A Tribute to the of

Greetings faithful readers and friends and any newcomers to our corner of the internet.  This particular review commemorates 7, count 'em, 7 years of efforts at The Silver Lantern.  I, for one, am proud of the ever-growing archive section and the diverse offerings we've managed to present to you.  I'm appreciative of the feedback I've received and the opportunities to get to know other fans of the genre and more recently the particular pleasure of being in touch with a few of the creative forces.  It just keeps getting better and I hope we continue to please.  Kudos, as always, to the webmaster, our host and the driving force behind the electrons you see before you. 

As is my custom, I've selected a special story to spotlight this time and it is the annual JLA/JSA crossover adventure in Justice League of America #46 and #47 from August and September of 1966, respectively.  The credits read like a who's who of the Silver Age and begin with the first issues "Crisis Between Earth-One and Earth-Two!"  The cover art was done by long-time JLA artist Mike Sekowsky and Joe Giella (who currently does the Mary Worth comic strip, by the way) with lettering by Ira Schnapp.  Our writer is the ever-reliable Gardner Fox.  Interior pencils are again courtesy of Mike Sekowsky with Sid Greene handling inks and interior lettering by my new friend Mr. Gaspar Saladino. The editor: the one and only Julius Schwartz The credits for "The Bridge Between Earths!" are identical, so on to the first story:  

Our splash page informs us that Earth's One and Two are on a collision course; an anti-matter menace is coming, and Blockbuster and Solomon Grundy are loose.  It sounds like another day at the office for the Justice League and Justice Society of America.  

Initially we join Hawkman as he pursues some fur thieves.  When their truck is enveloped by the fog and the vehicle re-emerges, he's startled to see an armored car and they're firing on him.  He soon swoops in and takes down his assailants, reasoning that they wouldn't be shooting at him if they weren't criminals as well.   

At the same time, on Earth-Two the Sand Car owned and operated by the Sandman is closing in on the truck that has replaced his original quarry of the armored car.  Our text introduces us to this "new" hero:  "Get set for a thrilling treat, fans!  You're about to see Sandman—one of the original members of the Justice Society of America (of Earth-Two) go into action with his special weapon—sand!"  The figure of the Sandman, decked out in a double breasted suit, gloves and fedora and with his face concealed by an old-style gas mask, emerges from his vehicle and uses a pistol-like device called an energy-rod to produce heat and water to interact with some sand and create a cement wall.  After some futile slugs go into the wall, the "Grainy Gladiator" causes the wall to crumble and bringing his unique device into play again converts some of the sand into glass globules that encase the crooks' hands and weapons.       

Another segue brings us to a bank hold-up that's about to be foiled by Dr. Mid-Nite, who is equipped with his new device, a cyrotuber that enables him to manipulate the felon's nervous systems.  When he discovers another thug he uses another anode on the cyrotuber to freeze the gunman's hand and pistol.  Then, inexplicably, he finds himself spinning at a high rate of speed, right into the hands of the Flash of Earth-One, who'd been battling bank robbers there.   

Shifting scenes yet again we find the Masked Manhunter, Batman, mixing it up with some jewel thieves.  He then feels a haymaker cross his chin and discovers himself trading blows with Wildcat of Earth-Two.  The odd switching of stations on the twin Earth's is happening to civilians, too and Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan is surprised to encounter Black Canary.   

As we head out into space, where the JSA's own Disembodied Detective, the Spectre, is about to intercept some asteroids threatening his earth, we see his wraith-like body being whisked away like smoke toward an unknown destination.   

Adding one more wild card, we see the globe prison constructed of Dr. Fate and Alan (Green Lantern) Scott's energies containing Solomon Grundy drifting toward the Earth and shattering.  Part I closes on that macabre scene.  

Part Two brings us to the JLA's secret sanctuary where the Flash, Dr. Mid-Nite, Hawkman, Green Lantern and Black Canary are in attendance.  Comparing notes, they discover the odd transfers taking place between their respective worlds and that they seem to be powerless to move between the world's as they usually can, such as via the power ring of Green Lantern or the super-speed vibrations of the Flash.   

Elsewhere on Earth-One, Solomon Grundy is violently searching for Green Lantern in a murderous rage.  Also, at another location in Gotham City, the Blockbuster is breaking free of his restraints in the Alfred Memorial Foundation facility and is also disappearing before the eyes of the attendant.  He soon finds himself on Earth-Two.  And, just to add more fuel to the fire, we learn that Solomon Grundy, currently hanging out on Earth-One, has managed to absorb some of the powers of both Green Lantern and Dr. Fate from his former prison bubble that was created by them.   

The story pauses briefly to check in with Ray (Atom) Palmer, who is receiving the emergency Justice League signal, but his size and weight controls won't function, thus denying him the opportunity to transform into his super-hero persona.  

The heroes on Earth-One soon encounter Grundy and engage in battle, but are unpleasantly surprised at his stronger capabilities.  The battle is swift and for awhile it looks as though the Marshland Monster will triumph, but the heroes rally and put him down while Hawkman transports him to the top of a nearby mountain of granite.  GL opens a crevasse and the menace is dropped inside and sealed in.   

In the recesses of space and time, the Spectre has his own problems as he encounters a strange being giving off a glow that weakens the Ghostly Guardian.  He senses the creature is from an anti-matter world and determines that he must defeat it before it reaches Earth and causes untold destruction.  Part II ends on that note.  

Part III shows the Spectre and the Anti-Matter Man in the weird realm between Earths and between space and no space.  Somehow the anti-matter man is able to affect the Spectre's body, neutralizing him.  The Spectre soon comes to realize that if the Anti-Matter Man sets foot on either of the Earth's, which he's just noted are on a collision course, he'll blow it to bits.  The Anti-Matter Man continues on his pathway and soon the Spectre is able to regain control of himself and create a barrier of his own massively expanded body between the two worlds.  The question is, how long can he hold on?  

Moving quickly to Earth-Two we see similar circumstances as Earth-One's Batman, Dr. Fate, Wildcat and Sandman are thwarted in their attempts to return the Gotham Goliath to Earth-One.  They then respond to the radio announcement of a throwback running amok in Pinetree City.  The heroes go to investigate and are soon fighting the Blockbuster.  Batman recognizes the hulking man-thing and instantly realizes their only chance of stopping him is by shucking his cowl and letting the Blockbuster see his friend and savior from a near-drowning as Bruce Wayne.  (See Detective Comics #345.)  Unfortunately before Bruce can act, an overzealous Wildcat leaps to the fore and is knocked into Wayne by Blockbuster, knocking them both out.  Sandman tries encasing him in a shatterproof glass block, but apparently it isn't as shatterproof as he'd hoped when the raging gargantuan breaks free.  He is even able to overcome the mighty Dr. Fate in part by calling on the electrical impulses he'd absorbed at the Alfred Memorial Foundation.  Soon, Bruce Wayne revives and as Blockbuster recognizes him he is immediately calmed and happy to see his friend.   

So, while the immediate threats on Earths One and Two are currently neutralized, the question remains, for how long?  And how will our heroes return to their home worlds?  What about the threat of the Anti-Matter Man and the tiring figure of the Spectre?   

Those are the burning issues as this particular issue comes to a close.  

On now to Issue #47 and "The Bridge Between Earths!"  

Things open in an Ivy University Laboratory where Enrichetta Negrini is pleased with the progress of her space warping machine while Ray Palmer is still trying to get his size and weight controls to function.  The lady scientist takes a lunch break and Ray suddenly feels a great deal of heat in his palms.  He deduces that the space warper must be causing it, so he cuts it off and is instantly able to transform into the World's Smallest Super-Hero, the Atom.  Things soon begin happening elsewhere due to the flipping of that fateful switch.  Blockbuster and Solomon Grundy revert to their respective Earth's and Grundy promptly goes on the offensive.  Similarly Blockbuster breaks free of the mountain prison he finds himself in and attacks the heroes of Earth-One.   

Dr. Fate hurries to JSA HQ where he had sensed the glowing of his crystal.  Once there, he sees the predicament of his teammate, the Spectre, who had used the crystal to contact him.  He also sees the Anti-Matter Man making his way toward Earth-Two.  Calling upon his incredible mystical powers, Dr. Fate summons the heroes of both worlds into space for the bigger job at hand, but takes the precaution of providing both an atmosphere and a protective coating of magic so that they can battle the Anti-Matter man without exploding on contact.  Green Lantern comments that he must prevent Solomon Grundy and Blockbuster from doing any more harm while they're away, but it remains to be seen how he'll accomplish this as Part I ends.  

Part II brings all the heroes of Earth-One and Earth-Two to the aid of the Spectre in the sort of netherworld between the two Earths.  Dr. Fate has strengthened the Astral Avenger with a magic booster shot and now it's all out war as the JLA and JSA use all the powers and talents at their disposal to attack the Anti-Matter Man.  Unfortunately for our heroes, the strange being has powers of his own and they soon find themselves in various stages of distress, from Hawkman being wrapped up in his own wings, to Dr. Fate being held in a cage of his magical lightning.  GL is gripped in a giant emerald hand of his own making while the Flash's feet have been enlarged to a useless state.  In typical fashion, however, the heroes use their powers to aid their teammates and soon the majority of them are free or are improvising to continue the battle.   

Their efforts begin to pay off as the Anti-Matter Man is successfully pushed off the back of the Spectre and into space, with our heroes hanging on to ensure they get him safely away from the Earths.  Dr. Fate has been probing the being's mind and has discovered that he's an explorer from his own anti-matter universe.  He also believes that the events he's currently enduring are just hazards of warp-space travel that he'll have to put up with on the way to his destination.   

Back at Ivy University the Atom is checking out the space-warp machine when he discovers through the helix the drama occurring between the two Earths.  Realizing the gravity of the situation, he shrinks himself down to molecular size to go through the energy screen and into warp-time.  His calculations are good as he finds himself right in front of the wearying Spectre.  The Atom has a bold plan.  He proposes to shrink the Disembodied Detective to an inch and then expand him with the aid of an extra set of his size and weigh controls.  Unfortunately there is a risk he'll blow up, but the Astral Avenger does not hesitate to assent to the task.  Palmer shrinks down into the subatomic universe and instructs the Ghostly Guardian to give him a mental command when he's ready.  He places the controls and upon the Spectre's signal, activates them first to shrink and then expand the JSA member.  There is a titanic explosion that sends both planets back into their original orbits.  A saddened Ray Palmer expands out, grateful the plan worked, but despairing the loss of the Spectre when he realizes the Ghostly Guardian has managed to re-gather the psycho-matter that makes up his presence via spiritual-magnetic attraction.  The pair head back for the place in space where their comrades are still battling, ending Part II.  

Part III opens in dramatic fashion with the shock waves from the explosion having finally reached the Anti-Matter Man, flinging him back into his own universe.   

There is still some mopping up to do, though as Solomon Grundy and the Blockbuster are still at large.  Green Lantern comments that he hedged the bet by using his power ring to bring the two together and keep them occupied battling each other.   

The heroes arrive back at the place where the two behemoths are trading blows just in time to see them simultaneously cold cock one another.  Strangely, though, when they regain consciousness they've lost their hatred toward one another and the assembled heroes  

On that note, the story closes, with each set of heroes and one former menace each going home.      

As was customary with these now annual traditions, Gardner Fox's team-up tales introduced more members of the Justice Society of America to a new generation in a piecemeal fashion.  On this, the fourth outing, the "newbie's" were the Sandman, the Spectre and Wildcat.  This was actually the first Silver Age appearance of the Sandman, the third of the Spectre and the second of Wildcat, though I suppose that is somewhat subject to debate.  Allow me to explain.  Wildcat first appeared in the Silver Age in the Brave and the Bold #62, the October/November 1965 edition, available in the archives, but the story itself, much like the Showcase appearances by fellow JSA members Dr. Fate and Hourman, aren't specific in their timeframe.  Still, the issues were clearly from the Silver Age, so I think it's safe to assume this is the second S.A. appearance of Wildcat.   

While Wildcat has been sort of a second stringer over his career, he has managed to hold on and he even had some significant appearances in the JLU animated series, one of which, "The Cat And The Canary", suggested that he had trained Black Canary.  His origin is kind of interesting and he was yet another creation of Bill Finger, who, as you well know, co-created the Batman and the original Green Lantern, among others. 

As a little bonus, I thought I'd give you a thumbnail sketch of his debut appearance in Sensation Comics #1, from January of 1942.  My reprint lists the credits as Bill Finger as writer, Irwin Hasen as artist (though the splash page has them listed in reverse order, i.e. "By Irwin Hasen and Bill Finger,") and colorist Tom Ziuko.   

We learn that "Henry Grant kept his promise from almost the day he was born.  Ted Grant was coached in the knowledge of sports and self-defense…from public school to college, he became a No. 1 man in sports!  Yet in one sport his skill surpassed the others…boxing!"  

Young Ted harbored hopes of being a doctor, but his dreams were dashed with the death of his parents, leaving him penniless and despite moving to "the big city" he couldn't find work.  One night he came upon a mugging and jumped in, using his sparring skills to rescue Socker Smith, the heavyweight champion, who promptly offers him work as his sparring partner.  Noting Ted's skill, he introduces him to his managers, Flint and Skinner, who arrange a series of bouts where he excels.  Grant soon realizes that some of his fights are set-ups and he approaches Socker about it.  The two fighters confront the management team and they shrug that they're just trying to make the kid look good, but after awhile the public wants to see the new rookie get a shot at the title.  To stir the pot, the managers slip a tip to the press that it's a grudge match as Ted supposedly has eyes for Smith's fiancée, Joan Fortune.  They again blow it off as publicity, but in order to feather their own nests they slip a needle into Ted's glove between rounds and after the kayo it is discovered that Smith was murdered via a poisoned needle.  Grant is arrested and taken away, but he realizes the source and says so to the crooked managers who apparently miscalculated the dosage and now need to silence Ted before he alerts the Commissioner.  A car is dispatched to smash into the police car, sending it hurtling down into the gorge below, but later, a very shaken but very much alive Ted Grant emerges.  The next day he reads the news, which reports that he has escaped and is a fugitive of justice.  Wondering what to do next, Ted pounds the pavement and encounters a young boy bawling about some big guy taking his comic magazine just as he was beginning to read The Green Lantern.  (Product placement is not a new idea, folks.)  Ted asks who the Green Lantern is and the boy explains he's a costumed crime fighter.  Grant asks if the costume is a disguise and the boy explains that it is.  He gives the youngster a dollar bill as payment for "food for thought" and the delighted boy says he can buy Flash comics, too.  At 10 cents a pop, he certainly could.  Lucky kid…

The next night a costumed figure enters an apartment window and Wildcat confronts the second from the boxing match, demanding a written confession and cuffing him around for emphasis.  Wildcat then takes to the roofs until arriving at his next destination of the evening, an apartment containing Flint and Skinner.  He again persuades a written confession and the next day's news proclaims the innocence of Ted Grant.  He then presents himself to the police to tell them that he'd been put up by some costumed fellow called Wildcat, who promised to clear his name.  As this 10-page origin story ends, Ted notes the rampant crime in the city being reported in the newspaper and says that, "Maybe this won't be the end of Wildcat!  Maybe Wildcat will walk again!"

When I first cracked this story I thought that both Solomon Grundy and Blockbuster were creations of Gardner Fox.  I was half right.  He introduced us to the Blockbuster in Detective Comics #345 the year before this story came out, but Solomon Grundy, who'd first shown his pasty face in another Fox story in Showcase#55, was the brainchild of Alfred Bester, an accomplished science fiction writer, in All American Comics #61.  Even though both characters didn't belong to Gardner, they did complement one another rather well as two hulking, mindless menaces.

Rating time again.  I'm afraid I didn't enjoy this particular crossover as much as the prior 3 outings.  Some of it was the artwork.  I generally find Mike Sekowsky's work to be good, but something about his depiction of Solomon Grundy left me cold.  It could be because when I think of the character I inevitably think of his battle with Dr. Fate and Hourman in the aforementioned Showcase #55.  Murphy Anderson's version of him set a standard for me, and Mike's just looked sort of like an overweight raccoon.  In a few instance the Blockbuster looked a bit out of proportion, too and seemed more like a Jenny Craig drop-out than a muscular menace, and the Anti-Matter Man was just kind of weird.  A silent, striding threat that seemed as mindless as the earthbound villains.  The double kayo and suddenly reformed Blockbuster and Grundy at the end didn't do much for me, either

I'll give this 2-part story an 8.  It just didn't quite live up to its predecessors as far as I'm concerned.

Year eight of this feature begins in approximately two weeks.  Much, much more is yet to come, so rejoin us then and use the wonders of technology to contact me with your questions and comments.  Drop a line to professor_the@hotmail.com and gimme that feedback.

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2007 by B.D.S.

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