A Tribute to the of
Hello yet again from the wondrous realm of DC Comics' Silver Age! Come along with me as we take a peek at yet another classic offering from this splendid time in comic book history.
I'm pleased to report yet another windfall of terrific issues to review and choose from. Once again, the caliber of choices was staggering, and it was a difficult but happy task to figure out which one to shine the spotlight upon for this edition of the Silver Age Sage. After much due consideration, I settled upon a real blockbuster. Impressive in every way. (Note the clever foreshadowing to my rating at the end of this review. Any speculation out there?) In the March/April 1965 edition of Showcase, DC pulled out all the stops. Perhaps I'll let the awesome cover speak for itself: "Showcase presents the Super-Team Supreme. Doctor Fate and Hourman". As a special bonus, the reader notes in the lower right hand corner of the cover that the story guest stars none other than Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern from the Golden Age, which, for those of you who are not in the know, is also where the good doctor and Hourman hail from as well. The villain du jour is the rather odd Solomon Grundy.
The story, by the great Gardner Fox, penciled and inked by the equally great Murphy Anderson begins with a one page prologue introducing Solomon Grundy (the prologue was cut when the story was reprinted in The Brave and the Bold #115, the October-November 1974 issue). Grundy has a pretty offbeat origin. As a matter of fact, one could argue that he doesn't really have an origin. He seems to have just sprung forth from some swamp, probably in Louisiana or Mississippi, as a result of "...the strange chemical reaction of sizzling sunlight beating down on the decayed vegetation of soggy swampland..." This is one of those times when I'm glad these tales are often as far-fetched as possible. I don't live far from swampland. If you haven't seen ol' Solomon (aside from the cover scan here at the good ol' Silver Lantern) try to feature a being that seems to have taken a page straight from the Incredible Hulk. He seems to have the same basic vocabulary, ("Wall no stop me! I go back to birth waters!") the same dentist, (big, perpetually exposed pearly whites) and the same barber. Even his wardrobe shows some similarities, despite the fact that he does have clothing above the waist and wears shoes. Anyway, we learn Sol's history in a few panels that show that he's immortal, though I'm not certain that's exactly the right term since he's not truly alive, and that he was put away originally by Green Lantern. GL locked him up in an energy bubble and stuck him on a distant planet, in an Editor's note Julius Schwartz informs us that this took place in All-Star Comics #33, the February-March 1947 issue. Since Grundy requires neither food nor even air, he survives just fine, though I suspect things got a bit boring without cable or a solar powered Gameboy. Anyhow, our story begins with the bubble crashing to earth and shattering. You'll never suspect the first thing on his mind. Uh-huh. Green Lantern is about to get a payback. First, however, it's back to the marsh for what is either a recharging session or old home week. Next thing you know, we join archaeologist Kent Nelson and his lovely wife Inza in the witch-haunted hills of Old Salem. Kent is the real identity of the mysterious Dr. Fate, and they're headed toward his stone tower, which has no entrance. You wanna talk about your gated communities. This guy has security in spades. Dr. Fate is a master of magic and the old arts and sciences long since lost to mankind including alchemy, the occult and the ability to convert energy into matter and vice versa. He's your basic multi-talented fellow. Fate is alerted by his crystal ball that evil is emanating from the radioactive marshlands attached to the Tyler Chemical plant. Apparently the EPA hasn't yet caught wind of this place. Let's leave that one lie for now, eh? Kent Nelson soon dons his Dr. Fate uniform and prepares to investigate. He zips over to the area and discovers the shards of what used to be Green Lantern's energy bubble prison. We then fade to the Tyler Chemical Company and meet the president, one Rex Tyler who spends part of his time as Hourman. (Psst! Rex! That radioactive waste you've been pumping from the cyclotron into the marsh? Not too bright, bud. Now for a small fee my readers and I will keep this out of the EPA's hands...) Rex changes into costume to check out an alarm as Hourman and grabs a handful of Miraclo pills, which are the source of his powers. Hourman, you see, upon ingestion of the chemical compound in the Miraclo pills, is given the abilities of great speed, enhanced strength and a body insensible to harm, but only for 60 minutes. To further complicate this drawback, he must wait 60 minutes between pills in order to restore his abilities. All three of our heroes, by the way, were members of the old Justice Society of America, which eventually gave way to the Justice League of America. Okay, back to our story. Hourman soon encounters Solomon Grundy, pops a pill and leaps into action. Grundy manages to get the first blow in and sends Tyler sprawling, but at that moment, Dr. Fate swoops in to lend a mystical hand. Using the elements around him, he attacks Solomon with the trees and freezes the very atmosphere around him, but to no avail. Finally, he tries a different tactic, by allowing himself to be picked up by the brute while he uses the physical contact to fill the giant with electrical magic. This seems to be working quite nicely, though I'm not sure Fate thought about how the heck he'd get down when Hourman, recovering and mistaking the the immobility in Grundy and Dr. Fate for distress, jumps up and clocks Grundy, thereby negating the effect of the magic. Unfortunately, that allowed Solomon to knock both our heroes out and to lumber off on his journey of revenge. As he shuffles along, (toward Gotham City, which apparently was the home base for Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern) his radioactive properties begin to gather wooden objects that float along in his wake. Unlike our friend Hal Jordan, whose ring is powerless against all things yellow, Alan Scott's weakness is wood. In order to get Green Lantern's attention, Solomon breaks into a bank. Sure enough, our hero emerges, quite surprised, but determined to imprison the monster yet again. A special panel explains that this is the Green Lantern of Earth-Two, which is why his costume is radically different (ever notice how all caped heroes never get tangled up in them?) and that his physical appearance is also unlike Hal Jordan's. Well, they duke it out for a bit but Grundy's wooden helpers soon overcome Green Lantern, and Solomon catches his unconscious form as it plummets from the sky. Meanwhile, Dr. Fate and Hourman have arrived on the scene to assist. Unfortunately, something begins to influence them to begin fighting each other, and they once again go off to la-la land, courtesy of each other's powers. Grundy grins and trudges off with his captive.
Soon, Solomon runs into his old gang of crimeland pals and he explains how he was able to return to earth via a comet that picked him up in it's tail, allowing him to maneuver his way back to Earth. Here are scans of Murphy Anderson's original pencil & ink and final art for page 18 depicting the scene. The members of Grundy's old gang are the spitting images of DC staffers Julius Schwartz, Murphy Anderson and Ray Burnley.
We return to Hourman and the good doctor, who are regaining their senses. They come to the conclusion that their respective powers cancel one another out and come up with a strategy to work together, but far enough apart to avoid the effect. Off to fight the monster again and his gang again, Fate finds Green Lantern has been placed into the radioactive swamp and has become a Solomon Grundy lookalike in a stretched and torn Green Lantern uniform. They battle briefly, and Dr. Fate uses his powers to restore GL to his normal state. Grundy soon appears and Fate and Hourman double team him, overcoming him at last. Dr. Fate and Green Lantern then combine their powers to create an even more powerful bubble prison. They then place Solomon Grundy into an orbit around the earth so that he can be monitored. With that our story comes to an end. A true, full-length thriller!
The very last page of the magazine is two columns of text containing the origins of both Hourman and Doctor Fate. A great bonus! You can read a reproduction of the page by clicking HERE.
I loved this issue, and give it an enthusiastic rating of 10! I'm always a sucker for a team-up, as you know, and appearances by the Justice Society are always a terrific plus. Bringing in three of them at once against a nearly invincible foe was a master stroke. If you haven't read this one, you've missed out.
Once again I solicit your feedback, comments and input of all kinds at firstname.lastname@example.org, and as usual, the next edition of the Silver Age Sage will be here in about two weeks. Thanks for joining me as we explore this great time in comics history.
Long Live the Silver Age!
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