Original Sin?

With neither a bang nor a whimper, Secret Origins– the Bronze Age version- expired after only seven issues in October 1974. The next month DC dropped the 100 page Super-Spectaculars ( but we haven’t got there yet). There was a paper shortage and I remember my dad couldn’t bring home any more reams of the brilliant white Trustees Savings Bank cartridge paper I used to draw on.

Supergirl, Lois Lane and Weird Worlds (featuring Ironwolf) were all cancelled around the same time. Mr. Miracle and the Demon bit the dust earlier in the year; Wanted in the previous summer. The low-budget reprint titles- Metal Men, LSH, Doom Patrol, Challs- had gone bust during the spring of ’73. The tabloid editions or Treasuries, as Marvel called them, were becoming more popular ( and I plan to focus on them soon); OMAC was coming too,  but it was a chilly new world.

ENB thought we’d rather see Vigilante and Kid Eternity before these guys…

Robin, The Sensational Character Find of 1940 (as the story tells us twice) is the most famous kid sidekick of all time. Unless you count Bucky, of course, who was notorious for forty years for being, er, dead.

Boss Zucco is obviously Edward G.Robinson (“See?”) but his murder of the Flying Graysons is a potent tale. When I saw it enacted in the Batman Live show last year, the justaposition of graceful athleticism, death and vengeance was really effective. It’s disconcerting to see Golden Age Batman smile but that’s Robin’s purpose: to bring a bit of humanity to the Dread Creature of the Night. Robin is an absolutely essential element in the Batman canon. I wonder if Frank Miller’s Dark Knight: Boy Wonder will ever be published in my lifetime?

It’s Sonny Robin Bono!

In the wake of the Adam West tv series, Robin became the Teen Wonder and  one of Friedrich and Kane’s rather tortured Angry Young Men before returning to his goofy sidekick role- until his reinvention as Nightwing. I rather wish there had been a back-up strip for the adult Dick Grayson, E-2 ambassador to South Africa and the first new full-fledged (no bird-pun intended) member of the JSA in the Silver Age:

As a kid, I though Mace-Guy on the left was Vandal Savage, with The Gambler and Harlequin on the right.

Aquaman is a sea-going Nazi-smasher like Sub-Mariner, whose powers come from secrets of lost Atlantis, unearthed by his explorer father. The Sea King is a wisecracking bruiser, “a terrifying juggernaut of justice”.  A nameless “figure of terrible reckoning”, Mort Weisinger certainly, er, bigs him up;  he can address friendly porpoises in their own language- no telepathy here- and he “knifes through the water like a flashing silver scimitar”. Maybe all he ever needed was a good pitchman.

Not so fast, suck-up crustacean…

Compared to Namor, who has  grandeur and exoticism, Aquaman has never grabbed me, although the character has had amazing longevity. Why did he survive when the magicians and ghosts didn’t?  When playing “If I wrote the Justice League” (and I do that a lot!) he is never in my top ten DC picks. I’ve seen him played as grieving father, domineering martinet, soft-spoken outsider and barbarian king. For me, however, he’s a perennial B-lister.

Secret Origins returned, of course,  post-Crisis, under the auspices of Roy Thomas. Its rather schizophrenic mission was to retell all the origin stories of all the heroes from the vanished Earth-2. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another revival when this New Nineties-sorry, New 52– debacle is over.

Next: Lore of the Legion

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners.


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