A Tribute to the of

Welcome to the first edition of the Silver Age Sage for 2015! It continues to be a fun journey and the Webmaster and I are happy to be your hosts. Can you believe I’ve had this privilege since May of 2000? That means we’re coming up on 15 years of the Sage!

Speaking of anniversaries, we’ve seen some big ones in the recent past. Superman’s 75th, Batman’s 75th and this year, both the Flash and Hawkman turn 75 as well. As a matter of fact, so does their original alma mater, the Justice Society of America, so it seems only logical to spotlight all three with a review of All-Star Comics #3 from Winter of 1940, edited by Sheldon Mayer, written by Gardner Fox (with a few assists here and there) and illustrated by Everett E. Hibbard (also with a few assists here and there.) The splash page, a dead ringer for the cover, announces that it’s the first meeting of the Justice Society of America and starts the tradition of the roll call, which includes all the heavy-hitters of the day: The Flash, The Hawkman, The Spectre, The Sandman, Doctor Fate, The Hourman, The Green Lantern and the Atom.

Things begin with Johnny Thunder hanging out at the newsstand where he’s looking over the latest issues of Adventure Comics, All-American Comics, More Fun Comics, Flash Comics and Detective Comics. Somehow he’s aware that the JSA is having a meeting and he’s not been invited. He accidentally utters the Badhnisian hex words, “Cei-U,” which of course sounds just like the colloquial English phrase, “Say you,” which invokes the magical thunderbolt who promptly acts on his muttered wish that he was at the meeting.

Next thing you know, he’s on his way and quickly encounters Doctor Fate and the Sandman, who has used his trademark sleep inducing weapon to put out all the guests at the motel so their secret meeting can be held under wraps. The Flash, Green Lantern, Hourman, Spectre, Hawkman and Atom soon arrive and dinner is underway. Shortly after everyone is finished, Johnny suggests that each member share a story of their most exciting experience. The Atom notes that Superman, Batman and Robin are absent and would doubtless have some great tales, but Flash explains they’re busy, so it’s up to them.

So, the Flash begins with, strangely enough, a tale of sunken treasure and swashbuckling cutthroats. Everett E. Hibbard illustrated this segment and Jay Garrick and Joan Williams meet their friend Mary Rogers, who informs them that her father, Tim Rogers, is in the midst of a salvage job on the galleon Sancta Joanna. Unfortunately the unsavory element are circling like buzzards to swoop in and lift the treasure from him once he discovers the shipwreck. The Flash decides to go to Panama and investigate, quickly locating the vessel and sending a shark spinning off into the depths that was about to attack.

Flash boards Rogers’ ship and tells him exactly where he needs to go for his salvage job, then does him the favor of pushing the vessel along to the salvage site. He then does the same with the interlopers aboard the Nancy K, pushing her away from underwater and whisking away their diving equipment.

Ultimately, Flash steers the pirate ship to arctic waters and brings up the gold for Rogers, saving his expedition and keeping the thieves at bay.

Next up is Hawkman, illustrated in a realistic manner by Sheldon Moldoff as he tells of men who could live in fire. Carter Hall and Shiera Sanders are scientists and are attending a meeting at the science club in New York. Something is happening at Mount Krakatoa (though it’s misspelled as “Krakatao”) and it has their attention. As Carter escorts Shiera home a man with a dagger springs from the shrubbery to kill Shiera in the name of “Mazda the Great.” Fortunately, Carter was still nearby and intervenes. He babbles that Shiera must stay away from Krakatoa or the fire ghosts under the control of Mazda the Great will get her.

Carter goes home and changes into his Hawkman uniform and selects as his weapon the hammer of Thor and then flies into the night to a village near Krakatoa. Investigating the strange light in the volcano, Hawkman soon spots the creatures of living flame, but the heat is too intense to get very close.

Later he visits Shiera and explains what he’s seen. They get asbestos suits and return to the volcano. They are soon captured by the flame creatures and taken before Mazda, who has a force generator fed by the steam from the volcano. He orders their death and they are soon flung toward the lava, but Hawkman gets his wings freed just in time to save himself and Shiera. Then it’s “hammer time” as he smashes the generator and then throws Mazda over the cliff they’d been hurled from, ending the threat.

Next up is the Spectre, co-written by Jerry Siegel and Gardner Fox and illustrated by Hibbard and Bernard Baily. The Spectre recounts a series of strange night-time murders that he was told to investigate in his human guise of Jim Corrigan. He deduces that the killings are happening during the full moon and when he is out investigating, he is assaulted by a bronze statue come to life. Switching to his Spectre persona, our hero is soon confronting the bloodthirsty “Oom the Mighty.” Oom, it seems, is from the dark side of the moon and has returned to Earth to fulfill his bloodlust. They soon reach an agreement over a challenge to retrieve the red moon stone of Yzgartyl to determine who leaves the earth forever.

Racing through the cosmos, the Spectre reaches Yzgartyl first, but Oom has sent a dragon to stop him. The Spectre defeats the beast, but Oom has taken possession of the moon stone. The Spectre causes the stone to heat up, Oom drops it and the Spectre wins the contest, but Oom reneges on his promise. After a fierce battle, the Spectre orders Oom back to his perch on the building and then commands the spirit of Oom to leave the statue. He imprisons it in the moon stone and flings it into space.

Now it is Hourman’s turn, co-scripted by Ken Fitch and Gardner Fox with art by Bernard Baily. Rex Tyler is all but ordered by his boss to escort his niece to a charity costume ball featuring the Durant diamond collection. Tyler takes advantage of already owning a costume and shows up as Hourman. To his great surprise, however, there are a handful of other Hourmen in attendance. He soon comes to realize they’re there to pull off a diamond heist that will implicate the real Hourman. Rex slips away and downs a Miraclo pill to give him his 60 minutes of enhanced strength and plows into the bogus Hourman gang, but gets the tables turned on him when he is suspected of pulling the robbery.

Slipping away and doing a little detective work, Tyler manages to find the gang’s hideout, but a bullet that strikes him in the temple fired by an “Hourman” leaves him dazed. He manages to lure them back to where he was locked up and overpowers them, including Durant himself.

When the authorities arrive, Tyler explains that he discovered paperwork incriminating Durant in cooking up the scheme for insurance fraud. The diamonds were fakes and he needed cash.

It is now the Sandman’s turn to spin a tale. This segment is a bit moodier with more use of shadow courtesy of artist Chad Grothkopf. Wesley Dodds and Dian Belmont were out for a drive in the country one evening when they spotted a man about 20 feet tall who abruptly collapsed and died. They discovered a syringe in his pocket and quickly went to notify the authorities.

A bit later, hearing about a shocking headline being hawked by a newsie, Dodd discovers a story of a morbid discovery of a bag of human flesh with a man’s bones inside. He begins to investigate as the Sandman, cracking a safe at the Midtown hospital to access some records he’d heard of about pituitary gland experimentation. (The first reference misspells it “petuitary.” Where’s a good editor when you need one?) Dodds finds what he was looking for, regarding a disgraced doctor Faversham.

Soon the Sandman and Dian are on Faversham’s trail, but not before they check again on the 20 foot man only to discover he’d degraded into another flesh sack. Soon they came across a massive rat and cat who soon collapsed and died. The Sandman uses their tracks to lead him to a secluded country home. Breaking in through a cellar door, the Sandman locates a laboratory and a human guinea pig who explains what had been happening.

Apparently Faversham was using people as experiments, fiddling with pituitary manipulation and also insuring them on the side and collecting when they died. Unfortunately for the victims, their skeletal structure didn’t match the growth of the rest of their body, causing a grisly death and leaving the flesh sacks. Just then Faversham shows up and fires a pistol at our hero, missing him and receiving a tremendous right cross in return. Dodds calls the police and calls it a night.

Doctor Fate takes the podium next with art by Howard Sherman. Fate begins to describe an unusual tale that begins in a curio shop where a woman is offered an old box from Samothrace that will bring good fortune to its owner. The woman offering the piece looks the mysterious caricature to a “T” with the exotic looks and hooded garb and then disappears. Once the woman gets the box home, she opens it and is overcome by a strange mist emanating from it. We now know her name, courtesy of the scalloped caption panel (they’re all scalloped, interestingly enough) which is Inza and a phantom figure of a female, looking similar to the one in the shop warns her that the world is in danger and she is to fetch Doctor Fate and bring him to the moors along the coast.

Inza, obviously acquainted with Fate, goes to his brick tower in the foothills of Salem, which has neither door nor window. Fate is inside and detects Inza’s presence via his magic, stepping through the wall to see what is the matter. As they fly to the moors, Fate comments on her perfume, which brings to his mind “…the sense-stealing chevergris used by the olden priests of Khem.” When they land at the moors they are immediately under siege by phantoms in Egyptian garb. With a herculean physical effort, Fate prevails and soon he and Inza fly to her apartment to examine the box more closely.

He confirms it contains chevergris and is wielded by a dangerous sorcerer. Inza is overcome by a vision of the Egyptian princess who is trying to do her in, but Fate intervenes by causing a deep sleep to come over her. Doctor Fate then goes in search of the wicked wizard and locates him via black magic rays visible only to other wielders of magic. Soon a magical battle ensues with the evil wizard throwing everything in his power at the good Doctor, but Fate dodges each spell and incantation until it comes down to good old fashioned fisticuffs. Throwing the nameless sorcerer against the wall, Fate breaks the man’s neck. As he slips toward death he explains that he caused the visions seen by Inza in hopes of ambushing Fate and being the supreme wielder of black magic. As an insurance policy against reincarnation, Fate “dissolves” the body, and presumably his essence with a stream of flame from his fingertip.

The Atom now takes center stage with scripting help from Bill O’Connor and art provided by Ben Flinton. Al Pratt begins by mentioning that he is known as the Atom, but is the only one present without supernatural powers. Uh, Al? Wesley Dodds already told us he doesn’t have superhuman abilities. Pay attention, man! Anyway, Al, a sophomore at Calvin College was on a geology class expedition one lovely day when he noticed a plane landing and out came a group of guys looking like they belonged in Al Capone’s mob, complete with suits, fedoras and tommy guns. The leader explains the caper, which is to rob a gold shipment that will be coming along any moment. The eavesdropping Atom is shedding his street clothes to reveal his costume beneath and observes as they set up a decoy, then quickly take over the gold laden truck, disguising two of their party in the soldier’s uniforms that were transporting it.

The Atom tries to jump onto the top of the truck, but rolls off and is knocked unconscious for a while. Later, the truck arrives at its destination, the gold repository and the machine-gun wielding crooks subdue the soldiers at the gate and begin to help themselves to more bullion. They then depart with an even greater load of precious metal.

The unconscious Atom, meanwhile, has been discovered by his classmate Mary James. He instructs her to call the police when he notices the truck coming up the road again. He takes another shot at landing on the tarpaulin, this time using his geology pick to help secure him. Leaping in through the back, the Atom mixes it up with the gangsters and when the truck reaches the rendezvous point with the plane he surprises the rest of the gang, knocking them silly until the police arrive. He slips away to change back to Al Pratt and enjoys the fact that he successfully saved the Government a loss of $20,000,000.00 in gold.

Our final speaker is Alan Scott, alias Green Lantern, with art by his co-creator, Martin Nodell. The city has been under a crime wave and the citizens are up in arms about it, calling for a new police commissioner. Behind it all, the underworld is instigating the change in police leadership, fronting a man named Lacy and ultimately doing a frame up job of sitting Commissioner Mason, making it appear that he’s on the take.

With Lacy installed as the new Commissioner, the crime wave ceased, or so it seemed. It moved underground and Apex Broadcastings ace radio engineer, Alan Scott, decided it was time for his side job. Green Lantern donned his costume and charged his ring at the lantern and uttered these words: “…and I shall shed my light upon dark evil. For the dark things cannot stand the light…the light of the Green Lantern!” Flying off into the night, GL soon arrives at the dwelling of newspaper columnist and radio commentator Paul Pryer. The Green Lantern ascertains that Pryer doesn’t believe Mason is guilty of the accusations and instructs him to run some “bait” in his next column.

The next day, Pryer’s column declares he will announce on the radio the names of the guilty. The underworld takes notice and aims to take matters in hand, arriving at Pryer’s place with weapons in hand. What they didn’t anticipate was the presence of Green Lantern. Alan Scott uses crude but effective methods and cold cocks three of the criminals before interrogating the final one with the help of the ring. Pryer vows to use the information on his broadcast, while GL goes after the head honcho.

Before the Green Lantern can execute some justice, though, he is discovered by the boss’ hired help and suffers a blow to the cranium with a wooden club. Scott explains that the one thing the ring cannot protect him from is non-metals. When he comes to he is trussed up in a chair and facing the boss, who happens to be the new Commissioner: Lacy. While Lacy goes to stop Pryer’s broadcast, GL uses his ring to free himself and then hits “Ape” with a haymaker. Flying to the radio station, our hero slips through the brick wall of the building just in time to stop Lacy from stopping Pryer. On the air, GL uses his ring to force a confession from Lacy about how he got his new job and that cleans up the corruption that has overtaken the city.

The final page of this very long set of stories within a story (68 pages) explains that the Chief of the F.B.I. wants to meet with the Justice Society next Tuesday in Washington D.C., doubtless setting the stage for the JSA’s next adventure.

Whew! That was a long one, but you got a lot of mileage for your dime back in 1940 and in this case a lot of heroes, too, with each individual story seamlessly sewn together with connecting pages by Gardner Fox and Everett E. Hibbard. This classic tale would be reprinted (+ back cover) in the Famous First Edition series in 1975, which, of course is in my collection, thanks to the generosity of my best friend, the webmaster.

When I’d first read this story, a number of years ago, the differences in art were apparent, but not quite as obvious as they are to me now. This was like buying a handful of the top offerings of the day between the covers of one book and you can see why it and the characters within have stood the test of time, both in their original and in reimagined configurations and why the Crisis crossovers were such a hit in the Silver Age. The characters are simply timeless. I only wish I knew a little more about some of these new (to me) creators named above.

Happy New Year to our readers and happy 75th anniversary to the Justice Society of America! As usual we invite your feedback, suggestions and comments of all kinds. Write me at: professor_the@hotmail.com and always remember…

Long live the Silver Age!

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