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Happy Labor Day From Longbox Graveyard

It’s Labor Day here in the United States, which marks the traditional end of summer.



Splash page from Teen-Age Romances #84 by Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta, sourced from the indispensable Marvel Age of Comics Tumblr.

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We interrupt this blog to bring you an unsolicited plug for a very worthy site you should be reading (if you aren’t already) … Superdames!


Superdames is a loving tribute to what Stan Lee used to refer to as the “distaff” side of super-herodom — the women!

This site is especially welcome in a week that saw the comics internet blow up over a tacky Spider-Woman cover … Superdames is a respectful site bereft of the “headlight” school of comic art that so often characterizes the comic industry’s take on female superheroes.

Equally refreshing is Superdames’ fascination with largely-forgotten heroines of comics’ Golden Age, such as the skull-faced Fantomah, Mystery Woman of the Jungle


… and the plucky Jill Trent, Science-Sleuth — a character now in the public domain, that Superdames is bringing back in all-new adventures with a crowd-sourced creative effort now front-and-center at the Superdames site!

Jill Trent, Science Sleuth!

But it isn’t all Golden Age at Superdames … there’s plenty of love for She-Hulk and comparatively more modern characters, too. I especially enjoy the Superdames “Favorite Panels” category, which I’ve gleefully raided for images for my Pinterest boards and Instagram feed, including this gorgeous Big Barda by Jack Kirby!

Big Barda

There’s a lot to like, here, and I’m always delighted to see a new Superdames entry pop up in my comic book RSS feed. Head on over to Superdames … and tell them Longbox Graveyard sent you!

Captain America Covers Gallery

Visit my Captain America Covers Gallery on Pinterest.


Captain America #224

Read my columns about Captain AmericaThe Rap On Cap, American Dream, Farewell To The King, Top Ten Captain America Villains, and celebrate Sam Wilson as the NEW Captain America in The Coming of … the Falcon!

(View all Longbox Graveyard Pinterest Galleries HERE).

Thrilled For Thrillbent

A funny thing happened to me on the way to San Diego Comic-Con …

It’s been a couple weeks — a strange, dream-like, couple of weeks — since I won an open mic pitch competition at San Diego Comic-Con to publish an original digital comics series on Thrillbent.


You can read about it at the New York Daily News (and also see one of the rare decent photos of me in all of creation). Thrillbent Publisher Mark Waid blogs about it, here … and the announcement of the pitch contest that led to this unlikely turn of events is also available for your review.

I’ll give you the short version: I’m now writing an original short comics story for Thrillbent, publication date TBD.

The longer version …

Once upon a time, I wrote comics. I covered that era in the early days of this blog, writing about Rune and a bunch of black & white books that I did in the late 80s/early 90s, and I’ve talked about my work on a podcast or two, but aside from that, Longbox Graveyard has been all about other peoples’ work — the Silver and Bronze Age superhero stories we all know and love.

good old fashioned fun

I haven’t hidden my own brief history as a comics creator, but I haven’t written much about it because, really, there’s not much to write, and it was a long time ago and of limited interest. Having created comics myself gives me a little additional insight when reviewing and appreciating them, but for the most part, this blog has been a fannish activity, without ulterior motive aside from trying to come to grips with having an out-of-control comics Accumulation (since tamed), seeking to rediscover my love for comics (now in full bloom), and only tangentially making peace with my brief and not-terribly-successful time as a comics pro.

This blog will still mostly focus on comics of the past, but permit me a brief victory lap as I return to the comics business for the first time in two decades (excepting only a video-game based story I did for Heavy Metal a couple years ago).


I am genuinely thrilled to be working with Thrillbent — not just because of the creative platform it will provide, but because I think Mark Waid is a smart guy and I’ve been a fan of Thrillbent from the start, having kept up with Insufferable week-by-week, and binge-reading everything else on Mark’s site since my magical moment at Comic-Con last month. Mark is a digital comics pioneer who is genuinely interested in advancing the form, and he’s talked the talk (and walked the walk) since his very public announcement at WonderCon 2012 that the future of comics is digital. If you haven’t yet visited Thrillbent, you should do so — it’s a home for digital-first comics that embrace this new medium. They aren’t motion comics, or guided view versions of paper books — Thrillbent stories are their own genre, still very much a comics-reading experience, but employing camera techniques recognizable from cinema (and a few innovations unique to Thrillbent) to tell comics stories in new ways. Plus, Thrillbent features creator-owned content. It checks all the boxes. It’s great. Go look.


Thrillbent is available on your computer or tablet of choice

So. The pitch.

I like to pitch. I’ve done it a lot and it is a thing I do well. When I saw that Thrillbent was taking cold pitches at Comic-Con, I knew I had to do it — not because I had any great expectation of winning the competition, but because it was the perfect thing for me to try. Comics. Thrillbent. A pitch. My favorite things. I was going to be at Comic-Con anyways, so I decided to give it a shot.

I blew the dust off of a comic book idea I’ve had kicking around in the back of my head for twenty years, an idea that I had tried (without success) to sell to Malibu Comics during their Ultraverse days. I scrubbed through my old files, re-familiarized myself with what I liked about the idea, threw out a bunch of stuff, and over the course of a week or two honed my fifteen second (!) pitch for the panel:

The Powers of Molly Powers is a romantic comedy about a midwestern girl named Molly, who is married to a loveable slacker who’s whole plan in life is to somehow luck into superpowers. When Molly gets powers instead, they spend as much time fighting with each other as they do with the bad guys.

Not bad. I’d still like to do that series someday. But what I realized the night before the panel is that while this was a perfectly good comic book pitch, it wasn’t an especially distinguished Thrillbent pitch … because while it described engaging characters and vivid conflict, and suggested fun plot lines, it was better suited for a continuing series than a one-off short story, and (most importantly) it didn’t take special advantage of Thrillbent’s storytelling technology. This would make a fine paper comic, or a weekly free three-panel webcomic (and if a great artist wants to go in on this with me, let me know) … but it wasn’t the kind of story that might best be told — or might only be told — as a Thrillbent story.

Well, shit.

I give up

I decided not to pitch.

It wasn’t that I was afraid to lose — I just didn’t want to step up to the mic with my dick in my hands. So to speak. The pitch was all for fun but it was serious fun, and I wasn’t going to do it unless I thought I could nail it. In my mind, it had taken me twenty years to come up with that Molly Powers pitch and there was no way I was going to come up with something better in twenty hours.

Unless … I could.

One of the reasons I haven’t worked in comics these past two decades is that I’ve been in the video game business, designing games and creating original characters, stories, and worlds for gamers. It’s been fun but it’s even further afield from this blog than my comics career, so I haven’t mentioned it much. But something I learned from games that I think applies here is that good design springs from constraints. Having firm limitations in terms of deadlines, budgets, and hardware capabilities focuses creators on what is possible. As an engineer friend once told me, “We can do all of this stuff, but we can’t do ALL of this stuff!” Creating means choosing, and the wise creator chooses a subject that works (and hopefully thrives) within the limitations he is handed.

I decided to give it an hour, to work backwards from Thrillbent’s specs, and see what I could come up with.

I made up a little list. First, I knew I wanted this to be a comics story, first and foremost. It wouldn’t be a movie trying to tell itself in comic book form, or an internal novelistic story with pictures, or a talking head teleplay with minimal visual appeal. It would be the kind of story that comics do better than any other form — a story that married the relentless visuality of cinema with the internal story of a hero we can cheer for. This gave me a litmus test for any wild-ass ideas that came to mind. Regardless of subject, the story had to meet my idea of what comics do best, or I’d reject it on the spot. Fine.

Next, I thought about what Thrillbent does well. Thrillbent does a lot of things well … but one of its most distinguishing characteristics is how Thrillbent stories extend the information value of a comics panel by manipulating text and changing (sometimes subtly) the content of an otherwise-static image. Sometimes this is a change in a character’s expression, other times it is some surprise bit of action with a character bursting into frame, sometimes it is an inset panel that spins the man composition in a different direction. When Thrillbent is at its best, it creates a kind of storytelling velocity or persistence of vision through the power of the reader’s imagination.

I wanted some of that.

I flashed on the idea of precognition. A Thrillbent story about a character who could see the future as a series of cascading possibilities that collapsed into one fatal certainty would be visual and a lot of fun.

The problem with knowing the future is that it’s dull.

No-No Nostradamus!

Gilbert Gottried told a joke years ago about being frustrated over lunch with his friend Nostradamus, because every time he tried to tell a story, Nostradamus cut him off by saying, “I know, I know.” Paul Muad’Dib aside, people who see the future are either dull, or madmen. If they can see into the future with perfect clarity, they buy a lottery ticket, and their story is over; if they see into the future in riddles or flashes … well, that can be fun, too, but it lacked the snap I needed for a short tale.

But what if you could only see a few seconds into the future? Hmm.

We all “see” a few seconds into the future. It’s called planning. It keeps us alive, and it distracts us from the zen ideal of living in the moment. But what if you could see, with a certainty, what would happen just a few seconds from now? It’s potentially the most useless superpower in the world, but for a clever character it opened up all sorts of vivid and visual possibilities. It wouldn’t make you omniscient, but it would give you a little edge. What would you do with that edge?

I worked up my pitch, saved it to my phone, and went to bed.

The next day, while riding into Comic-Con with my old pal and creative partner Chris Ulm, I laid both pitches on him — Molly Powers, and this new one that I’d come up with in an hour. Chris liked the Molly Powers pitch, but rejected it in favor of my new idea — and not just because he vaguely remembered Molly from when I’d pitched it to him while Chris was Malibu’s Editor-In-Chief all those years ago! He liked my second idea better — more precisely, he liked the first part of my second idea better, but he rejected the second half because it took things in a direction he didn’t like. He liked the premise of limited precognition, but not what I’d done with it. He said the second half of the pitch should tell me the emotional stakes of the story and define a relationship that was important to the hero.

I took his advice to heart and re-worked the pitch. Six hours to go. No problem!

Over lunch, Chris and I caught up with Matt Wilson, the very smart and talented guy who runs Privateer Press. Most people know Matt for his Warmachine work …

Metal On Metal, by Matt Wilson

… but what few people know is that Matt is a veteran of dozens (hundreds?) of Hollywood story pitches, having worked the town for years as a screenwriter. Like Chris, Matt is a guy I respect and trust so I laid my pitch on him — he thought about it, and agreed with Chris that the premise was strong, but my resolution was weak. He said that I had a hero who could do something “just in time,” so her conflict should be that she didn’t have enough time to do something, like pull off a job that would save her life.

Three hours to go, but I was feeling fine. Assisted by creative godfathers like Chris and Matt, I felt like I was loaded for bear.

with friends like these ...

that’s me, Farzad Varahramyan, Matt Wilson, and Chris Ulm … creative godfathers all (Farzad did the header for this blog, which is like asking Michelangelo to work with Play-Doh — love these guys!)

I showed up for the panel early, sitting through the Thunderbirds presentation with only half an eye on what was happening (and what I saw looked very cool!) — but mostly I was tweaking my pitch on my phone, and trying to commit it to memory. The Thunderbirds panel ended, and the Thrillbent guys streamed in, and a very nice person asked me if I intended to pitch, and asked me to sign a release. I did, and I did.

The panel began. Mark gave some quick Thrillbent updates, and put the dozen or so Thrillbent creators he had with him on his panel on the spot by asking them to pitch their current series in fifteen seconds or less. Then it was time for the audience to pitch, with Mark saying this was his attempt to democratize the creation of comics, and apologizing that we’d only have fifteen seconds to do our stuff — but there were a lot of pitches to hear, and concision was the soul of a good idea.

I was the second of the hundred-odd pitches in the session. That made me a little nervous, but what the hell … it meant that my idea would definitely be heard, and it also gave me a slight advantage in that if I could set a high mark, every pitch that followed would automatically be compared to mine, constantly reinforcing my title and my pitch in the minds of the panel.

I stepped up to the mic, and said,

4 Seconds is a noir thriller about a petty thief who discovers she can see four seconds into the future. That’s just enough precognition to get into trouble, but not nearly enough time to pull off the heist that will save her sister’s life.

That’s about 14.8 seconds — I know, because I timed it — but time seemed to stretch toward infinity in the silence that followed. And that was fine — it was my job to make the pitch, not to judge it. Once the pitch is made, it’s like you’ve shot an arrow. It will find the target, or it won’t, but it is out of your hands.

If you’ve shot the arrow to the best of your ability, all you will feel is bliss.


I had plenty of bliss. And I was very pleased when Mark said, “That’s a great pitch!” I also knew I’d hit the target, because Mark immediately called out how my idea was strong because it would work so well with what Thrillbent does best. I’d taken a little risk because nothing in the pitch said how 4 Seconds would use Thrillbent to best advantage, but Mark had instantly seen how a story about precognition would work on his platform. Score.

Mark asked me to come up and stand in front of the crowd while he heard more pitches. Most of them were pretty good, and a few were excellent. On another day, several of them might have won, instead of me. Only a couple people got buzzed out for going over time. Nearly everyone had put a lot of thought and heart into their pitches (and Mark has gone on record about how pumped up it made him feel to realize there is such honesty and creativity out there, trying to make it into comics). Several other creators hit the target and made it to the “elimination round.” It was an honor to stand up there with those guys — most of them younger than me, with less experience doing this kind of thing. I tried to high-five or congratulate them all.

I knew I had a good chance to win, but I wasn’t hung up on it. It was all about the pitch. I made a great pitch! If it wasn’t right for Mark, I could take it somewhere else, or just put it away in a box, mission accomplished. Several of the ideas that I heard were just as worthy as mine and they might easily have been chosen instead of 4 Seconds, but I was fortunate to emerge on top in the second round (which mostly consisted of our re-stating our names and titles while the panel conferred). A fist pump, some handshakes, some nice people congratulating me, and then I got the hell out of there! I’d won, and sticking around could only screw things up!

There was a nice woman standing right behind me when I won — she was also in the final group, and had given a strong pitch. In a good-natured way, she whispered that it was a shame about my car accident … and suddenly I felt like Miss America, because I knew if I failed to follow-through on this idea, there were a host of runners up ready to take my crown.

there she is ...

okay, this is getting weird

But I will tell you what I told her — that everyone was a winner, just by having the courage to pitch. They’d all passed through this thing and they would come out the other side stronger for it. I also told her and anyone else that would listen that this didn’t have to be the end for their idea … that they should email Mark and thank him for the chance to present their idea, and network the hell out of their fifteen seconds and that sooner or later, something would happen for them.

For my part, I feel less like Miss America than I do this guy …


I pulled the damn sword from the stone! Now, what do I do with it?

I have finished fifteen seconds worth of 4 Seconds. I’m working on the rest. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Thanks for reading!

All This And World War Too!

Longbox Graveyard #135

It is always a happy day when guest columnist Dean Compton graces the pages of Longbox Graveyard! This time, Dean reveals his deep affection for a series he and I both admire — Roy Thomas’ All-Star Squadron. I previously wrote about Thomas’ reverence for the past through his creation of this book; now, Dean takes a deep dive into what made this series so special for him. Welcome back, Dean!

When I was a very young man, nothing was as exciting to me as this set of 1965 World Book encyclopedias that we had in the house. One of, if not the first, things I ever read was the machine gun article in the World Book. I read anything and everything in each one of them, but my favorite article had to be the one on World War II. I loved everything about it. I loved the sections on how the 1930’s led up to the war, the rise of totalitarianism, the rationing of goods in the US, but the thing I loved most was the section with the maps detailing the expansion and then retraction of the German and Japanese empires. Speaking of, how awesome and wrong is the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” as a name for their empire? I mean, obviously this empire was awful for everyone it conquered and oppressed, but that is a bad ass name. The fact that the name completely belies the negative impact of the Fascist Japanese Empire somehow makes it sound even cooler.

I promise, though, this isn’t an article about how great the Japanese Empire was. I’m an ardent antifascist, and therein lay my utter fascination with the Second World War. Many wars are useless and only fought to line the pockets of the elite. World War II certainly is not bereft of profit incentives, but this was truly a war against the fascist countries of that era that needed to be fought, lest their reach envelop the planet.

So when I walked into the flea market when I was in 2nd grade and saw All-Star Squadron comics in longbox after glorious longbox, I was immediately enchanted by the notion that these masked men were the heroes of World War II. I tried to get a few, but I was not allowed to have comics that day for some reason, and those heroes were forgotten until 1992 …

Justice Society!

is Sandman trying to put that monster to sleep? How will that work? Also, why is Flash running away?

I fell in love with the Justice Society of America the instant I learned of them. When I first laid eyes on them, I was confused and excited. Not unlike the first time I first time I kissed a girl, but there was decidedly less Justice Society involved with that.

I knew who Green Lantern and Flash were, and I could tell that these guys were similar, but they couldn’t be Green Lantern and Flash could they?

Indeed, they could be. I was astonished and excited as the entire history of the DC Universe lay before me. I wanted to know more and more, and I soaked up information via all sorts of paradigms. I used cards, I asked my friends, and I bugged our local morning DJ, Ben Johnson, who I had somehow struck up a friendship with, about it. He had revealed he was a huge comic book fan, and he was always willing to answer a question or two when he had the time.

(He really went out of his way to help sate my curiosity, and I think that those of us entranced by the allure of the comic book could learn a great deal from Ben, as that is how you make fans. Too often, we become annoyed at those who know less than us instead of taking questions as a sign of interest. Let’s try and make, not break, fans.)

Now that that public service announcement is over, I reckon we can get back to All-Star Squadron. Ben told me of the JSA and the All-Star Squadron after I saw the above comic and because of memories of the WWII comics I had seen at the flea market. He explained how the DC Universe had once been a multiverse, and in this multiverse the heroes of the Justice Society of America lived on Earth-2. They had their glory days in WWII, and they had aged, while the heroes of Earth-1 were the heroes that I knew.

So since they came first, why did the Justice Society and the Earth-2 gang simply allow themselves to be Earth-2? Why wasn’t there a huge rumble over this? Maybe someone knows, but I do know that we have crossovers now for much less of a reason. Who would not have wanted to see an all-out fight between the JSA and the JLA? Some jerky hater, that’s who. I would never accept just being second best, so I am unsure why the GOLDEN AGE SUPERMAN did.

One day after talking with Ben extensively about the JSA, I sauntered into the flea market, and I was greeted by a 25-CENT BOX of All-Star Squadron! Chock full! Is there any set of syllables more heavenly to comic book fans than 25-CENT BOX? What if you found this fantastic Rich Buckler cover in one? Would you be even more jealous of me than you already are?

All-Star Squadron!

the Idea that The Atom is deciding Superman’s fate in a team is hilarious. “Gee, I dunno if he cuts it” said the short guy in really good shape about a veritable God.

The answer would indeed astound me, as while the JSA plays a prominent role, they aren’t necessarily the stars of All-Star Squadron. Roy Thomas, the greatest writer of Golden Age characters who didn’t write them in the Golden Age, took this chance to shine a light on a few of the lesser known superheroes of the Second World War, and I thank him for it. This series is good, and his love and reverence for the characters always shines through, even in the waning issues of the series where it was basically eviscerated by Crisis on Infinite Earths, when post-Crisis continuity altered the DC Universe drastically. Now Thomas would no longer be allowed to play with Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, and more. This changed almost the entire framework upon which the All-Star Squadron was built, and so it quietly faded away, with the last few issues being origin stories of the group.

But Bloody Hell, I am getting ahead of myself! You don’t even know who is in the group that disbanded yet! Well, wait no longer!

All-Star Squadron!


Look at that lineup! Johnny Quick! Robotman! Firebrand! Shining Knight! Liberty Belle! Hawkgirl! And The Atom returns for this mission here! The Squadron would serve on the home front for the war, because the JSA disbanded and enlisted. Of course, JSA guys are always hanging around, getting special permission from FDR, who along with Churchill, makes copious appearances in the book, to assist when their special abilities as superheroes (or Mystery Men, as they were called at this time) are needed more than their skills as soldiers in the armed forces. Other folks would filter in and out of the All-Star Squadron, and over time, it seemed that any character even loosely associated with the DC Universe circa WWII would meander their way into the book. It would take me awhile to find that out, though, because …

There was a large gap in issues available at the flea market. I was almost always trying to piece together the collection the same way someone tries to piece together a document they accidentally shredded: painstakingly, tediously, and annoyingly. I’d get a # 7 here, a #46 here, but it was always difficult to put together runs. I do recall lots of issues jumping out at me, though, like one featuring Robotman on trial. Not much more exciting than the meeting of a Robot with a human brain and the US JUSTICE SYSTEM!

All-Star Squadron!

guilty of being a robot? A monster? The law sure was different in the 40’s.

My favorite surprise though had to be the introduction of Infinity Inc., a superhero team comprised of the progeny of the Justice Society of America! They went back in time to help the JSA and the All-Star Squadron after they had been completely overwhelmed by the machinations of the Ultra-Humanite (a very underrated super-villain if you ask me, and since you are reading this you sort of did), who was assisted by his (some unwilling) henchmen, Deathbolt, Cyclotron, and Amazing Man! If you don’t believe me, scope this ragtag team tossed together to save the day after heavyweights like the Golden Age Superman were taken down!

All-Star Squadron!

how long did they have to practice to get that in unison?

The work on this is amazing. If you think of this as a baseball lineup, it may not be murderer’s row, but it has to be one of the more formidable lineups. Roy Thomas, Rich Buckler (Deathlok creator), Jerry Ordway, and Todd McFarlane all had great runs, and watching Jerry Ordway grow in particular is very fun to me. The talent gets a bit sparser later in the run, but it never gets lackluster. The work is always solid, and you never know what is going to happen.

This was almost a primer for neophyte comics fans like I was. There was always a sense of history and (good) continuity in All-Star Squadron. Thomas was excellent at simultaneously showing and telling the history of the JSA/Squadron, and he also excelled at demonstrating why said history was important. Of course, he also managed to drop in little forgotten nuggets here and yon among the way, like when he taught a 14-year-old young man who the Seven Soldiers of Victory were …

All-Star Squadron!

if your team doesn’t have a cowboy, how can it possibly be as cool as the Seven Soldiers of Victory? I’m looking at you, every other superhero team except The Avengers.

The Seven Soldiers of Victory touched my heart, and to this day, Green Arrow, the leader of the team, remains my second favorite superhero. If you haven’t seen it, you should watch the episode “Patriot Act” from Justice League Unlimited. It features the Seven Soldiers, and it does a great job displaying just what makes them so courageous.

Roy Thomas also looked at the racial inequality of the era, sometimes with more success than others. He did a great job introducing us to the African-American Amazing Man, who I instantly loved, and who was a decent influence on me. I grew up in a small Arkansas town that was 97% white, so I had very little interaction with folks of African-American descent. Luckily, though, I was surrounded by racists who made up things about black people so I could have NO IDEA what reality was like. Thanks! On a genuinely lucky level though, I was able to see some culture that refuted such notions. One place was here, and another place was the great Milestone imprint. I am sure I would have seen past that bigotry sooner rather than later, but comics helped me see past it that much sooner.

Roy Thomas also used real world events in the All-Star Squadron in relation to race. For instance, they did a whole storyline about the Detroit Race Riots that occurred during WWII, which is an event glossed over in our history.

All-Star Squadron!

wow, that whip isn’t overkill or anything

And as you see, here is where the mistakes lie. The attempt to not be racist almost has more racist overtones as we see a guy in a KKK mask whipping a black man. I get what we are going for here, but it is a little off-putting. However, a little off-putting is nothing compared to how Japanese villains were treated.

All-Star Squadron!

the villains look like castoffs from the 80’s cartoon, Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos

Sumo the Samurai? COME ON MAN! That was unacceptable then and now. Roy just put two things together that happen to be Japanese terms. Why not, “Fuji the Ninja”? or, “Rice the Shogun”? This was just awful. Also awful was a subplot where Firebrand becomes racist against Japanese people because her brother (the original Firebrand) was seriously hurt at Pearl Harbor. She then carries resentment toward Japan until talking to her brother, who tells her that he was saved at Pearl Harbor … by a Japanese-American! I wish hackneyed would describe that properly. Conversely though, Roy Thomas does a good job with Tsunami, whose parents and family are being shipped off to internment camps. It was a different time, and even though I don’t feel like he always made contact on racial issues, I appreciate Roy Thomas here at least stepping to the plate.

I also appreciate the appearance of Captain Marvel, the one true Captain Marvel, (little jab there Paul!). If you haven’t seen my piece on him right here at Longbox Graveyard, take a look here. I am a huge Captain Marvel fan, and I first got to see a possessed Captain Marvel going toe to toe with the Golden Age Superman right here in the pages of All-Star Squadron. I think it is the only time in my life I have ever rooted for anyone even tangentially associated with Nazis; that’s how much I wanted the World’s Mightiest Mortal to defeat Superman.

All-Star Squadron!

I look at that zeppelin in the background and I seriously wish we still flew in those

I think most All-Star Squadron and JSA fans think the best moment of the series, though, was the massive roll call that took place in issue #31. Nearly every WWII Mystery Man was there. I recall getting my hands on this issue and just swooning. There was so much history on these pages and just so much fun. I wanted to go back to WWII and somehow be a part of this gathering that never actually existed. These pages also reflect Roy Thomas’s love for this era and these characters. I don’t think he leaves any out except for in-story reasons, including both the Quality Comics and DC Comics versions of Manhunter, two different characters who were created by two different companies in 40’s at the same time, and he also manages to start easing the idea of the multiverse affecting Earth-2 in long lasting ways here, as several of the folks at this meeting would leave Earth-2 to go to Earth-X to fight on a world where the Nazis won the Second World War! They also tangled with Baron Blitzkrieg there, who is one of the most awesome looking villains of all time.

All-Star Squadron!

I wish I knew what side of WWII that guy was on

No article on All-Star Squadron would be complete without a look at what many folks believe to be the finest issue in All-Star Squadron history! All-Star Squadron #20 featured the villain Brainwave. Using his vast mental might, he enslaved the JSA and was killing them mentally. He made them believe that they were pitted against scenarios where they failed, and if he got them all to believe …they’d die. Of course, one member of the JSA just had too much willpower to give up …

All-Star Squadron!

The cover is haunting, yes, but so is what occurs inside. They all face their fears and fail, but none fail so horrifically as Green Lantern. He becomes so enraged that he massacres the entire Japanese population.

All-Star Squadron!

Green Lantern has caused a holocaust, and nearly allows himself to succumb, but the other JSAers and members of the All-Star squadron are able to reach out to him and encourage him not to give up. And once Green Lantern finds his willpower, it’s like Uma Thurman when she was stuck in the coffin in Kill Bill Vol. 2 — there will be no stopping him, regardless of what must break!

But now as promised, the greatest moment in All-Star Squadron history …

All-Star Squadron!

All-Star Squadron!

All-Star Squadron!

no snarky joke here … too in awe …

The series went downhill from here. The artists, while not bad, just were never in the league of Buckler, Ordway, or McFarlane. That’s no knock on them; very few artists are that good. And no matter who was drawing the book, this book could not have survived the paradigm shift that was Crisis on Infinite Earths. Without being able to be secluded with its own variants of the DC powerhouses, All-Star Squadron faded out after the Crisis. It did give some of the best moments of the Crisis that did not occur in the main series, such as this cover, which is my favorite of the entire run.

All-Star Squadron!

Robotman’s look of horror at the idea of Superman fighting the Monster Society of Evil alone makes him look like a creepy Drama Mask robot

There are probably better covers, but this is my favorite. This is also one of the last times we’d see the Golden Age Superman until 2005 when that aberration known as Infinite Crisis did its best to destroy everything everyone ever loved about comics; of course, in comparison to Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis looks like Fantastic Four #1-100.

Paul and I talked about All-Star Squadron before, and he mentioned that it had a real Silver Age vibe. After re-reading all of this, I must agree. Roy Thomas, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse, kept a Silver Age book going all the way into the mid 1980’s with this one. While the Silver Age itself was long gone by the time even the first issue of All-Star Squadron saw print, I think one could make a fairly strong argument that it was the last Silver Age book that existed. While the Silver Age was long dead, All-Star Squadron continued, like the light we see here on Earth from stars that have gone out years prior. Thanks to Roy Thomas, the star that was Earth-2 provided light for us all to enjoy just a little longer.

All-Star Squadron!

thanks for not going gently into that good night gentlemen

Thanks for reading! Join me for my LIVE radio shows on www.vocnation.com. Compton After Dark is a show focusing on wrestling, politics, comics, and more every Sunday night from 11:30-130 EDT. I’m also on at Midnight on Thursdays with Her Dork World, His Dork World, where Emily Scott and I tackle gender dynamics in dork culture. Don’t forget to scope out my 90’s comics blog at www.theunspokendecade.com. I am sure that I will be around here with more Bronze Age stuff too. I’m planning to take a look at The Rampaging Hulk for Longbox Graveyard soon! Try and contain your excitement!

Bustin’ Loose,
Dean Compton

NEXT MONTH: #136 Six Signature Superhero Sound Effects!




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