Justice League of America: A Celebration of 60 Years


By Gardner Fox, Dennis O’Neil, Steve Englehart, Gerry Conway, Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Brad Meltzer, Geoff Johns, Scott Snyder, Mike Sekowsky, Dick Dillin, George Pérez, Pat Broderick, Carmine Infantino, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano, Gil Kane, Brian Bolland, Joe Kubert, Chuck Patton, Kevin Maguire, Howard Porter, Ed Benes, Jim Lee, Jim Cheung & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-9951-4 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Comic Perfection and the ideal Stocking Stuffer… 10/10

A keystone of the DC Universe, the Justice League of America is the reason we have comics industry today. This stunning compilation – part of a series reintroducing and exploiting the comics pedigree of veteran DC icons and concepts – is available in hardback and digital formats and offers a too-brief but astoundingly enticing sequence of snapshots detailing how the World’s Greatest Superheroes came to be, and be and be again…

Collecting material from The Brave and the Bold #28; Justice League of America #29, 30, 77, 140, 144, 200; Justice League of America Annual #2, Justice League #1, 43 and Justice League of America volume 4 #1 (covering July 1960- August 2018), the landmarks selected are all preceded by a brief critical analysis of the significant stages in their development, beginning with Part I – 1960-1964: The Happy Harbor Years

After the actual invention of the comicbook superhero – by which we mean the launch of Superman in June 1938 – the most significant event in the industry’s progress was the combination of individual sales-points into a group. Thus, what seems blindingly obvious to everyone with the benefit of four-colour hindsight was irrefutably proven – a number of popular characters could multiply readership by combining forces. Plus of course, a whole bunch of superheroes is a lot cooler than just one – or even one and a sidekick…

The Justice Society of America is rightly revered as a true landmark in the development of comic books, and – when Julius Schwartz began reviving and revitalising the nigh-defunct superhero genre in 1956 – the true key moment came a few years later with the inevitable teaming of his freshly reconfigured mystery men…

When wedded to the relatively unchanged big guns who had weathered the first fall of the Superhero at the beginning of the 1950s, the result was a new, modern, Space-Age version of the JSA and the birth of a new mythology.

That moment that changed everything for us baby-boomers came with issue #28 of The Brave and the Bold, a classical adventure title that had recently become a try-out magazine like Showcase.

Just in time for Christmas 1959, ads began running…

“Just Imagine! The mightiest heroes of our time… have banded together as the Justice League of America to stamp out the forces of evil wherever and whenever they appear!”

When the Justice League of America was launched in issue #28 of The Brave and the Bold (March 1960) it cemented the growth and validity of the genre, triggering an explosion of new characters at every company producing comics in America and even spread to the rest of the world as the 1960s progressed.

Crafted by Gardner Fox & Mike Sekowsky with inking from Bernard Sachs, Joe Giella & Murphy Anderson, ‘Starro the Conqueror!’ saw Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and J’onn J’onzz – Manhunter from Mars unite to defeat a marauding alien starfish whilst Superman and Batman stood by (in those naive days editors feared that their top characters could be “over-exposed” and consequently lose popularity). The team also picked up an average American kid as a mascot. “Typical teenager” Snapper Carr would prove a focus of fan controversy for decades to come…

The series went from strength to strength and triumph to triumph, peaking early with a classic revival as the team met the Justice Society of America, now sensibly relegated to an alternate Earth rather callously designated Earth-2.

From issues #29-30, ‘Crisis on Earth-Three’ and ‘The Most Dangerous Earth of All!’ reprise the first groundbreaking team-up of the JLA and JSA, after the metahuman marvels of yet another alternate Earth discover the secret of multiversal travel. Unfortunately, Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Johnny Quick and Power Ring are ruthless villains from a world without heroes who see the costumed crusaders of the JLA and JSA as living practice-dummies to sharpen their evil skills upon…

With this cracking 2-part thriller a tradition of annual summer team-ups was solidly entrenched in heroic lore, giving fans endless joys for years to come and making the approaching end of school holidays less gloomy than they could have been.

Although a monster hit riding a global wave of popularity for all things masked and caped, the JLA suffered like all superhero features when tastes changed as the decade closed. Like all the survivors, the team adapted and changed…

A potted history of that interregnum, emphasising the contributions of iconoclastic scripters Denny O’Neil and Steve Englehart follows in Part II – 1969-1977: The Satellite Years after which groundbreaking issue #77 exposes a new kind of America.

America was a bubbling cauldron of social turmoil and experimentation at this time, with established beliefs constantly challenged and many previously cosy comics features were using their pages to confront issues of race, equality, and ecological decline. O’Neil and his young colleagues began to utterly redefine superhero strips with their relevancy-driven stories; transforming complacent establishment masked boy-scouts into uncertain, questioning champions and strident explorers of the revolution.

Here, the team’s mascot suddenly grows up and demands to be taken seriously. The drama commences with the heroes’ collective confidence and worldview shattered as enigmatic political populist Joe Dough suborns and compromises their beloved teen sidekick in ‘Snapper Carr… Super-Traitor!’ Crafted by O’Neil, Dick Dillin & Joe Giella, the coming-of age-yarn changed the comfy, cosy superhero game forever…

By March 1977, the team was back in traditional territory but still shaking up the readership. Issue #140, by Steve Englehart, Dick Dillin & Frank McLaughlin questioned heroism itself in ‘No Man Escapes the Manhunter!’ as the venerable Guardians of the Universe and their beloved Green Lanterns are accused of planetary extinctions – until the JLA expose a hidden ancient foe determined to destroy galactic civilisation…

Sadly, all you get here is the opening chapter, but it’s worth tracking down the entire saga elsewhere…

Closely following is issue #144 ‘The Origin of the Justice League – Minus One!’ (July 1977) by the same team. Here Green Arrow does a little checking and discovers the team have been lying about how and why they first got together: a smart and hugely enjoyable conspiracy thriller guest-starring every late 1950’s star in the DC firmament…

Change is a comic book constant and events described in the essay fill in crucial context before Part III: The Detroit Years 1982-1987 precis’ the first Beginning of the End for the World’s Greatest Superheroes, starting with blockbuster anniversary giant #200.

Here scripter Gerry Conway and artists George Pérez, Pat Broderick, Carmine Infantino, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano, Gil Kane, Brian Bolland, Joe Kubert, Brett Breeding, Terry Austin & Frank Giacoia reprise, re-evaluate and relive the alien Appellax invasion that brought the heroes together in ‘A League Divided’: a blockbuster saga involving every past member…

Big changes began in Justice League of America Annual #2 1984. ‘The End of the Justice League!’ by Conway, Chuck Patton & Dave Hunt saw the team disband following a too-close-to-call alien attack, leading Aquaman to recruit a squad of full-time agents rather than part-time champions. Relocating to street level in Detroit, his old guard veterans Elongated Man, Martian Manhunter, Zatanna and Vixen also began training a next generation of costumed crusaders…

The biggest innovation came after a couple of publishing events recreated the universe and a new kind of team was instituted. In 1986 DC’s editorial leaders felt their 50-year continuity was stopping them winning new readers. The solution was a colossal braided-mega series to streamline, redefine and even add new characters to the mix.

The worlds-shattering, reality-altering bombast of Crisis on Infinite Earths was such a spectacular commercial success, those movers-&-shakers felt more than justified in revamping a number of their hoariest icons for their next fifty years of publishing. As well as Superman, Flash, and Wonder Woman, the moribund and unhappy Justice League of Americawas earmarked for a radical revision. Editor Andy Helfer assembled plotter Keith Giffen, scripter J.M. DeMatteis and untried penciller Kevin Maguire to produce an utterly new approach to the superhero monolith: they played them for laughs…

The series launched as Justice League with a May 1987 cover-date before retitling itself as Justice League International with #7. The new team was formed from the ashes of the old on the basis of events comprising follow-up crossover-event Legends. The gathering comprised a roster of relative second-stringers as America’s newest champions – Black Canary, Blue Beetle, Captain Marvel (now Shazam!), Dr. Fate, Green Lantern Guy Gardner and Mr. Miraclewith heavyweights Batman and Martian Manhunter J’onn J’onzz as nominal straight-men.

The first story introduced charismatic filthy-rich manipulator Maxwell Lord – who used wealth and influence to recreate the neophyte and rather shambolic team who started their march to glory by fighting and defeating a bunch of rather inept terrorist bombers in initial outing ‘Born Again’ (Giffen, DeMatteis Maguire & Terry Austin).

An eventful decade passed and the team were rebooted again, as described in Part IV: The Watchtower Years 1986-2003

After the Silver Age’s greatest team-book died a slow, painful, wasting death, not once but twice, DC were taking no chances with their next revival of the Justice League of America, tapping Big Ideas wünderkind Grant Morrison to reconstruct the group and the franchise.

The result was a gleaming paradigm of comic book perfection which again started magnificently before gradually losing the attention and favour of its originally rabid fan-base. Apparently, we’re a really fickle and shallow bunch, us comics fans…

That idea that really clicked? Put everybody’s favourite Big-Name superheroes back in the team.

It worked, but only because as well as name recognition and star quantity, there was a huge input of creative quality. The stories were smart, fast-paced, compelling, challengingly large-scale and drawn with effervescent vitality. With JLA you could see all the work undertaken to make it the best it could be on every page.

The drama begins in ‘Them!’ (January 1997 by Morrison, Howard Porter & John Dell) as a family of alien super-beings called the Hyperclan dramatically land on Earth and declare that they’re going to usher in a new Golden Age – at least by their standards.

Almost simultaneously the current iteration of the Justice League is attacked in their orbital satellite and only narrowly escape utter destruction. Tragically, one of their number does not survive…

Hyperclan’s very public promises to make Earth a paradise and attendant charm offensive does not impress veteran heroes Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter and Aquaman or even the latest incarnations of Flash and Green Lantern.

These legends see their methods and careers questioned and are not impressed by seeming miracles or summary executions of super-criminals in the streets. They know there’s something not right about the overbearing sanctimonious newcomers…

The hits kept coming: a strung of superb adventures that enticed the readership. One of the very best and often cited as one of the best Batman stories ever created, multi-part paean to paranoia Tower of Babel saw immortal eco-terrorist Ra’s Al Ghul’s latest plan to winnow Earth’s human population to manageable levels well underway. Again, only the first instalment is here but you know where else to look…

Issue #43 declared ‘Survival of the Fittest’ (by Mark Waid, Porter & Drew Geraci), as a series of perfectly planned pre-emptive strikes cripple Martian Manhunter, Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Plastic Man and Green Lantern whilst Batman is taken out of the game by the simple expedient of stealing his parents’ remains from their graves…

Comics stars increasingly became multi-media franchises at the beginning of this century, and Part V: The Crisis Years 2006-2011 acknowledges the change as the printed form started a constant stream of ever-escalating blockbuster scenarios to compete. A perfect example is Justice League of America volume 4 #1 (October 2006) as Brad Meltzer, Ed Benes & Sandra Hope examine ‘Life’.

Thanks to the events Infinite Crisis, One Year Later and 52, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman convene as a star-chamber to reform the Justice League of America as a force for good, only to discover that events have escaped them and a new team has already congealed (I really can’t think of a better term) to defeat the imminent menace of Professor Ivo, Felix Faust and the lethal android Amazo, plus a fearsome mystery mastermind and a few classic villains as well.

The tale is told through the heartbreaking personal tragedy of the Red Tornado, who achieves his deepest desire only to have it torn from him: an enjoyable if complex drama that hides its true purpose – that of repositioning the company’s core team in an expanded DCU which encompasses all media, tacitly accepting influences from TV shows, movies and animated cartoons underpinning everything – even the Super Friends and Justice League Unlimited-inspired HQ.

In 2011, DC took a draconian leap: restarting their entire line and continuity with a “New 52”. Justice League volume 2 #1 (November) led from the front as ‘Justice League Part One’ by biggest guns Geoff Johns, Jim Lee & Scott Williams introduced a number of newly debuted heroes acrimoniously pulled together to fight an alien invader called Darkseid

This celebration concludes with Part VI: The Media Era 1986-2018 and Justice League volume 4 #1 (August 2018) wherein Scott Snyder, Jim Cheung & Mark Morales kick off a colossal, years-long company-wide event. ‘The Totality Part 1’ sees the universe fall apart, its creator escape eternal imprisonment and the JLA hard-pressed to prevent the final triumph of Evil as represented by Lex Luthor and his Legion of Doom

Adding immeasurably to the wonderment is a superb gallery of covers by Sekowsky, Anderson, Rich Buckler, Dillin & McLaughlin, Pérez, Patton & Giordano, Maguire & Austin, Porter, Dell & Geraci, Ed & Mariah Benes, Lee & Williams and Jim Cheung.

The Justice League of America has a long, proud history of shaking things up and providing dynamic provocative, drama delivered with quality artwork. This compelling assortment is staggeringly entertaining and a monolithic testament to the inestimable value of a strong core concept matured over decades of innovation.
© 1960, 1964, 1969, 1977, 1982, 1984, 1987, 1997, 2000, 2006, 2005, 2011, 2018, 2020 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

The Golden Age Green Lantern Archives volume 1


By Bill Finger, Martin Nodell, E.E. Hibbard, Irwin Hasen & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-56389-507-4

Thanks to comics genius and editorial wunderkind Sheldon Mayer, the innovative fledgling company All-American Comics – who co-published in association with and would eventually be absorbed by DC – published the first comic book super-speedster in Flash Comics. They followed up a few months later with another evergreen and immortal all-star.

The Green Lantern debuted in issue #16 of the company’s flagship title just as superheroes began to truly dominate the market, supplanting newspaper strip reprints and stock genre characters in the still primarily anthologised comic books. The Emerald Gladiator would be swiftly joined in All-American Comics by The Atom, Red Tornado, Sargon the Sorcerer and Doctor Mid-Nite until eventually only gag strips such Mutt and Jeff and exceptional topical tough-guy military strips Hop Harrigan (Ace of the Airwaves) and Red, White and Blue remained to represent mere mortal heroes.

At least, until tastes shifted again after the war and costumed crusaders faded away, to be replaced by cowboys, cops and private eyes…

Devised by up-and-coming cartoonist Martin Nodell (and fleshed out by Bill Finger in the same generally unsung way he had contributed to the success of Batman), Green Lantern soon became AA’s second smash sensation.

The arcane avenger gained his own solo-starring title little more than a year after his premiere and appeared in other anthologies such as Comics Cavalcade and All Star Comics for just over a decade before, like most first-generation superheroes, he faded away in the early1950s. However, he first suffered the uniquely humiliating fate of being edged out of his own strip and comic book by his pet, Streak the Wonder Dog

However, that’s the stuff of other reviews. This spectacular quirkily beguiling deluxe Archive edition (collecting the Sentinel of Justice’s appearances from All-American Comics #16-30 – covering July 1940 to September 1941 as well as Green Lantern #1 (Fall 1941)) opens with a rousing reminiscence from Nodell in a Foreword which discusses the origins of the character before the parade of raw, graphic enchantment starts with the incredible history of The Green Flame of Life

Ambitious young engineer Alan Scott only survives the sabotage and destruction of a passenger-packed train due to the intervention of a battered old railway lantern. Bathed in its eerie emerald light he is regaled by a mysterious green voice with the legend of how a meteor once fell in ancient China and spoke to the people, predicting Death, Life and Power.

The star-stone’s viridian glow brought doom to the savant who reshaped it into a lamp, sanity to a madman centuries later and now promised incredible might to bring justice to the innocent…

Instructing Scott to fashion a ring from its metal and draw a charge of power from the lantern every 24 hours, the ancient artefact urges the engineer to use his formidable willpower to end all evil: a mission Scott eagerly takes up by promptly crushing corrupt industrialist Dekker – who had callously caused wholesale death just to secure a lucrative rail contract.

The ring made Scott immune to all minerals and metals, enabled him to fly and pass through walls, but as he battled Dekker’s thugs the grim avenger painfully discovers that living – perhaps organic – materials such as wood or rubber can penetrate his jade defences and cause him mortal harm…

The saboteurs duly punished, Scott resolves to carry on the fight and devises a “bizarre costume” to disguise his identity and strike fear and awe into wrongdoers…

Most of the stories at this time were untitled, and All-American Comics #17 (August 1940) found Scott in Metropolis (long before it became the fictional home of Superman) where his new employer is squeezed out of a building contract by a crooked City Commissioner in bed with racketeers. With lives at risk from shoddy construction, the Green Lantern moves to stop the gangsters. He nearly loses his life to overconfidence before finally triumphing, after which #18 finds Scott visiting the 1940 New York World’s Fair.

This yarn (which I suspect was devised for DC’s legendary comicbook premium New York World’s Fair Comics, but shelved at the last moment) introduces feisty romantic interest Irene Miller as she attempts to shoot the gangster who framed her brother. Naturally, gallant he-man Scott had to get involved, promptly discovering untouchable gang-boss Murdock owns his own Judge, by the simple expedient of holding the lawman’s daughter captive…

However, once Alan applies his keen wits and ruthless mystic might to the problem Murdock’s power – and life – are forfeit, after which, in All-American Comics #19, Scott saves a man from an attempted hit-and-run and finds himself ferreting out a deadly ring of insurance scammers collecting big pay-outs through inflicting “accidents” upon unsuspecting citizens.

Issue #20 opened with a quick recap of GL’s origin before instituting a major change in the young engineer’s life. Following the gunning down of a roving radio announcer and assassination of the reporter’s wife, our hero investigates APEX Broadcasting System in Capitol City… and again meets Irene Miller.

She works at APEX, and with Alan’s help uncovers a scheme whereby broadcasts are used to transmit coded instructions to merciless smugglers. Once the Ring-wielder mops up the cunning gang and their inside man, engineer Scott takes a job at the company and begins a hapless romantic pursuit of capable, valiant Irene.

Thanks to scripter Finger, Green Lantern was initially a grim, mysterious and spookily implacable figure of vengeance weeding out criminals and gangsters but, just as with early Batman sagas, there was always a strong undercurrent of social issues, ballsy sentimentality and human drama.

All-American #21 has the hero expose a cruel con wherein a crooked lawyer presses young criminal Cub Brenner into posing as the long-lost son of a wealthy couple to steal their fortune. Of course, the kid has a change of heart and everything ends happily, but not before stupendous skulduggery and atrocious violence ensue…

In #22, when prize-fighter Kid McKay refuses to throw a bout, mobsters abduct his wife and even temporarily overcome the fighting-mad Emerald Guardian. Moreover, when one brutal thug puts on the magic ring, he swiftly suffers a ghastly punishment which allows GL to emerge victorious…

Slick veteran Everett E. Hibbard provided the art for #23, and his famed light touch frames GL’s development into a less fearsome and more public hero. As Irene continues to rebuff Alan’s advances – in vain hopes of landing his magnificent mystery man alter ego – the engineer accompanies her to interview movie star Delia Day and stumbles into a cruel blackmail racket.

Despite their best efforts the net result is heartbreak, tragedy and many deaths. Issue #24 then sees the Man of Light going undercover to expose philanthropist tycoon R.J. Karns, who maintains his vast fortune by selling unemployed Americans into slavery on a tropical Devil’s Island, whilst #25 finds Irene uncovering sabotage at a steel mill.

With GL’s unsuspected help she then exposes purported enemy mastermind The Leader as no more than an unscrupulous American insider trader trying to force prices down for a simple Capitalist coup…

Celebrated strip cartoonist Irwin Hasen began his long association with Green Lantern in #26 when the hero aids swindled citizens whose lending agreements with a loan shark were being imperceptibly altered by a forger to keep them paying in perpetuity, after which the artist illustrated the debut appearance of overnight sensation Doiby Dickles in All-American #27 (June 1941).

The rotund, middle-aged Brooklyn-born cab driver was simply intended as light foil and occasional sidekick for the poker-faced Emerald Avenger but rapidly grew to be one of the most popular and beloved comedy stooges of the era; soon sharing covers and even by-lines with the star.

In this initial dramatic outing, he bravely defends fare Irene (sorry: irresistible – awful, but irresistible) from assailants as she carries plans for a new radio receiver device. For his noble efforts, Doiby is sought out and thanked by Green Lantern. After the verdant crusader investigates further, he discovers enemy agents at the root of the problem, but when Irene is again targeted, the Emerald Avenger was seemingly killed…

This time, to save Miss Miller, Doiby disguises himself as “de Lantrin” and confronts the killers alone before the real deal turns up to end things. As a reward, the Brooklyn bravo is offered an unofficial partnership…

In #28 the convenient death of millionaire Cyrus Brand and a suspicious bequest to a wastrel nephew lead Irene, Doiby and Alan to a sinister gangster dubbed The Spider who manufactures deaths by natural causes, after which #29 finds GL and the corpulent cabbie hunting mobster Mitch Hogan, who forces pharmacies to buy his counterfeit drugs and products. The brute utilises strong-arm tactics to ensure even the courts carry out his wishes – at least until the Lantern and his wrench-wielding buddy give him a dose of his own medicine…

The last All-American yarn here is from issue #30 (cover-dated September 1941) and again sees Irene sticking her nose into other peoples’ business. This time she exposes a brace of crooked bail bondsmen exploiting former criminals trying to go straight, before being again kidnapped…

This raw and vital high-energy compilation ends with the stirring contents of Green Lantern #1 from Fall 1941, scripted by Finger and exclusively illustrated by Nodell, who had by this time dropped his potentially face-saving pseudonym Mart “Dellon”.

The magic began with a 2-page origin recap in ‘Green Lantern – His Personal History’, after which ‘The Masquerading Mare!’ sees GL and Doiby smash the schemes of racketeer Scar Jorgis who goes to quite extraordinary lengths to obtain a racehorse inherited by Irene.

Following an article by Dr. William Moulton Marston (an eminent psychologist familiar to us today as the creator of Wonder Woman) in which he discusses the topic of ‘Will Power’, the comic thrills resume when a city official is accused of mishandling funds allocated to buy pneumonia serum in ‘Disease!!’

Although Green Lantern and Doiby spearhead a campaign to raise money to prevent an epidemic, events take a dark turn when the untouchable, unimpeachable Boss Filch experiences personal tragedy and exposes his grafting silent partners high in the city’s governing hierarchy…

Blistering spectacle is the star of ‘Arson in the Slums’, as Alan and Irene are entangled in a crusading publisher’s strident campaign to renovate a ghetto. Of course, the philanthropic Barton and his real estate pal Murker have only altruistic reasons for their drive to re-house the city’s poorest citizens. Sure, they do…

Doiby is absent from that high octane thriller but guest-stars with the Emerald Ace in prose tale ‘Hop Harrigan in “Trailers of Treachery”’ – by an unknown scripter and probably illustrated by Sheldon Mayer – a ripping yarn starring AA’s aviation ace (and star of his own radio show) after which ‘Green Lantern’ and Doiby travel South of the Border to scenic Landavo to investigate tampering with APEX’s short-wave station and end up in a civil war.

They soon discover the entire affair has been fomented by foreign agents intent on destroying democracy on the continent…

With the threat of involvement in the “European War” a constant subject of American headlines, this sort of spy story was gradually superseding general gangster yarns, and as Green Lantern displayed his full bombastic might against tanks, fighter planes and invading armies, nobody realised that within mere months America and the entire comic book industry were to be refitted and reconfigured beyond all recognition. Soon mystery men would become patriotic morale boosters parading and sermonising ad infinitum in every corner of the industry’s output as the real world brutally intruded on the hearts and minds of the nation…

Including a breathtaking selection of stunning and powerfully evocative covers by Sheldon Moldoff, Hasen & Howard Purcell, this magnificent book is a sheer delight for lovers of the early Fights ‘n’ Tights genre: gripping, imaginative and exuberantly exciting – but yet again remains unavailable in digital formats. One day, though…
© 1940, 1941, 1999 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo volume 3


By Jim Aparo with Bob Haney, Mike W. Barr, Len Wein, Gerry Conway, Denny O’Neil, Cary Burkett, Bill Kelly, Paul Kupperberg, Martin Pasko, Michael Fleisher, Alan Brennert, John Byrne & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-7161-9 (HB)

After periods as a historical adventure and try-out vehicle, The Brave and the Bold proceeded to win critical as well as commercial acclaim through team-ups. Pairing regular writer Bob Haney with the best artists available, a succession of DC stars joined forces before the comicbook hit its winning formula.

The winning format – featuring mass-media superstar Batman with other rotating, luminaries of the DC universe in complete stand-alone stories – paid big dividends, especially after the feature finally found a permanent artist to follow a variety of illustrators including Ramona Fradon, Neal Adams, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito, Irv Novick, Nick Cardy, Bob Brown and others…

At this time editors favoured regular if not permanent creative teams, feeling that a sense of visual and even narrative continuity would avoid confusion amongst younger readers and the slickly versatile Jim Aparo was a perfect match for a drawing brief that could encompass the entire DC pantheon and all of time, space and relative dimensions in any single season…

James N. Aparo (August 24, 1932 – July 19, 2005) was a true quiet giant of comicbooks. Self-taught, he grew up in New Britain Connecticut, and after failing to join EC Comics whilst in his 20s, slipped easily into advertising, newspaper and fashion illustration. Even after finally becoming a comics artist he assiduously maintained his links with his first career.

For most of his career Aparo was a triple-threat, pencilling, inking and lettering his pages. In 1963 he began drawing Ralph Kanna’s newspaper strip Stern Wheeler, and three years later began working on a wide range of features for go-getting visionary editor Dick Giordano at Charlton Comics. Aparo especially shone on the minor company’s licensed big gun The Phantom

When Giordano was lured away to National/DC in 1968 he brought his top stars (primarily Steve Ditko, Steve Skeates and Aparo) with him. Aparo began his lengthy, life-long association with DC illustrating and reinvigorating moribund title Aquaman – although he continued with The Phantom until his duties increased with the addition of numerous short stories for the monolith’s burgeoning horror anthologies and revived 1950s supernatural hero The Phantom Stranger

Aparo went on to become an award-winning mainstay of DC’s artistic arsenal, with stellar runs on The Spectre, The Outsiders and Green Arrow but his star was always linked to Batman’s…

A broadening of Aparo’s brief is celebrated in this third sturdy hardback and/or eBook compilation, which gathers the prestigious lead stories from Detective Comics #444-446, 448, 468-470, 480, 492-499, 501, 502, 508, 509, Batman Family #17, The Brave and the Bold #152, 154-178, 180-182 and Untold Legend of the Batman #1-3 including all pertinent covers – cumulatively spanning January 1975 through January 1982. This fabulous celebration opens sans preamble with the first three chapters of an extended saga from Detective Comics. Written by Len Wein, the ‘Bat-Murderer!’ serial launched in #444, with the “World’s Greatest Detective” perfectly framed for the killing of his occasional lover Talia Al Ghul. Hunted in his own city, Batman’s dilemma worsens in #445 as a ‘Break-in at the Big House!’ draws him deeper into the deadly conspiracy, after incarcerated Ra’s Al Ghul apparently kills himself to further bury the Dark Knight…

Although a desperate fugitive, the Gotham Guardian finds time to solve actual murders and capture another obsessive crazy in #446’s ‘Slaughter in Silver!’ featuring the debut of certified whacko Sterling Silversmith

The Bat-Murderer epic was completed by other artists and is therefore not included here (you can see it in other collections such as Tales of the Batman: Len Wein) but Aparo did limn the last cover – #448 – as well as Detective’s 468, 469 and 470, before his next interior drama surfaced in Batman Family #17 (April/May 1978). Written by Gerry Conway, ‘Scars!’ pits Batman and Robin against a deranged monster literally de-facing beautiful women, before the cover for Detective #480 and B&B #152 refocus attention on Aparo’s team-up triumphs.

Aparo and scripter Bob Haney resumed their epic run of enticing costumed with The Brave and the Bold #152 (July 1979) wherein ‘Death Has a Golden Grab!’ found the Atom helping the Caped Crimecrusher stop a deadly bullion theft. The cover of B&B #153 and 154 follow, as does the contents of the latter, with Element Man Metamorpho treading ‘The Pathway of Doom…’ to save old girlfriend Sapphire Stagg and help Batman disconnect a middle eastern smuggling pipeline…

Mike W. Barr joins Haney in scripting #155’s ‘Fugitive from Two Worlds!’ as Green Lantern clashes with the Dark knight over jurisdiction rights regarding an earth-shaking alien criminal as well as (after the cover to #156) 157’s ‘Time – My Dark Destiny!’ with alternate futurian Kamandi lost in present day Earth and under the sway of ruthless criminals…

Gerry Conway steps in to script a brief reunion with Wonder Woman in #158’s ‘Yesterday Never Dies!’ as memory-warping foe Déjà vu attacks international diplomats whilst Denny O’Neil teams Batman with arch enemy Ra’s Al Ghul to prevent environmental disaster in #159’s ‘The Crystal Armageddon’ Denny O’Neil and Cary Burkett makes ‘The Brimstone Connection’ in #160, working with Supergirl to free kidnap victims and thwart a scheme by devious Colonel Sulphur to steal experimental rocket fuel…

The contents for the next two The Brave and the Bold’s (plus covers for #161-164) depict Conway’s ‘A Tale of Two Heroes!’ – as Batman and star-faring Adam Strange trade locales and murder mysteries and Bill Kelley’s ‘Operation: Time Bomb!’ (with Earth-2’s Batman joining Sgt. Rock to battle Nazi advances and crazed soldier the Iron Major in war-torn France) before a landmark miniseries took up Aparo’s full attention.

Researched and scripted by Len Wein, Untold Legend of the Batman #1-3 originally ran from July-September 1980 and ambitiously rationalised the hero’s entire career into one seamless whole. Interspersed with the covers to Detective #492-494 and B&B #165-167, it begins with ‘In the Beginning’ pencilled by John Byrne with Aparo inking before ‘With Friends Like These…’ and ‘The Man Behind the Mask!’ – with Aparo on full art duties – solves a bizarre mystery that had the Caped Crusader frantically re-examining his past…

Cary Burkett returns in Brave and the Bold #168 (November 1980) to liberate ‘Shackles of the Mind!’ as Green Arrow and Batman unite to save a reformed criminal and skilled escapologist from a maniac’s mind control.

The cover of Detective #496 precedes B&B #169‘Angel of Mercy, Angel of Death!’ (by Barr and cover-dated December 1980) wherein sorceress Zatanna seeks the Dark Knight’s aid for a faith healer who is not what she seems and is followed by the cover for Detective #497 the thrilling cover/contents of B&B #170 wherein Burkett concludes his exceptional thriller series Nemesis with Batman helping the face-shifting superspy to determine ‘If Justice is Blind!’

Covers for Detective #498-499, 501-502 and B&B #171-173 bracket April 1981’s Brave and the Bold #173 and 174 as Conway explains ‘One of Us is not One of Us’ when the almighty Guardians of the Universe recruit Earth’s Dark-knight Detective to determine who is the impostor in their august midst before calling in trusted GL Hal Jordan ‘To Trap an Immortal’

For B&B #175 Paul Kupperbergteams ace reporter Lois Lane with Batman to battle killer cyborg Metallo and determine what drives The Heart of the Monster’, before Martin Pasko steps in for #176, reuniting the Gotham Gangbuster with the terrifying Swamp Thing in convoluted tale of murder and frame-ups ‘The Delta Connection!’

For #177, Barr returns to pose a complex and twisted mystery involving Batman and Elongated Man in ‘The Hangman Club Murders!’, after which rising star Alan Brennert comes aboard for #178. ‘Paperchase’ finds Batman and eerie avenger The Creeper tracking a monstrous shapeshifting killer fuelled by rage and indignation and driving the city into madness.

Michael Fleischer arrived for #180 (November 1980) and took the series into unknown realms as ‘The Scepter of the Dragon God!’ sees Chinese wizard Wa’an-Zen steal enough mystic artefacts to conquer Earth and destroy The Spectre. Foolishly, the mystic has gravely underestimated the skill and bravery of merely mortal Batman…

Bracketed by covers for Detective #508 and 509, B&B #181 features Brennert & Aparo paying tribute to the societally-convulsive Sixties as ‘Time, See What’s Become of Me…’ revisits teen trouble-shooters Hawk and the Dove who have gotten older but no wiser in their passionate defence of the philosophies of robust interventionist action and devout pacifism. When increasingly unstable Hawk accidentally causes the death of a drug-dealers’ son, it triggers an intervention by Batman and a painful reconciliation between the long-divided brothers…

This volume concludes with another moving Brennert bonanza as B&B #182’s ‘Interlude on Earth-2’ finds “our” Batman inexplicably drawn to that parallel world in the aftermath of the death of its own Dark Knight. Confronted by and greatly discomforting grieving Dick GraysonRobin of Earth-2 – and original Batwoman Kathy Kane, the Batman must nevertheless help them defeat resurgent maniac foe Hugo Strange before he can return to his rightful place and time…

These tales are just as fresh and welcoming today, their themes and premises are just as immediate now as then and Jim Aparo’s magnificent art is still as compelling and engrossing as it always was. This is a Bat-book literally everybody can enjoy.

Here 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 one 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 can anybody resist? More importantly: why should you…?
© 1974, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1982, 2017 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Green Lantern: The Silver Age volume 4


By Gardner Fox, John Broome, Gil Kane, Sid Greene & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-9435-9 (TPB)

After a hugely successful revival and reworking of Golden Age Great The Flash, DC (National Periodical Publications as they were then) were keen to build on a resurgent superhero trend. Showcase #22 hit newsstands at the same time as the fourth issue of the new Flash comicbook – #108 – and once again the guiding lights were Editor Julie Schwartz and writer John Broome. Assigned as illustrator was action ace Gil Kane, generally inked by Joe Giella.

Hal Jordan was a brash young test pilot in California when an alien policeman crashed his spaceship on Earth. Mortally wounded, Abin Sur commanded his ring – a device which could materialise thoughts – to seek out a replacement officer: one both honest and without fear.

Scanning the planet, the wonder weapon selected Jordan and whisked him to the crash-site. The dying alien bequeathed his ring, the lantern-shaped Battery of Power and his profession to the astonished Earthman.

In 6 pages ‘S.O.S Green Lantern’ established characters, scenario and narrative thrust of a series that would increasingly become the spine of DC continuity. Now that the concept of the superhero was swiftly being re-established among the buying public, there was no shortage of gaudily clad competition. The better books thrived by having something a little “extra”.

With Green Lantern that was primarily the superb scripts of John Broome and Gardner Fox and the astounding drawing of Gil Kane (ably abetted in this collection by primary inker Sic Greene) whose dynamic anatomy and dramatic action scenes were maturing with every page he drew. Happily, the concept itself was also a provider of boundless opportunity.

Other heroes had extraterrestrial, other-dimensional and even trans-temporal adventures, but the valiant champion of this series was also a cop: a lawman working for the biggest police force in the entire universe.

This fabulous fourth paperback and eBook compilation gathers Green Lantern #36-48 (April 1965 to October 1966) and, with Hal Jordan firmly established as a major star of the company firmament, increasingly became the series to provide conceptual highpoints and “big picture” foundations. These, successive creators would use to build the tight-knit history and continuity of the DC universe. At this time there was also a turning away from the simple imaginative wonder of a ring that could do anything in favour of a hero who increasingly ignored easy solutions in preference to employing his mighty fists.

What a happy coincidence then, that at this time artist Gil Kane was reaching an artistic peak, his dynamic full-body anatomical triumphs bursting with energy and crashing out of every page…

Scripted by Gardner Fox Green Lantern #36 cover-featured captivatingly bizarre mystery ‘Secret of the Power-Ringed Robot!’ (how can you resist a tale that is tag-lined “I’ve been turned into a robot… and didn’t even know it!”?) and followed that all-action conundrum with the incredible tale of Dorine Clay; a young lady who was the last hope of her race against the machinations of the dread alien Headmen in John Broome’s ‘Green Lantern’s Explosive Week-End!’

As previously stated, physical combat had been steadily overtaking ring magic in the pages of the series and all-Fox #37’s‘The Spies Who “Owned” Green Lantern!’ – despite being a twist-heavy drama of espionage and intrigue – was no exception, whilst second story ‘The Plot to Conquer the Universe!’ pitted the Emerald Crusader against Evil Star, an alien foe both immortal and invulnerable, who gave the hero plenty of reasons to lash out in spectacular, eye-popping manner.

For #38 (another all-Fox scripted affair), Jordan re-teamed with fellow Green Lantern Tomar Re to battle ‘The Menace of the Atomic Changeling!’ in a brilliant alien menace escapade counterpointed by ‘The Elixir of Immortality!’ wherein criminal mastermind Keith Kenyon absorbs a gold-based serum to become a veritable superman. He might be immune to Ring Energy (which can’t affect anything yellow, as eny old Fule kno) but eventually our hero’s flashing fists bring him low – a fact he will never forget on the many occasions he returns as merciless master criminal Goldface

Green Lantern #39 (September 1965) featured two tales by world-traveller John Broome, Kane & master inker Sid Green: opening with a return engagement for Black Hand, the Cliché Criminal entitled ‘Practice Makes the Perfect Crime!’ and ending in a bombastic slugfest with an alien prize fighter named Bru Tusfors in ‘The Fight for the Championship of the Universe!’ They were mere warm-ups for the next issue.

‘The Secret Origin of the Guardians!’ was a landmark second only to ‘Flash of Two Worlds’ (see Crisis on Multiple Earths: The Team-Ups) as Broome teamed the Emerald Gladiator with his Earth-2 counterpart Alan Scott to stop Krona, an obsessed Oan scientist whose misguided attempts to discover the origins of the universe had first introduced evil into our pristine reality billions of years ago. His actions forced his immortal brethren to become protectors of life and civilisation in an unending act of group contrition – the Guardians of the Universe.

Simultaneously high concept and action packed, this tale became the keystone of DC cosmology and a springboard for all those mega-apocalyptic publishing events such as Crisis on Infinite Earths. It has seldom been equalled and never bettered…

Gardner Fox tackled issue #41 spotlighting twisted romance in ‘The Double Life of Star Sapphire!’ as an alien power-gem once more compelled Jordan’s boss and true love Carol Ferris to subjugate and marry her sometime paramour Green Lantern, and wrote another cracking magical mystery to end the issue as extraterrestrial wizard Myrwhydden posed ‘The Challenge of the Coin Creatures!’

The next release was ‘The Other Side of the World!’ wherein Fox continued a long-running experiment in continuity with a superb tale of time-lost civilisations and an extra-dimensional invasion by the Warlock of Ys co-starring the peripatetic quester Zatanna the Magician.

At that time the top-hatted, fish-netted young sorceress appeared in a number of Julie Schwartz-edited titles, hunting her long-missing father Zatarra: a magician-hero in the Mandrake mould who had fought evil in the pages of Action Comics for over a decade beginning with the very first issue.

In true Silver Age “refit” style, Fox concocted a young and equally empowered daughter, popularising her by guest-teaming her with a selection of superheroes he was currently scripting. If you’re counting, these tales appeared in Hawkman #4, Atom #19, Green Lantern #42, and an Elongated Man back-up strip in Detective Comics #355 as well as a very slick piece of back writing to include the high-profile Caped Crusader via Detective #336 before concluding after this GL segment in Justice League of America #51. You can enjoy the entire early epic by tracking down Justice League of America: Zatanna’s Search

The much-mentioned Flash guest-starred in #43: sharing a high-powered tussle with a new tectonically terrifying nemesis in Fox’s ‘Catastrophic Crimes of Major Disaster!’ and the next issue provide two tales – an increasing rarity as book-length epics became the action-packed norm.

Oddly, second-class postage discounts had for years dictated the format of comic-books: to qualify for cheaper rates periodicals had to contain more than one feature, but when the rules were revised single, complete tales not divided into “chapters” soon proliferated. Here though are two reasons to bemoan the switch; Fox’s ‘Evil Star’s Death-Duel Summons’and Broome’s Jordan Brothers adventure ‘Saga of the Millionaire Schemer!’, offering high-intensity super-villain action and a heady, witty comedy-of-errors mystery as Hal visits his family and is embroiled in new sister-in-law Sue’s hare-brained scheme to prove her husband Jim Jordan is Green Lantern… .

Earth-2’s Green Lantern returned for another team-up in #45’s fantasy romance romp ‘Prince Peril’s Power Play’, scripted by Broome, who raised the dramatic stakes with the hero’s first continued adventure in the following issue. Preceded by a spectacular Kane pin-up, Green Lantern #46 opens with Fox’s delightfully grounded crime-thriller ‘The Jailing of Hal Jordan’, before ‘The End of a Gladiator!’ details the murder of the Earth-1 GL by old foe Dr. Polaris, concluding with his honour-laden funeral on Oa, home of the Guardians!

Broome was on fire at this time: the following issue and concluding chapter sees the hero’s corpse snatched to the 58thcentury and revived in time to save his occasional future home from a biological infection of pure evil in the spectacular triumph ‘Green Lantern Lives Again!’

Bizarrely garbed goodies and baddies were common currency at this time of incipient TV-generated “Batmania” so when gold-plated mad scientist Keith Kenyon returned it was as a dyed-in-the-wool costumed crazy for Fox’s ‘Goldface’s Grudge Fight Against Green Lantern!’, a brutal clash of opposites and perfect place to pause for the moment.

These costumed drama romps are in themselves a great read for most ages, but when also considered as the building blocks of all DC continuity they become vital fare for any fan keen to make sense of the modern superhero experience. This blockbusting book showcases the imaginative and creative peak of Broome, Fox and Kane: a plot driven plethora of adventure sagas and masterful thrillers that literally reshaped the DC Universe. Action lovers and fans of fantasy fiction couldn’t find a better example of everything that defines superhero comics.
© 1965, 1966, 2019 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Green Lantern: A Celebration of 75 Years


By Martin Nodell, Bill Finger, Alfred Bester, Robert Kanigher, John Broome, Gardner Fox, Dennis O’Neil, Steve Englehart, Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Ron Marz, Judd Winick, Geoff Johns, Paul Reinman, Alex Toth, Gil Kane, Neal Adams, Mike Grell, Joe Staton, Kevin Maguire, Darryl Banks, Randy Green, Ethan Van Sciver, Darwyn Cooke, Doug Mahnke & various (DC Comics
ISBN: 978-1-4012-5819-1 (HB)

Now a cornerstone of the DC Universe the many heroes called Green Lantern have waxed and waned over the decades and now feels much more Concept than Character.

This stunning compilation – part of a dedicated series introducing and exploiting the comics pedigree of veteran DC icons and concepts – is available in hardback and digital formats and offers an all-too-brief but astoundingly enticing sequence of snapshots detailing how assorted Emerald Gladiators have battled evil and injustice whilst entertaining millions and generations.

Collecting material from All-American Comics #16, Comic Cavalcade #6, Green Lantern volume 1 #30, Showcase #22, Green Lantern volume 2 #7, 11, 16, 40, 59, 76, 87, 188, The Flash #237-238, 240, Justice League #1, Green Lantern volume 3 #50, 51, Green Lantern /Green Lantern #1, Green Lantern: Rebirth #1, Green Lantern Secret Files and Origins 2005, #1 and Green Lantern #0 (cumulatively covering July 1940 to November 2012), the groundbreaking appearances selected are all preceded by a brief critical analysis of the significant stages in his/their development, beginning with Part I: The Green Flame Ignites 1940-1950

The first Emerald Avenger debuted in the 16th issue (July 1940) of the company’s flagship title All-American Comics, just as superheroes started to take hold, supplanting newspaper strip reprints and stock genre characters in the still primarily-anthologised comicbooks.

Crafted by Bill Finger & Martin Nodell ‘Introducing Green Lantern’ reveals how ambitious young engineer Alan Scottonly survives the sabotage and destruction of a passenger-packed train due to the intervention of a battered old railway lantern. Bathed in its eerie emerald light, he is regaled by a mysterious green voice with the legend of how a meteor fell in ancient China and spoke to the people: predicting Death, Life and Power.

The star-stone’s viridian glow brought doom to the savant who reshaped it into a lamp, sanity to a madman centuries later and now promises incredible might to bring justice to the innocent and afflicted…

Instructing Scott to fashion a ring from its metal and draw a charge of power from the lantern every 24 hours, the ancient artefact urges the engineer to use his formidable willpower to end all evil: a mission Scott eagerly takes up by promptly crushing corrupt industrialist Dekker who callously caused wholesale death just to secure a lucrative rail contract.

The ring renders Scott immune to all minerals and metals, enabling him to fly and pass through solid objects but, as he battles Dekker’s thugs, the grim avenger painfully discovers that living – perhaps organic – materials such as wood or rubber can penetrate his jade defences and cause mortal harm…

The saboteurs punished, Scott resolves to carry on the fight and devises a “bizarre costume” to disguise his identity and strike fear and awe into wrongdoers…

The arcane avenger gained his own solo-starring title little more than a year after his premiere and also appeared in anthologies such as Comics Cavalcade, All Star Comics and others for just over a decade. From those hectic heydays (and specifically Comic Cavalcade #6, Spring 1944) ‘They Are Invincible’ sees the hero and his comedy sidekick Doiby Dickles tracking thieves in fog and slip into a metaphorical quandary as their writer Alfred Bester (but not & illustrator Paul Reinman) becomes a reality-warping part of the adventure…

Like most first-generation superheroes, the masked marvel faded away in the early1950s, having first suffered the humiliating fate of being edged out of his own strip and comicbook by his pet Streak the Wonder Dog

Green Lantern volume 1 #30, cover-dated February/March 1948 cover-featured ‘The Saga of Streak’ by Robert Kanigher & Alex Toth as a noble, valiant canine (some very important people call them “Daw-uhgs”) tracks his missing owner/companion to the big city only to be gunned down by criminals. Saved by Green Lantern, they jointly rescue US intelligence agent Captain Sara Dale from deranged Dr. Malgoro and the grateful spy asks him to look after Streak until she returns from her next assignment. Within two issues the mutt was the lead feature, proving beyond doubt that the readers were losing interest in masked mystery men… at least for the moment…

A potted history of that interregnum follows in Part II: The Emerald Crusader 1959-1969 before a flash of green light heralded a bold new venture. After their hugely successful revival and reworking of The Flash, DC (or National Comics as they were) were keen to build on the resurgent superhero trend. Showcase #22 hit the stands at the same time as the fourth issue of the new Flash comicbook – #108 – and once again the guiding lights were Editor Julie Schwartz and writer John Broome. Assigned as illustrator was action ace Gil Kane, generally inked by Joe Giella, and the issue reveals how a Space Age reconfiguration of the Golden-Age superhero with a magic ring replaced mysticism with super-science.

Hal Jordan is a young test pilot in California when an alien policeman crashes his spaceship on Earth. Mortally wounded, Abin Sur commands his ring – a device which can materialise thoughts – to seek out a replacement officer, honest and without fear.

Scanning the planet, it selects Jordan and brings him to the crash-site. The dying alien bequeaths his ring, lantern-shaped Battery of Power and his professional vocation to the astonished Earthman.

In six pages ‘S.O.S Green Lantern’ establishes characters, scenario and narrative thrust of a series that would increasingly become the spine of DC continuity, leaving room for another two adventures in that premiere issue. Unlike the debut of The Flash, the editors were now confident of their ground. The next two issues of Showcase carried the new hero into even greater exploits, and six months later Green Lantern #1 was released.

In this new iteration Emerald gladiators are a universal police force (Jordan’s “beat” is Space Sector 2814), and having shown us other GLs, Broome surpassed himself with ‘The Day 100,000 People Vanished!’ (Green Lantern #7, August 1961) bringing the Guardians of the Universe into the open to warn of their greatest error: a renegade Green Lantern named Sinestro who, in league with evil Qwardians from an antimatter universe, had become a threat to our entire reality. This tense shocker introduced one of the most charismatic and intriguing villains in the DCU

Readers were constantly clamouring for more on the alien Corps Jordan had joined and ‘The Strange Trial of Green Lantern’ (#11, March 1962) introduces another half-dozen or so simply to court-martial Hal for dereliction of duty in a saga of cataclysmic proportions, after which issue #16 of Green Lantern volume 2 (October 1962) takes Jordan’s romantic triangle with his boss Carol Ferris and his own masked alter ego to a new level as ‘The Secret Life of Star Sapphire!’ introduces the star-roving alien women of Zamaron.

Readers of contemporary comics will be aware of their awesome heritage but for the sake of this review and new readers let’s keep that to ourselves. These questing females select Carol as their new queen and give her a gem as versatile and formidable as a power ring, and a brainwash make-over too.

Programmed to destroy the man she loves, Star Sapphire would become another recurring foe, but one with a telling advantage.

As the DCU expanded, the past glories of its Golden Age were cunningly incorporated into the tapestry as another dimensional plane was discovered: a parallel universe where older superheroes existed. Alan Scott and his mystery-men comrades still thrived on the controversially named Earth-2.

Although getting in late to the Counterpart Collaborations game, the inevitable first teaming of Hal Jordan and Alan Scott as Green Lanterns is one of the best and arguably second-most important story of the entire era. ‘Secret Origin of the Guardians!’ by John Broome, Gil Kane & Sid Greene (Green Lantern #40, October 1965) introduces the renegade Guardian Krona, reveals the origin of the multiverse, shows how evil entered our universe and describes how and why the immortal Oans took up their self-appointed task of policing the cosmos. It also shows Gil Kane’s paramount ability to stage a superhero fight like no other. This pure comicbook perfection should be considered a prologue to the landmark Crisis on Infinite Earths

In Green Lantern volume 2 #59 (March 1968) Broome introduced ‘Earth’s Other Green Lantern!’ in a rip-roaring cosmic epic of what-might-have-been. When dying GL Abin Sur had ordered his ring to select a worthy successor Hal Jordan hadn’t been the only candidate, but the closest of two. What if the ring had chosen his alternative Guy Gardnerinstead…?

Following that portentous tragedy-in-the-making, changing times and tastes saw a radical diversion in the hero’s fortunes, as described in the essay and tales comprising Part III: In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night 1970-1985

In 1969, 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. Editor Julie Schwartz knew something extraordinary was needed to save the series and the result was a bold experiment that created a fad for socially relevant, ecologically aware, more mature stories which spread throughout costumed hero comics that totally revolutionised the industry and nigh-radicalised the readers.

Tapping relatively youthful superstars-in-waiting Denny O’Neil & Neal Adams to produce the revolutionary fare, Schwartz watched in fascinated disbelief as 13 groundbreaking tales captured and encapsulated the tone of the times, garnering critical praise and awards within the industry and desperately valuable publicity from the real world outside. Sadly, the stories simultaneously registered such poor sales that the series was finally cancelled anyway, with the heroes unceremoniously packed off to the back of marginally less endangered comic title The Flash.

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 and artists”) 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 was re-titled Green Lantern/Green Arrowwith the Emerald Archer constantly mouthing off as a hot-headed, liberal sounding-board and platform for a generation-in-crisis, whilst staid, conservative, quasi-reactionary Hal Jordan played the part of the oblivious but well-meaning old guard.

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), O’Neil and comics iconoclast 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) broke the mould of the medium, utterly re-positioning the very concept of the costumed crusader as newly-minted ardent liberal Emerald Archer Oliver Queen challenges GL’s cosy worldview when the lofty space-cop painfully discovers real villains wear business suits, operate expense accounts, hurt people just because of skin colour and can happily poison their own nests for short-term gain…

Of course, that the story is a magnificently illustrated brilliant crime-thriller with science-fiction overtones 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 protest-stories. Two years later, the creators shattered another shibboleth with ‘Beware My Power’ (Green Lantern/Green Arrow #87, December 1971/January 1972) O’Neil, Adams & Giordano, histrionically introducing a new player to the DCU. John Stewart is an unemployed architect and full-time radical activist. He is the archetypal angry black man always spoiling for a fight and prepared to take guff from no-one.

Jordan is convinced the Guardians had grievously erred when selecting impatient, impetuous Stewart as Sector 2814’s official Green Lantern stand-in, but after seeing how his proposed pinch-hitter handles a white supremacist US presidential candidate trying to foment a race war, the Emerald Gladiator is happy to change his tune…

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 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…

For all the critical acclaim and innovative work done, sales of Green Lantern/Green Arrow were in a critical nosedive and nothing seemed able to stop the rot. Although the groundbreaking series folded, the heroics resumed a few months later in the back of The Flash #217 (August-September 1972), beginning a run of short episodes which eventually led to Green Lantern regaining his own solo series. O’Neil, remained as chief writer but soon Adams & Giordano moved on…

With Flash #237-238 and 240-243 new art sensation Mike Grell came aboard for a 6-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 a sextet of destructive, unholy tasks in Sector 2814. Represented here by the first, second and third chapters, the schemes begin by occluding the sun over planet Zerbon to eradicate the photosynthetic inhabitants. Next our hero picks 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 after which ‘The Floods Will Come!’ brings the Olys to planet Archos, where they attempt to submerge all the landmasses and drown the stone-age dwellers thriving there…

The buzz of the O’Neil/Grell epic assured Green Lantern of his own series once more, and with science fiction a popular mass genre in mainstream media, the Emerald Crusader soldiered on for nearly a decade before the next big change…

As that time progressed, John Stewart popped up occasionally even as the Guardians’ motives and ineffability increasingly came into question by many of their once-devoted operatives and peacekeepers. All too frequently, the grunts began seeing their formerly infallible little blue gods exposed as venal, ruthless, doctrinaire and even capricious…

As his reputation grew, headstrong Hal suffered an extremely tempestuous relationship with his bosses which eventually resulted in them accusing him of neglecting his space sector to concentrate on Earth’s problems and criminals. When he can no longer reconcile his love for Carol Ferris and duty to the Corps, Jordan quits and the Guardians offer Stewart the position…

‘Decent Exposure’ (Green Lantern volume 2 #188, May 1985) heralds a changing of the guard as writer Steve Englehart and illustrators Joe Staton & Bruce Patterson sign on, with TV reporter Tawny Young outing Stewart on national TV, and he – after some early anger and frustration – decides “so what?” whilst dealing with genuine problems such as psychotic madman the Predator on the prowl and Modoran ultra-nationalist Sonar intent on to destroying the new Green Lantern to prove the superiority of his postage-stamp principality Modora…

Part IV: Twilight of a Hero 1986-2003

In the mid-1980s, DC’s editorial hierarchy felt their then-vast 50-year continuity was stopping them winning new readers. The solution was a colossal braided-mega series to streamline, redefine and even add new characters to the mix.

The worlds-shattering, reality-altering bombast of Crisis on Infinite Earths resulted in such spectacular commercial success, those movers-&shakers must have felt more than justified in revamping a number of their hoariest icons for their next fifty years of publishing. As well as Superman, Flash, and Wonder Woman, the moribund and unhappy Justice League of America was earmarked for a radical revision.

Editor Andy Helfer assembled plotter Keith Giffen, scripter J.M. DeMatteis and untried penciller Kevin Maguire to produce an utterly new approach to the superhero monolith: playing them for laughs…

The series launched as Justice League with a May 1987 cover-date before retitling itself as Justice League International with #7 (November). The new super-team was formed from the ashes of the old on the basis of events comprising follow-up DC crossover-event Legends. The gathering comprised a roster of relative second-stringers as America’s newest champions – Black Canary, Blue Beetle, Captain Marvel, Dr. Fate, and Mr. Miracle with heavyweights Batman and Martian Manhunter J’onn J’onzz as nominal straight-men. Added to the mix was the marmite-tinted Guy Gardner Green Lantern: a “hero” who readers loved or hated in equal amounts since his revival in the dying days of The Crisis.

As the frequently-silly saga unfolds the squad is introduced to charismatic, filthy-rich manipulator Maxwell Lord – who uses wealth and influence to recreate the initial super-team in a dangerous stunt that starts their march to glory by defeating a bunch of rather inept terrorist bombers in initial outingBorn Again’ (Justice League #1 1987, by Giffen, DeMatteis, Maguire & Terry Austin)

Ultimately, Jordan regained his ring and became an elder-statesmen of superheroes but his elevated status – and sanity – was shattered after his hometown Coast City was destroyed by alien overlord Mongul.

In an apocalyptic triptych of tales culminating in ‘Emerald Twilight Part Three: The Future’ (Green Lantern volume 3 #50, March 1994) Ron Marz, Darryl Banks & Romeo Tanghal detail how his war against the Guardians who failed him results in Jordan becoming cosmic-level menace Parallax and destroying the entire Green Lantern Corps.

One month later ‘Changing the Guard’ (Green Lantern volume 3 #51 April 1994) saw the introduction of young Kyle Rayner as the universe’s last and only Emerald Crusader, fighting a one-man war against intergalactic evil…

Revived and refreshed, the franchise expanded again as Rayner rebuilt the Corps with new candidates and rescued old favourites. From Green Lantern and Green Lantern #1 (October 2000 by Judd Winnick, Randy Green & Wayne Faucher and part of the ‘Circle of Fire’ event), ‘Against the Dying of the Light’ sees Rayner and new recruit Alexandra DeWitt hunting down apocalyptic terror Oblivion: a task made harder and more distracting as his new ally is the extradimensional doppelganger of his murdered girlfriend…

After descending into madness and evil, Hal Jordan/Parallax sacrificed his life to save Earth and was divinely rewarded, rebuked and chastised by being linked to ghostly force The Spectre. After serving his penance he was revived for a new generation.

Part IV: Rebirths 2004-Present opens as ‘Blackest Night’ (Green Lantern: Rebirth #1, December 2004, by Geoff Johns & Ethan Van Sciver) sees Jordan alive again, no longer merged with the Spectre, and determined to destroy the immortal entity that was responsible for turning him evil and ultimately for his death in the first place. First though, he must convince his old friends in the Justice League and GLC that he’s not still evil…

Next up is a delightful peek into Jordan’s childhood courtesy of Johns & Darwyn Cooke from Green Lantern Secret Files and Origins 2005 #1: an evocative rite-of-passage yarn as Jordan shares with neophyte Kyle Rayner the true meaning of ‘Flight’

Since the 1970s, the Green Lantern concept has been about challenging heroic stereotypes. The Guardians’ stipulations that their agents be honest and without fear has provided plenty of scope to explore prejudice and preconception amongst the readership, and none more so than in the aliens’ selection of latest earthly recruit Muslim Simon Baz as part of the company-wide New 52! reboot of 2011.

‘The New Normal’ (Green Lantern #0, November 2012 by Johns, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne & Mark Irwin) details the consequences – personal and global – of the dispassionate Power Ring choosing as its wearer a man deemed by his peers to be a thief and potential anti-American terrorist…

Adding immeasurably to the wonder is a superb collection of covers by Sheldon Moldoff, Reinman, Alex Toth, Gil Kane, Murphy Anderson, Neal Adams, Staton & Patterson, Maguire & Austin, Banks & Tanghal, Rodolfo Damaggio & Kevin Nowlan, Ethan Van Sciver, Carlos Pacheco & Jesús Merino and Doug Mahnke & Christian Alamy.

Green Lantern has a long, proud history of shaking things up and providing dynamic provocative, drama delivered with quality artwork. This compelling assortment of snapshots is staggeringly entertaining and a monolithic testament to the inestimable value of a strong core concept matured over decades of innovation.
© 1940, 1944, 1948, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1976, 1985, 1987, 1994, 1997, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2012, 2015 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Tales of the Green Lantern Corps volume 1


By Len Wein, Mike W. Barr, Paul Kupperberg, Robyn Snyder, Todd Klein, Joe Staton, Don Newton, Carmine Infantino, Paris Cullins, Dave Gibbons & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2155-3 (TPB)

When mortally wounded alien cop Abin Sur crashed on Earth he commanded his power ring – a device which could materialise thoughts – to seek out a replacement officer, honest and without fear.

Scanning the planet, it selected brash young test pilot Hal Jordan in nearby Coast City, California and brought him to the crash site. The dying alien bequeathed his ring, the lantern-shaped Battery of Power and his professional vocation to the astonished Earthman.

Over many traumatic years, Jordan grew into one of the greatest members of a serried band of law-enforcers. For billions of years, the Green Lantern Corps protected the cosmos from evil and disaster, policing countless numbers of sentient beings under the severe but benevolent auspices of immortal super-beings who deemed themselves Guardians of the Universe.

These undying patrons of Order were one of the first races to evolve and dwelt in sublime, emotionless security and tranquillity at the very centre of creation on the small world of Oa.

Green Lanterns are chosen for their capacity to overcome fear and are equipped with a ring that creates solid constructs out of emerald light. The miracle weapon is fuelled by the strength of the user’s willpower, making it one of the mightiest tools imaginable.

For eons, a single individual from each of the 3600 sectors of known space was selected to patrol his, her, their or its own beat. Being cautious and meticulous masters, the Guardians laid contingency plans and frequently appointed designated reserve officers and set up contingency plans for inheriting the office of their peacekeeping representatives.

Jordan’s substitute was a nice quiet (white) PE teacher named Guy Gardner, but when he was critically injured the Oans’ fallback option was a little worrying to staid, by-the-book Hal.

In Green Lantern/Green Arrow #87 (December 1971/January 1972) ‘Beware My Power!’ introduced a bold new character to the DCU. John Stewart was an unemployed architect and full-time radical activist: an angry black man always spoiling for a fight and prepared to take guff from no-one.

Jordan was convinced the Guardians had grievously erred when selecting rash, impetuous Stewart as Sector 2814’s official Green Lantern stand-in, but after seeing how his proposed pinch-hitter handled a white supremacist US presidential candidate trying to foment a race war, the Emerald Gladiator was delighted to change his tune…

As time progressed Jordan – and his occasional successors John Stewart and Guy Gardner – found reason to question the Guardians’ motives and ineffability: increasingly aware of issues that called into question the role of their masters. The same doubts also infected many of their once-devoted fellow operatives and peacekeepers. All too frequently, the grunts began seeing the formerly infallible little blue gods exposed as venal, ruthless, doctrinaire and even capricious…

However, before those issues boiled over during and after the Crisis on Infinite Earths, a superb series of back-up yarns graced the pages of Green Lantern, dedicated to broadening the horizons of the readership with tales of the vast and varied membership of the Emerald Army…

This first Fight’s ‘n’ Tights trade paperback compilation – also available in eBook editions – gathers miniseries Tales of the Green Lantern Corps plus a string of back-up tales from Green Lantern #148, 152-154, 161, 162, and 164-167 (covering May 1981 through July 1983): a period of radical change and increasing cosmic calamity foreshadowing that aforementioned, reality-altering calamity that would irrevocably reshape the DCU…

The drama begins in a triptych miniseries conceived and detailed by Mike Barr & Len Wein, with art by Joe Staton & Frank McLaughlin that despatched the Emerald Gladiators against the ultimate threat…

The onslaught begins in ‘Challenge!’ after Jordan meets anxious new recruit Arisia of Graxos IV. The nervous neophyte has barely introduced herself to the star-spanning veteran when all 3600 officers are summoned to Oa, where the Guardians inform them of a universal existential threat.

Rogue Guardian Kronos has returned from the dead and again threatens to destroy the universe by uncovering its forbidden origins. His fresh attempts to roll back time are bolstered by an invader from beyond reality that has allied with the obsessed madman for its own reasons…

The first strike comes as amassed Green Warriors communally charge their power rings: an act which causes the Great Battery to explode in a horrific detonation that slaughters thousands of officers. Not only does this act deplete their ranks, but the destruction means the Corps has only 24 hours to solve the crisis before the green energy fades away forever…

By bringing Arisia up to speed on friends and foes alike throughout the chapters, Jordan provides a potted history for the readership as the legion of surviving heroes rally, but another blow comes as the Guardians themselves fall prey to the mysterious invader from beyond: a being who controls the dead and plans on destroying all life…

Things go from bad to worse in ‘Defeat!’ as the ranks of the fallen swell with valued former comrades and even immortal Oans. One glimmer of hope comes as one slave of death-lord Nekron switches sides, inspired by the valiant resistance of the green warriors…

With the stakes at their highest, the last remaining Lanterns go on the attack, invading the death dimension and ready to employ the most desperate tactic ever devised. The gambit of course succeeds and results in ‘Triumph!’

The era of science fiction TV fed an appetite for alien characters, and with a ready-made legion of such ready and waiting further adventures of the Green Lantern Corps soon followed: both as back-ups in the regular GL magazine and in regular Annuals. The wonderment began with an untitled exploit by Paul Kupperberg, Don Newton & Dan Adkins from Green Lantern #148 wherein cute squirrel Ch’p proved looks were deceptive and feelings irrelevant when he was ordered to save the marauding inhabitants of Berrith.

It didn’t matter that the feral hunters had predated and consumed Ch’p’s people for centuries…

Carmine Infantino rendered the saga of Quarzz Teranh who proves his ‘E’Sprit de Corps’ after being ordered to destroy a black hole at the cost of his own life, and later returned to render a tale of ‘Paradise World!’ where confirmed pacifist Jeryll is faced with a moral dilemma after employing the violence her entire species has foresworn..

The answer came in the next issue as the troubled GL made ‘The Choice’ (Infantino inked by Frank Chiaramonte)…

Kupperberg’s final contribution was illustrated by Paris Cullins & Rodin Rodriguez as sentient vegetable GL Medphyl follows murderous raiders onto an inhospitable world to be challenged by ‘A Matter of Snow’ and the depths of sadistic villainy…

Issue #161 (February 1983) featured a tale from Robin Snyder and vanguard of the “British Invasion” Dave Gibbons. ‘Storm Brother’ saw retired Lantern Harvid hunted down by his greatest enemy, testing the bonds of family to the limits.

Todd Klein scripted the next few Gibbons vignettes, beginning with ‘Apprentice’ which finds a youthful protégé overstepping his bounds and playing with forbidden green fire, after which ‘Hero’ sees “the green man” fall foul of unflinching cultural rules when he tries to save a roving colony of space vagabonds. Some people just can’t be trusted…

‘Green Magic’ is 2-part tale from Klein & Gibbons fable that opens with a ‘Test of Will’ after reluctant Green Lantern Hollika Rahn suffers for her misguided interference in a global war between scientists and sorcerers. Thankfully, she has friends she doesn’t know working for her to ensure her eventual victory, before this initial compilation concludes with a battle among herd sentients to inherit the Green Power. Of course, the true ‘Successor’ is one nobody in the bellicose family ever expected…

Light, straightforward, done-in-one action-adventures that offer a brief moment of entertainment are in pretty short supply these days, but if that’s appealing to you, this is a book and series you should indulge yourself in at your earliest convenience.
© 1981-1983, 2009, 2018 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Green Lantern: The Silver Age volume 3


By John Broome, Gardner Fox, Gil Kane & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-7847-2

After their hugely successful revival and reworking of The Flash, DC (or National Periodical Publications as they traded back then) were keen to build on the resurgent superhero trend. Showcase #22 hit the stands at the same time as the fourth issue of the new Flash comicbook – #108 – and once again the guiding lights were Editor Julie Schwartz and writer John Broome. Assigned as illustrator was action ace Gil Kane, generally inked by Joe Giella.

Hal Jordan was a brash young test pilot in California when an alien policeman crashed his spaceship on Earth. Mortally wounded, Abin Sur commanded his ring – a device which could materialise thoughts – to seek out a replacement officer: one both honest and without fear.

Scanning the planet, the wonder weapon selected Jordan and whisked him to the crash-site. The dying alien bequeathed his ring, the lantern-shaped Battery of Power and his profession to the astonished Earthman.

In six pages ‘S.O.S Green Lantern’ established characters, scenario and narrative thrust of a series that would increasingly become the spine of DC continuity.

Now that the concept of the superhero was swiftly being re-established among the buying public, there was no shortage of gaudily clad competition. The better books survived by having something a little “extra”.

With Green Lantern that was primarily the superb scripts of John Broome and Gardner Fox and the astounding drawing of Gil Kane (ably abetted by primary inker Joe Giella) whose dynamic anatomy and dramatic action scenes were maturing with every page he drew. Happily, the concept itself was also a provider of boundless opportunity.

Other heroes had extraterrestrial, other-dimensional and even trans-temporal adventures, but the valiant champion of this series was also a cop: a lawman working for the biggest police force in the entire universe.

This fabulous paperback and eBook compilation gathers Green Lantern #23-35 (September 1962 – March 1965) and begins without fanfare as our hero tackles the ‘Threat of the Tattooed Man!’

This was the first all Gardner Fox scripted issue and the start of Giella’s tenure as sole inker, as the Ring-Slinger tackles a second-rate thief who lucks into the eerie power to animate his skin-ink, after which ‘The Green Lantern Disasters’ takes the interplanetary lawman off-world to rescue missing comrade Xax of Xaos: an insectoid member of the GL Corps.

Broome scripted issue #24, heralding the first appearance of ‘The Shark that Hunted Human Prey!’ as an atomic accident hyper-evolves the ocean’s deadliest predator into a psychic fear-feeder, after which ‘The Strange World Named Green Lantern!’ (with inks from Frank Giacoia & Giella) finds the Emerald Crusader trapped on a sentient and lonely planet that craves his constant presence…

Green Lantern #25 featured Fox’s full-length thriller ‘War of the Weapon Wizards! as GL falls foul of lethally persistent ultra-nationalist Sonar and his silent partner-in-crime Hector Hammond, whilst in the next issue Hal Jordan’s girlfriend Carol Ferris is once more transformed into an alien queen determined to beat him into marital submission in ‘Star Sapphire Unmasks Green Lantern!’

This witty cracker from Fox is supplemented by his superb fantasy ‘World Within the Power Ring!’ as the Viridian Avenger battles an extraterrestrial sorcerer imprisoned within his ring by his deceased predecessor Abin Sur!

Fox’s super-scientific crime thriller ‘Mystery of the Deserted City!’ led in GL #27 whilst Broome charmed and alarmed with ‘The Amazing Transformation of Horace Tolliver!’, as Hal learns a lesson in who to help – and how.

No prizes for guessing who – or what – menace returns in #28’s ‘The Shark Goes on the Prowl Again!’, but kudos if you can solve the puzzle of ‘The House that Fought Green Lantern’: both engaging romps courtesy of writer Fox whereas Broome adds to his tally of memorable villain creations with the debut of Black Hand – “the Cliché Criminal” – who purloins a portion of GL’s power in ‘Half a Green Lantern is Better than None!’ as well as scripting a brilliant back-up alien invader tale in ‘This World is Mine!’

This issue, #29, is doubly memorable as not only does it feature a rare – for the times – Justice League cameo (soon to be inevitable – if not interminable – as comics continuity grew into an unstoppable force in all companies’ output) but also because the incredibly talented Sid Greene signed on as regular inker.

Issue #30 featured two more Broome tales: dinosaur attack thriller ‘The Tunnel Through Time!’ and a compelling epic of duty and love as Katma Tui, who replaced the renegade Sinestro as the Guardians’ operative, learns to her eternal regret ‘Once a Green Lantern… Always a Green Lantern!’

The same writer also provided the baffling mystery ‘Power Rings for Sale!’ and the tense Jordan Brothers thriller ‘Pay Up – or Blow Up!’ whilst Fox handled all of #32: tantalizing crime caper ‘Green Lantern’s Wedding Day!’ and trans-galactic Battle Royale ‘Power Battery Peril!’ in which Jordan comes to the initially involuntary assistance of an alien superhero team…

Nefarious villain Dr. Light decided to pick off his enemies one by after his defeat in Justice League of America #12. His attempts in various member’s home titles reached GL with #33, but here too he got a damned good thrashing in ‘Wizard of the Light Wave Weapons!’, whereas the thugs in the back-up yarn, as well as giving artist Gil Kane another excuse to show his love of and facility with movie gangster caricatures, come far too close to ending the Emerald Gladiator’s life in ‘The Disarming of Green Lantern!’

Fox had by this time become lead writer and indeed wrote all the remaining stories in this volume. ‘Three-Way Attack against Green Lantern!’ in #34 was another full-length cosmic extravaganza as Hector Hammond discovers the secrets of the Guardians of the Universe and launches an all-out assault on our hero, after which both scripts in #35 – costumed villain drama ‘Prisoner of the Golden Mask!’ and brain-swop spy-saga ‘The Eagle Crusader of Earth!’ – look much closer to home for their abundance of thrills, chills and spills.

These costumed drama romps are in themselves a great read for most ages, but when also considered as the building blocks of all DC continuity they become vital fare for any fan keen to make sense of the modern superhero experience.

Judged solely on their own merit, these are snappy, awe-inspiring, beautifully illustrated captivatingly clever thrillers that amuse, amaze and enthral both new readers and old devotees. This lovely collection is a must-read item for anybody in love with our art-form and especially for anyone just now encountering the hero for the first time through his movie incarnations.
© 1963, 1964, 1965, 2018 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Team-Ups of the Brave and the Bold


By J. Michael Straczynski, Jesús Saíz, Chad Hardin, Justiniano, Cliff Chiang & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2793-7 (HB)                :978-1-4012-2809-5 (TPB)

The Brave and the Bold premiered in 1955; an anthology adventure comic featuring short complete tales starring a variety of period heroes and a format mirroring and cashing in on that era’s filmic fascination with historical dramas.

Devised and written by Robert Kanigher, issue #1 led with Roman epic Golden Gladiator, medieval mystery-man The Silent Knight and Joe Kubert’s now legendary Viking Prince. Soon the Gladiator was replaced by National Periodicals/DC Comic’s iteration of Robin Hood, but the high adventure theme carried the title until the end of the decade when the burgeoning superhero revival saw B&B transform into a try-out vehicle like the astounding successful Showcase.

Used to launch enterprising concepts and characters such as Task Force X: The Suicide Squad, Cave Carson, Strange Sports Stories, Hawkman and the epochal Justice League of America, the title then evolved to create a whole sub-genre – although barely anybody noticed at the time…

That was Superhero Team-Ups.

For almost a decade DC had enjoyed great success pairing Superman with Batman and Robin in World’s Finest Comics and in 1963 sought to create another top-selling combo from their growing pantheon of masked mystery men. It didn’t hurt that the timing also allowed extra exposure for characters imminently graduating to their own starring vehicles after years as back-up features…

This was during a period when almost no costumed heroes acknowledged the jurisdiction or (usually) existence of other costumed champions. When B&B offered this succession of team-ups, they were laying the foundations for DC’s future close-knit comics continuity. Now there’s something wrong with any superstar who doesn’t regularly join every other cape or mask on-planet every five minutes or so…

That short-lived experiment eventually calcified as “Batman and…” but for a while readers were treated to some truly inspired pairings such as Metal Men and Metamorpho, Flash and The Spectre or Supergirl and Wonder Woman.

The editors even achieved their aim after Robin, Kid Flash and Aqualad remained together after their initial foray and expanded into the Teen Titans

That theme of heroes united together for a specific time and purpose was revived in 2007 for the third volume of The Brave and the Bold, resulting in many exceedingly fine modern Fights ‘n’ Tights classics, and this compilation – available in hardcover, trade paperback and digital editions – collects issues #27-33 (November 2009 – June 2010): the first seven issues scripted by TV and comics star scribe J. Michael Straczynski.

The run of easily accessible, stand-alone tales delved into some of the strangest nooks and crannies of the DCU and opens here with ‘Death of a Hero’, illustrated by Jesús Saíz wherein teenager Robby Reed visits Gotham City and soon decides to help out a Batman sorely pressed by the machinations of The Joker

The child prodigy had his own series in the 1960s as a kid who found a strange rotary device dotted with alien hieroglyphics that could temporarily transform him into a veritable army of super-beings when he dialled the English equivalents of H, E, R and O…

Here, however, after the lad dials up futuristic clairvoyant Mental Man, the visions he experiences force him to quit immediately and take to his bed…

He even forgets the Dial when he leaves, but it is soon picked up by down-&-out Travers Milton who also falls under its influence and is soon saving lives and battling beside the Dark Knight as The Star

What follows is a meteoric and tragic tale of a rise and fall…

Again limned by Saíz, B&B #28 takes us a wild trip to the ‘Firing Line’ as the Flash (Barry Allen) falls foul of a scientific experiment and winds up stranded in the middle of World War II. Injured and unable to properly use his powers, the diminished speedster is taken under the wing of legendary paramilitary aviator squadron The Blackhawks, but finds himself torn when his scruples against taking life crash into the hellish cauldron of the Battle of Bastogne and his martial love for his new comrades in arms…

Brother Power, The Geek was short-lived experimental title developed by the legendary Joe Simon at the height of the hippy-dippy 1960s (of just last week if you’re a baby booming duffer like me). He was a tailor’s mannequin mysteriously brought to life through extraordinary circumstances, just seeking his place in the world: a bizarre commentator and ultimate outsider philosophising on a world he could not understand.

That cerebral angst is tapped in ‘Lost Stories of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow’ as the elemental outcast crawls out of wreckage in Gotham City and clashes with Batman as they both strive to save homeless people from authoritarian brutality and greedy arsonists. Like the times it references, this story is one you have to experience rather than read about…

Straczynski & Saíz then play fast and loose with time travel in ‘The Green and the Gold’ as mystic Lord of Order Doctor Fate is helped through an emotional rough patch by Green Lantern Hal Jordan. As a result of that unnecessary kindness the mage gets to return the favour long after his own demise at the moment the Emerald Warrior most needs a helping hand…

Illustrated by Chad Hardin & Walden Wong and Justiniano, The Brave and the Bold #31 describes the ‘Small Problems’ encountered by The Atom after Ray Palmer is asked to shrink into the synapse-disrupted brain of The Joker and perform life-saving surgery. Despite his better judgement the physicist eventually agrees, but nobody could have predicted that he would be assimilated into the maniac’s memories and be forced to relive the Killer Clown’s life…

Straczynski & Saíz reunite as sea king Aquaman and hellish warrior Etrigan the Demon combine forces in a long-standing pact to thwart a revolting Cthonic invasion of ‘Night Gods’ from a hole in bottom of the ocean before this mesmerising tome concludes with a bittersweet ‘Ladies Night’ from times recently passed, illustrated by Cliff Chiang.

When sorceress Zatanna experiences a shocking dream, she contacts Wonder Woman and Batgirl Barbara Gordon, and insists that they should join her on an evening of hedonistic excess and sisterly sharing. Only Babs is left out of one moment of revelation: what Zatanna foresaw would inescapably occur to her the next day at the hands of the Joker…

Smart, moving and potently engaging, these heroic alliances are a true treat for fans of more sophisticated costumed capers, and skilfully prepared in such a way that no great knowledge of backstory is required. Team-ups are all about finding new readers and this terrific tome is a splendid example of the trick done right…
© 2009, 2010 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Green Lantern Sector 2814 volume 2


By Len Wein, Paul Kupperberg, Steven Englehart, Dave Gibbons, Bill Willingham, Joe Staton, Bruce Patterson, Mark Farmer, Rich Rankin & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-4078-3

When mortally wounded alien cop Abin Sur crashed on Earth he commanded his power ring – a device which could materialise thoughts – to seek out a replacement officer, honest and without fear. Scanning the planet, it selected brash young test pilot Hal Jordan in nearby Coast City, California and brought him to the crash-site. The dying alien bequeathed his ring, the lantern-shaped Battery of Power and his professional vocation to the astonished Earthman.

Over many traumatic years, Jordan grew into one of the greatest members of a serried band of law-enforcers. The Green Lantern Corps protected the cosmos from evil and disaster for billions of years, policing vast numbers of sentient beings under the severe but benevolent auspices of immortal super-beings who consider themselves the Guardians of the Universe.

These undying patrons of Order were one of the first races to evolve and dwelt in sublime, emotionless security and tranquillity on the world of Oa at the very centre of creation.

Green Lanterns are chosen for their capacity to overcome fear and are equipped with a ring that creates solid constructs out of emerald light. The miracle weapon is fuelled by the strength of the user’s willpower, making it one of the mightiest tools imaginable.

For eons, a single individual from each of the 3600 sectors of known space was selected to patrol his, her or its own beat, but being cautious and meticulous masters, the Guardians laid contingency plans as appointing designated reserve officers.

Jordan’s substitute was a nice quiet (white) PE teacher named Guy Gardner, but when he was critically injured the Oans’ fallback option was a little worrying to staid, by-the-book Hal.

In Green Lantern/Green Arrow #87 (December 1971/January 1972) ‘Beware My Power!’ introduced a bold new character to the DCU. John Stewart was an unemployed architect and full-time radical activist: an angry black man always spoiling for a fight and prepared to take guff from no-one.

Jordan was convinced the Guardians had grievously erred when selecting rash, impetuous Stewart as Sector 2814’s official Green Lantern stand-in, but after seeing how his proposed pinch-hitter handled a white supremacist US presidential candidate trying to foment a race war, the Emerald Gladiator was delighted to change his tune…

As time progressed Stewart popped up occasionally even as the Guardians’ motives and ineffability increasingly came into question by many of their once-devoted operatives and peacekeepers. All too frequently, the grunts began seeing their formerly infallible little blue gods exposed as venal, ruthless, doctrinaire and even capricious…

As his repute grew, headstrong Hal enjoyed an extremely tempestuous relationship with his bosses which eventually resulted in them accusing him of neglecting his space sector – 2814 – to concentrate on Earth’s problems and criminals.

When he couldn’t reconcile his love for Carol Ferris and duty to the Corps, Hal Jordan quit…

This second stellar Fight’s ‘n’ Tights trade paperback compilation – also available in eBook editions – gathers Green Lantern #182-183 and 185-193, covering November 1984 through October 1985: a period of radical change and increasing cosmic calamity as the DCU counted inexorably down to a reality-altering Crisis on Infinite Earths

Len Wein, Dave Gibbons & Mark Farmer continued their groundbreaking reshaping of the legend as ‘It’s a Dirty Job, But…!’ saw the now merely mortal Jordan second-guessing his decision as he revisits Abin Sur’s remote resting place. Meanwhile, across the universe, the Guardians moved swiftly, promoting Stewart to the prime position in his sector. At the time the architect was working on rebuilding the shattered Ferris Aircraft complex and had no idea that Hal Jordan was the alter ego of his abruptly “retired” predecessor, nor that GL Jordan’s old enemy Major Disaster was back and looking for a fight…

Further complicating matters, Dr. Bruce Gordon – currently building a solar engine for Ferris – was being stalked and harassed by his own inner demon made manifest. Before Green Lantern had helped cure him, Gordon was the unwilling host of a demonic hate-filled energy spirit called Eclipso. Now the monster was apparently back and trying to steal the almost-completed solar engine…

When Major Disaster furiously threatens to destroy a massive hydroelectric dam and flood the entire state, the Emerald Gladiator he stridently demands a rematch with is not the one who turns up…

Refusing to accept any substitute the madman triggers a ‘Day of Disaster’ and learns to his sorrow that the masked black man is every inch as competent and formidable as his despised archfoe.

Green Lantern #184 reprinted the origin of Guy Gardner from #59 in 1968 and has been omitted from this collection but Wein & Gibbons (inking himself again) return for #185 as ‘In Blackest Day…!’ sees the new ringbearer for Sector 2814 fully acclimate to his responsibilities. An overnight celebrity and media sensation, Stewart is courted by TV reporter Tawny Young but earns her enmity after refusing to divulge the circumstances of his origin and promotion.

On a more mundane level, Hal still frets about his decision and loss of power, even as his romance with Carol hits a new snag. Unknown to either of them she has acquired a super-powered stalker determined to protect her from anything he perceives as a threat…

With Eclipso still secretly badgering Gordon, Hal prepares to test-fly the prototype Ferris solar jet, but is ambushed by his old pal and mentor Rich Davis.

The medically-disqualified pilot wants one last flight of glory and takes Hal’s place, only to become a hostage when Eclipso snatches the jet out of the sky in his fantastic landscape-rending moon satellite…

‘In Brightest Night…!’ Wein & Gibbons (with plotting input from Paul Kupperberg) sees the new GL rush to the rescue as Hal can only look on helplessly, but when Carol’s mystery suitor The Predator also boars the moon globe the situation flares beyond control and results in victory at a terrible price…

Kupperberg, Bill Willingham & Rich Rankin then provide a rapid fill-in for #187 (April 1985) as ‘A Day in His Life…’ finds Carol confronted by the Predator who declares his amorous intentions by beating up her current boyfriend Hal even as John Stewart tackles his first space catastrophe and narrowly escapes destroying the malfunctioning space shuttle he was trying to save…

Thankfully, the all-wise Guardians have anticipated teething troubles and despatched veteran GL Katma Tui be his training officer…

The next issue heralded a changing of the guard as writer Steve Englehart and illustrators Joe Staton & Bruce Patterson signed on with ‘Decent Exposure’ wherein Tawny Young outs John Stewart on national TV, and he – after some early frustration – decides “so what?”

With the Predator proving to be far more than a mere abusive, controlling maniac, Hal swears revenge even as European ultra-nationalist Sonar returns to destroy the new Green Lantern to prove the superiority of his postage -stamp principality Modora

After Stewart proves his worth with a uniquely elegant solution to the villain’s sound weapons, ‘Echoes!’ sees Sonar bounce back: escaping from custody with enhanced allies Blindside and Throttle, despite the assistance of Katma Tui. Hal and Carol’s search for Predator lead them to a much-delayed visit with practically-braindead shut-in Guy Gardner, inadvertently starting those long-dormant cogs clicking again…

After Stewart at last apprehends his fugitives a new crisis has struck. ‘Time Out of Mind!’ starts with Tawny Young re-entering the picture, touting years-old video-tape interviews she carried out with Green Arrow, Black Canary, the previous GL, Carol Ferris and Stewart himself. Disturbingly, nobody on Earth remembers the meetings and if the journalist hadn’t been raiding the archives never would…

As she shows the tapes to the astounded superheroes, Predator nonchalantly ambles in to steal the tapes and is stunned to realise that the gimmick he’s used to make everyone unable to see him doesn’t work on alien Katma…

Back-up tale ‘Mind Out of Time!’ then focuses on Hal’s hunt for Predator and furious confrontation in a theatre in front of a bizarre alien musical organ. That preliminary bout becomes the main event in GL #191 as ‘Macho!’ finds John and Katma off-earth and working with Dalor of Timron – Green Lantern of neighbouring Sector 2813 – whilst Jordan’s final confrontation with Predator reveals an uncanny, impossible connection to Carol which revives her own darkest secret…

Green Lantern #192 sees the separate storylines converging in ‘First Star I See Tonight!’ as the space-borne Emerald officers tackle the immortal amazon warriors of Zamaron even as on Earth, Carol reverts to sometime-alter ego Star Sapphire: now finally purged of the annoying, pitiful humanity that held her back from operating as the dominating tyrant and chosen queen of those self-same Zamarons…

Utterly dominating powerless Hal, she reveals the decades long machinations that have led to this moment of terrible triumph before teleporting home where three furious Green Lanterns are waiting…

This volume concludes with the return of another Hal villain in ‘Dead Ringer’, but where Jordan defeated the tragic alien Replikon through brute force and guile, Stewart proves his worth through innovation and compassion: building a solution which makes friend out of foe and rights a grave cosmic injustice…

At the time, many fans and critics felt that the substitution of Hal Jordan with John Stewart was little more than a PC stunt, but time and the quality of the stories has proved the decision to be brilliant one. It certainly offered a cruelly under-served portion of the readership another solid role model but as time progressed and the different personalities and approaches coalesced, the move led to an expansion and re-evaluation the nature of being a DC hero.

And the best was still to come…
© 1984, 1985, 2013 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Green Lantern Sector 2814 volume 1


By Len Wein, Dave Gibbons & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3689-2

Since the dawn of American comics’ Silver Age, where and when The Flash kick-started it all to become the fast-beating heart of the revived genre of superheroes, his fellow jet-age re-tread Green Lantern has always provided the conceptual framework for the comprehensive, pervasive magic of the DC Universe’s monolithic shared continuity.

Hal Jordan was a brash young test pilot in Coast City, California when an alien cop crashed on Earth. Mortally wounded, Abin Sur commanded his power ring – a device which could materialise thoughts – to seek out a replacement officer, honest and without fear.

Scanning the planet, it selected Jordan and brought him to the crash-site. The dying alien bequeathed his ring, the lantern-shaped Battery of Power and his professional vocation to the astonished Earthman.

Jordan grew to be one of the greatest members of a serried band of law-enforcers. The Green Lantern Corps has protected the cosmos from evil and disaster for billions of years, policing vast numbers of sentient beings under the severe but benevolent auspices of immortal super-beings who consider themselves the Guardians of the Universe.

These undying patrons of Order were one of the first races to evolve and dwelt in sublime, emotionless security and tranquillity on the world of Oa at the very centre of creation.

Green Lanterns are chosen for their capacity to overcome fear and are equipped with a ring that creates solid constructs out of emerald light. The miracle weapon is fuelled by the strength of the user’s willpower, making it one of the mightiest tools in the universe.

For eons, a single individual from each of the 3600 sectors of known space was selected to patrol his, her or its own beat.

As the series progressed The Guardians’ motives and ineffability increasingly came into question by many of their once-devoted operatives and peacekeepers, who too frequently saw the formerly infallible little blue gods exposed as venal, ruthless, doctrinaire and even capricious…

Even as his fame and repute grew, headstrong Hal had endured an extremely tempestuous relationship with his bosses which eventually resulted in them accusing him of neglecting his space sector – 2814 – to concentrate on Earth’s problems and criminals.

This led to the Oan overlords banishing Jordan: compelling him to scrupulously patrol his appointed interstellar beat and never again set foot on Earth…

This fabulous cosmic Fight’s ‘n’ Tights trade paperback compilation – also available in eBook editions – gathers Green Lantern #172-176 and 178-181. It spans January – October 1984 and celebrates the end of that exile as new writer/editor Len Wein united with illustrator/letterer (and vanguard of a “British Invasion” of talent that would reshape the comicbook industry) Dave Gibbons to bring the wanderer home…

After a year way performing heroic service across the starways, Jordan stridently petitioned his master on Oa where a phalanx of his comrades supported his request to be allowed back to his birthworld. His ‘Judgment Day!’ gave him everything he wanted but when Jordan returned to Coast City he quickly discovered that the world had moved on without him…

Reunited with lover Carol Ferris, Hal tries to readjust in ‘Old Friends, New Foes…!’ but an unsuspected rival at work is as nothing compared to the covert machinations of an unsuspected observer and power-broker known as the Monitor (yes, that guy! Check out Crisis on Infinite Earths for more detail) who supplies the mystery villain with a selection of super-powered mercenaries…

The first of these is a German maniac with a penchant for high-tech trick spears who attempts to kill the Emerald Crusader and vaporise Ferris Aircraft in #174’s ‘I Shot a Javelin into the Air…!’

GL #175 offers a fraught reunion with old pal Barry Allen – AKA the Flash – before a predatory mutant archenemy resurfaces to turn Hal’s city and friends into ‘Shark Bait!’

The Shark’s mental assault consumes the hero’s mind, leaving the Emerald Gladiator brainwiped, comatose and dying, but in #176 (inked by Dick Giordano and lettered by Ben Oda) the indomitable personality of Hal Jordan battles his way out of the paranormal predator’s cerebral gullet and back into action through a series of ‘Mind Games!’

The enigmatic enemy in the background still wants GL gone and Ferris obliterated, however, and subsequently commissions more high-tech hirelings in #178: specifically, a squad of construction-worker themed wreckers dubbed the Demolition Team.

Throughout the period of these tales, ferocious deadlines plagued the creative team, with Gibbon’s preference to draw, ink and letter the stories perpetually confounded by the fact that he was generally receiving scripts three pages at a time. In an era before the internet when the fax machine was the acme of technological communication, something had to give, and after a fill-in issue (#177 and not included here) failed to solve the problems, two last all-Gibbons issues were followed by a separation of roles…

Before that though, just as Ferris is battered and shattered by ‘A Bad Case of the D.T.s!’, Green Lantern is called way from Earth by the implacable Guardians to save an exploding planet. Heartbroken and terrified, Carol sees her company practically destroyed until a new, brutally vicious protagonist steps in to stop the Demolition Team in #179’s ‘Let Us Prey!’ (both by Wein & Gibbons).

By the time Jordan returns to view the ‘Aftermath!’ (GL #180 with Mike DeCarlo inking and Ben Oda on letters) the damage has been done both to the factory and Hal’s now-crippled friend Clay Kendell. Appalled at his own dereliction of duty and personal failures, Jordan consults with a number of Justice League colleagues before heading to Oa in #181 (Mark Farmer inks & John Costanza letters) and telling the Guardians to ‘Take This Job… And Shove It!’

They accept, precipitating one of the biggest events in DC history…

To Be Continued…
© 1984 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.