Monday

Comics Pro Mailbag 10

For the tenth installment of the Comics Pro Mailbag, we present a Special Double-Sized Issue featuring two letters from the man who was perhaps the first comics “fan” to become a pro, Roy Thomas. Just a few years after this young high school English teacher from Missouri sent the following fan letters, he would get a job at Marvel Comics and begin answering the fan mail sent to him.

Roy Thomas is perhaps best known for his celebrated runs writing X-Men and Avengers, though he scripted nearly all of Marvel’s major series at one time or another. He also created series such as The Invaders and Marvel’s pioneering adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s properties such as Conan the Barbarian. In the 1970s he did work at DC Comics, indulging his love of Golden Age superheroes in series such as All-Star Squadron and its spin-off Infinity, Inc.

The first letter comes from the “Flash-Grams” page of Flash #120 (May 1961), in which he makes no secret of his devotion to all things Golden Age. Interestingly, however, Mr. Thomas urges editor Julius Schwartz to create the same sort of deeply-interconnected continuity that would later become the hallmark of the Marvel Universe, which did not even exist at the time he put his thoughts to paper. DC was not interested in going in that direction, but clearly Marvel filled a need in the fan community for just such an approach.


In our second missive, found in “The JLA Mail Room” of Justice League of America #18 (March 1963), Mr. Thomas proves that he just can’t NOT refer to Golden Age comics, which have always been his abiding obsession, before getting down to brass tacks. With his detail-oriented discourse, he once again proves himself an über-fan and is commended by Julie Schwartz as a “JLA expert.”


Whatever one thinks of Roy Thomas’ merits as a comic book writer, there is no denying that, through his letter-writing and work on the fanzine Alter Ego, he set out to show comics fans everywhere how fandom is done.


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Tuesday

Comics Pro Mailbag 9

Today we return to the Comics Pro Mailbag to revisit some of the great fan letters from future comics professionals printed in the letters pages of their favorite titles.

In World’s Finest Comics #146 (December 1964), we find this missive from a 15-year-old Frank Brunner. In a few years, young Mr. Brunner would break into the industry at Warren Publishing doing horror comics, before making a name for himself on Marvel’s Doctor Strange and Howard the Duck in the 1970s.



Given Mr. Brunner’s status as one of Neal Adams’ acolytes (even being a member of his “Crusty Bunkers” inking brigade), I never would have thought Curt Swan to be one of his influences. I guess you never can tell.


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Wednesday

A DC Universe Chronology

When I decided to do a quick chronology of the DC Comics universe, I opted to take the opposite approach as my OMU project. Whereas with the Original Marvel Universe, I disregard publishing dates to “defragment” the timeline, I here used the publishing dates as a starting point to catalog the events of the DC universe, creating an entirely new history in the process.

For example, I placed Batman’s debut in Spring 1939, as that was the date of the character’s first appearance. I then extrapolated from that a date for Bruce Wayne’s birth, then plotted out a reasonable lifespan and worked into it the major events of his life. Other men replaced him as the generations passed. Other characters were dealt with in the same manner, causing them all to intersect in very interesting ways.

The result was something akin to the “Earth-Two” alternate reality, or the tales of “Batman II and Robin II” that appeared occasionally in Silver-Age Batman titles, or John Byrne’s Generations series. I was inspired primarily by the 1995 graphic novel The Golden Age by James Robinson & Paul Smith.

In this version of the DC world, the characters age, reproduce, and die like real-life people. I find it opens up all manner of story possibilities, and it’s fun to ponder what it might have been like had the DC Universe evolved in this manner. The timeline is limited pretty much to the 20th century, and is by no means complete.


Here, then, is a (not “the”) Chronology of the DC Universe!


1894
Cyrus Gold is murdered in Slaughter Swamp outside Gotham City. His corpse will later be reanimated as the failed elemental Solomon Grundy.

1899
Richard Occult is born, and is soon after rescued from devil worshippers by the Mystic Order of the Seven, along with a baby girl who will be raised as his sister and called Rose Psychic.

1900
James Corrigan is born.

James Gordon is born in Gotham City.

1908
Kent Nelson is born to Sven and Celestine Nelson.

1912
Janos Prohaska is born in Krakow, Poland.

1913
Wesley Dodds is born to Edward and Marina Dodds.

Rex Tyler is born.

1915
Bruce Wayne is born to Thomas and Martha Wayne in Gotham City.

1916
Carter Hall is born.

Lois Lane is born to Sam and Ella Lane.

1917
Alan Scott is born.

Oliver Queen is born.

Johnny Thunder is born.

1918
Jay Garrick is born.

1920
Kryptonian infant Kal-El crash lands outside Smallville, Kansas and is found by Jonathan and Martha Kent, who rename him Clark Kent.

Archaeologist Sven Nelson is killed in Mesopotamia after accidentally awakening the ancient entity called Nabu the Wise. Nabu trains young Kent Nelson in the arts of magic.

1921
Selena Kyle is born.

1922
Sheira Sanders is born.

Ted Grant is born.

Libby Lawrence is born.

1924
Thomas and Martha Wayne are shot dead in front of their terrified son Bruce.

1926
Billy Batson is born.

Sylvester Pemberton is born.

1927
Dinah Drake is born.

1928
Dick Grayson is born.

Roy Harper is born.

Daniel Dunbar is born.

1929
Barry Allen is born.

1931
Katherine Kane is born.

1933
Jason Todd is born.

1935
Richard Occult becomes the mystical detective known as Dr. Occult.

Ray Palmer is born.

Will Magnus is born.

1936
Hal Jordan is born.

1937
Selena Kyle first becomes a prostitute.

Summer 1938
Clark Kent moves to Metropolis and adopts the identity of Superman. He meets ace reporter Lois Lane at the newspaper where they both work, The Daily Star.

Wealthy socialite Tex Thompson decides to become an amateur crimebuster.

Giovanni Zatara begins using his magical abilities to fight crime as Zatara, Master Magician.

Late 1938
Superman meets his first great nemesis, the wheelchair-bound mad scientist called the Ultra-Humanite. He also first meets cub reporter Jimmy Olsen.

Publisher Lee Travis takes on the underworld as the shadowy Crimson Avenger, assisted by his Chinese manservant Wing.

Spring 1939
Bruce Wayne begins his crusade against crime as the fearsome Batman. He presents something of a problem to new Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon.

Summer 1939
Wesley Dodds becomes the gas-mask-wearing hero called the Sandman. He meets the lovely Dian Belmont.

Batman battles his first major villain, the evil Doctor Death.

Fall 1939
Batman perfects the helicopter-like vehicle called the Batgyro. As Bruce Wayne, he meets the lovely Julie Madison.

Late 1939
Selena Kyle changes professions, becoming a jewel thief.

Darrell Dane becomes the size-changing hero Doll Man.

Early 1940
Jay Garrick leaves Midwestern University to become the super-fast crime-fighter known as the Flash.

Also, Carter Hall begins his career as Hawkman, and meets Sheira Sanders, whom he believes to be the reincarnation of his wife from a previous life in ancient Egypt.

Policeman Jim Corrigan is murdered, but returns as the mysterious crime-fighter the Spectre.

After taking his newly-developed Miraclo pill, chemist Rex “Tick-Tock” Tyler becomes the super hero known as Hourman.

Johnny Thunder develops uncontrollable magical powers courtesy of his “pet lightning bolt.”

Billy Batson first says the magic word SHAZAM and becomes earth’s mightiest mortal, Captain Marvel.

Batman first encounters the sadistic genius Dr. Hugo Strange. Also, after shooting many a criminal, Batman renounces the use of guns in his crimefighting crusade.

Spring 1940
Orphaned Dick Grayson joins Batman’s crusade as Robin, the Boy Wonder.

Superman first encounters villainous tycoon Lex Luthor.

Batman and Robin first battle the Clown Prince of Crime, the Joker. Soon after, they clash with seductive jewel thief Selena Kyle, better known as the Cat. Batman also unveils the original Batplane.

Kent Nelson begins his career battling supernatural villains as Doctor Fate and meets the lovely Inza Cramer.

The Metropolis newspaper The Daily Star changes its name to The Daily Planet.

Summer 1940
Gotham City resident Alan Scott discovers a mysterious artifact and becomes the costumed adventurer Green Lantern.

Lanford “Happy” Terrill gains energy-manipulating abilities and becomes the superhero known as the Ray.

Selena Kyle adopts the new nom de crime Catwoman.

Batman and Robin fight Basil Karlo, the first Clay Face.

Fall 1940
Al Pratt becomes the diminutive hero called the Atom.

Carter Hall marries Sheira Sanders.

The Ultra-Humanite has his brain transplanted into the body of movie starlet Delores Winters, and perishes in a volcano soon afterwards.

Catwoman dons her first super-villainess costume.

Late 1940
Flash, Hawkman, Green Lantern, the Atom, Doctor Fate, the Spectre, Hourman, and the Sandman band together to form the loose-knit Justice Society of America, and put up with irritating hanger-on Johnny Thunder.

Inspired by the recent appearances of costumed crimefighters, middle-aged housewife Abigail Mathilda Hunkle dons a makeshift costume and calls herself the Red Tornado as she battles neighborhood menaces.

While battling Batman, Dr. Hugo Strange is killed.

Alan Scott takes a job as a radio engineer at the Apex Broadcasting Company.

Perry White is made editor of the Metropolis paper The Daily Planet.

Early 1941
Scientist Ted Knight becomes the caped hero Starman.

Tex Thompson fights the good fight as the mystery man called Mr. America.

Paul Kirk becomes the masked crimebuster Manhunter.

After the final defeat of Clay Face, Batman unveils the first customized Batmobile.

Spring 1941
Charles McNider swings into action as Doctor Mid-Nite.

Summer 1941
Sheira Hall becomes Hawkgirl.

Small-time hood Eel O’Brien becomes the super-elastic Plastic Man.

The military squad called the Blackhawks is formed to combat the Nazis. They are led by Janos Prohaska.

Joan Dale becomes the costumed crimefighter called Miss America.

Sandra Knight becomes the Phantom Lady.

Chemist Roy Lincoln transforms himself into the Human Bomb.

Superman’s nemesis Lex Luthor loses his hair in a freak accident.

Green Lantern first meets his streetwise sidekick Doiby Dickles.

Fall 1941
Superman and Batman meet for the first time.

Newsreel photographer Johnny Chambers becomes the lighting-fast hero Johnny Quick.

Sylvester Pemberton and Patrick Dugan join the war effort as the Star-Spangled Kid and his adult sidekick Stripesy.

Mystery writer John Law becomes the mystery man called the Tarantula.

An Arthurian knight called Sir Justin emerges from suspended animation to battle evil as the Shining Knight.

Batman and Robin must defeat Jonathan Crane, the eerie criminal called the Scarecrow.

Starman first battles the villain known as the Mist.

Late 1941
Oliver Queen debuts as crime-fighting archer Green Arrow, along with his teenaged sidekick Roy Harper, a.k.a. Speedy.

Aquaman first leaves Atlantis for the surface world.

The Sandman trades in his gas-mask for a superhero costume and picks up a young sidekick, Sanderson Hawkins, also called Sandy, the Golden Boy.

Greg Saunders becomes the gun-slinging mystery man called the Vigilante.

Bob Daley assumes the identity of Fatman and serves as Mr. America’s sidekick.

Japan bombs Pearl Harbor, thereby drawing the United States into the war.

When American Army aviator Steve Trevor crashes on Paradise Island, Amazon princess Diana is selected to accompany him back to the world of men, where she comes to be called Wonder Woman.

In Gotham City, Oswald Cobblepot begins a life of crime as the umbrella-wielding Penguin.

Early 1942
Terry Sloane begins his career as Mr. Terrific, Man of a Thousand Talents.

Boxer Ted Grant becomes the masked adventurer called Wildcat.

Dr. Mid-Nite and Starman join the JSA.

Hourman perfects his powerful Miracle Ray machine.

Doiby Dickles learns Green Lantern’s secret identity as Alan Scott.

Green Arrow, Speedy, the Star-Spangled Kid, Stripesy, the Shining Knight, the Vigilante, and the Crimson Avenger band together as the Seven Soldiers of Victory.

While on a mission as Manhunter, Paul Kirk vanishes without a trace.

The JSA offers an associate membership to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.

Spring 1942
Four slum orphans and Metropolis policeman Jim Harper join the war effort as the Newsboy Legion and the Guardian.

Chemistry teacher Thomas N. Thomas and his student Dan Dunbar also fight the Axis powers as TNT and the Dyna-Mite.

Summer 1942
Captain Rip Carter leads the international quartet of teenagers called the Boy Commandos.

When district attorney Harvey Dent is disfigured by acid, he becomes the criminal mastermind Two-Face.

Superman first battles Oswald Loomis, better known as the villainous Prankster.

Dr. Robert Crane’s brain is installed in a mechanical body, and he soon comes to be called Robotman.

After a return to Paradise Island where she wins her magic lasso, Wonder Woman joins the JSA.

Fall 1942
Tex Thompson joins the war effort, now calling himself the Americommando.

Late 1942
Kent Nelson enrolls in medical school, using his magical abilities to assist him with his studies.

Tim Drake is born.

Early 1943
Rex Tyler is forced to stop taking the Miraclo pill and retire as Hourman.

Bob Daley parts ways with the Americommando and retires as Fatman.

Spring 1943
When her father is killed by the Nazis, Libby Lawrence becomes a costumed adventuress called Liberty Belle.

John Law gives up his costumed identity as the Tarantula.

Summer 1943
When TNT is killed in action, his sidekick the Dyna-Mite returns to civilian life as Daniel Dunbar.

Fall 1943
Superman first battles the villainous Toyman.

Wonder Woman first faces the wrath of Priscilla Rich, a.k.a. the Cheetah.

Green Lantern encounters the ageless conspirator known as Vandal Savage.

1944
Wally West is born.

“Snapper” Carr is born.

The second Speedy, later Arsenal, is born.

Summer 1944
Tex Thompson’s heroic career comes to a sudden halt.

Fall 1944
Superman first encounters the mysterious extradimensional imp known as Mr. Mxyztplk.

Starting a new trend, the Joker and the Penguin join forces against Batman and Robin.

Ma Hunkel dons her Red Tornado guise for the last time.

Late 1944
The undead strongman Solomon Grundy first menaces the world.

The Justice Society first battles the Psycho-Pirate when he kidnaps Hawkgirl.

Early 1945
The Spectre leaves earth for an extended period.

Kent Nelson retires from adventuring as Doctor Fate to practice magic and medicine privately.

Spring 1945
The war in Europe ends with the defeat of the Axis Powers.

The Seven Soldiers of Victory disband and Lee Travis retires his Crimson Avenger identity.

Summer 1945
The war in the Pacific ends with the nuclear bombing of Japan.

Late 1945
Libby Lawrence calls off her quest for vengeance as Liberty Belle.

Wildcat is made a member of the JSA.

Early 1946
Wesley Dodds retires as the Sandman.

Ted Knight hangs up his cape as Starman.

Spring 1946
Connor Hawke is born to Oliver Queen and his girlfriend Sandra Hawke.

Zatanna Zatara is born to Giovanni and Sindella Zatara.

Summer 1946
Alan Scott becomes manager of radio station WXYZ in Gotham.

Late 1946
Kent Nelson marries Inza Cramer.

Early 1947
Terry Sloane abandons his identity as Mr. Terrific.

The menace of Solomon Grundy is finally ended by the Justice Society of America.

Spring 1947
Green Lantern first battles small-time hood “Crusher” Crock.

Garth is born in Atlantis.

Summer 1947
Dinah Drake begins her stint as the crimebuster called the Black Canary.

The JSA first battles the time-traveling villain Per Degaton.

“Crusher” Crock adopts the identity of the Sportsmaster to again battle Green Lantern.

Fall 1947
The Injustice Society of the World forms to counter the invincible JSA. Its founding members are the Wizard, Brain Wave, the Gambler, Per Degaton, the Thinker, and Vandal Savage.

Molly Mayne is hired as Alan Scott’s secretary at WXYZ. To attract the attention of the dashing Green Lantern, she decides to become the costumed criminal called the Harlequin.

Late 1947
Flash meets Rose Canton, the split-personality villainess called Thorn.

Early 1948
Black Canary joins the JSA, and first meets private detective Larry Lance.

Barbara Gordon is born to James and Sarah Gordon in Gotham City.

Spring 1948
Batman first meets Vicki Vale.

Summer 1948
Batman finally discovers the identity of the man who shot his parents, a minor thug by the name of Joe Chill.

Dick Grayson assumes the identity of Nightwing. Jason Todd is recruited to be the new Robin.

The Atom begins to manifest super-strength.

A new Injustice Society replaces the first: the Wizard, the Fiddler, Huntress, the Icicle, Sportsmaster, and Harlequin, who betrays her criminal comrades to free the JSA from their clutches.

Fall 1948
Batman and Robin first encounter Eddie Nashton alias Edward Nygma alias the Riddler.

Green Lantern learns the Harlequin is now an undercover agent for the FBI.

Late 1948
Sylvester Pemberton and Pat Dugan end their partnership as the Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy.

Early 1949
Flash learns the Thorn’s true identity, and he, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman help her find treatment for her condition.

Al Pratt retires as the Atom to wed Mary James.

Spring 1949
Ted Grant gives up his career as Wildcat.

Late 1949
Superman first encounters the deadly mineral called kryptonite, and discovers he is not from Earth at all, but is the last son of the planet Krypton.

Early 1950
When the original Batmobile is destroyed, Batman and Robin build a new, more advanced model.

Late 1950
When the original Batplane is stolen, Batman and Robin build a new, more advanced model.

Early 1951
Jay Garrick retires the Flash in order to settle down and marry long-time girlfriend Joan Williams.

Alan Scott relinquishes the role of Green Lantern when he is made vice-president and general manager of the Gotham Broadcasting Company.

Charles McNider gives up being Dr. Mid-Nite.

Zatara mysteriously disappears.

Spring 1951
Carter and Shiera Hall are killed in action as Hawkman and Hawkgirl.

The Justice Society of America disbands after battling a villain known as the Key, who makes good his escape.

Summer 1951
Captain Comet goes into action.

Sir Justin ceases to battle as the Shining Knight.

Dinah Drake retires as the Black Canary and marries her boyfriend, detective Larry Lance.

Spring 1952
Dinah Lance is born to Larry and Dinah Drake Lance.

Summer 1952
The mysterious Phantom Stranger makes his first appearance.

Superman and Batman finally learn each other’s secret identities.

Fall 1952
Jason Todd is killed by the Joker.

Late 1953
Billy Batson ceases to transform into Captain Marvel.

Summer 1954
Superman and Batman begin occasionally working as a team.

Late 1954
Johnny Chambers finally gives up being Johnny Quick once and for all.

Greg Saunders retires as the Vigilante.

Captain Comet’s brief career also comes to a close.

Late 1955
J’onn J’onzz arrives on Earth and assumes the identity of John Jones, but soon becomes known as the Martian Manhunter.

Early 1956
Bruce Wayne retires and Dick Grayson succeeds him as the new Batman. Tim Drake is recruited as the new Robin.

Alan Scott gets Rose Canton pregnant, but their relationship ends.

Summer 1956
Plastic Man retires from crime-fighting.

Katherine Kane adopts the crimefighting identity of Batwoman.

Fall 1956
Barry Allen develops super-speed and begins calling himself the Flash.

Late 1956
Rose Canton gives birth to twins and puts them up for adoption. The girl becomes Jennifer-Lynn Hayden (adopted by Julian and Myrna Hayden) and the boy becomes Todd James Rice (adopted by Jim and Shirley Rice).

Early 1957
Four non-super-powered men form the Challengers of the Unknown in order to seek out adventure.

Jessie Chambers is born to Johnny Chambers and Libby Lawrence.

Spring 1957
Oliver Queen is killed in action and Roy Harper becomes the new Green Arrow. The second Speedy joins him.

Stephanie Brown is born.

Fall 1957
Selena Kyle retires as Catwoman and opens her own escort service.

Late 1957
Charles McNider begins working for the FBI keeping tabs on metahumans.

Summer 1958
Superman first battles the villainous Brainiac.

Late 1958
Adam Strange is first transported to the planet Rann in the Alpha Centauri system.

Spring 1959
Batman and Robin first tangle with the sinister Mister Freeze.

Scientist Rip Hunter invents a time machine, which he uses to explore earth’s past and future.

Fall 1959
Test pilot Hal Jordan receives his power ring and becomes the new Green Lantern.

Late 1959
Wally West becomes the Flash’s sidekick, Kid Flash.

Early 1960
Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Flash, and Green Lantern band together to form the Justice League of America, and they acquire a teen-aged associate called “Snapper” Carr.

Garth first joins Aquaman on his patrols of the seas as Aqualad.

Spring 1960
Ralph Dibny becomes the Elongated Man.

Early 1961
Two aliens from the planet Thanagar assume the identities of Carter and Shiera Hall, as well as Hawkman and Hawkgirl, to study earthly crime-fighting.

Spring 1961
Green Arrow joins the Justice League.

Summer 1961
Green Lantern first crosses swords with the evil Sinestro.

Kathy Kane’s niece Betty Kane begins her occasional outings as the original Bat-Girl.

Ralph Dibny marries his sweetheart Sue Dearborn.

Fall 1961
Ray Palmer becomes the size-changing hero called the Atom.

Late 1961
Batman and Robin must battle Matt Hagen, the second Clayface.

Early 1962
J’onn J’onzz makes his first return to Mars after being marooned on Earth six years earlier.

Spring 1962
Dr. Will Magnus unveils his team of shape-shifting robot crimefighters, the Metal Men.

Fall 1962
Atom joins the Justice League.

Early 1963
Rex Tyler marries actress Wendi Harris.

Summer 1963
Dr. Niles Caulder recruits Cliff Steele (the new Robotman), Rita Farr (Elasti-Girl), and Larry Trainor (Negative Man) to become the Doom Patrol.

Summer 1964
Robin, Kid Flash, and Aqualad join together as the Teen Titans.

Batman unveils a new state-of-the-art Batmobile.

Barry Allen gets engaged to Iris West.

Fall 1964
Kathy Kane retires as Batwoman.

Late 1964
Hawkman joins the Justice League.

Rita Farr marries Steve Dayton, but remains in the Doom Patrol.

Zatanna first casts her spell over the world’s evildoers.

Early 1965
While in Egypt, Rex Mason is transformed into Metamorpho, the Element Man.

Spring 1965
Garfield Logan becomes a junior member of the Doom Patrol known as Beast Boy.

Summer 1965
Donna Troy becomes Wonder Girl, and she and Speedy join the Teen Titans.

Dinah Drake Lance has an extramarital affair with Ted Knight.

Fall 1965
Buddy Baker becomes the super-hero Animal Man.

Late 1965
Barry Allen and Iris West are married.

Early 1966
Batman and Robin first meet the deadly villainess Poison Ivy.

Teenager Robby Reed discovers a mysterious dial that transforms him temporarily into a wide variety of super-heroes.

Spring 1966
Rick Tyler is born to Rex and Wendi Tyler.

Summer 1966
Barbara Gordon becomes the motorcycle-riding heroine Batgirl.

Fall 1966
The Flash’s wife, Iris Allen, dies.

Late 1966
Ted Kord becomes the super-hero Blue Beetle.

Early 1967
The Spectre returns to earth after more than 20 years.

After years of searching, Zatanna is reunited with her missing father, Zatara.

In Africa, Mike Maxwell becomes the super-hero B’wana Beast.

Summer 1967
Barry Allen is killed in action, and Wally West becomes the new Flash.

Fall 1967
After circus aerialist “Boston” Brand is randomly murdered, he begins a posthumous crime-fighting crusade as Deadman.

Summer 1968
TV reporter Jack Ryder begins his nocturnal adventures as the Creeper.

The android crimefighter called the Red Tornado makes his debut.

Fall 1968
The Doom Patrol are killed while on a mission to a remote island, although Beast Boy is not among them.

Early 1969
After Wonder Woman temporarily loses her powers, Steve Trevor is killed.

Spring 1969
Dinah Lance becomes the new Black Canary.

Summer 1969
Dick Grayson retires and Tim Drake succeeds him as the new Batman, joined by Stephanie Brown as the fourth Robin.

Roy Harper retires and Connor Hawke becomes the new, goateed Green Arrow.

Larry Lance is killed.

Fall 1969
The new Black Canary joins the JLA.

Early 1970
Ted Grant retires from boxing as the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world.

Spring 1970
Green Lantern and Green Arrow take to the road in search of America.

Summer 1970
Batman meets the terrifying creature called the Man-Bat.

Early 1971
The second Speedy becomes a heroin addict.

Summer 1971
Batman first matches wits with the devilish Ra’s Al Ghul.

Fall 1971
Murdered scientist Alec Holland seemingly rises from the dead as the Swamp Thing.

Spring 1972
Jenny-Lynn Hayden becomes the super-heroine Jade and her twin brother Todd Rice becomes the super-hero Obsidian. They are reunited via an empathic connection after their powers begin to manifest themselves.

Early 1973
Jessie Chambers becomes the superfast heroine Jessie Quick.

Summer 1973
A mysterious crimefighter calling herself the Black Orchid makes her debut.

Ray Terrill is born.

Early 1976
Another refugee from Krypton, Kara Zor-L, arrives on Earth and becomes the super-heroine Power Girl.

Spring 1976
Barbara Gordon is crippled by the Joker, forcing her to give up being Batgirl.

Late 1976
Tim Drake’s back is broken by Bane and he must retire as Batman.

Early 1977
High school principal Jefferson Pierce becomes the super-hero Black Lightning.

The second Speedy, now clean and sober, becomes Arsenal.

Alan Scott loses his job when the Gotham Broadcasting Company goes bankrupt.

Early 1978
Superman kills off his Clark Kent identity, rather than explain why he has not aged in 40 years.

Jay Garrick gives Alan Scott a job at his company, Keystone Labs. Soon after, Jay reveals to the world that he was the original Flash in an interview in We magazine.

High school student Ronnie Raymond and physicist Martin Stein are fused into a single being known as Firestorm, the Nuclear Man.

Summer 1978
Bruce Wayne briefly returns as Batman and kills the Joker.

Spring 1979
Guy Gardner first becomes a member of the Green Lantern Corps.

Summer 1979
Katherine Kane is murdered.

Fall 1979
Terry Sloane, the former Mr. Terrific, is murdered.

Fall 1980
Recovered from his injuries, Tim Drake returns as Batman.

Late 1980
The new Teen Titans form. Members include Cyborg, Raven, and Starfire.

Early 1981
Teenagers Chris King and Vicki Grant discover Hero Dials that transform them temporarily into a wide variety of super-heroes and super-heroines.

Summer 1981
Wonder Woman reveals her true identity to the world.

Lee Travis dies.

Late 1982
Connor Hawke retires and settles down with Dinah Lance to start a family.

Late 1984
John Stewart takes over as the new Green Lantern.

Summer 1985
The Spectre leaves Earth once again.

Early 1986
Michael Jon Carter arrives from the future and becomes the super-hero Booster Gold.

Lois Lane dies of lung cancer.

Selena Kyle dies of a sexually-transmitted disease.

Summer 1986
Having slowly gone insane, Hal Jordan dies while trying to destroy the universe.

Fall 1987
Kent and Inza Nelson both die.

Late 1987
Superman first battles Siobhan McDougal, a.k.a. the Silver Banshee.

Summer 1988
Sylvester Pemberton dies.

Spring 1989
Bruce Wayne dies. Tim Drake retires as Batman.

Summer 1989
Mary Elizabeth Kane becomes the superheroine Flamebird.

Summer 1990
Dinah Drake Lance dies of cancer.

Fall 1990
Jessie Chambers retires from her career as Jessie Quick.

Early 1992
Ray Terrill becomes the second superhero known as the Ray.

Early 1994
Kyle Rayner becomes the new Green Lantern.

Summer 1994
Bart Allen becomes the super-hero Impulse.

Johnny Thunder contracts Alzheimer’s disease.

Fall 1994
Rex Tyler dies.

Charles McNider dies.

Al Pratt dies.

Early 1996
Cassie Sandsmark becomes the new Wonder Girl.

Johnny Chambers dies.

Summer 1997
Cissie King-Jones becomes the super-heroine Arrowette.

Summer 1998
The super-hero team Young Justice is formed.

Summer 1999
Courtney Whitmore becomes the new Star-Spangled Kid.

Wesley Dodds and Dian Belmont die within weeks of each other.

Late 1999
Hal Jordan rises from the dead as the Spectre.

Late 2000
Ted Knight dies.


While a new generation of super-heroes moves into the 21st century, it is interesting to note that Superman and Wonder Woman are functionally immortal and are still going strong at the end of this chronology.


Plastic Man vs. Professor X

In 1966, DC Comics attempted to relaunch Plastic Man in his own series, a character they had acquired from defunct rival Quality Comics about ten years before. The new series was written by Arnold Drake and the first issue was illustrated by Gil Kane.



In the story, “The Dirty Devices of Dr. Dome,” Plastic Man is attacked by a mad scientist called Professor X, who is recruited by the arch-villain Dr. Dome.



Of course, in 1966, Marvel Comics already had a major character called Professor X -- Charles Xavier, leader of the X-Men. This issue of Plastic Man came out around the same time as The X-Men #27, when that series was written by Roy Thomas and drawn by Werner Roth.

One can’t help but wonder if Roy Thomas heard that DC was using a character called “Professor X” and picked up a copy of this issue to check it out. Then, looking at the first panel above, thought “Baron Blood” was actually a pretty cool name, and ultimately used it for his WWII-era vampire super-villain in The Invaders ten years later.

Stranger things have happened.

Curiously, “Lady Death” also became a real comic book character in 1991. Whether Brian Pulido was inspired by this issue of Plastic Man may never be known.

As far as I know, “Kid Catastrophe” and “Mr. Morbid” are still up for grabs.

In 1968, after 10 issues of Plastic Man, Arnold Drake left DC and took over writing The X-Men (with issue #47), although, as fate would have it, Marvel’s Professor X was “dead” throughout Drake’s run on the book. Thus, Drake was cheated out of being able to claim to have worked on both characters, which I’m sure must have grated on him throughout the rest of his life.

Perhaps in the next DC vs. Marvel Comics, the two Professors X can go head-to-head.

Arnold Drake died in 2007, although Plastic Man is still going strong.


Sunday

Random Readings 7

In “The Intentional Fallacy,” W.K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley argue against both the Romantics and I.A. Richards from their objectivist New Critical standpoint. They seek a centrist position in the discussion of the role of an artist’s intention. They state that the author’s intention is “neither available nor desirable” for the understanding or interpretation of a work of art. They go beyond the obvious case of the author being dead and say that even if you asked an author what his intentions were, he wouldn’t really know. They quote Plato, where Socrates explains his realization that poets aren’t aware of their intentions, and therefore poetry is a result of inspiration, not intention. However, the study of the author’s world is not seen as a key to his inspiration, for a researcher can get bogged down in biographical detail and be unduly influenced by it in his or her reading. This section of their argument seems to be a reaction to the developments in poetry during the first half of the twentieth century, especially the “allusiveness” of poets, the most notorious being T.S. Eliot. Wimsatt and Beardsley see that the dense network of allusion in works like The Waste Land would drive an intentionist crazy. And, as they have pointed out, asking Eliot himself would not provide reliable explanations.

Roland Barthes also attacks the critical focus on the author in his 1968 essay “The Death of the Author.” He echoes the Keatsian idea of “negative capability” when he states that writing brings a loss of identity in the creation of the “voice” of the text. It is the language that speaks, Barthes insists, not the author. He argues that focusing on the author puts a break on the writing and hinders the meaning.

On the other hand, E.D. Hirsch, Jr. argues against the “anything goes” attitude that is the end result of the focus on the reader that critics like Barthes espouse. In “Objective Interpretation,” he argues that in order for criticism to be valid, it must be based on a correct understanding of the text. Criticism, in his view, is concerned with the “relevance” of a text, whereas “meaning” is explored through interpretation. Therefore, criticism must follow interpretation. Meaning, he believes, is in the text, and it does not change over time. The meaning of Shakespeare’s plays does not change over the centuries, only the relevance changes for each era, each generation, each person. Although he strongly challenges New Criticism, Hirsch echoes Wimsatt and Beardsley when he states that “in most cases it is impossible (even for the author himself) to determine precisely what he was thinking of at the time or times he composed his text.” He also echoes Stanley Fish when he argues that a sense of the context will reduce the chance of misinterpretation. Hirsch defines context as “a sense of the whole meaning, constituted of explicit partial meaning plus a horizon of expectations and probabilities.” His reliance on expectations, probabilities, and coherence to determine validity seems rather Aristotelian as well.


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