Tuesday, December 13, 2011

JLA HQ: The Origin of Happy Harbor

So when the Justice League of America originally formed, narrative efficiency demanded that they have a common place where they could meet together, in private: a Justice League of America headquarters.

The solution was, of course, a cave. Why? Because this is not Marvel, people. DC heroes do not hang out like commoners in shiny, public (and highly ostentatious) skyscrapers. Dignity forbids. Therefore, like decent people, the Justice League naturally hung out together in a large cavern (like the Batcave, the Fortress of Solitude, the *snicker* Arrowcave, the Aquacave, the Martian Manhunter's mountain getaway, or Barry Allen's absurdly large laboratory in his Central City apartment).

Their "Secret Sanctuary" is presented in their first story (Brave & the Bold #28, where they fight Starro, 'natch) as a fait accompli, no backstory provided. This is the Silver Age, people; information is dispensed to the readers on a need-to-know basis. It was simply a "modernistically outfitted cavern" (circa 1960, that is) that was... somewhere.

So, who do you think got stuck with cutting that chartreuse carpet so it fit flush with the jagged wall of rock on the left? I'm thinking Barry.

You are objecting right now:
"But, the Secret Sanctuary was in Happy Harbor, Rhode Island." Well, read the original story more carefully; at no point does it state that the Secret Sanctuary is in Happy Harbor. Starro (or his surrogates--don't ask) attack in three different locations: in the air near an unspecific mountain range, at "Science City", and in Happy Harbor (where that ridiculous dork, Snapper Carr, lives).

In fact, in their second story, where they combat the inept Xotar the Weapons Master, it is specifically stated that the closest town is.... Middledale. We know only that Middledale is somewhere on the East Coast and has mountains nearby (one of which houses the Secret Sanctuary).

Yes, Snapper Carr is seen in the cavern... but
after being brought there by Justice Leaguers. Which almost implies that he's NOT nearby. It isn't until the JLA's sixth story ("The Slave Ship of Space!", Justice League of America #3, 1961) that it's shown that Snapper lives close enough to drive to the Sanctuary. Again, another narrative convenience. I contend that the Secret Sanctuary was not originally supposed to be thought of as being in Happy Harbor; you weren't supposed to think of it as being anywhere in particular at all (other than, you know, a cave in a mountain, which is where decent people meet). DC comics are famous for this kind of geographic vagueness; if you want to see an A1 sissy fight, just walk into a roomful of comic book geeks and innocently ask, "So, where in the U.S is Metropolis, any how?"

But the ugly "necessity" of having that babbling moron, Snapper Carr, in nearly every story increasingly pinned the Secret Sanctuary to his hometown of Happy Harbor, which is of course a ludicrous place for it to be. For one thing: it's in Rhode Island, which is pretty much a ludicrous place for
anything to be, let alone the headquarters of the most famous superheroes in the DCU. Second, Rhode Island isn't exactly centrally located for either the U.S., hotspots of supervillainous trouble, or the heroes themselves (all of whose cities lie, to some degree, south or west of Rhode Island). Plus, Rhode Island's not easy to get to (unless, like Snapper, you already live there) and its main plus in that respect is that, being on the sea, Aquaman can get there without bumming a ride from Green Lantern or Wonder Woman.

In fact, Happy Harbor is so ludicrously unlikely a spot for the JLA's HQ that almost the only reason to put it there is because...

it's ludicrously unlikely.

Think: if you were a supervillain, would it ever occur to you in a million years that the JLA would hole up in ... a small town in Rhode Island? I mean, unless you noticed they seemed to have a hep-talking adolescent mascot who lives there? And that's really not a criticism of the concept of the Secret Sanctuary being in Happy Harbor, but rather of the concept of Snapper Carr himself. One of many.

Kill it, Barry. Kill it NOW, while you still can.

So in a sense Happy Harbor is the
perfect place to put the JLA's Secret Sanctuary, precisely because it's such an unlikely spot for it. As opposed to, say (just off the top of my head)... making Washington DC an even BIGGER terrorist target by putting a "Hall of Justice" on the National Mall, where Batman would have to gas a horde of protestors every time he wanted to land the Batplane. Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you.

One of the early riddles of the Secret Sanctuary is how the members get in and out without being seen. Sure, most of the members have powers that allow them to arrive fairly stealthily. It ain't called the Invisible Plane for nothing, and, by comic book convention, one can always assume that, given sufficient time to prepare, Batman can do anything, no matter how unlikely, including arrive in the Batplane unnoticed. But the whole theory is spoiled by the same thing that spoils
most things in the JLA:

Green Arrow.

Kill it, Barry. Kill it NOW, while you still can.

Green Arrow, with his idiotic Arrowplane.
blah blah failure blah blah blah Green Arrow blah blah turmoil

There is no friggin' way you can arrive unnoticed in a bright yellow jet fighter... unless you are in the boonies, in a small town whose view of the misty bay over which you approach is obscured by a big mountain. Just like Happy Harbor.

Oh and for those of you still fretting over why
GREEN Arrow has a YELLOW plane: stop being stupid, the reasons are obvious.

One: it
has to be yellow, otherwise it wouldn't match the Arrowcar.
Be really glad you didn't grow up in Star City.

Two: if you had a sweet jet fighter and wanted to make sure that certified moron and 'test-pilot-whose-job-it-is-to-crash-planes' Hal Jordan kept his stinking green mitts off the darned thing, what color would YOU paint it?


r duncan said...

Scipio, Thank you for this. Just, thank you.

SallyP said...

Of course Ollie's plane is yellow! He may be obnoxious, but he's not THAT stupid!

Having their headquarters in Rhode Island makes sense if you figure in that Batman has a serious secret desire for jonnycakes...similar to the relationship that J'onn has for Chocos. But having you headquarters in easy commuting distance of Snapper Carr...is a serious disadvantage.


TotalToyz said...

Would it be obtuse of me to ask why the Arrowcave rates a *snicker* and the Aquacave doesn't?

Ronald said...

Not that I think anyone's particularly interested, but this is as good a time as any to express my mild confusion over your aversion to Green Arrow.

Green Arrow has no superhuman powers that make him feel "compelled" to fight crime. He hasn't been designated as law enforcement by any outside force; nobody gave him a weapon and ordered him to use it. He's not carrying on any sort of specific crimefighting tradition or acting on any particular facet of his upbringing, and nobody cultivated any particular sense of obligation in him (in fact, AFAIK we know almost nothing about his family background). He's not motivated by any tragic obsession or trauma. He's not acting on behalf of anyone's memory. Heck, he doesn't even make any money off of what he does. Sure, he trained himself virtually past the peak of human accomplishment, but that was for survival (at least in the origin I'm most familiar with; maybe his background's changed since then); upon returning to civilization, he could have easily set all that aside and gone back to a life of leisure. He didn't have to maintain his physical prowess and certainly didn't have to augment a relatively basic skill with so many variations created through inventive and technological knowhow which he presumably also directly cultivated in himself.

Yet that's what he did. He works really, really hard to be a super-hero for the only really good reason that there IS to be a super-hero, the same reason as many other heroes with golden age roots: Because he ENJOYS it. He just plain WANTS to be a super-hero and that's ALL he wants to be. It's what he CHOOSES to be when he could just as easily choose to be almost anything else (and unless I miss my guess, THAT'S why he's so often written with such an exaggerated sense of social consciousness). If that doesn't exemplify your perceived difference between DC and Marvel, what does?

Thanks for your time.

Nathan Hall said...

But didn't Iron Man also work hard to be a superhero, only to also be a womanizing jerk with too much yellow in his costume? There are many other Marvel examples of normals who chose to be superheroes that are way too much like Green Arrow to show a difference there (cough HAWKEYE cough).

Scipio said...

LOL, you're welcome, duncan, though I don't know exactly why...

Ronald said...

to Nathan: I'm just recalling instances where IIRC Scipio commented that Marvel heroes have a more pessimistic outlook than DC heroes. What could be more optimistic than someone who's a super-hero simply because he LOVES it? So Green Arrow seems to me to exemplify Scipio's preferred outlook (as you note, Hawkeye similarly seems to do so), yet Scipio has this pronounced DISLIKE of Green Arrow.

Nothing wrong with being contradictory in one's feelings -- we all are in some way or another -- it just struck me as noticeable, that's all. :-)

Iron Man is WAY more powerful than Green Arrow and it's thus no challenge at all for him to "measure up" to his superhuman colleagues; logically, that's a lot harder for Green Arrow to do. Also IMHO Iron Man has too many hang-ups to be said to truly enjoy being a super-hero: He feels he has to live up to Prof. Yinsen's sacrifice, he feels he has to redeem his corporation's past war profiteering and stamp down on even the remotest use by others of any products of his genius, he feels guilty about his alcoholism and is driven by the spectre of his father's supposed disapproval, he used to have the no-one-can-know-the-pain-of-requiring-this-armor-just-to-survive angst, his girlfriends betray him or go insane or die, and other such stuff. Green Arrow has almost nothing like that in his motivational bag.

r duncan said...

Thank you for coming back after your long hiatus. Thank you for making me laugh. Thank you for being a fan.

Thank you for telling us on Monday that we had another fun series to look forward to. Two whole weeks worth of Justice League awesomeness. It's like an early Christmas present.

Scipio said...

Ronald; I think perhaps you take comics more seriously than I do. Certainly ones with Green Arrow in them. ;-)

Dale; *sigh* Because an underwater cave is an obvious and natural thing. A cave HQ for a Bat-themed hero; obvious and natural. An *snicker* "ArrowCave" is painfully deriative and dorky.

Duncan: You're welcome; my pleasure.

Ronald said...

"More seriously"? I'm not the one who goes to the trouble of maintaining a blog about them. ;-) Thanks for your time.

Scipio said...

Heh, heh, touche, Ronald. Perhaps what you take more seriously is just MY opinions, which I take either because I believe them or because they are convenient or because they are funny.

r duncan said...

"...where Batman would have to gas a horde of protestors every time he wanted to land the Batplane. Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you."

As more evidence of the Absorbascon's awesomeness, you clearly knew beforehand that Time would announce "The Protestor" as their Person of the Year today. Was this prescience, mind reading, or do you just have an inside source at Time?

Whatever the source, bravo, Scipio.

Scipio said...

Actually, I cheat; I'm from the future.

Which, I suppose, could be said to be "having an inside source at time".

steve mitchell said...

Scipio is the Time Trapper of Earth-0000!

Also, Hawkeye was a trouble-making jerk with the Avengers years before DC had Green Arrow assume an equivalent role with the Justice League.

Hawkeye matured over time, and even became a capable team leader. Green Arrow never did.

TotalToyz said...

Because an underwater cave is an obvious and natural thing. A cave HQ for a Bat-themed hero; obvious and natural. An *snicker* "ArrowCave" is painfully deriative and dorky.

I see. They both seem like Batcave ripoffs to me, but vive le difference, eh?

SallyP said...

I do have to admit that I like those chairs...they're so stylish in that mid-century modern sort of way.

And Ronald? Even Ollie is embarrassed by the whole "Arrow-cave" and "Arrow-Car" thing nowadays. Or at least up until the reboot.

Nathan Hall said...

Ronald - you missed Hawkeye, so perhaps I coughed too loudly. The guy's so insecure he took Pym particles and became Goliath for a while. He doesn't have to be a superhero, he just wants to.

Pat said...

Great post, Scipio, you had me almost falling out of my chair laughing. However, I do have to agree that the Aquacave is even more snicker worthy than the Arrowcave, if only because Aquaman claims to have a shower there (see Adventure #227).

Steve Mitchell said...

"The guy's so insecure he took Pym particles and became Goliath for a while."

More Hawkeye-bashing? Yeah, that's a true statement--for a few years in the late 60s-early 70s.

Since then, though, let's see, Hawkeye served as the leader of the West Coast Avengers, the Great Lakes Avengers, and the Thunderbolts; and currently he's a member of the main Avengers team, an instructor at Avengers Academy, and will soon be taking over as leader of the Secret Avengers.

Hawkeye grew, as a character, and as a hero--quite unlike his bow-slinging counterpart at DC.

(And I actually like Green Arrow, at least up till the new 52. But he's not the man, or the hero, that Hawkeye is.)

SallyP said...

But...but Ollie has that stylish mustache and goatee! Not EVERY superhero can rock the facial hair! Does Hawkeye have a mustache? I think NOT!

Which is why Tony Stark gets all the women.

steve mitchell said...

Um. . .Hawkeye's track record in that department is actually pretty good, despite being clean-shaven: the Black Widow, Mockingbird, Moonstone, the Wasp, the Scarlet Witch, Maya, and currently Spider-Woman.

Scipio said...

OMG, my blog's degenerated into a "Clint versus Ollie" forum.

See? This is exactly the kind of thing Green Arrow leads to.

Dan said...

Scipio and I have a rare agreement: Snapper is absurd. I think he makes the early JLA stories unreadable... and they're not that good of a read to begin with.

I don't think the JLA stories are any good at all until the mid 70s (the $.025 era). To be honest, the SA JLA only had a few good stories at all--and most were drawn by Perez.