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Saturday, April 21, 2018

All-Star Squadron: The First Year Review (But Not Really, More of an Excuse To Ask Questions)

So I have been reading through All-Star Squadron, starting from #1. In the 1980’s, I read about 30 issues, but the other 35 have been sitting there begging me to read them -- for a good 30 years. You know what I mean: you have stacks of comics, new ones, but you have a whole bunch you bought years ago that you want to get to,... but life happens.

It’s been a fun read so far: Roy Thomas spinning yarn about Pearl Harbour, the early days of World War II, FDR hanging out with Winston Churchill, while Atom and Hawkman pal around with the world leaders. The art started out with Rich Buckler, and moved into Adrian Gonzalez, but all of the issues feature the inking of Jerry Ordway, and his work just shines through. To me, Jerry Ordway is THE Golden Age of comics, and that’s just my truth.

panel from All-Star Squadron #3 (1981)

Roy Thomas decided to use lesser known heroes, to replace more known Justice Society of America members. Johnny Quick was a stand-in for the Flash, Liberty Belle was a stand-in for Wonder Woman. Those two made sense. Then he had Robotman be a stand-in for Green Lantern. Robotman was created by Jerry Siegel, who also created the Spectre and the Star-Spangled Kid. That’s kind of nuts, because all three of those still play a role in DC today. I think Robotman is a perfect stand-in for Superman, and Air Wave would have been a good stand-in for Green Lantern. Energy powers, and Air Waves' name in the 40s was Larry Jordan and in the 80’s he was retconned to be related to Hal Jordan. This leads me to my first question.

1. Why was Robotman used as a stand-in for Green Lantern? I wish I could ask Roy Thomas, but anyone who may have seen an interview with Roy about the topic, I would like more information.

panel from All-Star Squadron #1 (1981)

The first three issues of All-Star Squadron focus on time traveling Per Degaton and his team of villains that he picked out through different time periods. He brought my favorite, Solomon Grundy, to 1941, all the way from 1947!!!!! And then he got Wotan (who is like Aleister Crowley, kind of), Sky Pirate, who is a pirate but for planes, and Professor Zodiac, who looks funny, but is an Alchemist. So they do the 'super-hero vs super-villain' stuff, and the All-Stars win.

In issue 4, they go to see the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and we get a strong reactionary page, where they show the All-Stars with their jaws dropped. Even Spectre -- who is God’s angel of vengeance -- was moved. Good stuff by Roy Thomas -- really humanizing everyone. So they fight some loser named Dragon King, who maybe showed up again, maybe. The first of these evil villains who are all weird Axis Powers guys. Issue #5 were some Nazis trying to blow up the Statue of Liberty and issue #6 was some Aztec Zombie who had some connection to the Hawks and their ancient weapon/reincarnation gimmick. Honestly, it wasn’t as captivating as the first issues. Then it’s the holidays, and there’s this villain -- Baron Blitzkreig -- who is a Nazi Dr. Doom. I enjoyed his story and such. There was a lot of concentration camp stuff in these issues, and it was pretty powerful. There was a time in the 80's where DC comics was definitely looking to push boundaries.

Ok, so now we are going to get to my second question. In issue # 10, some weird alien invades the planet and takes all the All-Stars out. There’s a cool Joe Kubert cover with the All-Stars hanging on the Alien as he leaves. Robotman, Libery Belle, and Johnny Quick are all attacking him, and he’s very “whatever” about it, grasping Hawkwoman and taking her on his ship.

Ok, so get this: there’s this scientist who was Hawkman’s very first villain in the 40s. He is reincarnated too, like Hawkman and Hawkwoman. But now he’s an evil scientist because entertainment was always worried about innovation. So this evil scientist (his name is Dr. Hastor, not important) reveals that the Alien is just his creation, as is the Spaceship the Alien is in, and he’s going to take over the world with it. Simple enough, right?

In issue #12 he reveals his plan. Cover dated August 1982. Now follow this: there is this good-looking scientist who is named Dr. Napier, blonde guy, who visits Dr. Hastor and tells him a great war is coming. A great war that he can predict because he had a formula that predicts it. So this blonde scientist knew exactly the kind of world war that would happen just by using his intelligence. Still with me? The blonde scientist then gets a bunch of scientists together on a secret island, slowly having them disappear so that no one would notice. What are they doing on the island? Why, they are building a fake spaceship and creating a fake alien, which will have a fake invasion, which will then be so bad, that it will bring the world together and stop the NEXT great war.

IS THIS NOT THE PLOT TO A HUGE PART OF THE WATCHMEN? This issue was published four years before The Watchmen. Now don’t get me wrong, Alan Moore is a genius of geniuses, but this seems very derivative. I know [former President of the USA] Ronald Reagan made some speeches talking about the concept of aliens bringing the world together, but… here is my second question.

2. Is this a plot device that was used before this? Does this come from someone else? Some old Serial?

Just curious. Creators always borrow from other creators, I just want to know if this exact plot device came from something older. Thanks for reading.

That infamous alien creature from The Watchmen

Mark Belkin


  1. The OUTER LIMITS famously did an episode with the same conceit. Everyone gives that the credit, but I always thought All-Star Squadron was a likely conduit, Len Wein was the editor who hired Moore for American vomicd, and I can easily see him sending s bunch of then recent DC comics to Moore as referende, or as comps.

    As for the first question, I saw most of the Squadron's non-JSA members as analogues of Marvrl's All Winners Squad. Johnny = Whizzer, Libby=Miss America, Firebrand=Human Torch, Steel=Captain America, leaving Robotman as an alienated super-strong charscter as the Namor equivalent.

    L9ve the blog, by the way.

    1. Thank you for the answers! Love the All Winners Squad/Invaders idea you pointed out. Seems so clear now.

  2. As I understand it, the choice to use Johnny Quick and Robotman was the fact that they both had LONG careers at DC. Both of those characters practically made it to the beginning of the silver age. Johnny Quick outlasted the Flash. Liberty Belle's publishing career outlasted a few JSA'ers as well. They should have retained more popularity than they had and I believe he was rectifying that.

  3. Wow, sorry for all the typos in my comment. Hopefully you get the gist.

  4. I loved the All-Star Squadron. Probably my second favorite all-time DC comic after the Legion of Super-Heroes.

    This was a nice, brief summary of the first dozen issues. Good job!

  5. There's also Kurt Vonnegut's the Sirens of Titan from 1959. Article about all the similarties beweed Watchmen and Sirens here...

  6. I actually just read these issues on Comixology this week and had the exact same thought re: the Watchmen similarity - I had meant to look up which one came first and forgot about it till I came across this review!