A Tribute to the of
"Back by popular demand!" How many repeat appearances have been heralded with that phrase? I could probably apply it to this edition of the Silver Age Sage, but I'm not completely sure it applies. While this is an encore, it came directly on the heels of the debut appearance and even with a bi-monthly outing of the comic book, I'm not sure the fine folks at DC had adequate time to get feedback on the initial story to create demand for a follow up.
Awright, enough pussyfooting around. I'm dipping back into the archives a bit for another terrific team-up. This time marks the second (and final, outside the company of the rest of the Justice Society of America) silver age appearance of Starman and Black Canary in Brave and the Bold #62, the October/November edition of 1965. Their first team up was, of course in B&B #61, available for your viewing pleasure in the archives and yet again we have the able talents of editor Julius Schwartz, Gardener Fox in the writer's chair and Murphy Anderson providing his usual exquisite and realistic art when our heroes face off with a pair of formidable villains in "The Big Super-Hero Hunt!" An added bonus in this story is the first silver age appearance of another JSA stalwart, Wildcat.
Our tale of adventure opens at the annual sportsman's show in Federal City, where the spectators are admiring a number of wax mannequins, each an example of athletic endeavor. To the surprise of the onlookers, one of the figures begins to move, crack and finally shatter to reveal a bizarre figure. A man decked out in full fisherman's garb including a wicker creel and fishing rod (no explanation as to how those were concealed, too, but let's not get lost in the weeds here), hip waders and a face obscured by a sort of black handkerchief with eye-holes is soon making a perfect cast for the Parker Trophy. He is the Sportsmaster, expert at all forms of sport and he is not finished yet. His next cast strikes a wax figure of a tennis player, releasing solid tennis balls that fly out into the frightened crowd. The next barrage comes from a similarly rigged figure of a bowler, which, you guessed it, sends bowling balls hurtling into the security forces.
Meanwhile, one level down, the lovely Dinah Lance is seated with the director of the sportsman's show at an elegant dining area, apologizing for the absence of her husband, Larry, whose security forces are currently dodging flying objects, unbeknownst to the diners. That situation is soon to be remedied as they make their way upstairs in time to see the Sportsmaster do a quick change from fishing gear to a modified skiing outfit featuring jet-propelled skis that allow the villain to leave the facility in low-level flight. The Sportsmaster gloats to himself that he's the only costumed villain who masquerades in a uniform to suit the occasion. He reminisces briefly about tangles with Green Lantern (obviously the Golden Age Green Lantern, Alan Scott) and makes good his escape. Dinah Lance does not take things lying down, though and once she is in the privacy of a deserted lounge room she soon does a transformation of her own into the Black Canary.
From the action, we fade to the estate of Ted Knight, not far away in Federal City as he looks out upon his recently completed project with great satisfaction. The business tycoon and amateur astronomer (and the superhero known as Starman) has set up models of the great astronomical observatories of the world. He now has scale duplicates of the observatory at Jaipur, India; Herschel's telescope and the massive dome of Mount Palomar. Best of all is the crown jewel, a full-sized replica of the Pekin observatory. Admiring this marvel of Chinese engineering, Ted hears a distressed voice crying out. As he rushes to investigate he realizes that the Pekin observatory is built in the form of a maze that he isn't yet familiar with. To solve the problem he shucks his tux in favor of the scarlet uniform of the astral avenger, Starman and uses the star-powered cosmic rod to take to the skies and expedite his search. He soon finds himself at a barred cage in the heart of the observatory and discovers the prone figure of Wildcat, his old teammate from the Justice Society of America. As he comes in for a landing he doesn't realize he's being observed by The Huntress (another Golden Age character in her first Silver Age appearance.) She is surprised, but pleased to see the arrival of Starman and vows to add him to her collection.
In the next moment, the Huntress deploys a flock of falcons to try and take down Starman. Knight flies up higher and scans the skies, finding a tool he can use in the form of a shooting star. He uses the cosmic rod to harness the power of the meteor and shatters it, raining down fiery fragments to discourage the birds of prey. The Huntress, meanwhile, utters a shrill bird-like cry to her winged minions, directing their flight pattern. Starman's next technique directs the power of starlight to freeze the birds in blocks of ice, but he can't encase them all. His next step is to utilize the aurora borealis, creating a multi-colored curtain between him and the predators.
While Ted has been engaged, the Huntress is making a getaway to rendezvous with the Sportsmaster. Knight follows, but he doesn't spot the recently landed Sportsmaster who quickly pulls one of his skis off and hurls it like a javelin at the airborne hero. His aim is true and the blow to Starman's temple knocks him from the sky. Black Canary, who has just pulled up in her high-powered car, witnesses the scene and she soon tackles the Sportsmaster, following up with an airplane spin that sends him flying. Pausing momentarily, the Blonde Bombshell doesn't notice the Huntress advancing from behind as Part One comes to its conclusion.
Part Two has the Huntress in attack mode. "Nobody can do that to my husband, Black Canary—especially you!" The Sportsmaster, meanwhile, struggles to free himself from the turf where one of his skis has impaled itself from his rough landing. Black Canary quickly recovers from the Huntress' onslaught and using her tremendous athletic abilities she soon turns the tables on the ferocious female feline, knocking a tree branch into her midsection. Before she can follow up, however, Sportsmaster intervenes and sends the Blonde Bombshell sprawling into the tree where she temporarily loses consciousness. The two felons decide to take advantage and beat a hasty retreat in a nearby speedboat. As the jet-powered craft blasts across the lake, the duo compares notes. Sportsmaster has, of course, nabbed the Parker trophy while the Huntress has captured Wildcat. They continue to lay plans for their next siege while a revived Black Canary links up with Starman. After a quick discussion, Starman suggests their first stop must be to free Wildcat. Unfortunately, when the pair arrives at the Pekin Observatory, their fellow hero is gone. Having no idea where to look for him, they return to the banks of the lake where Sportsmaster has left his jet-powered skis behind in hopes that he'll soon return for them.
Finally at dawn the skis activate by remote control and fly into the sky with Starman and Black Canary in close pursuit. They eventually arrive at a hidden chalet where a hurried search reveals a large cellar and prison. Within one of the cages is Wildcat, who disgustedly announces that on his first case since coming out of retirement he is made a prisoner. His fellow JSA members release him, but they then discover that by opening the door to his cage, the other cage doors are activated and a host of wild animals is also released. Wildcat, alias Ted Grant, former boxing heavyweight champion of the world, takes on a kangaroo with his pile driver punching. He no sooner dispatches it than a polar bear makes its presence known from behind. A terrific left levels the bear while Starman takes on a black panther and then a wild boar by using the moon beams from the cellar window to power his cosmic rod. Black Canary has been equally busy with a huge ape, but her judo skills serve her well when she tosses the beast back into its cage. Once the three heroes get a chance to breathe, Starman again uses his amazing rod to create a wall of flame, sending the remaining animals back to their cells.
Fade now to the cunning criminals who are out on a golf course. Sportsmaster causes the green to rise into the air with a secret switch while the Huntress explains her plan to bag her three heroes. She let Wildcat overhear where they would be and he will lead Starman and Black Canary to them and their trap!
At this point the reader is advised: "Story continues on 4th page following!" At the bottom of the page, #18, there's an ad promoting Green Lantern #40 and The Flash #156 and proclaiming that which we fans know so well: "For The Very Best (DC logo is pictured) in Comics Reading". On the next page, company mascot Johnny DC makes a subscription pitch: "Boys & Girls..10 issues of your favorite magazines for only $1.00!" Next comes the text feature, "Origins of Wildcat, The Huntress and Sportsmaster". It is reproduced in its entirety HERE.
The final ad page entices you with: "102 Ships Of All Nations! Only $1.49!" and "100 Magnets All Brand New Only 79˘". Now on to the conclusion of the story!
Part III finds the husband and wife team working their way toward the golf course on their floating green. Sportsmaster is teeing off several golf balls to knock the players out as he seeks the tournament's prize; a golf bag filled with $100,000.00.
Segue back to the chalet where a heated discussion between the two Ted's is going on. Ted (Wildcat) Grant is giving Ted (Starman) Knight what for over the decision to leave Wildcat to guard the chalet while Starman and Black Canary seek out the Sportsmaster and Huntress. Finally resigned to his lot, a grumbling Wildcat stands fast while the Astral Avenger takes to the skies again with the Blonde Bombshell holding tightly to his other hand.
In the next panel, they converge on the criminals and Sportsmaster hurls his golfing hat at Starman. The cosmic rod is rapidly brought into play, using the energy of the sun to create an oversized tennis racket that volleys the cap weapon back at the Sportsmaster. "Trying the "Goldfinger" hat trick, eh?" You've got to love those topical references. The sports ace narrowly misses his own exploding cap and he next launches the cup pole, which is secretly a guided missile at Starman while Black Canary chases down the Huntress below on the golf course. In the next startling instant, Black Canary is caught in a disguised pit. The Huntress then reverses course and launches herself at our hero, grasping her wrists and flipping over Black Canary, flinging her under the floating green of her husband. Starman is dodging the missile and realizes the villains are trying to guide both he and his partner beneath the green. He uses his cosmic rod to blast three large divots out of the turf. One strikes Black Canary, slowing her flight path and allowing her to change her trajectory to intercept the Huntress. Another divot strikes Sportsmaster, sending him off the edge of his flying green and into Starman's waiting fist. Now both husband and wife are under the very green they were trying to maneuver the heroes toward. The third divot takes out the guided missile and Starman drops onto the green, using his rod yet again to activate the trap. Steel bars descend from the green trapping the Huntress and Sportsmaster as they collide.
The final panel brings us back full circle to the reconvened Sportsman's show where Ted Grant presents the Parker trophy to the true deserving athlete. The story ends on that tranquil note.
I found this to be a very enjoyable story with plenty of action, a couple of good twists and another chance to see some classic DC heroes strut their stuff. While Wildcat had a very minor role, it was interesting to see him reintroduced to a new audience in the Silver Age. Furthermore, this is also the only instance I'm aware of when we have a husband and wife pair of villains in the Sportsmaster and Huntress. That particular scenario has the potential to create an interesting dynamic as you would expect them to have a loyalty to one another that is generally absent in other super villain team-ups. I think a future story having them face off with the husband and wife team of Hawkman and Hawkgirl would have had some fascinating potential.
This second pairing of Starman and Black Canary was a good read overall. I do appreciate the immense talents of Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson. They were truly standout greats in this memorable time of comic book history. A rating of 9 is served up for their efforts.
Journey along with us again in about two weeks for another trip backward in time. More classic tales await, as does my mailbox. Write to me at: email@example.com.
Long live the Silver Age!
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