Thursday, March 22, 2007

All-Star Squadron #8

Cover Date: April 1982
Cover Price: $0.60
Release Date: January 28, 1982

Story Title: ”Afternoon of the Assassins!” -24 pages

Cover Artist: Joe Kubert

Writer: Roy Thomas/Gerry Conway (Steel sequence)
Penicller: Adrian Gonzales/Don Heck (Steel sequence)
Inker: Jerry Ordway
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Len Wein

Heroes: Atom I, Firebrand II, Hawkgirl I, Johnny Quick I, Liberty Belle I, Robotman I, Shining Knight I, Steel I

Villains: Baron Blitzkrieg, Black Assassin (Scwarzer Meuchelmorder in German), Kung, Zwerg

Supporting Characters: Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Dr. Allison, Major Morton, Dr. Gilbert Giles, Gloria Giles

Memorable Quote: “I was fighting for my life- -the lives of two British commandos - - and the lives of million people I’d never know!” – Steel, The Indestructible Man

Synopsis

A Nazi agent called the Black Assassin attacks Winston Churchill while the Prime Minister gives a speech at the Halls of the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa. Liberty Belle and Shining Knight leap to Churchill’s defense but the Assassin manages to slip free and get a clear shot at his target. Suddenly the hero known as Steel comes out of nowhere and makes quick work of the Assassin. In a final attempt to kill the Prime Minister the Nazi activates a bomb belt but Steel takes the full brunt of the explosion.

Despite his wounds Steel manages to give Churchill a book before the Shining Knight takes him away to get medical attention. After finishing his speech Churchill visits Steel in a nearby hospital where Belle is trying to find some information about Steel from her fellow All-Stars. During that conversation Belle is informed that the President wants Steel brought back to Washington as soon as possible. Soon afterward a special train rockets from Canada bound for the United States.

During the journey Churchill explains that the book Steel had given him was a journal that reveals that Steel is actually Hank Heywood who joined the Marines after the German attack on Poland. In November of 1939 Heywood was returning to camp when he spotted some saboteurs trying to blow up the ammo dump. An accident caused the explosives to go off and Heywood was gravely injured. Only the brilliant researcher Dr. Gilbert Giles and his experimental medical procedures saved Heywood. In fact the process enhanced Heywood, making him stronger and faster than a normal man.

On a visit in London Steel stopped the Black Assassin from his first attempt to kill then First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill. Steel agrees to go on a mission for Churchill to kidnap Adolph Hitler. Heywood’s journal goes blank after describing an aerial battle that ended with Steel getting shot down over Germany. Elsewhere Baron Blitzkrieg and Zwerg listen in on the story as well. Blitzkrieg is pleased with how things have gone thus far and feels that his back-up plan cannot fail.

Back on the train the assassin known as Kung lands and uses his ability to transform into animal form to become a tiger. He is surprised by Hawkgirl who attacks the Japanese agent. Kung manages to overcome her and it is only the timely arrival of Johnny Quick that saves her life. Robotman takes on Kung next, but the assassin manages to slip past him and get to his intended target; Winston Churchill. Kung stalks the Prime Minister but Steel comes around just in time to once again save Churchill’s life. Kung escapes but the All-Stars and Churchill are relieved that the man known as Steel has revived.

Meanwhile Baron Blitzkrieg is incensed at Kung’s intrusion but is still satisfied that his plan is still on track, especially with his special agent. A special agent named Steel!

Notes

-The Black Assassin was a once and done villain and is never seen again.

-The speech Churchill gives before the Canadian Parliament after the assassination attempt did happen. The reason that the Parliament looks so much like the US Congress is that reference material could not be found at the time.

-Canadian Prime Minister William Lyons MacKenzie King is referred to in a caption on page seven but never shown in the comic itself.

-Steel, the Indestructible Man first appeared in the aptly named Steel, The Indestructible Man #1 (March 1978). This series came out as part of what has become known as the DC Explosion, where DC Comics released a large number of titles and back-up features all at once. Gerry Conway wrote the series with art by the underrated Don Heck and much like Conway’s Firestorm the Indestructible Man read like a Marvel book set in the DC Universe. It was a fantastic series and had the usual romantic conundrum and crazy villains. Steel, The Indestructible Man was cancelled after issue five during the DC Implosion. Issue six appeared as part of the privately circulated Cancelled Comics Cavalcade.



-Pages nine (possibly eight) through seventeen of this issue were originally intended to be part of that sixth issue. Roy decided to incorporate much of Don Heck’s penciled art and Gerry Conway’s script into the narrative. On page nine we’re given narrative captions that are “excerpts” from Steel’s journal, which was a staple of the original Steel series.


-The journal reveals that Steel was in London in his Hank Heywood identity as an aide to Major Morton. He was rather happy to be there too since he had been engaged to Dr. Giles’ daughter Gloria and was forced to end that engagement at the insistence of Giles when he found that Heywood was also the man called Steel.

-Steel was added to the series because Roy Thomas and editor Len Wein felt that a “Captain America” type character was needed for the World War II setting.

-In addition to creating Firestorm and Steel Gerry Conway also created the Punisher and has done a lot of work for the Law and Order series, particularly Law and Order: Criminal Intent where he served as co-executive producer.

- Kung first appeared in Wonder Woman #237 (November 1978) during a storyline that took place in 1943. This issue backdated Kung to 1941.


Oh my God. I really don’t know what to say about this cover. Wow.

-A Fact File page featuring Shining Knight, Robotman and Johnny Quick appeared before this issues installment of All-Star Comments.


-This month’s All-Star Comments, featuring the second logo, began with this note:

SPECIAL SQUADRON NOTE: Few DC heroes have been as much requested for “membership” in the purposefully amorphous All-Star Squadron by the letter-writing hordes as has the man called Steel, whose magazine had its own five-issue run a few years back, under the aegis of creators Gerry Conway and Don Heck. In fact, a sixth issues was completed when STEEL, THE INDESTRUCTIBLE MAN was cancelled as part of a temporary DC cutback at the time…and in many ways, it was one of the best and most important of the series. Thus Len and Roy decided to take the majority of the pages of that sixth issue---previously unprinted except in Xerox format for a very limited audience—and have it partly rewritten and totally relettered and re-inked to fit into issues 8 and 9 of ALL-STAR SQUADRON. Especially after you’ve read the conclusion of Hank Heywood’s war-diary next month, we think you’ll see why we did it. Let us know how you feel about Steel as an All-Star, okay—not that we ever doubted you would!

-After that came three letters regarding issue four.

Mark Walden of Northridge, California wrote that the series was getting better and better and that Buckler and Ordway’s art made him feel like he was re-living the Golden-Age. He then requested that Aquaman, Green Arrow, Speedy and Captain Marvel make appearances in the book. Roy replied that since it had been established that Captain Marvel had been active in the World War Two of Earth-S he would fit right in.

John K. Austin of Cheney, Washington was impressed with the level of characterization put into the characters with the possible exception of Superman, who John felt should have been cockier. His final comment was to not cancel the book. Roy informed him that there was almost no chance of that happening since the book has proven to be one of DC’s top-selling titles.

Finally, Wally Podrazik, c/o McGraw-Hill Paperbacks in New York, New York wrote in to comment on how television was presented in the title and to either directly or indirectly plug a book he had written. He wrote that while TV did exist in 1941 the programming “beast” was different than that of 1981. Coast-to-coast hook-ups were still a decade away and experimental programming was spotty at best ranging from stock film filler to cooking tips. Despite this Podrazik felt that on Earth-Two it was quite possible for Libby Lawrence to have a television news show but added that it was probably a simul-cast of her radio program. He also mentioned that broadcasting hours were cut back tremendously during 1942 and 1943. Podrazik’s final thought was to recommend that Roy play with TV in Nazi Germany where sets were quite common in public places like hospitals and carried propaganda broadcasts through 1943 in Berlin and 1944 in Paris. Roy thanked Podrazik for the ideas and the verification that Libby’s TV broadcast was possible.

-The back cover of this month’s issue contained an advert for Monogram’s Snap Tate (trademarked) models of Mattel’s famous Hot Wheels vehicles. I think most kids were issued one of those Hot Wheels Trans-Ams when they came out so I can see where a model of it would do quite well.

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