Monday, April 26, 2010

...and Black Canary Makes Three

Green Lantern #78 (July 1970)
"A Kind of Loving, a Way of Death!"
Denny O'Neil-Neal Adams/Frank Giacoia

Doug: We're back for another look in this, the third installment in the O'Neil/Adams series of Green Lantern/Green Arrow adventures. This issue picks up in the Pacific northwest, which I suppose serves to answer my question raised in issue #77 -- where the heck were our heroes when they had the battle with the miners? I'll guess, given their locale here, that they must have been in the American southwest.

Doug: Black Canary debuts in this run, and right on the splash page. She's cycling in Washington and is encountered by some thugs who could be refugees from Deliverance. They want to steal her motorcycle... they have no idea who she is, even though she's in costume. So that's weird. Even weirder is scribe O'Neil's authoring of the following line, written during the skirmish: "She mastered the ancient arts of Judo and Jui-Jitsu -- mastered them as perhaps no other mortal ever has!" Excuse me, but didn't O'Neil write Batman before this?? Anyway, Canary makes pretty short work of the thugs, until one of them mounts a bike and runs her down. She's left in the road for dead. As the Demons gang speeds away, however, a mysterious figure clad in a buckskin jacket lifts the battered heroine...

Karen: Those bikers reminded me of those old American International biker flicks that came out in the late 60s/early 70s. I could just see Big Bill Smith as one of the bikers! I too was taken aback by the idea that Canary was such a martial arts master -I thought she was merely good until many years later, around the time of Birds of Prey. But a little hyperbole is to be expected I suppose.

Doug: We cut away to find Hal, Ollie, and their Guardian pal as they clunk along in their pick-up, two weeks after the events that began this tale. They pull into an Indian reservation in search of some food and are treated to a lovely plate of... beans. Their dining is disturbed by the entrance of the same group of thugs who'd beaten Black Canary. They start making trouble, Hal and Ollie slip out the back only to return in butt-kicking garb, and wipe up the place. They notice that one of the punks is riding Dinah's bike, so Ollie interrogates him, his way.

Karen: I thought it was really goofy that the guys step outside to change into their costumes, while the poor dude running the cafe is getting hammered by those bikers! I also thought the scene where Ollie lays into the thug, and then is restrained by Hal, was reminiscent of the work Adams did on Avengers 96, when the Vision goes bananas beating on a Skrull who had kidnapped Wanda, and was held back by his team-mates.

Doug: And then, and then... Denny O'Neil slaps us upside the head with another sermon, this time on the way the white man ripped off the Indians over the years. Now, I'd be the first to agree -- seriously, not a single argument coming from me on the basic premise. But man -- I don't know how readers back in the day could take this sudden turn of writing style. I'm gonna wager that ol' John Broome wasn't penning any of this in-your-face social injustice.

Karen: Well, this particular sermon didn't go on too long, at least. But hey -wasn't that the whole point of this series?

Doug: GL and GA track Black Canary as best they can, and as fate would have it they find her right away. Trouble is, seems she's fallen in with some cat named Joshua, who heads a messianic cult! Ollie attempts to reason with Dinah (still in costume, by the way), to no avail. So he plants a big smooch on her, but she pulls back. Hal encourages Ollie to leave for now, but as they exit, Dinah seems to battle memories apparently repressed through Joshua's brainwashing. Later, Hal and Ollie discuss what's happened, argue, and Ollie stalks off. He hears gunshots in the forest and tears off to find Dinah and the rest of the cult at target practice. Joshua urges them on, exclaiming that since the different races cannot get along, it will be the cult's responsibility to bring peace to the land -- starting with an attack on the Indians.

Karen: I thought the page where we see Canary's memories presented as scenes over a sort of outline of her face was one of Adams' weaker attempts in this method. I think he had done similar work in both Avengers and X-men, if I'm not mistaken. This one just looks sort of weird.

Doug: As GA shoots a flare arrow to alert GL, the light in the sky draws the attention of Joshua, who implores his charges to fire at GA's silhouette. Ollie is grazed, and the mob descends upon him. GL arrives in the proverbial nick of time to push back the mob. Joshua and Dinah flee into the forest and come across the unconscious Green Arrow. Dinah still carries a gun, and Joshua commands her to fire it at GA. Green Lantern arrives (again), but chooses to watch, in effect wagering Oliver's life against Dinah's ability to resist Joshua. His gamble pays off, as Dinah drops the gun. Joshua picks it up, and GL takes him down. As he falls, though, the gun goes off, fatally wounding Joshua. As Black Canary comes out of her funk, she and Ollie rationalize what happened. The conclusion is that although hypnotized, there must have been some latent hatred in her mental weakness that allowed Joshua an "in" to her soul.

Karen: Oh brother. Seriously, this is a weak story. Who is Joshua? Where does he come from? How does he control people? All we know is he's a nut who hates anyone who isn't white. This isn't a complete story, it's an excuse to go off on racism and "white man's guilt". All that would've been fine if it felt like there was a solid story behind it, but without that, it's just a bunch of speeches tossed at us with pretty art. I don't know about you Doug, but I'm beginning to really question the reputation that has built up around these stories over the years.
I know they were ground-breaking for the time, but it's less the subject matter than the actual stories themselves that I'm questioning.

Doug: You don't know about me? And here I thought my disdain was shining like a beacon! Yeah, I know -- is it perhaps the fact that this is a DC? Even though there's the thread of "searching for the good in America" running through this series, the done-in-one format isn't lending itself to believable storytelling. Marvel's penchant for longer stories with developing subplots (granted, more of a 1970's vehicle than the late 1960's) seemed much better-suited for telling stories with subject matter like this.


Steve Pick said...

Just for the record, if you were reading these when you were 11 years old at the time, those speeches helped to ground you in values you may otherwise never have learned. My basic liberal chops were forged from reading Denny O'Neil and Steve Skeates and later Steve Gerber. Now, I don't think these hold up as stories either, but at a time when this sort of thing was simply outside the mainstream of conventional values, it was pretty damn groundbreaking.

Doug said...

Steve --

So were you 11 when this came out?

See, I was only 4, so have no "first hand" knowledge of these stories. I wish I did. And maybe it's because Karen and I are reading these books in quick succession -- even 4-8 weeks apart would temper them somewhat. And yes, I can see where the authors you cite would certainly give you liberal leanings :) !

Again, my biggest complaint about this run is that the stories are done-in-ones. O'Neil's delivery really suffers in the "believable dept." from those constraints. Had he the same space (14 issues or whatever this was) but was allowed to develop some subplots, it would all have flowed much better.

Anyway, thanks for the comment, and come back again!



Edo Bosnar said...

I agree with Steve; although I was waaay too young to have read these GL/GAs, I had a similar experience with McGregor's Black Panther stories in Jungle Action (I was too young to have picked up those off the rack, too, but when I was about 12 I snagged a stack of them real cheap from a used comics dealer). I know McGregor is generally criticized for his wordy, overwrought style, but at the tender age of 12 those Panther stories dealing with racism, etc. really resonated. And most importantly, they eventually pushed me to do some reading outside of comics to get a better understanding of the issues involved. I'm sure O'Neil's GL stories had the same effect for earlier generations of fans.

Karen said...

Steve, Edo -

First, thank you for your well-articulated comments. I do agree that these issues ARE important for the ideas that they put forth. Certainly DC had not published anything like them before and I respect what they were trying to do. I understand how stories can shape people -I always say that after my parents,the biggest influences on my young mind were Marvel Comics and Star Trek. And those were good influences! They reinforced the things my parents taught me, about respecting others, and 'doing the right thing'.

I'm sure the GL/GA stories had a a similar impact on some readers. I think the goal, of trying to open some minds, was a worthwhile one. My real problem with the stories is in the execution. I've read through both volumes now, which I believe is all the stories, and many of the issues feel incomplete. Maybe as Doug says they needed to do multi-part stories. In any case, I applaud the effort, if not always the results.


Doug said...

For your voting pleasure, Karen's added a topical poll to the left.

But I have to ask myself: What? No love for G'Nort??

Man, I loved the Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire Justice League in the late 1980's!!


MommaFrog said...

Ok I have googled this countless times and I cant find an answer, maybe you know. In what issue of ehat comic did Hal Jordan and Dinah kiss??? Ive seen the picture and I want the issue so bad I can taste it!!! Im only 22 and I have so little knowledge of the classics.... And before yiu ask I want it as a wedding gift for my fiance hes a HUGE Hal fan and I adore Dinah...

Matt Celis said...

That would be JLA 167 or 168 and it was GL's body possessed by Prof. Zoom aka Reverse Flash so not really Hal and Dinah.

Anonymous said...

This story came out in the same month as the film "Joe" was released the month after Kent State it should be noted. July 1970 was not a good month to be a Hippy. "Joe" has an obviously parallel plot about a couple of vigilantes tracking down a brainwashed woman to a cult of long haired freaks for a violent confrontation with the counter-culture Charlie Manson on the cover of Rolling Stone had become the poster boy for. The Hippies in "Joe" are basically apolitical sex and drug addicts without any sort of super-villain master plan like Joshua-Manson's idea of starting a race war to kill off everybody but them and replacing Green Arrow as the preachy violent vigilante Joe ends up murdering all the hippies in a mass shooting a large part of the audience was cheering for much like opinion polls of the time reported lots of supporters for the Kent State shootings. As the massive celebrity drug overdoses and global AIDS epidemic later in the decade confirm, along with the People's Temple mass suicide and the Communist Killing Fields exceeding the body count for both sides during the entire Vietnam War, there were some legitimate reasons for the Silent Majority's issues with the Counter Culture...even among Civil Rights supporters like Queen and Jordan and Denny O'Neill. The problem I have with Denny's self-righteous sermons as somebody who actually spent a couple years living in a New Age Hippy Cult after I got out of the Army in the 1970's is that guilt trips are inherently dysfunctional. In
real life nobody has all the answers and we all have to learn from experience what works best for us and what doesn't and adapt to new situations. We don't need scapegoats to blame when a plan doesn't work out like we wanted it to. Instead of wasting time looking for somebody to blame we need to focus on learning from problems we run into how to deal with them better the next time we run into a similar problem like our body learns how to fix or prevent damages.

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