The Brave and The Bold Index Part 5
Showcase: Of Strange Suicide Squad Stories Inside Earth, Part 2
Continuing the index/history of the greatest comic magazine ever! 😉
The Brave & The Bold would never match the success or sales of issues #28, 29 & 30, featuring the first three adventures of the Justice League of America. Since the debut of their own comic in late 1960, there has never been a month without at least some kind of version of the JLA published by National or DC.
Superman*, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter and Aquaman joined together to fight evil. These issues were written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Mike Sekowsky. The editorial reigns of B&B were taken away from Kanigher and given to Julie Schwartz. This was Schwartz’s third try at reviving Golden Age characters – updating them for a modern audience. The Flash and Green Lantern were rousing successes (GL was very shortly to get his own comic), so he tried again! This time he brought back the old Justice Society of America: changed the name to something “more exciting” (someone once said a Society makes them sound like they got together to have tea) and updated the roster with the few heroes available at the time. There was really no one else around: Adam Strange? He’s good, but harder to work into a plot than Aquaman, so instead he was a frequent guest. Roy Raymond TV Detective and Rex the Wonder Dog wouldn’t work, Challengers of the Unknown and the Blackhawks would make things too crowded. Superboy would be impossible! Batwoman? Robin? Nah! Green Arrow? Oops, forgot about him – he’d join in Justice League #4. Robotman? Oops, well, hey you’re getting Green Arrow soon enough!
I hate to say bad things about the art by Mike Sekowsky. Fans and critics of his artwork argue to the present day! In my opinion, he drew excellent solo Green Lantern and Wonder Woman stories later on, but his artwork in the first year or so with the JLA was poor. Figures were either stiff and awkward or rubbery (the cover of #29 has the Flash running in a squatting position). The stories more than made up for it.
The plots of these issues are now part of DC’s mythos:
1. (#28) “Starro the Conqueror” takes over the minds of the citizens of HappyHarbor, except for resident teenage oaf Snapper Carr. Why? Flash presumes it was because Snapper was covered in lime while working in his yard. I always thought it was because Snapper had no mind to control. Because of Snapper’s lack of hygiene, he is made an honorary member of the JLA. The Holy Grail of Silver Age comics – the most sought-after and the most reprinted, second only to Showcase #4. Only one problem sticks in my mind: the mighty Justice League is sent out to fight a giant starfish? Was the Suicide Squad too busy?
2. (#29) “Challenge of the Weapons Master”, who comes from 10,000 years in the future, uses his robot-armor to go back in time to battle the JLA! This has one of my favorite lines from, of all people, Batman: “Zotar may be one of the most powerful foes we’ve has ever fought!” Well, that’s true, considering this was the second foe they ever fought! The first was a starfish for goodness’ sake!
3. (#30) “The Case of the Stolen Super Powers”: The robot Amazo absorbs the power of the JLA to give him the power to attain the formula for immortality for his maker, Professor Ivo.
As opposed to the previous three issues, here the stories (while still aimed primarily at children and pre-teens) were simple without being simplistic. By this time Fox had been sprinkling scientific facts in stories for twenty years and he was good at it! Rather than showing off (as was the impression with the Suicide Squad), we were given useful information that fit into the storyline. It made more sense for Snapper Carr to have bags of lime lying around than for the Suicide Squad to be carrying enough sodium manganate to douse Godzilla!
The Justice League run in Brave and Bold had many historic moments. Batman made his B&B debut in #28. He didn’t see much action though – as with Superman, Batman was kept behind the scenes to allow readers access to the other heroes. It was often explained that Superman and Batman appear in so many other comics they do not need the exposure. That logic escapes us nowadays – if a character is successful, he or she should be crammed into as many comics as possible. Batman in the late 1980s, Lobo in the early 1990s and Green Arrow in 2001 and 2002 appeared in every comic DC published at the time! And how many X-Men comics have there been? That way the character will saturate the market, everyone will get sick and tired of seeing his or her mug, and sales will plummet … oh … well, maybe Schwartz was on to something there.
Also, #30 featured the first letter column in Brave & Bold, as the JLA was so successful the magazine was inundated with mail. The letter column included information on the Justice Society (“my brother told me about a super hero group from twenty years ago…”); a request for a Junior Justice League featuring Robin, Kid Flash, Speedy, Supergirl and “the Boy from Atlantis”; and (a staple in the JLA mailroom) membership requests: Green Arrow, Supergirl, Robin and Adam Strange.
To say the JLA was successful is an understatement. After a four-month lag from B&B#30, the JLA got their own comic and never looked back. With Brave & Bold #31, Schwartz gave the magazine’s editorial seat to Jack Schiff for hopefully another successful try-out.
Or maybe not. Robert Kanigher was successful with the Sea Devils in Showcase starring underwater adventurers, how about a series of adventurers under the earth itself?
Cave Carson, Adventures Inside Earth was the next try-out series for issues #31 (September 1960) through #33 and again for two issues in #40 and 41. Cave Carson and his assistants Bulldozer Smith, professional sandhog and (more eye-candy) Christie Madison as geologist and romantic interest. Maybe Kanigher learned his lesson from Suicide Squad and kept the silliness to a minimum. The storylines here were just as silly-sounding as with the Squad, but somehow it worked:
1. In their first adventure, Cave and friends are attacked by a magnetic monster, a subterranean sea lizard, a lava creature and killer weed! (Killer weed indeed!) (#31: The Secret Beneath the Earth)
2. Evil scientists from an underground city attempt to invade the surface world. (#32: The City 100 Miles Down)
3. Cave tracks extra-terrestrial museum thieves under the earth and on to their own dimension! (#33: Alien Robots from Inner Earth)
4. Cave tries to stop the evil sorcerer Zenod from retrieving three magical crystals buried in subterranean caves. (#40: 3 Caverns of Doom)
5. Aliens with killer robots use an underground base to invade earth. (#41: Raiders from the Secret World)
The art was very well done by mostly Bruno Premanini and Mort Meskin. One would think being underground would make the art limited, but instead the scenery was beautiful – with vast caves, and exotic plant and animal life. The issue drawn by Joe Kubert (#40) was very well done, but seemed like just another assignment – as lauded as Kubert’s art should be this was a fairly canny effort. He could draw stories like this in his sleep. In this case, he probably did.
Cave Carson was given a third try-out in Showcase, indicating National’s strong push for this feature. But except for brief cameos (e.g., in an early 1990s issue of Time Master and later in JSA); Cave Carson, along with the Silent Knight and the Golden Gladiator, have faded into comics’ history.
Whether Cave Carson and/or the Suicide Squad appeared in the DC mini-series Crisis on Infinite Earths I will leave to those with magnifying glasses and even more time on their hands than I have!
Brave and Bold’s nine issues of “Showcase”-style try-outs was definitely a mixed bag. Two strikeouts and one phenomenal success. Will their next try-out be a dud or soar like an eagle … or a hawk?
Copyright (c) 2012 Michael G. Curry
* Superman fans were very excited that year: Superman appeared in a “new” comic and Supergirl made her debut in “Action” as well!