Monday, April 5, 2010

The Greatest Heroes of the Silver Age Battle a Big Starfish- Brave and the Bold #28

Well, "The Greatest Heroes of the Silver Age" minus Superman and Batman.
For those of you who don't already know, The Brave and the Bold #28 is a landmark issue in the history of Silver Age comics. Having already resurrected/revamped Green Lantern and The Flash, the next logical step for DC was to try and resurrect/revamp the old Justice Society of America. Only this time, it was decided that "League" sounded much hipper than "Society".

Naturally, sales powerhouses Batman and Superman were part of the line-up, as well as their old-school gal-pal, Wonder Woman. Also joining the new team were the brand-new sales sensations Green Lantern and The Flash. And rounding out the dream team were back-up feature stalwarts, Aquaman and J'onn J'onnz- Manhunter from Mars.

The story gets off to a great start, with Aquaman (maybe for the last time) being the first hero to learn of a threat to the Earth:

"Peter the puffer-fish"? Seriously? Anyway, a giant, alien menace preparing to invade the Earth? This sounds like a job for SUPERMAN!

Except Superman is too busy. Hmm, well, Batman's always been pretty clever. I'm sure the World's Greatest Detective could use his superior intellect and cutting-edge technology to save us all from the certain domination of an evil, alien intelligence...

Or, I guess he could beg off to stop some street crime. Well, I suppose we'll have to rely on the new kids and the second string, then:

Why does everyone make their HQ in a cave in the 50's and 60's? You know, I don't actually know how much it costs to renovate a cave. Is suspect with having electricity, gas, and running water installed, not to mention all the custom fit walls and carpet, it's probably pretty pricey. Maybe the JLA should have priced one of those pre-fab, steel buildings or something. Bad guys seem to have no trouble finding abandoned warehouses. I'm just saying is all.

So, setting a precedent that will be repeated many times for years to come, the five available members of the JLA split up and try to take on Starro's minions around the globe, individually. Except Wonder Woman. Can't send a girl out there by herself, so she teams up with the Martian.

During his part of the mission, Flash picks up a new friend:

A really irritating friend. A really irritating friend who snaps his fingers all the time and speaks in a completely bogus youthful slang clearly written by out-of-touch adults.

Of course, "Snapper" turns out to be the key to the whole thing. For some reason, Snapper is immune to Starro's influence.

Getting the team back together, Green Lantern uses his power ring to do a spectrographic analysis on Snapper and discovers that the lime Snapper was adding to his parents' lawn or "grass mat" is actually harmful to Starro and his minions.

The JLA quickly obtain some lime from local farmers...

Whew! I thought for a minute there I was going to have to not care if they paid for that lime!

and Starro shrivels up and dies.

Or does he??

But wait, even though Batman and Superman were completely useless to the JLA, they make Snapper an honorary member. Unfortunately for us, Snapper regularly comes to the meetings.

Gardner Fox will use this same formula for some time to come. Team finds out about problem. Team fights problem as individuals. Team teams up and wins. But hey, if it works, don't mess with it.

Mike Sekowsky does an admirable job of giving a universal look to seven heroes typically drawn in seven, individual and character-specific styles.

For those of you out there who feel I spend an unfair amount of time on DC comics and not enough on Marvel, I would like to mention that this single issue of Brave and the Bold was what inspired Marvel publisher Martin Goodman to tell Stan Lee to create a line-up of super-heroes. That's right, without the JLA, there would be no Fantastic Four, no Avengers. Pretty cool, huh?


  1. I think these early issues of JLA can be a lot of fun, but I find that I can't read more than one or two at a time because of the "Gardner Fox team comic" formula that you mentioned. I don't mean that as a knock, but rather that you just have to read certain Silver Age DC and Marvel comics in different ways in order to get the maximum enjoyment out of them.

    My favorite part of this particular issue is how the characters frequently refer to Starro's minions as his "star-deputies." For some reason, that phrase just cracks me up every time I read it.

  2. Marc: I know what you mean about not being able to handle several in a row. I find it helpful sometimes when reading a collected volume to read two different collected volumes of two different titles. That way, you can read two JLA stories and then read, say, two Doom Patrol stories, and then maybe come back to the JLA... it helps break things up and keeps you from getting bogged down by formulae. It's also more like reading comics when you were a kid, getting several comics a month and having to wait to see what was next.

    "Star deputies" *snort*

  3. You're right about adult writers having a tin ear for youthful slang. It always makes me think of Jack Webb on Dragnet when he'd confront a group of hipster "hopheads" and start lecturing them on the dangers of drug use. He couldn't possibly sound more out of touch, and so often comic writers had the same problem.

  4. B.I.M.: check out the letter to the readers from Carmine Infantino in this older post:

    You might also enjoy "Teen Titans Week" for loads of tragically hip slang.

  5. That Infantino letter is priceless. I love all his work, but that thing takes the cake. There's nothing like compounding a disastrous pricing scheme with a message that attempts to relate to youths but in its clumsiness only alienates them. Thanks for pointing it out to me.

  6. I definitely agree with you on your method of reading collected comics. I usually find myself going back and forth between several books at a time. Then after a few days, right about when I start to wonder why I haven't finished reading anything recently, I'll finish two or three books in the same day!

    It's a very satisfying feeling, and I enjoy it because, like you said, it's essentially replicating the way these comics were originally read. I think that's the main problem for most people who don't like "old" comics...they're just not reading them the way they were meant to be read!

  7. I remember that Infantino message coinciding with Denny O'Neill making him the industrial bad guy in GL/GA #84, including his photo in triplicate on the cover--also the message concerning inflation--as a kid, that's how I measured what adults were agonizing over in the '70's--by how often cover prices changed throughout the decade. Ah, nostalgia.

  8. I love the whole "I'll make sure to pay for this later" type thing that seems to happen all the time in DC silver age. Respect for property and being a good citizen are core american values that they want to make sure the kids understand, i suppose. One of the best examples is in a hawkman issue where some chick impersonating hawkgirl accidentally damages someone's tv aerial. Hawkman, like a good citizen offers to buy them a new one, but they say it was worth it cos they got to meet their hero! swoon.