Friday, January 16, 2015

BAB Firsts - BAB Two-In-One: Two Bad Cats and One Good Move

This post was originally published on November 11 2009

Doug: Today you can tell all of your friends (and perhaps even a foe or three) that you were in on the ground floor of our next greatest sometimes-we'll-post-this theme: the Bronze Age Babies Two-In-One! Here's the premise -- while Karen and I will keep doing the tag-team comics reviews that have become one of the star features of this blog (as well as the Two Girls... blog), we are now going to occasionally branch out into comics that we uniquely own. In other words, Karen has a book that I don't, and vice versa.

Doug: I'm actually going to begin with two books I purchased on eBay about a year ago, The Cat #'s 3 and 4 from 1973. I'll confess that I had no prior experience with this character prior to Avengers #144 when Patsy Walker finds the Cat suit and upon donning it rechristens herself the Hellcat.

Doug: One thing I did know of this short-lived series is that it didn't seem to get off the ground creatively, and I say that strictly from the standpoint that all of the villains in the title were borrowed from other heroes' rogues galleries, including the Owl, Commander Kraken, and the Man-Bull. Another issue facing this series was scattershot artistic teams. Marie Severin, Wally Wood, Jim Mooney, Paty Greer, Bill Everett (who is really solid, unlike the criticisms we had of him in the Defenders books we reviewed a few weeks ago), Jim Starlin, and Alan Weiss all had a hand in the look of this series. Inconsistent artwork and a bi-monthly publishing schedule spells cancellation? I'd add bad publicity as well -- the teaser box at the end of #3 implies a storyline that is not close to what is between the covers of #4; #4 just sort of ends, and then there's a filler story of the Linda Fite-authored Marvel Girl origin (say what??).

Doug: Issue #3 begins with a boat chase on Lake Michigan. As a native Illinoisan, I was offended by author Linda Fite's claim that after crashing, the Cat's lungs filled with "salty" water (all of the Great Lakes are fresh water -- duh!). Anyway, the Cat is involved with some mystery-men and is captured by them. The reader is treated to a recap of events of the past couple of days that brought Greer Nelson to this point. The "bad guys" are sort of weird, referring to her as a "creature". They also can't seem to figure out the purpose of her costume.

Doug: To make a long story short, Greer is taken below the waters of the lake to a base. At this point she believes these dudes to be Navy. In the midst of her investigation of the base (after regaining consciousness, natch), she stumbles upon an intruder -- the Sub-Mariner's villain Commander Kraken. Should I be scared? After all, the guy looks just like Captain Hook, for crying out loud! A big fight ensues, the Cat and her "Navy" boys win, the Cat's sent back up to shore, and then the base blasts through the surface of the lake, revealing that it is an alien space ship. Yeah, I know -- I couldn't have made that up.

Doug: And if that wasn't dorky enough, I then start reading #4. The art this time around is by Jim Starlin and Alan Weiss -- this certainly ain't the Starlin we'd come to know in Captain Marvel! Also, I don't know much about Linda Fite other than she was married to Herb Trimpe at one time and is now a newspaper reporter. I would argue that she certainly didn't know much about Chicago back in the day, as she not only made the gaffe about the lake, but also sets this story in the Union Stockyards. Problem -- this issue is cover-dated June 1973; the Stockyards closed in 1971.

Doug: Because I can't hardly stand to belabor the point, Greer and a female pal encounter a heavy who turns out to be the Man-Bull. He's a big dope whether Man or Bull, and what's even more ridiculous is the fact that he's shown controlling a herd of cattle. Sort of like an orchestrated running of the bulls. Oh, lord, I could stick a fork in my eye... If you can avoid these books, do.

Karen: Well, I think I had better luck with my selection for our inaugural post. The issue I chose was Justice League of America #141, from 1976. I've always been a Marvel reader first and foremost, but I did (and still do) read DC as well. But back in the 70s, most of my DC interest was confined to the Legion of Super-Heroes, although I really wanted to like the Justice League. Like many kids, I knew who all the members of the League were, primarily from watching cartoons rather than reading comics. I had read some JLAs that my uncle had, which were from the mid-60s, but they just didn't grab me. The major problem for me was that the JLA seemed so bland. I was used to reading teams like the Fantastic Four or the Avengers. These were folks who worked together, and yet, they were all as different as could be. You could hide the pictures and just read the dialogue out of an issue of the FF, for example, and it would be pretty easy to tell who was who based solely on their speech patterns. But the JLA books I read featured characters that were practically interchangeable, at least personality-wise.

Karen: I would pick up an issue of JLA every once in awhile, just to check out the team, but was usually much more interested in The Avengers, FF, even the Defenders. But in 1976, the JLA experienced a change that brought me on board as a regular reader. It wasn't the addition of new members that did it - it was the addition of a new writer; a writer who was, in fact, one of my Marvel favorites: Steve Englehart.

Karen: As the story goes, when Gerry Conway ever so briefly took over the editor in chief reins at Marvel, he announced that he would be writing Avengers from now on. Englehart had been on the book for four years and was doing a great job. With Conway resolute, Englehart felt wronged, and offered his services to DC. New publisher Jenette Kahn asked him to take Justice League and make it more, well, Marvel-like. And that's just what Steve did. Under his brief guidance, the JLA developed realistic personalities and voices. They didn't all get along, and they didn't all sound the same!

Karen: His first story actually appeared as the second story in issue 139. But today I'm going to review issue 141, which is the second part of a fantastic Green Lantern-Manhunter story. Actually, if you're a fan of the animated Justice League, you'll recall the plot, since they used it in one of their episodes! The Green Lantern (Hal Jordan here) is being hunted by the Manhunters, intergalactic bounty hunters. It is believed -even by GL at first - that he accidentally destroyed an inhabited planet. The League tries to figure out what's going on and prove GL's innocence.

Karen: This is a long story - DC was doing JLA in 'giant' format - but it moves really well. The art by Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin is very pleasant, although not spectacular. However, I would have loved to have seen artists of their ability on Englehart's Avengers run. The JLA face battles on Earth and in space, and it is all crisply portrayed.

Karen: Englehart's trademark skill with developing relationships is in evidence here. We have a Wonder Woman who has only recently regained her powers, and who feels somewhat insecure, hence her picking on Flash, who seems somewhat uneasy with the Amazon princess. The Atom begins to voice self-doubt. As Englehart's run would go on we would get more insight into some of the other Leaguers (as well as the sort-of cross-over of his Avengers' creation, Mantis...but that's a subject for a later review).

Karen: This issue added to the Green Lantern Corps mythology and also did a good job showcasing the various members and their powers. Batman once again proves that his deductive reasoning is practically a super-power in itself. This was a fun read and I'd especially recommend it to any fans who always found the 70s and earlier JLA boring.

Karen: I can't help but wonder, though, what the regular DC readers thought of Englehart bringing in his 'Marvel style'. Were they offended? By 1976, with so many writers and artists starting to move between companies, did it matter?


Anonymous said...

I was a regular JLA reader in the 70's. I'd been a hardcore follower since 1973. I also scoured for back issues in comic shops back then. Inevitably, I's wind up buying the post-Fox issues written by O'Neil, Friedrich, and Wein. They were cheaper, and each of those writers tried to put more characterization in than the last. Having said that, I for one was very enthusiastic about Englehart's JLA run at the time. Especially as it came after Gerry Conway's lackluster run. This hardcore JLA fan thought that Englehart made a good comic even better. Kin of like what he did with Detective, Capt. America, and the Avengers.

James Chatterton

Darci said...

The story that was promised at the end of The Cat (The Cat -- Spawn of the Devil? So cries -- the Witch!) was written by Linda Fite and at least partially drawn by Ramona Fradon. Trina Robbins' "The Great Women Superheroes" (Kitchen Sink Press, 1996) includes a glimpse of what might have been.

Instead, issue #4 was filled with the Man-Bull story and Marvel Girl reprint at the last minute. There's an untold story there, which perhaps someone could get Linda Fite or Roy Thomas to tell, about what went wrong.

dbutler16 said...

Doug, those Cat comics don’t look that great (though I’ve been interested in checking out The Cat after reading through my old Defenders, and I’m generally a sucker for Bronze Age comics in general) but the Man-Bull commanding bulls certainly sounds like a nadir – not that Aquaman commanding flying fish to attack is much better.

Karen, you picked a great issue to go with. I’ve just read through almost all of that JLA series, and Englehart was my favorite JLA writer. I was saddened when I finished his issues. This Manhunter saga is one that stuck in my memory from the last time I read my JLA’s about six years ago.

The Prowler said...

Doug, Groovy has the first issue of The Cat over at his site. IIRC, it was one of three different books that tried to introduce comics with female leads. Groovy lists them as The Cat, Shanna the She Devil and Night Nurse. Night Nurse's name? Linda Carter!!! I wonder who they could have gotten to play her in the movie version?

Karen, I remember when the AL and the NL only met in the All Star game and the World Series. The AFL and the NFL only played during the Supeeeer.... Big Game. A kid could read both Marvel and DC but the people at one company never went to the other, or so we thought.

(Blue Blaze Irregular, Pinky Carruthers. Sorry, John, everybody "need see Buckaroo". Later).

Doug said...

Prowler --

You can read our review of The Cat #1 here.

Mediocre comic. Should have been a winner, though!


Edo Bosnar said...

Yeah, like I said in the comments to the review of Cat #1 that Doug linked, I really think it's too bad that the Cat never took off - I've always liked Greer Nelson, and I'm also miffed at the poor treatment Tigra got later.

Prowler, re: casting for the lead in the Linda Carter, Night Nurse movie. Cathy Lee Crosby? ;)

J.A. Morris said...

My introduction to Greer Nelson was Spidey Super Stories #12, nice Romita cover:

Garett said...

I liked reading JLA starting with the Len Wein issues (#100) up till the end of Dick Dillin's run (#183). Some good ones that come to mind were the Freedom Fighters in 107-08, the Sandman and Sandy story in 113, the Blackhawks and others guest-starring in 144, the JSA teamup in 147-48 vs. Mordru, Zatanna joining in her new costume in 161, The Secret Society of Super Villains in 166-68, and Firestorm joining in 179-80. I'm getting help remembering issue #s with this site for browsing covers:
Great cover by Jim Starlin on #183 with the New Gods, Dillin's last issue. Of course there was also the short but sweet run by Perez after Dillin. I didn't read every issue between 100-183, and I don't know if I've read all the Englehart stories, but I liked JLA with or without Englehart.

The Prowler said...

"Mal Donelbain"? I know "Mal" means bad but what does "Donelbain" mean? I guess all we need is issue 2 and the run is complete!

Edo, great call on TV's first Wonder Woman, Cathy Lee Crosby! I guess there would also be the obligatory shower scene. John Davidson would have to play Mal.

(There is Another Sky Walker).

Darci said...

"Mal Donalbain" derives from the two characters in Macbeth, Malcolm and Donalbain. Donalbain translates as "Donald the Fair" or "Donald the White".
Hope this helps!

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