A Tribute to the of

Faithful readers of the Silver Age Sage, the time has come! Prepare to enjoy installment #500 in this ongoing feature!

Yeah, not bad, eh? Over twenty years and now 500 reviews. Who’d have ever thought it would go for this long or for this well? The Silver Lantern itself is obviously a bit older, but by golly, what a great run my lifelong best friend and I have been having. Thanks for being a part of it.

Now I want you to know I wondered and wondered some more what I should use for my source material this time. We’ve covered so much ground and pretty much all the milestone issues have been done.

Then it hit me. As I’ve noted in the past, Showcase has been a major touchstone [42 issues reviewed to date] and while it’s solidly in the Bronze Age, what could be a more appropriate one to look at then issue #100 with a publication date of May 1978 and an on-sale date of February 10th, making it 43 years old this very month. Featuring 60 characters, “There Shall Come a Gathering” was written by the Pauls, Levitz and Kupperberg with art by Joe Staton, lettering courtesy of Ben Oda, coloring by Adrienne Roy and editing by Joe Orlando.

Events unfold at the Justice League of America satellite in orbit above the earth. In attendance is an eclectic bunch including The Metal Men, Hawk and Dove, Teen Titans, Rip Hunter and company, Adam Strange and a quartet of JLA members including Aquaman, Flash, the Atom and Green Lantern. Flash makes an ominous declaration that something is disrupting the fabric of time itself.

The weather has gone mad and people displaced in time are appearing. The observant will note on the double splash a few familiar Showcase refugees, including Fireman Farrell, from the very first issue, Sgt. Rock, Anthro, Enemy Ace and Johnny Thunder, the six-shooter wielding cowboy.

As the crisis mounts, Adam Strange notes that the earth is being pulled out of orbit and the fabric of relativity is being shredded. These being people of action, they quickly begin to deploy. Rip Hunter and crew are boarding their time sphere to investigate while the Metal Men are heading for the surface to lend aid. Ditto for the Teen Titans and Aquaman while Adam Strange, Green Lantern and the Flash and Atom, encased in a power ring bubble, head for deep space.

It isn’t long until GL’s power ring is able to detect a cloaked power source. Despite yellow properties that make it very difficult on the power ring, Green Lantern is able to also reveal a massive invisible ship. Moments later, enormous robots emerge to challenge the heroes, but first, back on Earth…

The Metal Men are helping where they can, even though they’re having minor difficulty with Anthro and his father, who are more than a little confused at their current whereabouts.

Sailing through time, Rip Hunter and his crew are encountering a disturbance in the time stream itself.

Lois Lane is getting into the act, too, issuing an emergency broadcast from the Galaxy building in the hopes that Superman will hear the SOS. Right after she gets off the air, she’s approached by Jack Ryder, the man most known as the Creeper’s alter ego. The conversation has barely begun when the Challengers of the Unknown appear. This version includes Rocky Davis, Red Ryan, Prof. Haley and June Robins. After Haley does his best to get a bead on whatever is interfering with things, he manages to triangulate on a huge energy output in the Midwest. Swiftly, they board their helicopter, but Lois Lane won’t be denied her involvement and seemingly out of nowhere, the Creeper also joins the hardy band.

Back in the cosmos, Adam Strange and Green Lantern are locked in combat with the giant robots and having a hard go of things when a ship arrives and blasts the menacing automatons. It’s none other than the 22nd Century Space Ranger, along with his alien sidekick, Cryll. The heroes soon have the enemy on the run and then board the vessel, but before we get a good look inside, it's a brief interlude to the American Midwest where a weird creature is noting that life-forms have boarded the back-up star cruiser, but the creature is unconcerned.

Back aboard the star cruiser, our heroes see a huge, strange creature sporting multiple tentacles that it’s using to manipulate controls. One of those tentacles shoots out and grabs the Flash and then flings him to the deck. Cryll goes into action, transforming into a massive pink rabbit to try and eat the plant-like creature, but just then Space Ranger saves the day by noting a sun lamp in the ceiling. A quick blast from his ray gun destroys it and disables the creature.

Following that little triumph, we’re taken back to Earth, specifically the O’Day and Simeon Agency, where a number of familiar characters are in attendance. A taped sign on the office door notes that they’re now operating a “Found Persons Agency” and have they got the persons on hand. Anthro and his father, Windy and Willy, Tommy Tomorrow, Binky, Firehair, the Inferior Five, Bat Lash and of course Angel O’ Day and Sam Simeon, aka Angel and the Ape.

As Sam and Angel ponder a course of action, Bat Lash pipes up and notes that time has gone loco and they should work on a solution. Tommy Tomorrow quickly agrees and offers up his ship on the building’s rooftop. Soon Bat, Tommy and Angel are on their way while Sam waits behind with the Inferior Five.

As might be predicted, beneath the sea, Aquaman is busily at work and is soon aided by the Sea Devils and Dolphin.

In Metropolis, the Metal Men are dealing with a Tyrannosaurus Rex that has appeared while elsewhere the Teen Titans are keeping a hostile group of Vikings at bay.

Back in space, our heroes are feeling they’ve failed as Earth continues to hurtle along its path when the Phantom Stranger arrives and promptly joins hands with the heroes to begin a séance. His objective, soon accomplished, is to summon the mighty Spectre. The Ghostly Guardian brings into play one of his signature moves when he grows his body to skyscraper size to try and stop the Earth in its tracks. I wonder what he’s using for traction?

Now, somewhere over the Rockies, we join Lois Lane, the Creeper and the Challs, who now include Ace Morgan at the controls of their aircraft. They’re fighting their way through a storm and now some missiles have been fired at them, just to keep things interesting. Ace is able to dodge them and the next thing you know, they’ve stumbled across a large structure that looks about as out of place as it can be.

Rocky, standing astride the Creeper’s shoulders, is able to open a hatch and Lois Lane impulsively leaps into it from a high outcropping just before it slams shut after her. Now what?

Back in space, the Spectre’s efforts have come to naught and Tommy Tomorrow’s 22nd Century ship (Hey! Do you suppose Tommy and Space Ranger ever hang out together in the 22nd century?) has just come across the same scene as the Challengers of the Unknown. Tommy Tomorrow is able to blast through the structure with a ray gun, but the material has the ability to regenerate itself. It’s decided that only one of them will be able to get in and Bat Lash suggests drawing straws. When Angel draws the long straw, she dives into the structure.

Soon, both women, Angel and Lois, are fighting against robots within, but to make matters worse, powerful radiation is present, too. Slowly and painfully, both women continue forward, neither yet aware of the other.

Elsewhere, the supernatural and willpower is being brought to bear by the Spectre, Phantom Stranger, Green Lantern, Flash, Adam Strange, Cryll, Space Ranger and the Atom. With all that power brought to bear, the enlarged Spectre is at last able to restore the Earth to its proper place. The Spectre then takes his leave.

Back inside the weird structure, Lois and Angel have managed to meet up in a room filled with machinery. Lois starts to rip out wiring from the nearest panel while Angel O’ Day wonders what to do. Suddenly a white gloved hand guides hers to tear some wiring out and the result causes the weird creature behind all this chaos to fly off helplessly into space and absorb the radiation in its wake. The complex itself crumbles as well.

Within moments, Space Ranger and Cryll, along with all those others who had converged on this time and place, vanish back to their respective times and places. Green Lantern’s power ring reveals things on Earth returning to normal and while some confusion as to what exactly happened remains, the Phantom Stranger delivers a fitting coda: “Fate may take but one of many roads, Flash, and this day it has chosen the road of continued life for this small planet. Many may never discover the answers to this puzzle…but it is a big universe that holds many questions…and few answers. Be content, my friends…for it is best, perhaps we never know!”

Finally, the Critic’s Corner lettercol is commandeered by Paul Levitz and he explains how this issue came to be: The first question is why, obviously. And we’re not sure we have a rational answer. Probably the reason this issue is before you is the same reason man gave for climbing Mount Everest or reaching the moon— “Because it was there.” SHOWCASE #100 was there, and we had to do something to celebrate. So what better way than to celebrate by gathering together the characters who made SHOWCASE famous?

Which left the second question: Who? Who could be talked into doing such a monumental task of weaving characters? We turned first to Steve Englehart, who had just completed a similar task in JUSTICE LEAGUE #144—but for Steve, once was more than enough. Particularly since he was leaving for Europe soon, abandoning comics for a while.

Our next choice was Len Wein, known for making his JLA debut by teaming the JLA, JSA and Seven Soldiers of Victory. Clearly our man. Unfortunately, he was working principally for Marvel at the time…although he came on board about a month after we needed the script for the issue.

We had run out of choices. The “we,” in these paragraphs has been Publisher Jenette Kahn, Managing Editor Joe Orlando, Public Relations man Mike Gold, and ye Editorial Coordinator, Paul Levitz…who is also unfortunately the only comic book writer in that list. For when the other possibilities were exhausted, the others all turned slowly and menacingly toward me!

No way. There was a Legion tabloid to be done, three Power Girl SHOWCASE issues in the preceding months…no way. But no choice was offered. So, I brought in a ringer. For more years than either of us can count, Paul Kupperberg and I have collaborated on various projects. He’s also the most fanatic SHOWCASE fan I know. With those two qualifications, he was a sure bet.

So, as he quivered and quailed, I explained the plan: I would plot the story with him, and keep an eye on his dialogue—and he’d do all the hard work (naturally). For reasons I have yet to understand, he accepted the assignment.

Finding an artist was a much easier task. Joe Staton volunteered to pencil and ink the epic. Some cynics have said that’s just so his SHOWCASE streak wouldn’t be broken, but that’s too simple an explanation—it just doesn’t account for a mammoth effort like this. You see, the original game plan called for including only the characters who graduated SHOWCASE into their own series…and when Joe got hold of the story, he added in eight more. True dedication, or true masochism. To top it all off, the final art job is one of the best Joe has ever produced—and he can still speak in complete sentences. Amazing!

The plotting of the book took a full day’s effort—enough time for the same two writers to have crafted a year’s worth of an ordinary bi-monthly magazine…and then Joe Orlando stepped in to edit the plot into comprehensible shape. As it stands before you, you can judge for yourself whether we succeeded or not…but we certainly did try to make this a special celebration.

Paul Levitz then proceeded to list the cast of characters in chronological order including their first Showcase appearance. A wonderful little reference and trip down memory lane.

I’d call that a tremendous effort by all parties and an impressive story and can only imagine how challenging it was to shoehorn in all those characters into a coherent story. As Paul Kupperberg once observed, it’s an awful lot like Crisis on Infinite Earths but without the Monitor.

Ironically, Showcase came to an end just 4 issues later, but oh, what that title gave us, especially those of us who revere the Silver Age.

I hope, dear readers, that was a good way to mark this 500th edition of the Silver Age Sage. If you have opinions, by all means, make ‘em known. You can always reach me at my handy dandy e-mail: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Be sure to make it a point to join us next time, March 1st, for another edition of this long-running feature. We will keep bringing you the best in comics reading for as long as we can.

See you then and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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