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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Art Dive; Trevor Von Eeden - DC in the 80s



Trevor Von Eeden is one of those mysterious dudes you saw occasionally, and rarely do you see Von Eeden on "all time favorite artists" lists. But Trevor Von Eeden is absolutely one of my favorite artists of all time, and I wanted to explore some of his work. I wish he was a regular on a book after 1985, in my prime years of DC in the 80s childhood obsession, but he wasn’t. He had that Steve Ditko vibe to me, like “What happened to him, where is he?” I knew what happened with Steve Ditko after the internet became a thing, but still Trevor Von Eeden remained a mystery. I felt his work was this funked-up Alex Toth, more technical 80s version of a 70s-era Frank Robbins. But he had his own distinguishable energy. It was so fresh, so different from everything else out. It was dynamic, beautiful, and I wanted more.


Trevor Von Eeden in 2008.
I now follow him on Facebook, and I can tell you for sure he is alive and well. He’s even begun going to Conventions, and I hope I get the chance to meet him someday. I’d love to ask him about his experiences when he first began in the business, the bs he had to go through, and maybe the bs that eventually made him peace out. He’s also super passionate about his beliefs, which I love. If he did stories about what he is passionate about, I would buy it.

I thought it would be cool to read some of his work right now, and explore the art. Like an art historian. So pretend this is a DC in the 80s museum, and I’m the guy they gave you when you asked for a tour and we are going into the Trevor Von Eeden room. If you don’t like how I do it, another tour is starting soon.

đŸ”»

Batman Annual 8. 1982.

First of all, who else worked on this book. Mike W. Barr, a SUPER underrated Batman writer. His Detective run with Alan Davis might be my favorite of the 80s. John Costanza on lettering, Lynn Varley on colors and the legendary Dick Giordano on editing. Lettered, colored and edited by the Dark Knight Returns team.

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This main villain and his henchman. The henchman is a classic square jaw goon, and the classic hooded no face main villain, but with such powerful evil portrayed just through the eyes. The goon almost foreshadows a future Marv from Sin City, while the hooded villain recalls others who used religion as a shield for their hate.

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Look at that line and shadow work. I love that huge bat shadow falling on the dead victims, and then the Batplane underneath the sky and birds. It feels like the two pages are speaking to each other.
Here you see how Von Eeden played with perspectives, and his amazing symmetry. There’s something special going on here, a real angular exploration. 

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Batman totally backhanded this fake Jesus character. Like "Really dude?"

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BTW the story line is about some poison being introduced into Gotham’s water supply. Joker did this, Scarecrow, Ra’s Al Ghul. A popular Batman trope. I will say just as I’m reading this, it’s a really well told story. It’s an A to B to C story, very early 80’s comic book, but Barr has a way of narrative that fits Batman well. It’s the most “detective” of the Batman stories I’ve read. Von Eeden’s art is killing it tho.



The link work, the circles. I’d say Von Eeden is more of an alchemist than a cartoonist in this book. I feel like I am looking more through a book on Carl Jung, rather than a Batman comic. Am I projecting?

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Damn Batman is coooolddd. He's right though.

đŸ”»

Green Arrow limited series Issue 1, 1983.

Mike W. Barr writing again. This time John Costanza letters again, with Dick Giordano on the inks, Len Wein is editor, and Tom Zuiko is the colorist. Wouldn’t it have been funny if George Costanza’s cousin was the letterer at DC, and Jerry Seinfeld got to meet people who worked on Superman? They could have done an episode about Jerry being really sad Superman was dead and George tried to buy every issue of the story in NYC and destroy them so it would become really rare and only he would have it, until some store in Newark suddenly made millions because everyone took the train there to buy it.



Here it seems the line work is less experimental and more straight forward. Von Eeden is channeling Frank Miller in some of the shots, and I could easily have seen him working on Daredevil during this era. Still, it’s very much a unique look, and Giordano’s inks aren’t drowning out his style. It seems like it was only a few panels. Sometimes it feels like Von Eeden is experimenting with styles mid story. Love it.

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This has a really great story. There’s this love established between Oliver (Green Arrow) and an older rich lady. I was really feeling it. I’m also feeling this experimentation of panels. It gives this page the chaos it needs to convey an explosion and fire, and everything falling apart.

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Look at the sadness conveyed during the reading of a will of someone Oliver cared for, while the deceased's children argue over Queen getting a fortune, he could care less. Love how he gets smaller as their conversation gets more heated.

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I love everything about this page. So stylized. Again the panels are loose, but Von Eeden’s symmetry plays into it. Also, his moon scenes really get me. I saw this in the Batman Annual as well.

Why didn't we get 20 issues of this???? If you haven’t already, go out and get this Green Arrow mini-series.


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Look at this page in issue 2. This is classic illustrating. Some Ditko, but a style completely Von Eeden's own. The next two pages after this make the comic worth whatever you pay for it. Just go buy it.

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In Issue 3, I feel Von Eeden takes a step up in artistry. The first page is one of the best pages in comics, IMO. Look at Count Vertigo sweating! The story telling is all in the eyes. Amazing stuff.

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I really enjoyed the minimalism on this page too. Recalls some of Jim Aparo's 1970s work, some Miller stuff on Daredevil. GIVE ME 20 ISSUES OF THIS STORYTELLING. 

Wow did I enjoy the 3 issues of Green Arrow that I’ve owned for decades and never read. What a waste. Or maybe now was just a great time to read it. Que sera sera. I have to get #4 on Ebay like right now. Man, these shipping and handling fees. I would so rather get this at a shop or a con. 

đŸ”»

Thriller #1.

As a kid I thought Thriller was about Michael Jackson, and even when I found it wasn’t, I still didn’t want to read it. I DJ weddings and I’ll play MJ, but I’m just into him. Janet Jackson I love though. Rhythm Nation FTW. But I bought some issues a few years ago in the dollar boxes, just because I knew Von Eeden was on them. First of all, if it’s on Baxter Paper, so it’s amazing. Baxter Paper feels like "Hey I'm a Special Comic!!". Second of all Robert Loren Fleming, the writer, worked on Ambush Bug, which is still one of the greatest series of all time. So I can't wait to read this. 

There is a lot of experimentation in this. It’s very quick, fluid. It’s almost like a dream. They’re introducing characters at a breakneck speed and it feels like they need to get them all out before they can really start the story.

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This is a particularly interesting sequence that feels like it could work in a Deadman story too. I love the face and the shading. Von Eeden is such a strong, interesting inker too. 

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Love this drawing. This character Data blows my mind, the inking on him is so different. BTW this Data has the ability of a few 647k computers, so watch out Microsoft Word documents. 

I read #2 and just feel this needs more attention, story wise. I'll get all the Von Eeden issues and read them all at once. Or I won't, who knows. So hard to find time to read anything. They will go in the read pile, which has books that I bought in 1986, so yeah.

đŸ”»

Finally, the classic Batman and the Outsiders #15.

Here, Von Eeden’s work gets dirtier, and so much more experimental. Heavy pen lines, crazy inking. I wonder if this was a fun issue for him, or whether it was part of the process of him leaving DC. Another Mike W. Barr collaboration.

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There is this hot Outsiders versus New Olympians splash page. It’s so different, so much more independent then what you were seeing at the time. Poster-worthy. I also wish Maxie Zeus was a bigger Batman villain. He felt like a major player in the 80s, but now, he's not even top 100.

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Katana bitch-slapping the archer Diana, and Antaeus floating. Von Eeden did so much with eyes, that it was lost if you looked at the pages too quickly.

The issue was great, but felt like it was over too quick. Much like I feel about Trevor Von Eeden’s career at DC in the 80s. I'm going to finish Thriller, and hunt down more Trevor Von Eeden work from the 80s. I think he's a forgotten master, and although he helped create Black Lightning, he just doesn't get the credit he deserves for his work.


-Mark Belkin

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Andy Belanger: Deadlines and DDTs

When I attend a comic convention, I typically make a beeline to any comic pros who wrote or drew for DC comics during the 1980s and early 90s. Once I've exhausted those avenues, I typically enjoy walking around the con snapping pics of cosplayers and making conversation with any comic book fans -- after all, the whole event is about fandom. I tend to zero in on late Generation Xers or Millennials (so basically, people around my age). I figure that if they're around my age and are attending a comic convention, then they probably grew up absorbing the same pop culture I did, and hence we've got a few things we can reminisce about and get some sort of discourse going.

All this to say, during 2018's Ottawa Comiccon, I stumbled into Andy Belanger totally by accident as I was walking by his table in artist's alley and caught a glimpse of his Swamp Thing print and decided to ask him about it. After a few pleasantries were exchanged, I realized I NEEDED to interview this gentleman. Here is the conversation that ensued:


Andy Belanger at 2018 Ottawa Comiccon. Photo by Justin Francoeur

Justin: So which comics did you grow up reading?

Andy: So, when I was a kid -- and you're talking about comics in the 80s (which was when I got into comics) -- I grew up in a town called Kitchener–Waterloo that's about an hour west of Toronto. There was a second-hand bookstore there called KW Books and they had shelves and shelves with, like, thousands of comics for sale at, like, a quarter a piece. You know what I mean? Like from ten cents to a quarter. I would just buy TONS of them, but I was mostly concerned with monster comics.

From DC, it was Creature Commandos and GI Robot. From Marvel, it was Tomb of Dracula, Curse of Frankenstein and Werewolf by Night. And then I would buy Batman. I was always into Batman when I was that age. And those were the books I was into at that age.

Weird War Tales #93 (1980) & Weird War Tales #113 (1982)


Justin: So you would've been a big Universal Studios Monsters fan when you were younger?

Andy: Oh yeah -- massively. So the libraries in Ontario used to sell these orange books -- they were square and had an orange cover -- and they were based on all the Universal Horror films. They were a picture book with words describing what happened in the horror movie. I've been collecting them, since. I actually order them off ebay from old libraries to recollect these orange books -- and they're filled with old black-and-white film stills from the movies. From there, that's what really spawned me into loving monster comics and making monster comics and that kinda stuff.


Andy Belanger's Universal Studios Monster book collection. photo source: Andy Belanger.

Justin: So then you're not so much into the superhero fare, but more into monsters ?

Andy: Well, I'm into superheroes NOW -- I got into superheroes later. After I was sort of into that stuff, I got into [Mark] Bagley's run of Spider-Man and I also got into Thor quite a bit. Around 10 or 11 years old I discovered Heavy Metal Magazine, and from then on ALL superheroes were gone and it was just European -- like Moebius and [Milo] Manara.

Justin: I think it's a common feeling that if you've been reading a specific type of comic for a while, they start to seem slightly formulaic and predictable, and you start getting bored and want to venture out and look for something different...

Andy: Yeah, and I always felt that the European art that you'd get in Heavy Metal was miles better. When I became a comic book artist I didn't understand that an American artist will do 200 to 300 pages a year, whereas a European artist does 40 paintings. SO there's a big difference. Anyways, that was the stuff I was into in the eighties. I'm still an 80s freak -- y'know -- I love the Predator comics, the Aliens comics, the Predator vs Aliens comics, all that stuff from Dark Horse comics.

Justin: The Aliens film franchise... rank the movies.

Andy: The last one was the worst one of the bunch, I think. I preferred Alien Vs Predator to the newest Aliens film. Aliens: Covenant was one of the WORST Aliens films ever made -- everything that had to do with Michael Fassbender (Andy starts punching the table) filled me with rage. The level of stupidity of the characters surrounding HIS character FILLED me with rage. My problem with Prometheus and Aliens: Covenant is the stupidity of the people in it -- they're just TOO dumb. Like, you can't be a scientist and take your helmet off on a strange planet. If I know more about science than the scientists in your movie, you've got a problem. And I can suspend disbelief better than anybody, but that stuff -- I just had NO sympathy for those films. Guys petting a 'space snake' -- "don't worry -- I'm just going to PET it". What?! What?! For me, literally, I think they just keep getting worse with every movie they make -- save Alien 4, because I think Alien vs Predator was a BETTER film than Alien 4.

The comic books are different -- those Aliens and Predator comics (from Dark Horse) I loved when I was a kid. Terminator, Robocop,... I had ALL that stuff.


Andy Belanger Batman '66 art


Andy: I miss magazines, dude. I miss going to the store and picking up Fangoria. I used to go to second-hand bookstores looking for Famous Monsters magazines. Even modern ones like Juxtapose and Heavy Metal. Heavy Metal Magazine is making a comeback, but they're pretty much in comic book stores only. I've worked for them twice last year: I did a story with Grant Morrison, and I did a story [in Heavy Metal #284] with Donny C. Cates and Duncan Trussell.

I used to work for DC quite a bit on Swamp Thing with Scott Snyder, so I would go to the DC parties in New York and Grant [Morrison] would be there and we'd chat. Very cool guy. He's funny. Like, he had me howling. I was on the ground laughing.

Justin: How did you land that Swamp Thing gig?

Andy: It was crazy. Becky Cloonan did some of it (and Becky and I worked together at the time) and Scott liked my art, too. So I did part of the annual, and I did a few issues after that -- but they were all really rush jobs.

Andy Belanger Swamp Thing art. 
Justin: But you knew your Swamp Thing already? You knew this history of the character?

Andy: Well yeah, I knew how to do monster stuff.

Justin: But this was New 52 Swamp Thing, so I guess the previous history didn't matter that much anyway... Did you give much story input to Snyder? Or were you more or less the guy who laid out the panels and the pacing?

Andy: That time Snyder gave pretty bare-bones scripts -- because he was doing a lot of the writing after.

Justin: So the 'Marvel Method', in which he gives you a general idea of the story, let's you illustrate it, and he fills in the words afterwards?

Andy: Well, not completely, because he did include dialogue, but for my first time working with Scott I felt it was a bit more like the Marvel Method.

Andy Belanger Poison Ivy, Swamp Thing and Deadman art

Andy: Following Swamp Thing I went to Image Comics. I started Southern Cross with Image... and I've been working on that for three years. Last year I did two stories for Heavy Metal Magazine (under the new Morrison revamp). I do WWE comics for BOOM studios... because I'm a pro-wrestler.

Justin: What?! Really?! Who are you? What's your wrestler name?

Andy: 'The Animal' Bob Anger is my wrestling name -- my alter ego, if you will. And I wrestle for IWS.


Photo © AndrĂ© Lemelin | The photos can not be passed on to a third party, nor sold, exchanged, reproduced, marketed, modified or cropped unless a written authorization by the photographer. | The use of the photos by the user is equivalent to the acceptance of the above conditions. | info@andrelemelin.com
Andy Belanger as 'The Animal' Bob Anger. Photo source: Photo © AndrĂ© Lemelin


Justin: I was just wondering about that. You're more fit than most comic book artists...

Andy: yeah... I have to be. Being a wrestler is INSANE. My trainer, Big Magic, is training us -- it's NXE training. Now I'm on this huge health kick, I've lost crazy amounts of weight. I'm in better shape now than I was when I was 25. I'm 40.

It's the most fun I've ever had. I've got a wrestling mask like a luchador. It's nuts. My instagram is mostly art, but if you go to my Facebook, specifically, it's mostly wrestling pics.

I'm in a tag team... my character is a lot like George 'The Animal' Steele. I'm biting people. I've chewed turnbuckles apart. I come out on a chain. I do all that stuff. They bring me out on a chain.

Justin: My guilty pleasure -- on a Friday night when it's too late to go out and do anything, and it's too early for me to go to sleep -- is to search youtube for old WWF wrestling footage from the 80s.

Andy: 80s wrestling is the greatest wrestling of all time. Not only in WWE, but the smaller versions like AWA. That stuff is amazing! Bruiser Brody matches!

Justin: I stopped following wrestling just before The Undertaker started. I can't remember why I dropped it -- maybe I was into something else? But all my memories are of Hulk Hogan and the Rock n' Wrestle era. That's what I grew up with.

Andy: Yeah, that's the BEST stuff. That's my favorite stuff, yeah. When I think about wrestling... I mean, I'm a wrestling STUDENT now. I go through the history, I go through everything, but 80s is still always my favorite.

Justin: So you're a pro-wrestler? Is that your day job?

Andy: Comics is my day job... I'm considered a professional wrestler, but it doesn't bring in enough money. If I want to make money as a professional wrestler, I'd have to travel A LOT. I have a baby and I'm 40 -- I'm not willing to travel a lot. So, I just like wrestling in Montreal and Ottawa. I've wrestled here, in Ottawa, twice.


Photo © AndrĂ© Lemelin | The photos can not be passed on to a third party, nor sold, exchanged, reproduced, marketed, modified or cropped unless a written authorization by the photographer. | The use of the photos by the user is equivalent to the acceptance of the above conditions. | info@andrelemelin.com
Andy Belanger tagging in Mike Sciascia, Photo source: Photo © AndrĂ© Lemelin


Justin: Has it ever happened that you had to throw down with someone in a bar?

Andy: Like a fight? No. People don't fight me in bars. Since I've moved to Montreal 6 years ago and started wrestling, I think I've almost gotten into 5 bar fights, but it's because I'll stand up (while they're picking on a friend of mine) and they'll just back down. I'll bring out 'The Animal' personae and everything deescalates.

I've been in wrestling matches where the matches turn into a fight.

Justin: For real?

Andy: Yeah, and you don't know what to do. A guy will mess up a move and get really angry and starting punching your face for real.

Justin: What do you do with that?

Andy: I didn't know what to do -- I just acted professional. I continued looking after him -- being gentle -- well, it's not gentle because you're fighting. But I just wanted to be professional and I didn't want to hurt him. And that's the way I took it. But next time that happens I'm going to beat the crap out of them. (laughs)

Justin: Have you gotten badly injured in the ring?

Andy: Oh yeah! Of course! My first 'table' -- I took the wood, snapped back and slashed my face open... it cut my lips open. I broke a rib. I got a REALLY bad black eye in one of my matches... on my own. I had a flag, and I was waving this Canadian Flag (as The Animal) and there was a piece of doweling on it that whipped around and hit me in the eyeball -- before the match. My eye went blood red, blood was pouring out of my face, and I had to do the match. Under my mask was just blood pouring out of me and it was my own fault -- I did it to myself. Actually, I broke my rib myself -- I tripped over my own feet and landed on the rope. Most of the stuff you do as injury sometimes ends up being really small that you did yourself... by accident. But I'm very careful at my age. I don't let people pile-drive me or do anything involving my neck.


Andy Belanger Superman and Batman (with Bane) art



And this was my interview with Andy Belanger. And...whether you're a Swamp Thing fan or wrestling fan... you now realize why I NEEDED to interview him. Andy was super polite and easily the funnest interview I had all weekend at that the 2018 Ottawa Comiccon. Do go up to talk to Andy if you see him at a comiccon, he's a pretty stand-up guy and easy to chat with. 




The above wrestling photos were taken by AndrĂ© Lemelin, and AndrĂ© can be reached at info@andrelemelin.com. Photo © AndrĂ© Lemelin | The photos can not be passed on to a third party, nor sold, exchanged, reproduced, marketed, modified or cropped unless a written authorization by the photographer. | The use of the photos by the user is equivalent to the acceptance of the above conditions. | info@andrelemelin.com

Monday, July 2, 2018

Celebrating the Force of July

I was looking around for something to post in celebration of Independence Day 2018 and was shocked to discover that a post about the ill-fated Force of July wasn't easy to find. Hence, here's our write-up.

Created by Mike Barr and Jim Aparo, the Force of July first appear in 1984's Batman and the Outsiders Annual #1.

Batman and the Outsiders Annual #1 (1984) -- cover pencilled by Frank Miller, inked by Jim Aparo

The cover of this issue is noteworthy since:

a) Frank Miller penciled it (and it would appear Jim Aparo inked it),
b) the "It's 1984: Do you know where your FREEDOMS are?" call-out is a reference to George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (which was also adapted as a film in the UK that year) AND popular American television Public Service Announcement "It's 10PM. Do you know where your children are?", and
c) Batman is nowhere to be found on this cover (which is odd considering his name is in the title of the book).


For the sake of keeping this article relatively short, I'm NOT going to give you a play-by-play of what happens in this issue. All you really need to know is that a new super-team (sponsored by an ultra-patriotic US politician, naturally) is introduced as new antagonists for the Outsiders. Seeing as how this issue was an Annual -- and thus needed to resolve within 48 pages -- the Outsiders go toe-to-toe with the Force of July, get defeated and captured, but manage to rally at the last minute and thwart a dastardly scheme and save the day. The story ends in an ambiguous way and the reader is left wondering if the Force of July survives at the end. Spoiler: they do.

The roster included (from left to right): Mayflower, Major Liberty, Sparkler, Silent Majority, and Lady Liberty. [That's Metamorpho lying face-down on the ground between Major Victory and Sparkler.]
 panel from Batman and The Outsiders Annual #1 (1984) - pencils by Jerome Moore, inks by Jim Aparo

While this particular story (written AND edited by Mike Barr) was somewhat clichĂ©d and will probably never make anyone's 'Best Of' list, it was admittedly exciting to get a NEW team of characters for the Outsiders to battle. The series was still within its first year of publication and slowly building its own distinct rogues gallery (Masters of Disaster, anyone?) -- so this was good. A team of super-characters privately sponsored by the government is an idea as old as time itself, so we weren't really moving into new territory here. Regardless, the Force of July made formidable adversaries and had an interesting patriotic-themed gimmick, so this was a really cool concept to a 10 year-old me. [Just to be clear, I wasn't a 10 year-old when this Annual came out -- I was a 10 year-old when I started collecting and reading Batman and The Outsiders back issues.]


The next time we saw the Force of July was nearly a year later in The Outsiders v1 #2. The Outsiders v1 (aka Baxter Trade format) was a pretty exciting time for Outsiders fans -- we were treated to a glossier paper stock and back-up features spotlighting individual Outsiders members.

As a direct consequence of Batman and The Outsiders Annual #1, we find the Force of July punching their way out of a mountain. They are now part of a plot involving the Bad Samaritan and Gobrachev.

panel from The Outsiders v1 #3 (1985) - illustrated by Jim Aparo

By this point, the Force of July have been relegated to c-list villains and are easily dispatched by the new and improved Outsiders (Looker is now on the team).

They next appeared in 1987's The Outsiders Special #1. The Outsiders Special #1 was followed by 1987's Infinity Inc. Special #1 (released that same month) -- it was a cross-over. You were able to join the two covers to create a REALLY big battle scene between The Outsiders, Infinity Inc., the Force of July, and Psycho Pirate.

Covers to The Outsiders Special #1 and Infinity Inc. Special #1 (1987). Art by Eduardo Barreto

The cross-over ends with the Force of July deciding to withdraw from the battle because it was going to turn into an international incident on foreign soil.

They redeem themselves in The Outsiders v1 #23 (1987) when they team up with The People's Heroes to defeat a Russian menace known as 'Fusion'. This entire issue was staged as a flashback that occurred between 1986's The Outsiders v1 #13 and The Outsiders v1 Annual #1.  This is a particularly charming issue since The People's Heroes are ANOTHER patriotic-themed team of super-powered characters ALSO created by Mike Barr and Jim Aparo -- and it's pretty amusing to see the two teams (who are essentially American and Russian counterparts of each other) interact.

panel from The Outsiders v1 #23 (1987). Illustrated by David Ross and Bob Smith.

By the end of this issue, it was starting to seem plausible that the Force of July could actually be a team of government-sponsored super-heroes with a conscious who actually do good for the DC Universe (rather than a 'puppet' super-hero team controlled by the U.S. government).

The Force of July would last be seen together -- as a unit -- in the pages of John Ostrander & Kim Yales' Suicide Squad v1 #27.

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I'm not sure how detailed I want this article to be, but it would be kind of a shame if I didn't explain who was who, and what their powers were. Aside from Major Victory, nobody on this team had a Who's Who listing, so I'm just going to by what's been revealed in the comics.


Major Victory:

He led the team and wore an enhanced suit that gave him super-strength, super-endurance and the ability to fly. Most notably, he was a die-hard American patriot who did what he did for America. There wasn't really much more to him than that. He was arguably the most boring of the bunch.

panels from The Outsiders Special #1 (1987) - pencilled by Chuck Patton and inked by Bob Smith


Lady Liberty:

She appeared to have the ability to fly and the power to shoot energy beams. What kind of energy? I'm not sure -- they left it kind of vague. Whatever it was, it could be used to disintegrate things, levitate and move people/objects (like a tractor beam) or create thick smoke. I get the feeling her powers could do whatever the writer needed them to do in order to suit the story. In the spirit of the Statue of Liberty (which was a gift to the United States from the people of France), she spoke with a French accent. It is also revealed that she was originally from France.

panels from The Outsiders Special #1 (1987) - pencilled by Chuck Patton and inked by Bob Smith


Mayflower:

She's the group's botanokinetic (aka: ability to control plants with her mind). Her powers vary from making vines raise from the ground (to entangle someone) to having fully-grown redwoods sprout from the ground (to crush someone). A dialogue with Geo-Force gave a bit of insight into her origin -- she was originally from England and shunned for being a "freak", and she somehow found her way to the United States and was recruited to join the Force. I imagine she spoke with an English cockney accent. Her codename is based on the English ship that transported the first batch of Pilgrims to North America in 1620 -- hence her 'thematic' costume.

panels from The Outsiders Special #1 (1987) - pencilled by Chuck Patton and inked by Bob Smith


Silent Majority:

He didn't talk very much and had the power to create duplicates of himself at will. It would appear that injuring him also allowed him to create duplicates of himself. Each of his duplicates were an exact replica of him and had his proportional strength. It didn't seem like the duplicates had independent thought. He was like a DC version of X-Factor's Multiple Man (of Marvel Comics) if Multiple Man was less chatty and his duplicates all had a hive-mind. 'Silent Majority' was actually a term popularized by 37th U.S. President, Richard Nixon, to describe an 'unspecified large group of people in a country who do not express their opinions publicly'.

 panels from Batman and The Outsiders Annual #1 (1984) - pencils by Jerome Moore, inks by Jim Aparo


Sparkler:

This bratty-looking kid had the power to fly and shoot fireworks. He also had the power to turn himself into a living firework -- but we never saw this ability again after his first appearance. A 'Sparkler' is another name for a hand-held firework that burns slowly and shoots sparks everywhere.

panels from Batman and The Outsiders Annual #1 (1984) - pencils by Jerome Moore, inks by Jim Aparo


Abraham Lincoln Carlyle:

He was a later addition to the team and first appeared in 1987's The Outsiders Special #1. Other than being an early example of an Uncle Sam cosplayer, Abraham's only ability was that he was rich and really REALLY wanted to be president of the United States. At some point he manages to get a hold of Psycho Pirate's Medusa Mask, and that becomes his power.

panels from Suicide Squad v1 #27 (1989). Art by John Snyder and Pablo Marcos.

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So, what became of this interesting crew of super-powered patriots? Well... with the exception of Major Victory... they all got killed off when they fought against the Suicide Squad during 1989's Janus Directive cross-over event. (which will make a great article for another time. wink wink)

Suicide Squad v1 #27 (1989). Cover art by Karl Kessel


Following the Janus Directive cross-over, Major Victory got absorbed into the Suicide Squad and fought alongside them for about 2 years before parting ways. Ultimately, he became a casualty of Eclipso's vengeance and bit the dust in Eclipso v1 #13 (1993).

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As far as fan reaction was concerned, the most surprising thing about the death of the Force of July was that it DIDN'T happen in an issue written by Mike Barr. By 1989, when the Janus Directive cross-over event was published, Barr was still working with DC Comics -- so I'm not entirely sure how this one slipped through the cracks.

While I never read any real criticism or praise about the Force of July in the letter columns of Batman and the Outsiders' issues, quite a few readers did chime in after the death of the team. One reader wrote in to comment that they were thankfully to Ostrander "for ridding DC of more deadwood by having the Squad kick the tar of the Force of July. They were growing awfully lame."

Another reader, Charles D. Brown of Brentwood, NY, theorized that the creation of the Force of July was Mike Barr's "way of sticking it to right-wingers and to express his own opinion that 'government-approved' super-heroes will never be as good as the real thing because the very fact that they do work for the government doesn't allow them to have as much of a conscience and a free will as 'outside' heroes. And after seeing Force of July, Checkmate, Suicide Squad and all other tearing at each other over false tips, barely visible sources, or just because somebody with a security pass says so -- you know Barr was right."  He also added that Abraham Lincoln Carlyle won't be missed, and that Sparkler was pretty annoying. (What can we say, Charles? Every team needs it's 'Cousin Oliver/Danny Chase'.)

Every reader who wrote in had no problem with the Force of July getting killed off and even applauded it, but always concluded with "...but you could've at least kept [insert name here] alive. They had a really cool power and would've been great on the Suicide Squad."

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...and this concludes our article on the Force of July. Hopefully, you are now armed with new knowledge and know what's going on every time someone out there makes a 'Force of July' joke. (probably not very often)

Happy Fourth of July and God Bless America!

-Justin