More heroes from the eleventh month, this time from DC comics:
Red Tornado ( Ma Hunkel): a humorous character who made one cameo appearance in the very first meeting of the Justice Society of America. Pot-headed nut Matilda was a working-class mother and neighbourhood super-hero who would have remained in obscurity- if not for the introduction of the android Red Tornado in 1968
I was first aware of the home-made heroine thanks to the 60s Murphy Anderson portrait of the JSA. Geoff Johns gave the character dignity and a purpose- curator of the JSA’s trophies and mementos. Joel Priddy depicted the gutsy, practical Tornado above for Project Rooftop.
Dr. Thirteen: Happy belated Hallowe’en! Sceptical investigator of the paranormal Terry Thirteen ( the “Ghost-Breaker”) has been around since the 50s. Since he regularly interacted with the Phantom Stranger and the Spectre, his assertion that supernatural events are all hoaxes is somewhat foolish. His daughter Traci, a magic user, has been a minor DC star of the Noughties.
The Mean Streets of Mars: unavailable in all good bookshops
Martian Manhunter: JLA Detroit and the Bwah-ha-ha League gave J’Onn J’Onzz an elder statesman role in the JLA that he never actually occupied during my childhood. In fact, he was pretty much the codified Token Black with comical Martian breath and vision powers, then subsequently written out for a decade and a half.
In the 80s, his alien stoicism was counterpointed with the fratboy antics of the other members. The JLA animated series focused on his psionic powers and gave him a Professor X role. The fact is, in a team with Superman and Green Lantern, a green man from Mars is a B-Movie oddity. Yet, he’s back in the New 52’s “dangerous” new JLA. I think the Manhunter from Mars works best in his original iteration as a period piece : a police detective who’s an alien in disguise.
Adam Strange: a product of DC’s genteel sci-fi pulp era in the early Silver Age, Adam is a modern-day John Carter, travelling across the void of space to the planet Rann, to rescue the beautiful Alanna from crystal conquerors or robot-wraiths. Armed only with a jetpack, a ray gun and his intellect, Adam is also an academic Buck Rogers. Gardener Fox used a very similar formula with Hawkman, a more visually-imposing hero.
Green Glob: an obscurity from (Tales of) The Unexpected, the Glob is a gaseous entity that puts humans into bizarre situations to test their mettle. I’ve only ever read one Green Glob story in a Double Double comic, but the premise of this alien force stuck with me, long before I ever saw The Twilight Zone.
Kamandi: tasked by Infantino to pastiche Planet of the Apes, Kirby revived some concepts from his earlier career to create a freewheeling satirical adventure: a blend of UFOs, political chicanery, animal rights and The Bomb.
Probably the King’s most long-lived property in the Seventies, Kam is a post-apocalypse James Dean: a teen outsider trying to forge his own identity among conflicted elders. They also happen to be intelligent animals who all have their own expansionist agendas. Kamandi’s quest to restore mankind’s supremacy takes him all over the shattered and bizarre world of Earth A.D. (After Disaster). The animated Brave and Bold shows clearly that Kamandi is a kid-friendly epic.
Iron-Wolf: not a super-hero per se, but Howard Chaykin’s science-fantasy swashbuckler from the early 70s. DC’s Weird Worlds was the closest thing to Marvel’s barbarian books: prettily pictured pulp stories of bare-chested heroes fighting monsters . Iron-Wolf was a Celtic pirate in an exotic world of wooden spaceships, giant aliens and vampires, in the shadow of Watergate. ( Read Denny “Relevance” O’Neil’s editorial!) A baroque space opera, Iron-Wolf’s intrigues were perhaps too cynical for Super-Friendly DC. The series was short-lived; Bronze Age books often were, of course. Iron-Wolf returned, however, in a graphic novel in the very early Nineties.
The Huntress: next to Kamandi, my favourite character in this post. Daughter of the Earth-2 Batman and Catwoman, the Huntress was introduced as the Justice Society’s version of Batgirl. Helena Wayne was a far more sleek, driven and tragic heroine, however.
In her sexy, Forties-influenced bat-garb, The Huntress quickly became a break-out character from the 70s All-Star Comics, participating in at least five JLA/JSA summer Crises and helming her own back-up series in Batman Family and Wonder Woman. Her stardom was abruptly curtailed in the mid-80s, when the Crisis on Infinite Earths made her backstory redundant.
A new, modified Huntress took her place. This Mafia Princess version interacted with the Bat-Family and even joined the JLA but she didn’t have the mythic significance and allure of Batman’s only child. Now, the original Huntress and her gal pal Power Girl are finally back in Worlds Finest, safe from the third-person- shooter game mediocrity of Earth-2.
Coming soon: Mystery Men of the Eighties and Nineties
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