Fight the Future and all its Evils

Unfortunately, this is another somewhat disappointing Golden Age issue of SO . Despite the strapline, no more villains have appeared since the Ghost in issue 1 (but look out for a history of Wanted-The World’s Most Dangerous Villains in my other blog, Some Fantastic Place.) As the sombre Cardy cover indicates, it’s showcasing two obscure fan favourites of the early 70s, rather than, say, contemporary JLA mainstay Elongated Man or  Dr. Fate.

The first feature in this issue is Vigilante by Mort Weisinger and Mort Meskin. Weisinger, of course, was the famously curmudgeonly editor who crafted the Superman Family mythos and created Green Arrow and Aquaman. It’s quite a dynamic strip for a Golden Age  feature, blending Western tropes with crime-busting. The Prairie Troubador is a Gene Autry or Roy Rogers figure- a radio entertainer who doubles as a masked modern cowboy. He was one of the first DC heroes to star in a movie serial- a year before Superman, in fact.

I first encountered Vigilante in the Doomsters issue of the JLA, although this would have to be an Earth-1 version. The Golden Age Vig was  revived with the other members of the original Seven Soldiers of Victory in JLA 100-102. He went on to have a short-lived feature in Adventure and World’s Finest Comics.

The Vigilante trademark was usurped by Marv Wolfman’s amoral  Punisher-knockoff (introduced in the New Teen Titans) in the mid-80s.  James Robinson then wrote a typically melodramatic and unpleasant noir series for the original Vig in the mid-90s and  Grant Morrison had him appear in his sprawling Seven Soldiers of Victory experiment. Vigilante was an occasional guest star in episodes of Justice League Unlimited, usually voiced by Firefly and Serenity‘s Nathan Fillion. The episode “Patriot Act” is an homage to the Law’s Legionnaires, with Green Arrow, Shining Knight, Crimson Avenger, Stargirl and S.T.R.I.P.E.

Kid Eternity by Sheldon Moldoff, seems a firm favourite with editor Bridwell. This origin reprint is the third story he selected. The art is quite cinematic in places but then the story owes a huge debt to the movie “Here Comes Mr. Jordan”. The Kid -who says he’s never known a real name- has a brutal origin:  shot dead by Nazis in a U-boat attack . However, he’s dressed in an odd combination of polo neck, sash and skullcap, suggesting both genie and Yiddish schoolboy.

The supernatural elements of the origin are like a more whimsical take on the Spectre ( more of whom anon). In this story, the Kid actually becomes the historical personages that he summons. The Kid was retconned by ENB in the 70s as the brother of Freddy Freeman- Captain Marvel Junior. Christopher “Kit” Freeman’s origin bears several similarities to Freddy’s but I don’t think it was a great idea to link them so overtly.

In the early 90s, Grant Morrison revamped the Kid rather predictably with black, John Lennon  granny-glasses and a dash of Moorcock’s Chaos and Order cosmogeny. That iteration was killed off (briefly) at the end of the decade when the JSA was renewed and last year, tortured and killed again, this time by the Calculator- a goofy 70s villain reimagined as an information broker. Quite how he murdered a ghost (or agent of Chaos, take your pick) I don’t know. But it’s indicative of the ugly shock tactics which have plagued DC for a decade or so of Didio-cy and which continue unabated in the flash-in-the-pan  “New 52”.

Next: The Mystery Men of January Addenda.

The image reproduced here is presumed copyright of DC Comics.

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