Friday, July 29, 2011

Crisis Part 24 - The Return Of The Golden Boy!

The 1974 JLofA-JSofA crossover is unique in all the series in that it is one issue in length. When these summer special started they were always two issues in length, significant in a time when nearly all comics from DC were just single issues if that in length. To contribute two issues to a single story was unheard of, and frankly against policy a bit since DC didn't want readers to miss part of a story and thus be unsatisfied. But they'd done it from the beginning and it had been part of the tradition. But with this installment, the Justice League book was a 100-page bi-monthly book and they couldn't justify using two issues for a single story. So we get a gem of a story, something quite different.

"The Creature in the Velvet Cage!" was written by Len Wein with art by Dick Dillin and Dick Giordano. This is the last story by this team. The cover is again by Nick Cardy. The action begins on Earth-2 where the visting League members (Superman, Green Lantern, Batman, and Elongated Man) help the Society (Sandman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Hourman) wrap up the Horned Owl Gang. Afterwards a loud alarm panics the Sandman and he rushes off leaving the combined teams to follow. They discover a disconsolate Wesley Dodds at his home in a secret lair where a glass cage appears to be broken. He tell the assembled heroes of his time with Sandy the Golden Boy who joined him when he was wearing his gold and purple outfit. They fought crime together for quite a time. But one of Dodd's inventions, the Silicoid Gun went awry and Sandy was transformed into a giant golden rocky monster who attacked Sandman. Sandman put him to sleep and placed him into a comfortable but confining glass cage, where he had resided for years and years. Now he's escaped. The heroes agree to help Sandman find Sandy and they break into teams to do so. Elongated Man, Superman, and Hourman find Sandy interrupting a wedding. They attack but his mutated powers give him control of the earth and his own form and he fends them off. Later Wonder Woman, Batman, and Flash find Sandy scaring some baseball players and they try to capture the roaring creature, but again he escapes by transforming himself into a sandstorm. Later still on a beach Sandy reappears and this time Green Lantern and Sandman find him. Sandman seems almost able to communicate with the creature when the other heroes appear and subdue Sandy. Then an earthquake hits the city and Superman detects a vast fault line. He makes use of Wonder Woman's lasso to knit the fault back together, saving the city. At this point the creature named Sandy rises and speaks, indicating his voice had been stilled before because of his long containment in sleeping gas. He says that he'd detected the dangerous fault and had been tracking it across the city helping to calm the tremors with his earth-based powers. He reveals that he'd come to his sense hours after Sandman had made him a prisoner, but he had been unable to say anything. The Sandman begs for Sandy's forgiveness, but cannot forgive himself as the story ends.

This has always been one of those stories that was a bit hard for me to swallow. Not that I think the story itself was any less exotic than most JLofA stories, but the heroes in this story seem to have all manner of sympathy for Wesley Dodds for what he'd done to Sandy. There's no outrage and frankly it seems odd. At this time in comics such anti-heroic notions were out and about, and that someone doesn't directly confront Dodds is surprising to me. He basically hid what he considered a mistake for years, and denied Sandy the chance for proper care and assistance. It's pretty outrageous stuff, but none of the heroes call him out. It struck me odd then, and does so even more now.

There's no doubt this is one of the more impressive crossovers, simply for the emotional content of the tale. For the very first time, some character in the series other than Red Tornado seems to have feet of clay (pun intended).

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