Tag Archives: Hourman

The Golden Age #4-Bravery When Battling The Enemy Within…

Ah, the end.

There’s something so bittersweet about the end.  We’ve been keeping up with The Golden Age here at The Unspoken Decade, and this tremendous tale is drawing to an end.  Despite its dour nature, despite how dark everything has been for our heroes, one cannot help but feel like the sun is about to come out and shine brightly upon this age.

Unfortunately, as we all know, it’s always darkest before the dawn, and for some of the Justice Society, it’s going to get so dark that the sun will never shine again.  For others, this will be a new beginning. For the readers, we will get both, as it’s going to be the end of something Golden and the start of something Silver.

All new births must hurt, though, as we are all well aware, and the birthing of the Silver Age would be no different, as the Golden Age’s death throes echo in me to this day.  The final issue of The Golden Age is a sort of perfect amalgam of pain and beauty, chaos and stability, and hope and despair.  One thing is for sure as we start off this issue: things don’t look good for the JSA right now.

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That’s correct, as we told you last time, American hero, Tex Thompson, Senator and WW2 Hero, is really the Ultra-Humanite.  The comic has thus far shied away from telling you who is in Daniel Dunbar’s body, and we will save that reveal for you as well, but you know that if they are only hinting then whoever it is must be rather dastardly…

The problem is that no one will listen to the JSA.  I see this happen all of the time in our real world.  Despite evidence that shows that this behavior is counterproductive, folks are always very willing to simply kowtow to leaders and pundits.  Folks seem ever so eager to believe the biggest and smallest of lies, provided that they are uttered from “official” sources.  Those that question or peruse “unofficial” sources are marginalized as quickly as is possible.  It’s fascinating to see the JSA in such dire straits, as they are usually portrayed and perceived as the elder statesmen of the DC Universe.  In fact, in one of my prior articles here at the Unspoken Decade, I mention that even Superman revered these guys.  To see them on the opposite side is fascinating!

The first few issues of this fantastic mini-series dealt with the character of the JSA and their Golden Age pals.  This issue is no different,  as the few heroes in possession of this secret are testing their own character in order to forge some sort of plan that would give them a of chance against Ultra-Humanite and Daniel Dunbar…

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The HUAC continues to dog Alan Scott as well, and as the government and country that he has held so dearly continues its hideous assault against him and his character, his character deepens, thrives, and becomes as strong as steel.  No committee, whether it was the committees we established here in the USA to witch hunt the different people we dared not attempt to understand, nor a communist pogrom would have had the ability to pierce the spectacular moral fortitude Alan Scott possesses.

All that matters to Alan Scott is what is right and just.  All that matters to Alan Scott is that he stand up for it.  All that matters to Alan Scott should be all that matters to us…

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In my regular life, many people have seen me stand up many times against oppressive forces.  Obviously, I never stared down a committee like HUAC, but many times, I have stood up to entities that looked to hold me, my family, my co-workers, or my society down.

In my case though, any dirt on my adversaries that I got, I was more than happy to use.  The moral fiber of Alan Scott is truly tough, as I think very few would face the committee as head-on as he plans too.

Of course, the challenges and obstacles we all face are never the same.  Just as Alan Scott stands poised and ready to face HUAC with a most noble streak, Libby Lawrence has her own cross to bear, but in her case, it is trying to find the courage to break free of something bad.

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Vices and people with vices can easily get a hold on any of us.  In Libby’s case, she allowed herself to become complacent and to submerge her dreams as her boyfriend, Jonathan Law (Tarantula) has drowned his and tried to beat hers out of her.  She’s finding the courage to not just break apart from Law, but to also say yes to herself.  Too many of us never find that courage.  In his defense, Law is sorry and is finding courage of his own, but it seems to be too little, too late…

In the meantime, the heroes gather, as they always do.  From the moment I found myself hopelessly in love with the garishly colored superheroes, I have been a sucker for the moments when all the heroes gather together and stand around in their costumes, moments before uniting to combat a threat to the world, the galaxy, the universe, or reality itself.  These are the times when we naturally see the heroes as people rather than just a bunch of loud costumes with a bunch of powers.  These are the times, much like us, when pals get together, and just like us, those times for the heroes seem to be fleeting and rare, and the gatherings only occur during the best and the worst of times.

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Of course, one of the most special things about superheroes, and the mystery men of the Second World War is that they represent hope for the future.  The future is always happening, even when folks aren’t aware of it yet.  Here, we see the unbridled ambition of youth, that devil-may-care spirit, and that eagerness that youth has to prove itself so that it can belong, and we see it in the form of an as yet to be named Superhero that none of the other folks have heard of yet.  That matters little to him; what matters is that he has a place to belong, even if many of the others don’t quite realize it yet.

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I think at one point we were all that young man.  We were all so angry, so eager, so dejected, so determined, and since I was young in the 90’s, so EXTREME.  What we all now know, and what this young man will soon learn, is that maybe we should not be in such a hurry to grow up.  Growing up means hard choices, facing tragedies, and never really knowing or understanding why your life goes the way that it does.  Many of the heroes assembled here are going to be wondering what happened shortly, as a force of nature is about to upend their entire status quo, as it does for many of us adults.

In the meantime, the heroes with the skinny on what is actually going down with the Ultra-Humanite are beginning to put their plan into motion.  One of them, however, calls an audible.  One of them had decided she just hasn’t done enough to thwart this plan.  One of them is going to jumpstart the plan on her own.  One of them won’t survive her gambit, although she certainly inspires many of her fellow heroes to take up arms against their oppressor.

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American culture is jazz and baseball, although I think we have to add in pro wrestling and superheroes as well.  These things are inherently ours.  We brought them to the world.  I know folks would like to believe in a lot more of what she said, but, well, as an anarchist, I think it is a pipe dream.  The state is the state, whether it is called The USA, the USSR, the UAE, or Uganda.  We will see that even as our heroes expose the corruption of Thompson and how he is actually the Ultra-Humanite, that things will go along in a similar fashion, as the Joe McCarthy of this Earth rises to fill the vacuum Thompson leaves.  He will engage in the same red-baiting that Thompson did, just as McCarthy did on our Earth.  No nation, regardless of the ideals it purports to espouse, is immune from the power mongers and the need for the elites to maintain the status quo at the expense of the non-elite.

Robotman, as you see, has no qualms with this.  I love Robotman (especially the often-forgotten Golden Age Robotman), and it is a shame to see him make such a dastardly heel turn, although it makes perfect sense.  Robotman would be cold and efficient due to the dichotomy between his organic brain and his steel body, and one of the heroes most likely to buy into the law and order nonsense of those like Thompson or McCarthy.  So it is he who smashes Miss America in a vain attempt to silence her truth.  She dies; the truth lives on.

The government’s witch hunt against Alan Scott and others like him is continuing even as the Ultra-Humanite is being revealed.  Scott is defiant, and he, like me, has nothing but contempt for government apparatuses that are utilized to hold down those who would dare to be different and question the integrity of the powers-that-be.  I wonder if this cycle will ever stop.  Alan Scott and I both certainly hope so.

As he faces down those small-minded men, the mystery men go to war with Dunbar, and to say they did not fare well would be such an understatement…

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I have heard that the bright colored superheroes are like our gods and mythology, and there are few moments that reinforces that notion better than this one.  Here we see the gods rise up as they attempt to crush their challenges, but like many of the powers that would face a god, Dunbar is in possession of a nearly limitless power all his own.  We see Hawkman, Black Condor, and The Ray attempt to subdue Dunbar, and their story isn’t over.

Some gods stay grounded, looking in vain for advantages against overwhelming odds.  Some gods look for inspiration in  the Earth, the sky, or themselves, but some look for inspiration in the cold realm of vengeance…

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Robotman vs. Tigress seems a one-sided affair, but how could one not admire the vehemence with which Paula Brooks attacks the steel monstrosity in the name of vengeance for her friend?   Despite how Robotman just murdered her pal with nary a second thought, Tigress is displaying nerves of steel that despite being made of metal, Robotman could only wish he had.

The Ultra-Humanite, running low on cards in this high-stakes, high-powered game of poker, pulls a pair of kings. Just like all the demagogues of the ages, the Ultra-Humanite uses misdirection and manipulation to create rifts between friends and heroes.  Johnny Thunder and The Atom, recruits in the Ultra-Humanite’s wave of the future, have fallen victim to him and his lies.  Of course, who could blame them?  As the outcasts of the JSA, they felt like they found a place to belong under Ulta-Humanite, and so they fight.

They fight their own family, as families do on occasion.  Some would say families only stop fighting when they have someone else to fight, but here, even though the JSA has plenty on its hands now, The Atom and Johnny Thunder fight.  Thunder even commits an act so despicable that I find it shocking; his pet Thunderbolt finds it even more so…

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The family makes up and unites against a common foe, but certain parts of the family remain apart from the rest, engaging in the tasks that make others in the tribe cringe.  Vengeance once again shows up, as Paul Kirk finds Ultra-Humanite, and he is going to get revenge for his friend, Tex Thompson!

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Still the Tigress and Captain Triumph struggle against Robotman, searching for a way to honor their fallen friend, Miss America.  Captain Triumph also struggles against the ghost of his brother, and whether he wins or loses said struggle, is really up to the reader.  One thing is for sure, he wins the struggle with Robotman…

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Captain Triumph will no longer be bothered by his brother.  Other heroes attack Dunbar in waves, one at a time, or from afar.  None of it seems to matter, as the death toll climbs and climbs.  At least Captain Triumph and his brother won’t be lonely as Dunbar sends so many to greet them…

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Wouldn’t that be awful?  To see one’s moral opposite showing more courage than one’s self?  Especially if one was supposed to be a hero, and had looked down on his opposite with such disdain.  Surely, Alan Scott has no choice but to join the battle, because if he was willing to come out of retirement to stop Sportsmaster, now he has to come out to avenge his death…and to prove he has the courage he has been showing in standing up to HUAC, this time in another arena.

And it is a good thing he does arrive, as the heroes keep falling, including Johnny Quick.  Green Lantern hits Dunbar with a right fist that not only removes a few of Dunbar’s teeth, but it also instills something the JSA has lost a lot of very quickly…hope.

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Even Alan Scott falls, however, and the heroes last hope against Dunbar appears to be Starman, mental illness be damned. We see Johnny Quick rushing off to grab him above, and this echoes one of the best things about superheroes to me, which is that no matter how down things look, there’s always one last chance.  This is why so many sports appeal to me as well.  Your team’s down a touchdown with 0:03 on the clock?  Maybe they can hit that Hail Mary pass to the end zone.  Down one run in the 9th?  Maybe your team will score two.

The JSA is down a lot more than touchdown, however, and unfortunately, it will take more than the bipolar genius of Ted Knight to win this day…

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Just when it seems that all is lost, the forgotten weapon of this story, the young man who wanted to be a hero at the start of this tale, joins the fray, and while he may not be the one who delivers the killing blow, his demeanor in the face of what appeared to be absolute defeat lives on in the minds of his world.  For if only each and every one of us were to stand up to those whose tyranny we are told is inevitable.

And let’s not discount Liberty Belle and her role in the victory.  Her ingenuity and resourcefulness save the day, and isn’t that how it usually goes?  Youth, in combination with the defiance that goes along with it and the ingenuity of a lady with very few powers in comparison to many of the heavy hitters who had tackled Dunbar prior, saves the day.  More importantly, it saves the future…but you will have to get the book to see that and to see how Paul Kirk dealt with the Ultra-Humanite.

The Golden Age is unfairly overlooked.  I truly wish that these characters and their reality were as embraced as other critical darlings of the era, such as Kingdom Come or Marvels.  I wish that with all of the hullabaloo at DC right now in regards to their “Multiversity” that Grant Morrison or someone of that ilk would look back to The Unspoken Decade for a universe that is ever so real and hurtful in so many ways, with so many delightful characters to incorporate into “Greater DC.”

Or they could at least bring Dynaman back.

You’re doing yourself a tremendous disservice  if you do not go buy this right now. This is truly a masterpiece. If this had come out in 1985 or 2005, it would be revered.  Since it came out in the 90’s, it is tossed aside and possibly even reviled.  That’s more than a damn shame, as James Robinson and Paul Smith truly capture the horror, wonder, and charm that is superheroes.  Perhaps, that’s the same horror, wonder, and charm that is America…

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The Golden Age #3-Of Martyrs, Men, & Matrimony

 

 

 

Hello Legions of the Unspoken!  Welcome back to the only place to get that 90’s fix that I know you all crave beyond belief!  Everyone’s favorite podcast host and 90’s comics fan, Dean Compton here, and I am ever so excited to continue our foray into the most unjustly forgotten masterpiece of the 1990’s, The Golden Age!

Things are getting rougher and rougher for our cherished Justice Society of America & their compatriots.  But there’s an old saying that it is always darkest before the dawn, and maybe, just maybe, if they keep their heads up and their spirits strong, the heroes of The Golden Age will make it out of this somehow.  If they are going to though, they’ll need a miracle…or at least…a Manhunter…

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I cannot say enough about the impact of Paul Kirk (Manhunter)’s dreams on me when I read this as a young man.  The dreams are vivid, horrendous, bloody, violent, surreal, and utterly captivating.  The dreams mean something, though, and we will find out this very issue exactly what it is that they mean…and what they mean for Manhunter.

This issue is also the issue where the JSA and their pals find their spirit and their mettle despite the major setbacks they have recently had.   But before they can overcome any of them, they have to find out the nature of the setbacks…and they have to overcome a few more.  It’s 1949, folks, and the game is certainly not over for our heroes…in fact, it is just getting heated up.  Just ask Tex Thompson or Daniel Dunbar.  Just ask Libby Lawrence, the former Liberty Belle, who is getting back into another game just in time before her beau, Jonathan Law (Tarantula) completely destructs right before her eyes…

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Daniel Dunbar and Tex Thompson are both more and less than they seem.  Dunbar’s constant hype for the election and of Thompson’s virtues are making the mystery men uncomfortable by now, not to mention the readers, as we have seen the seedy side of Dunbar.

I do have to wonder what it must be like for a super powered being to take drugs.  Does Dunbar have to smoke 6237823 times as much crack as a normal person would to get high?  Is that powder he snorts and injects the world’s most powerful speedball?  What level of medical marijuana would he have to smoke to get even the semi-munchies?  I am fascinated by this; that’s probably why Hourman’s mission to perfect his Miraclo also fascinates me.  After all, Hourman runs the risk of being an addict himself as his Miraclo tolerance grows.  Of course, Rex Tyler, Hourman, always manages to find the time he needs to be perfect…

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His fall was broken by the ceiling of an American family who will be reimbursed, but what of the fall of an American who is protecting, well, America?  What of the fall of a man who was sticking up for the mystery men and their “lack of service” during the Second World War?

And why does our society punish those who are different, even after great service?  Why do folks like Donald Trump or the Rockefellers get lauded while heroes like Tesla and Eugene Debs are ignored and discarded to the dissident historical tomes?  Why does our country take and take what it needs from me like Thomas Paine, only to abandon them and their ideals as soon as possible?  Why does it seem that the only times that the petty men in power will take up for these dissidents, the ones who actually make our society move forward, are when and if it helps them somehow?

I suppose these questions may never have answers, but at least someone did what they could while also striking at Tex Thompson, who has demanded that all the Mystery Men come forward and unmask, and I am sure everyone is aware by now, Tex is not all he seems…

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Even the man sticking up for the Mystery Men is doing so for his own reasons, and on some level, “ain’t that America?”, as John Cougar Mellencamp told us in the 1980’s?  Our nation has such an individualist streak, particularly when it comes to those petty men and women we allow to rule us.  Even when doing the right thing by taking up for the superheroes (who, as we know from issue #1 of The Golden Age, were barred from entering the Second World War because of Parsifal), it has to be done from a purely self-pragmatist point of view.  When folks try to tell you of the good old days when people cared for each other, try and recall that many of our social paradigms have been the same for some time.  Try and recall that when you are told otherwise.  And also, if you cling to your convictions not to fall…or get pushed.

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Or maybe your convictions are less than stellar, and perhaps you are mad with power, drugs, and the belief in strange Gods and stranger orders.  Maybe you are drunk on power and high on drugs.  Maybe you are Daniel Dunbar.

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Whatever was left of Daniel Dunbar is gone, given over to madness, power, drugs, and something else…

Of course, even our heroes still have their personal problems, some of them deeply entrenched within the mind.  Of course, without his problems, would Starman ever have brought the world the greatness he has?  Would this world of The Golden Age be even worse off?  Or is Starman right and he has unleashed something abhorrent upon everyone?  Is his madness a form a of conviction?

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Ted Knight’s descent into madness and ascent out of it is a story for the stars themselves to tell, as he will be needed before this is all said and done.  Ted reminds me so painfully of myself, vacillating between the peaks of mania and the depths of depression.  Maybe he reminds us all a little of ourselves.

I wish Alan Scott, Golden Age Green Lantern, reminded me more of myself.  I fancy myself a loyal man, but his loyalty in the face of one of the most vile anti-freedom machines produced by our government is truly inspiring.  Many people would crumble against such an onslaught.  Of course, many do not have his willpower…

Yet despite the assault of the House on Un-American Activities, despite the crumbling of his broadcasting empire, and despite the pressure of all of this, Alan Scott stands tall and noble.  I mean, not so noble he won’t get angry or tell someone exactly how he feels.  That combination, to me, is the defining characteristic of most of the Justice Society of America, but maybe especially Alan Scott.  Nobility paired with honesty…

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Ah, even the most noble of heroes can long for the past, when times were “simpler.”  The truth, folks, is that the times when we were young were not simpler; we were.

Some of our heroes are not struggling with the nobility we see in Alan Scott, or even the courage of Ted Knight in the face of his mental disease.  Some of them, like Jonathan Law, have completely given into to vice…and violence.

Of course, for every action, there is a reaction, and Liberty Belle isn’t a pushover for anyone, even one who used to be her lover…

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While this foray into domestic violence could have gone seriously wrong, James Robinson gets it right.  What I especially like is how Libby needed no one to save her.  Johnny Quick did not come running in from Paris in 5.3 seconds to rescue her from this vile assault; she saved herself.  Conversely, though, not NEEDING Johnny Quick did not prevent her from MISSING Johnny Quick.

Many folks never admit how much they need one another, and one of them, Paula Blake, is just getting ready to find out how much she needs Captain Triumph, and also, how much she is needed.  Captain Triumph, however, desires anything but to be Captain Triumph.  He’d trade all his powers and wealth for just a moment of peace.

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On the other hand, Paul Kirk has realized how much he needs people.  He has leaned more and more on Bob Daley, and Bob has helped him.  The difficulties Manhunter has faced continue, and while he is beyond where he was when our tale started, he is still facing the surreal horrorscape that can, on occasion, be our dreams.  That horrorscape is all he dreams…

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Manhunter, despite his fears, despite his obstacles (both real and in his head), and despite the danger, is answering the call to be a hero.  He refuses to allow his fear to get the better of him, and as Gandhi told us, the real enemy is fear.

That’s sort of the message I get from this issue; despite all the reasons that things could go wrong, we must continue to face our enemies.  We can and must never allow ourselves to defeat ourselves prior to the battle.  If we are to be worthy as human beings…not even superhuman beings, we have to answer the call.

Joan Dale, though, isn’t sure if there is a call to answer, as things are getting hard on her.  I would imagine being Tex Thompson’s girlfriend in and of itself would be awful, but her description makes it seem downright harrowing.  Even Joan, though, had nary an idea just how harrowing her experience was.

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Sleeping with the enemy has never been as disturbing as the notion that Joan Dale, Miss America, for Christ’s sake…has been having sex with the Ultra-Humanite.  And what could this mean for America?  How did this happen?  What does he have in mind as far as his ascent in the world of American politics?

Some of those answers will have to wait, but for now, we can tell you how the Ultra-Humanite accomplished the brain swap, thanks to Paul Kirk, Manhunter, and the most-well known chairman of the Justice Society of America…Hawkman!

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Before I move on with the revelations of Manhunter, I have to comment just how cool Paul Smith has made Carter Hall look here.  I have always loved the connection between ancient Egypt and Hawkman.  There’s something inherently magical about it to me, and also, it somehow just makes sense.  I wish they had not messed up Hawkman’s continuity so badly at DC, but that’s a story for another column.  In the meantime, gaze at the Winged Pharaoh for a bit, then see what Manhunter has been running from..and why…

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The Ultra-Humanite has a lot of flaws, to say the very least, among them being a sociopathic murderer, but at least he subscribes to the notion that “if there’s no body, the guy ain’t dead”.  I have seen so many super-villains do so many idiotic things, even villains supposedly super geniuses like the Ultra-Humanite, that I am sort of proud of him for getting it right.

But our heroes are in deep now, Legions of the Unspoken.  The Ultra-Humanite’s plan is almost complete, and it somehow involves that drug addict superman, Daniel Dunbar.  Hawkman asks the most valid question, which is what’s next, and the only proper answer is what we learned from the Blues Brothers; they have to get the band back together.  Someone must answer the call.  When you get the call, will you pick up?

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Business is about to pick up, folks…

When Something Awful is Beautiful: The Golden Age #1

Hey there, Legions of The Unspoken!  I hope you enjoyed Emily’s entry last week as Punisher temporarily became a black man!  Check it out right now if you haven’t!  I find that story to be that perfect amalgam of 90’s silliness and 90’s coolness (which sometimes are one and the same) that excited me then and excites me now!  Of course, the fact that Punisher is the main character certainly won’t hurt it in my eyes since, as you all well know, Punisher is my favorite character.

What you may not know is how much I love the Justice Society of America.  Punisher is my favorite character, but the JSA is easily my favorite superhero team.  Bar none.  The difference between the JSA and second place IN MY HEART is the difference between a Martin Scorsese movie and the local community theatre performing Raging Bull.  I have to admit I’m incredibly interested in an awful local community theater production of Raging Bull, so if any of you have any videos of that, send them my way.

Of course, if you’re an elder member of the Legion of the Unspoken, (and we appreciate you greatly if you are), you know how much I love the JSA because you read my earlier article about how much I love the Strazewski/Parobeck 90’s Justice Society of America; The Golden Age, though, ain’t about that JSA.

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Already you can see stark differences between the world of the JSA with which we are familiar and the world here.  The dark tones of the cover, the burning image of a Life Magazine cover featuring the JSA, and even the embossed cover would lead you to believe that this ain’t your Daddy’s JSA.  It isn’t even the JSA we had loved a short time prior.

Of course, this is an Elseworlds tale, which is basically a tale involving DC’s characters in a different light that won’t affect continuity.  I think the Elseworlds tale most non-hardcore comic book fans are familiar with is Batman/Dracula:  Red Rain, where Batman becomes a Bat-Vampire, but anyone who only knows that comic is missing out.  DC put out some fine tales under this banner and even centered their annuals around the imprint in 1994.  We got to see everything from Superman landing on Earth and getting adopted by the Waynes instead of the Kents to Samurai Robin!  Ok, some of it was better than others, but most of it was fun and really good.  Very little of it ascended to masterpiece status, though.  The Golden Age is one of those exceptions.

Since this isn’t your JSA, and this JSA story takes place in a non-canonical situation, what exactly is it?  It’s the story of what happened to the JSA in a post-WWII world.  It’s the story of what happens when folks grow from the impudence of youth into the responsibility of adulthood.  It’s about the difference between your early to mid-20’s and your mid-30’s.  It’s about the difference between 1940’s America and 1950’s America.  It starts out, however, about the disappearance of the JSA, and the prominence of the lone “mystery man” that America still seems to care about.

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The dichotomous juxtaposition of the Atomic Bomb, the JSA, and the other mystery men of the era is perfectly encapsulated by Paul Smith’s art and James Robinson’s words.  This series was my first elongated exposure to Smith’s work, and I was a fan from the first page.  I was more familiar with Robinson’s work at this point, but I was still blown away.  Many folks love his Starman series and rightfully consider it a masterpiece, but I think that the love and reverence for that series, no matter how richly deserved, sometimes crowds out the love and reverence that should exist for this series.  Perhaps that’s because Starman was an ongoing while this was a four-issue mini-series.  Whatever the reason, it’s a travesty.

I really enjoy the idea put forth about the “mystery men,” as superheroes were called then, vs. THE BOMB.  Few instances in history are as jarring or as brutal as the unleashing of atomic weapons on Japan at the end of WWII.  The JSA, All-Star Squadron, and their superhero compatriots at various publishers must have seemed silly in an instant to many in our world, as their brightly colored costumes clashed with the newly grey overtone of a world where tens of thousands of non-combatants could die in an instant, and the world itself could be destroyed in a torrential downpour of radioactive fire.  That’s our world, you know?  Now imagine how useless many of the superheroes would have felt in a world where they and the bomb existed.  After all, what’s the point of being a super strong person or being able to glide on wings if a Head of State could turn all of that ability into a mushroom cloud in an instant?

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That’s harsh, except for The Flash.  I’m a huge fan of The Golden Age Flash.  There’s something about his happy-go-lucky attitude that endears him to me.  Even a quickly darkening world can’t diminish his smile.  I think it is because he always comes across as though he thinks of himself as “Jay Garrick, Flash”, rather than “The Flash”.   It’s something Jay Garrick DOES, not something Jay Garrick IS.  The difference is subtle, yet powerful.

The others seem to be going nuts, growing old, growing mean, or all three in Johnny Quick’s case.  Hawkman is mostly on the going nuts side, but I find Mr. Terrific’s tale to be the most depressing thus far, as Terry Sloane literally emblazoned Fair Play across his chest as a mantra, only to turn his back on it in the name of capital gains.  Johnny Quick just seems to be growing old, and as we all might when growing older, gets increasingly tired of who he is without knowing what to do about it.

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And I bet you are asking,  “Who’s Tex Thompson?  What’s all this Americommando nonsense?”  But a less casual superhero fan might also be asking, “Why didn’t the JSA just go end WWII?” They’re both valid questions, and they’re both equally important to the tale.

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So despite having been ineffectual stateside in the eyes of Johnny Quick and many other heroes, Tex Thompson, the Americommando, apparently saved the USA and the rest of the Allies during WWII by killing Parsifal, who negated super powers.   Parsifal is a cool name, and again, Paul Smith does a fantastic job making him look ominous, but not necessarily powerful.  Of course, as evidenced by the inability of the American superheroes to enter into the Second World War, sometimes being able to keep others from being powerful is the most effective power of all.

The heroes we have seen thus far, save Flash, have all been mired in insanity or vice.  Most of the heroes we will see in the rest of the issue will be the same.  One example to the contrary, however, is Alan Scott, Green Lantern.  As a paranoid post-WWII era is emerging, Tex Thompson does his best to stoke the fires that fuel the Second Red Scare.  Alan Scott is standing by his employees, and even in post-emerald days, he remains a noble gladiator dedicated to those depending on him.

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Even Green Lantern is cracking under the pressure of this era, and how could he not be, as he intends to stand by his men while Tex Thompson spews forth nonsense like this:

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James Robinson does a great job painting a time when America transformed from a nation fighting against fascism to a nation that had been frightened into accepting witch hunts and book burning.  It was a quick turnaround, no doubt exacerbated by the Cold War, the Korean War, changing social post-war mores and the like, and Robinson paints it as the scary time it had to have been.

Possessing radical viewpoints myself, I too often feel as though I am stymied and stifled for my beliefs (I’m a Libertarian Socialist/Anarchist), but what I face is nothing compared to the 50’s, with government committees looking into what people believed, what organizations they had belonged to, and how that could impact America.  Regardless of beliefs, people have the right to possess them without the government infringing upon them, and many people were deprived of these rights during the 50’s.  This is very well documented, as is the impact the climate had on our beloved comic books, with Congress looking into the impact comic books had on juvenile delinquency.  This social climate first led to comic book burnings and the manipulation of children to turn in comic books and boycott establishments that sold “questionable” material.  Eventually, the industry would self-censor by forming the Comics Code.  I suggest reading a book called The Ten-Cent Plague and also taking a look at the 1950’s volume of American Comic Book Chronicles.

Back to the 90’s!  Or back to the 50’s, I suppose!  I mentioned Paul Smith’s art being beautiful, but I have to say that it carries an especially peculiar air of beauty when things get grisly for our heroes.  Take Robotman, for instance, who is struggling mightily with his humanity.  I imagine it is hard to be a human trapped in a robot’s body.  Imagine how odd it must be to sense, but not truly feel.  Imagine being able to recall what it was like to be hungry without having to eat.  Imagine how everyone treats you like you like you are a robot, when you are actually a person just like them.  It would probably make you snap, and then you’d probably snap some people like Robotman does here.

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Paul Smith’s somehow beautifully depicts this moment of Robotman snapping.  Some folks draw so beautifully that the visceral nature of certain images gets lost in a sea of aesthetic appeal, but Paul Smith somehow manages to turn his refined beauty into an amazing depiction of brutal ugliness.  The blood on Robotman’s face following this farce of a fracas appropriately looks like tears after he breaks these mooks, along with possibly breaking what is left of his humanity.

Need more proof Paul Smith can bring the beautifully horrendous like no one else?  Take a look at the bizarre hallucinatory dream Paul Kirk, Manhunter is having as, in the irony of ironies, he has become the hunted.  Oh, and this dream occurs just before he wakes up to everyone in the shelter he is in GETTING BLOWN AWAY.

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It should not be, but it is a little funny when that priest gets it, as though he was going to wade into this firefight with a rosary and a shrill rebuke and reflect bullets.  I admire his bravery, but it seems like his best bet would have been to stay put; as a general rule, one cannot negotiate with a cadre of folks brandishing Tommy Guns.

Again ,though, I beg you take heed when I point out just how sparkling yet depraved these scenes are.  Madness, fear, and paranoia have never looked so amazing, and somehow, they are also more poignant now that they are beautiful.

Speaking of sad yet beautiful madness, we also see Ted Knight, Starman, in this issue.  Ted blames himself for everything.  He blames himself for the superhero explosion, but he also blames himself for influencing Einstein to create The Bomb.  Johnny Chambers goes to see out favorite Cosmic Rod inventor, and since he goes during the day, he does not like what he sees.  How could anyone enjoy talking to the world’s foremost mind in a state so neurotic?

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Of course, had Johnny Chambers come to see Starman at night, when he thrives, the picture would have been harrowing and frightening in a different way, as Smith and Robinson get across what it is to be a frenzied, driven, and highly intelligent man who can only break free of his neuroses at certain times.

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The Golden Age isn’t shining so brightly, and that’s what makes this a masterpiece.  Often, works that take a darker spin on beloved characters fail due to contrivance.  We see character flaws, but they are flaws that make sense with what we previously know about a character.  In The Golden Age, James Robinson had a grip so tight on these characters that you can almost hear them gasping to breathe as he chokes wonderfully depressing tales out of them, as he forces them to acknowledge their own dark sides, making these characters seem real.  Combine that with beautiful, yet starkly real depictions from Paul Smith, and I find myself unable to put this book down.

 I believe that a man who ran fast for years would be tired of it as he faces the 35th year of his life.  I believe that a genius who created a rod to harness the energy of the stars themselves has a weird bipolar nocturnal, and that the desperation over the negative impact of his genius weighs him down just as much as the elation over the positive impact must lift him up.   I believe in Alan Scott’s troubles and worries as he presides over his broadcasting business in the best and most noble way he can.

But we are barely scratching the surface here!There’s still so much more to tell you about issue #1!  What happened to Libby Lawrence, Johhny Quick’s ex-wife?  Where is Hourman and what is going on with his powers?  Why is The Atom working with Tex Thomson, and what are those experiments the government is doing on Al Pratt. The Golden Age Atom?

I tell you what, Legions of the Unspoken, what say we pick up with The Atom’s story next week, with Golden Age #2!  Be here!