Saturday, February 02, 2008


I just got the book last night so I hadn't been able to comment. I saw the pencils by Sadowski and how good they looked, but this painted finished product didn't look good at all. Especially disappointing is the two page spread where Samson was painted purple! The paints over Kaluba's sections didn't look as bad, maybe because he uses a finer sketchier line than Sadowski's bold linework where it and the painted colors seemed to fight each other. Which really was a shame because Sadowski made such a point to get costumes and the looks correct. Subsequent issues are going to feature redesigns by Alex Ross even though most of the characters don't really need them.

Ok, here's the basic plot of the first issue, what you may consider SPOILERS will be contained, so skip it if you hadn't read it already. Basically, in the days of WWII, the Fighting Yank, Black Terror, original Blue Beetle and the Flame are sitting in on an invasion plan. They are told a story that says there might be some mystical reasonings behind the Death Camps and the Fighting Yank needs to retrieve an artifact, the source of all evil, Pandora's Box. The other heroes dismiss this mystical mumbo jumbo. After the success of that mission, he is shown the evil spirits that exist in the world because of the box (really a Grecian Urn) and he's told they need to be put back as well as "hope" in order to save the world. However, when he tries to convince the other heroes, they don't believe him and have a hard time even believing that he talks to a ghost (his Revolutionary War ancestor from whose cloak he draws his powers). So, he secretly hunts many of the heroes one by one and captures them in the urn, filling it with hope. In the present day, moments from dying of old age, he's visited by an "American Spirit" telling him that he's been duped and he must set it right!

See, this really doesn't make any internal sense, it falls down in the area of the plot vs. the characters and characterization. It's almost the exact same trap that James Robinson's GOLDEN AGE falls into. A big reason that particular story works is that it conveniently ignores the mystics. While it supposedly has every post-crisis DC golden-age hero in it, there is no Dr. Occult, Dr. Fate, Spectre, Zatarra, etc, because the final battle has to be a physical one. The only really powerful mystic hero is Johnny Thunder and he's denigrated as a character. It's the internal illogic of teaming up Dr. Thirteen with the Phantom Stranger and having him constantly not believe in magic. He comes off as a putz. Stories and characters in superhero comics fall flat when they dismiss magic out of hand despite serving on superhero teams with the likes of Dr. Fate and Dr. Strange and fight magicians as well as aliens and the such. I had recently read a golden-age JSA story where Hawkman and the team tried to rationalize magic even though he's a reincarnation of an Egyptian prince! When a character is in a full-blown superhero universe, sometimes having them act as someone reasonably would in the real world is actually very unrealistic in the context of their world.

The conceit of this story is that pretty much all golden-age characters exist on one earth. However, in the story context characters have trouble believing in the Fighting Yank's story and are all about being rational, when the said group he's talking to includes the Flame and Green Lama whose very backgrounds are in the mystical/philosophical. The Flame and Flame Girl actually have superpowers based on the Flame's mystical training. The big invasion we see Phantasmo, Golden Lad, Cat-man, Amazing Man and Man of War, all whose abilities are based on magic. Likewise a few others are scattered through the book, and by the conceit of the book we can safely assume even more. It can be logical that these heroes that haven't all worked together much and some of the science based ones might have trouble with the mumbo-jumbo, but not the way it's set up here. Here, his story is being dismissed by characters who would know better. The basic dilemma of the issue just doesn't make sense with the characters involved. It felt completely forced.

Now, for those who aren't as well versed in the Golden-age heroes as myself, let me give you a bit of annotations for who's in the book. Go find your copy, I'll wait.

Ready? Good.

Page 1, panel 3. Old Bruce Carter III who will be revealed as having been the Fighting Yank. panel 4, the American Spirit. This is a new character created for the story.

Page 4. A wonderful painting of the Fighting Yank as he appeared in Nedor comics. That bit of work is actually by Ross.

Page 5, panel 1. Black Terror, the original Blue Beetle (both heroes got powers through chemicals), the Fighting Yank, the Green Lama, and the Flame. The latter two heroes studied in the mystical capital of the world, Tibet. As the Green Lama had a very inconsistent career as a superhero so it's unclear at this point what abilities he may or may not have here. The Flame has the mystical ability to control fire and appear and disappear through the tiniest amount of flame.

Page 8, The Fighting Yank talks about his ghost ancestor. In the original comics he was visited by the ghost of his ancestor, the first Bruce Carter, who tells him where to find a cloak. While wearing the cloak he has superstrength and is invulnerable to bullets. The ghost can also manifest itself to take a direct hand in saving his life, usually once per story.

Page 14, panel 1. Black Terror and sidekick Tim (also called once Kid Terror), Samson & Davey, the original Dare-Devil (called in this story Devil or Death Defying Devil), Pyroman (whose powers are electrical not fire in nature), the Flame and Flame Girl (whom the Flame had given duplicate powers of his), Blue Beetle and possibly his junior side-kick Sparky with his back to us. I'd never seen his side-kick and cannot really tell anything from the back of the head. Behind the Flames, Green Lama and the Face (a non-powered hero who wears a fright mask to scare his foes), and behind them, Dynamic Man and Dynamic Boy (though that looks to be the wrong Dynamic Boy costume, that of the kid hero that WASN'T Dynamic Man's brother and partner).

Page 16, from the back towards the front: the Hood, striped cape possibly belongs to the Eagle, Silver Streak (another mystically based hero, he had died and was brought back to life by an Indian fakir with a penchant for race cars in order to hunt down his killer), Samson, Dare-devil, Fighting Yank, Blue Beetle, a cape with stars could belong to several characters, and the Flame. The Flame here is shown with his body flaming a little. Over time the character went from just controlling flames and using a flame gun to actually being able to make his whole body be engulfed in flames.

Page 17: Samson, unknown patriotic hero with blue boots with a white star, Flash Lightning (also Lash Lightning or just Lightning) and Lightning Girl, the Arrow and the Fighting Yank

Page 18: from the back, it's Green Giant fighting the Claw, Airman and Green Lama flying side by side, Captain Battle is the patriotic hero below to the left and American Crusader to his right going across the center spread. The ground forces are Tim, Black Terror, American Eagle, and Cat-man.

Page 19 Phantasmo and Golden-Lad are two more giants fighting the Claw, the Owl flying by them, Boy King with a sword and standing in the hands of his Giant (an animated stone statue or golemn). Flying is Magno, Captain Future shooting lightning bolts. And on the ground here is a blonde Amazing Man, Man of Flint, Hydroman, Dare-Devil, Man of War, and a purple Samson.

Page 21, panel 2. Ok, here we see this is definitely the Green Lama as done by Mac Raboy thus with Superman-esque powers. So, he gains vast superpowers by saying a mystic phrase yet he has trouble believing in Pandora's Box or that it should at least bear looking into?
Panel 3. That's American Eagle with his back to us. He has superstrength, invulnerability and can fly, so why we just see Samson leaping into the air? And that's the Arrow again with the bow.

Page 22: Yarko in the back row or another turbaned/tuxedo mystic hero. Man of Flint and the Target on the second row, and the Dart, Arrow and Flame Girl on the front row. The Dart was an ancient Roman that made it to the present due to a fight with an ancient sorcerer. To the right of the grave, Dare-devil, Fighting Yank and the Green Lama on the front row, cannot make out who is behind them.

Page 23: Panel 1, The Black Terror. Panel 2, Pyroman. Panel 3, the Face (it's the effect of the urn that's doing that to his mask, not any natural powers it has). Panel 4, Miss Masque (to be called Masquerade in subsequent issues). Panel 5, a boomerang of Dare-Devil's.

Page 24: The man with goggles is Skyman, the crowned boy beneath is Boy King. Red hooded guy is more than likely the Arrow, the boy with the multi-colored crest and red mask is Rainbow boy, Kitten with the cat ears, the Liberator in the star spangled shirt. Not sure about the boy in blue with a V on his chest, Raven is the guy in purple. The star-masked guy is more than likely Captain Courageous, possibly American Eagle in the small panel beneath him. The little square overlapping the Raven's, I have no idea. And that looks like the Green Lama below that but we know the Green Lama wasn't one of the ones taken.

Page 25: Getting Alex Ross designs and re-designs. The face in blue is a completely redesigned Scarab and at the bottom we see Frankenstein monsters/soldiers along the lines of Dick Briefer's version of the Frankenstein monster of the 40's (whom the Green Lama and other denizens of PRIZE COMICS fought on one occasion.

Page 28, In limbo we see several of the big guns we've already seen. A small figure next to Miss Masque, that's the Owl. The men in the otherwise identical red, yellow, and blue costumes are the Target and the Targeteers.

Heroes of the American Spirit: Captain Red Blazer and side-kick Sparky are the flying ones. MLJ/Archie's the Shield is behind them and a silhouette of Captain America. The man with the eyepatch is Captain Battle, the one with the star on his forehead is probably the Conqueror. The hero flying off to our left is probably Captain V (there were a couple with similar looks), the one flying to the right, too generic to make out. The man with the star mask is again Captain Courageous and the one with the eagle on his chest is natually the Eagle. Uncle Sam is up front and center.


Sean Levin said...

First of all, your blog is great. I enjoyed the book myself, but I agree that it was odd that characters with mysticism-related backgrounds such as the Flame didn't believe that the Yank really spoke with his ancestor. Anyway, a couple points for the annotations:

The character in the turban you weren't able to identify appears to be Marvelo:

And I'm pretty sure the square overlapping the Danny Dartkin Raven is this chap, the Super-American:

cash_gorman said...

Thanks for the kind words.

Yeah, the writing of the story falls in actually presenting any logical reason why in a world full of superpowered beings there is a hard-headedness at accepting the Fighting Yank's talking to a ghost or in a mystical artifact ala Pandora's Box, ESPECIALLY when a couple of the people present at the meeting are mystically powered. And since that's the basic premise of the plot of the whole issue and the story involved, it undermines the whole book. The thing is, it really wouldn't have been that hard to establish if they first just chose science-based heroes as the core group with the Yank being the only one that embraced any kind of mystical origins and established the vast group of heroes really didn't know all that much about each other and an uncomfortability of the science heroes to working with ones claiming powers based on magic.

Re: Marvelo and the Super-American. You're probably right. I've since seen that Stephen Sadowski has posted a list of heroes he could use in the different crowd scenes if specific characters weren't requested and both were on the list. As we couldn't see Marvelo's face, it was impossible to distinguish him from a couple of other turbaned heroes though (most were clean-shaven, Marvelo wasn't). I've read a couple of Marvelo adventures and I really like the character. I was thinking Yarko since we have several other characters from Fox figuring prominently. The one you id as Super-American, the winged skull-cap looks off, the pic almost looks like DC's silver-age villain Dr. Polaris from that one pic. But, I can buy that it's Super-American.

Also should be noted, I screwed up the name of one hero in the spread. It's Fearless Flint or the Flint-man not Man of Flint. Possibly just mixing the name up with another excellent H.G. Peters character, Man O'Metal.

But, another question that I have to ask. If your story includes spell-casting mystics like Marvelo and Yarko, why turn the Green Lama into such a hero? In promotional materials, they talk about Green Lama being a Dr. Fate type character and the page near the end seems to support that, but it's again changing a character to fit a role when other characters already exist in that capacity.