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Monday, October 07, 2013

The Fire and Water Podcast, Episode 66

The official podcast of THE AQUAMAN SHRINE and FIRESTORM FAN

Episode 66 - Golden Age Aquaman

Shag is off for the week, so I am joined by VIEWS FROM THE LONGBOX host Michael Bailey to talk about the Golden Age Aquaman and his appearances in Roy Thomas' ALL-STAR SQUADRON!

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Opening theme, "That Time is Now," by Michael Kohler.

Closing music by Daniel Adams and Ashton Burge of The Bad Mamma Jammas! http://www.facebook.com/BadMammaJammas

Thanks for listening! Fan the Flame and Ride the Wave!


Siskoid said...

Great episode! As a fellow lover of All-Star Squadron and all things Golden Age, it was great to revisit those particular issues. My story mirrors Michael's a great deal, coming to it late, probably bolstered by Who's Who and Secret Origins, and going back to collect them all. It was a comics history lesson in every issue!

Earth 2 Chris said...

Earth 2...right up my alley! Great show guys. I've been following Michael's various shows, and it was good to hear him here as well.

All-Star Squadron #31 is one of my all-time favorite comics. I vividly recall getting that comic on an early dismissal snow day. My mom picked me up, and we stopped by Thrift market (the same one I got my Who's Who "G" issue from) for milk and bread, and there it was. I spent the rest of the day either outside with friends playing in the snow, or inside drying off, pouring over those character-crammed pages. It was honestly the first time I'd ever thought of the Earth-Two Aquaman, but it was nice to know he was there! I was glad to see him in the later issues, but I wish Roy had time to really showcase him, maybe with Tsunami?

As for why Aquaman and Green Arrow survived the Golden Age purge where others didn't...I have one word to say...Weisinger. Whitney Ellsworth was the actual editor of Adventure (and the Superman titles) up until the late 50s, but Weisinger really ran the ships while Ellsworth worked on DC/National's radio presence. Weisinger was known for his rather strong personality, and strong editorial fiefdom. It would have made more business sense for DC corporate to give Adventure space to Flash, GL and Hawkman when they were displaced by their individual cancellations, but they had belonged to Shelly Mayer and then Julius Schwartz, who were not connected to Weisinger's titles. So Weisinger protected his co-creations, Aquaman, Green Arrow and Johnny Quick, despite them never having headlined like the now limbo-bound Flash, GL and Hawkman (who never had his own book, but alternated the cover of Flash Comics).

Just my take. I could be wrong, but I've always suspected this.


Earth 2 Chris said...

Sigh, I meant "media" presence, not "radio" presence. But you get my drift.


Diabolu Frank said...

Your Grudge Against Shazam: Is based on Captain Marvel's pushing Aquaman off merchandising in the 1970s. Have you ever considered that this was a necessity to counter a cosmic imbalance? Captain Marvel was at one time bigger than Superman, but DC/National lawsuits prevented Fawcett's capitalizing on that much outside of comics. When super-heroes fell out of favor, Fawcett settled the lawsuit by closing up their comic business, while Quality sold out to a DC Comics only interested in continuing to publish Blackhawk. Characters like Captain Marvel and Plastic Man survived into the 1950s based on their broad appeal, while Aquaman survived by riding on Superman's cape trail.

Aquaman's decade of glory came in the 1960s, with his own series, a cartoon, and regular JLA appearances. Perhaps Aquaman's displacement in the Bronze Age in favor of revivals for Shazam and Plas were his comeuppance, and his more successful revitalization since the 1990s proved Aquaman's true worth in comics?

Diabolu Frank said...

The Avenging Son in the Room: Aquaman was a baldfaced rip-off of the Sub-Mariner, and his Silver Age origin only made the derivation worse. It renders Aquaman a contrasting analogue-- what if Namor had been raised by his human parent instead of his Atlantean one? This is why I prefer the simple Golden Age origin, which establishes Aquaman as purely human, exploiting Atlantean science. It makes him "our" confident, surface-loving aquatic hero, instead of a milquetoast, less conflicted flavor of Namor.

It's important to note that the Sub-Mariner created the Marvel Comics shared universe through his strip-bridging battles with the Human Torch. That pair, alongside Captain America, were Timely's biggest stars, and formed the nucleus of Marvel's late blooming first supergroup, the All-Winners Squad. Timely wasn't big on super-villains, so the Sub-Mariner and friends specialized in battling the Axis powers.

Aquaman was excluded from the Justice Society of America because he was a National character and they were an All-American team. One wonders if Aquaman's consistent partitioning from Earth-2 stories in the Silver/Bronze Ages was due to a desire on editors/creators parts to avoid further comparison to Namor. Let's face it, the "All-Star Squadron" only worked because Marvel had decided that the wartime All-Winners Squad would be dubbed the Invaders. Also, Aquaman had enough struggles with relevancy without getting dragged into Nazi slugfests or competing with a parallel Earth version of himself (especially when you consider how the veteran JSAers were treated, like Batman dead and Wonder Woman married off while bath were replaced adult children.)

Earth 2 Chris said...

The JSA was a combined National/All-American team for most of it's run. During a brief rift between the companies the line-up changed to all AA...and then shortly thereafter National and AA merged completely. The line-up of the last several years was still all the previously AA-owned characters, except when Superman and Batman joined in for that one famous issue.


Unknown said...

I've been trying to track down these issues for my Aquaman collection, but haven't had any luck yet...I just recently picked up the Showcase All Star Squadron book, and although it doesn't give me Aquaman of Earth 2 its still a fun collection! Here's hoping I don't have to wait too long for Volume 2.

Great show guys, this was definitely a fun listen!

Russell said...

I remember reading that old SECRET ORIGIN story with Aquaman fighting Nazis and thinking....waitaminute! If you fought Nazis, you had to be on Earth 2! I was as confused as Rob was for years!!

Anj said...

I have to admit I believed there was no E2 Aquaman until I found this place and learned differently.

I don't have that All Star Squadron issue which would have schooled me earlier. Thanks for sharing this!

Diabolu Frank said...

Earth-2 Martian Manhunter: It was funny to hear Rob associate Aquaman with Doctor Fate, since both figured into many pan-Earth adventures, and neither had a multiversal duplicate in JLA/JSA crossovers. I was aware of the Earth-2 Aquaman fairly early on, so I always saw Fate's parallel as the Manhunter from Mars (with upper level abilities, similar attitudes, and coming out in the same Super Powers wave not hurting.) In retrospect, bringing in the Paul Kirk Manhunter and cementing J'onn J'onzz as his Silver Age successor would have made more sense. However, the Alien Atlas wasn't a major player in the earliest JLA/JSA events, and left the team before fan-pros really started playing with the premise. Further, Paul Kirk was established as active on Earth-1 early in the Bronze Age, and was replaced by Mark Shaw within the decade.

I've often griped that DC's many conflicting "Manhunters" have consistently diluted the brand for the Martian Manhunter. J'Onn J'Onzz is clearly DC's best known and most popular "Manhunter," but has always treated the "Martian" flavor as its own isolated concept. Even during Millennium, DC refused the slightest hint of a connection between the Martian and the Manhunters. Since the Manhunter robots turned up early on in the Justice League cartoon, Timm and company basically decided to never refer to J'Onn J'Onzz as "Manhunter," not to mention establishing the "Zhonn Zhonzz" conceit to differentiate from John Stewart.

I understand why Rob has devoted a podcast to dispelling the notion that there was no Earth-2 Aquaman. Rob loves the JLA and wants the Sea King to be treated as an equal/contemporary to Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and the Flash. If there's no Aquaman of Earth-2/Earth-3/etcetera, Curry seems less than the others.

For me, I've come to appreciate the singularity of J'Onn J'Onzz. My affection for the character doesn't have to be divided across the multiverse. The Martian Manhunter is not remotely equal to the rest of the "Magnificent Seven," and is defined by his aloneness and his relative obscurity. In recent years, the Martian Marvel has been outshone by Miss Martian, a non-sidekick from another race at war with J'Onn's own. While I appreciate Michael Bailey's shout-out, I'm not so sure the Sleuth from Outer Space is a "pillar" of the DC Universe, and I'm not sure that I would ever again want him to be one.

The Martian Manhunter is often thought of as the best single representative of the JLA, but I see that as detrimental, because he's popularly identified through his relationship with other heroes rather than being respected as an individual concept. When Alex Ross and Geoff Johns enshrine the Silver Age heroes' status quo, J'Onn J'Onzz is the exception, as they wholeheartedly embrace his Post-Crisis retcon over thirteen years of solo stories. Even Darwyn Cooke and Gerard Jones, who produced some of the finest John Jones stories ever, really only reached back to a Steve Englehart tale from 1977.

My devotion to the character is reinforced by how contained his sphere truly is. It's hard enough to try to get people to regard the history of the Alien Atlas of one Earth, without dealing with a multitude of duplicates. Given my druthers, Aquaman could be a Beatle or Rolling Stone, and J'onn J'onzz would be Bob Dylan or Lou Reed.

Martin Gray said...

Well, that's immediately one of my favourite episodes yet, good on Michael for filling in. It's sad to think that the Earth 2 Aquaman never found love. Thinking on, it would've been interesting if Roy Thomas had done some 'proper' retroactive continuity and introduced, say, the wartime, Earth 2 Firestorm.

Where did the fun sting conversation come from? And the recent Lois Lane bit.

Diabolu Frank said...

Greg Brooks: You might be surprised to hear that I was unaware of this story. I knew about the Bob Wood murder conviction and Justiano's pedophilia, but this had managed to escape me. I had to do a little research at your prompting.

Per Bob "Answer Man" Rozakis, "An artist named Greg Brooks, who did some work for DC back in the late '80s (including the CRIMSON AVENGER miniseries in 1988) lived on Staten Island with his wife and baby. His wife, Elizabeth Kessler, did some work for DC as well, coloring a couple of jobs (a story in DOOM PATROL #9 - the 80s version of the title - was one).

Elizabeth went missing and her body was eventually found by police at a construction site about a mile from their home. She had been beaten to death with a hammer and dumped there.

It turned out that Brooks and Kessler had been having problems in their relationship and she took up with another man. At one point, she returned for her things, got into an argument with Brooks, and while the baby was in the room, she bragged about what a better lover the new guy was. Enraged, he grabbed the hammer and struck her dead. Her body was dumped in the bathtub over night and at the crack of dawn, he wheeled her in a grocery cart to the construction site.

Brooks was charged and convicted of her murder and went to prison.

Turned out that was not then end of the story. Elizabeth Kessler was not really Elizabeth Kessler. She had "appropriated" the identity of her college roommate when she moved east from Kansas. And back home, she had another child who was being taken care of by her mother. Eventually, her mother ended up with custody of both children.

Bob Greenberger reports that he got a letter from Brooks while he was still in prison. He had been working on his art while incarcerated and Joe Rubinstein was helping him out by mail. Brooks was released from prison about two years ago, got a job as a bicycle messenger, and even made an appointment to bring his portfolio up to Bob to review. "He never showed up," says Bob, "and I haven't heard from him since."

Diabolu Frank said...

Weisinger to Show Me the Way: I've made comments along the same lines as Earth-2 Chris', but never as eloquently.

My Golden Age: I bought a magazine when I was a kid that featured an article about forgotten heroes from companies like Fox and Lev Gleason that fascinated me. They were much more lurid and scary than the ones I knew of, so I always wanted to learn more about them. I also loved my Superman #1 Treasury Edition. Unfortunately, as my access to Golden Age comics grew, I came to realize that National's were among the safest, most formulaic and boring comics (until their Silver Ae made it worse.) With beautifully insane exceptions (Marston & Peter Wonder Woman,) I still find DC's pre-Bronze Age fare a tough row to hoe. Ironically, I also hated Project Superpowers, because Krueger & Ross destroyed the novelty of the original super-heroes by recasting them in a Bronze Age mold.

A.-S.S.: I bought as issue of All-Star Squadron off the newsstand early into my collecting, and have picked up more as back issues since. Never particular enjoyed a single issue. Poorly costumed alternate versions of more popular characters and inveterate also-rans of yore written by a washed-up '60s Marvel icon? The art was the only saving grace. I especially hated the glacial pace that came from tying in too many continuities to a real world timeline. I still have a mild interest in reading Young All-Stars someday, because I like the tweaked extra-retro analogues, but it's tough to get excited over Vince Argondezzi and a chronology DC has now abandoned.

Diabolu Frank said...

Earth-Two, Logic-Zero: Screw the multiverse. Defenders of the Pre-Crisis DC Universe often poo-poo the notion that it was "too confusing," only to follow up with arguments about the existence of Earth-2 Aquaman. They never mention the part about how Earth-2 just plain sucked. Their main series was set during World War II, but a spin-off title involved their kids as active heroes in the 1980s, so crossovers involved temporal acrobatics and Ian Karcialis. Then you throw in Earth-S for Shazam and Earth-X where the Nazis won and their heroes fled to Earth-1 like cowards and whatever the hell was going on with the pan-dimensional illegal immigration of Commander Steel. I could make sense of all that, but I didn't want to, because it was too stupid to live on past 1986!

I adored the Post-Crisis chronology. It was okay if the JSA had magically survived half a century so long as they were from the one world's war. In fact, what I really wanted was for DC to periodically fill in the gaps with concepts that had fallen out of favor. Let the Challengers of the Unknown rise to replace the JSA in the '50s. Forget Hawk & Dove were ever Titans at let them me a Vietnam era duo. Does a guy named "Black Lightning" make sense outside of the 1970s? That way, all of those concepts would "matter" in their proper context, and DC constant attempts to revitalize tired trademarks would at least have the weight of legacy. As an added bonus, something like Armageddon: Inferno and Infinite Crisis would be more valuable if reality/time bending events were the only way to showcase heroes from all times.

Instead, we're back to the multiverse. I was a Marvel fan growing up, but they pushed me away in the '90s, and finally "broke" their universe for me with unforgivable violations like the New Avengers and the resurrections of Norman Osborne and Bucky Barnes. I can check out individual titles, but I have no motivation to support their universe. I think the New 52 broke me in the same way. I don't care if Earth 2 is a good book, because everything I liked about its characters was based on their place in history, not that they could offer a token gay Green Lantern alternate or a more visibly Latin Hawkgirl. Modest social progress is negated by irreversible narrative regression overall.

Diabolu Frank said...

P.S. Forgot to mention that part about my love for the Post-Crisis DC Universe was its integration of Quality, Fawcett, Charlton, etc. The multiverse means a return to segregation, which would be bad enough, but is made worse by stuff like an Earth-1 Shazam that builds on only the worst aspects of the concept introduced since DC bought and mangled it. We could have a DC multiverse that embraces true diversity, but is instead universally homogenized into video game fodder produced by creators with low enough self esteem to work for this ratty company in 2013.