A Tribute to the of

Before I get into this edition of my bi-weekly Silver Age review, I thought I'd share a couple of thoughts. This is going to sound a little like a plug for eBay, and perhaps it is, but I continue to be thankful that due to the emergence of that resource, I can lay my paws on not only the comics I used to own and love, but also the ones I'd seen in those old treasures that I didn't have and as you know, I got most of them years after they were new, so it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that they were forever out of my reach. Now, thanks to the world's biggest virtual yard sale and auction house, I can get copies of the classics that I'd been intrigued with, like the one I'll be reviewing for this edition of the Sage. As the Webmaster and I often say, "Viva eBay!"

Okay, without further ado, let's check out the selected issue. The time: September, 1965. (August-September for you purists out there.) The magazine: The Brave and the Bold, which started, I believe, as sort of an adventure series with stories in the genre of medieval knights and seafaring adventurers. B & B later became one of Batman's many haunts as he was routinely teamed up with whomever. For awhile, though, the masterminds at DC used this magazine to play around a bit with various characters, a bit like Showcase. The featured heroes: Starman and Black Canary, teamed up for the first time according to the splash page. The good folksdelivering the goods:Gardner Fox with the storyline and Murphy Anderson doing the artwork.

Much like some of my previous reviews, we have another classic in the making as DC gives a nod to the heroes of the Golden Age and resurrects them for a modern day adventure. This issue also has the invaluable origin stories of both these 40's era heroes, which I'll reproduce for your edification later in this review.

The cover of this issue, #61, is a beaut. Starman, the Astral Avenger, assisting a plummeting Blonde Bombshell, aka Black Canary, as they're surrounded by the sinister Mist, a black and white, disembodied menace with only a fringe of hair and an ethereal "body" whose hands are the only visible appendage.

Our story opens within the den of aretired and presumably wealthy financier who looks a heck of a lot like Bruce Wayne's butler, Alfred. The bouquet of flowers on his table suddenly begin to vibrate and create sound waves that cause Alan Moreland, Alfred Pennyworth lookalike, to go into a trance and instruct him to empty his wall safe of it's contents. (You would think a financier would have heard of safetydeposit boxes and the wonders of interest bearing accounts and stocks and bonds now wouldn't you?) Next thing you know, we fade to a florist shop in Park City where Dinah Drake Lance, wife of private eye Larry Lance, is keeping the store. (Semi-unrelated side note: You know, I could swear thatone of my issues (#4) of The Joker, from the 70's, had a storyline where Batman's #1 nemesis became infatuted with Dinah Lance at her flower shop and later had to deal with her squeeze, Green Arrow. I wonder what happened to poor Larry?) So, directly after Larry checks in and mentions the mysterious robbery that he's off to investigate, Ted Knight, the secret identity of Starman, swings by to greet his old friend Dinah, who is also The Black Canary. As I said, I'll go into the origins in a bit,but for now, suffice it to know that the Black Canary is sort of a female answer to Batman. No special powers other than her athletic ability and cunning and I leave it to your imagination as to how she manages to battle the forces of evil in fishnet stockings and high heeled boots. So, Ted tips his fedora (this is the mid-60's after all) and greets Dinah, setting up a date to meet she and Larry for dinner later. We learn during the brief chat that the Black Canary is semi-retired.Ted is off to do some research at the observatory and Dinah gives him a flower for his lapel as a reminder and off he goes. As Ted heads for the observatory, we're privy to his thoughts about further research into the newly discovered Quasars in space which should helphim to make a new and improved Cosmic Rod, which is the source of his powers. One could almost make the conclusion that Starman's rod is akin to Green Lantern's power ring, though with fewer capabilities. Ted starts to check out the cosmos when hesuddenly experiences a star blackout. No sign of the heavenly bodies at all. Wenotice simultaneously that his lapel flower is glimmering like a mist. As he strolls along, the flower begins to vibrate and "speak" much like the bouquet we'd witnessed at the beginning of our story. Ted can heard the instructions and quickly uses the information to rendezvous at the drop point in full uniform as Starman. Starman, as you doubtless noted in the cover scan, takes a page from Robin's book (or maybe Robin took it from him)as far as color schemes. Subtle, it ain't. A red uniform with a bright yellow star on the chest and cape, green boots, trunks and cape and, frankly, a pretty silly looking hood with a fin on the top. Maybe it's for aerodynamic purposes. Well, Starman hides in a tree (how you could hide in that get up is beyond me) and waits for the hapless dupe to drop off the items. Shortly thereafter, the gang shows up to retrieve the treasures and Starman decides to go into action. Unfortunately, the Cosmic Rod isn't working. No glow. It's powered by starlight, you see and for whatever reason, after removing it from his handy holster, it's not responding. Ourhero re-holsters the useless weapon and opts for doing things the old fashioned way, with fisticuffs. He takes down twoof the thugs in short order, but when he goes in for the finish on baddie #3, the flower on the man's lapel emanates a high pitched frequency that knocks the Astral Avenger out of commission. We then fade to the hideout of The Mist, who we learn is an old nemesis of Starman. One panel describes him in detail: "Yes, this is The Mist! The master of that Inviso-Solution which enables him to make any object with which it is coated disappear from view! Even the very cloak he wears seems to be a mist out of which his head protrudes."

Flip a couple of pages and we hit the Origin of Starman page.

"From his boyhood, Ted Knight had an absorbing interest in astronomy. Born to wealth, he was able to devote much time to his hobby, and eventually made a remarkable discovery. He found a way to utilize infra-rays from distant stars with his amazing gravity rod, which was first described as "an invention that overcomes the forces of gravity and launches bolts of energy" by radiating starlight.

Having perfected this instrument, Ted next created the red and green costume the world was soon to know as the uniform of Starman. He made his debut in Adventure Comics No.61, April, 1941.

When Hourman was granted a leave of absence from the Justice Society of America, Starman was selected as his replacement. He and Dr. Mid-Nite both "won their spurs" in All-Star Comics No. 8, December 1941-January 1942, by helping the JSA defeat the evil plots of Professor Elba. (No relation.)

Soon after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II, the Justice Society became the Justice Battalion, under orders from the War Department. Starman joined his fellow JSA-ers in fighting spies and saboteurs on the home front, as well as performing missions behind enemy lines. During one such expedition, in occupied Poland, he kept Nazi officials busy trying to decode a "secret message" consisting of the lifetime batting averages of big-league baseball stars Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and "Rabbit" Maranville!

On another occasion, a German rocket scientist tried to get rid ofeight JSAmembers by trapping them and shooting them into space. Starman wound up on the planet Jupiter, where he overcame a threat to the native Jovians by building a huge replica of his gravity rod and using it to hurl the meance off that world. The towering instrument also provided the power which returned the Astral Avenger to Earth.

Of course, there were domestic villains to deal with, too, and Starman was in the thick of the battles with such foes asThe Brain Wave, The King Bee and the original Psycho-Pirate.

Starman's last appearance with the Justice Society was in "The Plunder of the Psycho-Pirate" (All-Star No. 23, Winter, 1944-5.) He and The Spectre, who dropped out at the same time, were replaced by Green Lantern and The Flash. A year later, he last saw action in the pages of Adventure (No. 102, February-March 1946.)

During his years of retirement, Ted Knight continued to improve his gravity rod until he developed the highly superior cosmic rod, which draws it's incredible power from the cosmic forces of the universe. He first put this new instrument to use against the Crime Syndicate of America of Earth-Three, when he returned to action with his fellow JSA-ers, Hawkman, Doctor Fate, Dr. Mid-Nite and Black Canary in JLA #s 29 & 30 (1964). This was the first time he had worked with the Blonde Bombshell, for he had retired before she began her crime-fighting career!"

As part2 unfolds, the henchman of The Mist are delivering the goodies and reporting in about their encounter with Starman. The Mist is both surprised and pleased to learn that Starman's Cosmic Rod doesn't seem to be functioning, and he begins to lay appropriate plans for our hero's demise. Meanwhile, back at the flower shop, Mr. Lance tells Dinah that they've uncovered a common thread in the robberies; flowers from her shop at each of the crime scenes. Right about then Starman pops in to confirm Larry's theory, and recounts his attempt to catch the thieves. He then discovers the CosmicRod is once again functional. Dinah then abruptly goes into a trance and orders the men out. They oblige, but Starman uses the Rod to observe Dinah's actions, which involve her speaking into aflower spray with a list of tomorrow's wealthy customers that is being received at Mist HQ. The Mist has an accomplice visit the shop each day to spray the placewith a substance that allows him to eavesdrop. The spray serves the dual purpose of hypnotizing the customers, who then deliver their valuables to a designated spot by The Mist. He further deduces Starman's irregular roddifficulties and prepares to permanently disable theweapon. However, sinceThe Mist wasn'taware that Ted and Larry were watching Dinah's actions, he doesn't realize they're wise to his surveillance techniques and they bring Dinah up to speed in private where she vows to help them as The Black Canary. Theheroes quickly hatch a plan to flush out the mastermind behind the crimes by tailing the mobsters. Starman gives Black Canary a mini-rod as a backup emergency device and they prepare to go to the designated delivery sites to lay in wait for the crooks.

At the first home, The Mist's gang members arrive coated with the Inviso-Solution and begin to collect the jewels.Black Canary soon arrives and blows some crimson powder about the place to help her to locate the cloaked criminals. She then quickly puts them away with her athletic abilities. At the same time, Starmanmeets up with another delivery site where a helicopter is retrieving a model ship loaded with precious objects from the yacht club. With the aid of theCosmic Rod, Starman overcomes the thieves. Next page, the Origin of Black Canary.

"Black Canary first appeared in the Johnny Thunder comic strip in Flash Comics No. 86 (August 1947.) The story was called - what else? - "The Black Canary."

The Blonde Bombshell originally acted as a sort of female Robin Hood, preying upon criminals by stealing their ill-gotten gains. In this first adventure, she tricked Johnny Thunder into swiping a mask of a special design to be worn by guests at a party given by a big-time racketeer. Gaining entry to his home by wearing the mask, Black Canary was about to rob the gang leader's safe when she was surprised by her host and some of his underlings. Johnny, always oneto help a damsel in distress, came to her rescue with his magic Thunderbolt. When the smoke cleared, the mobsters were in police custody and Black Canary had slipped away.

Although her unorthodox methods of combatting crime caused her at first to be mistaken for a crook herself, she soon set matters straight and enlisted Johnny in her war against evil-doers.

Since Johnny belonged to the Justice Society of America, it was inevitable that Black Canary should encounter that famed organization, which she did in All Star Comics No. 38 ("History's Crime Wave," December, 1947 - January, 1948.) A madman impersonating villains of the past actually succeeded in killing Hawkman, The Flash, Dr. Mid-Nite, The Atom, Green Lantern and Johnny Thunder. But Black Canary found the dying Johnny, who, with his last breath, sent her to Wonder Woman for help. The Amazing Amazonused the Purple Ray invented by her friend Paula Von Gunter to restore the heroes to life. But even this marvelous device would have failed if the costumed heroines had delayed too long after the crime-fighters' deaths. Black Canary then aided the revived JSA-ers in putting an end to thecareer of their adversary.

Johnny Thunder made only one more appearance with the Justice Society, for he retired soon afterward. Sit it was that, in Flash No. 92, (February, 1948,)Black Canary took over as sole star of the strip she had shared with him.

Prior to this, Black Canary's secret identity of dark-haired florist, Dinah Drake had not been revealed to the readers. It was in this same story that she first teamed with private detective Larry Lance, whomshe was later to marry.

Meanwhile, Black Canary continued to work with the Justice Society, although she was not yet officially a member. Then, in All-Star No. 41, she teamed with The Harlequin, a costumed "villainess" who later was revealed as a police undercover agent, to thwart the schemes of The Wizard and his fellow Injustice Society members, The Fiddler, The Icicle, The Sportsmaster and The Huntress, in "The Case of the Patriotic Crimes." Black Canary's work on this case was rewarded when she was inducted into the JSA.

Our heroine appeared in Flash right up until it was discontinued, with issue No. 104 (February, 1949.) She maintained her membership in the JSA throughout the rest of their adventures in All-Star, the last being"The Mystery of the Vanishing Detectives" (issue No. 57, February-March 1951.)"

On to part 3 and the conclusion of our tale. It turns out Private Eye Larry had located The Mist's hideout and raioed it to Starman and Black Canary, however the crafty Mist had rigged his shrubbery with the tell-all spray, so he sent his invisible goons to nab Larry. Starman arrives and is shocked tosee his old foe, The Mist, who welcomes him with treated flowers that disable the Cosmic Rod and send Starman crashing to the floor where he is soon overcome by the thugs. Black Canary arrives moments later and with the aid of her mini Cosmic Rod starts to raise some heck with the villains, disabling all but The Mist, who sets up a barrage of pellets from the equipment to try to drop the Blonde Bombshell to earth, which is successful. Starman has regained consciousness in the interim, and with his rejunvenated Rod, thanks to Black Canary's destruction of the offending flowers, shield her from harm and then knocksThe Mist silly. Larry isretrieved from a back room where he's been bound, andthe three are later enjoying a relaxing dinner to celebrate theirsolving the case and sending the bad guys to the lockup.

Would anyone blameme for giving this one a 10 rating? I didn'tthink so. You've got a great story with more classic Golden Age heroes (and a villain, to boot) in a spectacular team up that pleases in every sense. An easy rating this time.

As per usual, your comments are welcome at professor_the@hotmail.com and I'll be back in about two weeks with another review of a great tale from this era.

LongLive the Silver Age!

2000 by B.D.S.

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