Thursday, March 24, 2011

All Star Comics #9 - "You don't even know what it means to be a Mexican!"

No title to speak of on this issue, dated February-March 1942, so I have decided to title it for my purposes after my favorite line in the story, but we'll get to that soon enough.

The JSA is getting a notable guest at their latest meeting - The FBI Chief.

Much like his previous appearance with the JSA, the character is drawn only in shadows, or has his head conveniently hidden via word bubbles. I don't know
whether the publishers didn't want to personify J. Edgar Hoover in the books, or whether they were intentionally trying to make the FBI look like more of a "secret organization" that way.

Regardless, it seems the JSA have done such a good job of cleaning up fifth columnists and spies in the United States, that the government wants them to get to work on menaces in South America and Mexico, or as the FBI Chief puts it - "We have to help our good neighbors to the south stop them!"

Each of the JSA members are given their mission, each with a separate country and threat to tackle.

Before they disperse, Johnny Thunder encourages all of the Justice Society members to join him in a round of ass-kissing...

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that each solo chapter makes note of not only where that particular hero is in South America, but what that region is known for economically and in terms of resources. Sure beat a chapter of the Geography book in school for some 1940s kids, I'm sure.

Hawkman finds his mission in Mexico, where he drops in on a member of the "Mexican Secret Police."

I have broken into your bedroom, am wearing a bird mask and no shirt and am standing above your bed. "I am at your service..." No need for alarm.

The police officer tells Hawkman to look for a man named Johan Krauss, a quest that leads the feathered hero right into a trap sprung by men who speak broken English with the occasional "Ach!" and "Himmel!" thrown in just to let you know they're of the Nazi persuasion. After escaping fists, gunfire, and even a bomb, Hawkman discovers the spies' plans to cripple communication and supply lines in preparation for a "day of invasion" by the Third Reich.

He also discovers that the men who he was getting his information from was no Mexican Police Officer, but instead the very Johann Krauss he was searching for, and who is leading this takeover of Mexican forces.

Hawkman does not take kindly to being duped.

There is nothing I could say that would make this panel any funnier than it already is.

Meanwhile, The Spectre finds himself in Argentina, where army planes are being stolen in mid-air thanks to a helicopter-like device with suction-tentacles. In his human form of Detective Jim Corrigan, The ghostly Spectre makes contact with the Argentine Secret Service, who tells him that they are transporting a spy to a prison via airplane - the perfect opportunity for the plan thieves to strike, Corrigan thinks, and tags along.

As expected, the plane is stolen mid-flight by the weird, tentacled aircrafts. Leaving his human host body behind, The Spectre discovers the Nazis are stealing these planes to build their own air fleet.

Sooooo...the Nazis spent how much money to build these aircrafts that can steal planes in midair, just so they can then turn around and use those planes themselves? Wouldn't it have made more sense to just use the money toward building your own fleet of warplanes? Just sayin'...

Despite their lack of financial logic, the fleet takes off and attempt to bomb Buenos Aires. It's a solid attempt, unless you've got a supernatural phenomenon like the Spectre following you. As the bombs fall, The Spectre swallows them like a kid catching a grape in his mouth, spitting them back out at the plane.

The Spectre eats Nazi bombs for breakfast! (And then spits them back up)

Once again, The Spectre proves that he is the JSA's resident bad-ass.

While The Spectre is killing off Nazis in Buenos Aires, the pint-sized hero known as The Atom is on a mission to Chile. It is there, in his secret identity as college student Al Pratt, that he meets with officials about how he can help the cause.

Does the Chief of the Identification Service see just anybody? Even if that were the case, who would let a college student in on the grounds that he claims he'll rid the country of Nazis? Does this guy not have a secretary or security team to screen for stuff like this? **sighs**

It seems the Atom has been charged with taking out the Nazi propaganda machine that is believed to be stationed in Chile. How does he go about finding it? Why, by waiting for the alleged leader to come wandering by in a restaurant and start talking obnoxiously loud about how much he hates Nazis. Naturally, this gets the leader fired up and sticks his men on poor little Al outside the restaurant after dinner.

What the Nazi thugs don't realize is that the pint-sized runt their about to jump is secretly the tiny powerhouse, The Atom, who ducks behind a fence where he changes into costume and proceeds to mop the floor with these goons.

Don't ever call this guy short. Sheesh...

It doesn't take long for the goons to spill the beans, leading The Atom directly to the secret printing press the Nazis are using to spread their propaganda through Chile and beyond, taking out their (shockingly) blond haired leader, and alerting the Chilean authorities just where they can find the villain's hideout.

The Sandman's mission brings him to Venezuela, which is noted for "its coffee, cocoa, and gold," according to the opening panel. I imagine this issue also served as a semi-geography lesson on South America for those 1940s children who were reading JSA at the time, as, like I mentioned earlier, each chapter opens to a little description about the country each particular hero is assigned to and what that country is known for.

And who said comics weren't educational? ;)

Anyway, Sandman meets with the head of the Venezuelan Secret Service, who informs him that Facist saboteurs are planning on attacking Venezuela's oil wells, which, of course, are of great use to the United States and Great Britain.

"Whatever you do in this wartime, do not sabotage or destroy the oil wells." Well, we at least know that this guy survived long enough to write speeches for Bush II.

So Sandman pursues the saboteurs, only find himself taken down before he can stop their plot to blow up the oil wells at midnight. You would think that would spell the end for our hero, but no...

Really? Let's leave the costumed man who just beat the crap out of us alone so we can prove a point? That guy in the brown wants to slug his buddy for that one, you just know it.

When Sandman awakens from that inescapable death trap of...being left...on the ground...he immediately checks his watch to see that it is ten after one in the morning. He panics, as the saboteurs were planning on blowing up the oil wells at midnight.

Arriving at the oil wells, though, Sandman finds everything still intact, and the evildoers just now planting their explosives. He makes quick work of the saboteurs, who are no doubt kicking themselves now for listening to their buddy's idea of just leaving Sandman unconscious rather than just shooting him.

Villains captured. No explosives planted. Disaster averted.

But wait - you want to know why the oil wells weren't blown to bits already when Sandman awoke at 1:10 am?

Let this be a reminder of the dire consequences when we don't reset our clocks for daylight savings too.

Johnny Thunder finds himself on a mission to Cuba, and if there's a Cuban crisis to be found, Johnny's likely the one who caused it. Johnny's been told to search out spies that could harm the American cause.

It doesn't take long for Johnny to get distracted, although his taste may leave something to be desired.

Sorry to knock the artwork by Stan Aschmeier, but man, that's a harsh "pretty face" for Johnny to fall for.

This story would probably take too much time to sum up thoroughly, and quite honestly, isn't worth it. Needless to say, by not speaking Spanish, Johnny gets caught up in a spy ring by accident. However, with the help of his thunderbolt he captures the spies and saves the day, and learns that the girl who set him up in the first place is actually a spy-catcher herself. Seeing Johnny in action somehow has her all hot and bothered (don't ask me) and with their mission accomplished, she begins to set her sights on her next catch - Johnny.

Meanwhile, the democratic leader of Brazil is under attack by the Nazi party. First, they attempt to poison his wife while she rides a train - an act that would have succeeded if Kent Nelson (aka Dr. Fate) hadn't been on the same train en route to his JSA mission.

After questioning the Nazi on the train who tried to administer the poison, Dr. Fate soon learns that the Nazis have replaced the Democratic leader with a lookalike of their own.

It doesn't take long before the lookalike and the Nazis are taken down, and the Democratic Leader of Brazil is rescued.

Once again, it seems that Dr. Fate forgets that he even has occult powers on his side, as all he seems to do is throw punches at the bad guys.

The Bolivian Secret Police enlist the help of Starman in finding out how their tin mines are getting sabotaged with no sign of the Nazis headed in or out of the mines.

To say that Starman goes undercover to get to the root of the problem would be inaccurate, as he spends a week in the mine, like this...

No. I can't see how that would draw attention or clue anyone in that a superhero was on watch. Not at all.

Finally, despite the blatant appearance of Starman, the Nazis do attack, via an underground tunneling tank that they used to get into and out of the underground mines.

It also bears a striking resemblance to something from a cartoon (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) some 50 years later that I remember from my own childhood. The bad guys used a very similar vehicle to get around underground. I'm betting someone on that art or writing staff was a JSA reader when they were a kid.

Starman catches up the Nazis in their underground lair, only to be knocked unconscious. The villains then try to run Starman over with their giant drill, to no avail. His gravity rod protects him and he then uses it to melt the living hell out of their tank.

Don't ever piss off Starman...or he will melt your toys.

Meanwhile, Dr. MidNite is in Colombia, where masses of people are suddenly turning on the thought of democracy. Some investigating soon leads Dr. MidNite to discover it is the work of a Dr. Swein (Swine, how appropriate), who is inoculating his patients with a serum that makes them susceptible to his anti-democratic radio broadcasts, only audible to those who have taken the drug.

For reasons that he doesn't make clear, Dr. MidNite decides that even though he's uncovered the scheme, he should get injected with the serum himself to help the case. What?!

Regardless, when the hypnotized citizens start to rebel, MidNite puts a stop to Dr. Swein's scheme, smashing into his lab and making him release the Colombian citizens from his thrall. When the angry mob then tries to turn on Dr. Swein, Dr. MidNite gives them a harsh lessen in democracy.

No violence in Colombia? Oh, Dr. MidNite, just wait about 40 years or so when the drug wars kick into gear.

With their missions accomplishments, the JSA members are all scheduled to meet at the Panama Canal. For a debrief? Another dangerous mission for the U.S. Government?!

Nope. For a dance with their girlfriends, courtesy of the U.S. Army.

Ridiculous? Certainly. However, I can see how the writers may have been looking for an ending that humanizes the characters a little bit. Sure, they were super heroes, but after a long day of fighting Nazis, who wouldn't want to come home to their sweetie? I'll give em' a pass on that.

Next issue...the Justice Society of America travels into the far future...