In this entry, it’s Captain Atom vs. Dr. Spectro
Captain Atom (2nd series, 1986) issue #6
Published: May 26th 1987
Cover price: 75 cents (US), $1 (Canada), 40 pence (UK)
Cover: Captain Atom being attacked by an illusory Dr. Spectro
Pencilled by: Pat Broderick
Inked by: Bob Smith
Title: “A piece of the Lie” [32 pages, 22 story]
Credits: Cary Bates (W )
Pat Broderick (P)
Bob Smith (I)
Duncan Andrews (L)
Carl Gafford (C)
Denny O’Neil (E)
Starring: General Wade R. Eiling (USAF, Head of the Atom Project), Theresa Delgado (government PR agent)
Guest-starring: Martin Allard (USAF, Atom Project)
Intro: A Tampa Police lieutenant, Holis Upert, Police forensic scientist, “Jake” and friend; a documentary film crew.
Cameo: Margaret “Peggy” Eiling, Randall “Randy” Eiling in photographs on Wade Eiling’s desk.
Comment: Captain Atom’s body is surely being squeezed like toothpaste – but that could be part of the illusion.
Tom Emery, now using technology adapted from his ex-employer The Rainbow Raider has become Captain Atom’s “legendary” foe – Dr. Spectro.
Spectro starts a reign of terror using hideous apparitions in order to get the US Military’s attention. He is doing so because he knows that the Dr. Spectro character is a fake, part of an intricate and bogus back story set up by the US military to engender public trust in Captain Atom. Emery attempts to blackmail General Eiling, threatening to spread word of his discovery and endangering the Captain Atom project. As Eiling acknowledges, Emery now has a “pie of the lie”.
Captain Atom enters the fray…
It’s all going a bit “Mysterio”. Not that it’s a bad thing, but you have seen it before.
No, the real meat of this issue is how the military deal with Emery. First they try to bribe him, then they publicly capture him and imprison him. Whilst inside he is bribed just enough to keep him quiet while other criminal elements are paid keep him on his toes through the arrangements of “accidents”. Captain Atom then goes to the prison and threatens the other prisoners to leave Emery alone.
Miss Delgado (chronologically introduced first in Secret Origins #34) appears here for the first time and tries to make Eiling see the positives in the situation: By the taking on the role of Dr. Spectro, Emery has actually reinforced and verified the cover story they have created. His public defeat by Captain Atom is simply another good bit of PR. Even with the bribe, it’s a pretty cheap victory.
And, lest we forget, Emery did murder Mabel Ryan in cold blood last issue, so he’s hardly an innocent.
But don’t fret, this version of Dr. Spectro will return when the Atom Project need a bit of holographic trickery…somewhere around issue #15.
From Nathaniel’s perspective, you have to wonder just how long he’s going to be able to go along with the lies and shiftiness that Eiling is demanding. In issue #3 he lied on national TV, in this issue he’s essentially threatening a prison full of inmates in order to protect his secret. This won’t end well.
Best quote: “Sometimes I even lose my temper. I don’t think any of you wants to see what happens when I lose my temper. I have a hunch it would hurt – hurt a lot. And like I said…my hunches usually don’t miss”
Captain Atom threatening inmates
Bottom line: Closes the Dr. Spectro storyline…for now. Good art by Broderick again, good plot and scripting by Bates.
Overall a good issue. 4/5 on both counts.
Elsewhere in DC Universe
Short story: It’s another rich month in the 1987 DC universe.
Highlights this month if we look in closer detail we encounter:
Pay attention, there will be a test.
These four comics operate as a continued story, mostly trying to fix the issues that post-Crisis continuity had bought to the 30th Century’s Legion of Super Heroes (LoSH).
Pre-Crisis it had been established that the Legion had been influenced to form by the historical adventures of the 20th Century Superboy. And, indeed, Adventure Comics #247 by Otto Binder and Al Plastino has Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy time-travelling to Superboy’s time to test him for membership in their super-hero club (LoSH).
I have to admit, I always thought that was a bit cheeky(!)
Over the years, LoSH grew in membership and Superboy/Superman/Supergirl etc all became active and intrinsic parts of its continuity and adventures.
All is good.
Then came Crisis on Infinite Earths and John Byrne’s Superman revamp where it is established that there never was a Superboy and that Clark’s powers didn’t manifest until he was much older. Byrne’s logic was simple – the Superboy stories had no dramatic tension as the existence of the older Superman character proved that Superboy was never in peril; he obviously couldn’t die.
So along with a lot of the other Silver Age paraphernalia (the endless raft of other Krypton survivors, Supergirl, Krypto, the Phantom Zone etc) it was all jettisoned to form (what some called at the time) a “Marvelized” version of Superman.
As a consequence, there was no Superboy to inspire the formation of the Legion. And, yet…the LoSH still existed. A bit of a puzzle and it needed sorting.
Enter John Byrne and LoSH writer Paul Levitz.
The Time Trapper was one of the most powerful and mysterious of the enemies which regularly confounded the LoSH. Rather than directly oppose his rival, the supremely powerful sorcerer Mordu, he chose to create a force for good to pitch against him. This force became known as the LoSH.
However, having discovered the lack of a Superboy in the post-Crisis timeline he knew he had to create one in order to retain established events and the creation of the LoSH. The Pocket universe was born from a splinter of the main reality, with the Trapper causally destroying untold trillions of lives as he pared it down to the only planets and systems he needed.
Consequently due to these complex machinations of the Time Trapper all the post-Crisis trips to-and-from the post-Crisis 30th Century had been to the 20th Century of a Pocket universe containing Krypton and a pre-Crisis approximation of Earth-One and its champion Superboy. You’ll note there was no attempt to recreate a Supergirl by the Time Trapper (Matrix was created on Pocket-Earth much later) as she wasn’t key to the LoSH’s formation.
This story runs through LoSH #37, Superman #8, Action Comics #591 and LoSH #38.
I won’t spoil it; it is in turns nostalgic, sad, funny and epic. LoSH continuity changes don’t end there, unfortunately and it gets much more complex as it goes. Read here, if interested.
The future of the Pocket universe would be revisited in several months time in the Supergirl saga. It’s not pretty, but it is a cracking storyline and comes highly recommended.
Superman (2nd) #21, Adventures of Superman #444 and Superman (2nd) #22
Superman Annual 1
In a tale called, “Tears for Titano”, writers John Byrne and Ron Frenz (also pencilling), inker Brett Breeding, Colourist Tom Ziuko and letterer Albert DeGuzman introduce super-ape Titano to the post-Crisis universe. Then kills him.
Titano pre-Crisis adventures; Superman (1st series) #127 (his introduction) and my favourite Superman (1st series) #324.
First of all, who among us doesn’t like a super-ape? Hey, hands down at the back there!
This modernised version of Superman (1st series) #127 from 1959 is competently written by Byrne and a double duty-pulling penciller Ron Frenz. Byrne is of course the driving force behind the post-Crisis revamp of Superman and Frenz is more critically identified with Marvel’s Spider-man (he is excellent on that title, incidentally), Thor and the Fantastic Four in this time period.
In fact, it would not be until 1995 when Frenz moved to DC Comics from Marvel that he would become the regular artist on Superman, particularly identified with the modern take on the Superman Red/Superman Blue era. Back in 1987 Frenz’s slighter-weighted Kirby-esque (to my eyes at least) take on Superman wasn’t quite right. By 1995 though, it was a great interpretation.
Titano is, for many, a one-note character. For me, he was the star of 1978’s Superman #324, one of the very first DC comics I ever bought off a newsagent’s shelf in the UK. Love that cover, love that story by Marty Pasko. Again, I ask, who doesn’t like a super-ape?
Fury of Firestorm #62
In the story called “To regain tomorrow”, written by John Ostrander, drawn by Joe Brozowski, inked by Dick Giordano, Coloured by Nansi Hoolahan and lettered by John Workman, Jr, Professor Martin Stein leverages his influence over Ronnie to commence nuclear disarmament…
Principal interest to us about this issue is that it guest stars a certain two star USAF General…no doubt up to no good. But it’s nice to see him in the wider DC Universe. He will soon become one of the “go to” characters for writer who needs a military presence in the wider DC Universe. And generally, he’s manipulative and grumpy wherever he goes.
Green Lantern Corps #215, “I think…therefore”.
Salakk… and a Lass No, really, it’s a pun on the phrase “alas and alack” which may be used as a somewhat theatrical exclamation of sorrow (very apt here). A great cover by Ian Gibson (more on him later) and another good issue in the (seemingly divisive) Green Lantern run by Steve Englehart.
First a bit of back history, way back in Green Lantern #8 a pre-Crisis Hal Jordan had been brought to the 58th century by the Solar Council and, filling Hal’s amnesiac mind (a side effect of the time travel) with the suitably heroic personality of “Pol Manning”, he dealt with threats to their security as their Solar Director.
When you think about this idea it’s actually an incredible proposition; you’ve effectively given Hal Jordan a second costumed identity. In a weird way, it’s a bit Adam Strange-like, if you squint and see the 58th century as an analogue for the planet Rann and the time travel device is essentially the same macguffin as Sardath’s zeta beam.
He even had time for a romance in the form of Solar Council secretary Iona Vane. That would be his Alanna, I guess.
Hal visited the 58th century on multiple occasions (GL #12, GL #51, GL #136 etc).
A young Hal even defended it during Zero Hour (ironically…um, spoilers?)
Post-crisis, the future called upon Hal once more but he was off-planet. Instead, they grabbed Salakk who was on Earth at the time.
The council implanted him with the Manning persona and altered Vane’s mind to see Salakk as “Hal” (hence the cover to #215). What could possibly go wrong?
This is an interesting spin on an old silver-age concept, one of Englehart’s particular talents and strengths as a writer, along with knitting anomalous continuity threads into a coherent narrative (Predator, anyone?). Honestly, Geoff Johns is surely the love child of Roy Thomas and Steve Englehart, isn’t he? 🙂
Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual 3
“In Blackest Night” (6 pages),written by Alan Moore, drawn by Bill Willingham, inked by Terry Austin, coloured by Gene D’Angelo and lettered by John Costanza.
It is fair to say that DC Comics’ editorial fluctuates between favouring the idea of a solitary Green Lantern and a fully functioning and vibrant (or should that be verdant?) Green Lantern Corps.
While I have nothing against the Kyle Rayner post-Emerald Twilight period where he was the only Green Lantern (Hal was now “Parallax”, Guy became ”Warrior”, John became a Darkstar and Alan Scott became “Sentinel”), for me, the flexibility of the core concept is the idea that the Corps is a large body. It draws strength from the idea that despite being diverse in physical nature, social attitudes and spiritual beliefs they generally pull together for the cause of universal justice. It’s somewhat noble aim but can still be nuanced and fractious when it needs to be.
So, enter Alan Moore in short story mode, asking an obvious question, “How do you recruit in a space sector such as 0911 where in the Oblivion Deeps there is no light or concept of light-emitting objects, such as a lantern or even colours…such as green?”
Using the Guardians as his proxy, he poses this question to Katma Tui and she resolves it well by recruiting a new “Lantern”, Rot Lop Fan.
I won’t spoil it, if you haven’t read it before. It has been reprinted in the various DC collections of Alan Moore’s work but not in any Green Lantern collection (at time of writing).
Early and later covers of Alan Moore’s collected DC works. Lovely Bolland cover on the second trade paperback…
It’s not quite as universe-building and mythological as “Tygers” in Tales of Green Lantern Corps Annual #2 – after all, that single story gave us:
- Abin Sur’s rationale for coming to Earth in a spaceship (Hal’s origin, of course)
- The planet Ysmault (future home of the Red Lanterns), previously throneworld of…
- The Empire of Tears
- The Five Inversions
- Sodam Yat, the Daxamite Green Lantern
- The Children of the White Lobe
- Ranx the sentient city and blink bombs
- The concept of a Green Lantern Corps “Revelations”; Geoff Johns’ “Blackest Night” (as he acknowledges in his introduction to the story when it was reprinted in the Green Lantern Brightest Day trade paperback).
But for all that, it is the more joyous, I think.
Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters #1
Wow, the hits keep coming, huh?
Mike Grell writes, pencils and inks. Julia Lacquement is the colourist and Ken Bruzenak letters.
Despite being a long-time Justice League card carrying member, having long backup runs in Action comics, Detective comics and World’s Finest, the emerald archer had always struggled with landing his own series. Sure, there had been a reasonably well-received 1983 miniseries by Mike W. Barr, Trevor Von Eeden and Dick Giordano, but nothing really came of it.
And then came Mike Grell and his three part prestige Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters mini-series which deservedly won the 1988 Eisner award for best finite series. It led to an ongoing series, mostly recommended for mature readers during its lifetime, which ran for 11 years including 5 annuals and a separate mini-series called “Green Arrow: The Wonder Year” which retold the origin in 1993.
Longbow Hunters redefined Green Arrow. He moved from Star City to the more realistic Seattle, living with girlfriend and partner Dinah “Black Canary” Lance. He embarked on a quest as an urban hunter, tracking criminals of all stripes including rapists, mobsters, spies, serial killers and eco-terrorists. His adventures became more grounded, dispensing with concepts such as the trick arrows that he had relied on for years. Even when Hal Jordan guest starred in issue #20, he was simply “Hal” checking in on his friend, not as Green Lantern inviting him on a cosmic adventure. Those days seemed to be in the past.
Instead, focus was placed on the relationship between Oliver and Dinah, including their sex life, feelings of mortality and their legacies. A devastating attack would rob Dinah of both her sonic cry and her ability to have children; neither would return for many years (healed by a Lazarus pit in Birds of Prey). Oliver and Dinah even started to age in real time, something that most DC characters seemed to avoid.
In many ways it was a Jon Sable-like treatment of a beloved character and there’s even a thinly-veiled Grell take on Sable in Green Arrow #15 and #16.
Or perhaps, more precisely, it was the flavouring of DC comics with a splash of 80s “indie comics” realism that companies such as First Comics (Sable’s original publisher) had promoted. It couldn’t have hurt that editor Mike Gold had edited both books.
Possibly Longbow Hunters is, in its own way, seismically as significant for Green Arrow as Neal Adams’ seminal redesign of his costume and Denny O’Neil’s “Hard travelling heroes” storyline in Green Lantern/Green Arrow.
Grell lasted for 80 issues and his impact on the character continues to this day through the popularity of the CW’s “Arrow” TV show. The details and situations may be different but thematically the DNA is clear to read. Only Andy Diggle’s Year One mini-series has perhaps contributed more to the character’s growth, ironically by revisiting his past.
Sidebar: Alan Moore
Moore’s DC career is uniformly brilliant, of course. Superman (closing out the Bronze age pre-Crisis era with “Whatever happened to the man of tomorrow?” and Annual #11’s “For the man who has everything”), Swamp Thing, Watchmen etc.
But before then, well…that work was exceptional. And I’m not even going to include Warrior’s revival of Marvelman, his Doctor Who weekly backup strips or his work with David Lloyd on V for Vendetta.
As someone rightly said, everything comes back to 2000AD…
2000AD, a British science fiction anthology forged in the anti-establishment, punk-fuelled days of 1977 was a revelation to youngsters of the day (of which I was one). Although I initially read (and preferred) its superior IPC stable-mate “Starlord” (no relation to the post-Guardians of the Galaxy Marvel character), by prog 86 of 2000AD the two had merged. Starlord had ended and its choice strips had been cherry-picked and transferred to 2000AD (ABC Warriors pre-cursor Ro-busters, Strontium Dog and Timequake).
British comics operated a very common launch, merge and dispose lifecycle which it applied with ruthless precision for anthology comics. This was humorously referred to as “hatch, match and dispatch”, mirroring the birth, marriage and funeral notices in newspapers. If you had a favourite comic in the 1970s and 1980s the very last words you probably wanted to see were:
“Inside: Exciting news for all our readers!”
This either meant your favourite comic was ending, soon to be swallowed whale-like by a comic you didn’t like or, worse still, your favourite comic was (often) prematurely ending stories you liked to accommodate surviving strips from comics you couldn’t stand. It was often a bit of a lottery, but in the UK, we’d gotten used to it over the years.
Two do go into one! 2000AD prog 85, Starlord 22 then 2000AD and Starlord 86
To be fair though, 2000AD’s merger with Starlord was a good experience overall and the book was strengthened; its character roster enhanced and enriched with newer strips sitting comfortably alongside older strips such as Judge Dredd and a revived Dan Dare.
Due to its anthology nature, strips came and went with alarming frequency, ensuring a regular shuffle in writers and artists that kept the comic fresh and inventive.
Although differentiating “better” artwork is a skill learnt early (and almost subconsciously) by most fans (although tastes do evolve and mature), even at a young age it was still possible to appreciate certain writers more than others. For me, enter Alan Moore.
Moore had produced many one-off and irregularly continued stories in 2000AD strips typically known as “Future Shocks” or “Time Twisters”. As periodic space-filling one-offs, quality varied greatly and they were (and still are) used as a gateway for aspiring creators cutting their teeth on “Twooth” (as it is affectionately known) before they branch out to bigger things. But, as Will Eisner often demonstrated so vividly where so many others failed so miserably, telling a short self-contained story as a sequential comic strip is an art form in and of itself.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Moore wrote many of the most entertaining and emotionally resonant 2000AD Future Shocks. There are some stories that I can still remember vividly to this day, almost 40 years since I first read them, their final panels (image and dialogue) taking up valuable real-estate in my brain, rent-free. And I don’t begrudge them a single neuron.
Happily, as the individual 2000AD “progs” can be a pain to track down, Rebellion did publish a collection of these, replacing a much older pair of rare Titan albums, in 2006 entitled “The Complete Alan Moore Future Shocks”.
Early Titan album reprints and the later 2006 Rebellion collection, sadly without the Kevin O’Neill covers.
My favourite is probably “The reversible man” but I have soft spot for “The regrettable ruse of rocket redglare” (a Flash Gordon/Ming parody), “Bad timing” (a nice Jor-El/Superman parody), “Ring road” and “The Time Machine”.
With writing by Moore and art by Ian Gibson, Dave Gibbons, Alan Davis, Brendan McCarthy, Steve Dillon, Bryan Talbot, Jose Casanovas, Garry Leach, Paul Neary, Mike White, Eric Bradbury, Jesus Redondo, Robin Smith, Jim Eldridge, Ron Tiner & Alan Langford … honestly, how can you possibly go wrong?
What’s more you get to meet Abelard Snazz – mutant mastermind – the man with the two-storey brain! In six adventures! Seriously, what’s not to like here?
And, while you’re there, please tell me whether you think 1982’s “The Bounty Hunters” doesn’t thematically bear a slight similarity to “Mogo doesn’t socialise” from Green Lantern #188 in 1985.
Here’s a clue:
For more on Moore, I’d recommend:
The Ballad of Halo Jones
Moore’s bittersweet but ultimately uplifting and inspiring tale of an ordinary young girl who becomes dissatisfied with her life and just wants to “get out”.
Sample 2000AD issues for each book
Titan reprint volumes
And escape she certainly does in a series of stories beautifully illustrated by Ian Gibson.
Sadly only three acts were ever published and, although Gibson has drawn Halo again in images and vignettes beyond the published life of the character, Moore will apparently not revisit the character, allegedly due to ownership issues with the publisher.
If I recall correctly, the original plan was to have each book visit Halo’s life at various intervals and essentially chart her life as she explores the universe and finds her place within it. Book 1 has a lot of universe building to do, so can seem a little slow, but its themes are expertly threaded into Book 2 and onwards into Book 3.
Put simply, The Ballad of Halo Jones is one of those rare occasions when comics as an art form transcend their four-colour (and in Halo’s case, it’s mostly monochromatic) nature and become a living, breathing entity, forever fated to be rediscovered as an overlooked masterpiece by a fantastic writer and an immensely talented artist by future generations to come.
All being said, I’d rather live in a world which has seen three books of Halo Jones than one without any.
D.R & Quinch
Spinning out of a 1983 “Time Twister” one-off “D.R. and Quinch have fun on Earth” in prog #317 into their own strip, Waldo “Dimished Responsibility” Dobbs and Ernest Errol Quinch starred in a series of anarchic adventures, each beautifully drawn by Alan Davis.
It’s “lowest common denominator” funny and absurd at times but also has a great deal of heart, wit and charm.
Tracking down issues from 1983, 1984 and 1985 is a bit of a pain but if you’re interested please use the Wikipedia entry or Barney (“Keeper of the 2000AD database). Alternative options include the various collected volumes available:
Various collections of D.R. & Quinch stories, the centre volume is a lovely Titan hardback.
Now that I reflect on this, I can’t help but notice a similar trajectory between Chrysoprasia becoming Crazy Chryssie in D.R. & Quinch and Dr Harleen Quinzell becoming the Joker’s main squeeze and DC breakout star, Harley Quinn. Unfortunately my attachment theory isn’t strong enough to analyse it.
Hmm…probably just an excuse for some Alan Davis art, I shouldn’t wonder.
And, then, finally, as it’s a lot more divisive: Skizz.
Debut 2000AD issue, early Titan album and recent DC/Rebellion reprint.
Skizz was initially a 1983 strip written by Moore and drawn by Jim Baikie which follows an alien interpreter (“Skizz”) from Tau Ceti after he crashes on Earth. Book 2 and 3 follow but for me the first tale, focusing on the impact of an outsider on a young girl’s life is the most essential read.
Yes, superficially, it’s a bit like ET: The Extraterrestrial, but that’s just a lazy reading and Moore deserves a little more credit than that.
Reportedly it’s not one of his favourites, but then he has distanced himself from much of the work that essentially built his industry reputation. That is, of course, very much his prerogative and I respect him for it.
That said it shouldn’t stop us enjoying them though.
Why don’t you try a few? You’ll find a good range of Moore’s work at your local comic shop. And if you want to explore 2000AD, try their site – it has a very friendly online community, always happy to answer questions for new converts.
2000AD is often seen as enjoying a “golden age” in the 1980s. Without the efforts of talents such as Alan Moore, it certainly wouldn’t have glistened quite so brightly.