The title of this post is my cheerful tip-o’-the-cap to “The New Scooby Doo Movies”, the 2nd Scooby-Doo TV incarnation in which Skoob and posse teamed with celebrities (true and fictional), such as Batman and Robin, Don Knotts, and Sandy Duncan (probably NOT the episode the folks on the Atlantic Coastline are watching this year, I RECKON!)…”Today, Scooby and the Gang are joined by Sonny and Cher!” Ah, yes…afterschool cartoon happiness for a wayward youth in the NJ suburbs…
Speaking of wayward youth, I devoted many weekends of my youth cruising the Northern Jersey comic book convention circuit. My favorite congregation of heroes & villains met once a month at the Treadway Inn adjacent to the Paramus Park Mall. I’d stroll into the reception room of the hotel with a twenty-dollar bill, and REMEMBER, back in the 80’s, twenty bucks TOOK you to Bizarro’s backyard, the Bat-Cave, the Sanctum Sanctorum, the anti-matter universe of Qward, the Savage Valley, and STILL had you back in your kitchen at 6PM for Saturday spaghetti & meatballs! Definitely back-issue heaven for a fanboy…’Twas at these conventions I discovered the one title over which I legitimate went nuts and absolutely had to own all issues and related issues — The All-Star Squadron!
How could I resist the possibilities presented by that cover? Roy Thomas at the typewriter, Rick Hoberg and Jerry Ordway at the drawing desk…Franklin Delano Roosevelt acted quickly after the destruction of Pearl Harbor, calling forth all “Mystery-Men” to convene at the White House for an extraordinary undertaking: the heroes should informally unionize & collectively combat the Nazi menace on the homefront, for fear that Hitler’s otherworldly Spear of Destiny would devastate the superheroic population if they should venture to Europe.
Thus, the All-Star Squadron was born; 31 issues into the series, the heroes organized 100% for the first time in NYC, and roll call was initiated by the chairwoman Liberty Belle. Permit to introduce you to the Rick Hoberg-illustrated masterpiece that has mesmerized me for nearly thirty years:
Much like the ornate and brain-melting Alex Ross “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, there’s plenty to see here. Noteworthy: Picture 1, 2nd row, 3rd from left, we see the “original Spider-Man”, the Tarantula, a guy whose original costume had to be discarded due to its tone-to-tone similarity to the 2nd outfit of the Sandman (upper left) — Hawkman and Hawkgirl, who figure more prominently in this series than they ever did in the Justice League — Dr. Mid-Nite (holding the coffee mug), a hero I like although I will always refer to him as “the poor man’s Batman” — next to him is Johnny Quick, a speedster whose powers were derived from the recitation of a simple mathematical formula, 3XY2(9YZ)4A (chanting this formula in gym class never increased my athleticism, sadly) — talking to Batman is the Jester, a tough-as-nails cop descendant of a medieval court jester (later ret-conned as a Vice-President-kidnapping radical monomaniac!) — The Phantom Lady, whose costume almost brought the Ban of Comic Books into my life thanks to my mother’s glance at this picture.
Picture 2, we spotlight forgotten warriors: The Human Bomb, for whom casual contact was explosive (back in 1988, I wrote a love story about him and the X-Man, Rogue, that was saved onto floppy disk and then swallowed whole by grunge rock) — seated next to him is Dan Richards, the Quality Comics Manhunter, who, earlier in the issue, had some harsh words for the OTHER Manhunter, the smug, blue-faced s.o.b. in the lower right hand corner; I entered a “Manhunter vs. Manhunter” colored pencil illustration into a comic book art contest back in ’90 based on their brief confrontation — before Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, DC Comics fused the comic sensibilities of Black Condor (2nd row, 2nd from left, staring at the Red Bee, the man with bees in his belt!) and the Ray (bottom left), who should’ve been given a team-up limited series — look!! Condor’s seated next to TNT and Dan the Dyna-Mite (what a farcical name)– adjusting his cuffs is Zatara, confirming his presence in backwards babble, the father of the Silver Age Zatanna.
The meeting is interrupted by Earth-X’s sole champion, the fabled Uncle Sam, who declares his home has been over-run by the Nazis, who were SLIGHTLY more successful (translation: they WON World War II) on Earth-X than elsewhere in the DCU. He entreats the heroes to join his battle, as the defenders of Earth-X (Quality Comics’ acquired lot from the 70s) have all fallen, including Rex Tyler, the pill-popping Hourman (never quite grokked that guy–then again, I’m a diehard Ambush Bug supporter). The heroes are split on the matter, when another interruption pierces the controversy:
Midnight stumbles into the atmosphere, clutching a box containing a ailing Doll Man! Thus, the story concludes. The picture is worth posting because I remember the first time I read this comic, stating, “Wow – could this possibly be EVERYBODY from the World War II era?” and BOOM! The Toy-Sized Titan appears!
DC recently put All-Star Squadron into black-and-white form as part of its Showcase series, but key issues involving the JSA/JLA/All-Stars team-up were not included in the collection, an oversight that has brought general declaim and disparagement. Another storyline that motivated me as a youth:
by the by, 1993, twenty years ago, was the Year Without Superman, the Year that was Bad for Batman’s Back, and the year I had to re-evaluate my love for comic books. I’m still uncertain about my attitude – a wash of disgust and tesknota – but thank the stars (and the Starmen) for the refuge of back issues.