From Jay Garrick to Bart Allen, and back to Barry Allen.
From Alan Scott to Kyle Rayner and back to Hal Jordan.
Terry Sloane and Michael Holt.
Rex Tyler and Rick Tyler.
Dinah Drake and Dinah Lance.
In 1999, DC’s summer crossover series, Day of Judgement completed a cycle begun almost forty-five years earlier that, I doubt, anyone was conscious of being open-ended.
The previous year, writer John Ostrander and artist Tom Mandrake had brought their very successful series featuring The Spectre to a planned end by allowing the late Jim Corrigan, after all these years, to go to his rest. Their series has established that the Spectre-Force was God’s Angel of Vengeance, sent to be melded to a deceased human’s soul, through whom it would act to avenge murder. Abandoned by Corrigan, the Spectre-Force became vulnerable to attempts by the demons Etrigan and Neron to take control of its almost limitless power. The only way to prevent this was for another soul to accept the Spectre.
Somewhat improbably, given that the Spectre was a supernatural force, and the man chosen came from a solidly scientific background, the mantle of the Spectre went to Hal Jordan, the former Silver Age Green Lantern, the former villain Parallax. Under Jordan, the Spectre’s raison d’être would be re-purposed, from Angel of Vengeance to Angel of Redemption, though it wouldn’t work.
What’s important for our purposes is that, once Hal Jordan accepted the Spectre and became his ‘secret identity’, what was begun by Showcase 4 in 1956, the first appearance of the Silver Age Flash, came to an end. The last member of the Justice Society of America of the Golden Age had a successor. For the first time, an entire ‘shadow’ Justice Society could have been composed of successors to the names of the originals.
Which seems to me to be a good enough excuse for a more in-depth series on the Golden Age Justice Society, profiling the fifteen original Golden Age members and their legatees, starting with their first Chairman and first member to receive a legacy, the guy who started it all off, The Flash.
Be warned that some of the mythos’s created on the legacy of certain characters are far longer and more involved than others – The Flash has had four incarnations and Starman no less than eight, whilst Mr Terrific and Black Canary have been restricted to only two each. Accordingly, some posts will be longer than others, but, unlike the Justice Society series or the current look at Green Arrow, I don’t intend to break these down into parts: you’ll have to read them in one go or not at all, but don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of illustrations to break up the dull text.
So, to recap; Green Arrow, created in 1941, spent almost thirty years as a colourless Batman knock-off, appearing in back-up stories and as a part-time, minor Justice League member. He was then taken up by two of DC’s leading creators of the time, visually and dynamically transformed, and installed as co-star on one of DC’s leading character’s series. Within eighteen months, the series is cancelled and Green Arrow returns to back-up stories and more frequent Justice League appearances for almost a decade and a half, alleviated by a one-off four-issue mini-series which spawned, well, nothing.
Not a lot to show for 45 years existence, really, and if it were not for his creator being Superman’s editor (and, knowing Weisinger, possibly having some financial interest in his appearances) he could have vanished into limbo by the start of the 1950s.
But Crisis on Infinite Earths had come and gone in 1985, sweeping away the entire history of the DC Universe, and leaving a level playing field upon which the winds of change could sweep. Great things could happen.
However, Crisis was not the only limited series published by DC in the mid-eighties to have wide-reaching effects, and whilst Crisis only applied to DC itself, the other two series would have a profound effect on the comic industry as a whole.
First of these is Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ justifiably legendary Watchmen but the one that directly pertains to this history is The Dark Knight Returns, written and drawn by Frank Miller.
Miller had come into comics at Marvel, where he had made his name as, first artist, then writer/artist, of a spectacular run on Daredevil, full of lithe, athletic movement, dark shadows, clipped and stream-lined narration. DC had tempted him away with an offer to write and draw a (ninja-influenced) series of his own creation, which had turned out to be far from the success, artistic and commercial, that everyone had expected. Hurriedly, both parties had looked round for something that was more of a commercial sure bet, and agreed on Batman, the character many fans had been longing to see Miller draw for several years. The Dark Knight Returns was set in the future, with Gotham City transformed into a dystopic nightmare. Bruce Wayne, retired as Batman for over a decade, is forced back into costume by an irresistible urge within, but superheroes are now underground figures, except for the eternally youthful Superman, now serving an ageing President Reagan.
Appearing simultaneously with Watchmen, The Dark Knight was an equally astonishing success. Both were deconstructionist stories, but what people saw, and what they copied immediately, was the superficial aspects of brutality, callousness and graphic ultra-violence. Quickly summarised as ‘grim’n’gritty’, their influence blanketed the comics industry and, despite honourable attempts to rebalance the mainstream, that influence prevails to the present day.
But what, you may justifiably ask, has all this to do with Green Arrow?
Typically of DC, even at their most creator-friendly, the company has never quite absorbed the idea that a series’ success could be because of its creators, not the characters. In their eyes, at least half the success of The Dark Knight was down to its format: a series of four 48 page issues on a higher quality of paper than the industry had seen before, perfect-bound with square backs, a format the company first called ‘Dark Knight’ but then ‘Prestige’. So it was incumbent on them to quickly come out with another ‘Prestige’ format series, to catch that wave. The result was Green Arrow – The Longbow Hunters, written and drawn by Mike Grell.
With all due respect to Green Arrow, who did have his fans, his selection as the follow-up to a massively successful series featuring one of DC’s big guns in a truly ground-breaking story was, frankly, a colossal failure of comprehension. The Dark Knight featured a character known across the world, in a format sold in bookshops, whose audience reached far and beyond the comic book fan. Green Arrow was a nobody, unknown outside that increasingly insular fandom. What better evidence that DC had completely missed the point of The Dark Knight‘s success?
The irony is inescapable, though I doubt that anyone at DC had even the faintest subconscious appreciation of what they were doing: Green Arrow was created as a cheap knock-off of Batman: who more appropriate to star in a story that was a cheap knock-off of the physical format of Batman’s most successful story? The Longbow Hunters is not, in itself, a bad story, rather a drab, undistinguished plot, but, even taking into account the latter’s flaws, it is in no way comparable to The Dark Knight. Nevertheless, it was to prove the landmark for Green Arrow that the O’Neil Adams efforts of fifteen years earlier had failed to provide.
Grell had moved on considerably from the mid-Seventies period during which he’d illustrated the second GL/GA run. He had had a long-standing and successful run as writer/artist on his own, Edgar Rice Burroughs-influenced series, Warlord for DC and, in the early Eighties, had taken advantage of the burgeoning Direct Market. This concentration on selling direct to fans, rather than an increasingly indifferent public, enabled smaller ‘independent’ companies to set up and publish. Lacking the means to pay page rates comparable to DC and instead offered royalties – and ownership!
Grell had created Jon Sable, Freelance for First Comics, a series that provoked praise and condemnation in equal measures, with very little middle ground, but in 1987 he was a writer/artist with a proven commercial background and a distinct and certain style. He also had ideas for Oliver Queen.
It was not so much the story of The Longbow Hunters that proved to be a success (the series was controversial for having Black Canary captured, assaulted, impliedly raped, and requiring rescue by her boyfriend) but rather its atmosphere. Grell portrayed a much more mature, physically, Green Arrow, reaching his fortieth birthday, in a very rich relationship with Dinah (Black Canary) Lance, at least fifteen years his junior, willing to make babies with Ollie, but not orphans. The pair have recently moved from Star City to Seattle, from a DC city to the real world, and to the Pacific Northwest, then very much in vogue, but more importantly, far removed from the natural East Coast bias of the superhero mainstream.
The action is down to earth and gritty (though not quite yet grim), and Ollie quite clearly kills the guy he finds torturing the captive Dinah. The two avoid using their heroic cognomens and Green Arrow appears in a revised costume, looser, in more sombre shades of green, and incorporating the hood currently used in the Arrow TV series.
Though it didn’t produce sales to match those of The Dark Knight, The Longbow Hunters sold very well, enough in DC’s eyes to support an ongoing Green Arrow series – unlimited – set in Seattle, and continuing the themes established in the Prestige series.
This time, after 46 years, Green Arrow clicked.
At first, the series was marked as ‘For Mature Readers’, a quasi-category introduced on the back of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, allowing the series to follow maturer (i.e., darker) themes, depict more graphic violence and depict situations than a comic submitted for Comics Code Authority approval would dare to feature. In many series, that label was an excuse for violent excess on a level that, from my distance, appears to be the mainstream norm now.
Under Grell, a Conservative Individualist, it meant the broader and deeper application of the milieu of The Longbow Hunters. Ollie’s new costume was more consistent with a woodsman’s outfit, he dropped the mask, used no trick arrows, fought no supervillains. He and Dinah (who’d lost her ‘canary cry’ superpower) eschewed their cognomens, avoided the superhero world – contacts like , say, Green Lantern only appeared as their civilian selves, in streetclothes – and the whole action was set in the Pacific Northwest, a very long way from anywhere else.
And Green Arrow was one of DC’s most successful books.
Grell wrote 80 issues of the series before moving on. A half-decade later, the series may have been cancelled at that point, successful as it was. The advent of Neil Gaiman’s extraordinary and extraordinarily successful Sandman series changed the ground rules of publication again: Sandman was cancelled after issue 75 because, despite being DC’s biggest seller at that time, Gaiman had completed the long story he’d set out to tell, and, instead of diminishing the power of that story by rolling the character on in other hands, DC accepted the ending.
Similar courtesies would be extended into the superhero mainstream with similar endings to James Robinson’s Starman and John Ostrander’s The Spectre, but Grell’s Green Arrow was too early for this natural development.
It had already been deflected away from its loner role after issue 65, back towards a more superheroic approach. Kelley Puckett had taken the series over with issue 81 and accelerated this, whilst veteran artist Jim Aparo restored the Adams costume.
Green Arrow had also played a critical role in the 1994 continuity-shifting crossover series, Zero Hour – Crisis in Time: the big villain was revealed to be Hal Jordan, lately perverted from heroic Green Lantern to ultra-villainous Parallax, who was brought down in the final instance by a heart-breaking arrow to the chest from his best friend, Ollie Queen. Zero Hour was followed by ‘Zero Month’, every series ‘re-setting’ itself with an Issue 0. For Green Arrow it was the shaving of his beard and a retreat to the ashram Ollie had taken refuge in in that over-looked final O’Neil Adams three-parter, to deal with the pain of shooting his best friend. There he met a young man, twenty years his junior, Connor Hawke, of mixed Asian-Caucasian descent, another proficient archer with a degree of hero-worship towards Ollie, that is fully-explained in the big reveal – Connor is Ollie’s son, from his first visit, thirty years (of real time) ago.
At first, this was known only to the reader. Conner went with Ollie when the latter returned to the outside world, cheered by the hero worship, and was introduced to Ollie’s ‘family’, including Dinah, who’d broken up with Ollie over the fact that he’d been revealed as being unable to keep it in his pants (the fact that he’d fathered a kid when their relationship had barely begun would do nothing to help that). Connor got his own costume and acted as Ollie’s sidekick, until the ghost of Hal Jordan (who hadn’t been killed by Ollie after all but had died anyway, under completely different circumstances) gave Ollie the truth.
Angered at the deception (and thoroughly rattled by being old enough to have an adult son), Ollie stormed off on a government underground mission, infiltrating a group of eco-terrorists. Unfortunately, their plan involved crashing a plane carrying a nuclear device in the centre of Metropolis. Unfortunately, Ollie ended up with his arm in a kind of cuff, holding down a ‘Dead Man’s Handle’ which, if he removes his arm, will detonate the bomb instantly.
Equally, if not more unfortunately, this is all taking place in Green Arrow 100. Superman is on hand, but not even he is fast enough to snatch Ollie from the cuff and exit the plane before the bomb explodes and kills Ollie.
There is only one solution: that Superman use his heat vision to sever Ollie’s arm, leaving it in place whilst he gets a crippled Green Arrow away. It’s a neat nod to The Dark Knight Returns, which features an ageing, still radical, one-armed Ollie, who’s lost his other arm due to Superman.
Ollie refused the option and, typically, found another alternative in the opening pages of issue 101: he yanks his arm from the cuff, detonating he device harmlessly in mid-air. Metropolis is saved, the invulnerable Superman safe. The only casualty is Oliver Queen, blown to smithereens. Green Arrow was dead.
And there was a ready-made replacement for him, young, fresh, inexperienced, ripe for development. Connor Hawke was the New Green Arrow.
But you can’t keep the JSA down.
After Crisis, DC directed that there should be no further mention of the team, nor the members who had vanished into limbo. But the JSA were too woven into the fabric of the DC Universe, even as it was being remade, to be ignored, and here and there they were referenced, most notably Jay, in Flash (now featuring the third Flash, Wally West). And in 1990, they were back.
It was just a one-off, a make-work project designed to employ a group of artists hired for a larger project that was running late. There would be an eight issue mini-series, set in 1950, an undeveloped part of the JSA’s history, and it would be the team’s first ever appearance under their own name, after half a century.
The mini-series was a great success, a simple, straightforward, highly entertaining story, and it sold well enough to make management reconsider their decision over the JSA. The fans had never stopped asking for their heroes back. So a hastily-conceived, otherwise undistinguished mini-series was used to pull the JSA from limbo, which was followed by an ongoing series, which depicted them as decidedly senior, but healthy and fit, and working out their place in the modern world.
Unfortunately, it only lasted 10 issues, but whilst not a top seller, it’s been claimed ever since that it was cancelled for ‘political’, or ‘image’ reasons as early as issue 3: apparently, senior DC editor Mike Carlin objected to the series as he believed it gave the wrong impression for DC to be publishing heroes created for the grandfathers of their readers.
Whatever the truth, it is noticeable that the JSA next appeared in Zero Hour, a crossover series that destroyed and recreated the DC Universe again, in a (vain) attempt to get its history under control: the series was edited by Carlin, and the JSA was destroyed. Heroes died, just about everybody had their anti-ageing immunity stripped, and the survivors disbanded forever.
But you can’t keep the JSA down.
One of the series spun off Zero Hour was Starman, written by British-born James Robinson. Ted Knight, having retired, hands his costume and Cosmic Rod to his elder son, David, who is killed within a week. Younger son Jack, reluctant, sceptical, is forced into the ‘family business’, and the series – one of the very best of the late Nineties – explores his coming to terms with and understanding of ‘The Life’.
Add in a nostalgic team-up between the latest incarnation of the Justice League and the surviving members of the still-retired JSA, and the momentum was there for another JSA revival. It was spring-boarded by a gloriously nostalgic special JSA adventure set near the end of the War, but the new series involved a reformed JSA in the present day, becoming a three-generation team, from the elder triumvirate of Flash, Green Lantern and Wildcat (who’d grown steadily in prominence since the Seventies) to the teenage new Star-Spangled Kid. To echo the Justice League’s current series being officially title JLA, this series was headed JSA.
In terms of longevity, this was to be the Justice Society’s most successful series, running 87 issues, and only cancelled in order to make way for a new series, with a redefined purpose. For the most part, JSA was a very-well made series, but in time it failed to hold my interest, thanks to a growing antipathy towards the work of its principal writer, Geoff Johns. Just as Roy Thomas’s All-Star Squadron had primarily been about his personal focus on filling in gaps in the Golden Age stories, with little consideration for the demands of a simply entertaining story, Johns seemed to be perpetually concerned with refitting and repositioning old characters for use in the modern era, again without concern for the idea of writing stories about them that had no more purpose than entertainment. JSA‘s cancellation, and reincarnation as Justice Society of America was a consequence of DC’s Infinite Crisis/One Year Later/52 sequence, between 2005 and 2007. Infinite Crisis was a twentieth anniversary sequel to Crisis, and involved destroying and recreating the DC Universe again, this tine reintroducing the Multiverse – in a limited form – including an Earth-2, with a Justice Society looking uncannily like the late-Seventies version of the team.
Unfortunately, having reintroduced the Multiverse, DC had little idea what to do with it, and the idea languished, practically unexplored, until the 2011 reboot, The New 52. There was a one-off, deliberately inconclusive visit by the JSA to the new Earth-2, but beyond that, nothing.
Meanwhile, the latest JSA series was perhaps the biggest success to date, spawning two spin-off titles. One, JSA Classified, told out of sequence stories that could come from any part of the team’s history, featuring any number of characters from the JSA’s milieu (one early story centred on the latest version of the Injustice Gang, still featuring The Wizard). The other was a straight parallel series, JSA All-Stars, splitting the by then somewhat crowded team into two, on philosophical and age grounds.
The emphasis, initially at least, was even further on the JSA as a family, training the next generation(s) of ‘legacy’ heroes. It was still Geoff Johns to begin with, so I drifted away again. My Justice Society clearly belonged to the past: let the future take care of itself. Justice Society of America did last 54 issues, but like its predecessor, was cancelled with the next reboot of the Universe. But there was no place for the Justice Society in a New 52 Universe in which superheroes had only appeared five years earlier: no Golden Age, no war heroes, no nothing.
But you can’t keep the JSA down.
In 2012, DC introduced a new series, Earth-2. It’s set on a world parallel to the New 52 Earth, where the big three were killed fighting off alien invasion. Now, new heroes start to appear: Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, Al Pratt, gaining the same powers as the original, but with radically different origins, and radically different (and utterly horrible) costumes. They haven’t formed a JSA yet, and when they do I shalln’t be reading, for The New 52 is a universe too far, and these new characters have nothing, only the names, to tie them to old favourites. If they become the JSA for a new generation of readers, if a new generation of readers actually exists any more, let them prosper.
The JSA has lasted seventy years so far. They’ll no doubt be there to celebrate their centenary, by when I doubt that many of us who found the fascination will be there to cheer. They were the first superhero team. They’re likely to live forever.
Aerial shot of Scafell (right) and the Pike (left). Brown Tongue is in the bottom left corner with Hollow Stones above
Scafell is the second highest summit in England, and was clearly regarded as the dominant peak in Wasdale, as its higher neighbour derives its name from being The Pikes near Scafell. Despite that, it’s seen as a lesser fell, and on the occasions I have climbed it, I have never found more than one other party on the top with me: Scafell – a 3,000 footer on which you can easily find yourself alone.
The principal reason for Scafell’s relative unpopularity is that, with the exception of the cirque of crags overlooking Mickledore, and the approaches to either side, it is a relatively ungainly and, frankly, somewhat dull mountain. There is a fine, high, ridge approach from Eskdale and Slight Side that is well worth a day of anyone’s life, but in the main the excitement of conquering Scafell lies in surmounting its massive, often terrifying crags.
For those who are not climbers, this rules out a direct approach from Mickledore, and necessitates a massive diversion downwards from the ridge, to gain the summit indirectly by one of Foxes Tarn, Lord’s Rake or the West Wall Traverse. Walkers with red blood in their veins will find themselves needing, at one time or another, to test themselves against one or other of the latter.
Walkers bound for Lord’s Rake must first find themselves a space in the small car park just off the road to Wasdale Head. After passing the head of the Lake, turn right on a road crossing the valley floor, and slip off this left into a parking area well-concealed by trees and hedges. Ensure you are well-supplied with food and liquids, return to the road and march on towards the looming fells, until a Public Footpath sign, marked Scafell Massif, points an eroded way over a stile to the right.
The approach from Wasdale is the shortest route of ascent, and thus the most unrelievedly steep. Nevertheless, there are no difficulties in the first hour of the walk, which follows the beck uphill through woodlands, before emerging in the bare valley a couple of hundred yards short of the foot of Brown Tongue. The beck gushes lustily, and this is a good spot for a five minute break. Long ago, the curve of the underlying rock formed a superb waterchute, down which stones could be propelled with great vigour, but time appears to have eroded this little feature, which I was unable to identify when I last passed this way
Another change to the landscape is the path from the foot of the Tongue, where two gills meet. Originally, this headed directly up the Tongue, following its watershed, at least to the extent that was possible on eroded and crumbling ground that had created a loose scar. This was, in my memory, one of the earliest paths to be given attention by the National Trust, with the old route fenced off in the Seventies and a new route constructed along the flank of the Tongue, just above the right-hand gill, gently climbing onto the flat back of Brown Tongue to reach the upland valley known as Hollow Stones, lying beneath the massive buttresses of the crags of Scafell and the Pike.
This allows for some easy progress on gentle gradients which allow plenty of time to be given to the massive structures around and above. Somewhere in every fellwalker, no matter how much he or she is afraid of the prospect, or is convinced lies utterly beyond their skill, there is a flame that lights up at the sight, that taps at the door of imagination and asks for the courage to enter into that forbidden world. If only…
But Lord’s Rake is one of the few places where a walker, albeit an experienced, and preferably agile one, can stand on the edge of that world, can see the crags at the kind of range climbers do, can pass among them and all in perfect safety. Or rather, not perfect safety, there being nothing of the sort when out on the fells, but enough of a degree of safety as to make the experience not just worthwhile but essential.
At this point, a cautionary note should be injected. My ascent of Lord’s Rake took place in 1996 but, about a decade ago, a piece of rock fell from the crags above and has come to rest on the first col. It has remained wedged in place, across the route, ever since. For some years after, the route was closed, and whilst it is now in use again, the dangers of the ascent have substantially increased. Furthermore, it is noted that where the base of the stone rests is gradually crumbling. At some point, the stone will become unstable, and will fall down the first pitch. Anyone climbing the same when this happens will, almost certainly, be killed. This is not an ascent that anyone can ever think of taking lightly.
From Hollow Stones, paths diverge. To the left, a well-marked track climbs to Lingmell Col, and provides the easiest route to Scafell Pike on this side of the mountain. Ahead, an increasingly stony, loose and steep route scrambles up to Mickledore, though this is effectively only a route once more to the Pike, as the direct ascent would be by Broad Stand, which is climber’s territory. Instead, turn right, towards the great cliffs, shadowed by the sun glimpsed over the dark tops.
The path leads to the base of a massive scree fan, up which an indistinct route scales. The scree-fan rises at a steep angle, and is loose underfoot from bottom to top. Walk slowly, walk carefully, test each step for durability and don’t look around at the views, or if you must, stand still, and make it quick. The crags above grow ever darker as you move under their shadow, but it is possible to use these to gauge your progress. Finally, the width of the scree shrinks, until you reach firm ground at the top, directly under the base of Scafell Crag.
A narrow trod rises to the left and provides a traverse along the base of the Crag as far as Mickledore, but for Lord’s Rake, bear to the right, on surprisingly level ground, rounding the buttress directly ahead and entering the base of a direct and steep gulley rising into the rock above. This is Lord’s Rake.
The Rake cuts across the crag in a dead straight line. It is three hundred yards in length, from beginning to end, with three rises and two descents, and two narrow cols to pass. The first pitch is confined by high rock on both sides: beyond, the Rake is exposed to the right, with steep slopes immediately below.
The first pitch is surprisingly wide, but increasingly steep, so much so that its upper third, and especially the final ten feet or so of the ascent to the col, could not be achieved without using both hands. At that time, the loose scree had been scraped pretty much bare: there were rocks underfoot and care needed to be taken in placing ones boots, but provided this was done, there was little risk of starting a slip that might imperil climbers below, and ample room to move from side to side to gain the best purchase.
One should not take this walk lightly, but at one point, about half way up, I wanted to take a picture of the view behind, only to discover that I needed to change the film in my camera. To do so, I clambered off the Rake, into a crevice on the right, found something flat enough and secure enough to sit on and calmly changed the film, marvelling all the time at my coolness in such elevated places.
The fall of the standing rock has complicated this section. There is again a profusion of loose stone underfoot, to an extent that not only should this ascent not be attempted in anything but good weather conditions, but that if someone is above you, you should wait for them to reach the col before setting off yourself: this is not a slur on their abilities but rather a practical reflection of the danger of their dislodging stones of quite some size that would then start to bound downhill: wear a helmet.
The West Wall Traverse, from Deep Gill
I can give no advice to those who wish to climb the West Wall Traverse. Its entrance is a terrace, reached by a short scramble up the left hand wall of the Rake. The narrow terrace crosses a shelf on the rockface before debouching into the upper section of Deep Gill, which requires then a frantic scramble upwards to Scafell’s broad summit. I have sadly not taken this route and, indeed, was concentrating so hard on the Rake that I completely failed to see the entrance en route. Apparently, the base of the entrance is crumbling, and the risk of it too collapsing, making the Traverse inaccessible, must be faced.
As to the col, I was bloody glad to each it, though it marked a point of no return: there was no way I was going back down that last, terribly steep section below the col. Now, progress is complicated by the need to squeeze beneath the standing stone, a process troubling in itself but holding extra concerns for the more generously built walker.
Beyond, the comfort of the right hand parapet vanishes within a couple of steps. The second col is visible, at the same level, with a steep descent and reascent in between. However, the worst of the Rake, at least as far as I was concerned, now lies behind, and the ground is firmer underfoot than imagination makes it from a distance. Cling to the cliffs at hand, take short steps and the second col can be comfortably attained.
Lord’s Rake, looking towards the second col
A similar scene presents itself another steep descent and reascent, on a narrow path clinging to the cliffs, stretched over a longer distance, with a longer climb to the far side. This, however, is not a third col but the end of the Rake: safety beckons. Again, take short steps, be careful, cling to the cliffs rather than hug the unsupported edge, and before very long Lord’s Rake falls away behind, and you are on the Green How flank of Scafell. The summit is a mere 300′ above, and most walkers will be so adrenalised at their safe passage through the fearsome Lord’s Rake that there will be no stops on the final run up the fellside.
Lord’s Rake, looking over the third pitch to the exit
The path emerges into a saddle, where four paths meet. The upper ramparts of Deep Gill buttress lie to the left, with the prominent notch beyond that is the top of Deep Gill and the exit from the West Wall Traverse. The summit itself lies up a gentle slope to the right, a litter of stones surmounted by a prominent cairn.
How best to descend? Exhilarating as it may be, the thought of reversing the approach along Lord’s Rake does not appeal. I am not talking here about that ten feet down from the first col, nor the fact that the the scree-fan would be many degrees more unpleasant to descend than ascend, but merely the thought of going over ground already trodden so very soon, let alone in the same day. The Green How ridge is an obvious line of descent to Wasdale Head, and is easy, but it is equally obviously tedious, and should be avoided.
Whilst this is not a course I would normally encourage, having the experienced fellwalker’s horror of the unnecessary loss of height and requirement to regain it, the best descent from Scafell in these circumstances is via Foxes Tarn. This involves a descent to a point some 400′ below Mickledore, on the Eskdale side of the ridge, and a 400′ climb that is not the easiest part of the day. However, the adrenaline of Lord’s Rake should still be evident, and the route is fascinating enough to be worth the additional effort.
Return to the saddle and, after a diversion to the top of Deep Gill to encourage the development of your vertigo at the depths revealed, turn down on the right. The path crosses easy grass towards a narrow cleft in the fellside. Within no more than fifty feet of descent, a National Trust constructed route appears underfoot (though I am told that now the path is difficult to trace under loose scree) and the cleft open into a fold in the fellside, at the bottom of which, appearing to be almost vertically down, is a tiny tarn, approximately the size of a standard living room, occupied by a boulder the size of a three-piece suite. There appears to be no exit from the fold.
Foxes Tarn, from the descent
Only as the path nears the Tarn itself can it first be seen that the outflow drains around a steep grassy bank into a heretofore unseen exit. There are a dozen or so steps that can be taken on level ground before the outflow disappears down a stony gully, littered with fallen stone. Like Lord’s Rake, this gully is also straight, with its exit always visible. Descend with care: I prefer the four point method if descending face first – that there be four points of contact with the rock at all times, and only one limb is moved at any time. For those whose anatomy is uncertain, the fifth point is your backside, an invaluable anchor on the way down.
Once the narrow valley of Mickeldore Beck is reached, brush any accumulated debris from your useful backside and turn uphill to the ridge, relying on the adrenaline to make this passage more comfortable than its steepness, the late stage of the day and the loose ground underfoot would otherwise make it.
That ongoing adrenaline surge must be taken into account on achieving the ridge. Head for home, by all means, descending on similarly loose stone from Mickledore, the ground easing slowly until you reach Hollow Stones and can make a leisurely return over trodden ground. But having got here, having undergone all that toil, having done Lord’s Rake fur hilven! (one for you fans of The Killing, Borgen, etc.) it would be a terrible shame not to turn right, scale the cap of stones, and add Scafell Pike’s summit to the day. You are so close already, and as Wainwright says, the only ridge route in the Lakes that is harder than this is the same route in reverse. Do it, for the greatness of it.
From the summit of the Pike, descend north, onto the stony descent to Lingmell col. There is no requirement to include Lingmell itself at this point, but stronger walkers who have not yet counted this top may divert themselves across the col for the additional 300′ of climbing. Everyone else will curve around to the left, over gentle slopes with a superb, grandstand view of Scafell’s Crags throughout its length, until dropping to the head of Brown Tongue.
Descend peacefully and, if you feel like it, smugly. Lord’s Rake is an Achievement in anybody’s book.
I’m something of a rarity among Lancastrians in that I actually like Headingley.
There are plenty of reasons not to, not least the preponderance of Tykes around the place. The playing area is surrounding by a concrete track, around which, throughout the day, endless numbers of folk of the White Rose County perambulate perpetually, halted only by stewards closing the barriers at alternate ends to keep them from walking behind the bowler’s arm.
So, if you want a view of the cricket uninterrupted by Yorkshire bodies, you must either take one of the glorified school-type chairs ringing the boundary boards, or must seek somewhere to sit with a little height.
Unfortunately, in the glory days of my regular visits to Headingley, this was limited to three places, the Football Stand, the Western Terrace and the top deck of the Winter Shed. And the Football Stand (which was named for how it was two-faced, backing onto the Rugby ground), was inside that half of the ground that was only accessible by Members, Yorkshire or Visiting.
(There was, I discovered by chance, a way around that restriction, as described in my novel Tempus Infinitive (https://mbc1955.wordpress.com/2012/10/03/tempus-infinitive-the-tempus-trilogy-book-2/), though becoming a Lancashire member in 1986 removed the need to sneak about).
The Football Stand was superb, and you could get yourself a seat directly behind the bowler’s arm at that end. As for the Western Terrace, which now rings with controversy at Test level, lies 90 degrees to the pitch, and is of such a low camber that, by the time you reach the highest row of seats, you are nearer to Bradford than to Leeds.
Which left me, at first, with the Winter Shed, high, exposed, with a glorious view, albeit from a widish long on/long leg position vis-à-vis the wicket.
Mind you, as the photo above demonstrates, it’s all changed now.
I’ve had a variety of experiences at Headingley, but one in particular stands out as especially outstanding. Given Headingley’s reputation as a bowler’s wicket, it seems utterly improbable that I should spend a day there during which 382 runs would be scored, in three successive unbroken century partnerships. Yes, 382 runs, in a single day of County Cricket, without a single wicket being taken. At Headingley! How did this come about?
This was, of course, taking place during a Roses Match, there being no other game below Test Matches that could lure me to Headingley. It took place over the 1st, 3rd and 4th August 1987, in the days when County Cricket was still all three day games. Lancashire scored 356 all out in their first innings and Yorkshire, beginning their reply on Monday, had reached 125 when the second wicket went down in the middle of the afternoon session.
I was sat on the top deck of the Winter Shed, as usual, enjoying the sun, and a good, exposed tree-top level view towards the centre of Leeds. That’s how I picked up early on the clouds beginning to mass.
The ground was still in sunshine, but the clouds in the distance were merging into an increasingly dark mass, and they were drawing slowly nearer. The combination of approaching dark clouds and a clear, sunny sky overhead is a definite sign of trouble, and I decided to gather my things together and make a break for the Football Stand and the only realistic shelter in the ground if it started to pelt down, which I was convinced was going to happen with at most the next thirty minutes.
I walked around the concrete track, mingling with the Tykes, diverted to the Gents down the side of the Football Stand, quickly exercised the facilities and emerged out the other end into the Rugby Ground. I’d been here often enough to know what to aim for so it was a simple case of across and up, through the door (once the ongoing over at this end finished) and slip into a seat. Once you were in the charmed half-circle reserved for members, you were never challenged for a member’s card.
From here, I could no longer see the advancing cloud, but the sky above the cricket ground was getting increasingly dull, and I was congratulating myself on my fore-sightedness. And then it started. Big, heavy, single drops, splattering on the walkway, quickly turning into a continuous rain that had the Umpires halting play and signalling for the covers to come on, whilst the players started to disperse, rapidly, in the direction of the old Pavilion.
For this season only, the MCC were carrying out an experiment with leaving pitches uncovered during breaks in play. This had been the old way of things, and it had led to tense situations were the breaks were extended whilst the pitch dried sufficiently for play to resume, but came back as a ‘sticky dog’, a pitch on which spinners could work marvels, making the ball rear, spit, turn and misbehave in a way only possible on a drying-out pitch.
But for many years, breaks in play resulted in groundstaff racing out to cover everything in sight on the square: pitch, run-ups, the works. The result was play resuming much quicker after rain, but on blander pitches.
This season’s experiment was a hybrid. Run-ups etc. would still be covered, permitting play to resume quickly, but the wicket was left uncovered, to try to give the bowlers an old-fashioned chance.
And the rain came down, There was no thunder or lightning, not any that I recall, but the rain came down in a solid, unbroken wave, hard, heavy, sluicing, solid. I watched it in awe, as with horrible speed it took over the walkway, water rushing along it, one, two inches deep, as the fall far exceeded the capacity of Headingley’s drainage. Those supporters who had not been able to take shelter like me were trying to hunch under raincoats, with the rain turning the seats beside them slick with water. Others huddled in the limited shelter of overhangs, or under the Winter Shed stairs. It was a good, old-fashioned deluge.
And it ended after about thirty minutes, the rain abruptly turning to a trickle, as the storm cleared Headingley and moved away north. No longer swamped, the drains eventually conveyed away the copious surface water. The next question was when would play resume?
There was half the day left but, without even a halt for Tea, the Umpires took one look at the pitch and called play off for the day.
Thus we returned for the final day of the match, with Yorkshire on 168-2, Richard Blakeley and Kevin Sharp having already added 43. They batted on until declaring, having extended the score to 250. The undefeated Third Wicket partnership had added 125 runs
Lancashire started their Second Innings 106 runs ahead. With two full innings to play, the chance of a result was very slight, but with some fast scoring, it might be possible to engineer a target for a run-chase. The young Mike Atherton, still FEC, was promoted to open with Geehan Mendis and the pair ran up 180, exactly 100 to Mendis, runs before declaring without a wicket loss.
This set Yorkshire a notional target of 287 to win, but there hadn’t been the remotest sniff of a wicket in the day, everybody knew the game was heading to a draw as soon as the Laws permitted the acknowledgement, and at least one member of the crowd would have been bitterly disappointed if a Lancashire breakthrough had interrupted this quite unique spectacle.
And so batsmen’s averages continued to prosper whilst bowlers’ averages continued to be dumped on from a great height as this astonishingly blanded-out pitch performed to the last. Yorkshire duly racked up 102 runs for no wicket before the game was ended as soon as decently possible. To think that thirty minutes of rain should produce such a devastating effect.
Full days of First Class Cricket in which no wicket falls are very rare (except when it’s raining) and those instances I can recall have been when two batsmen have resisted, or commanded, the whole day. That one innings might conclude without a wicket on the day and the next remain wicketless until the close seems at least possible, but three? Each celebrating century partnerships? Even cricket’s equivalent of Roy of the Rovers would jib at trying that one on.
It’s my only experience of a wicketless day, and it added a layer of charm and fascination to a day that would otherwise have been an exercise in tedium: pure cricket, played for the sake of delivering the ball, with no aim or end in sight but the eventual entropy of time: not that much fun to watch, to be honest. Instead, I watched an unlikely feat unfold.
And, as I said at the outset, for it to happen at the Batsman’s nightmare that was Headingley was the icing on an improbable cake for me.
It’s never happened since. When it did, I was there.
It was 1956. At an editorial conference at National, over what the kids might want to read next, some unidentified voice suggested they may be ready for superheroes again, and suggested reviving The Flash. Julius Schwarz, editor of the newly-created Showcase, National’s official vehicle for introducing new concepts, agreed to do so, on condition he could start afresh with a new character: Jay Garrick had been ‘done’, he was ‘boring’.
Schwarz was given the go-ahead. He lined up his best artist, Carmine Infantino, to pencil, and enlisted Robert Kanigher to write an origin. Police Scientist Barry Allen, working late in his laboratory, is knocked down by a cabinet felled when lightning struck the lab. He receives a bath of an unpredictable mixture of electrified chemicals. The next day, he realises he has the power of super-speed, just like his old comic book favourite, The Flash. With a radically different costume, he sets out to fight crime.
The new Flash was an instant hit, although it would take four try-outs over three years before hesitant management would be convinced to grant him his own series, starting with issue 105, picking up the old numbering.
Schwarz would go on to helm a similarly popular new version of Green Lantern and, subsequently, less commercially successful new versions of Hawkman and The Atom. Before these two, however, Schwarz was instructed to bring back the Justice Society.
He did not exactly do that. He put together a superhero team, including his new Flash and Green Lantern as well as the Trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman (albeit with Weisinger’s influence restricting the use of the first). But Schwarz had never liked the name Society for a superhero team: too soft, too social. He wanted something bigger, stronger, something in the kids’ minds, like all the Football and Baseball Leagues in the news. So the revived team would instead be the Justice League of America, who have been National/DC’s premier team ever since.
They were also crucial to comic book history in an unexpected way: according to the official story, Jack Leibowitz played golf with rival publisher Martin Goodman, and boasted that the JLA was their best seller. Goodman returned to the office and instructed his editor Stan Lee that they had to put out a team book. Lee conceived of the Fantastic Four, and the rest was Marvel Comics.
In the meantime, a growing number of readers wanted to know about the Golden age versions of these new heroes: older fans with a nostalgic hankering, younger fans curious to see what older brothers were talking about, or just intrigued by the fact there was another Flash out there: what was he like?
There was an obvious story in this, and Schwarz turned to Gardner Fox to write this for Flash 123 (even though Flash was John Broome’s book). Their explanation was the familiar SF trope of parallel worlds: Barry’s Earth and Jay’s Earth occupied the same position in space but vibrated at different rates, rendering them invisible and intangible to each other. When Barry accidentally tuned in to the vibrations of Jay’s Earth, he found himself in Keystone City, and meeting an older Mr Garrick, in retirement, greying at the temples, but still fit, active – and able to get into his costume when three of his old villains posed a threat.
The story was a massive success, and a sequel, in which Jay visited Barry’s Earth and helped him against his villains, was immediately scheduled for Flash 129. This time, Schwarz and Fox teased their audience with the Justice Society. The issue began with a flashback, as Jay remembered his last outing before Barry’s visit, namely All-Star 57. The audience loved it and wanted more so, for the third team-up, back on Jay’s Earth in Flash 136, the story was built around the disappearance of each of Jay’s old JSA comrades. The villain was Vandal Savage, newly released from prison after sixteen years following his part in the first Injustice Society caper in All-Star 37. Savage wanted revenge, and intended to capture and imprison the heroes responsible for eternity. With Barry’s assistance, his plans were defeated, the JSA released, and Wonder Woman suggested that, to avoid things like this happening in future, the JSA should get together again every now and then. Permanent Chairman Hawkman called an immediate meeting.
This wasn’t just a teaser to the fans: Flash 136 was cover-dated 1963, and the JSA were teaming up with their counterparts of the JLA in issues 22/23 of their title, cover-dated August/September: far too soon to be a response to audience demand roused up in Flash.
The two-part story established a few new ground-rules. The Justice League were on Earth-1, the Justice Society on Earth-2. The revived team had new by-laws (presumably their Constitution). Henceforth, everyone who had been a member of the JSA was a member, and that went for Wonder Woman and Mr. Terrific too. The team would have a rotating line-up of seven, chosen by lot. The choice this time fell upon the four who had already had successors, Flash, Hawkman, Green Lantern and The Atom, plus two other founder members, Dr Fate and Hourman, and the JSA’s last recruit Black Canary, who had never worked with the latter two before, not that you would have had any idea of that from the story. And, despite Hawkman having already laid claim to the permanent Chairmanship in Flash 136, it’s Dr Fate, of all people, who conducted the JSA’s meeting.
But whilst the idea of seven active members went out the following year, the notion of rotating membership, just like the Justice League, was a permanent development.
Certainly the initial meeting between the two teams was immensely popular, and was sequeled in 1964. By the time the team-up was repeated, the following year, it was a tradition, and it continued for 23 years, ending only when the DC Multiverse, or parallel world system, was swept away.
Gardner Fox wrote the first half dozen team-ups (his last team-up was, fittingly, his last JLA story), and he rang the changes every year. In 1963, the teams faced-off against an alliance of villains from each Earth, cooperating with each other. In 1964, Fox introduced Earth-3, where the heroes were all villains, challenging both League and Society in turn to see who was strongest.
The following year, Johnny Thunder made his comeback, causing havoc as usual and allowing his Thunderbolt to be controlled by his evil Earth-1 counterpart, who changed history to eliminate the JLA. Both the JSA and a sextet of Thunder’s gang masqueraded as the JLA at different times, and in the end the story got so convoluted it had to be ended by a magical ‘never-happened. In 1966, Fox mixed the two teams for the first time, as heroes, villains and ordinary folk found themselves being switched from one Earth to the other, whilst in 1967 the action was set on Earth-2 with the JSA coming up against an unbeatable menace and forced to call in four JLAers facing an identical menace on Earth-1. It ended with a series of mini-battles between heroes possessed by evil and the rest of the two teams, before Johnny Thunder saved the day with a handful of awful jokes (seriously, he did). That story also included the first membership change for the JSA in almost two decades, as an adult Earth-2 Robin was awarded membership as an explicit replacement for the semi-retired Batman.
Fox had come very close to writing a JSA-only adventure that year, but in 1968 he went the full distance. The two teams were both matched against the same foe, but never met: the JSA fought in issue 63, the JLA in 64, and the only character common to both stories was a new, android, Red Tornado, who was Fox’s final gift to the DC Universe, created by the villain to disrupt the JSA from within. But the Tornado was no criminal and ensured his creator’s downfall, for which he was rewarded with JSA membership.
It was almost the end of Fox’s career at DC, an era when many of the original writers, who had sustained the company for thirty years, found themselves moved out, replaced by younger, less expensive fans, who had grown up on comics, and who were much less concerned with the precarious life of the freelancer, facing retirement without health or pension benefits.
Fox was replaced by Denny O’Neill, a former journalist with a mandate to shake-up and modernise the JLA. Of necessity, this meant a new approach to the annual JSA team-up, and by extension to the JSA itself. The Golden Agers had been brought back as older heroes, their years in comic book limbo added to their ages as characters. Athletic men and women, especially those with powers, in their early to middle-40s were perfectly plausible when it was expected they would appear in a couple of stories then fade away again. By the end of the Sixties, their longevity was a little more precarious. O’Neill therefore posited that Earth-2’s vibration rate actually slowed its history down, by about twenty years, so that the the JLA’s 1969 was the JSA’s 1949, and the heroes were physically contemporaries. This enabled Black Canary to swap Earths in 1969 and transfer to the JLA.
And this theory was maintained, silently, until 1976. By then, National had finally decided to revive the JSA in their own series, bringing back All-Star from issue 58. At first, the JSA worked, awkwardly, with the Super-Squad, a trio of teenagers, comprising Robin, the time-transplanted Forties hero the Star-Spangled Kid and the newly-created Power Girl, the Earth-2 Superman’s cousin. Within a year the Super-Squad would be absorbed into the JSA itself, and new writer Paul Levitz would have taken the team back to its true age, with complex, detailed biographies for the veterans, who were now recognised as being in their Fifties.
The revived All-Star lasted until issue 74 before falling victim to the infamous ‘DC Implosion’, the cancellation of the lower-selling half of National’s (now renamed DC Comics) line, though the series continued for another year in Adventure – still going strong after 460 issues.
This period also saw Levitz write the first ever origin for the JSA – a convoluted wartime affair that was, frankly, ridiculous and historically demeaning to Britain – and the run in Adventure ended with the never-before disclosed reason for the JSA’s retirement in 1951 – a tighter, much more historically-viable story in which the team fall foul of Joseph McCarthy, and retire rather than reveal their identities to a Congress that suspects them of being Communist sympathisers.
It wasn’t long, however, before a version of the JSA was back. Roy Thomas, recently arrived from Marvel after fifteen years, devised, wrote and edited All-Star Squadron, a series set in 1942, in the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbour, featuring all the Golden Age characters to whom DC had rights, in one large team, formed to protect America’s home front during the War. Thomas’s main enthusiasm, unfortunately, was for retro-filling holes in continuity, making the stories conform (to a degree) with the events of the War, and the events of the comics of the time, and adding detail at every conceivable point.
With the series intended to progress at a month of the war for every year of All-Star Squadron, there was a lot to get through, much of it the correcting and harmonising of forty year old comics that few had read and fewer had been concerned about, except for Thomas. Thanks to their enlistment in All-Star 11 onwards, the JSA were rarely available, but they were there as a background at all times.
As a counterweight Thomas devised the contemporary series Infinity Inc, starring a new generation of heroes who were the children of the JSA.
But Earth-2’s days were numbered. The maxi-series, Crisis on Infinite Earths, was in preparation, scheduled to appear throughout 1985, the 50th anniversary year of Major Malcom Wheeler-Nicholson starting National Comics. By its end, there was one Earth, and there had never been any more. The JSA were no longer the heroes of another Earth, but of another generation. And to avoid confusion between multiple heroes with identical names, which after all was the start of this whole event, Thomas was required to write a final case for the JSA, packing them off (with the exception of the handful of characters DC still wanted) forever.
It was a rotten story, Thomas’s loathing of its necessity no doubt contributing. But it was a death of the best comics kind: with a backdoor open to bring the JSA back when DC changed their mind. And you do not get rid of the JSA easily.
So, after a thrilling couple of years during which Green Arrow had been re-imagined, with a new appearance, purpose and potential, what happened next? The answer was, for over a decade, virtually nothing.
It was true that Green Arrow had been transformed, and had been given the chance to strut his stuff upfront, as co-star of the series of one of DC’s longest lasting and popular heroes. The stories had been dynamic, visually, and thought-provoking, dealing with social issues that were at the heart of the troubles facing America as the Sixties turned into the Seventies. And they had bombed.
Looking back on the GL/GA series, it’s best to see them as historical examples of the times, because with a later eye, the stories come over as clunky, implausible, uneven, and decidedly unbalanced. The series was supposed to be about the contrast between the conservative, logical, law-abiding Lantern, and the liberal, hot-headed, anarchical Arrow, in which each would learn from the other, but writer Denny O’Neil can’t find much in Green Lantern to learn from. He’s admitted his inability to portray a figure who was, at base, a cop.
Though the last image in the series, excluding the left over story serialised in The Flash is of an entirely emotional moment from the Lantern, dramatically destroying an expensive aircraft. But then, that particular plot twist was added by Neal Adams, in a departure from the script.
So: with the series gone, Green Lantern shelters in a solo spot in the back of The Flash, and Green Arrow starts to appear as a back-up to Superman in alternating issues of Action. The Emerald Archer also continues on his way with the JLA. In short, status quo restored, except for the fact that Green Arrow can now be said to have been elevated to a B-list character. It’s just not got him very far, that’s all.
There’s one story that’s intriguing enough to mention, and that’s the 1972 JLA/JSA team-up, which features Green Arrow. In fact, it features more than one of him.
This particular team-up was a landmark event, changing the course of the annual meeting. It was the first such team-up to be extended to three issues, mainly because it featured nearly thirty heroes and they certainly needed the space. But it also began with Justice League of America 100, a landmark in itself, which marked the début on the series of writer Len Wein, and it had as many heroes as it did because Wein chose to bring in the 1940’s only other superhero team, the Seven Soldier’s of Justice. One of whom was Green Arrow.
By itself, the story wasn’t particularly thrilling. An old foe of the Seven Soldiers has returned, threatening to destroy Earth-2 with a gigantic, nebula-sized ‘hand’ that will crush it. Only the Seven Soldiers can defeat him, but they’ve been lost in time, and lost from memory. Various teams rescue each of the Seven from where they’d been stuck in history (Green Arrow has been substituting for Robin Hood, which is about the level of imagination this story occupies).
The oddity is that, unlike the first JLA/JSA team-up, when the paired heroes made a point of greeting each other, here the two Green Arrows not only don’t meet-and-greet but take care to ensure they don’t even get into the same part of the room as each other. Add to this the Earth-1’s Green Arrow’s reaction, in issue 100, to the discovery that there is a second version of him, which amounts to a defensive-aggressive “So what?”, and here’s a very interesting little psychological corner to explore.
But no-one else seems to notice the Arrows standoffishness about each other, no-one comments, and the two characters would only appear in the same story once after this, over a decade later in the continuity blasting Crisis on Infinite Earths.
In 1976, Green Lantern was revived, picking up its numbering from where it left off, by starting with issue 90. Denny O’Neil resumed scripting, and Green Arrow was once again co-star, but art was now by popular newcomer Mike Grell. Grell has always been described as being heavily influenced by Adams, though his highly stylised art is, to me, the exact opposite of Adams, comics’ premier photorealist. When Adams portrayed a ridiculously exaggerated pose, he made it look real. When Grell portrayed it, he made it look like a ridiculously exaggerated pose.
There was no attempt to return to the Age of Relevance: that had burned out long ago. Instead, the two Greenies had superhero adventures, in which the disparity between their powers and the increasing dominance of GL-type star-spanning stories, made the combination increasingly pointless. It was brought to an end by issue 137, when the series reverted to being Green Lantern only.
This second run lasted 37 issues, almost three times as many as the O’Neil Adams run, but it left almost no memorable stories behind it.
So Green Arrow was again left with the JLA and his bi-monthly back-ups in Action. At least he had a dedicated writer, most of his Seventies solo stories being scripted by fan-turned-writer, Elliot S! Maggin (yes, the ! is deliberate. But he was a decent writer for all that).
Maggin’s enthusiasm for GA was obvious, to the extent that he based Ollie’s dialogue on his own manner of speaking – a point openly conceded in a clumsy attempt at metafiction in the 1975 JLA/JSA team-up, which is so ludicrous, I can’t resist describing the story.
The tale began in real life, with writers Cary Bates and Maggin struggling to come up with a plot for a JLA/JSA story that will be acceptable to editor Julius Schwarz. Doing their best to avoid any actual thought, Bates confides in Maggin that The Flash actually turned up at DC some years ago (he did: our Earth was part of DC’s Multiverse as Earth-Prime) and that the Cosmic Treadmill he built to get home is still in a back office. You can see this coming, but Bates, demonstrating the Treadmill to Maggin, accidentally starts it and is whisked into Earth-2, where he falls into the hands of the latest Injustice Society. and, under their control, kills the JSA by using his power to plot stories against them!
Maggin, after telling Schwarz what’s going on, uses the Treadmill himself and ends up in Earth-1 with the JLA, who are weirded out when he and Green Arrow are found to talk exactly alike, and Maggin admits that he writes GA that way! The JLA split for Earth-2 where they defeat the Injustice Society, only to find that, as a result of Bates’s ‘plotting power’, it’s actually the JSA who are dead.
The resolution is an even bigger mess than the set-up, with the Spectre turning up to talk God into letting him bring the JSA back to life. Meanwhile, whilst Bates gets to do stuff, all Maggin is allowed to do is insult him. Using the same words he’d write for Green Arrow, of course.
Be that as it may, Green Arrow was still a minor, second-string character.
Writer Mike W. Barr thought there was more to GA than that, and convinced DC to do a Green Arrow mini-series in 1982, the first time the Emerald Archer had soloed in his own title.
This was the era in which DC (and Marvel) were just discovering the deliberately limited series: maxi-series of 12 issues, mini-series of 4, series that told a single story, with a beginning, a middle and an end, and no obligation to necessarily leave the hero completely unchanged for next month. As Showcase was now a thing of the distant past, and in a time when the direct, fan-only market was starting to exert the dominance it now holds, it was an ideal way to test out the commercial viability of a character.
The Green Arrow mini-series was a decent enough story, of no great significance, save for introducing GA’s long-term foe, Count Vertigo. It was well-received, but it’s noticeable that there was no follow-up, no unlimited Green Arrow series, nor even a second mini-series.
But as this series appeared, something was developing deep in the background. Writers Len Wein and Marv Wolfman, frustrated at dealing with DC’s Multiverse and its multiple sets of heroes, and holding that responsible for DC’s smaller market share, had proposed a series to eliminate the Multiverse.
Their notion would become Crisis on Infinite Earths and would not appear until 1985, partly because it was a hideously complex undertaking that was still being plotted from issue to issue even whilst being published, and partly because DC wanted it to run that year, to celebrate the company’s 50th Anniversary.
I don’t propose to discuss the series in any great detail. It achieved its aim, as the Multiverse was destroyed at the beginning of time, not merely no longer existing but never existing, and leaving a single, integral Universe which re-started in its place.
The final issue included a blood-bath of unwanted characters, amongst them the Earth-2 Green Arrow, who died without ever having that conversation with his Earth-1 counterpart.
So, 1986 dawned with everything new, a bright future available to anyone. In Green Arrow’s case, that would come true, but it would be an act of colossal comic industry irony that the character who was created to be a cheap knock-off of Batman should owe his eventual long-term success to a series featuring the Caped Crusader. Or, as we should now describe him, The Dark Knight.