Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Crisis Part 8 - The Cosmic Rod & The Canary!

There is little doubt now that 1965 was a breakout year for the Justice Society heroes. Not only had they all but stolen the whole show in the JLofA-JSofA crossover in that year, and both Earth-2 heroes Green Lantern and Flash had made individual appearances, but Dr.Fate and Hourman had two adventures in Showcase (which also goes on to feature The Spectre at the end of the year), and just a few months later Starman and Black Canary get a two-issue try-out in The Brave and the Bold.

"Mastermind of Menaces!" by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson, begins quietly enough with a wealthy man following hypnotic instruction to burgle his own safe. The scene cuts to the Drake Flower shop where private eye Larry Lance kisses his wife Dinah Drake (Black Canary) Lance goodbye. Some few minutes later Ted (Starman) Knight turns up and the old partners from the Justice Society exchange greetings. Dinah gives Ted a flower for his lapel and he heads off to the observatory where he pursues his astronomical hobby. But the stars are blotted out for some reason and then Knight hears a voice giving orders for a robbery. He becomes Starman and heads to the location he overheard to find thugs picking up loot, but when he attempts to use his Cosmic Rod to defeat them it's powerless and his fistcuffs are not enough. He is defeated and then it is revealed that his old enemy The Mist is behind the robberies.

In Part 2 the Mist reveals that he is eager to battle his old foe. Starman on the other hand returns to the Drake Flower shop to discuss his defeat and finds his Cosmic Rod is now functional. It is learned that all the crimes share one thing in common, the Drake Flower shop sent flowers to each man robbed. He then learns that Dinah Drake is under some compulsion to give specially-treated flowers to the victims. It turns out the spray the Mist invented is also responsible for Starman's loss of power. Incensed that she's made a dupe Dinah Lance become Black Canary and she and Starman head off to confront The Mist and his gang. But Starman gives Canary a bit of rod powered by quasars to use before she leaves. She confronts the Mist's gang, now all using invisibility, but Canary using her wits is able to battle them effectively and halt a jewel robbery. Starman meanwhile halts a crime using a helicopter to steal a Viking ship.

In Part 3 Larry Lance locates The Mist's hideout but is accosted and captured by his gang. Black Canary and Starman head off to the location and battle both the Mist and his thugs eventually defeating them thanks to the bit of Cosmic Rod Starman gave to Canary which is immune to The Mist's sprays. Having captured the thieves, the pair free Larry Lance and later share notes over dinner.

"The Big Super-Hero Hunt" is again by the Fox and Anderson team. This time Black Canary and Starman find themselves pitted against the married team of the Sportsmaster and The Huntress. Another Earth-2 hero named Wildcat guest-stars in this one.

The story begins when The Sportmaster robs a museum opening of a special trophy and is followed by Black Canary. Meanwhile Starman is checking out his cool reproductions of famous astronomical sites when he hears the yell of his JSofA colleague Wildcat and discovers The Huntress has knocked this fellow hero out. The Huntress attacks with birds which Starman beats back. The Sportsmaster shows up with Canary in pursuit and the criminal pair escape, just barely.

In Part 2 the Sportsmaster's self-guided rocket skis give the heroes a way to locate the criminals and Starman, Canary, and Wildcat follow only to find a lair filled with dangerous animals. The trap is sprung and each of the heroes must defeat all manner of fauna (apes, bears, wild boars, etc.) while the villains again get away.

Part 3 has the criminal team using a floating putting green to attempt the robbery of a famous golf bag. Leaving Ted (Wildcat)Grant behind in case the robbers return, Starman and Canary head off after the villains. After a furious battle with Starman focused on The Sportsman and Canary in hand-to-hand with The Huntress they ultimately defeat them and return the ill-gotten booty to the owners. The story closes with Ted Grant giving a returned trophy to its rightful recipient.

These two stories are well crated, but frankly lack some of the pop of some of the other Earth-2 stories. The Mist story is very complex and he proves to be a very worthy foe. His invisble thugs make for some neat imagery. But the Sportsmaster while fun is overwrought, and he and his wife have such nutty and banal motivations that it's difficult to invest in them as characters. He has his fetish to dress in sports gear and she wants to collect heroes, not the stuff of legends.

The second story in particular felt like a superhero story by the numbers. The addition of Wildcat gives it some interest, but he's unfortunately given very little to do. On the upside, the artwork is beautiful in both tales. There's no denying Anderson's talent.

But sadly it's also easy to see why this team did not catch on.

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  1. I always loved the Starman/Canary team simply for being two people who were equal partners without any romance or sexual tension between them...acting like adults, which was unheard of in superhero comics at the time. I was disgusted when James Robinson came along many years later to retcon this so the two were having an affair behind Larry's back the whole time. Not disgusted by two people having an extramarital affair; disgusted that he'd take what made this duo unique and throw it away for something unimaginative and unsubtle.

  2. I agree with your sentiments generally, but I will have to say while it didn't really occur to me when I read it, when I summarized the story for this post, the fact Knight showed up right after Lance left did sound suspicious and I had to be careful to phrase it in such a way as not to suggest something less amiable.

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