So my intermittent reading of Secret Origins stories continues as I take time out from Suicide Squad or other books in order to check in with some good one-and-done stories, some of which have direct connection to stories that are being told or will be told in the then-current DCU, so you get a little bit of promotion with your story.
At some point in this whole run, Roy Thomas finishes doing his origins of Golden Age heroes, which had started back before the beginning of the series during the All-Star Squadron’s last few issues. Looking at Mike’s Amazing World, it’s probably issue #31, which is a full-length look at the Justice Society. The last one that I have here is Mr. America/Americommando (as well as the Golden Age Red Tornado), and it overshadows the Atom (Ray Palmer) origin, which was a Roger Stern-penned tie-in to goings on in the Power of the Atom series.
The Mr. America story was drawn by Mike Harris, whose work I’m familiar with when he is on The ‘Nam a few years down the road and it is a great yarn with a classic look. These retellings of Golden Age stories have always had a “passion project” feel and this is one of those because Thomas squeezes all he can into the story and while Harris’ Marvel work tends to be more stylized, this feels like an old comic book story. I don’t want to say he’s aping a Golden Age book, but he certainly gets the tone down pretty well.
Moving on from there, we get what I think might have been the first “multi-part” story, as after a classic JLA origin in issue #32, #33-35 are a three-parter that tell the individual origins of the BWAH-HA-HA-era JLA. I have two out of those three issues and they’re pretty solid. I think the highlights of the three are Eric Shanower’s art on #32 (if you’ve never read is Bronze Age series of graphic novels, go check them out) and issue #35, which has Dan Jurgens on Booster Gold.
Continuing on, the series settles back into what we’re used to, except that we’re doing a couple of characters each issue that are thematically related instead of current and Golden Age. Issue #37 features the goofy Legion of Substitute Heroes and the goofier Doctor Light (pre-Identity Crisis) with art by Ty Templeton and Mike Parobeck, so it’s worth it for the art alone. We get a servicable Green Arrow/Speedy issue in #38.
Issue #39 is Man-Bat and Animal Man, the latter of which is written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Tom Grummett and Doug Hazlewood. This is early 1989, so Morrison was only on issue #10 of the regular Animal Man series, so things hadn’t progressed completely to where they would at the end of his run, and Grummett and Hazlewood were a few years away from their time on the Superman family books. In fact, this is Grummett’s second credited work for DC (according to Mike’s Amazing World), the first of whichw as Animal Man #9. He and Hazlewood have immediate chemistry and it shows why they would be so perfect on Superman. Morrison is more straightforward than he would get later on and has this work as a prologue to the story that would appear in Animal Man #10.
The Man-Bat is a character that I always shrugged at–some of the stories were fine, but he always came off as Batman’s version of The Lizard. Jan Strnad (who had done Sword of the Atom) writes a good story that doesn’t really change my mind on the character, but Kevin Nowlan gives us moody, creepy artwork that is outstanding. I’ve been hot and cold on his inks over the years, as have others, but this is some of the best I’ve ever seen.
I have a number of issues in the rest of the run, but not all of them and while issues #40 and #50 are ones that I’ve read, I’ve put them in my “unread” pile so as not to break up my reading of the run. Those will all be coming soon.
For now, though …
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?