One Giant Leap

The next half-dozen posts will feature DC Giant comics of the late 60s and early-to-mid 70s. Then, after the Mystery Men of September ( a Tiny Titan,  a class of merry mutants and a voodoo priest!), the previously-announced History of the Treasuries begins!

To mark the passing of  another giant, Neil Armstrong, let’s revisit the tumultuous final weeks of 1969. Abbey Road has been released,  Calley is charged for the My Lai massacre  and Apollo 12 is launched for the second manned Moon landing.

I got this comic one Sunday in Glasgow, in 1970. That in itself is surprising- living in a town with two 24-hour supermarkets, it’s easy to forget that over forty years ago, shops scarcely opened on Sundays (and Glasgow had half-day closing on Tuesdays). So, I’ve no idea why we were in Glasgow. I think it might even have been Shawlands or some other unknown territory-we rarely strayed beyond the city centre.

Anyway, it was a comic I’d seen advertised in this issue of Action, which I’d got on holiday in Girvan, in the era of the Fifth Dimension ( this psychedelic, fibreglass fun house designed by Damon Albarn’s father.)

Incidentally, that was also my fifth colour Legion story. The cover of the JLA Giant looks ominous, possibly tragic. But you shouldn’t be duped by the World’s Finest pair: Superman was always hoodwinking Lois  while Batman concealed the truth about Dick Grayson’s nocturnal activities from his maiden aunt while living in the same house.

We’ll come to the reprints shortly. What was really significant about this issue was the extras- Murphy Anderson’s two-page pin-up of the Justice Society (we’ve referred to it twice before on the ‘Optikon but this was its first printing.) This was the first time I’d ever seen  Hourman, Johnny Thunder and the Original Red Tornado. It was also the first time I’d found out Mr. Terrific’s name. I’d read precisely one half of one JLA-JSA Crisis: the Aquarius storyline in which Larry Lance died and I’d glimpsed JSA-ers, like  the grown-up Robin, on covers in ads. But this issue’s text feature listed their powers, origins and secret identities; this kind of thing  is comic book crack.

As an added bonus, the Seven Soldiers of Victory were thrown in. I only recently discovered that the Vigilante and the Shining Knight were among the very few costumed heroes who survived the end of the Golden Age. The text has a dry, academic tone quite at odds to the bombast and sly humour of Smilin’ Stan. It’s a treatise, a dissertation- nerdy kids and Warhammer fans still lap that stuff up. Of course, it’s rather odd then not to actually reprint a JLA-JSA story; that wouldn’t happen for another two years.

Compared to the melodramas unfolding in the Thomas-Colan- Buscema Bros Avengers, the JLA seems somewhat sedate. On the other hand, the assemblers have a more low-profile roster. Gardener Fox’s Avengers would probably have included Dr. Strange, Mar-vell and the Silver Surfer! These reprinted stories also predate the membership of Fox favourites  the Atom (who worked very well in the early years of the JLA)  and Hawkman, a later addition who duplicated too many members of the original line-up.  Also, I can only really  find the Amazon Princess bearable here.

The Cosmic Fun House is a hoax devised by a race of aliens trying to retrieve a space-probe: a needlessly complex plan  worthy of the Cybermen but one of my fondest memories of the League.  I like the way Fox uses real stars- Algol and Fomalhaut- in his script but I’m astonished the invisible Robot Plane can fly there. There’s also a cameo by Kathy (Batwoman) Kane, sadly overlooked as a JLA member. The deceptive alien thrills experienced by mascot Snapper and gal pal Midge remind me of the sensory “happening” on Girvan pleasure beach. The council in those days  obviously saw some potential in this way-out installation, between the helter skelter and the pedal boats.

The Last Case of the Justice League– their 12th issue from 1962- sees new villain Dr. Light recount to a stunned Snapper how he has trapped the JLAers on  a series of inescapable “sidereal” worlds (one of Fox’s favourite terms). One of my favourite aspects of the  early JLA formula is seeing them divide into smaller teams for destinations all over the world. It’s sad, however, to think of the sordid state to which the fanciful Dr. Light has been reduced.

The letters page is very interesting.  It features a lengthy piece of fan fiction:  Rand Lee’s  review of an imaginary 100th issue- Thralls of the Star-Titan – in which the JLA fight an insane superbeing named Ul’ Pir on a low-gravity moon. Lee ” predicts” Green Arrow going out in a blaze of glory ( dying?);  the membership of Batgirl ( logical- I don’t understand why O’ Neil replaced powerless Diana with the JSA’s only active female when Babs was high-profile)  and the induction of a hero called Psi aka Randall Howorth, created by an H-Bomb.  This is also quite prescient given thirty-five years of psionic powers driving X-Men plots.  There’s a sci-fi writer and spiritualist on the web by the name of Rand Lee. I wonder if it’s the same person who wrote this highly  detailed and convincing  LOC?

So, because of its unheralded trove of JSA lore, this was an iconic comic for me. Mike Sekowsky is often criticised for his figure work but his JLA was the one I knew first. He was, of course,  also the Go-To Guy for revamping super-heroines. Yesterday on Some Fantastic Place, I wrote about an imaginary compilation book, DC’s Fighting Females and neglected to make selections for reprints of Wonder Woman and Supergirl. I would go to the early 70s Sekowsky eras for both characters.

I’ve chosen the début of the ravishing witch Morgana from the middle of the Mod Wonder Woman Era. While the concept of Diana Prince , globe-trotting boutique owner and DC’s  Emma Peel, might seem kitschy and a touch Mike Myers now, it was a radical attempt to create a contemporary Wonder Woman.

Jasmine Lennard’s role model?

Similarly, I’ve chosen the first appearance of  Lex’s niece, Nastalthia “Nasty” Luthor although I was very tempted to swap for Supergirl’s monocular nemesis Starfire- more about her in September! For much more Supergirl, be back here soon to meet…The Girl with the X-Ray Mind!!

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners

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2 comments on “One Giant Leap

  1. Kid Robson says:

    I can’t remember if I’ve ever been to Girvan. Surely I must have been? If so, it was a long, long time ago. Isn’t nostalgia wonderful?

  2. Dougie says:

    Girvan was third in the top three of towns in danger of “terminal” decline due to recession in a recent report by the Scottish Agricultural College. When I was last there in 2009, it was desolate: the swimming pool was about to be demolished, the boating pond was as dry as a bone and trees were growing out of buildings on the main street. The town had been given over to hash, heroin and pound shops.
    Elgin was number 49 on the list and my home village of Chapelton, 89

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