Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Classics - Showcase #22

   As the end of the 1950s neared, DC Comics was down to just three super-heroes - Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

   In 1959 the company decided to give it another go (thank goodness), and they brought back The Flash. (I should add that J'onn J'onz, the Martian Manhunter, also gets credit as part of DC's superhero revival.)

   Surprisingly, they didn't just dust off the original character (Jay Garrick) - instead, they created a new version (Barry Allen) with a new, sleek costume, and a new supporting cast - but the hero's origin was virtually unchanged.

   It was a success, so the next hero in line was the oddly-named Green Lantern. This time, the reboot would be more thorough.

   Making his first appearance in Showcase #22, this GL was not magic-based, as the Golden Age Alan Scott had been. The new version for 1959 would be based on science fiction.

   So Hal Jordan was the ultimate American hero - a fearless test pilot, working for Ferris Aircraft. He is pulled by a mysterious green force to the site of a crashed spaceship, where he meets the dying alien Abin Sur, who gives him a power ring and a lantern - the source of the ring's energy.

   But the ring has limitations - it will only hold a charge for 24 hours, and it can't affect anything yellow. (Why yellow? No idea.)

   Hal's love interest is quickly established as Carol Ferris, the daughter of his boss. But when she's put in charge of the company, their romance seems to be doomed.

   The villains in the first issue are nothing special - generic saboteurs - but the story sets the stage for everything that follows.

   Writer John Broome was the best in DC's bullpen, and working with editor Julius Schwartz, he crafted terrific, inventive stories. The art was by Gil Kane, a towering legend in the field for good reason - his clean, vivid art and stunning character designs made the series stand out from the field.

   I have to admit, I didn't buy this issue off the stands - it was just before my time - but I anxiously read the reprints, because (with The Flash), Green Lantern was my "first favorite" - one of the comics I loved "at first sight," and one that helped hook me on comic books.

   After all these years, it holds up well - and the concepts the creative team devised still continue to form the foundation of the series to this day. This was the beginning of a legend.

Grade: A



Anonymous said...

I don't mean to be such a stickler, but Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were not the last three heroes at DC/National in the late 1950's. Superboy had two comics of his own. Martian Manhunter, who you mentioned, was backing up Batman in Detective Comics. And Aquaman and Green Arrow survived as back-ups in the pages of Adventure and sometimes World's Finest.
But I take your point, pickings were slim at the House of DC heroes until new versions of Green Lantern and Flash came along and got the Silver Age in high gear!
Good times ahead for you and me and a new generation of readers...

Sam Kujava

Chuck said...

You're absolutely right, Sam - I should have specified "heroes with their own titles," but that still leaves out Superboy (though that's arguable just another Superman comic). Still, no doubt that Flash and then GL sparked the DC hero revival, with Justice League, Hawkman and Atom soon to follow. A great time to be a fan!