It’s a review and answering questions this time around, so let’s start with a dip into the emailbox…

Thanks to some friends, I recently discovered that in 1977 when you were writing FREEDOM FIGHTERS for DC, a “new” group of heroes called the Crusaders made their debut. These heroes bore more than a passing resemblance to Marvel’s Invaders, then being written by Roy Thomas. At the same time, Roy’s Invaders introduced a “new” set of heroes also named the Crusaders who were remarkably similar to your Freedom Fighters. This can’t have been a coincidence! Did you an Roy work out this little crossover on your own? Were there any consequences with the bigwigs? What can you tell us?
 Chris Fluit [[email protected]]

As I recall it, I had come up with the idea of using the Crusaders (Americommando and Rusty, Fireball and Sparky, and the Barracuda) in Freedom Fighters and joked with then-editor Tony Isabella that it would be really funny if Roy Thomas used a version of the FFers in INVADERS and called THEM the Crusaders as well. I believe it was actually Tony who spoke with Roy and suggested the unofficial crossover… but neither Roy nor I got to see these alternate-reality versions of our teams until the books were published.

As far as repercussions from higher-ups, we never heard a word. (Of course, that could have been a sign that they weren’t even reading our books!)


REVIEW: SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-HEROES by Howard Chaykin, David Tischman, Mike McKone and Jimmy Palmiotti.

[SPOILER WARNING: The plot will be discussed in this review.]

This two-part Elseworlds tale left me feeling the same way many of John Grisham’s novels do, that there is a great premise and it falls apart by the time you get to the end. In this case, all of super-hero history turns on young Clark Kent deciding in 1943 to do super-deeds secretly, rather than as a publicly-recognized hero. But after the first two pages, it gets confusing.

From the first sequence in which Clark witnesses his father anonymously helping a widow, the story jumps to the present and all over the place. An unidentified felon is in a car chase but gets away. We meet Clark Kent in his office where he is editor-in-chief – and has been for 20 years – who has as an assistant a red-bearded and balding fellow named Jim. Then we meet Lois Lane – looking more like Barbara Gordon than the Lois we know and love — employed by an also-unnamed newspaper edited Perry White.

Next it’s two pages in Gotham City with Bruce Wayne, the FBI’s top profiler. This seems to be Bruce as Fox Mulder, more concerned with the disappearances of more than 200 criminals over the past forty years than with the current murder case he’s working on. This is followed by a visit to Keystone City and a teen named Bart who is at odds with his parents over a car accident (and lots of other things, one would guess). Bart, it turns out, has super-speed, which he apparently uses every Thursday to race out of town to a truck stop to eat a piece of blueberry pie.

There’s a page in which we find out Lucius Fox, former Gotham mayor and Congressman, finds out that his affair with a woman three decades his junior is about to ruin his career. Then we ride the Metropolis subway to a station that hides the headquarters of the Kryptic Order. It is here that we finally see the members of the Secret Society, all of whom are identifiable by their close-to-usual costumes – except for Metamorpho, who is not identified here.

A comment from Flash that he has made contact with a potential new member brings us back to Bart, who finds a letter addressed “I know what you can do.” Then it’s back to Metropolis where Bruce and Lois meet in the apartment of a missing man named Pelecanos. It is apparently HE who was being chased by the police earlier in the story.

Next stop is the Museum of Natural History, where an invisible Metamorpho punches out an abusive father. [Attention: Writers, editor, and proofreader! Metamorpho’s real name is Rex MASON, not Rex Morgan!] Then during a computer breakdown at the Hong Kong stock market, we find the Atom inside a machine. I thought he was there trying to fix it, but as I found out in the second volume, he wasn’t.

I could on with this page-by-page account, but I hope you’re getting the idea by now. The writers seem to think the readers are clairvoyant and so they don’t bother actually giving you a lot of information. Additionally, they seem to think you can recognize the heroes out of costume. One scene shows four men in suits talking about the Hong Kong market problem and how they made a ton of money, then one remarks about a trucking opportunity and Fox being out of the way because “someone” leaked a story about him.

All in all, this story jumps all over the place and has more gaps in logic than most readers will be willing to suspend disbelief for. One example: Lois and Bruce find the headquarters of the Kryptic Order, get in by pushing open the secret doorway in the subway station, and stand in plain sight watching the heroes bicker, but are not noticed. Then they wander around the HQ and Bruce even manages to snag a variety of “souvenirs” along the way. One would think that a group so concerned with remaining secret would have even the minimum kind of security system in their headquarters.

In the end, the heroes fight. Some die. Some run away. [Metamorpho, hiding inside Plastic Man, gets barfed down a sewer grating!] Bruce, now as Batman, and Bart, now as The Flash, open the Phantom Zone. Oh yeah, I didn’t mention the Phantom Zone, did I? That’s where all the criminals (Bruce says it 300 in the second volume, a 50% increase over what he says in the first.) are sent by the Secret Society. It’s a cross between The Village from “The Prisoner” and a hippie commune, run by J’onn J’onzz, who is happy to be there, though we’re not sure why.

SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-HEROES is ultimately a disappointment. Like a fast-paced movie in which many things happen, some for no apparent reason, you find yourself walking away saying, “I wonder what that scene was about.” The difference with a movie is that you can’t go back and look at scenes again to see what was going on. A comic book is different; you CAN flip back. In some cases you say, “Ahhhh, now I get it.” In others, it’s far more obvious that the scenes just don’t make sense.


BOBRO’S TRIVIA QUIZ
1. Identities of Batman and Green Lantern were discovered by what villain who called himself the “Modern Monte Cristo”?
2. Thanagar’s entire population fell victim to what malady?
3. “Shattered Visage” chronicled a return of what Village person?
4. Sinestro was replaced as Green Lantern of sector 1417 by what Korugan?
5. You remember Batgirl’s debut; how much was it “worth”?
6. Mindy Yano, Donovan Flint, and Bruce Sellers were members of what group?
7. Basil Nurblin, his wife Francine, and his daughter Luna were all suspected to be what Flash-foe?
8. Okay, which Harvey character’s Uncles and Aunts had their own title for thirteen years.
9. Left transformed by a silicoid gun explosion, who is the nephew of Dian Belmont?
10. In a back-up feature nicknamed what did Aquaman, Air Wave and Atom share the spotlight?
11. Superman’s multiple-era adventures of last year were created by what villain?
12. Max Ray, Ace McCloud and Jake Rockwell were members of what team?

BOBRO’S FUN FACTS TO KNOW & TELL:
1. Charles Guiteau and Leon Czolgosz are the two lesser-known Presidential assassins. Guiteau shot James Garfield in 1881; Czolgosz killed William McKinley in 1901.
2. William Sydney Porter began his writing career while serving a three-year prison term for embezzlement; his nom de plume — O. Henry.
3. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are War (Conquest), Famine, Pestilence (Slaughter) and Death. Their horses are white, black, red and pale, respectively.


BACK TO THE EMAILBOX…

What happened to Power Girl’s baby during Zero Hour?
 Wally Oeste [[email protected]]

Whatever became of the child of Black Bolt and Medusa after it was taken from them in the 1990 graphic novel?
 John Frost [[email protected]]

Both can be seen regularly on milk cartons!

Seriously, though, what one writer sets up in a story or series with plans to develop down the line often gets lost (or tossed) when a new writer takes over. Other times, the editor may just decide that the direction the character is going needs to be changed and conveniently ignores what he/she doesn’t want.

Of course, years later, some other creative team may resurrect the plot thread and give it a new twist… which is how some of comics’ continuity has gotten so convoluted.


Is Bruno Premiani still alive?
 Dave Potts [[email protected]]

The last time I heard anything about him – which was in an article about the original Doom Patrol, I believe – he had long ago returned to South America, but was still alive. If anyone out there had any updated info, I’ll be happy to pass it along.


The guys who had their letters published this week are entitled to 10% off anything they order from Comics Unlimited. YOU can save yourself some money AND get those nagging comics questions answered by using the convenient question box in the column on the left.


TRIVIA ANSWERS:
Check out the various symbol keys on your keyboard. You’ll find they are part of the answers to this week’s quiz.
1. time COMMAnder
2. EQUALizer plague
3. NUMBER 6
4. kATma tui
5. a million DOLLARs
6. STAR hunters
7. COLONel computron
8. little DOT
9. sANDy hawkins
10. action-PLUS
11. doMINUS
12. CENTurions

Need some more trivia Q&A in your life? Check out BobRo’s daily Anything Goes Trivia at wfcomics.com/trivia

Copyright ? 2000 to 2003 by Bob Rozakis. All Rights Reserved.


 

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