Monday, February 19, 2007

All-Star Squadron #4

Cover Date: December 1981
Cover Price: $0.60
Release Date: September 24, 1981

Story Title: “Day of the Dragon King Chapter One” – 5 pages
“Chapter Two: Aftermath of Infamy!” – 8 pages
“Chapter Three: What Price Vengeance?” – 14 pages

Cover Artist: Rich Buckler and Dick Giordano

Writer: Roy Thomas (Co-Creator)
Penicller: Rich Buckler (Co-Creator)
Inker/Embellisher: Jerry Ordway
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Len Wein

Heroes: Atom I, Batman (Earth-2), Doctor Fate I, Doctor Mid-Nite I, Flash I, Green Lantern I, Hawkman I, Johnny Quick I, Johnny Thunder and Thunderbolt, Liberty Belle I, Plastic Man (Earth-2), Phantom Lady I, Robin (Earth-2), Robotman I, Sandman I, Shining Knight I, Spectre I, Starman I, Superman (Earth-2), Wonder Woman (Earth-2)

Dragon King, Unnamed Japanese soldiers

Supporting Characters:
Danette Reilly, Firebrand I (as Rod Reilly), Slugger Dunn, Unnamed American soldiers, Unnamed General

Memorable Quote: “We decided we’d arrive together, remember – not as the Justice Society, or as individual heroes and heroines – but as America’s newest bunch of Axis busters – the All-Star Squadron!” - Hawkman


The newly formed All-Star Squadron travel to Pearl Harbor and for the first time the heroes get to compare notes and talk about recent events. Two members are missing; Plastic Man, who had to get back to Washington and report to President Roosevelt and Phantom Lady, who had to find her rather worried father. When the All-Stars reach the Naval base shock and grief nearly overwhelm them as the full extent of the sneak attack becomes clear. The armed forces on the ground begin to fire on the All-Stars mistaking them for the enemy. With the help of Thunderbolt the hostilities end and the All-Stars meet with the military officials in charge. After some debate they decide, at Liberty Belle’s behest, to take the fight to the Japanese. With the exception of the Shining Knight the heroes head off to the Japanese aircraft carriers to the north.

Meanwhile Danette and Sir Justin visit her injured brother. The two run into Slugger Dunn, who leads Danette to her Rod’s bedside. He warns Danette that even though Rod is alive he is in a coma and that the doctors don’t know when he’ll come out of it.

After even more debate the All-Stars decide to head to Wake Island, believing that location is a likely target for Japanese attack. However on a small island between where the All-Stars were and Wake a Japanese base receives a visit from the Dragon King who had been sent by the High Command in anticipation of an attack by Superman and his ilk. With the help of the fabled Holy Grail the Dragon King uses a Dynamo powered by science and magic to magnify his powers and direct it. He activates the machine which sends waves of energy towards the oncoming heroes.

The effects of the energy wave are immediate. Superman, Spectre and Wonder Woman feel a sense of unease and dizziness while Dr. Fate attacks Hawkman and Green Lantern drops Johnny Quick and the other heroes he was carrying down on the island where a squad of Japanese soldiers is waiting. Superman wonders what has happened to them and where the sudden desire to see his comrades die came from. The Spectre theorizes that since he and Superman, along with Wonder Woman, are not human they have more of a resistance adding that they will soon pass under the spell of the strange emanations.

On the ground Liberty Belle uses a handy piece of wood to stun Green Lantern and allow the group to defend themselves. Back in the air Johnny Thunder takes off to attack the American forces at Wake Island with the reluctant Thunderbolt. The Dragon King watches this from his view screen taking pride in his achievement and when one of his men asks how long the heroes will be under their control he replies that the wave’s effects will last from the time they enter the energy zone until the time they leave.

Suddenly Dr. Fate chases Hawkman out of the energy zone and comes out of his murderous funk. Realizing what was going on Hawkman flies back into the zone and tricks the dominated heroes (including Green Lantern whom Hawkman convinces to grab Liberty Belle and the others) into following him to safety. Hawkman’s plan works, but the All-Stars realize that they can’t take the battle to Japan like they had planned to lest they become servants of the Axis.

Not far away the Dragon King escapes in a submarine. One of his subordinates asks why they don’t increase the range of the Grail’s power. The Dragon King calls the underling a fool adding that there are limits to their power, but only for the present. He vows that one day he will take the battle to America’s shores.

At the same time Hawkman muses on how he needs to get to the Yucatan to find Shiera, but not before he has to drop a bombshell on both the Justice Society and the All-Star Squadron.


- During the flight to Pearl Harbor Hawkman mentions the fact that he is worried about his fiancé Shiera Sanders who had been on an archeological dig in the Yucatan. This is a bit of foreshadowing to the next storyline that takes place in issue five and six.

- He also mentions the fact that he knows something about Axis activity in Mexico, which is a reference to All-Star Comics #9 (February-March 1941) where the Justice Society traveled at the behest of the F.B.I. Chief to fight German and Italian spies since the U.S. couldn’t act there officially.

-Johnny Thunder’s Thunderbolt makes his first appearance in the series, not counting the Preview in Justice League of America #193. As an entity subservient to Johnny Thunder he was never an official member of either the All-Star Squadron or the Justice Society, which is really a shame because Johnny would have been pretty useless to both groups without him.

- Libby steps forward and really takes charge in this issue, which may or may not have been a bit of foreshadowing to her time as chairwoman of the group. This particular scene is significant since Libby took on Hawkman, who was the chairman of the Justice Society.

- The Shining Knight notes that Danette is warm to the touch. This was yet another bit of foreshadowing as Danette would fully develop her powers and assume the role of the second Firebrand next issue.

-DC wanted to avoid the use of the word “Japs” despite it being rather common during the Second World War. For the first few issues they used the word “Nips” instead, which is short for Nippon, which is how the Japanese refer to their homeland.

- The Hostess Ad for this month has the Penguin using a parade of penguin puppets to distract people from noticing his theft of the Emperor’s Sword. When he stops to also steal some Hostess Fruit Pies the police nab him and reveal that they put the emperor penguins on parade and the Emperor’s sword together and used the pies as bait to catch him. On one hand it’s nice to see the Gotham City Police Department catch a criminal without the aid of Batman. On the other I wonder who came up with the idea to use the Fruit Pies. “Well you know, guys, the Penguin's fat and fat people like to eat so if we put out some pies he’ll obviously want to eat them. Take that, Dark Knight Detective!” I bet it was Chief O’Hara. He always seemed to have it in for fat people.

- Another bit of oddness surrounding this month’s ad is that fact that it was printed on a slicker paper than the rest of the issue, which is a shame because the ads should never have better production values than the story, but then again comics were printed on what amounted to be tissue paper for decades.

-Superman muses on how it had been only three years since he was the only active mystery man. This was a reference to the fact that Superman made his first appearance in the spring of 1938 and how all heroes derived from his debut.

-While mention is made of the near-simultaneous attacks on Wake Island, Guam and the Philippines as well as Pearl Harbor, but no mention is made of the attacks on British colonies in Thailand and Mayala.

- The Dragon King references Hitler’s possession of the Spear of Destiny in relation to Tojo’s acquisition of the Holy Grail. Hitler used the Spear of Destiny in an attempt to invade England, but was stopped by the heroes who would make up the founding members of the Justice Society of America. This story was told in DC Special #29 (September 1977).

- Later the Dragon King mentions Dr. Daka, who was the fictional head of the Imperial Japanese undercover operatives. Dr. Daka was taken from the 1943 Columbia Pictures serial Batman and was played by actor J. Carrol Naish.

-Despite his vow the Dragon King never appeared in another issue of All-Star Squadron.

- The bombshell Hawkman drops on his fellow heroes is his intention to retire from both the JSA and the All-Stars to join the service as revealed next issue.

- This issue sees the first appearance of the letters column dubbed “All-Star Comments”. This issue printed letters from readers of the All-Star Squadron’s preview effort in the pages of Justice League of America #193. Junior D. Kerns of Tooele, Utah both congratulates and thanks those involved for producing the series. Albert F. Feichenbach of Chicago, Illinois was glad that his initial fears about the series were unfounded and asks to see the Earth-2 Aquaman and if the Kryptonite exposure Superman suffered was the characters first. Mike Dennifer, also of Chicago, Illinois appreciated Rich Buckler’s art and puts in a request to see Steel the Indestructible Man, Quicksilver, Ultra Man and the Tarantula as either guest stars or members. Paul Baize of Glen Burnie, Maryland really hated the truncated helmet of Dr. Fate. Dan Coakley of Norwood Massachusetts was left totally confused by the time travel aspects that had not yet been revealed and wondered about the differences between Rod Reilly’s appearance in this title and his origin as revealed in Freedom Fighters #12. Dean K. Rollings of Athabasca, Alberta, Canada caught that the Flash/Wonder Woman/ Green Lantern race was a reference to Comic Cavalcade #1. Finally, Mark Lagasse of Hoosick Falls, New York felt that this was the book he was born to read and wondered how Libby Lawrence could have been on the television in 1941.

For his part Roy Thomas addressed the readers’ concerns thusly:

(1) Dunno about Earth-Two’s Aquaman for now – but this possibly was the Earth-Two Superman’s first encounter with Kryptonite. And no, he doesn’t know what did him in!

(2) Steel, Ultra-Man and the Tarantula are already penciled in for near-future appearances.

(3) The “Harry” in the preview, as revealed in issue #1, was not later Vice President Harry S. Truman, but Harry Hopkins, a friend and advisor to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt from the 1930’s till FDR’s death in 1945. “Harry the Hop” as some called him…a New Dealer who moved into the White House the day after war broke out in Europe.

(4) The “Rod Reilly” introduced in ALL-STAR SQUADRON is, of course, not the one from Earth-X who appeared in FREEDOM FIGHTERS; nor is our Plastic Man the same as any other who has appeared in comics since his original title folded in the mid-50’s. In our view, all 1940’s DC and Quality Comics Group stories occurred on Earth-Two, even though some of these events were duplicated on Earth-One.

(5) Thanks to a few old-time comics buffs for noticing that the Flash-WW-GL race was indeed the cover scene of COMIC CAVALCADE #1, 1943 (with Wildcat a bystander then too). The scene of Superman, Batman and Robin at a USO was likewise from an early WORLD’S FINEST cover. Our theory is that the old-time heroes posed for such pix occasionally to help charity or the war effort…though that doesn’t mean others of those old covers weren’t simply conjured up out of an artist’s fancy!

(6) Don’t blame colorful colorist Carl Gafford for Dr. Mid-Nite’s golden gloves (or for Atom’s red-instead-of-orange lapels). These were conscious decisions made to keep down the number of colors in those characters’ costumes.

(7) As stated in the JLA #193 insert, regular TV broadcasting began in the U.S. in the middle of 1941. So, though few people had sets at that time, Libby Lawrence’s TV news show is, so far as we know, quite possible. Anybody have any better info?

(8) One of the most-objected-to aspects of ALL-STAR SQUADRON so far has been Dr. Fate’s truncated helmet. This is the one he was wearing by 1941, though…so it stays on. (Besides, it’s all a set-up for a later plot, so keep reading.) And Sandman did indeed wear his purple-and-yellow outfit, rather than his gasmask and business suit, by this period, so that’s how we’ll be depicting him.

- The back cover featured an advert for Fast 111’s from MPC. Apparently the success of kids racing the 111’s led to a demand to build the 111. I’ve never been into models so this desire escapes me.

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