A Tribute to the of

I had a rare opportunity recently when I got an e-mail inviting me to cast my vote for this year’s Eisner Hall of Fame nominees. There were some great names on there and I could choose only two, but one was as easy as the proverbial rolling off the log: Gaspar Saladino. How could I not vote for my very first interviewee [Sage #166] and one of the sweetest guys you could ever care to get to know? Oh, and he did some pretty great work, too, so he has inspired this edition’s selection.

Not long ago, the webmaster did me a big favor by sending a listing of the Showcase reviews I’d done to date and I noticed I’d not reviewed anything yet from issue #24 (January/February 1960 with an on-sale date of November 25, 1959). Green Lantern was up for his third and final Showcase appearance prior to getting his own magazine and the cover story, “The Creature That Couldn’t Die!” written by John Broome, looked like a viable candidate. [The book's first yarn pits GL against spies who have stolen plans for an experimental space plane.] Credits are a who’s who of DC’s Silver Age, including editing by Julie Schwartz, cover art by Gil Kane and Joe Giella with Ira Schnapp lettering and interiors by the same art team with the great Gaspar on letters. Let’s go take a look-see…

The story begins with Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan in his day job of test pilot for Ferris Aircraft Company, putting a new plane through its paces. He then gets a communique through his headphones from his boss and love interest, Carol Ferris. For those unfamiliar, it’s a classic love triangle with Hal trying constantly to win Carol’s attention, who only seems to have eyes for Green Lantern.

So, Carol is asking Hal to drive her to Pine City this afternoon. Jordan is thrilled and illustrates his enthusiasm by sky-writing a large “OK” in response. Later, when they’re barreling down the road in a convertible, Hal asks what’s on Carol’s mind. She proceeds to explain that their destination has to do with a potential merger, but she also wants to describe a dream she had in which they married, but she quickly explains that her intentions weren’t exactly honorable in this dream, stressing again that it was merely a dream, as she was trying to make Green Lantern jealous, expecting him to swoop in and sweep her off her feet, but he was a no show.

In the following fantastic sequence as the newlyweds are driving along the street, Carol spots a painter falling from some scaffolding. Hal promptly places a familiar ring on his finger and citing the lack of time, flies off in his groom’s tux and saves the man, revealing to Carol that she’s actually married the man of her dreams after all.

Once the recounting is over, Carol says that she realized she’d never seen Hal with Green Lantern and so, she asks if he is, in fact, the Emerald Gladiator. As he begins to discount her notion, they suddenly run out of road and begin to fall into a chasm. In a strange twist, Hal decides he doesn’t have the luxury of time and so he brings the power ring into play to create a green parachute to save them. Once they’ve made a soft landing, he discovers that his secret identity remains safe as Carol passed out the minute they plunged over the edge.

Jordan then turns to trying to discover why a section of road was missing and notes some massive footprints. This is a job for Green Lantern, so he makes a change into the familiar uniform and decides to let Carol continue her slumber.

As he takes flight, he soon encounters a pair of men in a jeep sporting white lab coats. They wave our hero down and introduce themselves as scientists from the Dulong Experimental Station from the top of the mountain where they’ve been studying cosmic rays and their effects. This morning one of their experiments bore fruit, but in an unintended way as the blob in the test tube soon grew to gigantic proportions that quickly allowed it to overrun the lab. One of the scientists even tried a pistol on it, to no avail, because after all, what self-respecting lab wouldn’t have firearms on hand?

So now, they’re cavorting around the countryside trying to warn the populace of what has been unleashed. GL tells them to continue to sound the alarm while he flies off to deal with the cosmic ray driven menace. Now that he knows what destroyed part of the road and created those huge footprints, our hero is anxious to engage.

It doesn’t take long until he finds the huge, bug-eyed monster tearing up a suspension bridge near Coast City just like the cover and splash page and incidentally, not unlike a famous cover from Jimmy Olsen #53, which, of course, was inspired by the cover to that equally well-known cover to Thrilling Wonder Stories back in the day.

Unfortunately, the emerald beams from the power ring have zero effect on the monstrosity and when it retaliates, with powerful beams from its eyes, the energy is yellow, which is the one weakness of the power ring. So, the colossus now heads into the city and begins to demolish an evacuated skyscraper. Also, in the best traditions of King Kong and Godzilla, the military sweeps in with planes and tanks that are equally ineffective.

Luckily, our hero is still on hand and has shaken off the initial setback. Time to use some brainpower, and GL reasons that his ring is no match for cosmic ray energy, but perhaps the creature is actually feeding off that very energy and if he can filter it out, he might be able to defeat it. Count on editor Julius Schwartz to note that “Every inch of the Earth is bombarded every moment by the mysterious cosmic rays from outer space!

So, taking a page from what he learned from the scientists he spoke to earlier, Green Lantern fabricates a massive green test tube to cover the creature. Almost immediately it seems to be weakening, so GL’s hypothesis appears to have merit. Then, incredibly, as the creature rapidly shrinks, Hal is surprised to be able to hear its thoughts: “I’m grateful, Green Lantern…for what you’re doing…concentration of cosmic energy…evolved me…fantastically fast…I meant no harm…but in trying to control my actions…I clumsily caused destruction…now at last…thanks to you…I am no longer a menace…to myself…or world…” It then reverts back to it’s inert blob-like state.

With the threat neutralized, there is one more thing to be taken care of, and soon Hal arrives back at his car with a doctor to look after Carol Ferris. Later when Hal and Carol are reviewing the headlines, she comments that he couldn’t be Green Lantern as he was wandering around in search of a doctor while GL was battling the creature. Now it’s back to Carol pining away for her hero and wondering how to get him to propose marriage, the endless subplot in these early tales of the ring-slinger. The tale's final panel speaks directly to the readers.

We’ll never know, of course, but I cannot help but wonder if Stan Lee might have read this story and had a seed planted in his cranium. “Cosmic rays…

Meanwhile, I shall keep my fingers crossed that Gaspar Saladino gets the recognition he so richly deserves from the Eisner’s. I’ve done my part.

I love these old GL tales and am always happy to spend time with them. I’m gonna give this classic story a maximum 10 rating and urge you to read any and all of them from this wonderful time period. They’re a great, nostalgic trip back to the space age and the rebirth of our favorite DC heroes and that’s always enjoyable.

Remember to reach out any time you like with comments or feedback. I can always be contacted at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

The next installment of our series hits the world wide web on June 15, so come on back then and if you have a suggestion for a character or series to spotlight, let me know.

Until next time…

Long live the Silver Age!

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