The Mystery Men of July – part 2

Today’s post looks at heroes from DC comics who made their debut in July.

The Green Lantern: As a kid, I always preferred the vivid garb of the original Emerald Crusader to that of pilot Hal Jordan. I read of him first in JLA/JSA team-ups and later, in Golden Age reprints.  Green Lantern was almost named Alan Ladd ( before the fame of the diminutive actor) in honour of his magic ring and lamp. Sim sala bim!  Alan had a sexy modern job in radio and a memorable rogues gallery including the ancient Vandal Savage, The Icicle and GL’s “loving enemy” The Harlequin.

His sidekicks were somewhat problematic. The Brooklyn taxi driver “Doiby” Dickles (named after his Derby hat), who used green flare rockets to signal GL, was unpopular allegedly and replaced by a “wonder dog” Streak. Said canine would subsequently replace GL on the cover of his own comic!

In something of a Hank Pym vein of fragility, during the 70s Alan lost his role as broadcasting mogul due to recession and experienced a breakdown, engineered by Silver Age villain, the Psycho-Pirate. In the 80s , we discovered the secret origins of Alan’s kids, Jade and Obsidian. Born of a tryst with the schizoid and lethal Thorn, this chapter of Alan’s story was straight out of Hitchcock’s Vertigo. It ended happily however, with his long awaited marriage to Molly, the Harlequin -and the bathetic revelation of his toupee (terrible idea, Roy Thomas!).

For a while in the 90s, Alan was rejuvenated and wore a modernised costume, in Robin‘s colours. Unfortunately, he was also given the sobriquet Sentinel, which just didn’t work.  You wouldn’t rename Timber Wolf “Wolverine”, would you? More recently, the re-christened GL was a mainstay of Geoff Johns JSA and Justice Society.  His role as the Batman‘s predecessor as Gotham Guardian was revisited in last July’s Batman: Brave and Bold

Then of course, The New 52 came along.

I’ve already discussed how DC has been fast and loose with ( I almost said “fudged”…) the hype about making a major hero a “gay”. Despite the nondescript 90s-style armour and the loss of the dramatic cloak, however, I like the developing saga of the latest Green Lantern. Like Swamp Thing, Alan Scott appears to be the champion of The Green- the Gaea-style life force of his Earth.  Cleverly,  DC’s original swamp monster, the zombie-like Solomon Grundy has been positioned as his diametric opposite. The symbolism of empowering Alan’s  engagement ring was also a neat idea. I’m willing to stick around to see what Robinson does with Dr. Fate and Wildcat.

Merry, Girl of 1,000 Gimmicks:  Meredith Pemberton was the adopted sister of the original Star-Spangled Kid. I’ve only read one of her exploits ( in the World’s Greatest Super-Females 10o-pager). Merry was a butch little red-head whose cape contained an arsenal of tricks worthy of the Joker or Toyman: a bulletproof glove, a rocket firecracker,  a spark gun etc.

Such ladylike toys fell out of favour in the Sixties, despite a brief revival in characters like the Duela Dent Harlequin (or Sarah Jane’s sonic lipstick). In the 80s, Merry was revealed to be the mother of Brainwave Jr., Infinity Inc’s psionic redhead. Grant Morrison introduced Gimmix in his Seven Soldiers project but the original  Merry made a cameo appearance in the delightful Brave and Bold comic a while back; a more whimsical world and one better suited to the Gimmick Girl.

Kathy &’ Kate

Batwoman: I discovered Batgirl Babs Gordon before her antecedent, circus owner Kathy Kane; I’ve only read a handful of stories about her but, as with Merry, I like the campery of her Bat-gadgets. Despite her flashy red-and-gold outfit, however, Kathy was a tragic character in the Bronze Age. The Earth-1 version was murdered by the League of Assassins while the Earth-2 iteration mourned the death of her Batman.

Grant Morrison has reworked Kathy as an experimental film- maker in the Maya Deren mould , a spy and a great lost love of Batman. That’s a remarkably respectful series of retcons by a modern writer.  Meanwhile, I can’t understand why the modern Batwoman- Kate Kane-  isn’t a Justice League member. Why would you pass over a vampiric lesbian for Marv Wolfman’s ghetto Ben Grimm,  Cyborg?

A Gil Kane cover for my intro to Spaaace Raaaaangerr!

 
Space Ranger: this Silver Age space cop inhabited a wacky cosmos  disconnected from the pulp star-systems of Gardner Fox or Otto Binder. Like Martian Manhunter‘s baby-talk space-monkey Zook, Space Ranger had a goofy comedy relief sidekick: Cryll,  a pink blob with spindly limbs . While possessing some space opera charm, SR is eclipsed by the jet-pack John Carter, Adam Strange.

  May contain Mark Merlin!

Eclipso: The Man Who Fought Himself is a Zany Bob Haney character, who started out as a gritty sci-fi Jekyll/Hyde pastiche. When I discovered him in my cousin Jim’s collection, Eclipso was a gaudy Marvel-esque antihero. In the early 90s, he was retooled as a God of Chaos. Too much like Darkseid in my book. Poor old nutty Jean Loring ( the Atom’s ex-wife and murderess of Sue Dibny)  then suffered the indignity of becoming a female Eclipso. Dear God. (Or should that be Dear Goth, DC?)

New 52 heroes don’t cry

Hawk and Dove: I’ve never seen Ditko’s original tales of the Viet Nam- era brothers; I discovered their agonizing and fraternal spats under the pencil of Gil Kane.Like Kirby’s Forever People, they seem to be very much products of their time. I bought precisely one issue of the 80s revival by Rob Liefeld because I’m fascinated by the design of The Hawk.

Steady, Geo-Force. You’re up next time.

Jezebelle of the Fiery Eyes: a Gerry Conway addition to the ranks of the New Gods. Another Female Fury escapee from Granny Goodness’ school, Jezebelle wielded destructive eye-beams. As was the case with the majority of non-Kirby concepts in the Fourth World, this Storm-lookalike never caught on and has made no appearances (to my knowledge) since about 1980.

Next: Some more of Batman’s cannon fodd- I mean, sidekicks and allies.

All images are presume copyright of their respective owners

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