We go to the Golden Age for a look at that other DC Super-team in the Seven Soldiers of Victory Archives, Volume 2.
We look at the earliest adventures of Superman as a boy in the Adventures of Superboy.
Finally, Atomic Robo meets up with a gang of outlaw lady pirates and takes on a rogue Japanese terrorist in Atomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific.
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The Seven Soldiers of Victory go on epic adventures, and we take a look at some early adventures of Superboy, and we wrap it up with a little bit of Atomic Robo. Join us straight ahead.
Welcome. Well we’re going to start out, we have a couple different Golden Age comics from the 1940s and we start out with the book, The Seven Soldiers of Victory, Archives Volume Two. Now this is not to be confused with Grant Morrison’s later series, The Seven Soldiers of Victory. This one is the original; they starred in leading comics in the 1940s and this book was really just their big team up book. And Volume Two of the Seven Soldiers of Victory Archives collects Issues Five through Eight.
Now the Seven Soldiers of Victory were Shining Knight, Star Spangled Kid and Stripesy, Vigilante, Green Arrow and Speedy, and Crimson Avenger and Wing. Now none of these characters had super powers except for Shining Knight who had some magical powers, mainly his flying horse which was really cool. One thing I don’t like about this is how they do the Seven Soldiers of Victory and how they count it, because if you listen there were actually eight names. And there are three sidekicks who regularly appear; thus, there’s really only five features per book. The one sidekick that is usually not counted as a soldier is Wing. Wing is the Chinese sidekick to the Crimson Avenger and he’s got his own costume and is pretty competent in battle. However, the way his dialogue is written is kind of in this broken English as well as Wing’s general design is really stereotypical. It’s enough to make you wonder whether the writer realized that the Chinese were actually our allies at this point – though Wing would have better portrayals and better stories and actually be the keystone to the big story in Justice League of America Number 100.
In many ways, the Crimson Avenger was a rip-off of the Green Hornet from the radio show in the same way the Blue Beetle was. And so Wing came along as the sort of valet character who was also the sidekick, though I think Cato from the Green Hornet was a stronger character. The Crimson Avenger was actually DCs first masked hero, beating Batman to the punch by several months. The Vigilante was a Western-themed character. He was related to a Native American fighter and the son of a sheriff in Wyoming; and he went on to stardom as a singing radio cowboy, but comes back to avenge the death of his father and begins the first of many adventures fighting evil in the pages of Action Comics.
Green Arrow and Speedy are probably the most familiar to modern-day readers, and of course were known for their archery related skills and powers. And the team wraps up with the Star Spangled Kid and Stripesy which is kind of an interesting reversal. Star Spangled Kid is actually the hero and is a kid, and Stripesy is an adult, Star Spangled Kid’s chauffeur in his real life. So, this is the case of an adult sidekick for a kid which didn’t really happen a lot, even today. They are really known for having a series of maneuvers and they’ll call out the maneuver, like a football play, and they will use that to fight and to overcome their enemies. So that is the team, so let’s take a look at their adventures.
The first one in here in Issue Five is The Skull, and the plot of this is pretty simple. A rich guy breaks out some convicted murderers from prison and sends them on some errands to fill some needs for him. And the Seven Soldiers go out to fight them. The criminals die in ways that are pretty similar to the way they were sentenced to die, and the Skull – it turns out – is an old man who wants a machine to extend his life and ends up dying of old age which was what he was afraid of. So, this story ends out a lot of irony and it’s OK, it’s kind of an average story for this or for the Justice Society of America.
Things get really good in The Treasure that Time Forgot where it’s found out that there is this buried treasure that they really want to be sure to give to Uncle Sam, and they – because of course you’ve got the War going on and needs to buy bonds and etc. – so they go ahead and they split up along different routes to find the gold. And there’s actually bad guys trying to stop them and so they try to set them against each other, and it’s actually a really fun story. And unlike most of the Justice Society stories, and I think most of the other team up books where it reads like this is essentially an anthology story where we’ve kind of set up this framing device to tell these individual stories, this reads like one whole story. Indeed, the page numbers at the bottom reflect that this is a 50+ page story rather than six different short stories. So, it really does work and it gives it a bit more of an epic scale, so I really like this one.
The third story is The Wizards of Wisstark where a false story gets planted about the Seven Soldiers agreeing to perform at a charity event. They show up and the promoter explains that he had a true purpose in scheduling this so that he could meet them, and is working on behalf of the Wizards of Wisstark. We’re in this fantasy kingdom where these other evil wizards have come to play and the Seven Soldiers have to fight them. This is a really fun fantasy story. It once again feels more like one big, long story and yeah, it’s fun. I don’t think it’s quite as good as The Treasure that Time Forgot, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.
Then we get into the final story which is Exiles in Time, where a dwarf crime boss known as The Dummy decides to get rid of the Seven Soldiers by scattering them back in time. And here we actually do get the separate stories where it’s not all part of one big story. You’ve got each character going back to a different time period, but I think each one of them is actually really well written. My favorite in here is when Green Arrow and Speedy go back in time and they meet the Three Musketeers and team up with them, and that is a lot of fun. And so is the ending, particularly the Shining Knight story. So, overall I really enjoy this book. Despite some of the character issues I think this was a really well written book, and it even did something such as having two of the stories so strongly interlinked that you wouldn’t even read in the much more popular and better remembered Justice Society of America story. So, if you can find it, I’ll give this book, Seven Soldiers of Victory: Archives Volume Two a rating of Classy, and I hope DC looks at reprinting this as it has gone out of print and I had to go to some trouble to get it. Couldn’t even get it through an inter-library loan.
Now we turn to the Adventures of Superboy Volume One, and sadly it’s been eight years since this volume has been published so there’s probably not going to be a Volume Two. But this is another really good book to read if you can find it. The character of Super Boy, adventures of Superman as a boy was a staple of DC Publishing from after the War right up until Crisis on Infinite Earths, when after that it was decided that there was really not a period when he was a Super Boy, that he developed his powers when he was a teenager, and emerged as Superman in his 20s and 30s. However, back in the 40s we got stories of Superboy. However, reprints of these comics were held up because of disputes between DC Comics and the estates of Jerry Segal and Joe Shuster which were settled, allowing this book to be published.
The comics collected in this book are all eight to eleven page self-contained adventures of now-ongoing plot which was very typical in the Golden Age. These stories originally appeared in More Fun Comics, Issues 101 to 107, and then in Adventure Comics, Issues 103 to 121. And overall I thought most of them were pretty fun. Now there is a lot you can nitpick on this. One thing is it does kind of mess with the comics by having certain things happen such as Superboy being based in Metropolis. And there’s actually one story – and this is a Super Boy story from 1945 – referencing the defeat of the Nazis. And you feel like the writer’s getting a little confused here, that if you’re dealing with Super Boy, because there’s a Superman active right now in 1945 to ’47, then that means the adventures of Superboy happened twenty to twenty-five years ago.
The only thing they did do for continuity is cover the idea of Perry White meeting Clark Kent with the suggestion that…from Clark actually…because Perry has, ‘Hey, maybe I’ll hire you for a job when I’m managing editor’, and Clark was like, ‘Yeah, like you’ll remember me when I’m old enough to go and get a job!’ And that’s not necessarily the best possible cover up but at least it was an attempt. But there’s a lot more highlights than lowlights. I think what you see in this book is Clark Kent and Superboy is just this really selfless, caring character. In fact, he really spends most of the helping people as opposed to chasing down criminals, that he does some of that but that’s not his main focus.
Some of the highlights include Clark having a classmate who has the same birthday as his and him working to make sure people show up at her birthday party, even though they’re reluctant to do so because a lot of nasty rumors have been spread – leading to no one actually celebrating Clark’s birthday at school. And again it’s just an example of him doing the unselfish thing. He helped a blind kid market his toys and not get ripped off by some unscrupulous toymakers, and he also dealt with a guy who disputed every proverb. It was like, I’m tired of hearing proverbs and people were just talking about them in a nonstop and kind of defending the importance of these sort of proverbs. Superboy also took on games of chance and this was a big post-war focus on how many of these games were cheating kids and taking advantage of them, and he participated in a trivia contest where the owner was trying to rip off kids by not actually being able to deliver the prizes.
And then there was a kid who was really, really smart who seemed to answer any question and actually did a radio show promising that he would do just that. And he got some questions from some people who were just really twits, asking questions that were just required way too much detail and were totally irrelevant. Things that he wouldn’t just know as a matter of general knowledge. Like how many names are in the phone book, or how many glasses of water are in the Metropolis Reservoir. However, because the purpose of this is to raise funds for the playground, Superboy lends him a hand, helping research answers to harder questions while the guy answers the questions that are easier and actually reasonable. And Super Boy performs several complicated super feats in order to produce these correct answers.
The boy begins to protest, “Maybe I shouldn’t get this money because I didn’t actually find the answers, you did!” Super Boy responds that he could have found the answers. Super Boy says, “There are other ways. You could have called the Water Department, asked the gallon capacity of the reservoir and multiply by sixteen, the number of cupfulls in a gallon. And you could have averaged the number of phone numbers, multiplied by the number of phones listed and come close to having the total of all the numbers listed. And you could have counted the raindrops that fell on a square yard of tin, and multiply by the number of square yards in a square mile, three million ninety seven thousand six hundred.” And that’s all well and good but you kind of wonder, wait, then why did you go to doing all these super feats when you could have actually calculated this a lot easier.
But I digress. The book is entertaining for what it’s good for. It’s a great book, I think particularly for kids with some good art. Joe Shuster actually works on the first few stories in here, and Superboy is a pretty good role model. You don’t have as much crime fighting as you do in the Robin stories which are actually advertised at the bottom of one of the Superboy stories in this book, but you have a lot of good deeds and fun ideas. Overall, I enjoy this one. It’s hard to get ahold of – I did it through interlibrary loan. I will give it a rating of Classy, and wish that someday we might actually get a few more of these books.
Now we head to the modern era and we’re going to take a look at Atomic Robo and the She-Devils of the Pacific. Atomic Robo was created by Brian Clevinger with art by Scott Wagner. The plot of the story is that Tesla created an Atomic Robot with artificial intelligence and this Atomic Robot has continued to exist from the 1920s to the present day. The Atomic Robo books tell stories from throughout Robo’s lifetime, with some being focused strongly on modern era stories, and others like this one being from Robo’s past, and some mixing. Some have actually had stories that span decades in the resolution.
The plot of this one is that Atomic Robo is out flying an experimental jet. His company is kind of on the verge of failure and this plane really could be make or break for them. However, he runs into trouble and is rescued, though his plane is severely damaged. He’s rescued by the She-Devils of the Pacific. The idea of the story is that after World War II there was a lot that was left lying around by both the Axis and the Allies, in terms of weapon supplies, in terms of airstrips, bases, etc. The Flying She-Devils were mostly ex-service people who’d been called into service during the War and then the country wanted to call them back, and they decided they would rather stay and live a life of adventure, fighting the various mercenaries and pirates that emerged in the wake of the War. Most of them are considered AWOL from their military commitments, and they’re all considered pirates – even though they really do focus their efforts on mercenaries, warlords and such.
However, Robo and the She-Devils are going to have to team up because there are some militant Japanese nationalists who believed that the Emperor surrendered at the end of World War II was just an effort to buy them time so they could unleash some terrible weapon that could destroy America, or at least do it serious damage. This story has a lot to offer. There’s some really fun concepts and just some great ideas in terms of the way the world works, the villain’s plan, and just a ton of great action scenes. Where I think the story loses a little bit for me is I think that outside of Atomic Robo, most of the characters are not well characterized. And Atomic Robo is one of those series where you can say, I think outside of the robot everybody was not well characterized. We don’t really get a sense of these people as individual characters or really connect immediately to their story. And I think that there were better and deeper emotional connections in previous Robo stories. However, this one really does work for what it is – an action/adventure piece with a great bit of Sci-Fi speculation thrown in. So, overall, I’ll give this a rating of Somewhat Classy.
So, again, to recap we’re giving Seven Soldiers of Victory, Archives Volume Two a rating of Classy and we’re doing the same thing for Adventures of Superboy; and for Atomic Robo and the She-Devils of the Pacific we’re going to go ahead and give that one a rating of Somewhat Classy.
Now we turn to listener comments and feedback, and I have a comment here from Dave who first of all pointed out an issue on Episode 84 where we had a gap of silence and I fixed that. But then he goes on to write, “I particularly liked your discussion of Watchmen because your opinion mirrors mine so very closely, but you put things better than I’ve ever been able to. I was especially fond of your description of the story as being like VH1s Behind the Music about superheroes. If you don’t mind I may adopt this description myself. I think Anti-Classy is exactly the perfect rating for this one. Thank you for all your good work in this podcast.” Well, thank you so much Dave. It’s truly appreciated and feel free to use it if you find it helpful.
Alright, well that’s all for now. If you do have a comment email it to me firstname.lastname@example.org; follow us on Twitter @classycomicsguy and check out the website classycomicsguy.com. From Boise, Idaho this is your host, Adam Graham, signing off.