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.



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Comment by Prince Hal on April 28, 2011 at 8:35pm

Phil: Yes, a JLA/TT team-up certainly could have been incorporated in one of those later Bronze Age "triple" team-ups. And "mismatched" mentor/sidekick pairings would have been fun. Every so often in the Fox-era JLA, one member would sometimes team up with another simply b/c they hadn't done so in a while. That logic would have held for the teams you're imagining.


Just to go off on a related tangent, does anyone think that the JSA team-ups were meant to test the waters on the JSA'ers as a pair, or as solo attractions? Only the Spectre got a solo tryout, and the others wound up featuring a third hero as a guest star. I can't imagine that DC had the sophisticated wherewithall to gauge whether a particular title was bought because of one or both of the heroes.


Maybe they thought one JSA'er wouldn't be enough to sell a book? But if that were the case, why would they have given the Spectre his own tryout book?


One odd exception to the established star not getting a Showcase tryout was Sgt. Rock. Could never figure that out, unless they were wondering if a novel-length feature would have sold better than OAAW as it was. (And basically remained.)

Comment by Philip Portelli on April 28, 2011 at 10:05pm

The Spectre appeared in Showcase and got his own title, I think, before he guested in Justice League. He was so powerful and Gardner Fox/Julius Schwartz had high expectations for him, considering his pedigree as a Jerry Siegel creation. If Doctor Fate couldn't get his own Silver Age series, how could any of the others?

If it were a Silver Age JLA/TT team-up with Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Aqualad and Speedy, that would be Superman (who knows Robin well), Green Lantern (who would champion Kid Flash), Martian Manhunter (who is familar with Speedy), Hawkman (who worked with Aqualad) and the Atom (who's stuck with Wonder Girl).

Now a Bronze team-up would have Superman, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Atom, Black Canary, Elongated Man and possibly Red Tornado. Then you could include Mal Dincan as the Guardian and Bumblebee. Wouldn't it have been great if Speedy got along with Hawkman and thought he was cooler than Ollie!

As for Green Arrow and J'onn J'onzz, GA didn't appear in B&B again until #71 with Batman in a mediocre tale then reappear in the slightly more important #85. J'onn made only one more B&B co-starring role in #56 with the Flash (who for a while seemed poised to get the permanent co-star role) and never teamed with Batman! :-(

Comment by Prince Hal on April 28, 2011 at 10:47pm

Oh, yes, you're right about the Spectre. He came out of nowhere. He showed up in JLA in 47, the same month his final Showcase issue came out. Though I loved "The Spectre is Coming!" banners that popped up all over the place.


Great suggestions re the team-ups! "Stuck with Wonder Girl?" Not if one Nick Cardy were drawing her! :)


Any thoughts about how they chose which JSA stars to put in Showcase and B and B? I can make aguess about why Black Canary was chosen. Maybe the others b/c their costumes looked cool?

Comment by Philip Portelli on April 29, 2011 at 8:37am

I wrote a thread about the SA JLA/JSA team-ups here so it's fresh in my mind. If you look at the first two shared adventures which must have sold well to A) continue them and B) to justify using them in Showcase and B&B, you have to eliminate the Golden Age Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman and Atom as they were paired with their Earth-One counterparts, except for the original Winged Wonder for some reason.

The first team-up was Doctor Fate and Hourman, both cover features in the 40s in More Fun Comics and Adventure Comics, respectively. Though our esteemed Commander Benson wasn't overly fond of him, the Mighty Mage was the most prominent JSA member and Tick Tock Tyler was unique and refreshing, when not over-used. They were also different enough to make a pairing interesting. And they had cool costumes, too.

Next were Starman and Black Canary. Both had great looks as well. Starman was modernized with his cosmic rod, he was originally supposed to be a major character and he had an obvious and iconic super-hero name. Black Canary was the only E-2 heroine they could use since, at that time, they shied away from the GA Wonder Woman and never revived the GA Hawkgirl. Plus she was married to a non super-hero, Larry Lance, which was a first, though that didn't last long.

The only other choice was Doctor Mid-Nite. Though a personal favorite and a frequent part of the team-ups, he was always a secondary character with little star power. Great as an appetizer but not as the main course!

Comment by Luke Blanchard on April 30, 2011 at 12:50am
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Originally Showcase was edited by DC's different editors by turns. In the period before it became a team-up title The Brave and the Bold was being used as a second Showcase, and during that time it was edited the same way. After TB&TB became a team-up title this was less the case, but #52 was edited by Kanigher and ##61-62, with Starman and the Black Canary, by Schwartz.


These three issues all fell in with the team-up format. The only new features introduced in the title after this point were "Metamorpho", which the Commander has argued was bumped from Showcase by the "G.I. Joe", issues, and "Teen Titans", which built on the non-series team-up in #54.


As I've said in the past, I think the Dr. Fate and Hourman stories in Showcase ##55-56 were likely originally intended for TB&TB. The issues look related to the Starman/Canary ones, and the "Super-Team Supreme" name and logo on the Showcase stories look like afterthoughts.


Perhaps the notion in the JLA issue that GA and J'onn were now a team came out of Schwartz's thinking. I find it hard to believe he thought a Starman/Black Canary feature might be viable, but he had them team-up a second time. With the Dr. Fate/Hourman stories one again finds a second appearance by the team, although if I am right the issues were likely completed before the idea of badging them as the "Super-Team Supreme" and putting them into Showcase was floated. (It could be someone liked the issues and thought the Dr. Fate/Hourman team might support a feature, or simply that there was a gap in Showcase's schedule and they were used to fill it.)


Incidentally, the only feature to graduate from TB&TB to its own title during its Showcase period was the JLA's. As Philip noted, Hawkman's feature went into Mystery in Space first.

Comment by Commander Benson on April 30, 2011 at 7:02am

“The first team-up was Doctor Fate and Hourman . . .


"Next were Starman and Black Canary . . .


"The only other choice was Doctor Mid-Nite . . . ."



Thanks for bringing that up, Philip, because it gives me a chance to use some information I waited a long time to confirm, and finally did, a few months ago.


'Way back about the time when the Spectre's solo mag was winding down, I first read that the original idea had been to team-up the Ghostly Guardian with Doctor Mid-Nite.  The thing was, all these decades later, I couldn't remember just where I had seen it back then.  I suspect it was in "The Wild World of DC Comics"; that was sort of an expanded version of Marvel's "Bullpen Bulletins" that ran sporadically in National Periodical's magazines in '68 and '69.


Then, sometime, someplace, in the early '80's, I came across that information, again.  Probably in one of the trade mags, such as Amazing Heroes.  But, again, I couldn't remember precisely where.  So I never brought the matter of a planned Spectre/Dr. Mid-Nite pairing up.  I wasn't going to go solely on a vague recollexion and I didn't have any reference to back it up.


Then, a few months ago, I was researching something else on line and (isn't that the way it always is?) I chanced upon corroboration, at last.


In an interview, Michael Uslan, the executive producer of several of the Batman films, talked about The Great Comic Book Heroes, a book by cartoonist Jules Feiffer that came out in 1965.  If you've never read it, it's a combination of essays by Feiffer on the heroes of the Golden Age, along with several reprinted stories of that vintage.  Uslan stated:



That book was essential. That was the only thing we had that gave us clues about the Golden Age of Comics. It was our Bible. It was my first exposure to characters like the Spectre, whom I had to pester Julie Schwartz to bring back.


He wrote me back and said, "We can’t! The Comics Code says no walking dead!" So I wrote him a note back that said, "Yeah? Really? What about Casper?"


The next thing I know, I got a note back from Julie saying, "You’ll be happy to know that the Spectre is coming back in Showcase # 60, teamed up with Doctor Mid-Nite.”



That's about as close to the horse's mouth as it gets.  It confirms my memory that there was an intention by DC to go with a third pairing of Earth-Two super-heroes---the Spectre and Dr. Mid-Nite.


I think it’s pretty apparent why Julius Schwartz ultimately scrapped the notion and went with just a solo Spectre effort.  Teaming the Discarnate Detective with Doc Mid-Nite (or any mortal, for that matter) would be even more overwhelming than Superman paired with Batman.

Comment by Philip Portelli on April 30, 2011 at 8:38am

I've heard that, too, Commander and the reasoning behind dropping Doctor Mid-Nite makes perfect sense. How do you contribute when your partner is empowered by God?? But they did try with Wildcat in The Spectre #3 and that just made poor Ted Grant look washed-up!

Though I agree, I can't help but feel bad Doc never got his cover billing!

Then again, I also read (somewhere) that DC was going to pair up Doctor Mid-Nite with the Sandman but that never took off either.

As for the Spectre being the "walking dead", I guess that they got around that by having Jim Corrigan being or at least acting like he was alive! And Spec was an aspect of his personality, if not his soul!

Comment by Commander Benson on April 30, 2011 at 9:02am

"Then again, I also read (somewhere) that DC was going to pair up Doctor Mid-Nite with the Sandman but that never took off either."


That was another reason why I had never addressed the matter of a third Earth-Two super-hero team.  I remembered something about Dr. Mid-Nite and the Sandman, too.  But memories of things forty-five years back are such foggy things, I couldn't be sure if I had actually seen that, or was just misremembering the Spec/Mid-Nite thing.


A Dr. Mid-Nite/Sandman pairing is intriguing.  I find it more appealing than the Starman/Black Canary one, and as interesting as the Doctor Fate/Hourman team.

Comment by Eric L. Sofer on May 2, 2011 at 7:32am

Commander, I remember hearing about a Dr. Mid-Nite and Sandman team up as well.  In my opinion (rant time, boys and girls!), I think that the best team-ups were of those characters of relatively equal powers.  COROLLARY:  During the Silver and Bronze Ages, one or two team-ups did seem to work pretty well as far disparate power sets... but that was because of stories and characterizations what worked despite the powers, not based on them.


Superman and Batman?  Two great iconic characters, yes, and I was always pleased that they were friends (and I was driven to rage by the idiots who felt that the "dramatic enhancement" of having them snipe at each other, or not be friends, was a good idea.  Butt munchers.)  But really, short of Kandor, loss of powers, or gaining of powers, it's very hard to put those two into a single story consistently.  Yes, yes, I know they did it for thirty-odd years.  Reread those stories and tell me which ones were really good.


Flash and Green Lantern worked great.  Atom and Hawkman worked really well power-wise... although I have yet to have anyone explain to me what the two had in common, but so be it.  The Teen Titans worked because of characterization and stories... because B&B 52 was right; Aqualad and Kid Flash both had it all over Robin regarding powers - but not regarding intelligence, and that's important with teen super heroes.


What teams would have worked better?  Earth-2 Starman and Green Lantern.  Earth-2 Black Canary and the Atom (although I never was able to tell if he had super-strength or not.  But they were both excellent hand to hand combatants.  You might make it a trio team-up by throwing Wildcat into that mix.)  Batman and Hawkman.  J'onn J'onzz and Wonder Woman.


It always seemed that threats of a certain level could more easily be written on a regular basis for a pairing/teaming of equivalently powered heroes.  Shucks, the first Superman/Spider-Man team up shows that in its danged climax!  Superman is saving the East Coast... and Spider-Man is knocking out Luthor.  Maybe a little disparity in achievements...




Comment by Martin Gray on May 3, 2011 at 8:38am

My uneducated guess would be that Fox knew of the one-off team-up, then decided that whether or not there were more, now a team had been established (so much as one story can establish anything), and given that one part of said team could travel offworld, he could use the old 'off-planet' fallback to keep them out of a JLA tale.


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