BHOC: ALL-STAR COMICS #68

Not much in the way of specific memories of picking up this issue of ALL-STAR COMICS, save that it came from my usual 7-11. As previously related, I was fascinated by the early versions of my favorite comic book characters, and so the Justice Society held a special place in my heart. It was a favorite series at the time, one I wouldn’t pass up when a new issue reached the racks.

The late 1970s was a time of transition for DC Comics, at least in terms of its content. The editorial staff was still very much composed of old guard statesmen who had been there for years, even decades. But a few younger editorial voices were coming in, and the creative staff was beginning to skew younger as well. This led to a bifurcated DC line, in a sense–titles that attempted to hew to the classic one-and-done format that had served DC well, and titles that attempted to apply some of what Stan Lee and Marvel had brought to the field in terms of greater emphasis on characterization and continuity. I feel that NEW TEEN TITANS #1 was really the first true “Marvel-style” DC book, but in the years before it, attempts were being made elsewhere to “crack the code” as it applied to DC. ALL-STAR COMICS, from the start, had been doing this; a strange manner in which to approach DC’s earliest characters and team, perhaps. But it was, at this moment, a more character and soap opera-driven series that, for example, JUSTICE LEAGUE or LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES.

The characterization in ALL-STAR tended most often to skew towards characters bickering with one another, often under somewhat-contrived circumstances in order to try to create drama. That’s how this issue opens up, as the returning JSA finds Doctor Fate meditating in their headquarters, and given him grief for having run out on their battle a few issues earlier, saying he ad something else important to attend to. Never mind that they don’t really give Fate a moment to explain what that important something was.

When he can get a word in, Fate informs his JSA comrades that their fellow crusader, Green Lantern, has gone round the bend. And in fact, as Fate relates this, the Lantern is attacking Gotham Airport and demanding that the city pay him a million dollars to allow its planes to take off and land. We learned over the last few issues that Alan Scott’s company went bankrupt while he was more focused on his duties as a hero. The JSA shows up to take on their rogue member, but the Lantern’s mystic power ring is a match for even the mightiest among them, despite being outnumbered.

But the Lantern has an ally–or, really, a master. The Psycho-Pirate, the JSA’s old emotion-manipulating foe, steps from the shadows to assist his emerald thrall in escaping from the JSA. Elsewhere, his personal crusade against his former teammates beginning to heat up in his mind, Police Commissioner Bruce Wayne meets with Robin and Hourman, who are returning from overseas, and enlists their help in bringing the out-of-control JSA to heel. Back at headquarters, the JSA licks its wounds, its angry members bickering with one another–and the Flash even races off to join forces with Green Lantern and Psycho-Pirate, also under the effect of the villain’s power.

The Psycho-Pirate and his crew have set up shop across the dimensional barrier on Earth-1. But Doctor Fate is able to track them there, and so a civil war plays out between the Flash, Green Lantern and the rest of the JSA. The Psycho-Pirate puts down many of them–until he’s faced wit the fearless Wildcat, who just keeps coming, just keeps punching. Knocking the Psycho-Pirate out and freeing the ensorcelled heroes, Wildcat admits that he kept his eyes closed the entire time, and so couldn’t see the Pirate’s emotion-manipulating expressions.

In a good example of the sort of Marvel-style continuity that ALL-STAR COMICS was attempting to achieve, the issue ends with the Justice Society all on board the Justice League’s orbiting satellite headquarters, ready for next week’s JLA/JSA crossover in the League’s own magazine. Meanwhile, back on Earth-2, Bruce Wayne begins to assemble the forces he knows he’ll need in order to bring Green Lantern and the Justice Society to justice. And that’s where we To Be Continued our way out of this month’s installment.

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