In Justice League of America #83 (September, 1970), by writer Denny O’Neil and artists Dick Dillin and Joe Giella, Dr. Fate released The Spectre from containment in a crypt to save Earths One and Two from occupying the same dimensional space–an event that would destroy both worlds. The Spectre enlarged himself and cast his essence between both Earths, flexing his magical powers to the utmost to push the worlds apart. While his effort was successful, The Spectre nobly sacrificed himself–fading into space with a tear in his eye while his final thoughts bore the acceptance of his fate.
In time, The Spectre got better . . . and grimmer . . . and a whole lot more vengeful.
In the return of The Spectre in Adventure Comics #431 (January-February, 1974), by writer Michael Fleisher and artist Jim Aparo, three armed men robbed an armored bank car, murdering four guards and one of their own in the process.
Detective Jim Corrigan arrived on the scene and immediately took on the case, but he wasn’t out to capture the crooks by conventional means. He changed to The Spectre and sent one robber to his death over a cliff; melted another; and stripped the ringleader of flesh, internal organs, veins and blood to leave nothing but his skeleton squatted amongst a stunned crowd on an airplane in flight during a violent storm.
This incarnation of The Spectre was the stuff of gruesome nightmare, and Fleisher and Aparo’s run on the character was just getting started, and would continue through Adventure Comics #440.
DC Nostalgia: Describing the Dawn
“As the first mellow light of dawn creeps over the weary façade of the Van Zandt mansion . . . life-and-death drama unfolds within . . . .”
The above narration by writer Gerry Conway on the last page of Freedom Fighters #2 (May-June, 1976) sets the stage for the Human Bomb’s uncanny-yet-successful attempt to transform Phantom Lady, Black Condor, and Doll Man from silver statues to human beings (the villainous Silver Ghost had first transformed them from humans to statues, then blackmailed the Freedom Fighters’ remaining members, Uncle Sam, The Ray, and The Human Bomb, to do his bidding or else he would destroy their teammates).
Conway’s description may not be a top-of-the-line literary narrative, but it does its job–setting time, location, and mood. It’s the kind of narration that we long-time comics readers probably took for granted.
Today’s super-hero writers do not describe the dawn. It just happens. And life-and-death dramas now unfold 24/7, and they’re meaningless–but that part’s okay with me. I’m used to it.
I like the dawn, however. I’ve always liked the dawn. I’ve always loved to read comics as dawn approaches and the sun begins to illuminate the sky, and I still do. Those once frequent, brief nods to dawn in the midst of dramatic super-hero activity are a joy to re-read. If there’s anything in superhero comics I’m nostalgic for, it’s descriptions of the dawn.
DC Nostalgia, in the 21st century: The Brave and the Bold #32
There was a time, now decades past, when a done-in-one-issue tale was the norm at DC Comics. Nowadays, it’s not only rare but oft-times woefully uneventful. Well, that’s changed for me in recent months with J. Michael Straczynski and Jesus Saiz’s current run of done-in-one stories in The Brave and the Bold.
“Night Gods,” starring Aquaman and The Demon, published in (and no further) than The Brave and the Bold #32 (April, 2010), is an outstanding addition to what has become a vastly entertaining string of individual comic book stories.
In the return of The Spectre in Straczynski skillfully builds off a familiar and straightforward adventure plot: a gigantic, ghastly, other-dimensional demon whose grotesque rendering reminded me of M’Nagalah from Swamp Thing #8 [Jan.-Feb., 1974]. By the way, M’Nagalah decreed the birth of life on Earth in that particular issue–so don’t go by that startling, debatable reveal covered up and exposed by the Guardians of the Universe in Blackest Night #7 [April, 2010].
Anyway, in Straczynski’s story, the other-dimensional demon makes an attempt every few years to enter Earth through varied and hidden undersea portals. If successful, it will ravage the planet with the help of an army of the dead.
Fortunately, Aquaman and The Demon have made a pact to team-up when needed to fight back this demon and his countless minions. This time, though, an unsuspecting landlubber comes with them (endowed with temporary fins and gills by way of the Demon’s supernatural powers) to help the unlikely super-team find the new entry location, and to bear witness to a recurring event Aquaman and The Demon have long kept secret.
What follows is an awesome, heroic undersea battle against almost insurmountable odds, superbly illustrated by Saiz, who provides a lot of detail in what is by nature a murky atmosphere–the undersea realm of Aquaman.
Now that I think about it, is it safe to consider Straczynski and Saiz the Bob Haney and Jim Aparo of this century’s incarnation of The Brave and the Bold?
Why not? They’re that good. I hope they can stay on this title as long as that classic B&B creative team of the 1970s did!
And when Aquaman gets his own series again, Straczynski and Saiz are my preferred candidates to chronicle the Sea King’s adventures (note to DC: if Stracynski is too busy with B&B, Superman, and Wonder Woman, please re-enlist former Aquaman scribe Steve Skeates). Regardless, please keep Aquaman ocean-oriented and in his traditional green and orange garb!