Tag Archives: Manhunter

Steven Grant goes back to the 90’s!

Hey there Legions of the Unspoken, your old pal Dean Compton has returned, and I’ve brought someone much cooler with me!  Steven Grant (Whisper, Punisher, The Rook, X, Challenges of the Unknown, Two Guns, etc…) was kind enough to take about 90 minutes out of his day to chat up the 90’s with us!  We cover lots of ground involving his work and some events of the 90’s!  Take a listen!  You don’t have anything better to do anyhow!

 

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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…

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!