A Tribute to the of

Welcome back, readers.  As promised last time around I've selected another milestone issue of the Justice League of America as this edition's feature.  It's the November 1964 issue, #31, entitled "Riddle of the Runaway Room!"  The story is by Gardner Fox with pencils by Mike Sekowsky and inks courtesy of Bernard Sachs.  Editorial chores were accomplished by Julius Schwartz and finally the storyline itself features the induction of the League's latest member, Hawkman.

Things begin as they often do, with a crime being committed.  In this particular instance the Shore City bank is being knocked over by a trio of men who have strange hoops suspended around them.  A security guard and two policemen open fire on the bandits, but the slugs fail to reach their mark, seemingly disappearing.  Minutes later, as the men emerge from the bank; superheroes arrive to include the Flash, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Hawkman.  By turns they attempt to subdue the criminals, but each is thwarted by the influence of the hoops, be it power ring, magic lasso, super-speed windstorm, an old-fashioned right cross from Batman or a sling-delivered projectile from Hawkman.  The crooks calmly clamber into their car and leave while the puzzled heroes try to understand how their efforts vanished into thin air.  Batman comments that his hand and arm are tingling, but are otherwise okay.

The other question, of course, is why is Hawkman fighting side by side with the JLA when he isn't a member?  Well, we backtrack through the magic of comics to a few hours before where we see Hawkman and his wife, Hawkgirl, entertaining some orphans at their home base of Midway City.  They're pulling gifts from a grab bag for them when Hawkman feels something that is apparently alive and pulls none other than the Atom from the bag.  He exclaims that they've not seen one another since teaming up to defeat the Thalen's.  Editor Schwartz reminds us that was in the Atom's title, #7 dated June-July 1963 to be exact and titled "Case of the Cosmic Camera!"  (Another fine offering available in the Sage Archives, by the way.)  The Mighty Mite replies that he decided to surprise him, just like Hawkman is doling out surprises to the youngsters.  The Winged Wonder introduces The World's Smallest Super-Hero to Shiera and then the Atom makes a surprise announcement.  He's been sent to invite Hawkman to become a member of the Justice League of America!  The children erupt in joy and the Atom takes a moment to speak directly to Hawkgirl, begging her forbearance as the by-laws only allow one new member at a time.  She interrupts, stating that she is honored that her husband and leader of their two-person team is being accepted into the League. [Hawkgirl is granted membership in JLA #146, September, 1977.]

Later, Hawkman has taken to the skies with the Atom as his guide.  Soon they're over a mountain range and the Tiny Titan directs Hawkman to a particular peak when he activates his signal device revealing the secret mountain hideaway to JLA HQ.

The Aerial Ace is quickly greeted by those in attendance, to include Green Lantern, J'onn J'onzz, Aquaman, Green Arrow, the Flash, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and of course the honorary member Snapper Carr.  Hawkman comments that he's worked with both the Atom and Aquaman (in Brave and the Bold #51 December '63-January '64) and looks forward to working with the rest of the assembled team.  Wonder Woman then presents him with a plaque testifying to his deeds and inducting him into the Justice League of America.  She also gives him his own signal device, containing an emergency signal, communicating device (no cell phone or e-mail yet, folks) and the electronic impulse that opens the mountain lock of the hideaway.  After a little social time, Aquaman, the Atom, Superman, Green Arrow and J'onn J'onzz excuse themselves as they have cases to work on while Snapper remembers a calculus test he needs to study for, so soon it's down to just the other five members when they get the call to respond to the bank robbery.

We now return to the present and Green Lantern is frustrated to discover that the strange force from the hoops seems to extend to the getaway car as he cannot stop them from leaving.  The heroes then note that shots are being fired inside the bank and they rush inside to investigate.  They find that bullets are flying every which way, but from no apparent source.  As they deflect them in their own unique ways it occurs to the Justice League that these are the same bullets fired by the police and security about 10 minutes ago in an attempt to subdue the bank robbers.  Hawkman suggests that he fly off to try and catch up to the getaway car while the others mop up here.  They agree and are soon busily executing countermeasures to the efforts they put up earlier.  The missing huge bowling ball that GL had conjured, for example, is now rolling down the sidewalk toward innocent bystanders.  He captures it with a power ring generated bowling bag while Wonder Woman and the Flash intercept her lasso toss and counteract his windstorm.  Batman pulls two teens out of the path of his disembodied fist and then things settle down.  Now it's time to catch up with their newest member and as a tribute to the Winged Wonder, GL creates emerald wings for the Flash, Wonder Woman and Batman.

As they converge on Hawkman, Wonder Woman comments that apparently he hasn't devised a plan to overcome the crooks.  The Winged Wonder replies that actually he has come up with a plan, advising them to watch.  In the next moment the getaway car experiences a four-tire blowout.  Hawkman states that he realized the hoops used by the criminals create a "time-field" that projects everything in the sphere of the hoops 10 minutes into the future.  With that in mind, Hawkman envisioned that the road being traveled by the car had to be the road as it will be 10 minutes from now.  He will, therefore, scatter nails and glass on the road in about 9 minutes to cause the blowout and crash they're now witnessing.  Flash asks what would happen if Hawkman failed to do so and the Thanagarian simply replies that he must, as the physical evidence before them demands it.  Hawkman then directs his teammates further:  "All you have to do now is put your hands inside the "time-field" and wait ten minutes!  Since the crooks have been knocked out and can't move, your hands in the future will be able to catch up to them—grab hold and—yank them out of the hoops!"

While they wait, Hawkman proceeds to scatter the debris on the roadway and then, about 10 minutes later, the disembodied hands of the Flash, Wonder Woman and Batman appear and pull the thugs from the hoops, which fall harmlessly to the ground.  GL attempts a mind probe on the criminals to learn the secret of the hoops, but comes up dry.  The JLA then collect the hoops and return to their secret sanctuary to examine them in more detail.  They continue to be thwarted in their efforts though as the hoops seem to have become "grounded" when the crooks were pulled from them.  Then, in the next startling moment, the JLA experience a violent shuddering akin to an earthquake.  The top of the mountain blows off and a fragment of the hide-out hurtles skyward, containing the section of the floor below the conference table along with the table and chairs and the 5 members seated there.  The force of the ascension is causing them to lose consciousness and for Part I to close.

Part II introduces us to Joe Parry, a small-potatoes crook who is watching the plight of the League on a monitor in his dilapidated house near the seashore.  Beside him on the table is an alien machine that looks for the entire world like a futuristic coffee urn.  Apparently Parry had discovered the device half-buried in the sand of the seashore.  He fiddled with it a bit and didn't know what use it could be when his cat happened by, begging some milk.  Joe said there wasn't any to be had and while addressing the animal his elbow brushed against the handle of the machine.  Abruptly a saucer of milk appeared, though it was yellow in color.

Following a suspicion, Joe touches the handle of the device again and orders it to give him money.  A panel opens on the side and a goodly quantity of golden colored triangles pour out.  Parry wonders if it's currency from the point of origin of the machine and decides to try to learn more.  Soon an electronic "voice" is issuing forth in answer to his queries:  "I was created on the planet Pthisthin, a monochromatic world—where only the color yellow is known!  I am a Panacomputer.  I manufacture objects as commanded from ingredients in a separate dimension to which I am joined!  When the spaceship in which I was being transported from Pthisthin to a colony planet met with a cosmic disaster, it crashed on your world, long ago.  Recently an earth tremor thrust me out of the sand where I had lain buried for thousands of your years.  Soon after, you came along."  Joe, who is obviously not the sharpest tool in the shed, managed to comprehend the function of the machine and suggests that it provide his friends with protection from danger.  The machine obliges with time-field hoops "…which Pthinsthinian space explorers wear to ward off dangers on strange worlds."  Now, supplied with the monitor from the amazing alien device, Joe was able to keep tabs on the robbery and subsequent triumph of the Justice League over his friends.  A panicky Parry tells the machine to destroy the League.  It asks for clarification of how earth people die.  He states that death comes when breathing stops and the machine decides that it shall hurl Joe's enemies into the vacuum of space, robbing them of life-giving air.  It will form and apply a gravi-resistonater.

So it is that Joe is able to observe the results of his command, monitoring the ascent of the Justice Leaguers into the upper atmosphere, where they lose consciousness and begin to tumble from their chairs in the powerful winds of the upper atmosphere.  Indeed, they begin to tumble from the floor fragment itself as Part II ends.

Part III shows the League members instinctively reaching for one another and regaining enough of their faculties to scramble back to the floating mass while Green Lantern uses his ring to create a saving air canopy.  He cannot, however, reverse the course of their temporary sanctuary.  Hawkman decides to see if he can assist via his anti-gravity belt.  He reverses the polarity, causing it to be attracted rather than repelled toward a planetary body and soon they are in descent.  GL decides that perhaps an invisible yellow force hurled them upward, thwarting his ring, but being sufficiently blocked by the floor to allow his creation of the air canopy.  Hawkman confirms his teammate's theory as he can see the yellow force with his special contact lenses.

Once they land, Hawkman continues to use the lenses to track the yellow beam back to its source.  At that source, Joe Parry is nearly in panic mode as he can see the progress of the League on his monitor.  He grips the handle of the machine and commands that the device create a "Super-Duper" character to protect him.  He instructs it to be composed of the legs of the Flash, the athletic torso of Batman, the head and lasso of Wonder Woman, the arms and power ring of Green Lantern and the wings of Hawkman.  The bizarre creature appears and Joe orders it out of the house to destroy the Justice League.

Using the super-speed of the Flash the conglomerate creature rushes the JLA, who are surprised, but prepared to engage.  Hawkman notes that it is made from the same yellow invisible force that he'd tracked to this point.  Wonder Woman is the first to try by tossing her magic lasso at the creature, but the abilities of the Batman and Flash allow it to leap through the loop untouched.  It then drums super fast feet into the Amazon princess, putting her down for the count.

Next up is the Fastest Man Alive, using his super speed to hurl a shower of pebbles at the menace, only to have them repelled back at him by the beating wings on its back.  Batman makes his move, but his powerful right cross is handily deflected by the nearly invulnerable jaw of "Wonder Woman" and then "Super Duper" retaliates with a high speed head butt to the midsection felling the Dark Knight.  Without skipping a beat, the super foe unfurls its own lasso, roping Green Lantern and slamming him to terra firma.  Now only Hawkman remains.  He rushes the creature, while it brings the power ring to bear.  Hawkman thinks that there is but one way to defeat it, but in the next instant he crashes heavily to the ground.

An elated Joe Parry bursts from his house and commands Super Duper to use the lasso to rope the conference table and floor.  He then loads the kayoed Justice Leaguers onto it and issues a follow-up command to the being to use the power ring to send the JLA into space once and for all.  The broken flooring then rises above the triumphant howl of Joe Parry.

Meanwhile aboard that bit of flooring, Hawkman rises and again activates his gravity belt.  His thoughts reveal that he only pretended to be felled by the power ring as he had deduced the yellow force that powered the creature would not allow the power ring to work, so he not only feigned succumbing, but also was the cause of the rising table and floor.  He now sends the floor into practically a free fall that lands directly on top of the alien creation, who has futilely attempted to use the power ring on it.  Hawkman swoops into the fleeing Joe Parry before he can reach the machine and conjure up another weapon.

The other members now fully revived investigate the alien device, but it no longer functions, having seemingly run out of power.  As an unintended demonstration, the "Super Duper" fades from reality as well.  Parry is taken to the authorities, lamenting that he wasn't smart enough to use the machine to its greatest advantage and the debut of Hawkman in the Justice League is a smashing success.  Chalk up one more for the Justice League of America.

This story was reprinted in Justice League of America #67, 80pg. GIANT G-53, dated November-December 1968.     

Any character that has been around for decades is bound to undergo some evolution and Hawkman is no exception.  As one of the handful of Golden Age characters who were resurrected in the Silver Age, he's been under the care of artists as diverse as Joe Kubert, Gil Kane, Howard Purcell, Carmine Infantino, Murphy Anderson, Johnny Craig, Mike Sekowsky and Dick Dillin.  In fact, according to the All-Star Companion, a book that analyzes the run of the Justice Society of America in All-Star Comics, the way Joe Kubert drew Hawkman for that series led to the untangling of some mixed continuity during the venerable title's run. In 1948 toward the end of All-Star, with #42 they'd revamped Hawkman somewhat, taking away the Hawk helmet altogether and replacing it with a sort of cowl that merely had a hawk symbol on the forehead. This change also carried over to Hawkman's adventures in Flash Comics beginning with #98; this page gives an illustrated overview of Hawkman's costume alterations throughout the Golden Age. When he was brought back by Gardner Fox, Julius Schwartz and Joe Kubert in the pages of the Brave and the Bold #34 (also to be found in the archives), he initially had the hawk's head again, but it was missing the wings, which he "earned" later in Brave and the Bold #42, the June-July '62 issue.  In the current "Justice" series, particularly issue #7, Alex Ross gives him his usual amazing realism with the classic garb, but enhanced the eyes to look more fowl-like.  When he depicted the character in the graphic novel "Kingdom Come", he did something really radical in making Hawkman a man-like hawk (complete with talons) that ultimately perished.  So, as you can see, some interesting things have been done with a hero who really has some rather unremarkable "powers."  He flies with the aid of non-organic wings and an anti-gravity belt, has the ability to communicate with birds much like Aquaman addresses marine life and uses ancient weaponry and cunning to defeat his foes.  While he's typically been more of a second-stringer he has hung in there and will always have a place in the DC mythos.

This story contained some pretty good components.  I liked the alien machine and it almost seemed as though it was put in "reserve" for a possible future return appearance.  Joe Parry was nothing to write home about, though.  The "Super Duper" made me think of the Composite Superman that Batman and Superman tackled in World's Finest #142 & #168; both former occupants of this space but now known as Sage #8 and Sage #11.  Pretty good stuff overall, but not the best I've ever seen in a JLA story, so this one gets an 8. "If you write it, they will come," or at least that's always our hope here at The Silver Lantern.  Do keep coming back as there will be yet another effort here for your reading pleasure in about two weeks.  In the mean time, my e-mail is at your disposal, so keep those notes coming at:  professor_the@hotmail.com.

Until then…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2006 by B.D.S.

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