All-American Publications (December, 1941/January, 1942)
“Two New Members Win Their Spurs”
WRITER: Gardner F. Fox
no credits for colorists or letterers; I had to find any of these from comics.org.
Hop Harrigan: “Sky Cutups”
no writer credit but Jon L. Blummer drew the little picture of Hop’s face near the title.
Wonder Woman: “Introducing Wonder Woman”
WRITER: Charles Moulton (alias William Marston)
ARTIST: Harry G. Peter
All-Star Comics was an interesting comic in that it was an anthology like other comics I’ve reviewed from this period but connected by the theme that the superheroes in the story were all members of the Justice Society Of America, the first superhero team in all of comics. All-American would later be merged into National Publications to become the DC Comics we know and love. This issue is also famous for the debut of Wonder Woman, but we’ll get to her later. The in-house rule for whom would be part of the JSA at the time would depend on whether or not they had their own comic. Superman and Batman (DC had ties to All-American) were honorary members and at the time of this story so were the original Green Lantern and Flash. The others only existed in this series. There were few team-ups back then as the hook was the heroes discussing their cases.
First the JSA. Starman and Doctor Mid-Nite come to the Justice Society (lead by Hawkman and featuring the original Atom–with no size changing powers, just a short guy who was an excellent fighter, Johnny Thunder and his Thunderbolt, the Spectre, and the Sandman–this version a masked crimefighter with a sleeping gas gun) when strange things are happening to crime witnesses. It turns out all of the JSA members’ solo cases have the same problem, men who go crazy in any kind of light. And they all have the same cause: a mad scientist named Doctor Elba that Mid-Nite was investigating as part of his search for a Professor Able, who could solve all these strange cases of madness. As the heroes use an antidote Mid-Nite found to restore their hostages and finish their cases, they come together and track down Elba, who turns out to be Able all along. He’s hit with his own virus (altered from a disease that strikes gorillas–this story did not age well) and falls to his death. Doctor Mid-Nite and Starman join the Justice Society Of America.
Like I said, parts of this story don’t age well. Some of the dialog is just weird, and Fox has this obsession with having someone shout out “keep ’em flying” at least once per adventure. Either he was trying to make that expression enter the lexicon or overwork it out of the lexicon. It would help if the phrase made sense in all of the tales but it doesn’t. Then there are the stupid things the characters do in order for this plot to work and for Mid-Nite to get everyone the antidote. We have one hero actually leave a tied-up wild man with a kid who can’t be much more than 10, if that. (I’m thinking closer to seven myself.) Who would do that? Is going to a JSA meeting so important that you have to abandon the case you’re on? Granted they wouldn’t have found out they and then non-members Starman and Doctor Mid-Nite were having similar problems or get the antidote but you’re asking a lot here. At least the individual stories are good–except for Johnny Thunder’s tale which doesn’t work for me. Thunder has personality issues and the Thunderbolt is like a little kid.
The Hop Harrigan story is a prose tale that separates some of the stories. If there wasn’t a running theme that wouldn’t bother me but as it stands it breaks up the story and isn’t very good. Hop’s pal Tank decides to do a stunt show, bragging that “Super Dooper Man” (spare me) would out perform the feats of the superheroes who end up secretly saving him from those stunts. It’s cute I guess but I just found it uninteresting especially when there’s a story it’s interrupting. Why not put it between the JSA and Wonder Woman stories?
And now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the debut of Wonder Woman. No kids made of clay or Zeus babies. Just the story of how the Amazons came to Paradise Island and how Diana won the mantle of Wonder Woman. When Captain Steve Trevor crashlands on Paradise Island, the unconscious man is cared for by the Amazons to send home. After learning he was chasing bombers working for Nazi Germany, she learns from their chosen goddesses, Aphrodite and Athena that they must send one Amazon to give up her immortality to use all the Amazons have learned to become a protector of the last hope of democracy for women (I remind you that this was 1941), the United States.
Parts of Wonder Woman’s origin (the daughter of Hippolyta, called “Hippolyte” here; the tournament ending with blocking bullets with bracelets; Paradise Island, later named Themyscira because DC hates their letterers and any of us writing about their characters) remained for years and even with the current DC mindset of making the Amazons of the DCU closer to the original Greek myths and legends instead of the kinder warrior women that lasted for decades. If you want to see the story, Linkara reviewed it as part of his “Secret Origins Month” series. You can see it here. The story continues in Sensation Comics #1 which I should look at next week, even if it goes against my plan to review my comiXology digital collection alphabetically.
As for this issue, you’ll probably get it for Wonder Woman’s origin, but despite my complaints the main stories are also pretty good and worth checking out. With the comic at $2 on ComiXology it might be worth checking out.