All-Star Comics #3 (Winter 1940):

1)I expect that if you've only read one Golden Age adventure of the JSA, this is the one.  It's not bad, but this first issue is more like an anthology than a team book, per se.

 

2)Line-Up: The Atom (Al Pratt), Doctor Fate (Kent Nelson), the Flash (Jay Garrick), the Green Lantern (Alan Scott), the Hawkman (Carter Hall), the  Hour Man (Rex Tyler), the Sandman (Wesley Dodds) and the Spectre (Jim Corrigan), with gate-crasher Johnny Thunder and the Red Tornado (Ma Hunkle), to whom Hourman says "Why, we meant to inviite you but we heard you were busy!" All white guys, of cours,e but only to be expected in those less progressive days. Nowadays, things are much different, since when the Justice League was recently revamped, the founding members were just mostly white guys. That aside, I have no real beef with the membership except the inclusion of Johnny Thunder, a character I've always loathed. If they had to have a "comedy" character on the team, I would've much preferred the Red Tornado.

 

3)The JSA gathers for a dinner. Johnny Thunder crashes the party and offers the suggestion that they each narrate an adventure to pass the time. During the dinner, the Flash is summoned to Washington, DC, to meet with Madam Fatal the head of the FBI.

 

4)No origin is given for the team - they all just sort of seem to know each other, already. Johnny Thunder is aware of the meeting, but the Sandman later says that the meeting is a secret. Although knocking out everyone in the lobby actually seems like it be more likely to draw attention than discourage it.

 

5)Doctor Fate: ""The Spectre and I do not touch food." Just as well, Doc, I wouldn't want to see you try to eat with that helmet on.

 

6)Superman, Batman and Robin and the Tornado are described as being "busy".  I find I don't miss Supes and Bats from the team.

 

7)The art is generally OK - nothing exceptionally good or exceptionally bad.

 

8)The Flash tells how he battled some pirates. A light-hearted story, particularly his encounter with a shark. Comics are far too serious these days to have a scene like that in it.

 

9)Hawkman tells of his battle with some fire people. Moldoff draws his wings REALLY HUGE.

 

10)The Spectre tells of his battle with Oom the Mighty, the goofiest demon ever.

 

11)Hourman tells of his battle with jewel thieves who all dress as Hourman.  Amusing because in the end, everyone thinks Rex Tyler was posing as Hourman when he actually was Hourman!

 

12)We have a brief interval where the Red Tornado drops by long enough for it to be revealed that she tore her pants. The Flash is aware of her as a comics character.

 

13)The Sandman tells of his battle of a mad doctor who creates giants in a particularly creepy tale.  I notice alot of these guys, their girlfirends know their secret ID's, with out it being the end of the world.

 

14)Doctor Fate introduces himself thusly:  " I am not human...I never was a child...I had no youth. The elder gods created me just as I am now, and placed me here on Earth to fight evil sorcery!"  I'm pretty sure this is the only place I remember the character's provenance being set out in this manner. anyhow, Fate tells of his battle with an evil sorceror.  Probably the most distinctive art style on this one.

 

15)Johnny Thunder, having suggested story-telling, says he's too shy to do it, "So the editors have written a story about something that happened to me."  So, he knows he's a comic book character, too. Anyhow, his adventure is a text pice about some silly damn thing he did.

 

16)The Atom battles a gang of gold thieves.  Whenever I see the Golden Age Atom's original costume I wonder why the crooks don't all just laugh themselves to death.

 

17)Green Lantern tells of his battle with some racketeers.

 

18)Cliffhanger: The Flash returns with the message that the head of the FBI wants to meet with them all!

 

Overall: This first issue holds up pretty well, all things considered. I still find it a fun read.

 

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All-Star Comics #8 (December 1941 - January 1942):

1)As notes above, Doctor Fate is now wearing that stupid "half-helmet". Bleah.

 

2)The line-up is now: The  Atom, Doctor Fate, Doctor Mid-Nite, Hawkman, Johnny Thunder, the Sandman, the Spectre and Starman.

 

3)Our heroes swap stories of how they've each had witnesses to crimes they've been working on go insane.  Doctor Mid-Nite tells them that the insanity is a disease of apes spread to humans by a Professor Elba, but they he has a cure developed by Professor Able, and even a relatively unobservant fellow such as myself can see that the reveal is going to be that Able and Elba are the same guy. Nevertheless, Mid-Nite gives each of them some of the cure and they set out to restore the various witnesses as follows:

  • Doctor Fate goes after some crooks who are trying to take over a bus company. I notice that Fate is using violence more than magic, here.
  • The Atom goes after some jewel theives.
  • The Sandman goes after some crooked photographers.  'Round about now it occurs to me to wonder why the crooks never tried using the insanity thing on one of the heroes, rather than always on the witnesses.
  • Starman goes after some blackmailers. At one  point, Starman leaves ten year-old little Billy alone with a crazy person, which strikes me as a not very good idea. Also, no explanation is given as to how Starman came to join the JSA.
  • Hawkman and Hawkgirl also go after some blackmailers. I notice that Hawkman has trained fighting hawks here. I wonder when they were introduced. Also, the  Ninth  Metal serves as an insulator.
  • The  Spectre goes after some lottery racketeers.
  • Johnny Thunder - spurning the Thunderbolt's help - goes after a crooked contractor. He actually does a reasonably competent job of catching the crooks, but is caught himself by Professor Elba. Thunderbolt summons the JSA, and Doctor Mid-Nite slugs it out with Elba, who accidentally injects himself with the insanity formula.

 

4)We also get another Hop Harrigan text piece, in which a pilot shows off to impress the JSA.

 

5)Finally, we close out with the first appearance of Wonder Woman.  Since this isn't a "Wonder Woman" thread, I won't say much excpet that I never bought into the notion that Hippolyta wouldn't recognize her own daughter, just because she was wearing a simple mask.

 

Overall: An OK story, somewhat overshadowed by the far more import debut of the Amazing Amazon.

 

Leading up to this I had looked at the Grand Comics Database and had been surprised that WW's first appearance ever was in  this issue of All-Star, and not Sensation.

The WONDER WOMAN ARCHIVES finally did right what the Superman & Batman books had gotten totally wrong years earlier.  They included all of her early chronological solo appearances in ALL-STAR, SENSATION and WONDER WOMAN in a single set of books.

I kept wishing Marvel would have done the same thing with SUB-MARINER... but it was not to be.

One of the most intriguing things about Wonder Woman's debut was that those were free bonus pages! It took nothing away from the main story which was pretty important in and of itself with two new members.

You had the rising "star", Starman replace the failing contender, Hourman whose solo spot ended in 1943. In fact, had not "Tick Tock" Tyler appeared in All Star Comics #3-7, he might have been forgotten today. I'm still amazed that Gardner Fox revived him in the first JLA/JSA team-up!

Doctor Fate in his half-helmet was more "Superman-Lite" than magician from this point on!

Replacing Green Lantern with Doctor Mid-Nite makes little sense, power-wise.

Now I'm wondering if the plan was to always have Wonder Woman join the JSA from Day One?

Isn't it easier to understand as Green Lantern being replaced by Starman; Hourman, with Dr. Midnight.


Philip Portelli said:

You had the rising "star", Starman replace the failing contender, Hourman whose solo spot ended in 1943. 

Replacing Green Lantern with Doctor Mid-Nite makes little sense, power-wise.

Yes, in a dramatic context but the conceit was that when a hero left, another hero from that book replaced him, thus it was Starman for Hourman (Adventure Comics) and Doctor Mid-Nite for Green Lantern (All American Comics). This was reflected by Roy Thomas in All Star Squadron Annual #3 when Starman was included in the Hourman chapter, drawn by George Perez!

It seems odd today that they would have new heroes show up without explaining how they joined. OTOH, they never explained how the original members got together, unless I'm mistaken.



Richard Willis said:

It seems odd today that they would have new heroes show up without explaining how they joined. OTOH, they never explained how the original members got together, unless I'm mistaken.

 

Not until the 1970's, which I intend to get to, eventually.

Actually All Star Comics #8 was the story of how and why Doctor Mid-Nite joined. Starman was already there.
 
Richard Willis said:

It seems odd today that they would have new heroes show up without explaining how they joined. OTOH, they never explained how the original members got together, unless I'm mistaken.

Philip Portelli said:

 

When did Johnny Thunder learn which words summoned the T-Bolt?

Oops, there goes my Golden-Age emergency signal! I don't hear that one too often, anymore.

When Johnny Thunder debuted in Flash Comics # 1 (May, 1940), he was not only ignorant of the magic words, Cei-U, he was also unaware of the existence of the Thunderbolt.  In those earliest stories, whenever Johnny happened to speak the English phoenetic equivalent of his magic words–-”Say you”-–the Thunderbolt would manifest himself invisibly and carry out Johnny’s spoken wishes (which the T-bolt interpreted as commands) for one hour.  All Johnny knew was that, from time to time, things he hoped would happen somehow did happen.

 

In the story “The Crooked Ski Lodge”, from Flash Comics # 11 (Nov., 1940), Johnny finally tumbled to the fact that his specific wishes were being granted.  But he still did not know what triggered the wish-granting or why after working for awhile (one hour), it stopped.

 

What I was unable to pinpoint was the occasion when the Thunderbolt stopped working invisibly and Johnny became aware of his existence.  I do know that by the time of the text story “Johnny on the Spot”, from All Star Comics #5 (Jun.-Jul., 1941), Johnny was interacting with the T-bolt directly.  But he was still unaware that it took the magic words to make the T-bolt appear and follow his commands; Johnny was still summoning it by accident, whenever he happened to speak the words “Say you!”

 

Johnny finally learnt this valuable information in the story “The Fake Accidents”, from Flash Comics # 20 (Aug., 1941).  This forced a shift in the writers’ approach to the stories.  Before, part of the serio-comic drama came from Johnny not knowing the magic words or if he would chance to say them in time to rescue him from his dilemmas.  Now that he knew them, the writers had to fashion other methods to introduce the same kind of suspense.  This was accomplished by finding someway to gag Johnny or interfere with his ability to speak, but usually by just having him get so excited, he would forget to say the words.

 

There's a fair amount of fan misconception that Johnny Thunder did not learn the secret of his magic words until the Silver Age.  But that is incorrect.  Johnny learnt what “Say you” did for him fairly early on in his Golden-Age career.

 

Hope this helps.

 

 

Thanks, Commander!

In All Star Comics #3, Johnny doesn't interact with the Thunderbolt but he knows he's listening to him.

I wonder if Johnny finally learning his magic words was similar to the public revealing of the Martian Manhunter: to justify those heroes joining their respective teams.

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