A Tribute to the of

On the 13th of March, we lost another Golden Age cartoonist when Irwin Hasen caught the last train out. While he wasn’t one of the creators I got particularly close to, he was kind enough to give me a brief interview on two occasions. Once [Sage #181] just to answer a few questions, particularly about his co-creation with Bill Finger, Wildcat and once [Sage #216] to share a few stories about his time as an instructor at the Kubert School (one of the originals) for my series on that. Irwin was, in each case, upbeat and positive and he was also kind enough to send me a little sketch of his signature character, Dondi, from the newspaper strip of the same name that he worked on for so many years. He would have been 97 this year, so he lived a good, long life and to my knowledge was the oldest living cartoonist at the time. If I’ve got that wrong, please feel free to correct me.

Irwin did other things for DC, too, particularly in the Golden Age, so let’s jump into the Wayback machine and take a peek at a story he helped illustrate. The title was “The Case of the Patriotic Crimes!” It was originally printed in All-Star Comics #41 from June/July of 1948. John Broome was our scripter and there was an *ahem* all-star cast of artists, working as they often did in pieces and parts to create the whole. First off, the cover art was by the late, great Alex Toth, who also penciled and inked the splash page (since it’s a duplicate of the cover, go figure) while the rest of part I came from the team of Carmine Infantino and Frank Giacoia. Part II was penciled by Arthur F. Peddy with inks by Bernard Sachs and Part III was penciled and inked by our pal Irwin Hasen. Editorial chores were by Sheldon Mayer with an assist by a youthful Julie Schwartz.

I should probably do the roll call while I’m at it. Representing the Justice Society of America are the Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Black Canary, the Atom, Wonder Woman and Dr. Mid-Nite. They are up against the Injustice Society of the World, which includes the Wizard, The Fiddler, Sportsmaster, the Icicle, the Harleqin and the Huntress.

Things begin with the Freedom Train, containing the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, the original copy of the Star Spangled Banner and other key historical documents at Gotham Central Station. Despite heavy security, to include fighter jet escorts, the train cars disappear when it goes through a tunnel.

When Black Canary gets word, she calls an emergency meeting of the JSA, only to find the meeting room empty upon her arrival. Elsewhere, at the meeting place of the Injustice Society, the members of the JSA are working hand and foot as servants.

Back at JSA HQ, Black Canary has just discovered the Harlequin beneath the table, but before she can give our heroine any information, the Icicle arrives and freezes them both with his cold-ray gun (no doubt a predecessor to Captain Cold’s sidearm) and hauls them to the criminal’s retreat. He reports that the Harlequin is apparently a traitor and they’re both scheduled for a mind erasure procedure, which is obviously what has befallen the JSA.

As the procedure is being set up, the Wizard recounts the terms of the Injustice Society’s contest: The member to commit the greatest robbery will be named leader. Since the Wizard engineered the train heist, the bar has been set and in keeping with the theme, the strategy is that the Fiddler will steal the Freedom Bell (why they don’t call it the Liberty Bell I cannot figure), the Huntress proposes to take Plymouth Rock, Sportsmaster is going after Old Ironsides and the Icicle is planning to bring in the Washington Monument.

Elsewhere, the Harlequin and Black Canary are trussed up to the Mind-Eraser machine, but Harlequin is talking fast, starting with the fact that she’s not a real criminal, but only pretends in order to attract the attention of her crush, Green Lantern.

She’d received an invitation to join the Injustice Society, so she met up with the Wizard and was given the cook’s tour of their abandoned coal mine hideout. She proposes trapping the JSA as part of her initiation. Unfortunately as she hurries off, she dropped a book, which was retrieved by the Icicle.

She happened across the Atom and followed him to the JSA meeting and told those assembled about the Injustice gang, but just then the Sportsmaster arrives, proclaiming they found the Harlequin’s book, revealing her planned double cross and he followed her to the rendezvous point. He quickly throws an incendiary device that produces a concussion knocking everyone out. Harlequin was thrown under the table, so Sportsmaster could only find and transport the JSA members to the Injustice Society’s hideout for the mind-eraser treatment.

That brings us back to the point where the ladies are trying to get the mind-erased Flash and Green Lantern to help them, but they do not respond…until the Harlequin uses her Harlequin glasses to hypnotize them, at which point they obey the order to release the women.

Soon the rest of the zombie-fied JSA is assembled and they are released from the effects of the mind-eraser. The Wizard has noted what has transpired via monitor, but then departs. Black Canary and the Harlequin muse that they cannot be certain how long the “cure” will last, but when the JSA bursts into the meeting room of the Injustice Society, they find sketches of the American treasures and deduce their plan, ending part I.

Part II has our heroes splitting up to try to thrwart the crimes. First up is Hawkman arriving at the site of the ship Old Ironsides, where Sportsmaster is intent on performing a hijacking. It looks as if the Winged Wonder is going to succeed when the Wizard arrives and snaps his fingers, causing our hero to again fall under the spell of the criminals.

At Liberty Hall, where the Freedom Bell is on display, the Fiddler arrives in his Fiddle Car to perform his heist when Dr. Mid-Nite and Wonder Woman arrive. A heated battle takes place, including the Fiddler trying to gas our heroes when he uses the bell itself as a trap, but the crack allowed them to get fresh air. Right on the cusp of victory, however, the Fiddler snaps his fingers and they are again under the spell.

This scenario repeats itself with the Atom and Flash against the Cheetah and Green Lantern vs. the Icicle, where the heroes prevail until that fateful snapping noise incapacitates and the theft is pulled off until Part II comes to a close.

Part III takes us back to the hideout with the Harlequin and Black Canary working their way through the coal mine when they discover the stashed Liberty Train. Right then the Wizard arrives and overcomes them with an electrified gimmick.

Now that all the JSA members are assembled and helpless, the Injustice Society decides to be rid of them once and for all, sealing them into a mine cage and sending it plummeting into the depths of a mine shaft.

With that little detail taken care of, the gang gets back to matters at hand, trying to decide who pulled the biggest heist and will therefore be leader. They conclude that the American people must decide, or at least a sampling, so they use a huge, high-powered ram-jet to lift a filled Gotham Stadium. The frightened attendees are told what they are to do when they are delivered to the site of the stolen Americana. The people begin to revolt, though and to charge the Injustice Society, but before we can see the outcome, the scene shifts back to the JSA far beneath the Earth.

Black Canary and the Harlequin are desperate to free the JSA from their zombie-like state and so the Blonde Bombshell pleads with Green Lantern to remember who he is and what he is capable of. With her encouragement and reminders of the power he wields, he struggles mightily, the sweat pouring off his face when he manages to activate his power ring and take flight within the cavern. The scene so inspires the other members that they similarly shake off the effects of the mind-eraser and, via the power ring, rise out of the mine shaft.

Soon the team arrives at the site of the spoils and the battle is on, with each member of the JSA engaging each member of the Injustice Society until the good guys triumph. In all the excitement, the Harlequin slips away, but not before leaving GL a message promising they’ll meet up again.

In the closing panel, the JSA votes unanimously to induct their newest member, Black Canary!

Despite the often unsophisticated art on these old Justice Society stories, I still find them charming and they certainly paved the way for their successors in the Justice League, not to mention those great crossover tales that were such a staple in our beloved Silver Age.

So here’s to you, Irwin Hasen, for all the contributions you made to the medium we love.

Mid-April isn’t only the deadline for filing your income taxes, but it will also be the rollout of the latest review here at the Silver Age Sage feature of the Silver Lantern. You won’t want to miss it, so mark your calendar now. As always, you’re invited to share your impressions, requests and other communication with me at: professor_the@hotmail.com

Until we meet again…

Long live the Silver Age!

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