In comments that I have made here and in Mister Silver Age's forum (may it rise again), I have asserted that the DC Multiverse (Pre-Crisis) had contained several versions of Plastic Man and, by extension, Blackhawk. But then I started thinking down a different path. Was there a way to have it be just ONE Plas and Blackhawk? Linking the various Earths through stories ranging from the 50s to the 80s, I evolved a theory. Now to those fans of the original Golden Age Quality titles, I consider those sacrosanct. This has nothing to do with those "Earth-Q" adventures.

I decided to chronolgically (more or less) than by publishing history as it may be slightly easier that way.

Roy Thomas had decided in All-Star Squadron (AStSq) #1(S'81) to have the Quality heroes exist on Earth-Two. In the preview in Justice League of America #193, we see Rod Reilly, Police Comics' first cover star as Firebrand, seriously wounded at Pearl Harbor in 1941. In AStSq #1, there was the slightly shocking sight of Plastic Man teaming with Hawkman and other DC Golden Agers. In #2, there was Phantom Lady, revealing part of Thomas' strategy to have more super-heroines. This continued in #5 where he transformed Rod Reilly's sister, Danielle into a woman torch, Firebrand II. In #13, Blackhawk is mentioned.

In #31-35 (Ma-Jl'84), Uncle Sam reappeared to tell the Squadron about how he learnt about another world, Earth-X that was losing to the Nazis and how he brought several minor Quality heroes (Miss America, Red Torpedo, Invisible Hood, Magno and Neon the Unknown) plus the slightly major Hourman there to help them. All but Hourman were killed, though at least three of them returned. He gathers another group (The Ray, Black Condor, Phantom Lady, the Human Bomb, Doll Man and the Red Bee) in order to stop visiting E-2 villain, Baron Blitzkreig and discover that Hourman was still alive. They succeed but the Red Bee ("I have a bee and I know how to use it") was killed and the Baron and two aides escape. Therefore Uncle Sam, the Ray and the Black Condor have to stay behind to "balance" things out and explain why their strips ended in the early 40s.

#41 reveals that Sandra (Phantom Lady) Knight was the cousin of Ted (Starman) Knight because if you have the same last name, you have to be related.

#48-49 guest-starred Blackhawk, just to be complete.

Then the Crisis On Infinite Earths happened and all of Roy Thomas' long-range plans were for naught. In order to have some of his plot points pay off, in AStSq #50 (O'85), in 1942, Uncle Sam returns to get reinforcements. His volunteers were Phantom Lady, Human Bomb and Doll Man; the roster of the Freedom Fighters. Also going were Midnight, Quality's Manhunter, the Spider and the Jester. More importantly Plastic Man and the Blackhawks left E-2 for E-X for good! A still-recuperating Rod (Firebrand) Reilly wanted to go.

However in October 1980 in Brave & Bold #167, the obviously Earth-Two Batman teamed up with the Blackhawks (by Crisis writer Marv Wolfman and Dave Cockrum) in an adventure that took place in 1944! This tale now became apocryphal but was it?

Here's where my theory begins. I find it hard to believe that Blackhawk would abandon his war against the Nazis (since he was an independent participant) that killed his family on his Earth just to battle Nazis on another one. So what if he sent a squadron of pilots to Earth-X? We never see exactly who was flying those planes and there were other Blackhawks beyond the main seven. Thus the Dark Knight (he was called that, too!) stayed and fought on E-2.

Then, after the War, Uncle Sam returned to Earth-Two for a final time, as things are going badly on Earth-X. This time, the seven Blackhawks decide to go and they're not alone. Firebrand finally gets to renew his battle with Nazis. Martha Roberts, Doll Man's girl-friend goes and becomes Doll Girl along with the rest of Quality's minor heroes (except for Kid Eternity who apparently goes to Earth-S). Now for the lynchpin of my hypothesis, accompanying them was Plas' sidekick, Woozy Winks, the man protected by Nature!

In JLA #107 (O'73), the revival of the Freedom Fighters, it was stated that Plastic Man and the Blackhawks were killed on Earth-X but what if that was only what the FF thought?

I propose that Plas met and married an E-X woman and that some cataclysmic battle or event occurred that triggered Woozy's link with Nature and opened a portal so he, Plas, his wife, the Blackhawks and Firebrand could escape. It probably killed the other Quality heroes which left the FF with six members and they assumed all were lost. But with this being Woozy, instead of returning to Earth-Two, they arrive on Earth-One! A Pre-JLA Earth-One! Firebrand, distrustful of this new Earth, went into hiding!

Plastic Man, his wife and Woozy Winks gets official status and was sanctioned by the FBI/NBI while the Blackhawks got the same from the United Nations and continued adventuring in Blackhawk #108 (Ja'57).

Both would help DC's emerging super-heroes in 1959 as was told in JLA #144 but for the most part, they acted alone. Were they ordered to stay away from them, lest the secret of pararell Earths be known?

This was why the UN could order the Blackhawks to disband in Blackhawk #228 (Ja'67), ten years after their arrival and make them go through the abomination of their "super" identities!

Plas and his wife have a son who, as a toddler, drank some of the acid (?????) that gave Plas his powers. This combined with a father from Earth-Two, a mother from Earth-X and being born on Earth-One no doubtingly caused his mental problems as we shall see. Now having an heir to train, Plas publically retired and "allows" himself to age. Thus when Robby Reed turns into Plastic Man in House of Mystery #160 (Jl'66), he was remembered as a hero from the past. But soon after this, Plastic Man II (Son Of Plas) debuted in Plastic Man #1 (D'66). His origin was told in #7 ("Plastic Man's Fantastic Old Man") with the elder Plas and Woozy. The series was cancelled with #10.

The young Plas appeared four times in Brave & Bold with Batman. In #76 (Ma'68), he fought the Molder and was shattered to pieces! In #95 (My'75) where he was such a draw that he was listed as "?" on the cover, he tried to frame B&B vixen Ruby Ryder for his own murder and revealed how much he hated being a "freak"! #123 (D'78), he was homeless and hopelessly depressed, controlled by Ruby, framed Bruce Wayne and battled Metamorpho. In #148 (Ma'79) his last official appearance, he was a streetfront Santa who helped Batman take on cigarette bootleggers! His final fate has been unrevealed!

After the death of his wife and the mental unstability of his son, Plas decided to come out of retirement and "de-ages" himself. Woozy somehow follows suit. They work for the FBI/NBI in the mid-70s Plastic Man #11-20 and Adventure Comics #467-478 (Ja'-D'80). He stayed active until the Crisis but was only shown on Earth-One.

Blackhawk also had a mid-70s revival where there were hints that they were getting a little old for this!

The 80s Blackhawk series took place, thankfully, during WWII so it could have happened on Earth-One, Earth-Two or even the Post-Crisis Earth!

These 80s versions teamed with Superman in DC Comics Presents #39 (N'81) (Plas) and #69 (My'84) (Blackhawk) and definitely took place on E-1.

As you can see, it's not a straight line but it does make some sense (I hope)!

What do you think?

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I think you did a pretty good job of making sense of the time line, and it works for me.

I especially like this part:

I find it hard to believe that Blackhawk would abandon his war against the Nazis (since he was an independent participant) that killed his family on his Earth just to battle Nazis on another one. So what if he sent a squadron of pilots to Earth-X? We never see exactly who was flying those planes and there were other Blackhawks beyond the main seven. Thus the Dark Knight (he was called that, too!) stayed and fought on E-2.

It always bothered me that the Quality heroes were portrayed as leaving one world at war to fight on another world at war. Apparently Uncle Sam was drawn to Earth-X and needed help. But in the long run, the Freedom Fighters failed to stop the Nazis and watched as they enslaved the entire planet with their Mind Control Machines. It was the arrival of the Justice League and Justice Society that was responsible for the freeing of Earth-X.

And after that, the FF became so bored (I guess rebuilding new governments and societies wasn't that much of a challenge!) that they left Earth-X for Earth-One in Freedom Fighters #1 and that worked out well for them! Yet they never encountered Plastic Man or Blackhawk. Did the two deliberately avoid them?

...Interesting .

Philip Portelli said:

And after that, the FF became so bored (I guess rebuilding new governments and societies wasn't that much of a challenge!) that they left Earth-X for Earth-One in Freedom Fighters #1 and that worked out well for them!

 

I always thought that it was a mistake in the format of the Freedom Fighters series to bring the Freedom Heroes from Earth-X to Earth-One.  Tales centered on the events surrounding the rebuilding of Earth-X following the defeat of the Nazis would have been more interesting, especially in the fact that the Freedom Fighters would have been the only major super-heros.  With so few "historical" events tying Earth-X to the mainstream DC universe, the writers would have had a virtual tabula rasa to create a mythos unique to Earth-X.

 

Instead, the series shunted Uncle Sam, Dollman, the Black Condor, and the others over to Earth-One, where they would be lost among the other few dozen super-heroes.  The advantages to that tack were few and dubious.  The series never got any emotional mileage over the heroes being from a different Earth, except for the one bit in which Dollman met a woman who was the double for his late girlfriend, Martha Roberts, on Earth-X.  And the nonsense about making the dimensional shift somehow adding to or amplifying their super-powers---a ramp-up that was not needed---did not make the series more exciting.

I feel the same way about the series now, Commander. There was a lot of potential in the "Rebuilding of Earth-X" story and it would have been different from anything DC was publishing, certainly from All Star Comics which took place on Earth-Two. That may have been why the "other" FF was moved to Earth-One.

The power increases were probably necessary for them to be more formidable.

  • Uncle Sam's strength increased; maybe from being in an America that wasn't conquered by the Nazis.
  • Human Bomb's entire body became explosive, not just his hands, trapping him in his suit which almost made him a Silver Age Marvel character!
  • The Ray could emit heat as well as light.
  • Phantom Lady could really dematerialize and still had her blackout bracelets. And she got passed Phantom Girl and Shadow Lass' lawsuit!
  • Doll Man gained telekinetic powers. He had to get something to survive. A living G.I.Joe action figure stopping super-villains. I know his Golden Age stories had a great deal of charm and vitality but "now", it was just silly.
  • Black Condor also got some sort of mental power but it drove him berserk when he used it. Probably trying to figure out how he learned to fly!!! Taught by the condors, y'know.

Big confession: I loved The Freedom Fighters as a kid. The Silver Ghost, King Samson, The Crusaders, the Renegades, good times! But the premise of these visiting heroes on the lam was hard to believe considering that they 1) came here on their own accord, 2) didn't even try to work with the authorities to clear themselves and 3) knew the Justice League!

Had they did another crossover with Justice League, the book may have lasted longer. Well, maybe not but you never know!

...BTW , Phantom Lady wasn't really a Quality heroess , was she ???????

  Or at least , even during the Golden Age/Atomic , she was at " schlock " Fox Features for a while...certainly during her Matt?? Fox " getting tied up a lot " period ???????????

She originally was a Quality hero debuting in Police Comics #1 with Firebrand, the Human Bomb and Plastic Man. But she was never the bombshell that Fox made her later. Even in Freedom Fighters, she was portrayed more cute than sexy, being a bit of an airhead.  

 

Philip Portelli said:

The power increases were probably necessary for them to be more formidable.

 

Of course. But why make them more formidable?  To me, it creates much more tension when the minor-league-powered super-heroes have to duke it out with the baddies.  Not that there can't be interesting stories told about the all-powerful Weisinger Superman; there were.  But why paint oneself into that corner, again?  A super-hero who has to use his wits and resourcefulness to draw maximum benefit out of his lesser power is more interesting than one who just uses his "super-beam-power" to blast away at everything.

 

Also, retaining their minor powers would have emphasised the necessity of their teamwork---and of staying together, despite any inter-team personality conflicts.

 

As with so many of its concepts in the '70's, DC felt that "more was more".  It really wasn't.

 

 

Minor powers on minor heroes can be interesting if done right as per the Legion of Substitute Heroes but then again, no was clamoring for a Subs title!

Uncle Sam and the Human Bomb were fine as they were. The Black Condor's new power was unpredictable and seldom used. Doll Man had to be improved as he was far more limited than the Atom or Yellowjacket, his "descendents". Phantom Lady went from a mix of Doctor Mid-Nite and Black Canary to a mix of Doctor Mid-Nite, Black Canary AND Phantom Girl.

But the Ray's increased abilities were an improvement as it gave him more *ahem* firepower. And DC had plans for him as he was to be the back-up for Black Lightning. Sadly it only lasted one issue (#11) then it was a casualty of the DC Implosion. But in the 90s to today, the name and concept of the Ray was used four times! 

.Matt Baker , I meant . Both DC and Quality played the Nasty elements of the Pre-Code eralet less than others , if I recall correctly .


Philip Portelli said:

She originally was a Quality hero debuting in Police Comics #1 with Firebrand, the Human Bomb and Plastic Man. But she was never the bombshell that Fox made her later. Even in Freedom Fighters, she was portrayed more cute than sexy, being a bit of an airhead.  

 

Batman.  Green Arrow.  Hawkman.  Hawkgirl.  Captain America.  the original Atom.  Black Canary.  Doctor Mid-Nite.  Wildcat.  Sandman.  Congo Bill.  Roy Raymond.  Slam Bradley.  And that's just off the top of my head.

 

All of them had series that ran for a significant length, yet had no super-powers, or minimal ones, at best.  Some of them didn't even have costumes.

 

You're absolutely correct:  minor-powered super-heroes can be interesting.  But I am challenging the inherent notion that adding super-powers or enhancing the ones already possessed make a super-hero more entertaining.

 

I found the Freedom Fighters series to be tepid.  I have the entire run and nothing about the title struck me as terribly good or terribly bad.  The art was serviceable, as was the writing.  The running sub-plot of super-heroes-framed-for-crimes-and-on-the-run-from-the-law ran thin after a few issues.  Largely, the series was generic.  Super-Hero-Team Comics 101 for Beginners.

 

Bestowing greater powers on the individual heroes of the Freedom Fighters did nothing to improve the series.  On the other hand, if they had retained their traditional, lesser abilities, then it would have added to the drama of their being on the run.  Because it would not be beyond the capabilities for conventional law enforcement, with somebody seriously intelligent in charge, to apprehend them.

 

It's always seemed to me that giving a non-powered hero a super-power is the lazy man's way of trying to inspire interest in the character.  Look at how often that tactic was employed in the late '60's and 1970's---Black Canary---the female Firebrand---Liberty Belle---the Star-Spangled Kid---Captain America---the Falcon.  It was almost as if the writers couldn't stand having to script a hero who didn't have a super-power.

I'm a fan of Bob Rozakis's Freedom Fighters issues. I found them a pleasant alternative to grim and gritty comics after I tired of the latter in the mid 80s.

 

Matt Baker's earlier work was cruder than his later work. Here are three covers he did for a St. John reprint title, Amazing Ghost Stories; I particularly like the first one. He also did a feature called "Canteen Kate" for the company.

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