JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA
Annotations for The Golden Age
The Golden Age: A Different Look at a Different Era
4-issue Elseworlds miniseries (1993)
Written by James Robinson • Illustrated by Paul Smith • Colored by Richard Ory
Written by Scott Hollifield, 1995
There are no page numbers in The Golden Age. Each book is 48 pages. The page numbers given here are counted by using the first page of the story as page 1.
Much of this file points out ways in which The Golden Age differs from previously established DC universe continuity. Yes, The Golden Age is an Elseworlds story, meaning that it's not bound by continuity, but a good bit of it does use past continuity. Much of the established continuity for Golden Age characters was created by Roy Thomas in All-Star Squadron, Young All-Stars, and Infinity, Inc. Thomas did an enormous amount of research and attempted to reconcile various inconsistences with the characters, while placing them in a consistent World War II historical context.
Given that the final roster of the All-Star Squadron included dozens of heroes, there's a lot of ground to cover in handling Golden Age characters.
NOTE: Mike Kooiman interviewed James Robinson for The Quality Companion and learned a lot of behind-the-scenes tidbits about the creation of this series! Was it intended to be Elseworlds...?
Heroes pictured are:
In the above list, "[obscure]" is used to indicate the depiction of someone who is too indistinct to be intended as anyone recognizable. "[Unknown]" is used to indicate someone who is clearly supposed to be somebody, but somebody whose identity I can't discern.
The use of Captain America and Sub-Mariner, both characters from the Marvel/Timely stable, are obviously an in-joke of sorts.
Superman and Batman's appearances are also obscure for a reason; The Golden Age versions of these charactersn no longer exist in DC history thanks to the Crisis on Infinite Earths, but Paul Smith evidently felt it a good idea to acknowledge their significance anyway.
The Spirit is a creation of Will Eisner, who produced the character's stories for Quality Comics, among other companies. DC isn't allowed to use the character, since it remains owned by Eisner, but they are allowed to use Midnight, a virtual double of the Spirit created for Quality Comics. According to Roy Thomas' notes in Secret Origins #28, Quality publisher "Busy" Arnold liked to have "spares" of all his characters, such as the Blackhawk clones called The Death Patrol. It's not certain precisely who came up with the idea for Midnight as a character, although Thomas picks Jack Cole as the prime candidate, since Cole also drew Midnight's first story (in SMASH Comics #18). Previously, in All-Star Squadron , Thomas had noted that Eisner himself created Midnight; it's unknown what caused Thomas to change his mind regarding this revelation. Midnight's only post-Quality appearances were in All-Star Squadron #31-32; he also appeared in some stories written for MS. TREE QUARTERLY.
Dr. Fate's appearance in this panel is his only sighting throughout this entire story, strange for such a major Golden Ager. It's possible that Robinson thought Fate's mystic might would clash with the story's theme of weak, depowered heroes. In this panel, Fate is depicted with his full-face helment, which is incorrect chronologically (assuming this shot takes place in late '41 or after). From 1941 to 1944 (when Fate disappeared from both the JSA and his home, More Fun Comics ), he wore a half-helmet exposing his mouth and chin. When he returned with the JSA in the '60s, the full helmet was brought back. The change in helmets went unexplained until All-Star Squadron , wherein Roy Thomas introduced the idea that the full helmet was possessed by Nabu, and gave Kent Nelson more power, but took away much of his humanity. It has been commented that this is the sort of personal conflict which would have fit right in with Robinson's JSAers, had he been inclined to use the character.
The Spectre is also absent, from all of The Golden Age. One assumes that the character's nigh-omnipotence inhibited his use in this story, although it is also true that the Spectre was nowhere to be seen in comics from late '45 till his return in Showcase #60 (1966). Thus, as with Dr. Fate, Robinson's exclusion of the character from the story fits continuity, though it's unknown whether this was intentional or not.
Plastic Man's inclusion with the Golden Age group is a small curiosity, since he was retconned out of the old guard along with Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel and the rest when Crisis on Infinite Earths came along. It's possible that Plastic Man was the only one of these contemporary Golden Agers that DC's editors were willing to be, er, flexible with. (Ouch!)
Johnny Quick is incorrectly depicted as being gloveless in this picture.
The Atom was never depicted as being this short in comparison with the other heroes. If he is 5'2" or 5'3," as has been said in other stories, then all of the others in this picture are well over six feet tall, not implausible in the world of superheros.
The Atom has a slightly different costume here than both his original appearances and the Roy Thomas books. His bracelets are smaller and there is no V-neck opening at his collar, with red piping missing also. Green Lantern's boots are red with two yellow stripes, consistent with his depiction in post-Golden Age books (including Justice League of America #21). Before, he had big yellow overlapping stripes on his boots.
The Flash's chest emblem appears here as it did in his first appearance, in Flash Comics #1—a fully-drawn lightning bolt in the middle of his chest. In later Golden Age stories, the lightning bolt became "tucked" into the Flash's belt, so that it was only partially visible. (Most, if not all, of the Flash's depictions in All-Star Squadron reproduce him this way, and it is a style altered further with his recent appearances in Flash, Justice Society of America andJustice League America.) Flash Comics #1 depicts the Flash with lightning bolts running down the sides of his pants.
Hourman's costume as depicted here includes a rather plain red belt, although his belt was originally much larger and ornate, though it has varied many times over the years. The Sandman's hat here is shown as being brown instead of orange, its normal color. While the Sandman's costume did vary a bit in his early appearances, it settled into consistency by the time he joined the JSA.
This is not the first depiction of the JSA on the cover of Life magazine. They also were shown on the cover of the magazine in All-Star Squadron #7, although under different circumstances (the headline was "JSA Disbands/America's Masked Heroes Join The Army"). (The All-Star Squadron were also given a magazine cover, albeit that of Time, in issue #45 of that book.)
The membership of the JSA as pictured here is not entirely consistent with DC history. For one thing, Starman and Hourman were never in the group at the same time until the 1960s, the former being a replacement for the latter in All-Star Comics #8.
It is uncertain whether all of the criminals mentioned in these news articles are from actual DC stories. The only ones which are established beyond any doubt are Rag Doll and the Brain Wave (whose name is incorrectly spelled as one word here); others who may or may not be new creations are Mr. Fingers, the Theatre-Blade, the Spoiler and someone whose name is cut off the page (we see the letters "Bootsy" which may or may not be the whole name). Mr. Fingers is likely not a true Golden Age character given his rather risque modus operandi.
Tex Thompson, the Americommando, was an obscure Golden Age hero whose adventures were published in Action Comics. He first appeared without superhero trappings, merely as Tex Thompson, in Action #1 (which, in addition to Superman and Zatara, also featured the even-more-obscure Pep Morgan, Chuck Dawson, and Scoop Scanlon). He became the costumed hero known as Mr. America in Action #33. His stories switched from domestic adventure to anti-Nazi fighting abroad in Action #52, when his name was changed to the Americommando. His last appearance in Action is issue #74 (September 1942?). He would remain unseen for over forty years until Roy Thomas brought him back in All-Star Squadron #31 (which also featured appearances by many other obscure wartime heroes). The beginning of Thompson's secret mission and the transition between identities was documented in Secret Origins #29, and retold in Young All-Stars #27.
Otto Frentz ("the dreaded Parsifal") is an entirely new creation. He will be discussed more thoroughly later in the book.
The Army private in the theater here is Bob Daley, who fought crime as "Fatman," Mr. America's sidekick. In the original 1940s adventures, Bob Daley apparently goes to Germany along with Thompson (confirm?), as the two become known as the "Americommandos." However, in the Young All-Stars story (and in the Secret Origins story?), Daley/Fatman remains behind (saying, "You gonna miss your old crimebusting pard while you're behind enemy lines?").
This is Paul Kirk, the hero known as Manhunter (created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby). His adventures appeared in Adventure Comics beginning with #73, and ran through #92 (Simon and Kirby's last issue was #80). Walt Simonson brought the character back with a new costume and logo blurb ("He Stalks The World's Most Dangerous Game!") in Detective Comics #437-443. His full origin, and how he related to the other two heroes called Manhunter (Dan Richards and Mark Shaw) was told in Secret Origins #22.
Paul Kirk's presence in Germany is consistent with his background as established in Detective Comics , where he was revealed to have gone on secret missions behind enemy lines.
The President here is Harry S Truman. The men seated behind him are General Dwight D. Eisenhower and General Douglas McArthur.
This is Johnny Chambers, aka Johnny Quick. In his original stories (in More Fun Comics #76-97) and in appearances in All-Star Squadron , Chambers was a photo-journalist; his transition to being a maker of documentaries here is new (although sensible).
The "Senator Hughes" mentioned here doesn't appear to have an established precedent.
The shot at the bottom of the page appears to be of the original Vigilante, a western-flavored hero who fought contemporary Nazis and criminals in the '40s, and was a member of the Seven Soldiers of Victory.
The Flash's retirement is pushed a couple of years or more ahead here, for the sake of the story. In established DC history, Jay Garrick retired in 1949, the same year his series was cancelled. He did marry his girlfriend, Joan Williams, around this time, although I'm uncertain an actual reference date exists for this event.
Carter Hall, the original Hawkman, is the reincarnated form of an Egyptian prince named Prince Khufu. His obsession with the idea and his potential insanity, as told in Johnny's comments here, are new; in current, post-Crisis DC history, Carter Hall went on to found the Justice League of America in the 1960s. (The caption here refers to Carter's ancient Egyptian counterpart as a "pharoah," which may be somewhat inaccurate. I'm no expert on Egyptian history, but I always thought that a pharoah was strictly a king, while Khufu died as a "prince." Then again, the Prince Khufu origin was written in the 1940s, when writers generally didn't have such a good grasp on historical accuracy; it could be that there was no such thing as an Egyptian "prince" and that Robinson deliberately rectified this.)
Mr. Terrific's implied dirty dealings here are also new, and puzzling as well, since Terry Sloane was long-since wealthy and didn't need money. His costume has also been significantly altered; the "Fair Play" trademark typically covers his stomach and is framed in a tent-shaped outline, whereas here it has been enlarged to cover his entire torso.
Johnny Quick's separation from his wife, Libby (Liberty Belle), mentioned here, is consistent with established DC history. Married in 1942 (All-Star Squadron #50), the couple were prime examples of volatile, impulsive personalities, and it's very easy to see how their marriage may have been premature. In the most recent Justice Society of America series, Johnny resurfaced in the '90s as a fitness corporation executive and revealed to others that he and Libby had been divorced for some time. They had one child, a daughter named Jesse who inherited her dad's super-speed. (Jesse was depicted as being in her early '20s, which would seem inconsistent, on the face of it, with Johnny and Libby divorcing in the 1940s—until we realize that we're talking about comic book time here.)
The Spear of Destiny, mentioned here, was an example of retroactive continuity used by Roy Thomas in All-Star Squadron , to explain why the more powerful heroes never ganged up and won World War II on their own. The Spear was a mystic object of great power which, in legend, was used by a Roman soldier to stab Jesus of Nazareth while he hung on the cross. The subject of numerous books, the Spear made its first comics appearance in Weird War Tales #50, and is first wielded by Hitler against superheroes in a Justice Society story from DC Super-Special #29. In All-Star Squadron , it was used to place an invisible field around Nazi-occupied territory that caused any magically-powered superhero that crossed it to fall under Hitler's sway. This field affected not only most of the era's most powerful heroes who coincidentally happened to be magical in nature (Wonder Woman, the Spectre, Dr. Fate, Green Lantern and Captain Marvel), but also Superman, whose particular weakness to magic is a longtime part of continuity. (Japan's General Tojo held the Spear's counterpart, the Holy Grail, which had the same effect on Axis-held territory in Asia and the Pacific.) The Spear was also used by Hitler in an attempt to bring about Ragnarok and thus end the world, as seen in The Last Days of the Justice Society #1. Still, as good a plot device as it was, the presence of Spear still failed to explain the inaction of NON-magical heroes like the Flash and Starman, who were powerful nonetheless. In this story, the Spear of Destiny is made out to be a hoax, to hide the truth about a more plausible (but potentially controversial) explanation, that a German superhuman named Parsifal had the ability to cancel the powers of any super-powered hero.
In this alternate reality, Tex Thompson's public acclaim indirectly moved the other heroes to give up their costumed indentities soon after the war, but in the mainstream DC universe, the JSA stayed together as a group until 1951.
The visual depiction of Green Lantern's power ring as a miniature "lantern" is consistent with Green Lantern's first appearance in All-American Comics #16 (contrary to what I said in previous versions of this file). In the 1960s, it was drawn to resemble Hal Jordan's circular ring, which was in turn altered to be shaped like the GL emblem later on. The lantern-shaped motif was brought back in recent appearances of Alan Scott.
relatively new; I don't think it was representated as such until sometime in the late '80s, at the earliest.
Alan Scott's position as president/owner of the Gotham Broadcasting Company is an established part of DC history, although he wasn't shown to be so until stories that took place some considerable time after the war. (GBC is also the familiar abbreviation of another media outfit, the Galaxy Broadcasting Company, which appeared prominently in the Superman books starting in the early '70s.) GBC's employees' problems with HUAC are new, though understandable given the timeframe.
The description of costumed heroes' role after the war is comparable to that in Alan Moore's Watchmen, where the heroes felt a similar mood of despair and irrelevance at this time in history.
The absence of Molly Mayne, a.k.a. the Harlequin, is something of an oddity since by the late '40s, she was a fairly substantial part of Alan Scott's life, sharing with him a sort of love-hate Batman/Catwoman-type relationship.
Green Lantern's comparison of himself to an atom bomb may have been inspired by All-Star Squadron #20, wherein Green Lantern, in an illusion generated by the Brain Wave, did devastate Japan on a nuclear scale by using his power ring. He was severely traumatized by the event, and by the awesome implications of his power. At the end of this story, GL is heard to murmur Oppenheimer's famous quotation (by way of Hinduism), "I am become death, shatterer of worlds."
This is Libby Lawrence, the heroine known as Liberty Belle. Her original Golden Age adventures appeared in Boy Commandos #1-2 and in Star-Spangled Comics #20-68. Her prominent role here is clearly due to Roy Thomas' significant use of her in All-Star Squadron , where she became leader of that group. Libby's Veronica Lake-style hairdo (obscuring one eye) is a significant visual allusion to the character's beginnings, where she wore no mask and disguised her identity by using the aforementioned hairstyle.
The man Libby is living with is Jonathan Law, aka Tarantula. His original adventures were told in Star-Spangled Comics #1-19, although he wore a garish purple-and-yellow costume which would later be adapted for The Golden Age Sandman. (Roy Thomas told the story behind the similar costumes in All-Star Squadron #18.) In most of his All-Star Squadron appearances, he wore a new brown-and-black costume designed by Jerry Ordway; his costume here is a new adaptation based on the same scheme. Roy Thomas also changed his name to Jonathan Law, whereas in Star-Spangled Comics, he was merely known as John Law.
Jonathan Law's trophies here reflect an interest in safari adventuring and the Old West, which is a new element of the character.
His book about super-heroes, mentioned here, was Altered Egos (subtitled The Star-Spangled Super-Heroes of World War II), in which Law documented the origins and exploits of a number of wartime heroes. (This was used occasionally as a framing plot device to introduce a new telling of a particular hero's origin story in All-Star Squadron .) The Golden Age conflicts with established DC history here, though, by having Law's book as already published; in mainstream continuity, Altered Egos was not published until the 1970s. (The Golden Age also changes the title of Law's book, as seen in issue #3.) As part of his agreement with the heroes in the book, Law promised not to publish the book until each of them had retired, so as not to endanger their secret identities.
In his original adventures, Jonathan Law was a mystery writer, and in All-Star Squadron , he is implied to be something of a hack. This is consistent here with his inability to make progress on writing "the great American novel."
This is the first indication of Thompson's plan of creating a new superhero for the post-war atomic age.
This is Robotman, whose adventures appeared in Star-Spangled Comics #7-82 and Detective Comics #138-202. Originally a human scientist named Robert Crane, he was shot by gangsters and had his brain transplanted into an experimental robot body by his assistant, Chuck Grayson. On occasion, he disguised himself as a human and called himself Paul Dennis. In Star-Spangled #15, Robotman was put on trial in order to determine his humanity, and was declared human; this story was expanded and retold in All-Star Squadron #13. Robotman's brain was eventually given a human host, the cryogenically-preserved body of the deceased Chuck Grayson, in DC Comics Presents #31. Working solely from the All-Starappearances, however, his evolution to a non-feeling machine here is nearly consistent; during his last major story with the All-Star Squadron, Robotman became increasingly antagonistic towards the human race, as he protected his "beloved" robot companion Mekanique (secretly a villain seeking to rule the world). This disillusionment could possibly have evolved into the Robotman we see here given the appropriate cirumstances. Robotman's somewhat stunted speech pattern here is evidently the result of talking to virtually no one for so long; in previous stories, his speech, was, of course, perfectly human.
The Atom was always plain-spoken, but his speech patterns here are noticeably less articulate than his previous appearances.
The newly-manifested superstrength he mentions here is part of established history, having appeared for the first time in 1947 (causing the Atom to don a new, more traditional super-hero costume in All-American Comics #42). In All-Star Squadron , Roy Thomas explained the Atom's superstrength as being a delayed effect of exposure to the radioactive super-criminal Cyclotron in 1942.
He is depicted here as having blond hair, despite the fact that his established hair color is red. Mike Parobeck, in the recent JSA series, depicted the Atom as a balding man with black hair and a mustache.
The "accents of the scientists" (presumably German, judging from the name of one of them, Von Lowe) is the first indication that Tex Thompson has a secret agenda behind the one he's promoting to the public.
As Hourman, Rex Tyler's problems with the Miraclo pill are a contemporary part of his continuity. In All-Star Squadron , Miraclo was shown to be addictive, so Hourman stopped using the pills, instead resorting to a less effective but safer "Miraclo ray." Even his final Miraclo formula wasn't completely safe, having given cancer to his son Rick (the second Hourman), as revealed in the recent Justice Society series.
Tyler Chemicals is also an established part of Hourman's past, having been originally named Bannerman Chemicals until Rex Tyler bought it.
Hourman's hair seems black here, but it should be brown.
The Icicle is an established supervillain, although his arch-nemesis was Green Lantern, not Hourman. The Icicle went on to join the Injustice Society, which fought the JSA as a group, Hourman included. The Gambler and the Mist were also established villains; their arch-foes were Green Lantern and Starman, respectively. (Like the Icicle, the Gambler was a member of the Injustice Society.)
The history of Ted Knight, a.k.a. Starman, is significantly different here than the origin story Roy Thomas supplied for him in All-Star Squadron #41. (Prior to that story, Starman's origin had never been revealed.) In the Thomas origin, Ted Knight was only an amateur astronomer, having mostly lucked into unleashing the power of the Gravity Rod (later called the Cosmic Rod). He was depicted as an ordinary wealthy debutante who began fighting crime because he was bored with his decadent life. Ted Knight's genius as a theoretician, his role in the invention of the atom bomb, and his relationship with Einstein are all new here. (The mention of Einstein's name may be intended to replace the original scientific mind behind the Gravity Rod, Professor Abraham Davis.) Ted Knight's psychiatric problems here are also new, of course.
(Others have questioned my interpretation of Ted Knight's original origin versus the one depicted here, and to be fair, Roy Thomas did portray Ted as a formidible (albeit amateur) astromer.)
Daniel Dunbar was Dan the Dyna-Mite, the sidekick to an obscure Golden Age hero named TNT. Their adventures were recorded in Star-Spangled Comics #7-23, and were brought back for a cameo in All-Star Squadron . (They also made way-out-of-continuity appearances in Super Friends and Superman Family.) Roy Thomas used Dan more extensively in Young All-Stars ; Dan joined the group after TNT was killed in the first issue of that title. (It was probably this recent prominence that led James Robinson to utilize Dan for this story.)
Dan Dunbar's hair has always been depicted as red, not black, outside of this story.
Among Dan's trophies and souvenirs is a baseball autographed by Wally Pip. Pipp is known mostly as the player replaced in the New York Yankees by Lou Gehrig. Mark Coale speculates that this could symbolize the fact that Dan himself is a historical footnote in the story. Dan also has a St. Louis Browns pennant; the Browns were considered the joke of the American League at the time, much like the Chicago Cubs in recent years.
Some time has passed since last issue. Johnny Chambers' mystery man documentary, Masks, is finished, when, in Book One, it had the working title Yesterday's Gods.
The Atom appearing unmasked and uncostumed here is slightly curious, considering he never publicly revealed his Al Pratt identity to the public. Presumably, Thompson's idea is to avoid association with the traditional masked superheroes (and their costumes) that the public is already familiar with.
Thompsons remarks to the crowd about Robotman are ironic considering what we saw of Robotman last issue.
Libby comments that the Atom was too young and volatile to have been trusted with the secret identities of the other JSAers. This is unlikely considering how close-knit the JSA seemed to be, although the tone of the original 1940s tales did not lend itself to personal conversation about each others identities. The Atom did participate in such a tale-swapping session in All-Star Squadron #2, in which he, Liberty Belle, Johnny Quick, Hawkman, Dr. Mid-Nite, Robotman and Plastic Man all shared origin stories with one another. The Atom's characterization has been altered somewhat for this story; while he was headstrong, he was never deemed untrustworthy or unreliable in a previous story.
Jonathan Law's statement to Libby that "it was your husband that everyone went to with their secrets" is also strange, since it was Law himself who collected the secrets of other heroes for his book. If anything, Johnny Quick was more hot-tempered and volatile than the Atom, as depicted in All-Star Squadron .
Like most of the vices depicted in this story, Law's drinking habit is new.
Ted Knight erects a theory that the cosmic radiation he tapped in 1939 was responsible for physically and psychologically causing certain people to become costumed heroes. While James Robinson may have chosen to make this a valid idea in this story, it would be slightly inaccurate in DC history, since there were a number of costumed heroes around before 1939 (including Doctor Occult, Zatara and the Crimson Avenger).
The Sportsmaster was a foe of Green Lantern during the '40s, consistent with what is seen here (although his first appearance was as the on-costumed villain "Crusher" Crock). He was also a member of the Injustice Society. The personal details about his ex-wife and daughter are new. In DC continuity, he eventually married a fellow Injustice Society member, the Huntress, who appears later in this story.
The man trying to gain entrance to Al Pratt's office is Johnny Thunder. His magic word, "Cei-U," is pronounced "say you."
Johnny's talk about visiting Tibet, the land where he was born, is partially made up. In DC history, Johnny was born in a fictitious Asian land called Bahdnesia, and it was there where he was awarded possession of the powerful Thunderbolt. Al's remark about the JSA "putting up" with Johnny is based in past continuity; Johnny always did stick out, not having any real powers or costume of his own. In Justice League of America #220, Johnny mentions that he seemed like a fifth wheel in the group, and felt even more useless when the JSA replaced him with Black Canary.
In mainstream continuity, Johnny Thunder had lost most of his control over the Thunderbolt in 1947, due to a hex placed on him by a Bahdnesian shaman (as revealed in Superman Family #204 and rectified in that same story).
Al Pratt is sketching the design for his new costume, which appeared about this time (see Book One, page 30). His previous one is seen here hanging up.
Dan's power manifestation of slamming his fists together at the bottom of the page is no doubt intended as an acknowledgement of his previous power, which worked the same way. In his original adventures with TNT, the two heroes each wore a ring that, when slammed together, produced a bomb-type explosive blast. After TNT was killed, Dan retrieved the other ring and discovered that he could wear both of them, one on each hand, and produce an explosion by slamming them together. Apparently, as Dynaman, Dan's new explosive power is not dependent on any rings.
Dan's words to the crowd about America needing "supermen" as opposed to shadowy mystery men is a central theme to the book: the transition from pulp-style crimefighters who did their work in darkness, like Batman and Dr. Mid-Nite, to gaudy colorful heroes whose motives were clearer. Two prominent Golden Age heroes, the Sandman and Crimson Avenger, actually made a switch from the one style to the other, changing costumes and acquiring sidekicks.
The blond-haired man is Lance Gallant, aka Captain Triumph, a hero who appeared in Quality's Crack Comics in the '40s. His gimmick is pretty accurately described on page 26: by touching the T-shaped birthmark on his wrist, he could combine with the spirit of his dead twin brother Michael and become the super-strong Captain Triumph. DC bought the rights to Captain Triumph along with all the other Quality Comics heroes, although he was never really used as a character in a story. The closest example was in Animal Man #7, when Animal Man encountered an aged supervillain named the Red Mask, who told of fighting Captain Triumph in a flashback. (I'm uncertain whether or not the Red Mask, or his partner The Veil, actually appeared in any Captain Triumph story; does anyone know?) The Red Mask tells Animal Man that Captain Triumph had "the personality of a deck chair," which is not entirely inconsistent with his portrayal here. Roy Thomas intended on using the character in All-Star Squadron , but never got the chance. He appeared partially on the cover of that series' first issue, however, and eventually was officially counted as part of the group's roster, in Who's Who Update '87, even though he never actually appeared in a story with them. Gallant's oil wealth is apparently a new element of the character.
The woman is Joan Dale, a Quality Comics heroine named Miss America. She was first used by DC in All-Star Squadron , as a part of a retconned "prototype" lineup of the Freedom Fighters who were recruited by Uncle Sam, taken to the parallel world Earth-X, and all killed while fighting Japanese aircraft in their first battle. Unlike the other members of this group, Miss America was brought back to life in Young All-Stars ; she was retconned to take the place in the JSA of Wonder Woman, who didn't exist as a Golden Age character after the Crisis On Infinite Earths. Joan's relationship with Tex Thompson is, of course, new, although their pairing makes sense if only from a name-game standpoint, as they were known separately as Mr. America and Miss America. (Some of Miss America's teammates in the "original" Freedom Fighters, such as the Red Torpedo and Neon the Unknown, appear in Book Four; therefore we might presume that they all survived, in this reality at least.)
The addictiveness of Miraclo is not new (see Book One, page 33),) but this is the first time it has been seen as having psychedelic properties.
Paula Brooks, aka the Tigress, first appeared as a foe of The Golden Age Wildcat, although she was called the Huntress in those days. Roy Thomas used her in some Young All-Stars stories that took place before her criminal career; at the time, she was written as an agressive but generally good person. Thomas gave her the name "Tigress" so as not to confuse her with the then-current Huntress, who had her own series. The character also went through a psychological change towards the end of the series that was meant to establish the background for her impending criminal career. Her last appearance even portends the name change, as she tells the Young All-Stars, "If you juvenile delinquents ever see me again, I'll be a huntress after my own fortune—not a non-profit do-gooder!" James Robinson chooses to continue with the name Tigress here, although he writes her as being supposedly reformed. In DC history, she married "Crusher" Crock, the Sportsmaster, in the late '40s, and the two had a daughter who became a costumed criminal in the '80s named Artemis.
+ Paula's picture on the bandstand, the facial portrait in her Tigress outfit, differs from the way she was depicted in past appearances. The mask shown here is brown, while all of her DC universe appearances, as both heroine and villainess, were in a yellow outfit (although only her heroic "Tigress" personna went masked).
Paula's personal thoughts regarding Lance Gallant are consistent with her personality as portrayed in Young All-Stars .
The use of the term "politically correct" strikes me as something of an anachronism here, although it does provoke thought as to exactly what it means. In other words, "politically correct" is not dependent on specific politics, liberal or conservative, but rather who has the power to enforce it. Here, it's being used to describe a superhero who agrees with Thompson's populist anti-Communism. (I have heard that the phrase may have origins that go back as far as Maoism, in which case it would be theoretically possible for someone in 1949 to pick up on it. Thanks to Jess Nevins for bringing this up.)
Libby Lawrence is an established journalist in previous continuity, so much so that her fellow All-Stars recognized her name from television and radio when she revealed her identity in All-Star Squadron #2. She worked as a war correspondent on the radio during the war, and was also seen on television from time to time. She also attainted celebrity status when she swam the English Channel to escape from Germans at Dunkirk.
Carter Hall is seen in panel 8, caressing the cheek of a blonde woman who is apparently supposed to represent his fiancee/wife Shiera Sanders. (I'm not sure it was ever clear exactly when the two got married.) In the past, however, Shiera has always been seen as having brown hair, not blonde.
Joan Dale's picture appears on the cover of Ladies Home Journal, with the caption "The Future Mrs. America," indicating that her engagement to Tex Thompson is public.
Johnny Chambers' remark to himself that his life has been such a rush, he even forgot to kiss Libby on their wedding day, would be false if this were in continuity; Johnny and Libby did kiss on the wedding altar, at the appropriate time, as seen in the depiction of their wedding in All-Star Squadron #50.
James Forrestal was really U.S. Secretary of Defense in actual American history. He was, in fact, the first man who hold the position of that name, after the War Department was changed to the Defense Department. See also Page 19 of this issue.
Jonathan Law's book on costumed heroes is seen here with the title Behind The Mask; in actual DC continuity, it was called Altered Egos, as noted previously. Compare Behind The Mask with Hollis Mason's Under The Hood, in WATCHMEN.
The caption that refers to "Joan Davis" is a mistake, as she was identified as Joan Dale last issue. (It's possible that both names were used in the old Quality Comics stories, as Golden Age writers weren't nearly as worried about continuity as we are, and that James Robinson got his notes mixed up.)
Although his death in this story was arranged, Forrestal actually did commit suicide in real life, two months after resigning from his post in 1949. As far as I know, there was no controversy or mystery surrounding his death; Forrestal was known to be depressed and under heavy stress. Compare to reports of him here, which paint his mood as considerably upbeat, and his political ambitions likewise.
Libby's ability to flip Jonathan Law so easily isn't surprising; while Law was an able hand-to-hand combatant, Libby, as Liberty Belle, was known to be one of the most capable non-powered fighters in the All-Star Squadron. (Roy Thomas gave her sonic powers in a issue #46 of that group's book, which I regard as one of his few major retcon mistakes. Thankfully, Robinson doesn't acknowledge them in this story.)
Carter Hall's appearance, dress and attitude are fairly far removed from any portrayal of him prior to this story.
The friendship between Paul Kirk and Tex Thompson is new, although it makes sense, given the similarity between the two heroes prior to contemporary appearances.
None of the Nazi superhumans pictured here have ever appeared before, to my knowledge. Notice that one of them appears to be a masked Hitler-lookalike. One of them, a masked man with a lightning bolt, could theoretically be a new representation of Der Zyklon, a Nazi super- speedster who appeared in All-Star Squadron . In any case, taken with Kirk's comment about he and Thompson killing "all the enemy's superhumans," this illustration would seem to ignore established DC Nazi supervillains like Baron Blitzkrieg and the villain group Axis Amerika.
Tex Thompson is revealed to be the Ultra-Humanite!
The Ultra-Humanite, before the Crisis on Infinite Earths, was regarded as an arch-foe of The Golden Age Superman. He had the rather ambiguously-handled super-power of being able to successfully transplant his brain into other people's bodies, and did so to the actress Dolores Winters in Action Comics #17. The Ultra-Humanite went unseen for forty years until finally being brought back in a JLA/JLA team-up tale (in JLA #195-197), in a new super-evolved ape body, as leader of the Secret Society of Super-Villains. He also appeared soon after in a Superman Family Earth-2 tale set in the 1950s, where he possessed the body of a giant ant. (A wartime story in Young All-Stars also had Ultra occupying the body of a tyrannosaurus rex.) In All-Star Squadron , the Ultra-Humanite was pitted against the Squadron while in his Delores Winters body, the first time he was depicted as having fought other Golden Age heroes besides Superman. The post-Crisis idea seems to be that Ultra was a nemesis of the JSA from the start, since he couldn't have fought Superman. (He has also been seen in Infinity, Inc. and the most recent Justice Society of America series, the latter of which showed him in the body of a specially evolved human male.) The diary entry which dates the Ultra-Humanite's takeover of Delores Winters in 1942 is also at odds with DC continuity, where he took female form in those early Action tales of 1938-9.
Paula's line "It gets worse," and Lance's subsequent reaction, are harbingers of a secret more surprising than what's been revealed at this point. This secret is shared with other heroes behind the scenes and revealed in Book Four.
Johnny Chamber's reference to Daniel Dunbar in panel 1 is the first overt indication that all is not as it seems with Thompson's young protege.
"I really have changed," says Jonathan Law, and apparently he has; note that he's pouring out his whiskey bottles.
Note Ted Knight's use of the phrase "Cosmic Rod," consistent with the change from "Gravity Rod" mentioned in these annotations for Pages 35-37 of Book One.
In panel 2, another hint that Dunbar is not really Dunbar.
Pictured in the first panel—
If characters like Superman and Batman were intended to appear in this picture, the idea was undoubtedly a subtle tribute to their now non-continuity Golden Age careers, as with the first group panel in Book One.
Quicksilver has appeared a few times as a supporting character in Flash, where the character is called "Max Mercury." Apparently, DC is not allowed to call him Quicksilver due to the prominence of Marvel's character with the same name.
"Tubby" is Tubby Watts, Johnny Chambers' cameraman sidekick.
Johnny addresses Black Canary as "Diana," but her real name is supposed to be Dinah, or at least it has been so for a long time. This may be a mistake, or, as Abhijit Kale speculates, it could be a subtle reference to The Golden Age Wonder Woman.
The man she speaks about getting married to is Larry Lance, who she did marry about this time.
The identity of the young hero introduced on this page is fairly significant. More will be discussed about him later.
In the first panel on this page, the hero walking next to Doctor Mid-Nite is Magno, the Magnetic Man. The other two, of whom all we see are boots, are harder to peg; the one with the brown boots may be Tarantula.
In panel 3, the heroes depicted are Doll Man, Doll Girl, Hercules, and Stormy Foster, "the Great Defender." Joe Hercules was a circus strongman who is jailed on false pretenses, and is inspired to become a superhero to beat the rap (HIT Comics #1). Stormy Foster was a soda jerk who developed a super-strength drug a la Hourman (HIT Comics #18). I'm of the opinion that the creators of this book wanted to make a statement by having obscure characters like these appear in the same panel as the young hero getting rejected because he's not "famous" enough.
There's a small group of villians huddled in the upper-lefthand corner of panel 3. They are the Harlequin, the second Psycho-Pirate, the Fiddler, and the Gambler. I don't suppose it's unrealistic to expect a few villians to "reform" and show up at Thompson's registration drive, especially considering that at least once of them, the Harlequin, actually did reform and marry Green Lantern.
Another example of Robinson's ignoring of the Harlequin continuity here is having her grouped in with the villians, when in fact she had reformed by this point in history and had even helped the JSA on a case.
The Fiddler and the Gambler are seen trying to chat up an older looking woman in a derby, who, according to Paul Smith, is Madame Fatale, a Quality Comics superhero. Madame Fatale was secretly a man, who dressed as a woman while crimefighting. Apparently, the Harlequin and Psycho-Pirate are in on Madame Fatale's secret, as they can be seen laughing to themselves at the two older villains' gentlemanly behavior toward Madame Fatale. (These little touches are what I loved about The Golden Age. An especially nice bit is the Fiddler straightening his bowtie!)
The appearance of the second Psycho-Pirate, with his flashy red uniform, is somewhat of an anachronism, since he didn't actually appear until 1965, in Showcase #56. (The first Psycho-Pirate never wore such an outfit.)
Note that the Atom is now wearing his new costume design.
Standing at the desk is Captain X, a character from Star-Spangled Comics. In recent years, Captain X was revealed to be the grandfather of the young hero called Firestorm (Ronny Raymond).
Four other Quality Comics characters are seen in the lower left, speaking with Tarantula. They are the Red Bee, the Spider, the Red Torpedo, and Firebrand. (Note that Roy Thomas' All-Star Squadron introduced a new Firebrand, sister of the original, who is never shown at all in this series. Nor is Amazing-Man, another Thomas original.)
Red Bee's solid yellow tights and Red Torpedo's sleeveless shirt contradict their most recent appearances in All-Star Squadron , where they had red-and-yellow-striped tights and red sleeves respectively.
Speaking with Black Canary are Merry, Girl of 1000 Gimmicks and an unknown superheroine. (I had previously mistakenly identified this person as Hawkgirl.) Sean McQuaid guesses that this might be Wildfire, even though the costume and hair color aren't quite right. (Wildfire was one of the few significant 1940s female crimefighters ignored by Roy Thomas, probably since she would seem superfluous in addition to Thomas' personal creation, Firebrand II.) It also might be USA, the Spirit of Old Glory, since the headgear here recalls the Statue of Liberty.
Paula Brooks was the appropriate choice to retrieve the Ultra-Humanite's diary, given her cat burglar modus operandi.
As old and hoary as the idea of saving Hitler's brain is, it almost makes a kind of sense given the Ultra-Humanite's gimmick of brain transference, although Ultra has never been seen using this ability with others than himself. This revelation means that the "real" Dunbar probably died in the "operation" mentioned in Book Two, page 8, which Thompson had assured him was merely "a few internal tests." In other words, Dunbar's brain was replaced by Hitler's two weeks before the desert project that created Dynaman; Daniel Dunbar never got to experience having the new powers.
The Golden Age Blue Beetle appears on this page, in all three of the group panels. To my reckoning, he is the only character in this series who was not owned in the '40s by either DC or Quality Comics (with the exception of the cameos on page 6 of Book One). Blue Beetle's wartime adventures were published by Fox Publishing, and ownership of the character had passed to Charlton Comics in the 1960s.
The behavior of Johnny Thunder's Thunderbolt is a little puzzling, at least, because the Thunderbolt is supposed to have an absolute prohibition on killing. In other words, technically, the Thunderbolt should flatly refuse Johnny's command to kill Hourman, rather than experience the confusion he does. However, there may be a precedent for this: in Justice League of America #220, the Thunderbolt is ordered to kill by the evil Earth-1 Johnny Thunder, and while he resists the command throughout most of the story, he appears to nearly succumb at the end.
The Thunderbolt's questioning, "Stop him? Who him?" on page 18 is related to his literal-minded nature. The Thunderbolt tends to carry out Johnny's orders as literally as possible, and can't do any decision-making on his own regarding ambiguous commands.
Hourman's remark about Dunbar's body and brain needing to be transformed simultaneously would seem to contradict the two-week gap between the two, again from Book Two, page 8. It's possible that the "internal tests" done on Dunbar were merely that, to verify the compatability of Dunbar's body. The sword-wielding character in the final panel of this page is the Gay Ghost, later renamed the Grim Ghost for obvious reasons. He appeared in Sensation Comics beginning with the very first issue. (This character has also been incorrectly identified as the Gray Ghost in some sources, including the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide.)
I'm uncertain who the rather simple-costumed hero in the upper left of panel 4 is supposed to be.
The Human Bomb is apparently the first hero to be outright killed by Dynaman.
At least some of the deaths of these characters must be out of continuity, such as Dr. Mid-Nite, who has appeared recently with the Justice Society. However, the post-war fates of heroes like Doll Man and Tarantula are unknown, and it is possible that they died during The Golden Age, although perhaps not like this. (It's been pointed out that we didn't really see Dr. Mid-Nite die here, but my opinion is that he's about to, given his precarious position and the context of the deaths of the other heroes on this page.)
The caption about the Red Bee's "dream" of dying, seven years ago, is a reference to All-Star Squadron #35, a pre-Crisis story in which the Red Bee was killed by Baron Blitzkrieg. However, if this is January 1950 (the date on Alan Scott's HUAC subpeona in Book Three), then the time frame is a year off, since the story took place in early 1942. The Red Bee's original death was definitely retconned away by the Crisis, since the story in which it took place centered around travel to a parallel universe (that of Earth-X).
Page 28: Johnny Quick is shown whispering his "secret" speed formula, for the first time in this series. Not long ago, the formula was revealed to be merely a mantra that helped release the super-speed energies from Johnny's inner self.
With the death of the Sportsmaster, marriage to Paula Brooks (the Tigress) which happened in mainstream continuity, is out of the picture.
Alan Scott mutters the phrase "in brightest day, in darkest night." While these words are more famously attached to the Silver Age Green Lantern, Alan Scott did use them in his early years. Later, possibly in 1946 when Alfred Bester took over the character, the oath was changed to "And I shall shed my light over dark evil, for the dark things cannot stand the light/The light of the Green Lantern!" Bester was quoted in one source, we believe, as saying that the two things he hated about GL were the original oath and Doiby Dickles; even though he kept Doiby, it's possible that he was allowed to change the oath. In any event, it was the latter oath which was connected to Alan Scott throughout his post-Golden Age history. (Technically, Robinson is out-of-continuity here, since he uses the original oath, which was changed, we know, no later than 1946.)
The lengths to which Robotman has been dehumanized are extensive indeed, if he has known all along about Thompson's identity as the Ultra- Humanite. Robotman's motivations are a little confusing in this story, particularly given this last revelation.
It seems like James Robinson went out of his way to ensure that every character had a piece of the action, including Bob Daley in the last panel here.
Dynaman wounds Green Lantern badly by hitting him with a tree; wood is the one substance that his ring can't protect him against.
Note that unlike the other heroes, Starman has become rather paunchy, due to his long incapacitation (although one wonders how someone would get overweight eating food at a mental institution).
Contrary to Ted's remark on page 5 about making a smaller "cosmic rod," the rod he uses here is much larger than any he's used before. (It can hardly be a coincidence that this model of the cosmic rod resembles the one shown in advance panels of the current STARMAN series, written by none other than James Robinson.)
Starman seemed remarkably ill-prepared for such a simple assault from Dynaman, but I suppose he may not have really been up to the fight, despite his new technology.
Johnny Chamber's words about "the memory of that whole horrible day ebbing year after year" is indicative of superhero history as a whole, in my opinion, particularly the aftermath of the Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Another timeframe anomoly: The caption here states that the year is 1955, and Johnny mentions that it's less than a week before Christmas. If this is December 1955, then nearly six years have passed since the final battle with Dynaman, not five.
The identity of Ted Knight's wife is unknown; unlike most of the married Golden Age heroes, I don't think she was ever actually seen in comics prior to this, although that's not surprising considering that Starman's private life was rarely referred to. In the telling of his origin in All-Star Squadron #41, he's seen dating a debutante named Doris Lee, but his bride here doesn't seem to be the same sort of character. In America vs. the Justice Society #3, Starman mentions that he retired from superheroics as a promise to his wife, and didn't return to action until she died, placing her death just before the JSA's re-emergence in the '60s. I don't know of any appearance of or reference to her other than this, though.
Paul Kirk disappeared in 1951, according to this caption. In mainstream continiuity, his time in Africa resulted in almost getting him killed by a bull elephant, until he was rescued by the super-secret Council and placed in suspended animation. He would resurface in 1973. (According to DC's Who's Who, Paul Kirk went to Africa in 1946, which, of course, had to be changed to accomodate this story.)
Alan Scott's foray into television is consistent with the real character, although here the artist portrays him as looking a little more realistically aged than in mainstream stories.
Page 44: Al Pratt has a Yale pennant on his wall, when in mainstream continuity, he attended Calvin College.
Johnny Thunder's characterization really takes a beating in this story. He's always been portrayed as not quite as bright as the other heroes, but this story leaves the implication that he might not be reliable in the future either, which has not been the case. In his mainstream appearances, Johnny is spacey but dependable.
Paula Brooks' return to crime ties in with her DC Universe career path, although, as was said earlier, she cannot marry the Sportsmaster in this reality.
Oddly, this story implies that Johnny Quick and Libby Lawrence are back together, but with Libby's rediscovered independence, it's entirely possible that another split is in their future.
Joseph McCarthy was elected to the Senate in 1946, and first publicly accused the government of harboring communists in 1950, so his rise to prominence clicks with the demise of Tex Thompson fairly neatly.
Johnny's remarks in panel 3 about the JSA's disbanding ("vanished into a puff of smoke on another grey day in Washington") is a direct reference to the events depicted in Adventure Comics #466, published in 1979 but documenting their last case in 1951. The story explained their absence from comics from 1951 to 1963 by having them disband. Their "grey day" in Washington was a hearing before the "Joint Congressional Un-American Activities Committee," a fictitious committee modeled after HUAC. (In later stories, beginning with History of the DC Universe, the committee was actually referred to as HUAC.) The committee demanded that the JSA reveal their identities, and rather than do that, they disappeared and disbanded. The "puff of smoke" was provided by Green Lantern's power ring. (A somewhat retconned version of these events depicts Carter Hall with Thanagarian technology, consistent with "current" continuity, which assists in the JSA's vanishing act.)
Here, it's revealed that the young unknown hero who delivered the final punch on Dynaman was Captain Comet. This is significant, as Captain Comet is sometimes considered to be the first costumed hero of the Silver Age, given that his first appearance was in June 1951 (Strange Adventures #9). The superhero who "officially" began the Silver Age was the second Flash, in Showcase #4, but Captain Comet preceded him by over five years. (Some sources, such as Overstreet, don't consider the Silver Age to have officially begun until Showcase #4, and refer to 1950-1956 as the "pre-Silver Age.") Captain Comet (real name: Adam Blake) was an "accidental mutant" who possessed powers and abilities that would theoretically be common on Earth 100,000 years in the future. He spent several years on Earth fighting crime and other menaces until, succumbing to loneliness, he left for the stars. He would return home in the 1970s to become a regular foe of the Secret Society of Super-Villains, and, most recently, worked with the interstellar group called L.E.G.I.O.N. (and was killed off in that book, if I heard correctly).
I kind of like the fact that Tubby Watts, much maligned as a "fat" stereotypical sidekick, was the one who snapped this undoubtedly acclaimed cover photo for LIFE magazine.
Since the transition between Ages is so significant to the story, here is a list of the heroes who appear in this Silver Age group shot, with their first appearances.
Background, barely seen: Animal Man, The Hawk and the Dove, The Creeper,
Face obscured partially: Metamorpho
Characters with faces fully seen: Elongated Man, The Doom Patrol (Robotman, Negative Man, Elasti-Girl, The Chief), Adam Strange , Green Arrow, The Martian Manhunter, Challengers of the Unknown (Red, Rocky, Prof, Ace), Captain Comet, The Flash, Green Lantern, The Atom, Aquaman
At the time they made their Silver Age appearances, Aquaman and Green Arrow were intended to be the same characters who had been appearing since the 1940s. Later, they were separated by the parallel earth continuity into Earth-1 and Earth-2 versions, and after the Crisis, the Earth-2 characters were eliminated from continuity.
Standing behind the Martian Manhunter is a man in a hat and trenchcoat who is probably meant to be John Jones, the Manhunter's private investigator secret identity. I'm still unsure about this, having at first suspected that this man was supposed to be King Faraday, but since have allowed myself to be convinced otherwise.
In chronological order, then: Captain Comet, the Martian Manhunter, the Flash, Challengers of the Unknown, Adam Strange, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Elongated Man, the Atom, the Doom Patrol, Metamorpho, Animal Man, the Creeper, the Hawk and the Dove.
(Note that this list doesn't include heroes who weren't shown in this picture, like the Metal Men and the Silver Age Hawkman.)
The inclusion of Adam Strange in this picture is somewhat incongruous, given that his Silver Age adventures took place in outer space and were generally not known about on Earth.
The depiction here of a clean-shaven Green Arrow is consistent with the character's early Silver Age appearances, but contradicts a recent retcon in Green Arrow: The Wonder Year, which has Green Arrow beginning his costumed career with a beard.
According to Pat Ross, both James Robinson and Paul Smith have seen copies of these Annotations, so hopefully one or both of them will offer further insights, if necessary.
At one point, James Robinson confirmed that a SILVER AGE project was in the works, written by Robinson and art by Howard Chaykin.
Corrections are welcome. Please e-mail both Mykey and the author, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for corrections, criticisms