Reprinting the contents of Green Lantern #76-87, 89 – barring the all-reprint #88 – and the emerald back-up strips from The Flash #217-219 and 226, this crucial Trade Paperback (and eBook) compiles all the legendary and lauded landmark tales in one spectacular and unmissable volume.

It all kicks off with ‘No Evil Shall Escape My Sight!’ (inked by Frank Giacoia): a true benchmark of the medium, utterly reinventing the concept of the costumed crusader as newly-minted, freshly-bankrupted millionaire Oliver Queen challenges his Justice League comrade’s cosy worldview. All too soon the lofty space-cop painfully discovers real villains wear business suits, have expense accounts, hurt people just because of skin colour and will happily poison their own nests for short-term gain…

The specific villain du jour is a wealthy landlord whose treatment of his poverty-stricken tenants isn’t actually illegal but certainly is wickedly immoral…

Of course, the fact that this yarn is also a brilliantly devious crime-thriller with science-fiction overtones doesn’t exactly hurt either…

‘Journey to Desolation’ in #77 was every bit as groundbreaking.

At the conclusion of the #76 an immortal Guardian of the Universe – known as “the Old Timer” is assigned to accompany the Emerald Duo on a voyage to “discover America”: a soul-searching social exploration into the dichotomies which divide the nation – and a tremendously popular pastime for the nation’s disaffected citizens back then.

The first stop brought the trio to a poverty-stricken mining town run as a private kingdom by a ruthless entrepreneur happy to use agent-provocateurs and Nazi war criminals to keep his wage slaves in line. When a young protest singer looks likely to become the next Bob Dylan and draw unwelcome publicity, he has to be eliminated – as do the three strangers who drive into town at just the wrong moment…

Although the heroes provide temporary solutions and put away viciously human criminals, these tales were always carefully heavy-handed in exposing bigger ills and issues which couldn’t be fixed with a wave of a Green Ring; invoking an aura of helplessness that was metaphorically emphasised during this story when Hal is summarily stripped of much of his power for no longer being the willing, unquestioning stooge of his officious, high-and-mighty alien masters…

The confused and merely-mortal Green Lantern discovers another unpalatable aspect of human nature in ‘A Kind of Loving, a Way of Death!’ when newly-widowed Black Canary joins the peripatetic cast. Seeking to renew her stalled relationship with Green Arrow, she is waylaid by bikers, grievously injured and taken in by a charismatic hippy guru.

Sadly, Joshua is more Manson than Messiah and his brand of Peace and Love only extends to white people: everybody else is simply target practise…

The continuing plight of Native Americans was stunningly highlighted in ‘Ulysses Star is Still Alive!’ as corporate logging interests attempt to deprive a mountain tribe of their very last scraps of heritage, once more causing the Green Knights to take extraordinarily differing courses of action to help…

GL/GA #80 then returns some science fictional gloss in a tale of judicial malfeasance when ‘Even an Immortal Can Die!’ (inked by Dick Giordano), after the Old Timer uses his powers to save Green Lantern rather than prevent a pollution catastrophe in the Pacific Northwest. For his selfish deed he is chastised by his fellow Guardians and dispatched to the planet Gallo for judgement by the supreme arbiters of Law in the universe.

His earthly friends accompany him there and find a disturbing new administration with a decidedly off-kilter view of justice…

Adams’ staggering facility for capturing likenesses added extra-piquancy to this yarn that we’re just not equipped to grasp all these decades later, with the usurping, overbearing villain derived from the Judge of the infamous trial of anti-war protesters “The Chicago Eight”.

Insight into the Guardians’ history underpins ‘Death Be My Destiny!’ when Lantern, Arrow and Canary travel with the now-sentenced and condemned Old Timer to the ancient planet Maltus (that’s a pun, son: just type Thomas Robert Malthus into your search engine of choice or even look in a book).

They arrive on a world literally choking on its own out-of-control population. The uncanny cause of the catastrophe casts an unlovely light on the perceived role and worth of women in modern society…

On a more traditional note #82 enquired ‘How Do You Fight a Nightmare?’ (with additional inks from Bernie Wrightson) as Green Lantern’s greatest foe unleashes Harpies, Alien Amazons and all manner of female furies on the hapless hero before Black Canary and Green Arrow can turn the tide, all whilst asking a few extremely pertinent questions about women’s rights…

‘…And a Child Shall Destroy Them!’ crept into Hitchcock country to reintroduce Hal’s old flame Carol Ferris and take a pop at education and discipline in the chilling tale of a supernal mutant in thrall to a petty and doctrinaire little martinet with delusions of ethical and moral grandeur.

Wrightson also inked #84’s ‘Peril in Plastic’: a staggering attack on out-of-control consumerism, shoddy cost-cutting and the seduction of bread and circuses with costumed villain Black Hand just along for the polemical ride, after which the comics world changed forever in the two-part saga ‘Snowbirds Don’t Fly’ and ‘They Say It’ll Kill Me…But They Won’t Say When!’

Depiction of drug abuse had been strictly proscribed in comicbooks since the advent of the Comics Code Authority, but by 1971 the elephant in the room was too big to ignore and both Marvel and DC addressed the issue in startlingly powerful tales that opened Pandora’s dirty box forever. When the Green Gladiators are drawn into conflict with a vicious heroin-smuggling gang Oliver Queen is horrified to discover his own sidekick had become an addict…

This sordid, nasty tale did more than merely preach or condemn, but actively sought to explain why young people turned to drugs, just what the consequences could be and even hinted at solutions older people and parents might not want to consider. Forty-five years on it might all seem a little naïve, but the earnest drive to do something and the sheer dark power of the story still delivers a stunning punch…

For all the critical acclaim and astonishingly innovative creative work done, sales of Green Lantern/Green Arrow were in a critical nosedive and nothing seemed able to stop the rot. Issue #87 featured two solo tales, the first of which ‘Beware My Power!’ introduced a bold new character to the DCU.

John Stewart is a radical activist: an angry black man always spoiling for a fight and prepared to take guff from no-one. Hal Jordan is convinced the Guardians have grievously erred when they appointed Stewart as Green Lantern’s official stand-in, but after seeing how his proposed substitute responds to an openly racist US presidential candidate trying to foment a race war the Emerald Gladiator is forced to change his tune.

Meanwhile, bankrupted millionaire Oliver Queen faces a difficult decision when the retiring Mayor of Star City invites him to run for his office. Written by Elliot Maggin ‘What Can One Man Do?’ poses fascinating questions for the proud rebel by inviting him to join “the establishment” he despises, and actually do some lasting good. His decision is muddied by well-meaning advice from his fellow superheroes and the tragic consequences of a senseless street riot…

Issue #88 was a collection of reprints (not included here) but the title went out on an evocative, allegorical high note in #89 as ‘…And Through Him Save a World…’ (inked by Adams) balances jobs and self-interest at Carol Ferris’ aviation company against clean air and pure streams in an naturalistic fable wherein an ecological Christ-figure makes the ultimate sacrifice to save our planet and where all the Green Heroes’ power cannot affect the tragic outcome…

Although the groundbreaking series folded there, the heroics resumed a few months later in the back of The Flash #217 (August-September 1972). ‘The Killing of an Archer!’ opens a run of short episodes which eventually led to Green Lantern regaining his own solo series. The O’Neil, Adams & Giordano thriller relates how Green Arrow makes a fatal misjudgement and accidentally ends the life of a criminal he is battling. Devastated, the broken swashbuckler abandons his life and heads for the wilderness to atone or die…

The next episode ramps up the tension as a plot against the Archer is uncovered by Green Lantern and Black Canary in ‘Green Arrow is Dead!’ whilst ‘The Fate of an Archer’ sees Canary critically injured and GL hunting down Oliver just in time to save her life…

Adams moved on to other projects then but returned for one last hurrah with O’Neil and Giordano in Flash #226 as ‘The Powerless Power Ring!’ reveals that the mightiest weapon in the universe is useless if the man wielding it is not up to the task…

As well as these magnificent, still-challenging epics – superbly recoloured by Cory Adams and Jack Adler – this chronicle also reprints the seven all-new Adams covers created for a 1983 reprint miniseries and completing the experience of challenging tales of social injustice which signalled the end of comics’ Silver Age. This volume closed one chapter in the life of Green Lantern and opened the doors to today’s sleek and stellar sentinel of the stars. It’s ageless and evergreen and should have pride of place on every Fights ‘n’ Tights Fanboy’s most accessible bookshelf.
© 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1983, 1992, 1993, 2012, DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Jack Kirby Omnibus volume 1: Green Arrow and others


By Jack Kirby & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3107-1

Jack Kirby was – and still is – the most important single influence in the history of American comics. There are millions of words written (such as former Kirby assistant Mark Evanier’s revelatory and myth-busting Introduction in this gloriously enthralling full-colour hardback compilation) about what the man has done and meant, and you should read those if you are at all interested in our medium.

Off course I’m going to add my own tuppence-worth, pointing out what you probably already know: Kirby was a man of vast imagination who translated big concepts into astoundingly potent and accessible symbols for two generations of fantasy fans. If you were exposed to Kirby as an impressionable kid you were his for life. To be honest, the same probably applies whatever age you jump aboard the “Kirby Express”…

For those of us who grew up with his work, his are the images which furnish and clutter our interior mindsets. Close your eyes and think “robot” and the first thing that pops up is a Kirby creation and every fantastic, futuristic city in our heads is crammed with his chunky, towering spires. Because of Jack we all know what the bodies beneath those stony-head statues on Easter Island look like, and we are all viscerally aware that you can never trust great big aliens parading around in their underpants…

In a remarkably short time Kirby and his creative partner Joe Simon became the wonder-kid dream-team of the new-born comicbook industry. Together they produced a year’s worth of the influential monthly Blue Bolt, rushed out Captain Marvel Adventures (#1) for Fawcett and, after Martin Goodman appointed Simon editor at Timely, created a host of iconic characters such as Red Raven, the first Marvel Boy, Hurricane, The Vision, The Young Allies and of course million-selling mega-hit Captain America.

When Goodman failed to make good on his financial obligations, Simon & Kirby were snapped up by National/DC, who welcomed them with open arms and a fat chequebook. Bursting with ideas the staid company were never really comfortable with, the pair were initially an uneasy fit, and were given two moribund strips to play with until they found their creative feet: Sandman and Manhunter.

They turned both around virtually overnight and, once established and left to their own devices, switched to the “Kid Gang” genre they had pioneered at Timely. Joe and Jack created wartime sales sensation The Boy Commandos and a Homefront iteration dubbed the Newsboy Legion before being called up to serve in the war they had been fighting on comicbook pages since 1940.

They demobbed and returned to a very different funnybook business and soon left National to create their own little empire.

Simon & Kirby heralded and ushered in the first American age of mature comics – not just by inventing the Romance genre, but with all manner of challenging modern material about real people in extraordinary situations – before seeing it all disappear again in less than eight years. Their small stable of magazines – generated for an association of companies known as Prize/Crestwood/Pines/Essenkay/Mainline Comics – blossomed and as quickly wilted when the industry abruptly contracted throughout the 1950s. After years of working for others, Simon & Kirby had finally established their own publishing house, producing comics for a far more sophisticated audience, only to find themselves in a sales downturn and awash in public hysteria generated by an anti-comicbook pogrom.

Hysterical censorship-fever spearheaded by US Senator Estes Kefauver and opportunistic pop psychologist Dr. Frederic Wertham led to witch-hunting Senate hearings. Caving in, publishers adopted a castrating straitjacket of draconian self-regulatory rules. Horror titles produced under the aegis and emblem of the Comics Code Authority were sanitised and anodyne affairs in terms of Shock and Gore, even though the market’s appetite for suspense and the uncanny was still high. Crime comics vanished and mature themes challenging society were suppressed…

Simon quit the business for advertising, but Kirby soldiered on, taking his skills and ideas to a number of safer, if less experimental, companies. As the panic abated, Kirby returned briefly to DC Comics where he worked on mystery tales and Green Arrow (then a mere back-up strip in Adventure Comics and World’s Finest Comics) whilst concentrating on his long-dreamed-of newspaper strip Sky Masters of the Space Force.

During that period he also re-packaged an original super-team concept that had been kicking around in his head since he and Joe Simon had closed their innovative, ill-timed ventures. At the end of 1956 Showcase #6 (a try-out title that launched the careers of many DC mainstays) premiered the Challengers of the Unknown. After three more test issues they won their own title with Kirby in command for the first eight. Then a legal dispute with Editor Jack Schiff exploded and the King was gone…

During that brief 3-year period (cover-dated 1957-1959), Kirby also crafted a remarkably large number of short comics yarns and this fabulous tome re-presents – in originally-published order – his super-hero, mystery and science fiction shorts; culled from Tales of the Unexpected #12, 13, 15-18, 21- 24; House of Mystery #61, 63, 65, 66, 70, 72, 76, 84, 85; House of Secrets #3, 4, 8, 12; My Greatest Adventure #15- 18, 20, 21, 28; Adventure Comics #250-256; World’s Finest Comics # 96-99.

Also included is a lost gem from All-Star Western #99 plus three impressive tales produced by Simon & Kirby from 1946-1947 for Real Fact Comics #1, 2 and 6.

Records are sparse and scanty from those days when no creator was allowed a by-line, so many of these stories carry no writer’s credit (and besides, Kirby was notorious for rewriting scripts he was unhappy with drawing) but Group Editor Schiff’s regular stable of authors included Dave Wood, Bill Finger, Ed Herron, Joe Samachson, George Kashdan, Jack Miller and Otto Binder, so feel free to play the “whodunit” game…

National/DC Comics was relatively slow in joining the post-war mystery comics boom. At the end of 1951 they at last launched a gore-free, comparatively straight-laced anthology which nevertheless became one of their longest-running and most influential titles: The House of Mystery (cover-dated December 1951/January 1952). Its roaring success inevitably led to a raft of similar creature-filled fantasy anthologies such as Sensation Mystery, My Greatest Adventure, House of Secrets and Tales of the Unexpected.

With the Comics Code in full effect, plot options for mystery and suspense stories were savagely curtailed; limited to ambiguous, anodyne magical artefacts, wholesomely education mythological themes, science-based miracles and straight chicanery. Stories were marvellously illustrated, rationalistic, fantasy-adventure vehicles which would dominate until the early 1960s when super-heroes (recently reinvigorated after Julius Schwartz reintroduced the Flash in Showcase #4, 1956) finally overtook them…

In this volume, following that aforementioned Introduction – describing Kirby’s three tours of duty with DC in very different decades – the vintage wonderment commences with another example of the ingenious versatility of Jack & Joe.

Originating in the wholesome and self-explanatory Real Fact Comics, ‘The Rocket-Lanes of Tomorrow’ (#1, March/April 1946) and ‘A World of Thinking Robots’ from #2 (May/June 1946) are forward-looking, retro-fabulous graphic prognostications of the “World that’s Coming”. A longer piece from #6 (July/August 1947) then details the history and achievements of ‘Backseat Driver’ and road-safety campaigner Mildred McKay.

These were amongst the very last strips the duo produced for National before the move to Crestwood/Pines, so we skip ahead a decade and more for Jack’s return in House of Secrets #3 (March/April 1957) and ‘The Three Prophecies’: an eerie tale of a spiritualist conman being fleeced by an even more skilful grifter until Fate takes a hand…

Mythological mysticism informs the strange tale of ‘The Thing in the Box’ (House of Mystery #61, April 1957) as a salvage diver becomes obsessed with a deadly casket his captain is all too eager to dump into the ocean, after which – from the same month – Tales of the Unexpected #12 focuses on ‘The All-Seeing Eye’ wherein a journalist responsible for many impossible scoops realises that the potential dangers of the ancient artefact he employs far outweigh the benefits …

In House of Secrets #4 (May/June 1957) the ‘Master of the Unknown’ seemed destined to take the big cash prize on a TV quiz show until the producer deduced his uncanny secret, after which ‘I Found the City under the City’ (My Greatest Adventure #15, from the same month) detailed how fishermen recovered the last testament of a lost oceanographer, and read of how he intended to foil an impending invasion by aquatic aliens…

From May 1957 France E. Herron & Kirby investigated ‘The Face Behind the Mask’ (Tales of the Unexpected #13): a gripping crime-caper in involving gullible men, a vibrant vital femme fatale and the quest for eternal youth. There was no fakery to ‘Riddle of the Red Roc’ (House of Mystery #63, June) as a venal explorer hatched and trained the invulnerable bird of legend creating an unstoppable thief, before succumbing to his own greed, after which My Greatest Adventure #16 (July/August) featured a truly eerie threat as an explorer was sucked into a deadly association creating death and destruction and discovered ‘I Died a Thousand Times’

That same month Unexpected #15 offered ‘Three Wishes to Doom’: a crafty thriller proving that even with a genie’s lamp, crime does not pay, after which weird science allowed a hasty scientist to transform into ‘The Human Dragon’ (HoM #65 August, with George Roussos inking his old pal Jack), although his time to repent was brief as a criminal mastermind swooped in to capitalise on his misfortune…

There’s an understandable frisson of foreshadowing to ‘The Magic Hammer’ (Tales of the Unexpected #16 August) as it relates how a prospector finds a magical mallet capable of creating storms and goes into the rainmaking business… until the original owner turns up…

A smart gimmick underscores this tantalising tale of plagiarism and possible telepathy in ‘The Thief of Thoughts’ (HoM #66 September) whilst straight Sci Fi informs the tale of a hotel detective and a most unusual guest in ‘Who is Mr. Ashtar?’ (Tales of the Unexpected #17 September) before My Greatest Adventure #17 September/October 1957) reveals how aliens intent on invasion brainwashed a millionaire scientist to eradicate humanity in ‘I Doomed the World’. Happily one glaring error was made…

In Tales of the Unexpected #18 (October) Kirby showed how an astute astronomer saved us all by outwitting an energy being with big appetites in ‘The Man Who Collected Planets’ after which in MGA #18 (November/December 1957) the comicbook Atomic Age began with ‘I Tracked the Nuclear Creature’ as a hunter sets out to destroy a macabre mineral monster created by uncontrolled fission…

A new year dawned with Roussos inking ‘The Creatures from Nowhere!’ (House of Mystery #70, January 1958) as escaped alien beasts rampaged through a quiet town whilst in House of Secrets #8 (January/February), greed, betrayal, murder and supernatural suspense were the watchword when a killer tried to silence ‘The Cats who Knew Too Much!’

In Tales of the Unexpected #21 (also January) a smart investor proved too much for apparent extraterrestrial ‘The Mysterious Mr. Vince’ whilst a month later in Unexpected #22 the ‘Invasion of the Volcano Men’ started in fiery fury and panicked confrontation before resolving into an alliance against the uncontrolled forces of nature.

Kirby never officially worked for National’s large Westerns division, but apparently his old friend and neighbour Frank Giacoia did, and occasionally needed Jack’s legendary pencilling speed to meet deadlines. ‘The Ambush at Smoke Canyon!’ features long-running cavalry hero Foley of the Fighting 5th single-handedly stalking a band of Pawnee renegades in a rather standard sagebrush saga scripted by Herron and inked by Giacoia from All-Star Western #99 (February/March 1958).

Meanwhile in House of Mystery #72 (March) a shameless B-Movie Producer seemingly becomes ‘The Man who Betrayed Earth’ whilst in My Greatest Adventure #20 (March/April) interplanetary bonds of friendship are forged when space pirates kidnap assorted sentients and the canny Earthling saves the day in ‘I was Big-Game on Neptune’

Inadvertent cosmic catastrophe is narrowly averted in Tales of the Unexpected #23 (March) when one man realises how to make contact with ‘The Giants from Outer Space’ after which issue #24 (April) slips into wild whimsy as ‘The Two-Dimensional Man!’ strives desperately to correct his incredible condition before he is literally blown away…

When an early space-shot brings back an all-consuming horror in My Greatest Adventure #21 (May/June 1958) two harrowed boffins realise ‘We Were Doomed by the Metal-Eating Monster’ whilst ‘The Artificial Twin’ (House of Mystery #76, July) combines mad doctor super-science with fraud and deception before House of Secrets #12 (September) sees one frantic man struggling to close ‘The Hole in the Sky’ before invading aliens use it to conquer mankind…

Also scattered throughout this extraordinary compendium of the bizarre is a stunning and bombastic Baker’s Dozen of Kirby’s fantastic covers from the period, but for most modern fans the real meat is the short, sharp sequence of super-hero shockers that follow…

Green Arrow is one of DC’s golden wonders: a more or less continually running fixture of the company’s landscape – in many instances for no discernable reason – since his debut in the early days of costumed crusaders. Created by Mort Weisinger & George Papp, he premiered in More Fun Comics # 73 (November 1941) in an attempt to expand the company’s superhero portfolio.

At first he proved quite successful. With boy partner Speedy he was of the precious few masked stalwarts to survive the end of the Golden Age. His blatant blend of Batman and Robin Hood seemed to have very little going for itself, but the Emerald Archer has somehow always managed to keep himself in vogue. He carried on adventuring in the back of other heroes’ comicbooks, joined the Justice League of America at the peak of their popularity and became – courtesy of Denny O’Neil & Neal Adams – the spokes-hero of the anti-establishment generation during the 1960’s “Relevancy Comics” trend.

Later, under Mike Grell’s stewardship and thanks to the epic miniseries Green Arrow: the Longbow Hunters, he at last became a headliner: re-imagined as an urban predator dealing with corporate thugs and serial killers rather than costumed goof-balls. This version, more than any other, informs and underpins the TV incarnation seen in Arrow.

After his long career and a few venue changes, by the time Julie Schwartz’s revivification of the Superhero genre the Emerald Archer was a solid second feature in both Adventure and World’s Finest Comics where, as part of the wave of retcons, reworkings and spruce-ups the company administered to all their remaining costumed old soldiers, a fresh start began in the summer of 1958.

Part of that revival happily coincided with the return to National Comics of Jack Kirby.

As previously revealed in Evanier’s Introduction, after working on a number of anthological stories for Jack Schiff, the King was asked to revise the idling archer and responded by beefing up the science fictional aspects. When supervising editor – and creator – Weisinger objected, the changes were toned down and Kirby saw the writing was on the wall. He lost interest and began quietly looking elsewhere for work…

What resulted was a tantalisingly short run of eleven astounding action-packed, fantasy filled swashbucklers, the first of which was scripted by Bill Finger as ‘The Green Arrows of the World’ (Adventure Comics #251, July 1958) sees heroic archers from many nations attending a conference in Star City.

They are blithely unaware that a fugitive criminal with murder in his heart is hiding within their masked midst…

August’s #251 takes a welcome turn to astounding science fiction as Kirby scripted and resolved ‘The Case of the Super-Arrows’ wherein the Amazing Archers took possession of high-tech trick shafts sent from 3000 AD. World’s Finest Comics #96 (writer unknown) then revealed ‘Five Clues to Danger’ – a classic kidnap mystery made even more impressive by Kirby’s lean, raw illustration.

A practically unheard-of continued case spanned Adventure #252 and 253 as Dave Wood, Jack & Roz posed ‘The Mystery of the Giant Arrows’ before GA and Speedy briefly became ‘Prisoners of Dimension Zero’ – a spectacular riot of giant aliens and incredible exotic otherworlds, followed in WFC #97 (October 1958) with a grand old-school crime-caper in Herron’s ‘The Mystery of the Mechanical Octopus’.

Kirby was having fun and going from strength to strength. Adventure #254 featured ‘The Green Arrow’s Last Stand’ (by Wood): a particularly fine example with the Amazing Archers crashing into a hidden valley where Sioux braves had thrived unchanged since the time of Custer. The next issue saw the Bold Bowmen battle a battalion of Japanese soldiers who refused to surrender their island bunker in ‘The War That Never Ended!’ (also by Wood).

December’s World’s Finest #98 almost ended the heroes’ careers in Herron’s ‘The Unmasked Archers’ wherein a private practical joke caused the pair to inadvertently expose themselves to public scrutiny and deadly danger…

During those heady early days origins weren’t as important as imaginative situations, visual storytelling and just plain getting on with it, so co-creators Weisinger & Papp never bothered to provide one for their emerald innovation. That was left to later workmen Herron, Jack & Roz (in Kirby’s penultimate tale before devoting all his energies to the fabulous newspaper strip Sky Masters), filling in the blanks with ‘The Green Arrow’s First Case’ as the Silver Age superhero revival hit its stride in Adventure Comics #256 (January 1959).

Here we learned how wealthy wastrel Oliver Queen was cast away on a deserted island and learned to use a hand-made bow to survive. When a band of scurvy mutineers fetched up on his desolate shores, Queen used his newfound skills to defeat them and returned to civilisation with a new career and purpose…

Kirby’s spectacular swan-song came in WFC #99 (January 1959) with ‘Crimes under Glass’. Written by Robert Bernstein the tale saw GA and Speedy battling crafty criminals with a canny clutch of optical armaments, as the Archer steadfastly slipped back into the sedate and gimmick-heavy rut of pre-Kirby times…

By this time the King had moved on to other enterprises – Archie Comics with old pal Joe Simon and a little outfit which would soon be calling itself Marvel Comics – but his rapid rate of creation had left a number of completed tales in National’s inventory pile which slowly emerged for months thereafter and neatly wrap up this comprehensive compendium of the uncanny.

From My Greatest Adventure #28 (February 1959) ‘We Battled the Microscopic Menace!’ pitted two brave boffins against a ravening devourer their meddling with unknown forces had unleashed, whilst a month later HoM #84 revealed the terrifying struggle against ‘The Negative Man’ which saw an embattled researcher struggling against his own unleashed energy duplicate.

It all ends with an unforgettable spectacular as House of Mystery #85 (April 1959) awakens ‘The Stone Sentinels of Giant Island’ to rampage across a lost Pacific island and threaten the brave crew of a scientific survey vessel until one wise man deduces their incredible secret…

Jack Kirby was and is unique and uncompromising: his words and pictures are an unparalleled, hearts-and-minds grabbing delight no comics lover could resist. If you’re not a fan or simply not prepared to see for yourself what all the fuss has been about then no words of mine will change your mind.

That doesn’t alter the fact that Kirby’s work from 1937 to his death in 1994 shaped the entire American comics scene and indeed the entire comics planet – affecting the lives of billions of readers and thousands of creators in every arena of artistic endeavour for generations and still winning new fans and apostles every day, from the young and naive to the most cerebral of intellectuals. His work is instantly accessible, irresistibly visceral, deceptively deep and simultaneously mythic and human.

This collection from his transformative middle period exults in sheer escapist wonderment, and no one should miss the graphic exploits of these perfect adventures in that ideal setting of not-so-long-ago in a simpler, better time and place than ours.
© 1946, 1947, 1957, 1958, 1959, 2011 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Green Arrow Volume 2: Here There Be Dragons


By Mike Grell, Ed Hannigan, Dick Giordano & various (DC Comics) ISBN: 978-1-4012-4326-5

Premiering in More Fun Comics #73 in 1941, Green Arrow is one of very few superheroes to be continuously published (more or less) since the Golden Age of American comicbooks. At first glance this blatant amalgamation of Batman and Robin Hood seems to have very little going for him but he has always managed to keep himself in vogue.

Probably his most telling of many makeovers came in 1987, when, hot on the heels of The Dark Knight Returns, writer/artist Mike Grell was tasked with making him the star of DC’s second “Prestige Format Mini-Series”.

Grell was one of comics’ biggest guns at the time. Beginning his rise with a laudable run on Legion of Super-Heroes, he went on to draw the revived Green Lantern/Green Arrow and practically saved the company with his Edgar Rice Burroughs-inspired fantasy epic Warlord. He had also notched up a big fan following illustrating many Aquaman, Batman and Phantom Stranger stories before establishing his independent creator credentials at First Comics with Starslayer and Jon Sable, Freelance

In the grim‘n’gritty late Eighties, it was certainly time for another overhaul of the Emerald Archer. Exploding arrows yes, maybe even net or rope arrows, but arrows with boxing gloves or paint brushes on them just wouldn’t wash with a newer, more sophisticated readership. Thus, in an era of corrupt government, drug cartels and serial killers, the evergreen survivor adapted and thrived under the direction of a creator famed for the uncompromising realism of his work.

The Longbow Hunters focused on the superhero’s mid-life crisis as he relocated to Seattle and struggled to come to terms with the fact that since his former sidekick Speedy was now a dad, Oliver Queen had technically become a grandfather. Beside long-time “significant other” Dinah Lance – AKA Black Canary – he began to simplify his life, but the drive to fight injustice never dimmed for either of them.

Dinah went undercover to stamp out a drug ring whilst Ollie became engrossed in the hunt for a psycho-killer dubbed “The Seattle Slasher”. The archer also learned of a second – cross-country – slayer who had been murdering people with arrows…

Eschewing gaudy costume and gimmicks, Queen reinvented himself as an urban hunter to stop such unglamorous, everyday monsters, stumbling into a mystery which led back to World War II involving the Yakuza, CIA, corporate America and even the Viet Nam war, even as it introduced a deadly female counterpart to the beleaguered bowman: an enigmatic, morally ambiguous archer called Shado

The intricate plot, subtly blending three seemingly separate stories which were in fact one, still delivers a shocking punch even now in its disturbingly explicit examination of torture: a treatment which won the series undeserved negative press when it was first published. Although possibly tame to most modern tastes, this was eye-opening stuff in the 1980’s, which is a shame, as it diverted attention from the real issue… and that was a massive surge in quality and maturity.

The intricate, maturely sophisticated plot – interweaving themes of age, diminishing potency, vengeance and family – were another turning point in American comics and led to an ongoing series specifically targeting “Mature Readers”. The treatment and tone heavily influenced and flavoured today’s TV adaptation Arrow and has led to the release of Grell’s nigh-forgotten urban predator tales in a new range of economical, no-nonsense, full-colour trade paperbacks.

This second collection, primarily scripted by Grell with superbly efficient and powerfully understated art from Ed Hannigan, Dick Giordano & Frank McLaughlin plus a few guest creators, re-presents Green Arrow volume 2, #7-12 (eccentrically cover-dated August through December plus “Winter” 1988), offering starkly authentic tales ripped from headlines that have as much impact and relevance today as they did nearly thirty years ago…

Sparse, Spartan and startlingly compelling, the drama begins – sans any preamble – with complex collaboration ‘The Powderhorn Trail’, written by Grell and Sharon Wright – who divided the Ollie and Dinah sections between them – with Randy DuBurque illustrating Black Canary portions whilst Ed Barreto pencilled the GA bits, after which Giordano & Arne Starr inked it all.

The round-robin episode sees the hunter (the series was notable in that other than on the cover, the soubriquet “Green Arrow” was never, ever used) stumbling upon a clue to drug-smuggling at his local carwash and having to explain to Dinah why he’s taking off for Alaska, even as she is approached by a casual acquaintance whose life she once saved, who inadvertently tips the Canary to a string of crimes-in-the-making…

The all-action conclusion (by Grell, Paris Cullins, Gary Martin & Giordano) then sees Ollie solo-stalking from Anchorage to deep in the North country on the trail of not just drug dealers and high-end car thieves but also opportunistic Tong smugglers trafficking illegal, poached and pointless Chinese herbal remedies under cover of the infamous Iditarod…

The remainder of this book deals with the eagerly-anticipated return of Shado in the 4-part ‘Here There Be Dragons’ (Grell, Hannigan, Giordano & Frank McLaughlin) which opens with the reunited Ollie and Dinah celebrating a birthday whilst still attempting to reconcile the changes in their life. As much as the after-effects of being brutally tortured still affect her, they trouble him far more…

Killing her tormentor haunts them both, as does the role the enigmatic Japanese archer played in the bloody drama. With the memories still poisoning the atmosphere, neither hero is particularly happy when sleazy CIA executive Greg Osborne comes back into their lives with another offer they’d better not refuse.

Far across the Pacific, Shado has fallen out of favour with the Yakuza masters who took a little girl and turned her over decades into a living weapon. When one arrogant young Oyabun overstepped his authority he turned her into an implacable foe of the entire organisation. Now to save face the criminal society must kill her at all costs…

In Seattle, Osborne blackmails Ollie, forcing him to go to the Philippines in search of the country’s gold reserves which have been hidden since the Japanese occupation in WWII. The current US administration wants to help its Eastern ally without being seen to be interfering, especially since a treasure map has surfaced and the Yakuza are using it to murderously appropriate the lost bullion.

The Japanese gangsters are simultaneously searching the islands for a mysterious dragon-tattooed woman archer who apparently has somehow won possession of the gold chart…

Dinah is unconvinced by Ollie’s reasons for going. She knows he is fascinated to the point of obsession with the exotic archer, but still stands aside as the hunter embarks for Hawaii. All too soon Queen’s specialised knowledge has put him on Shado’s trail, but that only makes him a perfect target…

A few weeks later, Ollie is slowly recovering from an arrow in the chest, nursed back to health from the edge of death by the beguiling tattooed woman; seduced as much by her arcane philosophy of archery as her beauty, compassion and air of fragility. In the quiet hours they grow closer and she shares her tragic origins with him, as well as the recent events which made her both free agent and fleeing fugitive.

Faced with the choice of defying Osborne or reluctantly handing her over to the American authorities pressurising him, Ollie is forced into a third option when Yakuza death-squads attack their isolated island retreat, prompting a prolonged chase through the region and a bloody trail impossible to cover-up…

The harassed quarry eventually double-back to Honolulu for a climactic final battle during which Ollie discovers how the Yakuza have been able to dog their steps so closely. He and Shado part for what he secretly prays is the last time, after which, armed with suspicions of exactly who Osborne is actually working for, Oliver confronts his blackmailer…

Terse scripts, intelligent, flawed human interactions, stunning action delivered through economical and immensely effective illustration and an unfailing eye for engaging controversy make these epic yarns some of the most powerful sagas American comics ever produced. Compiled here with a cover gallery by Grell (both fully painted and line art), Joe Rubinstein, Hannigan & Giordano, this compulsive retooling is yet another long-overlooked highpoint of superhero storytelling no lover of the genre will want to miss.
© 1988, 2014 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Green Arrow volume 1: Hunter’s Moon


By Mike Grell, Ed Hannigan, Dick Giordano & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-4326-5

First appearing in More Fun Comics #73 in 1941, Green Arrow is one of very few superheroes to be continuously published (more or less) since the Golden Age of American comic books. At first glance this combination of Batman and Robin Hood seems to have very little going for him but he has always managed to keep himself in vogue.

Probably his most telling of many makeovers came in 1987, when, hot on the heels of The Dark Knight Returns, auteur Mike Grell was given the green (Shameless, me!) light to make him the star of DC’s second “Prestige Format Mini-Series”.

Grell was counted a major creator at the time. Beginning his rise with a laudable run on Legion of Super-Heroes, he went on to draw the revived Green Lantern/Green Arrow and practically saved the company with his Edgar Rice Burroughs-inspired fantasy series Warlord. He had also notched up a big fan following illustrating many Aquaman, Batman and Phantom Stranger stories before establishing his independent creator credentials at First Comics with Starslayer and Jon Sable, Freelance

In the grim ‘n’ gritty late Eighties, it was certainly time for another overhaul of the Emerald Archer. Exploding arrows yes, maybe even net or rope arrows, but arrows with boxing gloves or paint brushes on them just don’t work. Thus, in an era of corrupt government, drug cartels and serial killers, the evergreen survivor adapted and thrived under the direction of a creator famed for the realism of his stories.

The Longbow Hunters focused on the super-hero’s mid-life crisis as he relocated to Seattle and struggled to come to terms with the fact that since his former sidekick Speedy was now a dad, Oliver Queen had technically become a grandfather. With long-time “significant other” Dinah Lance AKA Black Canary he began to simplify his life, but the drive to fight injustice never dimmed for either of them.

She went undercover to stamp out a drug ring, and he became engrossed in the hunt for a psycho-killer dubbed “The Seattle Slasher”. Ollie was also made aware of a second – cross-country – slayer who had been murdering people with arrows…

Eschewing his gaudy costume and gimmicks he reinvented himself as an urban hunter to stop such unglamorous everyday monsters, stumbling into a mystery that led back to World War II involving the Yakuza, CIA, corporate America and even the Viet Nam war…

The intricate plot, subtly blending three seemingly disparate stories that were in fact one, still delivers a shocking punch even now in its disturbingly explicit examination of torture, which won the series undeserved negative press when it was first published. Although possibly tame to most modern tastes, this was eye-opening stuff in the 1980’s, which is a shame, as it diverted attention from the real issue… and that was a massive surge in quality and maturity.

The sophisticated and intricate plot – weaving themes of age, diminishing potency, vengeance and family – were another turning point in American comics and led to an ongoing series specifically targeting “Mature Readers”. The treatment and tone heavily influenced and flavoured today’s TV adaptation Arrow and has led to the release of Grell’s nigh-forgotten urban predator tales in a new range of economical trade paperbacks.

This first full-colour paperback collection, scripted by Grell with superbly efficient and powerfully understated art from Ed Hannigan, Dick Giordano & Frank McLaughlin, re-presents Green Arrow volume 2, #1-6 (February to July 1988), offering grimly realistic yarns ripped from headlines that have as much impact and relevance today as they did nearly thirty years ago…

Sparse, Spartan and devastatingly compelling, the initial tales were all constructed as two-part dramas beginning here – sans any preamble – with ‘Hunter’s Moon’ as the hunter (the series was notable in that other than on the cover, the soubriquet “Green Arrow” was never, ever used) prowls his new home dealing harshly with thugs, gangbangers and muggers before heading home to his still-traumatised girlfriend.

Black Canary was tortured for days before Ollie found her and, although the physical wounds have faded, Dinah Lance is still suffering…

She’s not the only one. Police Lieutenant Jim Cameron has just heard that child-torturing sociopath Al Muncie has used his vast beer-dynasty inheritance to buy a retrial after 18 years in prison.

The cops couldn’t get him for murdering all those “missing” kids but one lucky ten year old, after days of appalling torment, escaped and testified so Muncie’s been locked up for aggravated assault ever since. Now the heartbroken cop has to tell that brave survivor she must do it all over again…

The victim grew up to become Dr. Annie Green and she’s working wonders treating Dinah, but the therapist’s own long-suppressed terrors come flooding back when Muncie – despite being in total lockdown in his palatial house on the family brewery estate – somehow hand-delivers a little souvenir of their time together…

On hand when Annie freaks out and flees in panic, Ollie gives chase and finds her once more calm and resigned. On hearing the full story he makes a house-call on the maniac but cannot “dissuade” him from paying Annie another visit that night…

The experienced manhunter is waiting as a masked assailant tries to break in to the doctor’s apartment, but when the intruder shrugs off a steel arrow to the chest Ollie realises something’s not right…

Part Two expands the mystery of how Muncie can get past police guards at will, but by the time the Arrow has convinced the cops to raid Muncie’s den with the solution to the obsessed sociopath’s disappearing act and apparent invulnerability, the killer has already made his move.

Once again however Muncie has underestimated Annie, and her defiance buys Ollie time to intercept the hellbent human beast. After a furious chase back to the brewery the killer meets his fate in a most ironic manner…

A broad change of pace follows as ‘The Champions’ sees Ollie abducted by government spooks and pressganged into competing for a deadly prize. A joint space venture with the Chinese has resulted in a deadly “DNA-programmable” virus being created and, following the sudden destruction of the satellite lab where it was propagated, the only surviving sample has crashed onto remote San Juan Island.

With political allies turned rivals for sole possession of a bio-agent which can be set to kill anything from wheat harvests to black or yellow or white people, overt warfare would only lead to catastrophic publicity, so the political superpowers have agreed to use a gladiatorial bout as the method of deciding ownership.

Ollie has his own reasons for accepting the job. For starters he doesn’t trust any government with the DNA-hunting bug, the agents who drafted him are Russian not American and, most urgently, he has no doubt that he’ll be killed if he refuses to compete…

Equipped with a tracking device, Ollie is dumped on the island as a colossal storm starts, meeting his arrogant opposite getting off the ferry. Former CIA operative Eddie Fyers is an old foe and one of the sneakiest killers on Earth. He convinces Ollie they should work together… before double-crossing and leaving him to bleed out in a blizzard.

The archer is rescued by an archaeologist who has inadvertently picked up the fallen bio-agent pod, but as Ollie argues with his saviour over the wisdom and morality of his mission, her cabin is peppered with gunfire…

Fyers has the upper hand but suffers a sudden change of attitude when a third team ambushes him and his prisoners. It seems neither the Russians or Chinese trusted their champions…

Again forced to team up, spy and vigilante despatch the hit squad but Ollie has the very last word after finding a way to deprive everybody of the bio-sample…

Determined to challenge all manners of social inequity, Grell’s final story in this collection confronted the rise in homosexual prejudice that manifested in the wake of the AIDs crisis.

It begins after two customers leaving Dinah’s flower shop are brutally attacked by kids ordered to “gay-bash” as part of their gang initiation. The horrific crime is further compounded when Ollie discovers that Dinah’s new assistant Colin is not only a bloody-handed perpetrator but also a victim…

The Warhogs are the most powerful gang in the city, but their new induction policy is one the Arrow cannot allow to exist any longer. Any kid refusing to join is mercilessly beaten by a ‘Gauntlet’ of thugs. Those who eagerly volunteer suffer the same treatment as their initiation. And once you’re accepted as a Warhog you still have to prove your loyalty by beating – and preferably killing – a “queer”…

In the shocking conclusion Ollie, having failed to make a dent through any of his usual tactics, goes straight to the top. Big boss Reggie Mandel has big plans for the Warhogs. He’s already made them a national force to be reckoned with, but when he arrives in Seattle to check on his regional deputy Kebo, the Machiavellian schemer is confronted by a nut with a bow challenging him in his own crib…

The Arrow is keen to point out that the strictly local Warhog policy of gay hate-crimes is not only bad for business but is serving someone else’s private agenda. Reggie actually agrees with the vigilante, but before he’s prepared to take appropriate action he expects his verdant petitioner to undergo the same gauntlet any Warhog must survive before being heard…

Terse, sparse scripts, economical and immensely effective illustration and an unfailing eye for engaging controversy make these epic yarns some of the most powerful comic tales American comics ever produced. Compiled here with a cover gallery by Grell (both fully painted and line art), Hannigan & Giordano, this compulsive retooling is an epic masked mystery saga no lover of the genre will want to miss.

© 1988, 2013 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Green Lantern and Green Arrow #2


By Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Frank Giacoia & Dan Adkins (Paperback Library)
ISBN: 0-446-64755-1

Once upon a time, comics – like Rock ‘n’ Roll or spray-can street art – was considered outcast, bastard non-Art continually required to explain and justify itself – even when some of the people vainly defending the intrusive fledgling forms were critics and proponents of the other higher creative forms.

And during those less open-minded times, just like the other examples cited, every so often the funnybook industry brought forth something which forced the wider world to sit up and take notice.

This slim paperback – in itself proof positive of the material’s merit because the stories were contained in a proper book and not a flimsy, gaudy, disposable pamphlet (sic) – is a sequel to an earlier collection of some of the most groundbreaking comic adventures in American history; repackaged for an audience finally becoming cognizant that the unfairly dismissed children’s escapism might have something to contribute to the whole of culture and society…

After a decade of earthly crime-busting, interstellar intrigue and spectacular science fiction shenanigans the Silver Age Green Lantern was about to become one of the earliest big-name casualties of a downturn in superhero sales in 1969 prompting Editor Julius Schwartz to try something extraordinary to rescue the series.

The result was a bold experiment which created an industry-wide fad for socially relevant, ecologically aware, mature stories which spread throughout DC’s costumed hero comics and beyond; totally revolutionising the comics scene and nigh-radicalising readers.

Tapping superstars-in-waiting Denny O’Neil & Neal Adams to produce the revolutionary fare, Schwartz watched in fascinated disbelief as the resultant thirteen groundbreaking, landmark tales captured the tone of the times, garnered critical praise, awards and desperately valuable publicity from the outside world, whilst simultaneously registering such poor sales that the series was finally cancelled anyway, with the heroes unceremoniously packed off to the back of marginally less endangered comicbook The Flash.

When these stories (reprinted from Green Lantern/Green Arrow #78-79, July and September 1970) first appeared DC was a company in transition – just like America itself – with new ideas (which in comic-book terms meant “young writers”) being given much leeway: a veritable wave of fresh, raw talent akin to the very start of the industry, when excitable young creators ran wild with fevered imaginations and anything might happen.

Their cause wasn’t hurt by the industry’s swingeing commercial decline: costs were up and the kids just weren’t buying funnybooks in the quantities they used to…

O’Neil, in tight collaboration with hyper-realistic illustrator Adams, attacked all the traditional monoliths of contemporary costumed dramas with tightly targeted, protest- driven stories. Green Arrow had been shoe-horned into the series with Emerald Archer Oliver Queen constantly mouthing off as a hot-headed, liberal sounding-board and platform for a generation-in-crisis whilst staid, quasi-reactionary GL Hal Jordan played the part of the oblivious but well-meaning old guard. At least the Ring-Slinger was able to perceive his faults and more or less willing to listen to new ideas…

This striking book opens with an introduction from Dennis O’Neil before hurling helter-skelter into a chillingly topical headline grabbing yarn…

The confused and merely-mortal Green Lantern discovered another unpalatable aspect of human nature in ‘A Kind of Loving, a Way of Death!’ (with inks from Frank Giacoia) when the Arrow’s new girlfriend Black Canary joined the peripatetic cast. Seeking to renew her stalled relationship with the Emerald Archer, she was waylaid by bikers, grievously injured and taken in by a charismatic hippy guru. Sadly Joshua’s wilderness cult owed more to Charles Manson than the Messiah and his brand of Peace and Love only extended to white people: everybody else was simply target practise…

The ongoing shoddy treatment and plight of Native Americans was stunningly highlighted next in ‘Ulysses Star is Still Alive!’ (inked by Dan Adkins) as big-business logging interests attempted to deprive a mountain tribe of their very last scraps of heritage, once more causing the Green Knights to take extraordinarily differing courses of action to help and find a measure of justice…

It’s impossible to assess the effect this early bookstore edition had on the evolution of comics’ status – it certainly didn’t help keep the comicbook series afloat – but  this edition certainly gave credibility to the stories themselves: a fact proved by the number of times and variety of formats these iconic adventures have been reprinted.
© 1970, 1972 National Periodical Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Showcase Presents Green Arrow volume 1


By France Herron, Dave Wood, Jack Kirby, George Papp, Lee Elias & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0785-4

Green Arrow is one of DC’s Golden All-Stars: a fixture of the company’s landscape, in many instances for no discernable reason, more or less continually since his debut in 1941. He was originally created by Mort Weisinger and George Papp for More Fun Comics # 73 as an attempt to expand the company’s superhero portfolio, and in the early years proved quite successful. The bowman and boy partner Speedy were two of the few costumed heroes to survive the end of the Golden Age.

His blatant recombination of Batman and Robin Hood seemed to have very little going for itself but the Emerald Archer has somehow always managed to keep himself in vogue. He carried on adventuring in the back of other heroes’ comicbooks, joined the Justice League of America at the peak of their fame and became the spokes-hero of the anti-establishment generation during the 1960’s “Relevancy Comics” trend, courtesy of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams.

Under Mike Grell’s stewardship and thanks to the epic miniseries Green Arrow: the Longbow Hunters (DC’s second ‘Prestige Format Mini-Series’ after the groundbreaking success of Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) he at last became a headliner: an urban predator dealing with corporate thugs and serial killers rather than costumed goof-balls.

After his long career and a few venue changes, by the time Julie Schwartz’s revivification of the Superhero genre the Emerald Archer was solid second feature in both Adventure and World’s Finest Comics where, as part of the wave of retcons, reworkings and spruce-ups the company administered to all their remaining costumed old soldiers, a fresh start began in the summer of 1958…

This splendidly eclectic collection of the peripatetic Bowman’s perennial second string exploits gathers the pertinent material from Adventure Comics #250-269, World’s Finest Comics #95-140, Justice League of America #4 and his guest-shots in Brave and the Bold #50, 71 and 85, covering the period July 1958 to September 1969.

Part of that revival happily coincided with the return to National Comics of Jack Kirby after the collapse of Mainline: the comics company he and partner Joe Simon had created as part of the Crestwood/Prize publishing combine.

Not long after that groundbreaking move the industry was hit by the Comics Code censorship controversy and a sales downturn that hit many creators very, very hard…

This stunning monochrome compendium opens with ‘The Green Arrows of the World’ (by scripter Dave Wood and Jack with wife Roz inking) wherein heroic masked archers from many nations attended a conference in Star City unaware that a fugitive criminal was lurking within their midst, whilst that same month George Papp illustrated the anonymously scripted ‘Green Arrow vs Red Dart’ in World’s Finest Comics #95, a dashing tale of the Ace Archer’s potential criminal counterpart and his inevitable downfall.

Adventure #251 took a welcome turn to fantastic science fiction as Ed Herron & the Kirbys resolved ‘The Case of the Super-Arrows’ wherein the heroes took possession of high-tech trick shafts from 3000AD, whilst WFC #96 (writer unknown) revealed ‘Five Clues to Danger’ – a classic kidnap mystery made even more impressive by Kirby’s lean, raw illustration.

A rare continued case spanned Adventure’s #252 and 253 as Wood, Jack & Roz revealed ‘The Mystery of the Giant Arrows’ before Green Arrow and Speedy temporarily became ‘Prisoners of Dimension Zero’ – a spectacular riot of giant aliens and incredible exotic otherworlds, followed in WF #97 with a grand old-school crime-caper in Herron’s ‘The Mystery of the Mechanical Octopus’.

Kirby was going from strength to strength and Adventure #254’s ‘The Green Arrow’s Last Stand’, written by Wood, is a particularly fine example as the Bold Bowmen crashed into a hidden valley where Sioux braves had thrived unchanged since the time of Custer whilst the next issue saw them battle a battalion of Japanese soldiers who refused to surrender their island bunker in ‘The War That Never Ended’ (also by Wood).

World’s Finest #98 almost ended the heroes’ careers in Herron’s ‘The Unmasked Archers’ wherein a practical joke caused the pair to expose themselves to public scrutiny and deadly danger…

During those heady days origins weren’t as important as imaginative situations, storytelling and just plain getting on with it, so co-creators Weisinger & Papp never bothered to provide one, leaving later workmen Herron, Jack & Roz (in Kirby’s penultimate tale before devoting all his energies to the fabulous newspaper strip Sky Masters) to fill in the blanks with ‘The Green Arrow’s First Case’ as the Silver Age superhero revival hit its stride in Adventure Comics #256 (January 1959).

Here we learned how wealthy wastrel Oliver Queen was cast away on a deserted island and learned to use a hand-made bow simply to survive. When a band of scurvy mutineers fetched up on his desolate shores Queen used his newfound skills to defeat them and returned to civilisation with a new career and secret purpose…

Adventure #257’s ‘The Arrows That Failed’ saw a criminal mastermind tamper with the archer’s equipment in a low-key but intriguing yarn by an unknown scripter, most memorable for being the first artistic outing for golden-age great Lee Elias who would become the strip’s sole artist until its demise after Kirby’s spectacular swan-song in WF #99. ‘Crimes Under Glass’ was written by Robert Bernstein and found the GA and Speedy battling cunning criminals with a canny clutch of optical armaments.

Adventure Comics #258 (March 1959) featured a rare cover appearance for the Emerald Archer as he guest-starred in the lead feature ‘Superboy Meets the Young Green Arrow’ by Jerry Coleman & Papp, after which inspiring boyhood on-the-job training the mature bowman then schooled a lost patrol of soldiers in Toxophily (that’s posh talk for archery, folks), desert survival and crime-busting in ‘The Arrow Platoon’: another anonymously scripted yarn limned by Elias.

The same month in WF #100 the Emerald Avenger faced light-hearted lampoonery and sinister larcenists in ‘The Case of the Green Error Clown’ by Herron and the now-firmly entrenched Elias, whilst Adventure #259 showed that ‘The Green Arrow’s Mystery Pupil’ had ulterior and sinister motives for his studies whilst #260 revealed ‘Green Arrow’s New Partner’ to be only a passing worry for Speedy in a clever drama by Bernstein.

World’s Finest #101 introduced a crook who bought or stole outlandish ideas for malevolent purposes in ‘The Battle of the Useless Inventions’ by lead writer Herron, whereas Adventure #261 and the uncredited fable ‘The Curse of the Wizard’s Arrow!’ used bad luck and spurious sorcery to test the Archers’ ingenuity.

WF #102 featured Herron’s snazzy crime-caper ‘The Case of the Camouflage King!’ whilst in Adventure #262 ‘The World’s Worst Archer!’, by Bernstein, finally gave Boy Bowman Speedy an origin of his own and explained how just how narrowly the part-Native American boy Roy Harper came to not being adopted by Oliver Queen, after which #263 ‘Have Arrow – Will Travel’ (Bernstein) saw the independent lad sell his skills to buy a boat… a solid lesson in thrift and good parenting if not reference-checking….

World’s Finest #103 offered a Bob Haney mystery-thriller ‘Challenge of the Phantom Bandit’ after which an anonymous scripter finally bowed to the obvious and dispatched the Emerald Archer to feudal Sherwood Forest in ‘The Green Arrow Robin Hood’ (Adventure #264, September 1959) and WF #104 found GA undercover on a modern Native American Reservation ‘Alias Chief Magic Bow’ (by Herron).

‘The Amateur Arrows!’ (by Bernstein in Adventure #265) had the Battling Bowmen act as Summer Camp tutors on a perilously perfidious Dude Ranch for kids, #266 again saw their trick-shot kit malfunction in a clever conundrum with a surprise mystery guest-star in Bernstein’s ‘The Case of the Vanished Arrows!’ and WF #105 introduced deceptively deadly toy-making terror ‘The Mighty Mr. Miniature’ (Herron).

In Adventure Comics #267 the editors tried another novel experiment in closer continuity. At this time the title starred Superboy with two back-up features following. The first of these starred equally perennial B-list survivor Aquaman who in that tale ‘The Manhunt on Land’ (but not this volume: you’ll need to scoop up Showcase Presents Aquaman volume 1 for the full saga) saw villainous Shark Norton trade territories with Green Arrow’s foe The Wizard. In a rare crossover, both parts of which were written by Bernstein, the two heroes worked the same case with Aquaman fighting on dry land whilst the Emerald Archer pursued his enemy beneath the waves in his impressively innovative strip ‘The Underwater Archers’.

‘The Crimes of the Pneumatic Man’ by Herron, (WF #106) debuted a rather daft balloon-based bandit, whilst Adventure #268 saw another time-trip result in ‘The Green Arrow in King Arthur’s Court!’ by Bernstein who also scripted the February 1960 issue #269 wherein ‘The Comic Book Archer!’ saw the pair aid a cartoonist in need of inspiration and salvation.

That was the hero’s last appearance in Adventure. From then on the Amazing Archers’ only home was World’s Finest Comics, beginning a lengthy and enthralling run from Herron & Elias in #107-112, systematically defeating ‘The Menace of the Mole Men’ – who weren’t what they seemed – and ‘The Creature from the Crater’ – which also wasn’t – before becoming ‘Prisoners of the Giant Bubble’, a clever crime caper loaded with action.

WF 110 introduced photonic pillager ‘The Sinister Spectrum Man’ with a far more memorable menace challenging the heroes in ‘The Crimes of the Clock King’ before a lucky felon discovered their hidden lair and became ‘The Spy in the Arrow-Cave’ a tale that starts weakly but ends on a powerfully poignant high note.

The painfully parochial and patronising tone of the times seeped into the saga of ‘The Amazing Miss Arrowette’ (scripted by Wood) in WF #113 as a hopeful, ambitious Ladies’ Archery competitor tried her very best to become Green Arrow’s main helpmeet. Moreover, in a series famed for absurd gimmick shafts, nothing ever came close to surpassing the Hair-Pin, Needle-and-Thread, Powder-Puff or Lotion Arrows in Bonnie King’s fetching and stylish little quiver…

The times were changing in other aspects, however, and fantasy elements were again popular at the end of 1960, as evidenced by Herron’s teaser in WF #114. ‘Green Arrow’s Alien Ally’ neatly segued into ‘The Mighty Arrow Army’ as the Ace Archers battled a South American dictator and then encountered a sharp-shooting circus chimp in #116’s ‘The Ape Archer’.

A jump to the big time occurred in Justice League of America #4 (April 1961) when Green Arrow was invited to join the world’s Greatest Super-Heroes just in time to save them all – and the Earth for good measure in Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky & Bernard Sachs’ epic sci fi extravaganza ‘Doom of the Star Diamond’ before returning to quirkiness and mere crime-crushing in WF #117 and ‘The Cartoon Archer’ by Wood & Elias, wherein a kidnapped cartoonist used caricature as a deadly weapon and desperate life-line…

World’s Finest #118 featured ‘The Return of Miss Arrowette’ (more Wood); a far less cringeworthy effort which nonetheless still managed to make the Bow Babe both competent and imbecilic at the same time, before Herron penned ‘The Man with the Magic Bow’ in #119, with an actual sorcerous antique falling into the greedy hands of a career criminal whilst Oliver Queen and Roy Harper became victims of ‘The Deadly Trophy Hunt’ in #120 and needed a little Arrow action to save the day and their secret identities.

Master scribe John Broome provided a taut and impressive tale of despair and redemption in #121 with ‘The Cop Who Lost his Nerve’ and WF #122 saw ‘The Booby-Trap Bandits’ (Haney) almost destroy our heroes in a tense suspense thriller and Wood wrote one of his very best GA yarns in #123 ‘The Man Who Foretold Disaster’. Herron rose to the challenge in WF 124-125: a brace of bold and grittily terse mini-epics beginning with a breathtaking gang-busting yarn ‘The Case of the Crime Specialists’ and the taut human drama of ‘The Man Who Defied Death’ to pay his son’s medical bills…

‘Dupe of the Decoy Bandits’ by Wood in #126 was another sharp game of cops and robbers whilst George Kashdan revealed the heart-warming identity of ‘Green Arrow’s Secret Partner’ in #127 after which Wood successfully tried his hand at human-scaled melodrama as a retiring cop proved himself ‘The Too-Old Hero’ in #128.

Oddly – perhaps typically – just as the quality of Green Arrow’s adventures steadily improved, his days as a solo star were finally ending. Herron scripted all but one of remaining year’s World’s Finest exploits, beginning with #129’s robotic renegade ‘The Iron Archer’, after which an author unknown contributed ‘The Human Sharks’ as the Bold Bowmen returned to battle crime beneath the seas.

A despondent boy was boosted out of a dire depression by joining his heroes in #131 and ‘A Cure for Billy Jones’ whilst ‘The Green Arrow Dummy’ was an identity-saver and unexpected crook catcher in its own right.

Subterranean thugs accidentally invaded and became ‘The Thing in the Arrowcave’ in #133, whilst ‘The Mystery of the Missing Inventors’ saw a final appearance and proper treatment of Arrowette, but the writing was on the wall. Green Arrow became an alternating feature and didn’t work again until WF #136 and the exotic mystery of ‘The Magician Boss of the Incas’ (September 1963).

A month later Brave and the Bold #50 saw the Ace Archer team-up in a book length adventure with the Martian Manhunter. ‘Wanted – the Capsule Master!’ pitted the newly minted Green Team in a furious fight with marauding extraterrestrial menace Vulkor; a fast-paced thriller by Bob Haney & George Roussos followed by WF #138’s ‘The Secret Face of Funny-Arrow!’ wherein a formerly positive and good natured spoof-performer took a sudden turn into darker and nastier “jokes” and World’s Finest #140 (March 1964) aptly presented ‘The Land of No Return’ by Bill Finger, with the Battling Bowmen falling into a time-locked limbo where heroes from history perpetually strove against deadly beasts and monsters…

The heroes’ decades-long careers ended there and they became nothing more than bit-players in JLA and Teen Titans exploits until Brave and the Bold #71 (April-May 1967) written by Haney and drawn by his Golden Age co-creator George Papp, wherein Green Arrow helped Batman survive ‘The Wrath of the Thunderbird!’ and crush a criminal entrepreneur determined to take over the wealth and resources of the Kijowa Indian Nation.

This volume ends with the first cathartic and thoroughly modern re-imagining of the character which paved the way for the rebellious, riotous, passionately socially-aware avenger of modern times.

Brave and the Bold #85 is arguably the best of an incredible run of team-ups in that title’s prestigious history and certainly the best yarn in this collection. ‘The Senator’s Been Shot!’ reunited Batman and Green Arrow in a superb multi-layered thriller of politics, corruption and cast-iron integrity, wherein Bruce Wayne became a stand-in for a law-maker and the Emerald Archer got a radical make-over that turned him into the fiery liberal gadfly champion of the relevancy generation – and every one since.

Ranging from calamitously repetitive and formulaic – but in a very good and entertaining way – to moments of sublime wonder and excitement, this is genuine mixed bag of Fights ‘n’ Tights swashbuckling with something for everyone and certainly bound to annoy as much as delight. All ages superhero action that’s unmissable. Even if you won’t love it all you’ll hate yourself for missing this spot-on selection.

© 1958-1964, 1967, 1969, 2006 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Green Lantern and Green Arrow #1


By Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, John Broome, Gil Kane & various (Paperback Library)
ISBN: 0-446-64729-2 075

Until relatively recent times, comic strips – like rock ‘n’ roll or spray-can street art – were considered an outcast, bastard non-Art form continually required to explain and justify themselves.

And during those less open-minded times, just like the other examples cited, every so often the funnybook industry produced something which forced the wider world to sit up and take notice. In this slim paperback – in itself proof positive of the material’s merit because the stories were contained in a proper book and not a flimsy, gaudy, disposable pamphlet – some of the most groundbreaking tales in American comicbook history were re-presented to an audience finally becoming cognizant that a mere Children’s medium” might have something to contribute to the whole culture and society…

This striking paperback book collection opens with an introduction from Samuel R. Delaney and is rather sensibly followed by the very first Green Lantern tale from Showcase # 22 (September-October 1959), providing much needed background – as well as few solid old-fashioned thrills for readers new to the character and concept.

After the successful revival and reworking of The Flash in 1956, DC (or National Comics as they then were) was keen to build on a seemingly resurgent superhero trend. Showcase #22 hit the stands at the same time as the fourth issue of the new Flash comicbook (#108) with architects of the Silver Age editor Julie Schwartz, writer John Broome and artists Gil Kane & Joe Giella providing a Space Age reworking of a Golden-Age superhero with the magic ring.

Super-science replaced mysticism as Hal Jordan, a young test pilot in California, was transported to the side of a dying alien policeman who had crashed on Earth. Mortally wounded, Abin Sur commanded his power-ring, a device which could materialise thoughts, to seek out a replacement ring-bearer; honest and without fear.

Scanning the planet, it had selected Jordan and brought him to an appointment with destiny. The dying alien bequeathed the ring, a lantern-shaped Battery of Power and his noble profession to the astonished Earthman.

In six pages ‘S.O.S Green Lantern’ established the characters, scenario and narrative thrust of a series that would become the spine of DC continuity, opening a universe of wonder to wide eyed readers of all ages.

However, after a decade of earthly crime-busting, interstellar intrigue and spectacular science fiction shenanigans the Silver Age Green Lantern was about to become one of the earliest big-name casualties of the downturn in superhero sales in 1969 prompting Editor Schwartz to try something extraordinary to rescue the series.

The result was a bold experiment which created a fad for socially relevant, ecologically aware, mature stories which spread throughout DC’s costumed hero comics and beyond; totally revolutionising the industry and nigh-radicalising readers.

Tapping superstars-in-waiting Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams to produce the revolutionary fare, Schwartz watched in fascinated disbelief as the resultant thirteen groundbreaking, landmark tales captured the tone of the times, garnered critical praise, awards and desperately valuable publicity from the outside world, whilst simultaneously registering such poor sales that the series was finally cancelled anyway, with the heroes unceremoniously packed off to the back of marginally less endangered comicbook The Flash.

The main event of this pocket-sized collection re-presents the first two landmark stories, perfectly encapsulating everything Americans were already experiencing in the bubbling cauldron of social turmoil and experimentation on their own doorsteps. Everything was challenged on principle and with issue #76 of Green Lantern (April 1970 and the first issue of the new decade) O’Neil and Adams redefined the nature of superhero adventure with their “Issues”-driven stories; transforming complacent and all-powerful establishment masked boy-scouts into uncertain, questioning champions and strident explorers of the enigma of America.

When these stories first appeared National/DC was a company in transition – just like America itself – with new ideas sought for and acted upon: a wave of fresh, raw talent was hired, akin to the very start of the industry, when excitable scarce-young creators ran wild with imagination. Their cause wasn’t hurt by the industry’s swingeing commercial decline: costs were up and the kids just weren’t buying funnybooks in the quantities they used to so perhaps it was time to see what the next generation had to offer…

O’ Neil, working in tight collaboration with hyper-realistic artist Adams, assaulted all the traditional monoliths of contemporary costumed dramas with tightly targeted, protest- driven stories. The comicbook had been re-designated Green Lantern/Green Arrow with Emerald Archer Oliver Queen constantly mouthing off as a hot-headed, liberal sounding-board and platform for a generation-in-crisis whilst staid, quasi-reactionary GL Hal Jordan played the part of the oblivious but well-meaning old guard. At least the Ring-Slinger was able to perceive his faults and more or less willing to listen to new ideas…

‘No Evil Shall Escape My Sight!’ (inked by Frank Giacoia) is a true landmark of the medium, utterly reinventing the concept of the costumed crusader as newly-minted, freshly bankrupted millionaire Oliver (Green Arrow) Queen challenged his Justice League comrade’s cosy worldview when the lofty space-cop painfully discovered real villains wore business suits, had expense accounts, hurt people just because of skin colour and would happily poison their own nests for short-term gain…

The specific villain du jour was a wealthy landlord whose treatment of his poverty-stricken tenants wasn’t actually illegal but certainly was wickedly immoral… Of course, the fact that this yarn is also a brilliantly devious crime-thriller with science-fiction overtones didn’t exactly hurt either…

The continuation ‘Journey to Desolation’ from #77 was every bit as groundbreaking.

At the conclusion of the #76 an immortal Guardian of the Universe – known as “the Old Timer” – was assigned to accompany the Emerald Duo on a voyage to “discover America”: a soul-searching social exploration into the dichotomies which divided the nation – and a tremendously trendy and popular pastime for the nation’s disaffected citizens back then.

Their first stop brought the trio to a poverty-stricken Appalachian mining town run as a private kingdom by a ruthless entrepreneur happy to use agent-provocateurs and Nazi war criminals to keep his wage slaves in line. When a young protest singer looked likely to become the next Bob Dylan and draw unwelcome publicity, he had to be eliminated – as did the three strangers who drove into town at just the wrong moment…

Although the heroes provided temporary solutions and put away viciously human criminals, these tales were always carefully heavy-handed in exposing bigger ills and issues which couldn’t be fixed with a wave of a Green Ring; invoking an aura of helplessness that was metaphorically emphasised during this story when Hal was summarily stripped of much of his might for no longer being the willing, unquestioning stooge of his officious, high-and-mighty alien masters…

It’s impossible to assess the effect this early bookstore edition had on the evolution of comics’ status – it certainly didn’t help keep the comicbook series afloat – but  this edition certainly gave credibility to the stories themselves: a fact proved by the number of times and variety of formats these iconic adventures have been reprinted.
© 1959, 1970, 1972 National Periodical Publications, Inc.

Green Lantern/Green Arrow volume 1


By Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Frank Giacoia, Dick Giordano, Dan Adkins & Berni Wrightson (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0224-8

After nearly a decade of earthly crime-busting, interstellar intrigue and spectacular science fiction shenanigans the Silver Age Green Lantern was swiftly becoming one of the earliest big-name casualties of the downturn in superhero sales in 1969 and Editor Julie Schwartz knew something extraordinary was needed to save the series.

The result was a bold experiment that created a fad for socially relevant, ecologically aware, more mature stories which spread throughout DC costumed hero comics that totally revolutionised the industry and nigh-radicalised the readers.

Tapping superstars-in-waiting Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams to produce the revolutionary fare, Schwartz watched in fascinated disbelief as the resultant thirteen groundbreaking, landmark tales – the first seven of which are reprinted in this superb colour collection – captured the tone of the times, garnered critical praise and awards within the industry and desperately valuable publicity from the real world outside, whilst simultaneously registering such poor sales that the series was finally cancelled anyway, with the heroes unceremoniously packed off to the back of marginally less endangered comicbook The Flash.

Once safely established and doubling up the die-hard fan-base, the stories resumed their traditional themes – crime, adventure and space opera – and Green Lantern gradually grew popular enough for his own solo title once more….

By the end of the 1960s America was a bubbling cauldron of social turmoil and experimentation. Everything was challenged on principle and with issue #76 of Green Lantern (April 1970 and the first issue of the new decade) O’Neil and comics iconoclast Neal Adams utterly redefined superheroism with their “Issues”-driven stories; transforming complacent establishment masked boy-scouts into uncertain, questioning champions and strident explorers of the enigma of America.

When these stories first appeared DC was a company in transition – just like America itself – with new ideas (which, in comic-book terms meant “young writers”) being given much leeway: a veritable wave of fresh, raw talent akin to the very start of the industry, when excitable young creators ran wild with imagination. Their cause wasn’t hurt by the industry’s swingeing commercial decline: costs were up and the kids just weren’t buying funnybooks in the quantities they used to…

O’ Neil, in tight collaboration with hyper-realistic artist Adams, assaulted all the traditional monoliths of contemporary costumed dramas with tightly targeted, protest- driven stories. The comicbook had been re-designated Green Lantern/Green Arrow with Emerald Archer Oliver Queen constantly mouthing off as a hot-headed, liberal sounding-board and platform for a generation-in-crisis whilst staid, quasi-reactionary GL Hal Jordan played the part of the oblivious but well-meaning old guard. At least the Ring-Slinger was able to perceive his faults and more or less willing to listen to new ideas…

‘No Evil Shall Escape My Sight!’ (inked by Frank Giacoia) is a true landmark of the medium, utterly reinventing the concept of the costumed crusader as newly-minted, freshly bankrupted millionaire Oliver (Green Arrow) Queen challenged his Justice League comrade’s cosy worldview when the lofty space-cop painfully discovered real villains wore business suits, had expense accounts, hurt people just because of skin colour and would happily poison their own nests for short-term gain…

The specific villain du jour was a wealthy landlord whose treatment of his poverty-stricken tenants wasn’t necessarily illegal but certainly was wickedly immoral… Of course, the fact that this yarn is also a brilliantly devious crime-thriller with science-fiction overtones doesn’t exactly hurt either…

‘Journey to Desolation’ in #77 was every bit as groundbreaking.

At the conclusion of the #76 an immortal Guardian of the Universe – known as “the Old Timer” was assigned to accompany the Emerald Duo on a voyage to “discover America”: a soul-searching social exploration into the dichotomies which divided the nation – and a tremendously popular pastime for the nation’s disaffected citizens back then.

The first stop brought the trio to a poverty-stricken mining town run as a private kingdom by a ruthless entrepreneur happy to use agent-provocateurs and Nazi war criminals to keep his wage slaves in line. When a young protest singer looked likely to become the next Bob Dylan and draw unwelcome publicity, he had to be eliminated – as did the three strangers who drove into town at just the wrong moment…

Although the heroes provided temporary solutions and put away viciously human criminals, these tales were always carefully heavy-handed in exposing bigger ills and issues which couldn’t be fixed with a wave of a Green Ring; invoking an aura of helplessness that was metaphorically emphasised during this story when Hal was summarily stripped of much of his power for no longer being the willing, unquestioning stooge of his officious, high-and-mighty alien masters…

The confused and merely-mortal Green Lantern discovered another unpalatable aspect of human nature in ‘A Kind of Loving, a Way of Death!’ when Black Canary joined the peripatetic cast. Seeking to renew her stalled relationship with Green Arrow, she was waylaid by bikers, grievously injured and taken in by a charismatic hippy guru. Sadly Joshua was more Manson than Messiah and his brand of Peace and Love only extended to white people: everybody else was simply target practise…

The continuing plight of Native Americans was stunningly highlighted in ‘Ulysses Star is Still Alive!’ as corporate logging interests attempted to deprive a mountain tribe of their very last scraps of heritage, once more causing the Green Knights to take extraordinarily differing courses of action to help, whilst #80 added a science fiction gloss to a tale of judicial malfeasance in ‘Even an Immortal Can Die!’ (inked by Dick Giordano).

When the Old Timer used his powers to save Green Lantern rather than prevent a pollution catastrophe in the Pacific Northwest, he was chastised by his fellow Guardians and dispatched to the planet Gallo for judgement by the supreme arbiters of Law in the universe. His earthly friends accompanied him and found a disturbing new administration with a decidedly off-kilter view of justice…

Adams’ staggering facility for capturing likenesses added extra-piquancy to this yarn that we’re just not equipped to grasp four decades later, with the usurping, overbearing villain derived from the Judge of the infamous trial of anti-war protesters “The Chicago Eight”.

Insight into the Guardians’ history underpinned ‘Death Be My Destiny!’ when Lantern, Arrow and Canary travelled with the now-sentenced Old Timer to the ancient world of Maltus and found a world literally choking on its own out-of-control population. The uncanny cause cast unlovely light on the perceived role and worth of women in modern society…

Ending this first of a two-set volume on a more traditional note, Green Lantern/Green Arrow #82 enquired ‘How do you Fight a Nightmare?’ (with additional inks from Berni Wrightson) as Green Lantern’s greatest foe unleashed Harpies, Amazons and all manner of female furies on the hapless hero before Black Canary and Green Arrow could turn the tide, whilst asking a few more pertinent questions about women’s rights…

As well as these magnificent still-challenging epics superbly re-coloured by Cory Adams and Jack Adler this chronicle also reprints O’Neil’s effusive introduction from the hardbound. slip-cased turn-of-this-century ‘Hard-Travelling Heroes’ edition, creator biographies and a illustrated feature ‘Legacy in Print’ which pictorially examines the multifarious collected formats in which these timeless tales have been collected.

© 1970, 1971, 1992, 1977, 2000, 2004 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Showcase Presents Green Lantern volume 5


By Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, Mike Grell & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-0-85768-224-6

Returning to the usual phonebook-sized black and white tome, this fifth collection starring the Emerald Gladiator of Earth-1 (re-presenting the contents of Green Lantern/Green Arrow #76-89 – barring the all-reprint #88and the emerald back-up strips from Flash #217-221, 223-224, 226-228, 230-231, 237-238, 240-243, 245-246) generated groundbreaking, landmark tales from Denny O’Neil & Neal Adams that totally revolutionised the industry, whilst registering such poor sales that the series was cancelled and the heroes unceremoniously shipped into the back of another comicbook. Gradually the emphasis shifted back to crime, adventure and space opera and Green Lantern grew popular enough for his own solo title once more….

By the end of the 1960s America was a bubbling cauldron of social turmoil and experimentation. Everything was challenged and with issue #76 (April 1970 and the first issue of the new decade) Denny O’Neil and comics iconoclast Neal Adams utterly redefined superhero strips with their relevancy-driven stories; transforming complacent establishment masked boy-scouts into uncertain, questioning champions and strident explorers of the revolution.

‘No Evil Shall Escape My Sight!’ (inked by Frank Giacoia) is a landmark in the medium, utterly re-positioning the very concept of the costumed crusader as newly-minted ardent liberal Green Arrow challenged GL’s cosy worldview when the lofty space-cop painfully discovered real villains wore business suits, had expense accounts, hurt people just because of skin colour and would happily poison their own nests for short-term gain…

Of course, the fact that the story is a brilliant crime-thriller with science-fiction overtones magnificently illustrated doesn’t hurt either…

O’ Neil became sole scripter with this story and, in tight collaboration with ultra-realistic art-genius Adams, instantly overturned contemporary costumed dramas with their societally-targeted relevancy-driven protest-stories. The book became Green Lantern/Green Arrow with Emerald Archer Oliver Queen constantly mouthing off as a radical, liberal sounding-board and platform for a generation-in-crisis whilst staid, quasi-reactionary GL Hal Jordan played the part of the oblivious but well-meaning old guard.

At least the Ring-Slinger was aware of his faults and more or less willing to listen to new ideas…

At the time this compendium of stories first appeared DC was a company in transition – as indeed was America itself – with new ideas (which, in comic-book terms meant “young writers”) being given much leeway: a veritable wave of fresh, raw talent akin to the very start of the industry, when excitable young creators ran wild with imagination… Their cause wasn’t hurt by an industry in rapid commercial decline: costs were up and the kids just weren’t buying funnybooks in the volumes they used to…

‘Journey to Desolation’ in #77 was every bit as groundbreaking.

At the conclusion of the last issue an immortal Guardian of the Universe – hereafter known as “the Old Timer” was assigned to accompany the Emerald Duo on a voyage to “discover America”: a soul-searching social exploration into the dichotomies which divided the nation. First stop brought the trio to a poverty-stricken mining town run as a private kingdom by a ruthless entrepreneur happy to use agent-provocateurs and Nazi war criminals to keep his wage slaves in line.

When a young protest singer looked likely to become the next Bob Dylan and draw unwelcome publicity, he had to be eliminated – as did the three strangers who drove into town at just the wrong moment…

Although the heroes provided temporary solutions and put away viciously human criminals, these tales were remarkably blunt in exposing bigger ills and issues that couldn’t be fixed with a wave of a Green Ring; invoking an aura of helplessness that was metaphorically emphasised during this story when Hal was summarily stripped of much of his power for no longer being the willing, unquestioning stooge of his officious, high-and-mighty alien masters…

The confused and far-more-mortal Green Lantern discovered another unpalatable aspect of human nature in ‘A Kind of Loving, a Way of Death!’ when Black Canary joined the peripatetic cast. Seeking to renew her relationship with Green Arrow, she was waylaid by bikers, grievously injured and taken in by a charismatic hippy guru. Unfortunately Joshua was more Manson than Messiah and his brand of Peace and Love only extended to white people: everybody else was simply target practise…

The plight of Native Americans was stunningly high-lighted in ‘Ulysses Star is Still Alive!’ as corporate logging interests attempted to deprive a mountain tribe of their very last scraps of heritage, once more causing the Green Knights to take extraordinarily differing courses of action to help, whilst #80 added a science fiction gloss to a tale of judicial malfeasance in ‘Even an Immortal Can Die!’ (inked by Dick Giordano).

When the Old Timer used his powers to save Green Lantern rather than prevent a pollution catastrophe in the Pacific Northwest, he was chastised by his fellow Guardians and dispatched to the planet Gallo for judgement by the supreme arbiters of Law in the universe.

His earthly friends accompanied him and found a disturbing new administration with a decidedly off-kilter view of justice…

Adams’ staggering facility for capturing likenesses added extra-piquancy to this yarn that we’re just not equipped to grasp four decades later, with the usurping, overbearing villain derived from the Judge of the infamous trial of anti-war protesters “The Chicago Eight”.

Insight into the Guardians’ history underpinned ‘Death Be My Destiny!’ when Lantern, Arrow and Canary travelled with the now-sentenced Old Timer to the ancient world of Maltus (that’s a pun, son: just type Thomas Robert Malthus into your search engine of choice or even look in a book) and found a world literally choking on its own out-of-control population. The uncanny cause cast unlovely light on the perceived role and worth of women in modern society…

Green Lantern/Green Arrow #82 returned briefly to traditional yarn-spinning in ‘How do you Fight a Nightmare?’ (with additional inks from Berni Wrightson) as Green Lantern’s greatest foe unleashed Harpies, Amazons and all manner of female furies on the hapless hero before Black Canary and Green Arrow could turn the tide, whilst ‘…And a Child Shall Destroy Them!’ crept into Hitchcock country to reintroduce Hal Jordan’s old flame Carol Ferris and take a pop at education and discipline in the chilling tale of a supernal mutant in thrall to a doctrinaire little martinet.

Wrightson also inked #84’s staggering attack on out-of-control consumerism, shoddy cost-cutting and the seduction of bread and circuses in ‘Peril in Plastic’ before the comics world changed forever in the two-part saga ‘Snowbirds Don’t Fly’ and ‘They Say It’ll Kill Me…But They Won’t Say When!’

Depiction of drug abuse had been strictly proscribed in comicbooks since the advent of the Comics Code Authority, but by 1971 the elephant in the room was too big to ignore and both Marvel and DC addressed the issue in startlingly powerful tales that opened Pandora’s dirty box forever. When the Green Gladiators were drawn into conflict with a vicious heroin-smuggling gang Oliver Queen was horrified to discover his own sidekick had become an addict…

This sordid, nasty tale did more than merely preach or condemn, but actively sought to explain why young people turned to drugs, just what the consequences could be and even hinted at solutions older people and parents might not want to consider. Forty years on it might all seem a little naïve, but the earnest drive to do something and the sheer dark power of the story still delivers a stunning punch.

For all the critical acclaim and astonishingly innovative work done, sales of Green Lantern/Green Arrow were in a critical nosedive and nothing seemed able to stop the rot. Issue #87 featured two solo tales, the first of which ‘Beware My Power!’ introduced a bold new character to the DCU. John Stewart was a radical activist: an angry black man always spoiling for a fight and prepared to take guff from no-one. Hal Jordan was convinced the Guardians had erred when they appointed Stewart as Green Lantern’s official stand-in, but when a bigoted US presidential candidate tried to foment a race war the Emerald Gladiator was forced to change his tune.

Meanwhile bankrupted millionaire Oliver Queen was faced with a difficult decision when the retiring Mayor of Star City invited him to run for his office. ‘What Can One Man Do?’ written by Elliot Maggin, posed fascinating questions for the proud rebel by inviting him to join “the establishment” he despised, and do some lasting good. The decision was muddied by well-meaning advice from his fellow superheroes and the tragic consequences of a senseless street riot…

Issue #88 was a collection of reprints (not included here) and the series went out on an evocative, allegorical high note in #89 as ‘…And Through Him Save a World…’ (inked by Adams) pitted jobs and self-interest at Carol Ferris’ aviation company against clean air and pure streams in an naturalistic fable wherein an ecological Christ-figure made the ultimate sacrifice to save our planet and where all the Green Heroes’ power could not affect the outcome…

Although the groundbreaking series folded there, the heroics resumed a few months later in the back of The Flash #217 (August-September 1972). ‘The Killing of an Archer!’ began a run of short episodes which eventually led to Green Lantern regaining his own solo series. The O’Neil, Adams & Giordano thriller related how Green Arrow made a fatal mistake and accidentally ended the life of a criminal he was battling. Devastated, the broken swashbuckler abandoned his life and headed for the wilderness to atone or die…

The next episode ramped up the tension as a plot against the Archer was uncovered by Green Lantern and Black Canary in ‘Green Arrow is Dead!’ whilst ‘The Fate of an Archer’ saw Canary critically injured and GL track down Oliver Queen just in time to save her life…

Dick Giordano assumed full illustration duties with ‘Duel for a Death List!’ and the concluding ‘Death-Threat on Titan!’ (Flash #220-221) as the feature returned to its science fiction roots to concentrate solely on Green Lantern once more. In this pacy yarn aliens with an ancient link to the GL Corps began eliminating ring-wielders in preparation for a fantastic strike against the Guardians of the Universe.

Issue #223 continued the interstellar intrigue as an alien interloper attacked in ‘Doomsday… Minus Ten Minutes!’ whilst the next issue presented a clever, thoroughly grounded crime-caper ‘Yellow is a Dirty Little Color!’

In #226-Neal Adams drew his last GL tale ‘The Powerless Power Ring!’ before Dick Dillin, Giordano & Giacoia completed the trilogy in #227-228 with ‘My Ring… My Enemy!’ and ‘My Enemy… Myself!’ wherein atmospheric phenomena, bad mushrooms and invading aliens all combined to make the will-powered weapon a lethal liability.

Flash #230-231 featured ‘The Man From Yesterday!’ and ‘The Man of Destiny!’ (Dillin & Tex Blaisdell) as GL saved one of America’s Revolutionary heroes from aliens who had shanghaied him centuries previously, whilst #233-234 ‘World That Bet on War!’ & ‘And the Winner is Death!’ (Dillin, Terry Austin & Giordano) pitted the Emerald Avenger against gambling-crazed extraterrestrials who used soldiers from Earth history as their games-pieces…

With Flash #237-238 and 240-243 new art sensation Mike Grell came aboard for a six part saga that precipitated Green Lantern back into his own title. Beginning with ‘Let There Be Darkness!’ (inked by Bill Draut) the watchword was “cosmic” as the extra-galactic Ravagers of Olys undertook six destructive, unholy tasks in Green Lantern’s space sector. After thwarting their scheme to occlude the sun over planet Zerbon, destroying the photosynthetic inhabitants, the hero picked up a semi-sentient starfish sidekick in ‘The Day of the Falling Sky!’(Blaisdell inks) whilst preventing the artificial world of Vivarium from collapsing in upon itself.

‘The Floods Will Come!’ brought the Olys to planets Archos, where they attempted to submerge all the landmasses and drown the stone-age dwellers thriving there and Jotham, where the Ravagers almost extinguished the sun in ‘To Kill a Star!’

Earth was the target in ‘All Creatures Great and Small!’ as the Olys used their incredible technology to shrink all mammals but no sooner had Green Lantern negated that threat than the invaders’ de-evolutionary weapons were activated in ‘Dust of the Earth!’ (Austin inks).

Luckily a hominid GL was even more formidable than his Homo Sapiens self…

The buzz of the O’Neil/Grell epic assured Green Lantern of his own series once more, but before the re-launch Flash #345-346 presented one last two-part, back-up bonanza as Dillin & Austin illustrated the eerie mutation of vegetable-themed villain Jason Woodrue who transformed himself into a horrendous monster in ‘Perilous Plan of the Plant Master!’ before subjecting GL to ‘The Fury of the Floronic Man!

From challenging tales of social injustice back to plot-driven sagas of wit and courage, packed with a shining, optimistic sense of wonder and bristling with high-octane action, these evergreen adventures signalled the end of the Silver Age of Comics. Illustrated by some of the most revered names in the business, the exploits in this volume closed one chapter in the life of Green Lantern and opened the doors to today’s sleek and stellar sentinel of the stars.

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