Wednesday, May 30, 2012

All-Star Comics #13 - "Shanghaied in Space"

Hitler is pissssed. Not because of the effort of the U.S. Forces on the ground, but because he says the Justice Society are always around every corner, thwarting his plans. With that in mind, he brainstorms with other Axis leaders to come up with a plan to do away with the JSA for good.

I'm not quite sure that the Germans and Japanese were ever in this close proximity during the war years, but, what the heck, we'll let it go- just check out that beautiful Jack Burnley artwork.

Just when Hitler's about to pull his hair out with frustration, a German engineer enters with an idea - he has developed rockets that he believes can launch the JSA members into Space, and out of the Axis Powers' hair for good.

Pleased with the idea, Hitler orders an infiltration of the JSA Headquarters, where the heroes are to be knocked unconscious, loaded into the rockets and launched into space.

Historical side note: While this issue is cover dated October-November 1942, it is safe to assume that, like most comics since their inception, the actual release date of these books is months before the cover date.

That means this issue probably came out some time in the Spring or Summer of 1942, months and months before this real-life incident happened:


October 1942 saw the first successful launch of an A4 rocket at Peenemunde, Germany. The rocket flies 147 kilometres wide and reaches a height of 84.5 kilometres and is therefore the first man-made object reaching space.

Talk about life imitating art. Grant Morrison might appreciate the true-life manifestation of that.

Each JSA member finds themselves stranded on a different planet, with each chapter introduction giving the reader a tidbit of knowledge about hat particular planet. For example, we learn Saturn is "very light in weight due to the gases that form her outer atmosphere, 16,000 miles deep."

The tales are all pretty cut and dry. Hawkman helps a race of people on planet Saturn, who look very much like people of Earth, but ride giant birds.

Fancy that, he speaks bird-tongue

The Sandman lands on Uranus (cue cheap laughs here), which houses a race of beings made of pure crystal.



The king has been disturbed by dreams of "Kafta, the Evil One," who looks to destroy the planet's people with his poisons. How, oh how is the Sandman going to defeat this evil being of Crystal?


Sure. That works.



Meanwhile, Dr. Midnite has landed on Neptune where he is greeted by beings that appear half human and half plant-like. He's also the first Justice Society member to run into trouble understanding these other races.


Math - bringing interplanetary races together since 1942. Keep your nose in your books, kids.

The planet's people are in a panic when Dr. MidNite arrives, as they have been plagued by what they know only as "The Red Death" and fear that their lives are doomed. That is, until the blind hero drops a little reality bomb on them, along with an antidote:



Jupiter - "bigger than all the rest of the planets put together, including our Earth. Its gravity is three times that of the Earth..." Starman finds this out the hard way when he crash lands there.



Starman finds that the planet is occupied by beings that, due to the cold and lack of oxygen, must wear rustless metal clothing, with their internal organs encased inside. In other words, he stepped out of the rocket and was greeted by this:



Starman fights off a giant fungus menace that plagues the planet and is sent on his way with the help of these mechanical men. And all show in once again beautiful art by Jack Burnley.

"Mars - the red planet...its canals, and varying colors, of green and rust, suggest vegetation, irrigated by the melting polar cap..." is our introduction to the next chapter, as the tiny hero known as The Atom crash lands on the red planet.

The Atom, much like Sandman did on Uranus, has to help a race of beings living on the planet who are being threatened by one of their own to poison their water supply. The Atoms' given a tiny boost in his heroic abilities thanks to the atmosphere of Mars.



The Spectre has crash landed on the planet Pluto, which the tale tells us "is four billion miles from the sun - so distant is it, that the sun looks like a mere star" (which it is).

It's still a bit of a stretch that The Spectre could even be knocked unconscious in his spirit form by the knockout gas used in the beginning of the story in order for the Nazi's to place them all in rockets. He's a ghost, after all, and ghosts don't require oxygen. It is explained away as thus:



Once on Pluto, The Spectre finds a city far beneath a well on the planet - where resides a group of people living in fear from "the furred men," which turn out to be other human-like creatures dressed in parkas. The parka-men are more warriors than the peace-loving civilization in the well. However, a few punches from the Supernatural Spectre and the threat of his re-visiting the planet "every now and then" to check in prompts a peace treaty.

The planet Mercury - "the one nearest the sun - incredibly hot, its surface temperature is enough to melt lead or tin," which is why Johnny Thunder is having a helluva time trying to keep cool as he finds himself crashing toward the planet.

His magical Thunderbolt fills him in on the attempt by the Nazis to shanghai the JSA, and Johnny tries to just make a go of the hand he's been dealt.


Manifest Destiny.

Somehow Johnny manages to not notice the Spider that is the size of the building, and walks right into its clutches. The arachnid takes Johnny home to show to its mate, but the pair are scared off by a giant ant-eater. Yes. A giant ant-eater.



Johnny actually befriends his spider captors when he and the Thunderbolt lure the giant ant-eater into quicksand, freeing the giant spiders to live their lives in peace. Johnny begins to think that he should start studying the Spider civilization if he's going to be stuck on that planet forever. It apparently never occurred to him that his magic thunderbolt, with the powers of a genie, might be able to get him off the planet whenever he wants.

Wonder Woman, meanwhile, finds herself rocketing towards the planet Venus, which apparently is inhabited by a race of flying women with wings. Pulled out of the crashing rocket by these women, Wonder Woman tries to return the favor.


Sheesh. That's a bit presumptive, isn't it?

Okay, so maybe she was right. The women are being attacked by a race of warriors who are capturing and killing their men. Being a peace-loving planet, the women possess no weapons, and have no idea on how to fight back. Apparently, neither does Wonder Woman.


Yikes.

Quick history lesson for you folks who may not know - Wonder Woman's creator, William Moulston was not only the inventor of the lie detector, but was pretty obsessed with S&M, thus his fascination with bondage and domination that is on display in many of his early Wonder Woman stories.

The men of Venus try to fight back, but the dandies are crushed by the sheer strength of their attackers.



It looks like its up to Wonder Woman to save the entire race, and she does so in quick fashion, and under the power of her might and her magic lasso, the warriors submit. Bound by chains, the leader of the Venusians tells Wonder Woman that they will work to make the men loving and peaceful.



Each member of the Justice Society has made it back to Earth, each thinking they were the only one launched into space. This descends over several panels into a game of one-upmanship as everyone tries to be the biggest hero in the room.


"You should have been on Uranus!"

Following the government's leads to the spies who launched the JSA into space in the first place, the heroes take out Hitler's cronies and send him a message via radio.



But, wait. This adventure is not over. Wonder Woman has done a lot for the JSA. The power of the gods flow through her and she's easily the most powerful member of the team, and the JSA feel it just isn't right to have her be only an "honorary member." What to do?



Wa wa waaaaa

That's not all, though. Meanwhile, in Germany...



Alas, Hitler never did learn his lesson.

This tale was later adapted/updated in a multi-chapter arc of back-up stories beginning in the series All-Star Squadron #52 some 40+ years later by JSA Superfan Roy Thomas. The story is retold with a more "modern science" behind it, and the JSA are explained to have been stranded in 'hyper-space' as opposed to the actual planets we all know and love. I have not actually had the chance to read this updated version, but hope it will make it into the first or future editions of DC's collected Showcase Presents All-Star Squadron edition.

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