Friday, December 16, 2011

JLA HQ FORTNIGHT: A Tornado is a disaster, by the way

So, it’s the Silver Age, and the Justice League of America has a sweet “modernistically outfitted” cavern headquarters, a host of one-shot, ugly, and incompetent foes, and a sidekick so moronic that even Green Lantern and Green Arrow look smart standing beside him. Their stories make absolutely zero sense; in fact, some of them are not merely nonsensical but actively anti-sensical, like a collaboration between Grant Morrison and Willy Wonka, as produced by the Brothers Krofft. But it doesn’t matter because they are the Justice League of America, and if they shat delicious Fruit Pies, readers would eat them up.

I think it's the antennae that really make this panel.

Nothing could possibly touch them….


Many are the world’s natural disasters; fire, flood, pestilence, famine, earthquake, Jean Loring, hurricanes, and slowly advancing glaciation. And the JLA was equal to them all. So it took an un-natural disaster to begin their eventual doom. I speak, of course, of…


Kill it, Barry; kill it NOW, while you can.

The well-schooled among you will already know that the original, Golden Age Red Tornado was a comedy character. Burly grocery owner Abigail “Ma” Hunkel was inspired by her children’s love of Green Lantern comics to cobble together an impromptu costume and clean up her neighborhood as the gender-blurred crimefighter, the Red Tornado. Originally a throwaway concept, the Red Tornado, as one of the earlier superhero parodies, gained immediate popularity and wound up engulfing her home strip/book “Scribbly the Boy Cartoonist”.

In the Golden Age this is what we meant by being a pot-head.

As part of the bizarre meta-miscegenation of publishers in the Golden Age, the Red Tornado migrated from American Publishing to DC Comics just long enough to pop her (potted) head in at the first meeting of the Justice Society of America. It’s odd. Somewhat less odd when you remember that Sheldon Mayer created both the Red Tornado and the JSA. But it’s still odd.

The Red Tornado: A Legacy of Dignity

Oh, but the Red Tornado’s revenge for not being invited to join the JSA would come later. Some 25 years later, the Silver Age decided to do with the Red Tornado what it did best: out-weird the Golden Age.

The Red Tornado was re-imagined as an android weapon designed by T.O. Morrow to kill the Justice Society and the Justice League. Which he did.

Don’t cry, kids; they died, but got better later.

See, Barry? You NEVER listen to me.

Essentially, the Silver Age Red Tornado was designed to f*** things up. He was, as his name implied, a walking disaster. He was a fumbling Frankenstein monster who ruined everything he touched. Don’t believe me? Fine; then believe the JLA members themselves:

Okay, we all know Superman's a dick, but when Wonder Woman tells you you're an incompetent boob, you better believe her. Because Wonder Woman knows boobs.

Anyone wanna guess how this turns out...?

Well, not a walking disaster, exactly; more of a twirling one, really. Speaking of twirling disasters, with the arrival of Red Tornado, the twirl-tastic Mars-halationing Martian Manhunter became even more redundant in the JLA .

I mean, nobody else could do that like J’onn. Except Superman. And the Flash. And Red Tornado. Or Wonder Woman twirling her lasso really fast. Or Green Lantern with a fan-construct. Or Batman using a Bat-bee-fan from his utility belt.

Plus, the devastating Tornado cleared a path for another ex-pat Earth-Two-er, Black Canary, to join the JLA and soften it up with all her tears.

Blah blah tragedy blah blah blah Black Canary blah blah suffering

But Martian Manhunter and Black Canary are the stars of the next two segments of the Demise of the Silver Age Justice League of America, part of what drives them off the Earth into the Bronze Age and the satellite 22,300 miles away. Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

JLA HQ: GA + BC = S-S!

Tomorrow we'll look at the arrival of that clanking catastrophe, Red Tornado, and his fellow Earth-2 reject, the weeping widow, Black Canary. For now, enjoy this teaser: the first time Green Arrow meets Black Canary.

He shoots her with.... his stickum-shaft.

Um... no, Ollie; no, it's not.

Somehow I can't help but think there's some sort of subtle symbolism going on here, but I can't quite put my finger on it....

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?

Monday, December 12, 2011

"No MAN can. But Jean is another story entirely."

As mention in our last post, next up at the Absorbascon is a celebration of the formation of the--

Oh, sorry about that. Ahem. A celebration of the formation of the Justice League in the DC's "New 52", in which we'll--

Okay, Jean Loring; I hear you! And I realize that I would ignore the demands of the DCU's craziest denizen at my peril. So, we will in fact be giving attention to some of your further adventures, as part of our forthcoming series:

JLA HQ Fortnight!

Because it takes more than a week, you know. Stay tuned.