Monday, February 3, 2014

"Only there's skins you never bothered with." Green Lantern 87

Green Lantern #87 (December/January 1971)(cover by Neal Adams)
"Beware My Power"
Dennis O'Neil-Neal Adams/Dick Giordano

Doug:  Welcome to our first post-vacation comic review.  In the United States, February has been designated "Black History Month" -- it was first officially recognized by the federal government during our bicentennial year of 1976.  The observance is also celebrated in the UK and Canada.  Karen and I have never done anything specific on our blog to bring notice to this, but during our time away we had conversation about it and decided to make 2014 a bit different.  With this in mind, we're going to review today's fare -- the introduction of the Green Lantern perhaps most recognized by novice superhero fans of today, John Stewart.  We're going to follow it with Fantastic Four #119, an anti-apartheid story featuring the Black Panther.  After that, we'll get away from our usual trend of arcs contained with a calendar month and begin a long stretch of the "Secret Empire" storyline from Captain America.  Throughout these reviews, we'll do our best to not only provide the sort of commentary you've grown accustomed to but also hopefully shine a spotlight on the treatment of Black characters in these stories.  The new Green Lantern, T'Challa, the Falcon and Leila -- should be enlightening and hopefully a lot of fun.

Karen: Although comics have become far more inclusive of African Americans and characters of other ethnic backgrounds over the years, it's rather sobering to realize that there's still not a major Black super-hero at the big two headlining their own title. Characters like John Stewart and the Panther, and Luke Cage, the Falcon, Storm, Cyborg, and others have become regular fixtures in titles but none have moved into that upper echelon of popularity. But then, how many characters born after the initial wave of creation at either company have gone on to become big hits? I'm pleased to see more diverse faces in books over the years, but when it comes down to it, the big names are still mostly white guys.

Doug:  When last we visited the groundbreaking Green Lantern/Green Arrow series, Karen and I were left underwhelmed by the heavy-handed liberalism and compact storytelling of Dennis O'Neil.  While the visuals provided by Neal Adams and Dick Giordano provided a saving grace to the four issues we reviewed, the stories themselves seemed to wear on us.  I found myself not necessarily disagreeing with O'Neil's passion for social issues, but the large club he seemed to wield proved most unsavory as a means of delivery.  But today's story is significant as mentioned above, and certainly merits our notice.  Let's have a look.

Doug:  We open with a look-in on Hal Jordan, in full GL costume and charging his power ring.  Suddenly he's aware of an earthquake.  Quickly he exits the room to get outside, but by the time he does the tremor has subsided.  He does a survey of his surroundings and realizes the damage is slight.  That is, until he reaches the outskirts of the city.  There, a long bridge over a deep chasm has disintegrated, leaving a school bus and its passengers precariously perched on the edge of oblivion.  As Green Lantern lands, the children explain that they were on a field trip when the quake hit.  One of their classmates is at the edge of what's left of the road and their teacher, Mr. Gardner, is trying to help her back to safety.  As GL looks up, the school bus moves forward and strikes Gardner squarely in the back.  As Gardner and the young girl vault over the precipice, the green energy of Jordan's ring encircles them and brings them back to solid earth.  Hal recognizes "Mr. Gardner" as Guy Gardner, once named the alternate Green Lantern of Earth.  Gardner (this one's a faaaaaaaar cry from the Guy we knew and loved/hated during the Bwhahahaha Justice League days) tells Hal that he's pretty beat up and will need some time to heal and rehabilitate.   As Jordan walks away he muses to himself that he'd been very comfortable knowing that he had a back-up should the need ever arise.  Now he's not so sure.

Karen: OK, I have to get this out of my system, as someone who was born and raised in California and lived there most of my life: any earthquake that buckles walls, makes a big crack in the street and causes a car to flip over isn't "slight"! I had to read that twice. There was no reason for him to have Green Lantern saying that. It goes at odds with the pictures and it's just plain wrong. I was also kind of surprised Gardner was still conscious and talking after getting pulverized, but I'll let that one go. 

Doug:  So while Hal debates his future without a "first runner-up", the Guardians appear to him and tell him that he must have that alternate, and they know just who that someone will be.  Jordan wonders who, so scribe Denny O'Neil is going to show us.  We scene-shift to an "urban ghetto" where some Black youths sit against a store front playing dominoes.  The police want them to move, using the excuse that the young men have no "games permit".  Suddenly another gent in his 20s comes up and tells the police that these youngsters have done nothing wrong.  This new guy stands up to the police, albeit in a very smart-alleck way.  The cops are ticked, and our guy challenges them, saying they aren't man enough to give him trouble.  O'Neil does strike a chord with this bit of temporally-embedded dialogue:

"Blast 'em... They got no respect!"
"Fred, respect has to be earned!  The way you acted, you didn't earn a nickel's worth!"

This almost sounds like dialogue from In the Heat of the Night or some such period film.  That Denny O'Neil strikes the "us vs. them" antagonism seems perfect for the urban mood found in northern cities in 1971.  These were the days of busing of school children, newly-segregated schools, and racially-based fighting.  But then part of me wants to know -- why'd he go with the easy stereotype of the slick-talking, anti-establishment Black man?  Why not throw us for a loop and choose a smooth Sidney Poitier-type?

Karen: After reading the whole story, I would just venture a guess that O'Neil probably hadn't spent a whole lot of time around young African American men. John Stewart is a strange amalgam of traits to be sure.

Doug:  GL watches the scene from a rooftop, with the astral projection of one of the Guardians, and asks if this is really the guy they want to recruit.  Jordan is assured that he is, in spite of his "petty bigotries".  I remarked to Karen in an email as we were preparing this that I wonder if there's ever been another comic book where the star of the mag plays straight man to everyone else -- it seems Hal Jordan always has a lesson to learn and usually learns it by being put firmly in his place.  So we cut moments ahead to a candy store, where GL (in full costume) is sitting down with our new protagonist and enjoying a milk shake.  Yup -- full costume, milk shake... you read that right.  We learn that our prospective Green Lantern is an unemployed architect named John Stewart -- "Square John" to his friends.  Shortly, the two men are on a rooftop where Hal begins his protege's instruction.

Karen: Yes, getting back to our off-line conversation, one of the things that really bothered me about the GL/GA stories was the fact that GL was constantly being taught some lesson -the poor guy was always made out to be a tool. It was just so heavy-handed. Whether I agreed with O'Neil's political leanings all the time or not, it just grew more grating over time. Back to our story now -they meet in a candy shop? What? Couldn't two grown men like this at least have coffee?

Doug:  Hal uses his ring to encompass Stewart's body in the full garb of the Green Lantern Corps.  Stewart remarks that these aren't exactly threads like James Brown would wear, and then declares that he will not wear a mask.  John Stewart is a Black man who "lets it all hang out!  I've got nothing to hide!"  Jordan's again left standing, and bewildered.  The next lesson is on flight, which Stewart quickly masters; he remarks that flying is much easier than staying ahead of the muggers on the way back to his apartment after dark.  And here's where I think I grow tired of O'Neil's writing.  His soap boxing is a constant drum beat.  I don't care if we're reading this as 40-year old history or if we were readers fully in the moment.  The Black/white social dichotomy was no secret and had not been for quite some time.  Is this a socially-aware story?  Yes, sure it is.  But why couldn't it just stand on those merits?  Everything seems to become cliche', and delivered with a hammer blow.  My take, I suppose.

Karen: Well, you already know how I feel about it!  I try to figure out how this went over back when it first came out, but I can't help but think it would be perceived largely the same way -John Stewart is a caricature, but an oddly uneven one.

Doug:  Our heroes arrive to the airport as a large crowd has gathered adjacent to the tarmac to welcome a particular plane.  But suddenly, a fuel truck hits an oil slick and careens out of control.  Stewart actually gives the order for the dual maneuver that will save everyone and Jordan responds.  As Hal spirits the spectators away, Stewart uses his own imagination to craft a shape that will right the tipping, sliding truck.  But as he does, oil spurts from the rig, some landing on Senator Jeremiah Clutcher, the man the crowd had come to see.  Clutcher's face is covered in the crude and Stewart flies right up to him and makes a racist comment himself.  Moments later, Hal gives John Stewart a stern chewing-out.  Stewart responds angrily, saying the Clutcher is a racist who wants to be President; he calls Hal "whitey" during the argument.  Incensed, Hal reminds Stewart who the teacher is and assigns the novice Green Lantern to guard Senator Clutcher.

Karen: One thing I notice with these O'Neil GL/GA stories is I always feel like they're more sketches of stories -like they're missing text or something. We get no introduction to the senator, the Lanterns are just suddenly there and blammo. I guess I'm used to reading longer-winded Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway stories from that time period.

Doug:  I'm not going to give O'Neil and Adams a pass, but for whatever reason Green Lantern and Green Arrow do not appear together in this book -- rather, there are two separate stories (Black Canary is also in the GA story).  So O'Neil was dealing with smaller page counts for his stories.  Still, we've certainly reviewed our fair share of short stories through the years -- make it work.

Karen: Another interesting thing here is how Jordan stresses to Stewart that he's not there to make judgments on people. Understandable to a degree, but don't superheroes tend to put themselves in that position by default? 

Doug:  Later, Clutcher makes a speech filled with racist epithets and innuendo. The Green Lanterns stand nearby listening, both men disturbed by what they hear.  Suddenly a Black man emerges on the left side of the stage and fires a shot at the Senator.  Hal leaps to action, but Stewart says he's leaving!  Hal catches the shooter and lays him out.  Stewart, on the other hand, finds a white man in the parking lot with a machine gun set on a cop.  Stewart rescues the cop, subdues the gunman, and is reunited with Jordan.  Hal again lights into Stewart and calls him a disgrace.  Stewart tells Jordan to get his hands off and follow him to the police station.  There John Stewart explains details he'd seen earlier in the day that led him to believe the attempted assassination was a frame-up; he tells Jordan to empty the confiscated revolver.  Blanks.  The machine gun handler, on the other hand, was the real shooter and the set-up was to make it look like Clutcher was attacked by Blacks but would end up a hero in the end.  This was Clutcher's plan to generate positive propaganda for himself, all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Jordan again looks like a dope.

Karen: Stewart's explanation still seems a bit weak. In fact, the whole thing is like a wisp of a plot.

Doug:  In the last panel epilogue, Jordan tells Stewart that he doesn't like his style.  Stewart counters by telling Jordan that style isn't important... any more than is color.  And I could agree with that sentiment.  As this story sits firmly in the Bronze Age, the days of whitebread hero personifications such as the Silver Age DC male heroes were largely a memory.  So while I may have been initially put off by Stewart's flip and even disrespectful attitude throughout this story, I have to keep reminding myself that when this came out the times they were a'changing.  It's just that when Denny O'Neil went for anti-establishment characterization, he fed it to us with a very large shovel.

Karen: I feel like O'Neil wanted to create a Black hero who would be a titillating "angry young Black man" type but not too 'scary' for DC's mostly white readers.  Because of this, he comes off as an unconvincing character, kind of a jerk really, and Hal comes off as a dope, as you say. It's an inauspicious beginning for DC's first Black costumed hero.

Doug:  I agree, and I'm left wondering -- would I buy a comic featuring either of these characters?  The established superhero who never seems to star in his own magazine, and the angry black man with a power ring.  Hmph.


Fred W. Hill said...

Seems at this point DC is having to play catchup with Marvel which already had the Black Panther and the Falcon, as well as Robbie Robertson, all as regularly appearing black characters in their comics and now comes John Stewart as a 2nd back up Green Lantern. These O'Neil/Adams stories really come off as morality plays, with Stewart filling in Green Arrow's role this issue. Hal & John both come off as rather irritating and not quite full characters. Great art but problematic story. Oh, and as a former Californian who'd been through quite a few earthquakes too, I concur with your comments on that scene, Karen!

Edo Bosnar said...

Another former Californian here confirming what Karen and Fred said: any quake that causes a big chunk of a bridge to fall into a chasm may be many things, but "slight" is not one of them.

Otherwise, nice review Karen and Doug. I've only read a few of the O'Neil/Adams GL/GA stories, and while O'Neil's writing in them reflects most of the criticisms both of you made here, they were at least readable. This one, based on the pages you posted, seems quite over the top. Also, I can't believe he had John Stewart make that cotton picking comment...

Humanbelly said...

Y'know, I grew up in a very racially-mixed (well, black folks & white folks, as we said-- nary another ethnic type to be found) tiny little town in the SW corner of Michigan, exactly during this time period. NO ONE talked like John does, here. Not even the kids who were transplanted from Chicago (Well, Sam Harlan, maybe-- but only 'cause he was a hilarious cut-up, and used it as schtick). That picking-cotton line is flat-out offensive, even in the context of that moment in the story. But, OMG, the cover is what put my guard up right off the bat. First, it has absolutely NOTHING to do with story whatsoever! While there's plenty of precedent for that in comics, this one is simply egregious in trying to score every sensationalistic point that it can. Second-- Really? They're going to put a snarling black man on the cover, with the word "Whipped" being the most prominent thing emphasized in the word baloon??

Even as a youngster, this kind of racial depiction (also perpetrated to a somewhat milder degree by the likes of Dragnet and Adam-12. . . and later Emergency) drove me nuts. I always wondered if the writers actually had any black friends or co-workers at all. My guess is almost certainly not.

Of course, that may be one of the few advantages of growing up in a small, economically-declining little town. EVERYBODY's kind of in the same social boat, as it were. Heh-- all sinking together. . .


david_b said...

One of my all-time fav GL/GA covers, I have it hanging up in my cube at work half the time (I replace a few framed ones every so often depending on mood..).

Again as noted, 1971 was a time when few black actors had TV starring roles, Sidney Poitier was still a hot star, black is still beautiful, and blaxpoitation had yet to really hit the big screen by storm so I'm glad this ish is being featured.

Here you have the expected awesome art by Adams, heavy-handed tale by O'Neil. A big problem with O'Neil's approach is that he'll address the 'self-indulgent' hot-topics of the day for shock value (and a dandy cover), but his weakness is that he never really explores them or provides any stories that transend past the initial idea, or lifts a potentially good character out of the story's muck.

Yes you have a black man being brought into a superhero role.. How does he change..? How does he see life differently now as a GL..? Granted it might be too much for a single issue, this would have best been served perhaps as a two-parter.

As for O'Neil's 'excesses' with the hateful, silly urban dialog, is he playing to (well, preaching to) teens or kids who normally wouldn't watch movies like 'Heat of the Night' hence he can throw this dialog out and make folks believe real folks actually talked like this..? It's almost as bad as a Haney story waking up some morning in a REALLY dark mood.

Essentially John comes off as a pre-'80s Guy Gardner, totally 2-dimensional. But as Fred mentioned, the worst part of the story is how Hal's character essentially has to take a fall in this story to tell it. As in most of O'Neil's other GL/GA stories, GL typically comes off the worst in order for more liberal GA to spout the best lines or to convey the point of the issue; well, O'Neil's point at the cost of an otherwise exciting story.

"A good mix of liberal and conservative viewpoints..?" Yeah, right.

All in all, I do find this story lifted up above what became standard O'Neil/Adams fare at the time due to the introduction of John Stewart.

Take that away and you have a pretty yet forgettable, silly sermon.

Mike said...

I agree with most that's been said up to this point, so I won't repeat it. You know, I recently read all the GL/GA O'Neil/Adams stories and they all came across to me as rather dated -- which is ok from a historical perspective. However, John Stewart is easily my favorite Green Lantern mainly because of how he was developed in the Justice League cartoons. They made him a tough and relentless leader with strong moral character and a code of honor - exactly the type of person who should wear the ring.

Interestingly, this is weird but believe it or not I was just discussing John Stewart in a comic store this weekend. A friend working there told me this story: Someone he knew was recently with a guy in his late teens/early 20's, and the younger guy was shown a comic of Hal Jordan. This younger guy said "hey, wait a minute, the Green Lantern is white now?!?!!?" Apparently, all this kid ever saw of GL is the Justice League cartoon with Stewart as GL. Times, they are a changin'.

Doc Savage said...

Denny O'Neil's liberal soapbox relies on conservative strawmen who always turn out to have been evil, racist, greedy, bigoted, soulless, etc., all along. It's the same in every issue of GL/GA he ever wrote. And worse(?) still, he has to turn GL into a moron who is totall out of character to make things play out the way he wants them to. This is just bad writing all around. I have never understood the praise these stories receive. Stan Lee did it well before and with more subtlety,and we all know subtlety and Stan Lee are not always synonymous. These GL/GA stories read like a classic white liberal patting himself on the back for being right-thinking.

david_b said...

Just pontificating here, it's funny that the righteous 'gritty realism' O'Neil uses essentially defeats itself in the end, as do most liberal views (where, trust me, I'll end THAT discussion from going any further here..).

Folks for decades complained Dozer took the 'Batman concept' and turned it into a phenominally successful TV show, at the questionable cost of the comic character's overall legitimacy and legacy.

At the OTHER, DARK END of the spectrum.., doesn't O'Neil take his liberal brow-beating agenda to a another struggling DC title, and frankly do the same with GL..?

Result..? Cancellation.

david_b said...

Matt, I'm not sure it's subtly done by Lee at Marvel per se.

Quite contrary to the permeating Silver Age 'Protecting our Heroes' mantra at DC, I believe Lee did a better job at focusing on the characters, having them rise ABOVE these situations, almost as if racial overtones or drug problems were literally beneath them, until you get a Panther story like in FF 119, Harry in ASM or later Tony and alcholism.

They didn't pander to fads, like WW going mod or Titans shedding their outfits ala 'Mod Squad' to enhance relevance and readership ~ Marvel just created new heroes for the urban set, like Luke Cage. But when I think of Luke Cage, I think of empowerment over adversity, not pity parties.

Sure, Lee had imperfect characters with plenty of woes but their angst was typically from 'within', not from prevailing external societal conflict. They never strayed from being 'heroic'. Lee actually insured his Bullpen loved and respected their characters as much as he thought readers did.

Imagine if the Avengers or FF went urban or MOD..? Jeez.

(Ok ok, Johnny's red suit and Medusa purple pirate boots DON'T count..)

Doc Savage said...

Honestly, these comics are like clumsy after-school specials. They feel like O'Neil just discovered an issue and thought no one else knew about it.

mr. oyola said...

While these are some problematic issues/stories that I could go on and on about in regards to its assumptions and characterizations, I do try to keep in mind that these comics were meant for kids, so for me that mitigates some (not all, but some) of the after-school special corniness of it.

I love John Stewart and to me he IS Green Lantern. I love things like his refusal to wear a mask, though despite what he claims, I think it from the perspective of a black man in a mask has a different connotation. He doesn't want to hide who he is - I get it.

Those classic panels from GL #76 where the elderly black man accuses GL of not caring about his people is probably THE most analyzed set of panels in all of comic studies - to the point of being tired of seeing them, but knowing any book or article that is either a general overview of comics analysis/history or specifically about race in comics is going to at least mention it, but more likely include a reproduction of the panels themselves. Regardless of how corny or uneven it may be, it was an important series and direction for DC comics and for superhero comics in general.

What I like about John Stewart is that when he is written right (from my perspective) he is challenging the very notion of what a superhero should do and undermining the implicit support of the status quo in our society that superheroes represent.

I have not gotten to talk about John Stewart on my blog, but I have written about Black Goliath, Black Lightning and Monica Rambeau & James "Rhodey" Rhodes to varying degrees if you are interested in reading some of my specific takes on black superheroes in comics. I also have some more general posts.

Garett said...

Great art! Dynamic, interesting perspectives, the faces, anatomy...and I love how it's sharp and yet relaxed. Adams' later art feels forced or tense, and much of today's realistic art looks too stiff. Great blend here by both Adams and Giordano.

Good topic for the month, Doug and Karen. In the Heat of the Night is a great film.

Doug said...

David brings up FF #119, which is next Monday's fare. While I'd argue that Stan's take on writing Black characters is a bit softer than Denny O'Neil's, Stan's will be rife with stereotypes as well. Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back Karen & Doug!

Some observations on this issue : yes, this Guy Gardner is almost unrecognizable from the version we've all come to know later on. Denny O'Neil's script, sketchy as it is, seems to be his attempt at fostering debate on the race issue. In 1972, this was a hot topic at that time.

As for John Stewart's 'angry black man' characterization and cliched dialogue, what else can you expect when white writers try to write a black character without having much interaction with the people he's writing about? It's the same disconnected scenario when Stan Lee wrote Spidey in the 60s - we had the spectacle of a then-middle aged Jewish man trying to write teenaged dialogue. A writer to the letters page pointed out that no teenager at that time talked like what Stan wrote in that comicbook ('Totally mod dude!')!

Eric Jerome Dickey, a black novelist who visited Trinidad some time ago, stated as such when he said that some writers commit a cardinal sin when they write about situations and places which they don't know much about,e.g. placing a story in the Bahamas without knowing anything about the island. The Bahamas, he pointed out, actually is comprised of many islands. John Stewart in this story comes across as a cliched character whose sole purpose was to highlight the social schism between black and white. DC's Tyroc from the Legion of Super Heroes also was used in this way when he first appeared, if my memory is correct.

Like Karen, I felt O'Neil's script came across as a heavy handed morality trip. It could have been better if he had cut back on the social message and stuck to a more conventional story.

- Mike 'in plainest day, in every night, no burger shall escape my sight' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Doug said...

Thanks, Mike! We always look forward to your mid-evening commenting!


Graham said...

I liked those GL/GA issues when they first came out (mainly for Neal Adams' art), but now they all seem heavy-handed and preachy as most of you have already said. GL always seemed to be the buffoon, which was totally against previous characterizations, and also not the case when GL/GA was revived a few years later with O'Neil and Mike Grell.

Also, I've lived in the Deep South all of my life and have lived around and interacted with black men and women all of my life....NEVER have I heard one speak like John Stewart speaks in these early issues except on TV or in the movies. I always wondered if O'Neil actually knew any black people. Of course, I've never heard ANYBODY say "Sweet Christmas" either.

Stewart was much more likable in his later appearance in JLA and I really like the way he was portrayed in the JLA cartoon series, too.

Doug said...

Tyroc's first appearance was no picnic, either!


Humanbelly said...

Mike From T&T, that is one of your funniest tag lines ever-! It creates an entire scenario: What if a lost Power Ring had been found by the burger-obsessed Wimpy from Popeye?

Hmm. As I think about it, Wimpy could also have qualified as an Elder of the Universe in the MU, with his single-minded devotion to one sole aspect of existence. . .


Fred W. Hill said...

True story -- I work at the County Courthouse in Jacksonville, FL, and during my lunch break I was sitting outside, enjoying the nice weather and reading -- while a black guy with a megaphone on the walkway in front of the courthouse, was lambasting the legal system, mostly focused on a trial that has gotten a lot of media attention involving a white man who shot and killed a black man after they got into a dispute at a gas station when the white man asked the other to turn down his stereo. The victim was not armed but the killer insists he thought the guy was about to attack him and is using the "stand your ground" law as a defense. Based on his speech, seems the guy with the megaphone is a member of the Black Panthers (or he greatly admires them) and during his spiel he also went on quite a bit about the evil temptation of white women and the rampant racism that still bedevils the U.S. If his speech was used in a comicbook I suspect many readers would think the writer was going overboard and putting words in the mouth of a black character no black person would really use. Except, of course, this was real life, something I actually experienced.
Other thoughts on the O'Neil/Adams GL/GA morality tales as compared to Stan Lee's most famous morality tale -- the drug story in Spider-Man. One of the key differences between Silver Age Marvel and DC was that while most Marvel heroes had pretty distinct personalities, the DC heroes tended to have the same, mostly bland personalities and it appears O'Neil was one of the first DC writers to attempt to give the bigname DC heroes distinct personalities and when he and Adams were weaving their tales, they shaped the characters in order to make whatever point they were aiming for. In Spider-Man, however, Lee already had a cast that seemed to perfectly fit the story he wanted to tell without having to do much twisting. That Mary Jane flirted with Peter, pissing off Harry and then telling Harry that he didn't own her and she would do as she pleased entirely fit Mary Jane's personality as she had been written over since her intro 4 years previously. And that well-to-do but neglected and needy Harry would over-react and resort to drugs to deal with the pain seemed apt too. It also helped that the story was spread out over three issues to allow more depth than would have been possible in one issue. I think it's Lee's best last Silver Age story.

Fred W. Hill said...

Make that "Lee's best late Silver Age story" rather than "last"! Or maybe Lee's best Bronze Age tale if you prefer.

Karen said...

I think what bothered me the most about how John Stewart was portrayed in this story is that it felt like it was all about sensationalism rather than creating a real character. He's the back-up to the back-up -who knew back then if we would ever even see him again? - and certainly the cover with his stance over the unconscious Jordan (which could easily be misinterpreted as him having beaten Jordan) and the word "whipped" on it puts it right up there in the ranks of the National Enquirer and other such fine magazines. It seemed like nothing more than an attempt to shock readers under the guise of enlightening them, and that just annoys me to no end.

Thankfully Stewart has gone on to much better days -although my upcoming review of Cosmic Odyssey isn't his best showing.

Garett said...

I think O'Neil created an interesting character of John Stewart in this story, and I'm surprised by the negative reaction to him. I went back to read it. He's an out-of-work architect, who implies in the candy shop that he's experienced racism and therefore can't get work. So he's an educated man who has a legitimate gripe against society. Makes sense that he'd show an attitude with the cops, the white authority figures.

Doug said "Why not throw us for a loop and choose a smooth Sidney Poitier-type?" That makes sense for In the Heat of the Night, as Poitier has over-the-top Rod Steiger to play off of, but here it makes sense to contrast average guy Hal with an ornery personality (replacing Ollie in this issue).

I think, especially for a quick 13 page story, that they get quite a bit of personality across in Stewart. It's a neat twist at the end that he's more than just an abrasive dude with an political agenda--he does the right thing, saves the day and proves himself worthy of being a hero. He's intelligent, but has experienced unfair treatment, so he's angry, but in the end overcomes his anger and through level-headed sharp observation, catches the bad guys.

I haven't followed the character since then, but I'd say this is a solid foundation for introducing a character with some internal conflicts and experiences that other writers could build on. I like how he throws away the mask as well--nice touch.

Edo Bosnar said...

Garett, I can't speak for anyone else, but perhaps I should clarify my own comment. It's not that I don't like Stewart, I do: I like his back story, i.e. an unemployed architect, and you're right, he proved himself in this story. Also, I like Stewart in most of his later appearances (except, notably, the Cosmic Odyssey story that Karen mentioned above).
My main gripe with what I've seen of this particular story is the dialogue and often heavy-handed characterization.

mr. oyola said...

I am posting this here b/c this is the most Neal Adams-related post, but I thought some of you would be interested.

The most recent episode of the podcast "Traveling Through the Bronze Age" which I quite enjoy is on Claws of the Cat, BUT in the first part of the episode the hosts, Kev and Hub tel a very hilarious version of their meet-up with Neal Adams.

The Neal Adams part is about the first 10 minutes 45 seconds of the episode

Warning, however, these dudes are kind of foul-mouthed (being foul-mouthed myself I appreciate it) - so definitely NOT kid friend or safe for work.

Link is here

They also running through all the issues of ROM, but right now are focusing on Ironjaw vs The Cat - and have done Superman vs. Mohammed Ali (very funny).

Edo Bosnar said...

Osvaldo, thanks for the link; I haven't visited that site in quite a while. Anyway, I have yet to listen to the most recent podcasts, but today during my lunchbreak I ended up watching the YouTube links to the Paul Lynde clips and almost fell out of my chair laughing a few times. I'd almost forgotten how funny that guy was.

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