Deck Log Entry # 123 Supplemental: The World's Second-Finest Heroes?

In this week’s Deck Log entry on the Flash and Green Lantern, there was some commentary on the subject of the J’onn J’onzz-Green Arrow team-up that appeared in The Brave and the Bold # 50 (Nov., 1963).  The question was raised as to whether or not DC intended to establish the Manhunter and G.A. as a regular team, as it had with Superman and Batman, and the Flash and Green Lantern.

 

At the risk of appearing to toot my own horn here, I addressed that possibility four years ago, in an article that appeared under my by-line in Comics Buyer’s Guide # 1627 (Apr., 2007).  Having my name attached to it was gracious; our leader, Captain Comics, polished it to make it publication-worthy, and he applied a lot of literary Turtle Wax.   I’m reproducing it here, as a Deck Log supplemental:

 

 

“Two Great Heroes Teamed in a Book-Length Blockbuster!”

 

With this blurb on the cover of The Brave and the Bold # 50, DC teamed two of its minor but long-running characters:  Green Arrow and the Manhunter from Mars.

 

“Wanted---the Capsule Master” told the story of a gang of Martian criminals undertaking a “master plan” on Earth.  When Green Arrow and Speedy found themselves outclassed, they turned to help from a logical source:  Green Arrow’s fellow Justice Leaguer, the Martian Manhunter.

 

While “Wanted” can be enjoyed---and is, indeed, entertaining---on a surface level, an astute DC fan of the day might have detected the seeds of deeper planning by The Brave and the Bold editor Murray Boltinoff.  The selection of the Emerald Archer and the Alien Ace as the headliners seemed to be more than just random.  Green Arrow and Speedy had long been considered an imitation Batman and Robin, while J’onn J’onzz was looked upon as a second-tier Superman, especially in the pages of Justice League of America, where the Martian rarely utilised his more esoteric, non-Superman-like powers.

 

Viewed in that light, “Wanted” comes across as an attempt by DC to duplicate the success of World’s Finest Comics, which since 1954 had featured Superman and Batman working as a team.  Bob Haney’s script for The Brave and the Bold # 50 establishes a logical reason for Green Arrow to seek out J’onn J’onzz’s aid, balances their contributions to the defeat of the villains, and shows the heroes comfortable enough with each other to mutually divulge their identities.  In fact, had Batman and Robin been substituted for  the Ace Archers, Superman for the Manhunter, and villains from Krypton for Martian criminals, “Wanted” would have read very much like a story from World’s Finest Comics.

 

In fact, even more evocative of this feeling is the fact that Haney’s script included a climax in which Green Arrow and the Manhunter thwart the villains by exchanging costumes and posing as each other; a gimmick used by Superman and Batman in their very first WFC  team-up, in World’s Finest Comics # 71 (Jul.-Aug., 1954).

 

If a DC fan of the day was getting a hunch that The Brave and the Bold # 50 was intended to be a tryout for making Green Arrow and J’onn J’onzz a team in the fashion of Batman and Superman, the story “Decoy Missions of the Justice League” which came out in JLA # 24 (Dec., 1963)---one month following The Brave and the Bold # 50---probably would have cinched the notion.

 

The details of “Decoy Missions” aren’t important here, save to say that the villain, Kanjar Ro, tackled only part of the Justice League:  Aquaman, the Atom, the Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman.  During the course of the plot, the villain explained why he limited himself to five JLAers (italics mine):

 

“Since Superman and Batman---and the newly formed team of J’onn J’onzz and Green Arrow---are away from Earth at this time, I need not concern myself with them just now!”

 

 

This simple line determines one thing and carries significant implications.

 

Since at no time in “Wanted---the Capsule Master” did Green Arrow leave Earth, the fact that “the newly formed team of J’onn J’onzz and Green Arrow” was away from Earth meant that there was an unpublished second adventure involving the Martian Manhunter and Green Arrow, one which took them both off-planet.

 

Now, Gardner Fox maintained exceptional attention to continuity in his JLA stories.  Many of his JLA tales made references to what was going on in a particular member’s own series at the time; sometimes, Fox even made a plot point of it in a JLA story.  That makes it unlikely that Fox’s mention of “the newly formed team” of the Manhunter and Green Arrow was just an offhand remark.

 

I’ve always suspected that Fox was privy to plans by DC to create an ongoing Green Arrow-Manhunter team, contingent on the sales of The Brave and the Bold # 50.  If so, then evidently those sales weren’t impressive enough and the idea was deep-sixed.  But at the time of JLA # 24, sales figures from The Brave and the Bold # 50 would have barely started to come in, so the idea of an ongoing MM-GA team would still have been viable.  And Fox would have been able to use it as a convenient excuse for excluding those two heroes from the main action of JLA # 24.

 

In stating that J’onn J’onzz and Green Arrow were on an off-world mission, Fox may have just been referring to an “untold tale” of that “newly formed team”.  Or he might have been making reference to an actual story, one that was shelved after final sales figures from The Brave and the Bold # 50 showed the idea didn’t have as much promise as DC had hoped.

 

Either way, it seems clear that there was an idea in the wind to make an ongoing team of the two heroes.

 

 

Views: 775

Comment by Philip Portelli on April 27, 2011 at 10:53pm
Poor Ollie! He's either a cardboard cutout, a loudmouth liberal or a deranged nutjob! But at least it gives him a personality! And we wonder how Roy got the way he is!
Comment by Figserello on April 27, 2011 at 11:03pm
Aren't they both on some arc at the moment, or did everyone just look away out of politeness?
Comment by Eric L. Sofer on April 28, 2011 at 6:44am

ITEM:  (And apologies if I'm paraphrasing...)  "When people talk about making comics more realistic, they're really talking about taking the fun out of them."

 

ITEM:  Remember that prior to Brave and the Bold #50 (and one prior team-up run, Batman's first team-up in B&B), both B&B and Showcase were tryout books.  So when they changed the format of Brave and the Bold, there is no question that they could have been intending it to be the "new" World's Finest - maybe even after a three-issue run.  What's puzzling is that GA & MM didn't get that try.  In just a few more issues of B&B, Metamorpho got a two issue try out, and Hawkman got TWO three issue runs in Showcase to prove his sales worthiness.  Even the Teen Titans got a shot in B&B (52) and then in Showcase.  Considering the available evidence that GA & MM were to be an ongoing team, it is DAMNED strange that no further efforts were made besides one book when other features around that time got PLENTY of chances.

 

ITEM:  B&B 50 was released in Nov 1963.  Five months earlier, another feature was getting ITS tryout in My Greatest Adventure... but had that fallen through, or had GA & MM really hit, that would have been a good venue.  Heck, the two features could have shared the book (as Marvel was forced to do with some of its titles.)  Where else?  House of Mystery, House of Secrets, Strange Adventures, or maybe a revival of one of the American comics titles - Comics Cavalcade, More Fun, All-American comics.  I don't think that a "home" was a matter of tremendous concern.

 

ITEM:  Green Arrow was never an interesting character.  No, no, face the facts.  He wasn't even as interesting as Batman.  Oh, he BECAME so once they made a Marvel character out of him (there's a JLA chain with more discussion on this), but as has been noted - ANY character is interesting with the right writer and/or the right story.  A team up series really was an opportunity to establish some personality and traits for both GA and J'onn - better exposure, some character treatment.

 

ITEM:  GA and pointy arrows - in the GL/GA run as a backup in The Flash, there's a convoluted story about how Green Arrow is trying to stop a robber and (for some reason) has a spasm while shooting - and instead of disarming the punk, he guts him.  This causes the great anguish, the great guilt, yadda yadda yadda, and he joins a monestary.  My point :) :) :) is that he was using sharp, pointy arrows in the Bronze Age - but A) no one cared, and B) he was so good that it never mattered.  I mean, honestly, Batman was flinging about boomerangs (used as killing weapons in Australia) and Wonder Woman was whipping around a noose... so any writer who wanted an accident had plenty of available fodder.

Comment by Philip Portelli on April 28, 2011 at 8:25am

That's true about Green Arrow killing someone accidently but then he killed someone in Brave & Bold #100, not on purpose but he didn't cry about it, either.

But you can't stun someone with a regulation arrow!

And every super-hero had the potential for a fatal accident, especially when fighting with common thugs!

Comment by Philip Portelli on April 28, 2011 at 8:36am

Also DC wasn't throwing out that many new titles, willy-nilly. It took Hawkman three times to get his own title. Perhaps B&B #50 didn't sell as high as DC hoped and given its stars, it may have been a misplaced hope.

Over at Mister Silver Age's forum last year, I wondered why Green Arrow never got a Showcase to himself. He was the only JLAer not to get some sort of solo shot. Even B'wana Beast got two issues!

Comment by Eric L. Sofer on April 28, 2011 at 9:41am

"The only JLAer not to get some sort of solo shot.."  I don't understand this.  Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, MfM, GA, Hawkman - none of them got a tryout in Showcase.  If you just mean a solo strip, Green Arrow absolutely did have a solo strip  - exactly as long as Aquaman did.

 

As for new DC titles... Lois Lane, Flash, Atom, Green Lantnern, Hawkman, Metamorpho - a lot of characters got their own books at the time.  I don't see why 'Star Spangled Comics starring Green Arrow and Manhunter from Mars" would have been so different.

Comment by Commander Benson on April 28, 2011 at 10:31am

"Commander, you'll remember it better than I do (and I know that your archives are close at hand), but I remember one scene in a JLA book where members who weren't initially involved in the story were arriving... and GA and MM  were shown together (GA kneeling down on J'onn's back since, y'know, the surest way to show respect for your fellow hero is to ride him like a kanga... ;)  Perhaps you remember whereof I speak?"

 

Indeed, I do remember that scene, Fogey.  That's how I knew that it wasn't from "Decoy Missions of the Justice League", from JLA # 24.

 

Rather, it was a scene of a similar situation---the absent Justice Leaguers being called into the fray---from "Indestructable Creatures of Nightmare Island", JLA # 40 (Nov., 1965).

 

Here are a couple of memory-joggers:

 

Comment by Prince Hal on April 28, 2011 at 7:42pm

I love the team-up talk!

I actually wrote a letter (unpublished) in 1967 to JLA which included in its laundry list of ideas, the notion that a GA/MM book would be a great idea.

By 1967, this was probably a completely hare-brained idea, but it didn't deter young me from thinking that teaming two characters, one of whom didn't even havea back-up strip to his name, and the other on his way out of a magazine of which he'd been the cover feature, would be newsstand dynamite in their own book!

 

I always had liked both characters, I guess, and just felt bad for them that they had now been marginalized.

 

MM remains the only JLA'er I can think of who never teamed with Batman in B and B. Tlk about getting dissed. I mean, Scalphunter teamed with Batman; I, Vampire teamed with Batman; Rose and the Thorn got two issues!

 

Comment by ClarkKent_DC on April 28, 2011 at 7:51pm

I agree with Figserello: "Trouble is that most writers think that GA is just a fine example of macho capability rather than a deranged nutcase." He's just like Matt Murdock in that regard; if you stand back and look at him, he's a royal mess.

 

The Silver Age Fogey writes:

ITEM:  (And apologies if I'm paraphrasing...)  "When people talk about making comics more realistic, they're really talking about taking the fun out of them."


Apology accepted.
Comment by Philip Portelli on April 28, 2011 at 8:20pm

To Eric: Of course Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman never had a Showcase devoted to them. Why would they?

The Flash, Green Lantern, the Atom, Aquaman, Hawkman, Metamorpho, The Metal Men and several others did get their own titles because of great-selling runs in Showcase or Brave & Bold. Though Hawkman's came through a brief stay in Mystery In Space.

The Manhunter from Mars took the lead spot and cover in House of Mystery.

What I meant was that Green Arrow never had a solo book that he was the star of! It was puzzling in the Silver Age and baffling in the Bronze!

And I'm pretty sure that Star Spangled Comics was Star Spangled War Comics by then.

To Prince Hal: I always wondered why there wasn't a JLA/Teen Titans team-up! But I would have had the non-mentor members matched up with the Titans.

 

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