Tag Archives: Guy Gardner

A Warrior’s Path: The Journey of Guy Gardner

ggwa1-coverYeah, I know. He’s arrogant, pompous, and opinionated (Plus a long list full of even more negative adjectives that would make even a sailor blush!) In other words, he’s a jerk. Be that as it may, I like him. Why you ask? Because he’s real. What do I mean by that? Read on and you might just discover that for yourself. The life of Guy Gardner wasn’t what you would call pleasant. He was raised by an abusive, alcoholic father that would rather beat him senseless than show him any affection. This caused Guy to act out in his teen years to the point of becoming a juvenile delinquent. His older brother, Mace, straightened him out though and Guy went to college. There, he played football and earned bachelor’s degrees in education and psychology. He had many jobs after college but none of them ever seemed quite right.

801957That is, until the day Gardner was chosen to be one of Earth’s Green Lanterns. This was it. His chance to be somebody. To be a superhero! Guy exhibited (Mostly due to his upbringing) arrogant and violent tendencies as a hero. This led him to challenge the rightful Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, into a fistfight. Winner keeps the ring. Guy lost that challenge and surrendered his power ring.

1081687  Unable to accept that his days as a hero were now behind him, Gardner next acquired the yellow ring of Sinestro. Keep in mind that the color yellow was the only weakness of a Green Lantern at this time! (Geez! Bitter much?!) But, Guy soon lost the power of his yellow ring after yet another battle with, you guessed it, Hal Jordan! (In Guy’s defense, Hal was now the powerhouse villain known as Parallax at this point.)

guy_gardner_warrior_03But, still unwilling to stop his search for power, Guy traveled to the Amazon. There, he would discover the relic known as The Chalice of the Warrior. Drinking water from it, Guy Gardner awakened dormant DNA placed within his bloodline by alien creatures known as Vuldarians! Vuldarians, as it turned out, were a warrior race that could shapeshift parts of their bodies into weapons by mere thought, limited only by the power of their imagination! This included fantastic bladed weapons and even complex firearms.

guy_gardner_warrior_04Finally, a power to uniquely call his own! Guy, now called Warrior, set out to become the hero he had always dreamed of being. During this time, Warrior defeated many powerful supervillains, gained the respect of other superheroes, and even made peace with his past.

guy_gardner_warrior_44Though this era in the Guy Gardner mythos is often overlooked and, to many, he will always be seen as a second-string  Green Lantern with an attitude problem. But, to me this was the greatest time to read about the character. To me it seemed as if all of his dreams had finally been realized and he had received his much-deserved status as an icon. You see, unlike Hal Jordan, Guy made many mistakes in his life, but he had learned from every one.  He had come from less than humble beginnings and become something much more. Isn’t that what every human being wants in life? To finally receive a happy ending after a lifetime of trials and tribulation? Guy Gardner was and is less than perfect. He is flawed like everyone else. That’s what makes him real.ggwa2-cover

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Because NO ONE Demanded it! – “Armageddon 2001” and the Adolescence of the DCU

“Don’t be sad, Kal-El. Please. Earth raised you, but you’ve grown too big for it now. It’s time you took your place in a larger universe.” – Maxima

This August the Unspoken Decade is looking back at some of our favorite Alternate Realities. The most enjoyable DC crossover event of that period is probably 1989’s Invasion! by Keith Giffen, Bill Mantlo, and, at least for a little bit (as is his modus operandi) Todd McFarlane, but that is outside the purview of our endeavor so I would like to turn your attention to the much maligned, but equally informative, Armageddon 2001 from 1991.

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A House Ad for the series and the final page of the first issue. Was anyone going to be that upset if Monarch turned out to be “Hawkworld” era Hawkman?

Invasion! is in many ways the ideal crossover. Several different, established extraterrestrial militaries decide that Earth is no good. These obvious aggressors are then repelled by the vastly outnumbered, far more likable heroes of Earth. Panel space is even given to the everyday people of the world who rally behind them. It is cut and dry, a Grade School retelling of World War II and not the nuanced socio-political wartime drama of A Song of Fire and Ice.

Armageddon had narrator Waverider taking readers on a magic journey through a dozen or so “What If?” scenarios featuring the popular heroes of the day. He looked into each of their possible future to see which of them (he was sure that it had to be one of them) would kill all of their friends and conquer the world in the time between 1991 and 2001. Waverider is never revealed to be an unreliable narrator so this really is the story of a superhero who will murder the world.

Scripts are courtesy of Archie Goodwin and Denny O’Neil, the Old Guard. These are the guys the industry knew and who helped shape it during the preceding decades. It is penciller, and possible co-plotter Dan Jurgens (he usually receives credit for co-creating Waverider, golden-hued time travelers being his thing) who deserves special attention.

Not necessarily a newcomer (he had nearly a decade of professional experience at that point) Jurgens would act as one of the architects of the following year’s The Death of Superman story and penciled the comic you just imagined when reading the words “death of Superman.” It was a big deal and Jurgens was never shy about taking the reins of something he was passionate about.

Not saying that any of this was intentional but with phrasing such as that how can Jurgens not have subsequently turned Jimmy’s photographing Superman’s lifeless corpse into a plot point a year later?
Not saying that any of this was intentional but with phrasing such as that how can Jurgens not have subsequently turned Jimmy’s photographing Superman’s lifeless corpse into a plot point a year later?

Armageddon is a strange beast. It shows us sides of established characters that had to be, up until that time, considered out of character. There is a sense of hopelessness permeating our heroes’ potential futures. A mystery story (the identity of arch-MacGuffin villain “Monarch”) frames a series of “Imaginary Stories,” similar to the book-length ones from back in the day. Some are tragedies, some are triumphs, all are never mentioned again.

This series has a special place in my heart, it is the first crossover that I have any memory of. These annuals were the first I saw on the newsstand back when “2001” was closer to the present than it is now. It was a shock to find out, years later, that Waverider was not already an established superhero, peer of Superman and whoever it was they were calling the Titans at the time. I will be focusing on the three Superman annuals. Not to slight the others, but Superman was the only triple-dipper and considering that this was his last hurrah before the rest of the nineties, which were what could charitably be called “unkind” to him, maybe he deserves it.

Superman Annual, Action Comics Annual, and The Adventures of Superman Annual all had tie-ins for their third issues. The fourth “shield” book, Superman: The Man of Steel, (which would effectively make Superman a weekly character) was not yet around. All three stories deal with the inevitable death of Lois Lane, then fiancée to Clark Kent, and/or the Man of Tomorrow ruling the world. Apparently Superman is constantly walking a tightrope of not just doing everything for us regardless of the ethical or moral implications. Injustice was right! Who knew?

One of my oldest compatriots is dead? He deserved it! Anyone else getting a Howard Chaykin vibe from this art?
“One of my oldest compatriots is dead? He deserved it!” Also, anyone else getting a Howard Chaykin vibe from this art?

Waverider and Monarch are two bits of the story that were added to the canon of the DCU. You may have heard that Monarch was supposed to be one hero and ended up being another and that a few decades later DC editorial tried to repair that. None of this matters because honestly I would not recommend reading the core narrative. I am sure you can find a version of this story, which amounts to 1984: DCU, done better other places but the tie-ins are not without their charm. For a major crossover the first issue is surprisingly devoid of action or big name supercharacters. The story of a family man dealing with a government he does not care for is not quite the status quo changing shake-up that you would expect from a comic with a cover using that much shiny silver ink.

Matt Ryder (see what they did there?) is a salaryman with two grown daughters, a wife he loves, and the only spine left in his totalitarian, freedomless future. Because this is 2030 and not Apokolips this makes him the only man who can help the ruler of the world and not, for some reason, the first one gunned down in a hail of generic energy blasts. Matt has apparently cracked time travel and regardless of the fact that he is constantly hinted at having “anti-social” tendencies he is assigned the project leader to get Monarch what he wants.

None of this matters because as Waverider all Matt does is watch and wait. He does not interact with the world nor team with the Justice League (such as it was in the days before Grant Morrison) to deal with the threat before it arises. Part of this is because he does not know who to trust. This is an interesting angle as it was expressly within the text that one of our beloved heroes was going to become bad, and stay that way.

Waverider is essentially the main character from the movie
Waverider is essentially the main character from the movie “Brazil” except super-science makes his daydreams real. I think this may mean that Terry Gilliam should be appointed Executive Editor of DC.

This is an odd instance of growing pains that the superhero genre went through back then. Heroes and villains had routinely switched sides but here we have a Possible World where a good person, a hero, will eventually ruin things for everyone because if the world of the future is heroless then the King of High-Collars must have murdered them all. The identity of Monarch is eventually revealed to be Hawk. It was not Captain Atom, the already military themed, wound-too tight super solider who not only had experience time traveling but was constantly shown to be one more bad day away from just wiping out all bureaucracy, beginning with you.

Both Hawk & Dove and Captain Atom were created by Steve Ditko. Even Ryder has a similar name to Ditko character “The Creeper,” Jack Ryder. The villain of Armageddon is called “Monarch,” which is pretty close to “King.” Ditko was one of the founding fathers of Marvel along with Jack Kirby. Kirby adapted the film 2001: A Space Odyssey into a successful comic that spawned Machine Man. The identity of which hero turns out to be Monarch is unimportant because I imagine “Sturdy Steve” wearing him as a fiction-suit just so that he can beat the snot out of all the DC characters he never cared for. Kirby was the basis for most of the characters that have remained fan favorites while most of the time I have trouble separating the Question from his creator.

Monarch’s war, his crusade, to rid the world of other superpowered people is not only wildly successful (I always thought that he contributed more than a little bit to Mark Waid’s Empire especially the look of the primary antagonist) but it takes place during the 1990s. The story may be set in 1991 but by 2001 the world as we know it will be unrecognizable. A major part of the ensuing Superman stories would revolve around the, at the time, fictional 2000 US Presidential election (no, Lex Luthor is not shown to be a candidate, that was probably considered too outlandish).

One of two times Superman is underwater in these issues, but not the one where he uses sunken treasure to support the Gold Standard.
One of two times Superman is underwater in these issues, but not the one where he uses sunken treasure to support the Gold Standard.

The world may have been different if Ditko had donned super-armor and conquered the world but seeing as how the actual Presidential Election turned out in 2000 I am not sure we would have noticed. Armageddon would have little impact on the broader DCU but one thing it did do was introduce us to a major destructive force whose presence is continued to be felt today. Not Monarch, though. That guy does not make it through.

Dan Jurgens’ Zero Hour was DC’s defining, continuity rewriting event of the nineties. It had major implications up and down various timelines and features Hank “Hawk” Hall as the world’s most generic looking, nineties’ supervillain (Google “Extant” and tell me that he should not be fighting Ultraforce or Bloodstrike). He then wipes the Legion of Superheroes and the surviving members of the Justice Society of America from continuity. He takes the parts that do not belong and removes them from existence by absorbing Waverider into himself and acting as the Editor of the DCU publishing line.

When you consider this in the context of what was going on in the titles themselves (Reign of the Supermen, Knightfall, and the arrival of Ed Benes to name a few) it becomes apparent that whatever direction the people in charge at DC wanted for their comics was not what had come before. Much of this awkward, teenager-acting-out transition can be seen in Armageddon.

Superman needs a Hairy Chested Love-God phase. Blowing up entire starships with ease, closer to Sterling Archer than James Bond.
Superman needs a Hairy Chested Love-God phase. Blowing up entire starships with ease, closer to Sterling Archer than James Bond.

Goodwin and O’Neill’s names appear on many well-regarded classics and I cannot think of any horror stories I have read about them. They are not Frank Miller or John Byrne, they do not make you ashamed to enjoy and appreciate superhero comics. Even Waverider has an old school, ironic name. He has a family, he has built something that that has the trappings of a true tragedy waiting to happen. The fall of Captain Atom, or whoever it is that is “destined” to become Monarch, was never supposed to be about how it “cool” it would look if one superhero killed all the others. It is about the pressure put on each of our lives and how change is not only possible but inevitable.

Some of this is left is left unsaid as Hawk is revealed to be the Big Bad (a story I urge you to look up, imagine how impressive it was that such a colossal plot point was leaked in the days before the internet). Back to Superman, his three annuals, read in the order listed above, form a kind of single story, united by themes more than plot. Waverider continuously informs the reader (he is just thinking to himself but I prefer to imagine him more akin to Ambush Bug or Deadpool: He knows he is “fictional,” he just does not always know what that means) that no one should be able to remember the events he helps them see. Superman does. Twice.

Superman may not turn out to be Monarch (that name, really? I keep imagining pre-Hook Hand Aquaman going up against the Queen of England) but he proves that the rules do not define him, he defines them. Why is it so important that Superman be viewed three times as opposed to everyone else’s once? Because he is the greatest, most powerful, or overall best? Sure, but more than likely it was because he had three ongoing titles.

Ad from an issue of
Ad from an issue of “Armageddon.” Someone up the food chain knew the target demographic were old enough to be chain smokers.

Roger Stern writes the middle issue and it is the one I would recommend to you over the others. A former editor of mine, at a different site, steered me towards it many years ago and I never regretted picking it up. What would happen if Superman were elected President of the United States? Many weird things, apparently, including the world’s most tedious two page discussion of trade deficits. Reading these I had a better appreciation for why I would grow up believing this character to be so eminently uninteresting: He is constantly being portrayed as the only adult in the room.

In 1980 Stern scripted Captain America #250 where the character considers a run for office. It tells you as much about the modern national political system as it does Steve Rogers. This Superman issue could be considered its thematic successor except for the fact that here you see that maybe things actually would be better if an all-powerful alien being ruled over us. It goes to some strange places (Stern’s an Old Leftie and while Oliver Queen does not make an appearance there is a focus on international nuclear disarmament that swaps ICBMs for the Justice League of the World) but it helps me understand why Superman works, if and when he does.

Two other two? In one Superman bangs Maxima and in the other Batman murders him.

At one point this is referred to as ‘battle armor.’ Almerac really is a strange, alien world.
At one point this is referred to as ‘battle armor.’ Almerac really is a strange, alien world.

Louise Simonson wrote the former, Jurgens the latter. The industry was only a few years out from The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Marvelman, and anything else you can name that “forever changed everything.” These stories are about raised stakes and the dark paths that have apparently always been open but never walked by our heroes. The first inkling that the mainstream companies paid attention to what the new kids were doing but maybe did not understand it.

Crossover events, such as Armageddon, are unique to the genre of superheroes. Until maybe Marvel’s the Avengers they were unique to the medium of comics as well. What are they really? An excuse to shake things up, plug some holes in a month with an extra Wednesday, and hopefully raise the profiles of a few intellectual properties. A crossover event is a cross section of a given publishing line at a specific time. It is not a capstone, most if not all of what we are shown will continue. Reading 2001 in 2015 I can see where the other titles were at the time.

Imagine a tree, a big redwood, lying on its side with its stump cut off. Each ring tells a story. Imagine a core sample pulled from deep within the Earth. Geology and archaeology and the way it all fits together. Crossovers offer that to us. My favorite is probably Civil War. That has reality television and too much Government oversight as major plot points. You can easily see what was affecting the writers who pulled it together. The original Secret Wars? Someone needs more action figures and we want to sell them to you! What does Armageddon tell us about DC at that time?

I will never tire of seeing Guy Gardner as the Right Wing’s version of Green Arrow.
I will never tire of seeing Guy Gardner as the Right Wing’s version of Green Arrow.

A version of Superman that is not as well-oiled and put together as we would have believed a decade before. He has let Lois in on the secret and they want to be together. Except now they worry about the logistics of having kids, growing old together, and Ma Kent’s potential Alzheimer’s. This is a 2000 AD version of the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes except without the extra level of satire. Creators making heroes less iconic and more as what we have in our world.

Waverider only wants to save his family and free the world. He is granted, as people in comics often are, unfathomable power to do just that. In his case, he is destined to fail. Even if Monarch does not come to power in 2001 he will become Extant and cause the Legion to still have continuity problems two and a half decades later. Extant was the Superboy-Prime of his day except he took responsibility for his actions and did not allow for the writer to just blame the people on message boards. Much of what would come later, both culturally and technically, begins with Armageddon.

We see assumptions made about what the Man of Tomorrow actually wants (a world that runs with the efficiency of a watch) and we see fan reaction drive the people behind the stories to make a rash decision that ultimately shoots backfires (changing the identity of the main villain halfway through). We see Jurgens emerge as a creative force. Stories and characters were sometimes billed as “not your parents X, anymore.” Those stories are not directed at children, who have no problem with escape or adults themselves who have realized that they will never escape the crushing monotony of their lives, but teenagers. People young enough to not have the responsibility to do anything more than reject what they perceive as beneath them. Stories that are dark for the sake of it display powerlessness.

ARMAGEDD02

ARMAGEDD03
This is literally the fight from “The Dark Knight Return” that someone is having a dream about (notice the scale).

I am not against any particular type of storytelling but when a character goes the bulk of his career being successful by being a good person (even with occasional instances of Super-Dickery) it is disappointing to watch him be slowly forced into a mold where he is actually one bad day from taking over. Superman perished less than a year after this story wrapped. That story provided the type of high that certain parties would be chasing, to the industry’s detriment, for longer than they should have.

I am not saying that Armageddon caused any of the dark tragedies that came after but it is the first time we see a major story change the nature of a headline character in such a way. It would not be the last. Except instead of the fundamentally disposable Captain Atom they will use someone more well-known, and instead of avoiding the spoiler they will just bake it into the advertising. The rules changed, bit by bit, so that no one noticed until it was too late.

Crossovers are a great way to check in with the way things were at a particular time. This one shows us the effect of numerous, smaller, much darker stories coalescing into one large continuity jump. What opens with a quest to save the world ends, in a roundabout way, with someone in charge thinking that it was within the bounds of the character to turn Green Lantern into Parallax.

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Finding Love in a Hopeless Place-The Justice Society of America

To enjoy the Justice Society of America as much as I did at the time I did is to be almost as big an anomalous anachronism as they are.  I suppose on the surface, a WWII team that was still active in the 1990’s seems silly, but somewhere in that silliness lay magic.  Even beyond that silliness, within the JSA was sternness beyond reproach.  I respected and revered the JSA for reasons that I did not and still do not fully understand.

Part of my adoration has to be their connection to WWII.  I recently wrote a guest blog for www.longboxgraveyard.com  about the All-Star Squadron, another title I love that features the JSA.  In that article, I talked about my reverence for WWII, both as a young man obsessed with the maps in the encyclopedia that told the story of WWII, and I am also an ardent antifascist (to the point where you can find me on twitter as @theantifascist), which enables me to identify with the brave men and women who stood up against blatant oppression and repression so that the world might be a slightly freer place.

Another reason for my reverence is my unrelenting passion for things I get interested in.  As was noted in the first entry here at The Unspoken Decade, I must learn everything I possibly can about anything I am into.  I must know the history, and I must know it fast.  When it comes to superhero comic books, they really do not get much more historic than the Justice Society of America!

Of course, no amount of obsession with history could have made me more interested in the JSA than, say, A FUCKING FANTASTIC COMIC!  Which is what the Justice Society of America comic released in the 1990’s totally is in every possible way.  Don’t believe me?  Choke on this, hater.

Maybe if Hawkgirl and Hawkman fly around that monster long enough they’ll defeat it.
Maybe if Hawkgirl and Hawkman fly around that monster long enough they’ll defeat it.

I recall vividly the very first time I laid eyes on a copy of this series.  I was in Springfield, MO.  My Dad had just killed himself. (BUZZKILL,)  We were in town for the funeral, and needless to say, I was quite distraught.  I did my best to keep it together, and all things considered I did a good job.  I was about a year into collecting comics at this time, and to make a shitty situation better, my parents (Mom and Stepfather) had promised to take me to a “big time” comic book store.   Despite the pallor of the trip, I could not help but be excited for this.  Our town had a great comic book store, and in hindsight I love it even more than I loved it then, but I was enchanted by a bigger store with more back issues.  My local store was also a used bookstore, and most of the space was dedicated to the books.  While my 13-year old self occasionally wandered into that section to snicker at the double entendre titles adorning the romance books, I hungered for what I believed a “real” comic book store to be like.  Now that I think about it, what the hell could that even mean?  Did I think Goddamn Stan Lee and Frank Miller were gonna be playing catch with an NFL Superpro football or something?  I haven’t the slightest.

We would not get to that comic book store until the very end of the trip, in what was a hilarious horrorshow that I will save for another article, but during our sojourn, we stopped at several convenience stores in Springfield.  These stores were like magic to me because unlike the backwoods gas stations we had down south, these stores had COMIC BOOKS!  Of course, I was mesmerized at every stop, and I always found some excuse to go in and gaze at the comics.  That’s where I was first introduced to the greatness that is Mike Parobeck’s art.

We finally get the answer to the question of who would win a fight between a balding guy and a guy with bad haircut.
We finally get the answer to the question of who would win a fight between a balding guy and a guy with bad haircut.

(We finally get the answer to the question of who would win a fight between a balding guy and a guy with bad haircut.)

 

I was, and still am, a giant Guy Gardner fan.  He’s still one of my favorite Green Lanterns, mostly because he is the only character in superhero history that got super powers who isn’t all the way good or bad.  He’s an asshole, but he isn’t evil.  He’s like a cop who actually plays by the book, but that same cop likes letting everyone know just how good he is, how bad they are, how lucky they are to know him, and you get the joke by now.  Of course, that cop-stache ain’t going to go well with that do.

Speaking of Guy’s haircut, I find it sort of spectacular he had that haircut because it is the sort of bad haircut most assholes had, but just two years later, this haircut was all the rage.  Even I had one, although all pictures of said haircut have been destroyed…

But the point is that the cover with Guy drew me in, and then I couldn’t really stop staring at it.  I actually got in trouble for looking at it when we stopped at a gas station at night under a street light for the few seconds we would be there.  I just could not stop looking at it.  Then, I read it.  Then, my life changed.

 

Justice Society of America V2 #9 - Page 15
If anyone ever tries to tell me folks with rings that do anything they will fighting each other isn’t cool as hell then I will refer them directly here and immediately accept their apology and firstborn in restitution.

I just loved it.  I loved the art, but I also loved how much I cared about folks much older than me.  I had heard of the Justice Society prior, both through comic book cards and through the issues of All-Star Squadron I had thumbed through at the flea market.  I was interested, but this was the first time I was captivated.

Len Strazewski does a tremendous job of getting Green Lantern over immediately as not just a formidable ringslinger, but he also makes him cool.  Like, he is cooler than the cool grandpa you wish you had.

Justice Society of America V2 #9 - Page 18
Alan Scott, Golden Age Green Lantern, calls Guy Gardner a Looney Tune, then dispatches him like one. That’s how it’s done!

The dialogue is also spot on.  Some folks have denigrated it as “old-fashioned,” but imagine that, some guys who fought in WWII talk differently than other folks in the 1990’s.  I don’t find it to be “old-fashioned” at all, though.  I think it is straight-forward, as people of that era often were.  These are folks who just do not mince words, and that happens to be a massive part of their appeal to me.  The JSA came to me during what was a rather tumultuous time in my life, as referenced earlier.  Their strength and matter-of-fact attitude helped me feel and stay safe in a world that for me was changing fast.

I loved that comic so much, that the comic book part of the trip was grand.  I had found a treasure in a bad part of my life in a place I never thought I’d find it.  Of course, that just meant that the next day I would find another issue of Justice Society of America in a different gas station!

Justice Society of America V2 #8 - Page 1
Only bad thing about this cover is you can’t see the cool eye logo they wear on their hoods.

I felt like some sort of Texas oil man who had struck two gushers in as many days!  My good fortune was much needed at this time, and again, I just read it over and over again. I loved the introduction of Jesse Quick.  The idea that these identities would be mantles to be passed in legacy was sacrosanct to me.  I wanted to believe in such a thing, especially at this time.  I wanted to believe in legacy; even if I hadn’t, the Justice Society of America would have convinced me otherwise anyhow.   There isn’t a damn thing this series gets wrong.  For Christ’s sake, look how it starts!

 

Nice Sign, #8...
Nice Sign, #8…

The JSA has returned in all of their glory!  This is from Issue #1, and the splash page is beautiful.  Mike Parobeck did such an amazing job with all of these guys, and really on everything he touched.  I also don’t want to underestimate the coloring in this book.  The colors pop in a way that matches the never-say-die attitude of these members of The Greatest Generation.  Many times over the course of this title, the JSA triumphs seemingly with just their grit and determination!   Strazewski and Parobeck do a great job of making almost everything they do inspiring.  Even a subplot about Wildcat and The Golden Age Atom wondering if they are too old or too depowered to help, they inspire.  When Hourman struggles with addiction to Miraclo, the drug that gives him his power, his struggle inspires.  This title never loses sight of the fact that the JSA were a beacon of hope to many in the DC Universe, starting with Superman practically worshipping them in issue #1; the guest appearance that really hammers home the relationship of hope and legacy, though, is the appearance of The Flash in #5.

(Ultra-Humanite looks like a cross between an ape and a sad old man.  That Hulk Hogan hair just isn’t working in this picture.
Ultra-Humanite looks like a cross between an ape and a sad old man. That Hulk Hogan hair just isn’t working in this picture.

Despite having been overwhelmed by the Ultra-Humanite, and despite being seemingly outclassed, the JSA tackles and defeats Ultra-Humanite en masse, with a joviality and determination that could be reserved only for the best of friends!

Wildcat can't believe it's not butter.
Wildcat can’t believe it’s not butter.

I love how their camaraderie may be their best weapon.  Their ability to fervently believe in each other and always have each other’s backs makes saving the world not just cool to see, but it comes across as cool for them to do.  Basically, they are the most effective and fun-having extended family since Full House.

For real though, no matter how dire the situation, and no matter how serious the threat, the JSA never loses their swashbuckler attitude, and why should they?  No matter what the threat was, if I was the fastest man alive or if I wielded the magicks of the Lords of Order then I would also constantly be having the time of my life as well, although I’d be slightly more selfish than these guys.  I’d totally use those magicks to make a giant pie that I would then shove into the “face” of a planet.  I’d also do the world saving stuff, but I am just too much of a scamp to never indulge the great interstellar pranks I could do with, say, a power ring.

Unfortunately, the fun and adventure in this title would not last long.  Despite good sales, the brass at DC decided that the JSA didn’t fit into their plans.  Len Strazewski (who I am interviewing on my radio show, Compton After Dark on 5/4 at www.vocnation.com) thinks that Mike Carlin is the man primarily responsible, but whoever it was very short-sighted, as the JSA still had lots to offer.  I find it very telling that unlike other titles that were canceled at this time (many of them canceled for much worse sales than JSA had) got twelve issues to fill out their stories.  This instance of Justice Society of America only got ten.  Black Condor got 12!  Primal Force got 12!  Black Canary got 12!  All of them, and I like all of them and plan on bringing y’all articles on each one of them in the future, had worse sales than JSA.  Why cut this title two issues earlier than was the standard paradigm at the time?  I have no idea other than what Len says, which is that there was enmity against the title within the front office.

Enmity or not though, the Justice Society of America goes out with a bang!

Justice Society of America V2 #10 (1993) - Page 1
I love how angry they all look. They must know they are being cancelled. Especially nice is how angry Sandman is able to look DESPITE WEARING A MASK.

 Since issue #1, we have been dealing with a sub-plot involving everyone’s favorite ornithological archaeologist couple, Hawkman and Hawkgirl.  They’ve been in Egypt, unearthing some sort of bizarre GIANT MUMMY.  Caps are there just to let you know how giant it is.

Unfortunately for the Hawks and the rest of the JSA, this mummy is actually Kulak, a little-used Spectre villain who showed up here to plague the JSA!  The fact that Kulak, former high priest on the planet Brztal, had hardly been used since the Golden Age prior to this is some sort of insult to everything great about comic books.  He uses magic, has a GIANT EYE as his symbol, and went toe-to-toe with The Spectre!  Naturally, he has everything it takes to essentially enslave the Hawks and have Carter Hall turn the entire world against the rest of the JSA!  He also had the ability to be super creepy as he intimates doing the nasty with Hawkgirl.

Justice Society of America V2 #10 (1993) - Page 6
I wish the panel where Hawkgirl holds that whip and moans while Kulak licks her with his oversized tongue was more suggestive

Sadly, for the last time, we see the JSA’s indomitable spirit enable them to rise to the occasion and defeat a foe who had them badly on the ropes, and once again some of the members who possess the least powers are the ones that rally the team and remind them all that no matter what the odds are, they can prevail; at least, they can prevail provided they are fighting Wotan or the Ultra-Humanite, but against the powers of a DC Comics editorial mandate they are helpless.  Of course, they really didn’t get to fight too fairly.  Can you imagine a DC Editor telling Dr. Mid-Nite no?

Justice Society of America V2 #10 (1993) - Page 15
Golden Age Green Lantern is very whiny considering he has a magic ring that can do ANYTHING while Dr. Mid-Nite is just a blind guy who can see.

The Hawks get freed, and the JSA finds a way to save the day.  Everything feels really rushed, and I wonder if it is because the cancellation came on quickly.  I will definitely be asking Len on my show May 4th about that!

This series came to me at a time in my life when I really needed something like this, and I could not be more thankful.  That having been said, this book would be wonderful to me no matter when I would have discovered it.  Good story, great art, and a sense of spirit that few comic books ever have.  This book is inspiring without being preachy about it; there’s a sense of pride and determination that I took away from it.  I think many others do too.

I am going to leave you with the last shot of the book and the comments Len made in the last LetterCol in JSA.  Even in their last moment, the JSA seems so regal, as though even though they know that this book is going away, nothing will ever really dampen the legacy they built.  No matter what the company that owns them does with their name and with the characters, the Justice Society of America will always persevere, and no enemy will ever hold them down for long, unless that enemy is the Golden Age Green Lantern arch-enemy Sportsmaster.

sportsmaster
He is evil and good at sports? So that makes him, who, Barry Bonds?

Don’t forget to listen to my radio show, Compton After Dark, Sunday, May 4th, 2014, as we will be interviewing the writer of this book, Len Strazewski!  It’s at 11:30 PM EDT on http://www.vocnation.com!  Enjoy the pinup and Len’s thoughts below, and join us here at The Unspoken Decade next week when we tackle Darkhawk!  Not literally.

 

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