Monday, April 20, 2020

The Seven-Part Sequence

If you have ever enjoyed any of my "Week" posts (like the Green Arrow vs. The Pirates Week that precedes this post), you may have assumed that the number of posts in a "Week" is arbitrary, or simply chosen to match a seven-day sequence.

It's not.  It happens to coincide neatly with that, yes, and that is very convenient for me.  But, in fact, the underlying reason is how Golden Age stories (and often ones from later eras) tend to be structured: in seven parts.

0.          Splash Page
1. Act 1: first prep
2. Act 1: first encounter
3. Act 2: second prep(s)
4. Act 2: second encounter(s)
5. Act 3: final prep and encounter
6.         Denouement

That's the template for many a comic book tale.

0. The Splash Page

We number the Splash Page as "0" because it's technically not part of the story.

Remember, during the Golden Age, a comic book usually contained more than one story, sometimes many.  So the cover couldn't necessary be used to convey the information about any one particularly story within.  The cover was therefore often a generic representation of the contents of any one story:

More Fun Comics (1936-1947) #78
This scene does not appear in this comic.
WARNING: The comic contains Green Arrow. Do not read while operating heavy machinery.

Thus each story has its own individual inside cover: the splash page. The splash page is 'the cover of the DVD'. it tells you:

who the protagonist is (LOGO!),

what villain or challenger he will face (The Black Raider pirate ship!),

and shows you a literal or metaphorical drawing an example of the conflict between the two.
This scene DOES appear in this comic.

1. Act 1-- Prep for First Encounter.

The protagonist (hero) and antagonist (villain or situation) are introduced separately. They are doing their Own Things; but they are usually aware of each other.

The villain is doing crimes, and in the process we learn his Methods and Motives.  For example, "This is Pirate Captain. He steals at sea using an old-style ship"

Method: a rakish robber-craft leaving flaming destruction in her grim wake.
Motive: mad dreams of lawless looting in the evil brain of the pirate chief.

or "I was a penny-ante crook but now PENNIES WILL BE MY CRIME SYMBOL."
Joseph Coyne | Headhunter's Holosuite Wiki | Fandom

If he is a villain we already know, we learn 'his new angle'. For example, the Joker is bored; something innocuous inspires him; "I shall commit crimes... IN REVERSE!"

Pictured: hysteron-proteron.

This is common in Golden Age Batman stories. It's how they kept Batman's rogue's gallery both fresh but consistent.  This is in contrast, to say, Dick Tracy storylines, where the villain gets one schtick, one story, and then dies.  Badly. Like the one who got eaten by rats.

"It's what I do."

During the Prep for the first encounter the villain is probably not planning on an encounter with the hero and is, ideally, currently avoiding it. This, of course, may not be true of a returning foe, such as the Golden Age's greatest villain and ultimate evil clown,

Adventure 113 – Green Arrow vs Bull's-eye | Babblings about DC Comics

Bull's-Eye (a.k.a. Leapo The Clown).

During the Prep for First Encounter, the hero, meanwhile, is doing one of two things;

chilling in their private life

If the hero is Green Arrow,
"chilling" is always done while sitting.

or patrolling/stopping basic crimes.

This is before the first encounter with archfiend
Cousin Jane and her weapon, Junior the Bad Baby.

The earlier a story is, the more likely the hero is chilling.  Golden Age heroes hung around in sportcoats and smoking jackets a lot.

Learning about the villain's crimes in the news,

Pictured: the Golden Age news medium of "wuxtry".

hearing about them from Mr. Authority Figure,

"Then maybe we can pop into Ikea on the way back and get you a normal lamp."

or getting wind of something through Society Connections or a Personal Experience.

Pictured: a personal experience.

This is because in the Golden Age, heroes were less likely to be portrayed like policemen who go on patrol.  They were usually portrayed more like fireman; they trained to assist when an unusual "crime fire" broke out.  This is why the Golden Age Justice Society hang out around their big round table having milk and cookies, but the Bronze Age Justice League has members with godlike powers sitting in a satellite on monitor duty.

Because of his close relationship with the police, Batman was on the cutting edge of the idea that a hero would "patrol" his city.

Even if only to get out of the house.

This why his stories often open with him stopping some crime unrelated to the main villain; so often, that this trope is named "The Batman Cold Open."

In any case, either the hero makes the decision to tackle the villain / investigate the situation

"But when we do... I will be wearing THE most fabulous cape."

or circumstances throw them together,

"Post card"; just google it.

which brings us to the next stage.

2.  The First Encounter

The hero deals with the encounter per usual, but 'per usual' doesn't work. because of this villain's methods or motives.

Joseph Coyne (New Earth)/Gallery | DC Database | Fandom
"No one has ever just THROWN something at me before!"

The hero is caught unawares and the villain gets away (with or without accomplishing his goal; that doesn't really matter).  This is the end of Act 1.

3.  Prep for the Second Encounter(s)

During stage 3, we separately see both the hero and villain take stock of the situation again after their first encounter:

"Two-face let the hostages go?"
"The Joker had the flowers rigged!"
"The Catwoman was there in disguise all along!"
"It seems our thief has pennies, on the brain, eh?" 
"...Well, NOW we know what to expect next time."

Armed with this new knowledge, the heroes feel better prepared for the next encounter, sometimes preparing countermeasures; "next time we'll be on the lookout for that, with our bat-copper-alloy-repellant!"

Or sometimes they set up a lure for the villain so they can control the time and place of the second encounter:

"We'll place a fake story in the newspaper about the Van Landorpf emerald that Penguin can't resist!"

Thought I made that up, didn't you?

The villain does the same. "oh-ho! Batman's on my trail, is he? Well, wait till he see what I have in store for him!"

4. The Second Encounter(s)

In the Second Encounter,  the hero and/or villain employ countermeasures developed as a result of the First Encounter.

Pictured: countermeasures.

Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.  They do not result in the villain being captured;  BUT they sometimes result in the hero getting captured.


Depending on how many pages the creators have to fill, there may be more than one 'second encounter'.  The second encounter can be dragged out easily because it's the battle of wits between the hero and the villain, just as long as the outcome is slightly different each time.

"You'll kick my ass in a completely different way this time!"

For example:

  • First Encounter: Villain gets away with loot.
  • Second Encounter A: Hero countermeasures work; villain loses loot but gets away.
  • Second Encounter B: Villain countermeasure works; the hero is captured. or the villain gets away with the loot.

This is how the hero winds up in a death trap which the villain doesn't stick around to monitor.  The villain's real goals (loot, revenge, etc.) are elsewhere. Killing the hero was never the goal; the hero is just an impediment to the villains' real goals.

What could possibly go wrong?
It's not like you can make a telephone out of two pennies and a box of spices!

5.  Act 3 -- The Final Encounter.

In Act 3, the action is accelerated. Sometimes there is no prep and the hero's countermeasures finally work; or the villain does not prep because they don't expect the hero to escape capture, and a result, the villain is defeated.

The Giant Penny and the Penny Plunderer: the enduring legacy of a ...

Or dies.

Bull's-Eye pulling an undignified but effective exit.

The Joker, ALWAYS copying Bull's-Eye. Sad.

Often in some ironic way.

Hail. And farewell.

6.  The Denouement.

This brief ending is the bookend to the Splash page, and accomplishes the return to normal status.  We see the hero pondering whether the villain is dead.  Or we see the villain going to or in jail.

Hat and all.

Or the heroes discuss the outcome with Mr. Authority Figure, or among themselves back in the domestic setting.

Shut up, Ollie; you are no Adam West.

"If only he hadn't done X!"
"I guess that the end of him."
"It'll be a long time before we see him again!"
"That's what you get for doing crimes."
"Boy, I need a rest after that!"
"I am happy that's over with!"
And those are the seven sections of a regular Golden Age story (and many that follow in later ages):

  • 0. Splash Page
  • 1. Prep for first encounter
  • 2. First encounter
  • 3. Prep for second encounter
  • 4. Second encounter(s)
  • 5. Final Encounter
  • 6. Denouement.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Green Arrow vs. The Pirates, #6: The Armoire of Trophies!

When last we left Green Error, part-time vigilante and houseplant, he was waiting for his sidekick, Flapjack, to rescue him.

Which he does.

"Flapjack's Whistling Shaft" is the name of my next quartet.

On such occasions, the Boy Back-Up loves to find little ways of rubbing it in that Ollie is too dumb to notice.  Like calling Ollie "chum" after the pirates threw him off the boat as fish food. Twice.


Ollie's captors having been subdued, the Hydrodynamic Duo quickly catch up with the pirates, who have already beaten the snot of everyone on whatever vessel they are robbing.

Boarding the S.S. Hieronymus Bosch.

There's some needlessly homoerotic arrowplay:

"Quivering Prelude" is the name of my next quartet.
Or the prequel to "Unwilling Cabin Boy".

Ollie brings oceans of love for the boys.

You know, it wasn't until this panel that I was sure Kilgore's eye had a patch.
I thought it have might just been, you know, redacted.

Ollie threatens to shoot people with arrows while, well, actually shooting them with arrows.

Yellow? You know if Green Arrow were colorblind it would explain MUCH.

And a man with a beard shoots Ollie dead. Thus di--

SPEAKING of needlessly homoerotic.

REALLY, FLAPJACK?! Thanks for saving Uncle Gadget AGAIN.

Note the snotty caption making it clear just who is saving the day here.

The pirates skedaddle to their own scow, but not without a parting gift for today's contestants: a brand-new torpedo with Pouty Pegboy attached!  

Send them to the bottom? I thought that's who was tied to the torpedo...?

Ollie, following his natural instincts as an arrow, launches himself directly TOWARD the torpedo.

Which, I must reiterate, was somehow inexplicably fired from an old wooden schooner.

Which, thanks to thousands of hours of salmon laddering, Ollie simply catches and bends the solid steel rudders of.


Flapjack is bit taken a back by meeting someone even more helpless than Ollie.

Well, he's a kid; but he is definitely not like you.
Have you looked in the mirror lately?

And Ollie through -- of course -- sheer luck...
World's greatest archer 'accidentally' hits a target.


Captain Kilgore et al, you have failed this great seaboard city.

Thus dies... Captain Kilgore and the crew of the Black Raider. Golden Age is hardcore, baby.

And so, having triumphed again through dumb luck, brute strength, and his competent sidekick, Green Arrow adds another memento to his cavernous Armoire of Trophies:

Really need to get a bigger one of these for when you fight a robot dinosaur, Ollie;
you know it's coming.

Oh, and add "Mari Kondo" to the list of 1001 Ways To Defeat Green Arrow.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Green Arrow vs. The Pirates, #5: The Green Error!

Ollie's huffy AdamWestism is wittily dismissed by Captain Kilgore's hearty ho-ho:

When your pirate ship is named the Black Raider, it's considered wickedly clever, by Star City standards, to DISGUISE it with the name of the most famous pirate ship ever. 
It's not like Green Arrow's the World's Greatest Detective, you know.

Thus died-- ugh, wait a minute...

We're ALL breathless here, Ollie.

Ugh. Naturally, Ollie arrows his way out of the situation, because while he may not be very bright, all that time on the salmon ladder is still good for something.

Curses; I'll get you Penelope Pitstop!

At this point, the pirates are peeved at Ollie repeatedly clouseauing himself back at them, and propose to simply shoot the quivered cockroach in the back.

The head, actually. I mean, his back is protected by the quiver.

But Captain Kilgore proves himself a worthy Green Arrow foe by making a perfectly stupid decision for a perfectly nonsensical reason.

This is where the Captain reveals, through a song by Sir Arthur Sullivan,
that Green Arrow is actually his son, whom he gave up for adoption at birth.

Oh, god, here it comes...

"I've been thinking";
isn't that what Flapjack Red-Hat did to get Green Arrow into this mess to begin with?

Okay, it IS hard to argue with "anyone stupid and overconfident enough to do what Green Arrow does HAS to be insanely rich".  But who do you send the ransom note TO?  The Mayor of Star City? Which one...?

The one Ollie shot in the leg?
The one whose husband he killed?
The one who hates vigilantes?

The one whose daughter(s) he got killed?

Who on earth would want to ransom Ollie? The kid who launched him into danger with a catapult and who stands to inherit his fortune (including the awesome Arrowcraft)?

In any case, the pirates don't want to waste any more cement or bullets on Ollie, because they need to conserve that stuff for actual THREATS.  So, the villains leave him on a boat with two guards while they go on on their un-postponable heist. Because villains gotta villain.

You can't see the bucket of cement Ollie's standing in, but, trust me, it's still there, and it's freaking hilarious.

Pirate Candystriper is stuck sitting on a boat staring at Ollie make like an artificial tree for your at-home office...

Caution: do not water your Green Arrow. Quiver sold separately.

and tries to make sure he doesn't get anti-hazard pay for babysitting Star City's least threatening vigilante:

"Green Error". Ouch. Daily Bugle's gonna love that one.

Since Ollie is helpless -- more helpless -- without a bow and arrow, he looks around him and fashions a rudimentary lathe with which to tool one.

I do NOT have the patience to show you this whole McGyver clip.

All this is just to activate his real weapon: Flapjack, The Boy Back-Up.

Speedy? Is that Jay Garrick's sidekick? Who's he talking about?

Flapjack, ever eager for ADVENTURE, sees the flaming arrow signal and is overjoyed that he finally gets to see what sort of mess Ollie has blundered himself into this time...

SOMEBODY should.