The Mystery Men of February

Welcome back to my continuing  series on super-heroes who made their debut in each consecutive month.  As always, I post images of the stories where I first discovered them or of  issues that are significant to me.

Captain Marvel:  I was a follower of The Big Red Cheese for several issues of his whimsical Bronze Age revival.

I was subsequently attracted to the moody pages of his wordy revamp in the mid-80s. But it wasn’t until the art deco stylings of Jerry Ordway that the World’s Mightiest Mortal really clicked with me.

I don’t think his world of Wicked Worms and Talking Tigers maps over very well to a universe dominated by various Kryptonians- but he should be, by all rights, the third pillar in DC”s Trinity concept.

Justice League of America: The JLA is one of my favourite ideas in the DC universe, although in our early encounters, it was largely pulp sci-fi.

The Bronze Age JLA was always at its best when it was emulating a Marvel title  with one period of real greatness under Len Wein and a bizarre year-long arc by Steve Englehart. For the remainder of the Bronze Age, the team continued steadily, but largely unremarkably, under the stewardship of Gerry Conway. Until, that is,  a misguided attempt to recapture the success of the New Teen Titans resulted in the Detroit League. The move to sitcom and satire made the  late Eighties a successful time for the international incarnation of the League, but I thought the joke got stale pretty quickly.  The comic has never really recaptured the sweep and verve of the Grant Morrison era in the 90s but here’s a line-up that works for me:

Aqualad: Garth, with his purple eyes and fear of fish, always seemed the least useful and most overlooked of the swingin’ Sixties Titans.

Unsurprisingly, he had psychosomatic illnesses and it was Tula, the Aquagirl , who was the more interesting subsea teen. Garth later gained mystic powers over water temperature (snooze…) and adopted the alias of Tempest, which made more sense than it did with the Doom Patrol’s Blaxploitation character.  Personally, however, I’d rather have Tula back.

Hawkman and Hawkgirl of Earth-1: Unbeknownst to me, Katar Hol was having interplanetary romance adventures before I ever read any Edgar Rice Burroughs. That’s why it’s wrong to think of Hawkman as Conan- he’s John Carter of Mars, er, Thanagar. Oddly enough, though, I prefer Shayera to Katar in the League.


The Forever People: After Jimmy Olsen, this was the first of Kirby’s Fourth World books I ever read and it had quite an impact on me.  Jack’s commune of space hippies transformed into the mysterious Infinity Man through a magic word, like flower child versions of Billy Batson. They were a comment on the optimism and charm of the Love Generation, against a horrific backdrop of war and ruthless conformity. But they’re also such a product of their time, I’d be very surprised to see them again.

Spider-Woman: My first encounter with Jessica Drew was in MTIO, when she was still an evolved spider.

For a while, she starred in a moody Hollywood Gothic series. She really became a dynamic heroine in the Marvel Universe when Chris Claremont and Steve Leialoha moved her to San Francisco.

I liked the strengthening of her connections to HYDRA that resulted from her ( retconned) blood relation to Viper.  To be honest, for the past five or six years, Jessica has done next to nothing as an Avenger, apart from switch teams and look sultry.  I think she should have a mystery/supernatural series, set outside the Avengers milieu.

Next time: The Mystery Men of February Part Two!

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


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