Back Issue! #106 August 2018 (magazine review).

In some respects, looking at the latest issue of ‘Back Issue!’, you would think that it’s moving into ‘Alter Ego’ territory. It’s not really as the sub-title. Golden Age In Bronze Age’ reveals its having the older characters still carrying on with their own lives in a different decade…mostly. It’s also pretty much Roy Thomas’ turf, especially when it goes back to WW2 as shown in this issue, as he was also involved in so many of the titles because of his love of the characters.

This is the 1970s and the desire to bring Earth-2’s Justice Society Of America in ‘All-Star Comics’ to a new audience with three new members making its new super-squad mixing with the older members. Actually, one new member. The Star-Spangled Kid has been missing in action for some time. Robin is older with a new costume. Power Girl, Superman’s cousin, is more independent than her Earth-1 counter-part with her own costume. As writer Gerry Conway explains, he thought Robin was too much Batman territory, although when writer Paul Levitz came in, along with Joe Staton making Helena Wayne, the new Huntress his own. The history of this run with the JSA only lasted 6 years but I remember it well from its time period.

Following this, an interview with comicbook artist Bob Layton when he was in Scotland 2 years back being interviewed over a meal about his early comicbook artwork doing splash pages for Marvel UK’s product. In the UK, the stories were spread over several issues and needed new splash pages to make the link. Layton explains this gave an opportunity for several new artists to get needed experience but not necessarily their best art amongst other things.

A look at Marvel’s Liberty Legion and Roy Thomas explains why he felt there was a need for a second tier team apart from ‘The Invaders’ in the 1940s fighting on the home front. It did feel a bit odd that there was no reference to the All-Winners Squad which later featured members from both teams and I tended to see this as its origin.

For the Kirby fans amongst you, there’s the pencils of his cover Marvel Two-In-One # 20 when the Thing meets the Liberty Legion and an adjustments made by John Romita Sr. to the final inked cover.

John Wells looks at the second version of Air Wave and his adventures in ‘Green Lantern/ Green Arrow’. Seeing the reasons for his appearance, as his namesake father was a cousin of Hal Jordan does made sense of connecting the dots. Air Wave’s still around, too, but with adulthood, a new costume and the current name of Maser.

Surely the biggest section is devoted to DC Comics’ ‘All Star Squadron’ with a convention interview led by editor Mike Eury with Roy Thomas, Jerry Ordway and Arvell Jones. I tend to agree with Roy Thomas that the cover for its first issue by Rich Buckler is one of his best pieces catching the image exactly. Of course, the ‘Crisis’ mini-series wiped Earth-2 from continuity, as it did with the 30th Century LSH, although unlike them, they had no reprieve. Thomas’ remarks on comicbooks created by committee these days has removed spontaneity and one can only hope the Big Two have a rethink on that someday. Editors are there to prevent continuity violations not dictate the stories the writers have to do.

Don’t think all resurrected characters staying the same sex is unusual. Roy and Dann Thomas recreated Johnny Thunder and his Thunderbolt as ‘Jonni Thunder aka Thunderbolt’ merging them both together as one person…sort of. Something I hadn’t known was the original Johnny Thunder’s surname was actually ‘Thunderbolt’ although that would surely have caused problems for the genie he controlled. The later Jonnie was much more film noir, even for 1985.

Something else I hadn’t realised was the Crimson Avenger was National Periodicals second super-hero, occurring before Batman, in 1938. The resemblance to the 1936 Green Hornet but with the Shadow’s colour scheme is interesting. Again, Roy and Dann Thomas resurrected him in 1988 for a mini-series. I couldn’t help thinking that his name worked against him.

The Spectre gets two articles, mostly because he had two resurrections (sic). The first was written by Doug Moench in 1987 for 31 issues. In the interview, conducted by Thomas Powers, Moench said he only did it on the condition that he didn’t have the Spectre as powerful as in the Mike Fleisher period and built up a strong supporting cast. There’s also the controversial nude scene of Madame Xanadu by Gray Morrow that seeped in. Seeing the page here, you really imagine more than you see but without the ‘adult’ recommendation caused a lot of problems in its day in America. Surely it’s about time Moench’s run on ‘The Spectre’ has a graphic novel release?

The Spirit Of Vengeance got a second series by writer John Ostrander and artist Tom Mandrake in 1992 with Shannon Riley interviewing them both about their time with the Spectre.

As a last note, the letters section mentions the Sam J. Jones starring TV film of ‘The Spirit’. I got my copy a few years back and, although on a TV budget, I agree with the sentiments that it kept with the Eisner spirit (sic). As its going to be covered in a three issues time of ‘RetroFan’, you might want to get your copy of the DVD early.

As always, ‘Back Issue!’ covers a wide-range of topics and, as you can see from my comments above, I learnt a lot of things along the way.

GF Willmetts

August 2018

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 82 page illustrated magazine. Price: $ 8.95 (US). ISSN: 1932-6904. Direct from them, you can get it for $ 7.61 (US))

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