There are moments in comics history that simply cannot be believed. Roy Thomas seems to know all of them. He ended up putting half of them into All-Star Squadron.
I discovered All-Star Squadron about mid-way through the run. I had to go back and find back issues, which was a little daunting, considering that this was early in my collecting experience. My options for finding back issues were rather limited to a single back-issue comic shop and flea markets.
I think that I came across this particular issue a little later, during the comics boom of the early 1990s, when every town had a comic shop, if not several, including sports card stores getting in on the craze. I may have mentioned it in my review of Hansi that There was one in particular that kept me coming back with cheap back issues. It was probably at a shop like this that I got my first copy of this issue, featuring someone calling himself Thor.
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: Adrian Gonzales
Inker: Rick Hoberg
Colorist: Gene D’Angelo
Letterer: John Costanza
Cover Art: Joe Kubert
Johnny Quick is racing to a team meeting of the All-Star Squadron after a week off, keeping up with his obligations working on newsreels. He fetches a lady’s purse blown away by a brewing storm. She asks if he’s the Flash, hurting his ego.
While stopped by a reporter asking if the JSA are 4F, he thinks he sees Sandman making his way for the room rented for the JSA’s headquarters. The swing-line snaps and Johnny creates an updraft long enough for “the Sandman” to fire a second-line and swing into a window. Unknown to anyone watching, a large and menacing figure watches from a nearby rooftop.
Johnny walks into the meeting and realizes that it wasn’t the Sandman he rescued, but another hero now sitting with his Squadron teammates. The new hero introduces himself as Tarantula, although a radio announcer did once call him “Spider Man.” Liberty Belle lets the Squadron know that the JSA have gone missing.
Tarantula tells his origin. He is Jonathan Law, a mystery writer. While the Sandman was still wearing his original Gas Mask, suit and cape costume, he was beginning a book on the mystery man phenomenon. Dian Belmont talked to him about the Sandman. She had designed a costume for him that he refused to wear. Law is infatuated with Belmont, but is convinced she’s Sandman’s girlfriend.
One night when Dian was at Wesley Dodd’s mansion, she hears a police report of a suspicious arson. She puts on the Sandman costume to help. Arriving on the scene , it’s obvious that the fire is the work of Nazi saboteurs. She chases them down in Sandman’s roadster. One of them shoots out the tire. The car careens into a building, possibly killing “the Sandman.” A new hero, Jonthan Law, swings down to confront the Nazis, clad in the purple and gold costume Belmont designed.. He introduces himself as Tarantula due to suction cup boots that allow him to stick to walls, and a webgun. He does acknowledge that tarantulas don’t spin webs.
Tarantula has lost track of three of the saboteurs. Before they can shoot him, the real Sandman swings in, wearing a similar costume. He easily takes out the remaining Nazis. They pull Dian Belmont’s broken body out of the mangled roadster. Over her grave, Sandman swears to wear the costume she designed for him. Tarantula promises to change his costume, but Sandman tells him that its okay. Eventually, he’ll drop the cape and get a kid sidekick.
The large figure watching from nearby crashes through the roof. He brandishes a ball-headed hammer that shoots electricity. He calls himself Thor, although the Sandman had referred to him as the Villain from Valhalla. Thor has confused Tarantula for Sandman. Extremely powerful, Thor fights off the All-Stars, leaving only Tarantula and Liberty Belle against him. Working together, Tarantula maneuvers Thor into striking into the wall and getting electrocuted by the building’s wiring.
Tarantula remembers that Thor was someone the Sandman fought named “Fairy-tales” Fenton. Thor is still alive, but unconscious, so something must have happened between then and now. The reporter from before relays a call from the President. There’s a blinking light on the Trylon from the sight of the 1938 World’s Fair. It’s in Morse code, and a challenge for the All-Star Squadron. The heroes race off to answer the challenge.
The story is essentially in two parts. The first is the origin of Tarantula. His origin fills in some holes from the Golden Age, specifically whatever happened to Dian Belmont. Of course, Dian got better after Crisis On Infinite Earths. At this time, though it was canon that she had died sometime during World War II. Both Sandman and Tarantula were DC heroes, although Tarantula more or less fell by the wayside by 1943.
The origin runs into the comic book logic that anybody could become a super-hero. Jonathan Law has absolutely nothing in his stated history that he could create suction cup boots and a specialized web-gun. However, it’s where Roy Thomas uses his carte blanche for suspension of disbelief. Otherwise, the story is straight-forward and down to earth. It is nice to see that the Golden Age heroes faced real world consequences, even though it wasn’t until their stories were retold in the 1980s.
The Thor is part of a mystery box, although the term wasn’t used back then, that Roy Thomas was using in his plot to develop the grand epic of the Ultra-Humanite. This, of course, would lead to the introduction of Infinity, Inc.. I cannot recall if it was ever explained that Ultra-Humanite was responsible for “Thor” being so powerful, and where exactly the hammer came from.
The art is very nice, but at times seems just a little too standard. There are moments that really work well. Any shot of “Thor”‘s silhouette is perfect. They set a great ominous mood and foreshadow a real threat for the Squadron. There are a lot of places though where either the inking or the coloring isn’t carrying the mood of the nighttime setting. That’s one of the flaws of localized coloring. Red costumes are red, blond hair is always the same shade of yellow. Here, the colors are the same indoors or outside. It’s really disappointing, but that’s the coloring style you get most of the time with comics from this era.
If you’re looking for the issue itself, then don’t expect to pay too much for a copy. It might be a little harder to find, but it’s even possible to find it in some really good bargain boxes. If you want to read it digitally, then you can find it on Comixology and DC Universe. It hasn’t been collected in color, but it is included in Showcase Presents: All-Star Squadron Vol. 1 (ISBN: 978-1401234362), unfortunately out of print.
Final Rating: 6.0 (out of 10)