A Tribute to the of

Greetings, Silver Age fans! It’s time for another installment in our ongoing feature here at the dear ol’ Silver Lantern and this time you’re in for a two-fer. We’re going back to the Golden Age to check out the original appearances of not one, but two classic DC characters who are celebrating 75 years of publication. Yeah, I know. Wonder Woman is getting some much deserved recognition for this milestone at present. I dashed down to the post office and picked up a sheet of the commemorative WW stamps myself and believe me, we’ll get to her, but it wouldn’t be right to neglect her fellow Justice League of America members, Green Arrow and Aquaman, who both made their debut in the pages of More Fun Comics #73 with a publication date of November, 1941. The Doctor Fate cover was drawn by Howard Sherman. According to the indispensable Grand Comic Book Database, this massive anthology was edited by Whitney Ellsworth, but actually the chores were accomplished by Mort Weisinger, who also scripted both tales.

The book contains stories featuring Doctor Fate, Green Arrow, Radio Squad, Johnny Quick, Clip Carson, the Spectre and Aquaman, which was a pretty good deal for your hard-earned dime. As was often the case back in the day, there weren’t formal titles for the stories, but the Green Arrow adventure has been dubbed “The Case of the Namesake Murders!,” and was drawn by George Papp while Paul Norris illustrated the debut of Aquaman which was given, “The Submarine Strikes!

Let’s begin chronologically with GA, where a guy decked out a bit like The Shadow with a kerchief over the bottom of his face, a large floppy hat and a cape has decided to go around Manhattan executing men with famous names in the same manner their namesake forbears were murdered. A George Lincoln is shot, John Hale is hung and Anthony Caesar is stabbed to death.

On the following page we are introduced to Oliver Queen and Roy Harper who are, respectively Green Arrow and Speedy, “the cyclone kid.” They’re eager to begin their vacation, which Roy says is going to be a welcome respite after their recent case with the golden mummy. Their plans are soon waylaid, however, when the nearby radio announces that the mysterious murders of three members of the history club remains unsolved. Quickly donning their costumes, Green Arrow and Speedy hop into the “Arrowplane” (actually a yellow car that kinda looks like an arrow) and head straight for the building where the history club meets. Using a catapult seat feature, GA is shot up and through the window of the room where the men are in attendance. They don’t seem to be the least bit concerned about the broken glass and introduce themselves with other famous surnames. The man named Leonard Achilles is determined not to meet the fate of his namesake and has taken the precaution of wearing metal boots to make sure his heels are protected. The killer seems to have compensated for it, though when Achilles steps onto a gimmicked mat that electrocutes him.

Directly afterward, a bullet flies into the room, prompting our Emerald Archer to fire an arrow with a rope on it to the next building so that our hero can do a high wire act and give chase to the gunman. Speedy catapults himself up just then and the chase is on. A fusillade of arrows soon pin him to a wall where he promptly spills everything, including the fact that he’s to meet up with his mysterious masked boss at 5 p.m. that afternoon. Queen disguises himself as the crook and takes his place at the hideout, but he is soon discovered because “Muggsy” was missing a finger. GA is tied up along with Speedy, who had been lurking around outside and the gas is turned on. Luckily, Green Arrow is able to get a leg loose and with a mighty kick send his shoe through the window, allowing them some reviving air. Back to the “Arrowplane” to try to save the latest target, Mr. D’arcy, whom GA presumes will be burned at the stake.

The catapult is again brought into play as GA enters the burning building where D’arcy is located. Speedy provides a makeshift ladder for their descent to safety by firing arrow after arrow into the side of the building. Now it’s off to rescue Mr. Samson, who may be in danger of death by building collapse, much like the Old Testament version of Samson.

Arriving in the nick of time, an arrow is brought to play, breaking a water cooler that quenches a bomb about to go off next to the bound and gagged Samson which would, of course, have caused the building to cave in. Two for two, the archers head back to their apartment to try and sort things out, reasoning that perhaps Amos Socrates, the only member of the club who hadn’t been targeted, in in fact the killer. A quick visit to Socrates’ home, however, finds the masked man forcing him to drink poison. Another arrow to the rescue as the cup is shattered and the fleeing murderer is pinned to the wall after an arrow to one foot is ineffective.

Time for the unmasking, revealing Samson, who was wearing stilts to make himself appear taller. It seems Green Arrow noted that the “bomb” was filled with only a benign powder to throw them off his trail. Bursting free, Samson dashes to his car with Green Arrow and Speedy in hot pursuit. Steering with his knees, Green Arrow shoots at the tires and Samson’s car falls off an embankment, killing him.

Mopping things up it’s discovered that he’d been embezzling funds from the club treasury and was going to use Socrates for the scapegoat, reasoning that it would look like a suicide.

The archers place the phony bomb into their trophy case, ending this latest adventure.

And now, Aquaman!

This story starts more dramatically when a vessel on the high seas, transporting refugees and hospital workers is torpedoed by a Nazi submarine. As they board the lifeboats, the sub surfaces and the unarmed ship’s captain tells them what they’ve done. The sub commander orders the sinking of the lifeboats to hide what has transpired, but just as she fires an arm darts out from the sea and moves the boat out of harm’s way. The figure then power dives toward the submarine. Knocking one crewman overboard, the mysterious rescuer is about to engage further, when the sub goes into a dive. The hero then instructs nearby porpoises to move the lifeboat to safety.

After that successful maneuver, the ship’s captain insists on knowing the who and what of their benefactor. The blonde-haired man introduces himself as Aquaman and explains that his father was a famous undersea explorer, but his mother died while he was still an infant. His father discovered an ancient underwater city which he believed to be Atlantis and pored over their artifacts and writings, using the knowledge to help his son learn “a hundred scientific secrets” that allowed him to live beneath the sea.

Ending his origin tale, Aquaman takes to the depths to chase down the enemy submarine. He relies on reports from the denizens of the deep and tracks down the sub, which has returned to base to report. After explaining what they’d encountered to an incredulous commander, a familiar figure in orange and green, astride a porpoise arrives to seek vengeance. First Aquaman uses a powerful blow to breach the submarine’s hull, sinking the vessel and leaving the Nazis marooned on their base. Next, it’s a chase to a building, where they barricade themselves in. Aquaman is about to take down the door when a sledgehammer dropped from above puts him out of commission.

He awakens later, bound tightly and the Nazi’s add heavy weights and drop him into the sea. So far down has he sunk that the terrific pressure is interfering with his ability to break free. He notices a particular plant nearby and manages to get it to release a green liquid that acts as a distress signal. A pod of porpoises responds and hoists the hero up higher and higher until he can free himself. Now it’s on.

Returning to the base, Aquaman confronts the ruthless Nazis, cold-cocking one and chasing the other to the munitions building. Catching the “pineapple” thrown at him and sending it right back, the building is blown to kingdom come and Aquaman is triumphant.

Each of these 8-pagers rolled out heroes who would stand the test of time. Aquaman, of course, was a founding member of the JLA, [Sage #25] while Green Arrow took a bit longer to join the ranks, making the cut in Justice League of American #4 [Sage #104].

There have been changes to the characters over the years and while Green Arrow has sometimes been referred to as “Batman with a bow,” due to the many similarities between the two, he has continued to be an important part of the DC Universe and his remakes by the likes of Neal Adams and Mike Grell are high water marks.

Aquaman has had a series of his own and his depictions by Ramona Fradon and Nick Cardy are fondly remembered, while Jim Aparo’s version made him appear to be even more formidable as he battled threats from both above and below the waterline. Congratulations to both characters for continuing to entertain for 75 years!

C’mon back on the 15th of the month, dear readers and we’ll have a new review right here at your fingertips. Touch base as you see fit at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Until then…

Long live the Silver Age!

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