The Sweet Science

Tonight’s post features the third issue of the Bronze Age Secret Origins series.

The lead story is the origin of  Wonder Woman. She looks dynamic and  very pretty on the Cardy cover and this story has a fairytale quality as it mirrors the war between the gods Ares and Aphrodite with the betrayal of Hippolyta by Hercules. However, it still has those goofy kangas and the strange, Pygmalion-like birth of Diana. In an embellishment of the Paula Von Gunther story in Batman Super-Spec DC-14, an Amazon dubbed Metala is responsible for creating the Magic Lasso. As ever, I don’t care for Harry Peter’s storybook pencils and prefer WW as a patriotic period piece.

The second story (“This is the Story of Wildcat!”) is a gritty crime thriller.Having experienced financial woes that crushed his dream of becoming a doctor, young boxer Ted Grant is framed for a murder in the ring.

In a feat of metatextual reference, Ted is inspired to become Wildcat on meeting  a kid who has had his Green Lantern comic stolen. He gives the tyke a whole dollar: “Now I can buy Flash Comics too!”. ( Later, in this very same issue of Sensation Comics , Tubby inspires Little Boy Blue with the story of Wildcat (Superboy Super-Spec DC- 12). This is the kind of recursion that Grant Morrison can only dream of! )

Despite very primitive artwork in this tale, Wildcat went on to feature in ninety issues of Sensation Comics- not a bad run for a character who is really little more than a pugnacious riff on Batman.

The only reason I can imagine for the inclusion of this rather lacklustre strip in SO when other, more prominent characters of the day ( Green Arrow, Deadman, Red Tornado) have been overlooked is the cult popularity of Wildcat in the early 70s.  We’ve previously seen how he ousted Wonder Woman from the cover of the second Batman Super-Spec (Dc-14 again).

This ad was the first glimpse I ever had of the JSA.

  In the Silver Age, after a cameo as a prisoner of Mr. and Mrs. Menace, in the second Starman/Black Canary team-up, Ted appeared in the JLA/ Anti-Matter Man two-parter (above). The following year, he participated in the Black Sphere Negative Crisis -where the campy new adult Robin overshadowed him. Neither of these goofy stories served him well. I can only surmise  his cult status began with these striking Neal Adams images:

Wildcat made a further three subsequent appearances in the Bronze Age Brave and Bold and even appears on the cover of this record album ( I only just found it, so I don’t know how much he participates in the story).

In my imagination, if Len Wein hadn’t gone over to Marvel, and had stayed on JLA for another year,  editor Schwartz might have encouraged him to have Ted emigrate to Earth-1, circa 1975 : third time’s the charm for expatriate JSAers…In my fantasy timeline, this emigration would replace the cutesy Bates/Maggin Earth- Prime JSA team-up (Yecch!).  By the end of the 70s, Ted would have trained up a female protege to take his place: maybe the orphaned offspring of the Huntress and the Sportsmaster?

I’m not sure why Ted’s slinky successor, Yolanda Montez, was less than successful. For a brief time in 1981, Marv Wolfman had mooted a new Wildcat for the Titans roster. Then, a couple of years later, a teaser for “La Garro” (“The Claw”) appeared in an ad for the Infinity Inc. ongoing title.

In the wake of the Crisis, Yolanda, Ted’s mutant protegee, became a prominent Infinitor (although not in a gold catsuit). Annoyingly, she was killed off, beside the female Dr. Midnight, in the early 1990s. However, along with Batgirl, Supergirl and Deadman, a female Cato-cyclist is one of my dream picks for a Satellite -Era JLA.

Next: The Two Faces of Evil.

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners and are reproduced here for purposes of nostalgia and comment.

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One comment on “The Sweet Science

  1. Kid Robson says:

    I’m lucky enough to have all 7 issues of that Secret Origins series. Shame they cropped the first picture in the reprint of Superman’s origin from Action Comics #1 (to make room for an introductory caption) in the first issue.

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