Friday, November 25, 2022

Per Degaton, Part 5: Appleby, Stanley, and Braun!

Dr. Mid-Nite, a physician, deputed himself to go protect the Scientists of the World, because the team's physicist and chemist had real work to do and because it would make too much sense to leave the team physician guarding the crucial old man who's been shot twice and in the hospital.

"I'm sure glad my magic see-in-the-dark-goggles and black-out-bombs aren't affected!"

Fortunately for Charles, the Scientists of the World have gathered THEMSELVES together for him, discussing what's to be done about The Change.  They've given themselves the most awesome assignment of all; let's just INVENT EVERYTHING AGAIN.

Golden Age scientists are really cool.  Professor Appleby was rebuilding society while Robert Robinson was just dulling the pain with cocaine and morphine.

Unfortunately, gathering together makes them a target so large, even Per Degaton can't miss. Kale, naturally, has the perfectly sensible plan to run with in the Diabolical Forces and quickly kick all their butts.  But that's not what happens. Why?

Because Degaton has to be a ****.  

Imagine having a strong, supportive, intelligent, devoted man played by Anthony Carrigan by your side and then continually negging him.  You truly deserve the dustbin of history, Per.

P.D. can't stop himself from waving his big "D" in front of the Scientists of the World; as a Lab Assistant, he feels they've always looked down upon him as a mere dishwasher.

When actually they never really noticed him at all.

Then he has to do his big "I am Keyser Sozey" reveal <eyeroll>. Drama queen.

"I'm done gloating and revealing my plans pointlessly, Kane! 
You can go ahead and be effective now! And make it snappy, before an enfeebled academic punches my face in!'

Dr. Mid-Nite and the ACTION SCIENTISTS spring into combat against Degaton's Diabolical Forces.

"We're not afraid of you; we're used to fighting IGNORANCE!"

Almost immediately, Degaton starts to get tossed around like a rag doll because he's nothing but an armchair general, but he's saved (as usual) by an underling.

Note the irony of a "blind" hero being felled by a light-giving candlestick while leading the scientists who illuminate the world's truths. Deep.

Naturally, the scientists get their bunsens burnt without Dr. Mid-Nite to lead them, because that's one of the conventions of the genre.  

These are the greatest of science's herds:
Appleby, Stanley, & Braun.
Trio of boffins, much greater than nerds,
Appleby, Stanley, & Braun.
Widely excelling in more fields than Hubble,
Making society rise from the rubble –
Names that are heavy with gravitas double:
Appleby, Stanley, & Braun.

Ah. Appleby, Stanley, and Braun; 1947's greatest Chemist, Physicist and Biologist!  You here on Earth Prime may not recognize their names, but there's hardly a piece of terrestrial comic book science that doesn't trace its roots to their work in one form or another. Plant-creatures, Chemo, responsometers, animorphs, freeze guns, Night Girl's hair; all the formulas, devices, and phenomenon we hold dear owe at least some debt to one or more of them.

And Degaton worked for all of them!


Actually, NO, they don't remember him, or at least they certainly do not act like they do or say anything about it.  This is why I love Golden Age comics. A BIG DEAL would be made of that in a modern comic.  In a Golden Age comic they just let it sit there uncommented on for you to notice or not, since it's not crucial to the plot.  The fact is, Degaton feels ignored because EVERYONE IGNORES DEGATON.  

"Now you three will be assistants to me!"  Comic book irony.

But ignoring Degaton is no longer a luxury they can afford, as he forces the three greatest minds of 1947 to devise an ingenious deathtrap out of whatever crap is in the room. Why? Because 
(a) he is probably embarrassed to try to do it himself in front of the greatest minds of his time and former bosses and 
(b) Degaton is a ****.

Degaton is not without self-awareness.  He knows he's a crappy deathtrap-deviser, but he is a good manager who delegates to specialists more talented than he, like Kale and Appleby, Stanley, & Braun.

Well, that's as low-rent --I mean, elegant-- as a death-trap gets, but if Appleby, Stanley, & Braun say IT CAN'T FAIL, then it might as well be one of Euler's Laws of Motion.  

"Earl-- he kept saying BASEMENT! He was trying to warn us!"

Fortunately, this is Appleby, Stanley, & Braun here; they are not only brilliant enough to devise an escape-proof deathtrap out of random crap, but brilliant enough to give Mid-Nite a clue how to escape it anyway, right in front of stupid Degaton's ugly face, showing why THEY were the superscientists and HE was the assistant.

  I am absolutely certain Penelope Pitstop did this escape once.

Let's see whether you can guess what's in the next panel, showing what's happening in the other room where Degaton took Appleby, Stanley, & Braun.


Another guessing game! Even though The Change is so severe now that PAVEMENTS have disappeared (as the Flash noted several chapters ago), what technology remains?

How terribly convenient!

So, just as in all the other chapters, the JSAer encounters Degaton, is put in a death trap which they escape, but then they accomplish their essential mission, although Degaton escapes. 

Why are they at an isolated cabin at the outskirts of the city? Look, it doesn't really matter at this point, there's so much plot, reading a JSA story, it's like eating Thanksgiving meal three times a day, just keep eating, keep moving, you have to work off the calories...

But this time we return to the hospital, where Professor Zee (still under guard by Wonder Woman, Johnny Thunder, and Green Lantern) is revived by the life-giving penicillin retrieved by Jay and reveals the historical event that Per Degaton altered to cause The Change.

But you knew that already.

The clue was given us in the first panel of the story: the Macedonian shield with the inscription of thanks, that's GENERATING this entire story, you'll recall. If there's a Macedonian battle that would have changed history broadly enough to undo all of modern technology--which is, it goes without saying, entirely the result of Western Civilization, which is, naturallyentirely the result of Alexander the Great's ten-year floruit--it's the Battle of Ἄρβηλα, at which the Macedonians finally defeated the Achaemenid Empire of Persian King Darius III. 

In 1947, any ten-year-old would have figured that out.

Now, that they know what event they need to fix, they just need a way to get there.  But, of course, Degaton has the Time Machine, stored in the only possible place.  

Sure, Alan. Go yourself. After all, you're the one dressed for stealth.

Oh, I get the JSA's game now: the niche players do field work, but the real heavy-hitters (Wonder Woman, Johnny Thunder, and Green Lantern) are held back for the endgame action.

So now Alan has HIS assignment. Sneak in stealthily, in his red green gold ballet outfit and purple green queen of the universe cape while glowing with incandescent emerald flame, and retrieve the Time Machine.

What could possibly go wrong?


Bryan L said...

Per Degaton is lucky Mid-Nite showed up to interrupt the firing squad. Automatic weapons in a tiny room are a bad idea, and even more so when the boss is standing about four feet away from the targets. Gun safety is clearly not included in PD's employee handbook.

I was going to comment on the thoroughness of wrapping Mid-Nite in rope from ankles to chest, but then I realized that's necessary for the escape to work. If the henchmen had simply tied his arms and legs, things wouldn't have ended quite so well for Dr. Mid-Nite.

Anonymous said...

According to Wikipedia, smoke bombs have been around since at least the 13th Century, and the “modern” version was created in 1848. In my head canon, Dr. Mid-Nite’s blackout bombs were Changed into more primitive smoke bombs.

Also, his goggles didn’t change because they were made using metal from the Colossal Caves.

Why would I bother to try to make this plot hole make sense, especially given how the rest of the story has been going? Because Dr. Mid-Nite has the best costume of the whole team. Goggles and a moon symbol > aerodynamically-unwieldy hats, tiny bird faces, nationalistic bathing suits, weird wrestling togs, checkered jackets, and Alan Scott’s whole deal.

- Mike Loughlin

Anonymous said...

Doctor Mid-Nite's origin features a mobster called "Killer" Maroni.

Two-Face's origin features a mobster called "Boss" Maroni.

If no stories have revealed a connection between the two, I certainly think that some should.

Quality Comics character (not necessarily the same thing as a quality character) the Clock also has an enemy named Maroni, but I'm not sure the Clock has been introduced to DC's golden age or not. Nevertheless...

Anonymous said...


Again from Wikipedia, again from Jess Nevins' Encyclopedia of Golden Age Superheroes: "[Doctor Mid-Nite's] opponents include the minstrel the Baleful Banshee, the hypnosis-wielding Doctor Light, the angling-themed Fisherman, and the gang lord Tarantula."

Bryan L said...

Now I need to track down the Baleful Banshee.

Scipio said...

The Baleful Banshee operated a scam where he appeared to rich victims and while - singing and playing a lute - told them they would die if they didn't pay a large sum.

Wouldn't advise it.

Scipio said...

Maroni/Moroni is a VERY common gangster name in Golden Age comics; ran across a separate instance just the last week.

Anonymous said...

"Maroni/Moroni is a VERY common gangster name in Golden Age comics"

(thank you for the info)

Those are the only two examples I found in golden age stories from, specifically, DC, though. Since not even the GCD can cover EVERY story in detail, there may well be more from DC.

Starman fought the MOroni Gang which subsequently became the Sun [Moroni] and his Satellites (Comet, the Moon, Mercury, Saturn); a gang conventional criminals who become (presumably) costumed criminals, now THAT is not something you come across often.

Some sources also list Boss Maroni as "Boss MOroni" so the tie-in's right there.

Presuming that neither Doctor Mid-Nite nor Starman have ever been said to have operated out of Gotham City, that arguably translates to a crime family extending across at least three cities. IMHO it's really too bad that this material evidently snuck right by Roy Thomas (I know that you dislike Roy Thomas CREATIONS but I'm unsure how you feel about his retcon efforts).

Anonymous said...

From, again, the GCD. The ones that at least sound (to me, anyway) like they MIGHT be SUPER-villains are asterisked.

Buggsy and Mike

Cannon Cane and Torpedo Tolin

the Cloud*

Dr. Kwack* (kind of a "mad-sciencey" name, isn't it?)

Steve Fink

"Gallows" Gallagher

Hands Harrigan

Dr. Jamieson


King Cobra*

Merton Marlow

Mr. Nitro*

Mooch and Turkel

Ralph Pearson

Mr. Ruger

"Snakey" Scarlotti

the Shade* (although presumably not THE Shade)


Whiteways Word, Jeska, Pook, and Sorry

Anonymous said...

Mike - I really like your smoke bomb idea.

I'm still trying to make sense of this story, and here is the most plausible explanation I can come up with for it: the Thunderbolt is just screwing with everyone. Maybe Johnny said "say, you ever wonder what things would be like if Alexander the Great had lost the Battle of Arbela?"

I still say that the Thunderbolt is why the JSA is still young enough to be active in the 21st century. Maybe the Thunderbolt was responding to an accidental wish like, "say, you ever want to live in a world where the JSA's successors have taken over the superhero duties?" When in doubt, blame the Thunderbolt and an unintended wish.

Scipio said...

"I'm still trying to make sense of this story"
Oh, my god, you guys are ADORABLE.

Scipio said...

"Starman fought the MOroni Gang"
That was, in fact, the story I was reading the other day.

Scipio said...

"This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress."
Walter Benjamin, Thesis IX, Theses on Philosophy of History, (1940).

This angel is what we call Roy Thomas.

Anonymous said...

"This angel is what we call Roy Thomas."

Okay, I'm interpreting that as approval of Roy Thomas. Thanks.

Scipio said...

It's by NO means "approval of Roy Thomas."
Roy Thomas's atrocious dialog, sour characterizations, and continuity obsesessions do not deserve anyone's "approval".

It's sympathy for Roy Thomas, who obsessive love for Golden Age characters and stories led him to a dysfunctional need and quixotic quest to "fix" them. He was the first and most prominent of that most dangerous phenomenon among writers of this era: they love old DC comics and characters, but can only write them as if they are Marvel characters.

Anonymous said...

"Fix" them? I always thought they were so broken you couldn't fix them (and this applies to whatever descriptive word is attached to Age currently being used: Golden, Silver, Bronze, Iron, Modern, Dark, Parody, Deconstructive, Reconstructive, Platinum, Brass, Erotic, Simplistic, etc.).