Tag Archives: Justice Society

The Golden Age #2-A New That Never Was

Hey, Legions of the Unspoken!  I must beg your forgiveness for the absence!  I have just changed jobs, and while I was finishing up at one, I was training at another.  While things ain’t settled just yet, I am attempting drumming up a bit of time to get back to satisfying all the urges I know all of you have built up for more 90’s comics in general, and more Golden Age in particular!

Before I get back to the good stuff, I’d like to encourage y’all to check out the Facebook page!  It’s really starting to take off, so get over there!  I’m able to post a few pics every day, so you won’t be waiting so long for your 90’s comics book fix!

When last we visited The Golden Age, things were starting to look bleak for our beloved Justice Society of America.  And I take no joy in this, kids, but it is going to get worse before it gets better.

Before I delve too far into what happens in issue #2, I want to take a step back and discuss what happened with The Atom in issue #1.  For those of you who may not be aware, The Golden Age Atom started out sans superpowers.  He was just a short guy who was in really good shape who could fight very well.  He adopted The Atom persona and superhero life because he was tired of getting pushed around by bullies larger than him.  Later, via exposure to atomically-powered villains or possibly radiation, he gained super-strength.  Before then, though, he has some issues with feeling inferior, and why wouldn’t he?  Think about it; he was already short, had gotten into the superhero game as an act of inferiority, and then he somehow gets into the JSA, where not only were there regular-sized crimefighters who were even more skilled, e.g. Sandman or Wildcat, but he also standing next to veritable gods such as Green Lantern or The Spectre!  Anyone would feel small, but a man who already felt small would probably feel like an amoeba.

That complex leads The Atom into a dangerous waters during The Golden Age, starting in issue #1…

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Of all the issues that fester inside The Atom, causing a young man’s head to swell, I think it is his youth that ultimately leads him astray.  Doesn’t that same cloud haunt most of our youths?  Remember when we were all headstrong, extreme, and excited?  Remember when all of our dreams were going to come true?  Remember the 90’s, Legions of the Unspoken…Remember the 90’s…

The Atom, unbeknownst to him, is being used.  What he does know is that he again has meaning, he again has purpose, he again is…big.  At least for now, under Tex Thompson’s New America.

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Before we move along, let’s not lose sight of the fact that Robotman is sporting the most grotesque smile this side of Pennywise the Clown that I have ever seen.  If one of us was in this crowd, you know  that we would have noticed that and headed as far away as we could before that facade shattered.  I don’t care if he has man in his name or not, no robot with such a smile can have good intentions.

Robotman and The Atom we know, but who’s that third guy?

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Daniel Dunbar doesn’t know it yet, but he is the key to one of the most heinous plots in superhero history.  I think we’ve all figured out by now that Tex Thompson is much more than he seems, though.

We’ve also figured out that our heroes, no matter how shiny their adventures make them seem, have blotches of gray all over them.   This can make them reprehensible to us, or it make them all the more heroic.  In the case of Jonathan Law, Tarantula, his gray is shattering the respect we had for him, especially as he denigrates and mistreats Liberty Belle, a favorite of many Golden Age fans.  What’s especially poignant, though, isn’t that Law is now dark and “gritty” for the sake of being gritty.  This is a natural evolution of the character.  It makes sense that Law would have a hard time writing after penning a book about the exploits of being a wartime mystery man.  That doesn’t excuse his actions or his spiral into the clutches of alcoholism, but it does make sense.

Starman’s descent into madness appears to have quelled some, also making sense.  As someone of above average intelligence who deals with some mental roadblocks of his own in regards to anxiety and the like, I have my good days and bad days, but after a period of thought, I usually come to terms with whatever fears and mood I am dealing with.  Starman is a genius beyond the genius level, and therefore, he is able to do the same.   Of course, I feel guilty about a lot of things, but exposing the world to an energy that gave folks super powers and gave those without superpowers who fought crime under masks the inclination to do so isn’t one of them.  Johnny Chambers listens on as Starman pours his heart out.

The Golden Age #2 - Page 8“I have the stars” is a line that stands out to me.  I clung to those words tightly during a confused adolescence that was at times bereft of companionship from my peers.  I clung to Ted Knight’s notion here that he could find comfort…not just solace, but COMFORT in the stars the way I had to find comfort in my comic book heroes, wrestlers, and baseball stars when I had no one.

Johnny Quick  Chambers is in that awkward spot where he wants to help a good friend, but he just doesn’t know how.  He also doesn’t want to offend him, but he just thinks this is a crackpot of an idea.  I never understand why superheroes are such skeptics.  Johnny has seen Green Lantern, The Spectre, and many other beings powered beyond belief in hundreds of different ways, but the idea that Starman pulled this radiation to Earth and it resulted in the spawning of crimefighters with and without powers is ridiculous to him.  The Spear of Destiny sounds more ridiculous!  Then again, maybe Johnny is just too much of a realist to believe such a thing.  One way or another, he is trying to do be a good pal, and he is doing a decent job of it.

Daniel Dunbar is trying to find meaning in his life.  In issue #1, his life fell apart, and while you didn’t see it here, I am sure that each member of the Legion of the Unspoken picked a copy!  He faces a big test soon, and he ponders his future the way any young man on what he perceives as the precipice of greatness would.  Of course, his future isn’t what he thinks it shall be…

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The Golden Age beckons us all, and it even beckons those who say that its embrace no longer holds sway over them.  The siren song sounds so sweet that it can even entice the most nobly stalwart of the heroes, especially when combined with the stress of a semi-fascist government inquiry and the resignation of his friends due to the besmirchment of their reputations by said inquiries.  It can even entice Alan Scott, Green Lantern.

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Of course, our heroes are not the only ones having to adapt to a new age.  The villains of The Golden Age are not held in some sort of stasis that enables them to elude the tendrils of societal changes and the grasp of aging.  Sportsmaster is back in the game for noble reasons of his own, even if his admirable catalyst puts him into action  of the criminal variety.

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Green Lantern’s fight against Sportsmaster sans ring is one of those moments when one is reading an epic that doesn’t stand out during the first read, but it gets better and better upon repeated readings.  I just can’t help but feel for Sportsmaster here, engaging in criminal activity in an effort to find his daughter and unable to defeat Alan Scott, even when the Golden Age Green Lantern is bereft of his magic ring.

I understand that these guys, Sportsmaster included, are the bad guys, but every now and then, I simply cannot help but feel sorry for them due to their horrendous Won/Loss records.  Even when victory seems certain for the villains, the valiant heroes conjure a way to find a win.  This time however, thanks to Green Lantern not having his ring and Sportsmaster possessing a gun and a desire to win at any costs, Sportsmaster gets the better of Green Lantern here, although Green Lantern isn’t killed.  I hope Sportsmaster goes on to a happy life with his daughter!

Tex Thompson continues his crusade for an American hero as he and his team conduct their experiment on Daniel Dunbar.  I don’t think I am spoiling anything by saying nothing good can come from this.   I mean, I don’t recall the piece of culture where folks staring at mushroom clouds from bunkers worked out well for anyone.

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That’s right folks, they nuked Daniel Dunbar.  Nuked him.  For most folks other than the Hulk, that would result in death, for Daniel Dunbar it doesn’t seem to…

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So now what I referred to earlier as ominous is now goddamn terrifying.  No one should trust Tex Thompson, no matter how much he waves the flag and spouts off rhetoric that sounds good, one should be able to discern that he is rotten to the very core.  It saddens me how often folks in our reality fall for this nonsense, but it saddens me even more when heroes I admire, such as The Atom and Johnny Thunder, fall victim to the same inanities.

The interaction between The Atom and Johnny Thunder (and Johnny Thunder and everyone) is proof of just how much James Robinson loves and understands these characters.  Johnny Thunder barges in, not thinking of protocol and security, and when he finally sits down with The Atom, The Atom has some harsh words for him.  Of course, perhaps that is because The Atom has come to play the Johnny Thunder role in Tex Thompson’s New Order, as he has been relegated, unappreciated, and perhaps only merely tolerated…

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The Atom’s youth, arrogance, and eagerness are now manifesting in disgruntlement with the administrative bureaucracy he now finds himself utterly enmeshed in, and he finds there is nothing he can do about it.  He’s wrong about one thing, though; it is now Daniel Dunbar getting most of the accolades and glory…

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Dynaman is alive, real, and perhaps we’re all damned, regardless of the bright colors and amazing powers!  His powers seem limitless, although there does some to be a caveat to that…

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The crowds gobble up every word, as they always seem to when they should be questioning the subject most.  That’s life, I suppose, and at least Paul Smith makes something so upsetting to me look so beautiful.

James Robinson also remembers all the heroes you don’t, such as little known Quality Comics hero, Captain Triumph.  No, not the Triumph who appeared during Zero Hour (although don’t worry folks, we are gonna get to Zero Hour and his adventures sooner rather than later!), but an old hero who hadn’t resurfaced in some time when James Robinson resurrected him here!  Of course, James finds a new and believable spin for him, and then Paul Smith does the best job drawing an annoying ghost I have ever ever seen.

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 While Gallant is pestered by a metaphysical annoyance, Paul Kirk is more than annoyed by the killers after him.  Life for Manhunter is constantly being on the run.  The folks willing to off an entire homeless shelter (including the padre who ran it) aren’t going to just up and quit just because they don’t get their quarry the first try.  Their motivation must also be more than cash as well, because it seems unlikely hired killers would be so messy and careless.

What the killers did not count on was Paul Kirk finding some assistance in an unlikely place.  Just as they swoop in for the kill, one of Tex Thompson’s castoffs returns to help.  He doesn’t know it yet, but Bob Daley is about to set events into motion that will keep the most nefarious plot from coming to fruition…and it all starts at what appears to be the most frigid gas station on the planet.

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I think other than the amnesia, we have all felt like Paul Kirk here and yon in our lives.  We have all felt chased and hounded.  We have all felt something gaining on us.  Something just around the corner, and we have all been too afraid to ask for help.  Thankfully for most of us, trained killers weren’t after us, but this is a nice moment to remind us that sometimes the only thing separating our heroes and us is the fact that they are on the printed page, while our pain and fear are not contained within thought bubbles and balloons….

And it would appear from the looks of things, we have much to fear…and so does the JSA…

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Hope you enjoyed this look at The Golden Age #2!  Next week, we have Hex for the Holidays as Emily Scott brings us a look at Jonah Hex:  Two Gun Mojo!  Then be back here for The Golden Age #3!

FRIDAY FOLLOW-UP!!! JSA HOUSE ADS and PIN-UPS!!!

Thanks for joining us here for the Friday Follow-Up!

Today we will be looking at some awesome but random images of the Justice Society of America!  I am also including the cover of the first appearance of Power Girl because I love her and the Super Squad!  I wish they would have stayed together longer, just her, Robin and the Star-Spangled Kid.  Alas, they did not, although Infinity Inc. did feature two of them prominently.  As if I wasn’t already being good enough to you, I found a sweet pin-up of the JSA by my favorite artist of all time, (except Kirby), George Perez!

As it is, enjoy your Friday, enjoy your weekend, and enjoy some great JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA!!!!!

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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.

 

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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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