All Star Comics #12 – 1976 – Writer Gerry Conway – Illustrators Keith Giffen & Wally Wood
I like this one. When I think about why, it seems that the total is greater than the sum of the parts. But let’s see what we can come up with. For one thing, look at that cover. It’s awesome. Like most comic book covers, this isn’t a scene from the story, but it’s kind of a few scenes from the story. And it’s super cool.
Point two is that I like these Earth-2 characters. I like the fact that I’m not all that familiar with everyone involved–Power Girl, Doctor Fate, Star Spangled Kid, Dr. Mid-Nite, and Wildcat. And the heroes that I am familiar with are a bit different and their costumes all old timey. As a big reader of The Justice League back in the day, I like how the Justice Society was a slightly off version of the League.
Three–the villain in this story–Vulcan is kind of a bad-ass. He’s not campy. There’s no winking at the audience or trading quips with heroes. He is a psychopath with a lot of power and he plans to use it to kill as many people as he can. That might seem like it would make him a little flat, but we know what happened to him; as an astronaut, he was exposed to something out in space (as astronauts frequently are in comic books) that turned him into Vulcan. And we know why he’s gone crazy; because he blames the Justice Society for inspiring him to do great things. They caused his hubris which caused him to become Vulcan. Now they have to pay.
Four–the writing is smart. For the most part, these guys talk to each other like adults, and not adults that know kids are watching them. There are times when they get a little expainy. And it’s kind of dumb in the panel above that the Star Spangled Kid is encouraged not to use his power to put out the fire. I guess that’s the problem with giving a superhero a magic stick that can do about anything, which it seems is what the Lad’s cosmic rod is. But overall, I like a comic that doesn’t talk down to me.
Five–this book is action packed. The speaks to the writing again I think. We start in the midst of a fight between Vulcan and Green Lantern and Doctor Fate. Vulcan topples a building onto Dr. Fate and takes off while Green Lantern searches the rubble for the body of his friend. Meanwhile Carter Hall (aka Hawkman) talks with an archeologist colleague about an ancient evil race, one of which he has encased in amber in his warehouse. Little to they know the amber is melting or something. That storyline will have to be resolved in another issue. Meanwhile again, Vulcan in making his escape is exposed to the direct sunlight and crashes in the rail yards. He finds cover and begins to regain his strength. Meanwhile yet again, the rest of the team gathers at their burning headquarters, set aflame last issue by Vulcan, and discuss their situation. Flash runs off somewhere, we don’t find out where, just as the team gets a message from Green Lantern on the cosmic rod (I’m telling you it does everything) asking for help in locating Doctor Fate. They all go, except Power Girl who had heard a police radio from miles away reporting a landing UFO. She goes to investigate that and, jumping to conclusions, gets in a brief scuffle with the alien who accidentally turned the astronaut into Vulcan and is how here to fix him. Fate is found, dead?, and is taken to the hospital by Lantern and Mid-Nite. Hawkman and the Lad go find Vulcan (can you guess how they found him?). During that battle, Power Girl shows up with the alien to help Vulcan. Vulcan overhears that it was the alien that caused his change, and blasts him to death. With no other options, Star Spangle Lad kills Vulcan, blasting him into nothingness (yes, yes, with the cosmic rod). That’s a lot of action and battling, and I liked it.
Six–the art is great. I don’t know how two artists collaborate on a comic. However it happens, it worked out in this case. Both Giffen and Wood are known folks in the business, Wally Wood especially. And he holds a place in my heart as one of the founders of Mad Magazine. So much of this book is so fun to look at.
I would love to have more of these. Unfortunately, I’m sure this is a one-off purchase I made when I was 10 years old, probably because of the cool cover. I’m going to look in the junk drawer. I think I saw a comic rod in there somewhere.