Deck Log Entry # 238 The Silver-Age Challenge---the Cape and Cowl Contest . . . Answers!

O.K., pencils down!

 

This quiz proved more challenging to you folks than I thought it would.  You see, Jeff of Earth-J’s instincts were spot-on when he said that the question about Hawkgirl’s earrings was familiar.  I had mentioned it before---but not in a previous Silver-Age Challenge.  I believe I asked the same question in one of those Jeopardy!-style quizzes that I ran on the main board twenty or so years ago.  Along those lines, two other questions would’ve rung some bells, as it involved material I discussed in previous Deck Log Entries.  I used one of them deliberately; the other was an oversight.  So, I was expecting you long-time veterans to put paid to all ten questions in a brief time.

 

I got a couple of good ones in, though.  As the old-timers know, I don’t employ trick questions---no “How many sides does a circle have?” nonsense.  But I frequently set up “traps”.  In other words, the actual correct response isn’t the answer most folks immediately think of.  I set up two of those kind of questions in this offering.  The right answer to one of them, you guys finally worked out.  The other one, however, was on track to be one of those rare questions that stumps everybody.

 

. . . Until Irma Kruhl rode into town.  All I can say is, “Wow, what an entrance!”  Not only did she provide that last elusive answer, she gave correct answers to all of the questions she did tackle.  Moreover, in doing so, she did my job.

 

When I finally unveil the correct answers, I include the background details which give them that hey-I-didn’t-know-that! quality.  That’s what makes the challenge fun (or, at least, I hope so).  But, in her answers, Miss Kruhl supplied that information, as well.  If she hadn’t skipped a few of the questions, this Deck Log Entry would simply been:  “What she said.”

 

I’m definitely going to have to raise my game next summer.  Well done, Irma, and again, we’re glad you’re here!

 

Not that the rest of you were slouches.  You fellows nailed eighty per cent of the questions right off.

 

So, let’s get to it, shall we?

 

1.  The story “The Monarch of Menace” from Detective Comics # 350 (Apr., 1966) contained what glaring error in the Batman’s costume?

 

In 1984, DC tried to persuade us that the stories of the Earth-One Batman began with Detective Comics # 327 (May, 1964).  At least that’s what the entry for the Caped Crusader of Earth-One from Who’s Who: the Definitive Directory of the DC Universe # 2 (Apr., 1985) insisted.  Detective Comics  # 327 was the issue that introduced the “New Look” Batman---a reïnvigoration of the company’s second-most popular character, who had languished in the early ‘60’s.  The only visual change to the Batman that accompanied this shift in approach was the addition of a yellow ellipse around bat-insignia on the hero’s chest.

 

It's easy to guess what the suits at DC were thinking.  After several years of foot-dragging, the Batman of Earth-Two, to whom the 1940’s bat-tales could be attributed, had finally made some contemporaneous “on-camera” appearances, beginning with a cameo in Justice League of America # 82 (Aug., 1970).  As a visual distinction, the Earth-Two Batman was rendered with the original oval-less bat-emblem on his costume.

 

With Who’s Who’s insistence that the Earth-One version began with Detective Comics # 327, DC was attempting to draw a clean demarcation between the two Batmen:  yellow oval = Batman of Earth-One; no oval = Batman of Earth-Two.  The conceit was that the costume of the Earth-One Caped Crusader had always boasted the yellow-oval bat-emblem.

 

Whomever came up with that idea hadn’t thought things through, not even a little bit.  First, the Batman, with his original, no-oval bat-insignia, had been a member of the Justice League of America from the beginning, and the JLA, which was launched in The Brave and the Bold # 28 (Feb.-Mar., 1960), was strictly an Earth-One concept.  So the Earth-One Batman had to have existed well before 1964’s New Look.

 

More telling, though, were the occasional stories that self-referenced the change in the Earth-One Batman’s chest emblem.  For example, the lead stories in World’s Finest Comics # 141 (May, 1964) and Detective Comics # 360 (Feb., 1967).  One tale, “Batman’s Baffling Turnabout”, from Batman # 183 (Aug., 1966), was even plotted around it.

 

In all fairness, though, even then, the matter of the Earth-One Batman’s insignia was sometimes difficult to keep straight.  At least, on one occasion it was---and that brings us . . . I know, I know, “at last” . . . to the correct answer to the first question.

 

“The Monarch of Menace”, from Detective Comics # 350 (Apr., 1966), tells of a costumed villain whom, early in his career, the Batman had failed to capture.  In the first chapter of the tale, Bruce Wayne relates the embarrassing account of that defeat to Dick Grayson.  Unlike most bat-villains, the Monarch of Menace had been smart enough to quit while he was ahead and retired on his ill-gotten gains.  That was one reason why Dick had never heard of him.  The other reason was because the Gotham Gangbuster’s encounter with the Monarch of Menace occurred before the youngster began his career as Robin, the Boy Wonder.

"This all happened a long time ago," Bruce explains, "before you joined me in fighting crime!"

Yet, in the lengthy flashback sequence, the Batman is depicted wearing his yellow-ellipse insignia, something which he didn’t don until long after he took on Robin as his partner in crime-fighting. 

 

Big time artist error, and editor Julius Schwartz missed it!  But die-hard fan Steve A. Markel, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, didn’t.  His letter pointing out the gaffe was printed in the Batman’s Hot-Line letter column of Detective Comics # 354 (Aug., 1966):

 

To his credit, Mr. Schwartz ‘fessed up to allowing the mistake to slip through.  But, almost in the same breath, he tried to divert the readers’ attention to the upcoming “Batman’s Baffling Turnabout”, which, as I pointed out, made hay out of the two bat-insignia.

 

I thought this one would be fairly tough, but Peter Wrexham knew it right off.  So did Fraser Sherman and Irma Kruhl.

 

 

2.  What issue of what comic title contained the first permanent changes to the X-Men’s uniforms?

 

This was one of the “snare” type of questions that I mentioned above.  When one talks about the first change in the X-Men’s uniforms, the initial thought is to go to X-Men # 39 (Dec., 1967), when the team members acquired individual costumes.  But, as Richard Willis and Irma Kruhl knew, their uniforms saw an earlier modification---in “Re-enter: the Mimic”, from X-Men # 27 (Dec., 1966).

 

This was a prime example of Miss Kruhl’s thoroughness in her answers, as she knew more new adjustments had been made to the X-uniform than just switching from a yellow belt to a red one.  She indicated the history of artist Werner Roth’s rendering of the basic X-Man outfit, how he had consistently depicted it as having a completely yellow torso, suggesting a jerkin, over blue sleeves, as seen in this panel from X-Men # 24 (Sep., 1966).

 

In “Re-enter: the Mimic”, we can see that, in addition to the red belts, Roth altered the design of the uniform shirt.  Instead of an all-yellow torso, the tunic is blue on the sides, as the yellow portion has tapered, creating an inverted triangle on front and back.  This change is especially noticeable when compared to the issue’s flashback segment, in which Roth clearly draws the X-Men in their original uniforms.

 

Furthermore, there was another change, one which I’m surprised that Miss Kruhl overlooked.  Roth also re-designed Marvel Girl’s mask, from the cowl worn by her teammates to a pointed domino mask (along with altering her tunic collar to a modest V-neck).

 

 

 3.  Why is Wally West’s hair red, but Kid Flash’s hair is brown?

 

I chose this question less for its “stumpability” than for its “Hey, I didn’t know that!” factor.  That’s why I’m not surprised that it didn’t give most of you pause.  Mr. Wrexham, Mr. Willis, Mr. Sherman, Miss Kruhl, and my old pal, Eric Sofer, the Silver Age Fogey, knew that, at least in the next few Kid Flash stories after receiving a new outfit in The Flash # 135 (Mar., 1963), Wally West’s costume-ejecting ring had a unique feature.  As an additional identity-concealing measure, the ring dispensed a chemical spray which changed the colour of his hair from red to brown when he went into action as Kid Flash.  This device was first seen in “Mystery of the Matinée Idol”, from The Flash # 138 (Aug., 1963).

 

Thanks to the magic of comic-book science, the chemical spray also turned the boy’s hair red again when he changed back to his civilian identity.

 

This artifice would be ignored by the end of the Silver Age for being too pain-in-the-ass to bother with.  It was easier for the colourist to just give Wally and Kid Flash brown hair, and it didn’t take long for the fans to assume it was ever thus.  Don’t hold me to it, but I think it wasn’t until about a year into George Pérez’s run on The New Teen Titans in the 1980’s that Wally became a redhead, again.  And so did Kid Flash, because the chemical-spray-in-the-ring business was forgotten.

 

 

4.  In a couple of early Supergirl stories, her skirt of her costume was red, rather than the usual blue.  While this was mostly likely due to a colourist’s error, what in-story reason did editor Mort Weisinger provide to account for the red skirt?

 

Even if one couldn’t pinpoint the expressed reason, I expected this answer to be “logicked out” by many of you.  But the only player to know it was Miss Kruhl, who also cited the reference.

 

The Supergirl stories in Action Comics # 261 (Feb., 1960) and # 263 (Apr., 1960) went against convention by giving the Girl of Steel’s costume a red skirt, rather than the usual blue one.  The same thing occurred on the covers of Action Comics # 262 (Mar., 1960) and Superboy # 80 (Apr., 1960).  Sure, these were simple colourist errors, but when Carol Westlund, of Antioch, Illinois, asked about it, in a letter appearing in the Metropolis Mailbag of Action Comics  # 264 (May, 1960), Mort Weisinger preferred to make it an actual detail in the Superman mythos.

 

Aye, Unca Mort insisted Supergirl’s skirt was reversible.  Still, he must have given the colourist a good smack because we never saw the Girl of Steel in a red skirt, again.

 

 

5.  Speaking of Supergirl, where does she conceal her costume on those occasions when she cannot wear it under her civilian clothes, such as at the beach?

 

One of the easier ones, I felt, but only one solid answer was forthcoming.  Mr. Wrexham and the Fogey made the same reasonable guess, that a sunbathing Linda Danvers would store her super-costume in her compact.  They were pretty close to the mark.  However, it was Miss Kruhl who provided the precise answer---that, when circumstances dictated, Linda concealed her costume in a secret recess in her lipstick case.  I was a little surprised, as detail oriented as Irma is, that she used Weisnger’s lettercol reply in Action Comics # 317 (Oct., 1964) as her source.  It’s accurate, but the best evidence is the very story that informed Mort’s reply:  “Supergirl’s Busiest Day”, from Action Comics # 270 (Nov., 1960).  It’s herein that Superman gives his cousin the gimmicked lipstick case for her “sweet-sixteenth” birthday.

 

 

6.  What change to Iron Man’s armour resulted from Tony Stark having to go into super-hero action while out on a date?

 

I was so worried this one might be too easy that I considered omitting it.  But it remained without a correct answer for a respectable amount of time---until Dave Palmer nailed it.  He was shortly followed by Mr. Sherman and, of course, Miss Kruhl.

 

After the first few pages of Iron Man’s second appearance, in Tales of Suspense # 40 (Apr., 1963), show that he’s established himself as a hero, we see Tony Stark and his date, Marion, taking in the circus.  Panic erupts when, during the lion tamer’s act, the big cats escape from their cage.  In the chaos of the fleeing spectators, Stark slips away, dons his grey Iron Man armour, and recaptures the ferocious beasts.  However, stray remarks from the crowd make him realise how much his fearsome appearance unnerves, and even frightens, people. 

He’s still preöccupied with the matter when he rejoins Marion as Tony Stark.  However, the pretty blonde provides a solution to the problem:  since Iron Man is a modern knight, his armour should shine like gold, reflecting his noble heart.

 

Works for me, thinks Tony.

 

 

7.  Most people don’t even know it happened, but after Bizarro № 1 populated Htrae with other Bizarro-Supermen, what change was made to their costumes?

 

I figured cultural belief would make this question a bit on the hard side.  After all, the idea of the Bizarro-Supermen wearing a backwards S-emblem is so natural to the Bizarros’ reverse society that most folks assume that the backwards “S” had been there from the start.  Artist Curt Swan apparently thought so when he pencilled Bizarro № 1’s Bronze-Age return, “Backward Battle for the Bizarro World”, from Superman # 306 (Dec., 1976).  In a flashback to the first Bizarro-Superman tale, Swan drew the imperfect replica of the Man of Steel as having the reversed S-insignia from the moment of his creation.

Editor Julius Schwartz isn’t exactly covering himself with glory during this quiz, because this art error got by him, just as the goof with the bat-insignia did ten years earlier.  But, at least he didn’t get called out in the letter column this time.  Probably because Superman readers in the '70's didn’t know any better.

 

Most likely, they had never read that first Bizarro-Superman tale in Action Comics # 254-5 (Jul. and Aug., 1959) and seen that his costume bore the standard “S”-symbol.  Nor were they aware that it had remained that way even after the Bizarros received their own back-up series, in Adventure Comics # 285 (Jun., 1961).  Admittedly, “The Tales of the Bizarro World” was an acquired taste; a lot of readers just flipped through those twelve pages at the back of the magazine.  So, they probably missed a critical story, especially because it was cuckoo, even by Bizarro standards.

 

In “The Good Deeds of Bizarro-Luthor”, from Adventure Comics # 293 (Feb., 1962), it finally dawns on the Bizarro population that the Bizarro-Supermen created by Bizarro № 1 all wear perfect copies of Superman’s costume, including the regular “S”-shield.  For this “crime”, Bizarro № 1 and his family are exiled from Htrae.  Hi-jinx ensue.

 

At the end of a madcap plot that involves the creation of a Bizarro-Luthor and a Bizarro city of Kandor, Bizarro № 1 puts himself back in good graces with the zany society when he returns wearing a backwards “S” on his uniform and hands out identical shirts to his fellow Bizarro-Supermen.  (Frankly, the replacement back-up series about the Legion of Super-Heroes couldn’t show up fast enough.)

 

A note to Mr. Willis:  in selecting the art to go with the question, I had prepared two options:  a panel depicting the Bizarro-Supermen wearing their original, standard-insignia costumes; or a panel with them displaying their reverse emblems.  I knew either one would be, to some degree, telling.  But I went with the backwards-“S” panel because I figured that’s what most folks expected to see on the Bizarros.

 

A note to all:  in preparing this entry, I was embarrassed to discover that I had asked essentially this same question in a Silver-Age Challenge ten years ago.  But, of course, it was too late to do anything about it, as I had already posted this year’s quiz.

 

 

8.  The Black Panther’s infamous face-exposing half-cowl was first seen in what issue of what comic title?

 

This one had all three things I was looking for:

■  It was a Marvel Comics question.  (I wanted a decent balance between DC and Marvel questions.)

■  It had that “Hey, I didn’t know that!” factor.

■  It was a great snare question.

 

On the other hand, I didn’t expect anyone to fall into the trap.  The obvious answer, The Avengers # 52, was too obvious.  All you veteran quiz-players had to know that I wouldn’t make it that easy.

 

And then there’s the fact that I’ve written about this little nugget before.  No, it wasn’t a question from a previous quiz, but it was information from a previous effort.  I was sure that someone would chime in with “You mentioned this in your ‘Mysteries of the Silver Age’ Deck Log Entry back in 2015.”  So, I was stunned when the correct answer to this one eluded everybody.  In fact, it looked like nobody was going to come up with the right response.

 

Then, Irma Kruhl came a’knockin’.  She knew it right off, and not from reading any of my stuff, either.  The answer was already ensconced in her brain cells.  That’s when I knew we had a true Silver-Age maven on our hands.

 

As to her answer, the Black Panther first appeared in his Batman-like half-cowl (and you’re right, Irma, unused Kirby draughts didn’t count) in “The Peril and the Power”, from Fantastic Four # 60 (Mar., 1967).

 

The unexplained curiosity of that is one of the things I brought up when I discussed the history of the Black Panther’s mask in that 2015 Deck Log Entry (# 182).

 

 

9.  The wings on Hawkman’s helmet are a decoration awarded for his exceptional performance in capturing a super-criminal on Thanagar, but what do Hawkgirl’s earrings signify?

 

Jeff of Earth-J, Peter, Fraser, Irma, and the Fogey all knew this one.  It was a bit of Thanagarian lore introduced in “The Menace of the Dragonfly Raiders”, from The Brave and the Bold # 42 (Jun.-Jul., 1962).  Because it’s an adventure that takes place on Thanagar, we learn a great deal about both their alien customs and the history of Katar and Shayera Hol.  The two interests connect when we find out that Hawkgirl wears "marriage earrings", which are the Thanagarian equivalent to a wedding ring here on Earth.

 

This particular custom of marriage earrings came in handy for diverting series pest Mavis Trent from connecting the Hawks to their Earth identities of Carter and Shiera Hall, in “Topsy-Turvy Day in Midway City”, from Mystery in Space # 88 (Dec., 1963).

 

 

10.  Speaking of the Winged Wonder, how does he conceal his costume in case he has to go into action while he’s out and about in his Earth identity of Carter Hall?

 

Mr. Wrexham nailed this one right off.  He even provided the art I had set aside to accompany my reveal of the answer in this post.  So, I had to go out and find this panel, from the first appearance of the Hawks’ costume-storing medallions, in “The Amazing Thefts of the I.Q. Gang”, Mystery in Space # 87 (Nov., 1963).

 

Mr. Sherman and Miss Kruhl knew this one, too.

 

* * * * *

 And that’s it, gang.  As usual, each of you showed your considerable Silver-Age knowledge.  The title “Silver-Age Challenge” works both ways, you know---it’s a challenge for me, every year, to come up with ten questions that will both test you and intrigue you.  The good news is, that in a session of inspiration at my desk last week, I’ve already completed next year’s quiz---and not a retread in the lot.

 

I can hardly wait.

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Replies to This Discussion

There sure was a lot of compressing and decompressing of uniforms in Silver Age DC comics!

Maybe that's what happened to Black Panther. He tried that trick, and it ate half his cowl.

Now I'm very curious about the one for 2023. But as always, this was fun to play in and fun to read the answers.

I fell into the two most obvious traps and answered only one question correctly. I'm just going to have to try harder next year. Well done, sir!

Thanks Commander Adam! Always a great time working over your annual quizzes. It brightens the summer like a JLA/JSA crossover!

For #1, I answered " It was missing the yellow oval around the bat symbol," I thought that would be right enough, but you didn't mention if I got it right. Was I close?

And that JLA #82 sure was part of a messed up couple of books! It's Batman-2's only appearance in JLA, save for the Earth-1/Earth-2/Earth-S crossover - really a shame. How many times could he have filled in for the Caped Crusader? Same with Superman-2; if I recall correctly, he only showed up three times. Just a shame,

I love that page with the JSAers all sitting with the same stunned look on their faces. Love being a relative term of course. Their headquarters is attacked and half of them suddenly disappear for no good reason. The Spectre is already there (and really... what COULDN'T the Spectre do? I mean, you've got your Green Lantern and Superman, but the Spectre could have fixed this problem by blinking hard!)

The Atom is colored as if he were Starman... big slip there. And he's one who disappears, probably because O'Neil needed him to stay active on Earth-1.

Supergirl - I knew she kept her costume in her lipstick, but I thought that counted in her compact. What I don't know about makeup and storing it in a purse..,. it's prodigious,

I was certain that the Coal Tiger, er, Black Panther appeared in the FF in the half mask - but I couldn't remember it and didn't have time to look through every issue. Excellent question!

Hawkman - I thought I remembered one time that his friends brought him his costume, but it is definite that he had a Flash-style expanding costume. Must have been tough on the wings and boots, but then I thought the same thing about the Flash's mask and boots.

I could not enjoy your quizzes more, and I look forward to these every year! Thanks again for the fun!

I remain,

Sincerely,

Eric L. Sofer

The Silver Age Fogey

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