Before the restructuring of Local Government in 1974, the Lake District was divided between three of the ancient shires of England. These were Cumberland, which lent a variation of its name to the new integrated region, Westmorland, which was cleared from the map, and Lancashire, in the form of the Furness District, otherwise known as Lancashire-across-the-water, the water in question being Morecambe Bay.
The boundaries between the three counties met at the top of Wrynose Pass, as commemorated by The Three Shire Stone, with the county boundaries proceeding along the Duddon Valley to the south west, and the Brathay Valley in the east. Lancashire’s only range of fells was the Coniston Range, and their highest point, Coniston old Man, was thus the highest point in Lancashire.
But these days are long gone. The undistinguished Gragareth serves as Lancashire’s highest point now, a highest point impossible to detect on its flat and featureless top, whilst the Coniston Range remains among the most popular walking destinations in the Lakes.
Geographically, the Coniston group is built around a central, north-south ridge linking the two highest peaks, the Old Man in the south, and Swirl How in the north, with outliers to each side. Swirl How is the geographically significant fell in the range, with ridges spinning west, north and east from its neat, uncluttered top, to the south, an outlying spur to the west of the Old Man leads to the group’s finest cliff-face and its sharpest summit.
At first description, it would seem that to devise a walk that covers all the seven summits in the range in a single day would be an artificial thing, full of back-tracking. However, the proximity of the outliers at the northern end of the ridge, and the sheer bulk of that eastern outlier, Wetherlam, which runs to three southward ridges itself, enables the walk to be planned as a circuit of Coppermines Valley. In this manner, there is the barest minimum of walking over trodden ground during the day, and that towards its end.
The walk has to be based upon Coniston Village, where parking is easy to be had (and I am not going to reveal where free road parking can be found, in case you fill it up before I can get there).
The mouth of Coppermines Valley, surrounded by high fells
Coppermines Valley is reached along the lane at the side of the White Horse, which rapidly changes from tarmac to rough, land rover track, until the path begins to rise among trees, climbing to the mouth of the valley. Land Rovers, and cars with top notch shock absorbers can make it this far as the former miners cottages just inside the valley have been converted to holiday homes. The path turns away from them in disdain, climbing back upon itself to a platform from where the lake below first comes into sight. Here the path doubles back once more, and before long it can be seen angling across the rising fellside, making for a deep fold in the ridge a half mile distant.
Ahead, the deep trench of Coppermines Valley shows ample evidence of the mining and quarrying activity of centuries, and Wetherlam’s Black Sail ridge drops steeply into the valley, offering another potential route of ascent.
The current walk lies on the flanks of the Yewdale Fells, those splendid ramparts that look so impressive above the northern approaches to Coniston Village, but which are no more than a facade for the indefinite ground at the end of Wetherlam’s longest and loosest ridge.
Follow the path into the notch in the ridge. This, if followed, descends to Tilberthwaite, in its quiet valley, but when a track splits off left, crossing the little trench, transfer to this. In a short distance, it starts to climb upwards, onto the broad end of the Lad Stones ridge.
The ridge is primarily broad and grassy in its lower section, but there is a decided change in texture halfway up, as rock increasingly comes to litter the way, until the wide, untidy top comes underfoot, and the first north and westward views of the day come into sight, the Scafells being the centre of the picture. The unruly cairn is close to the steep edge overlooking Little Langdale and care should be taken approaching the lip of the summit to maximise the downward views.
From here, the walk turns west, following a well-walked, surprisingly narrow in parts path, which crosses behind the subsidiary Black Sail summit. A short diversion can add this to the walk with a small expenditure of energy, but bear in mind there are many miles to go.
The path descends steeply to the narrow col of Levers Hause, from where an easy return to Coniston can be made, left, through Coppermines valley, if this were necessary. Ahead however is one of the highlights of the walk, the steep, hands on rock ascent of the Prison Band, a series of rocky towers leading almost the whole way to Swirl How’s top. There will have been ample opportunity to study this on the descent, together with the easier path to its right, which offers a steep ascent without undue excitement. Having done both on different occasions, I have to point you to the rock.
Swirl How’s neat, uncrowded summit allows you to see the range almost in full, and to appreciate its geographical importance. The main ridge heads south, but Great Carrs and Grey Friar loom close at hand, and a simple study of the ground suggests that the next hour or so need not be a series of there and back again ridges.
Great Carrs, curving around the unfrequented valley of Greenburn Beck, looms close at hand. Wainwright describes the walk around the valley head as a seven minute stroll, and I am proud to have matched that timetable on two widely separated occasions. Admittedly, there is little sense of achievement associated with this crossing: the fell deserves an ascent across its own footprint at some point, to be properly enjoyed.
There is no need to return to Swirl How: from the lowest point of the depression, contour across right and down to join the long, straightforward downhill track onto the wide plateau of Fairfield, or just aim directly for it anyway, the ground being free from danger. Beyond, the track rises to approach the square top of Grey Friar. Apart from its spectacular view of the Scafell Range, there is little to commend the fell, though a decent walk can be made of the ridge from the Duddon Valley. Simply tick it, off, relish the view, and return to Fairfield.
It may be thought that an ascent back to Swirl How is now needed, with the fell looking like a green wall, but a well-engineered path curves away from the plateau to the south, maintaining a level contour around the head of the valley containing Seathwaite Tarn. The path encourages striding out with no effort, with the Tarn slowly curving into view as the valley opens below. there’s a point at which the path suddenly disappears, overrun by a wet patch of indeterminate width, but simply walk up the fellside about fifteen feet and a parallel path enables progress to continue.
It looks like the level route will take you to Levers Hawse, the lowest point on the ridge, and if you wish, conserve energy by going all the way. A better option is, when the upthrust of Little Gowder Crag comes level on the skyline, and the Tarn is in full view, zigzag up the fellside in wide sweeps, and gain the ridge for the rest of the walk. The openness, and the scramble over LGC are worth it.
At Lever’s Hawse, the broad path starts to rise again, crossing the broad back of Brim Fell. There is a tiny cairn on its flat top, but otherwise nothing to hold the interest, so march on, crossing the shallow dip in the ridge and follow a similar path up the wide northern side of Coniston Old Man, the highest point, by the odd couple of feet, of the day.
Where Brim Fell offers nothing to delay the walker, the Old Man’s top is a place for rest, contemplation and, in amongst the crowds, perusal of the views, which extend south as far as Blackpool Tower, which the more tripper oriented among the crowds will be actively straining to see. The true walker’s eyes will be fixed due west, upon the magnificent cliffs of Dow Crag, the final summit of the day.
There is no direct route possible, thanks to the deep trench holding the invisible Goatswater between the two fells, but the walk around the hollow of the tarn is easy throughout. Tired walkers will no doubt debate the wisdom of walking westward when Coniston Village and the car lies due east. This is the wisdom of doing this walk anti-clockwise: the leg-weary walker will be infinitely more enthused at adding to the miles to cross Dow Crag than he or she will for Grey Friar.
Retrace steps a hundred yards or so and take a route curving down to the left, across the flank of the Old man and onto the wideness of Goat’s Hause. The ascent on the far side, swinging around behind the fearsome crags, is without difficulty, although the highest point is, like such fells as Helm Crag and Harter Fell in Eskdale, achievable only by a short rock climb. First time visitors will feel obliged to complete the walk: those who have already scaled Dow Crag have the liberty of conscience to stand as close as they can to the final upthrust and call the job done, in the interests of aching legs. Continue along the declining ridge, rising at intervals to cross the lower tops of Brown Pike and Buck Pike, before descending finally to the summit of Walna Scar Pass.
There has been enough opportunity in the final stages of the descent to see that the summit of Walna Scar fell lies only a few steps above the short green slope south west of the Pass. Walna Scar is not part of the Coniston Range, nor even in the Southern Fells, but it does feature in the Outlying Fells, and indeed is the only top in that volume to exceed 2,000′. Peak baggers will be tempted, but anyone having the excess energy to spring up this final slope should be subjected to steroid tests on the return to the Village.
Instead, turn thankfully east, negotiating the initially steep and, when last walked, extremely eroded upper section of the Pass. Gradually, the slopes level out, to cross the wide expanse of Cove Moor, by Cove Bridge. Beyond, the way is crossed by a profusion of routes, on the popular walk from Torver to Goatswater and the Old Man. Banishead Quarry, with its spectacular waterfall, is only a short distance downhill, but most walkers will have their sights set on the long tramp back. The Walna Scar Road descends gently between a pair of rock gateways, passes the shy, reedy Boo Tarn, at the foot of Wainwright’s favourite ascent of the Old Man, long since buried under the expanding grounds of Bursting Stone Quarry, and culminates at the parking area at the top of the narrow fell road down into the Village.
Unless a lift can be hitched from a departing driver grateful for you holding the fell-gate open for them, march on in what will hopefully be early evening sun, lit by intimate views of the country below the Old Man, and the unusual rib of the Bell, before arriving in the Village by the road next to the long-closed station.
If the Coop is still open, grab an ice cream bar. If the day has been hot, grab two: the first won’t even touch the sides.
I don’t know if any of you did pledge to the Kickstarter for Rick Geary’s forthcoming self-published book, but a total of 245 backers, myself included, definitely did so. The project passed its target within the first 72 hours and has gone on to be oversubscribed by nearly three times. Here’s the link to the final figures:
I hope some of you did, because you’ll enjoy the book, which is due to be published in August, and you’ll have earned yourself one or more exclusive extras for your willingness to put your money into this. I will be receiving the exclusive bookmark, plus a personalised, tipped-in bookplate.
If you haven’t chipped in, it’s now too late to do more than buy the book when it becomes available. I’ll be flagging it up at that time, so you’ve no excuse.
The Atom was created by writer Bill O’Connor and artist Ben Flinton for All-American Comics issue 19, though it’s also been said that the pair wrote and drew interchangeably. Neither men were stars, neither appear to have created anything apart from The Atom, and they left the industry in 1942, to go into the Armed Services, never to return.
The Atom was college student Al Pratt, of Calvin College. Pratt was distinguished by red hair and by being only 5’1” tall, which led to his being mocked and picked on. Pratt was further demeaned when, having finally persuaded classmate Mary James to go on a date with him, the pair were stopped by a mugger. Furious that Pratt did nothing to stop the crook taking her jewels, Mary walked away.
Frustrated, Pratt ended up in a local coffee bar, where he bought a starving bum a meal. The bum turned out to be former boxing trainer Joe Morgan, who spent the next year training Pratt as a fighter. Pratt intended to build a ring career in a mask, as The Mighty Atom, but was diverted from his course when he prevented Mary James from being kidnapped. Instead, he turned to crime-fighting.
As the Atom, Pratt wore a full face blue hood incorporating a short cape (that looked more like a towel!), a loose fronted yellow blouse, high-waisted brown leather trunks, blue gauntlets and boots. He was a founder member of the Justice Society of America and was second only to Hawkman in terms of appearances. He was present in the opening and closing chapters of All-Star 21, but his solo chapter was, for some unknown reason, overdrawn as Dr Fate, replaced by Wildcat in issue 27, supposedly permanently but instead only for one issue, and absent for issue 36 due to an injury in a basketball game (!), for which he was replaced by Batman.
The Atom’s solo career was somewhat disrupted. He appeared in all issues of All-American bar one from 19-61 before disappearing for eight issues. He returned for three more issues but it seems likely that he was going to be dropped, and replaced in the JSA, until some scheduling issues in All-Star forced his being kept on. His series transferred to Flash Comics with issue 80, where it appeared intermittently until the series’ cancellation with issue 104.
To be frank, the Atom was never better than second-rate. He had no superpowers, not until much later in the decade, and O’Connor and Flinton’s work was generally very poor in comparison with the early Golden Age comics. It was an era of crude art, but of great vigour and enthusiasm, with flashes of untrained but vivid imagination, against which O’Connor and Flinton could not compete. As time went by, Flinton’s art grew looser and more ill-defined, avoiding faces as much as possible.
Even after they left, the Atom still failed to get decent art, except for an Alex Toth chapter in All-Star 37. Then, suddenly, the Atom displayed super-strength in All-Star, and a couple of issues later changed his costume – yellow top and leggings, blue boots and a blue head-cap/eye-mask with a red fin whose shape continually changed. It didn’t do much for him, and the advent of super-strength wasn’t explained until the 1980’s, where an awkward 1942-set All-Star Squadron story had Pratt exposed to radiation that has no immediate effect upon him but might have a delayed effect…
Having said all this, it seems strange that the Atom should be chosen as the fourth, and in the event final Golden Age hero to be revived at the beginning of the Silver Age. Though Julius Schwartz was again the editor, and Gardner Fox the writer, the initial notion appears to have come from artist Gil Kane, who suggested reviving the Atom with the powers of Doll-Man.
The latter was a character created at Forties’ Quality Comics. Scientist Darrell Dane swallowed an amazing formula that enables him, by the force of his will, to shrink himself to six inches in height. Schwartz and Fox came up with research physicist Ray Palmer (named for a friend who was a prominent – and short – SF magazine editor), of Ivy Town University, researching the compression of matter. Palmer discovers a fragment of white dwarf star matter fallen to Earth (disbelief has to be severely suspended when it comes to Palmer picking it up, no matter how heavy he makes it out to be).
Palmer uses the star to grind a reducing lens that can indeed shrink objects to microscopic size. Unfortunately, when the object returns to its normal size, it explodes. Before Palmer can get round this difficulty, he joins his fiancée, lady lawyer Jean Loring, on an expedition taking the Scouts to nearby caves. A landslide seals them in and Palmer makes the ultimate sacrifice by using the lens to reduce himself to a small enough size to escape and rescue everyone.
Preparing for death, Palmer returns to his normal size unharmed. Some mysterious, mutant force in his body clearly protects him. So he devises a costume that he can wear at all times, over his street clothing (again, yeuch!), which is only visible when he shrinks himself to his regular height of six inches. The costume is a one-piece, blue at the top, red below, with blue boots, red gloves and a pull-over head-cowl and eye-mask. Palmer sets out to fight crime as the Atom.
Unlike the other revivals, the Atom’s motivation was intimately entwined with his romantic life. Like Barry Allen, Ray Palmer had a fiancée, but unlike Allen, Palmer was continually urging Jean to set a date. But Jean was determined to make a success of her legal career before agreeing to marry Palmer and, impliedly, give it up to become a housewife. So Palmer became the Atom to help Jean win her cases, so that she would become a success, and marry him, all the sooner.
Bearing in mind that this was an era in which the relatively recently established Comics Code Authority presided, whose iron rule ensured that good girls didn’t until they were married. So Ray Palmer became a superhero in order to get laid… not that anyone would ever have admitted that.
The Atom, unlike Hawkman, needed only two Showcase appearances to step up into his own bi-monthly series. He became the second hero to be inducted into the Justice League, in issue 14 of their series, although he was to become one of the ‘Small 5’, whose appearances were somewhat rationed. Although the JLA did organise for him a floating chair so that at the meeting table he could hover in everybody’s eye-line.
Nor was his series anything more than steady in terms of sales. Fox introduced a couple of villains, the longest-lasting being Chronos, the time-manipulating thief. He refined Palmer’s size-and-weight controls by adding fingertip controls within the Atom’s gloves, to get over the need to keep fumbling at his belly-button, and introduced a charming, erudite and offbeat series of adventures where the Atom would go through Dr Hyatt’s ‘Time Pool’ into the past, and meet luminaries with no obvious appeal to ten year old boys, such as Edgar Allan Poe.
The Atom 1 returned in the first JLA/JSA team-up, and continued to appear irregularly in following years.
Ray Palmer teamed up with Al Pratt on a couple of occasions, the second of which allowed us an update on the original Atom’s later years. Pratt was still at Calvin College but now as a Professor, in nuclear physics. Like Hawkman, he had retained his latter-day costume, plus his super-strength, but in their second adventure together, we learned that Pratt was still single. A blind date with the wealthy Marion Theyer who, suddenly, aged to over 50, led to a fast-moving, criss-crossing story of women ageing on Earth-2, men de-aging on Earth-1 and two Atoms fighting.
It ended with Pratt and Marion getting off to a good second start, but Marion Thayer never reappeared, and ever since the case has been that Pratt eventually managed to get Mary James to overlook his size and marry him (though if any stories were ever published showing them as a married couple, interacting, I confess I’ve never read them).
Palmer was also allowed a friendship with Carter (Hawkman) Hall, in the manner of the Superman/Batman, Flash/Green Lantern pairings, with occasional team-ups and crossovers.
But by 1969, The Atom’s sales were declining. Hawkman was cancelled and merged into The Atom, alternating between half-length shorts and full-length team-ups, but this merely delayed the inevitable for a year or so, and the series was cancelled after issue 45. This issue had seen Jean Loring driven temporarily insane, but this plotline was resolved in Justice League of America 81, when her mind was restored.
Little happened for either Atom during the Seventies. Palmer continued to appear with the Justice League, off and on. In 1977, the year that Steve Engelhart wrote Justice League of America, Palmer displayed a certain resentment at the more prominent JLAers – i.e., the ‘Big 5’ over how he and the less-powerful members were not being treated as equals.
Pratt was not included in the All-Star revival series, an omission stemming from Paul Levitz’s decision to ignore the supposed ‘Earth-2-is-twenty-years-behind’ theory and treat the JSAers as being heroes now in their fifties: as a more-or-less non-powered hero, The Atom 1’s plausibility was threatened and he was side-lined. He was however going to feature in that decidedly oddball mid-Seventies series, Secret Society of Super-Villains, which ran for 16 issues without ever settling to a theme or direction for more than four and a half: in its final period, the scene had shifted to Earth-2 and the then-writer (Gerry Conway? David Kraft? Bob Rozakis?) had decided to bring out the JSA members Levitz wasn’t using in All-Star when a kindly fate intervened and it was cancelled, mid-series, with one complete issue unpublished.
He would, however, feature to an unexpected degree in All-Star Squadron, in his original costume, being something of a favourite with Roy Thomas. From this point on, Pratt’s character would be developed as a hot-headed, aggressive, punch-first-and-ask-questions-later youngster, for whom his Atom costume was a release from the frustrations of being picked on for being short.
Thomas would also retcon Pratt’s sudden and unexplained acquisition of super-strength and change of costume, though in highly contrived manner (an unfortunately common characteristic of all Thomas’s retcons in this period). In 1942, Dr Terry Curtis, a physicist, would be forced to become the radiation-wielding villain Cyclotron, in a costume identical to Pratt’s later uniform: Pratt would be exposed to radiation from Cyclotron, who sacrificed himself to defeat the ultimate villain. Pratt and the superheroine Firebrand would look after Curtis’s baby daughter, and Pratt would be godfather to her son Albert Rothstein, aka Infinity, Inc. member Nuklon, but in the short term, the delayed effect of the radiation would give Pratt his super-strength in 1948.
Throughout the Seventies, Palmer and Jean Loring remained steadfastly engaged, though with no sign of marriage (maybe Palmer had now got lucky in an age where moral standards and the CCA were shifting). Eventually, though, it was decided to fulfil the pair’s happiness. A short-series in the equally oddball Super-Team Family saw Loring kidnapped by the villain T.O.Morrow, and Palmer enlisting the aid of several different heroes to rescue her, as a result of which Jean finally agreed to set the date.
The marriage took place in Justice League of America 154, which started with Palmer’s ‘bachelor night’, at which point he revealed that he’d still not revealed his Atom identity to Jean. Having been persuaded that he’d better do so, and in double-quick time, Palmer was shocked when Jean repudiated him for lying to her all these years. Fortunately, by issues end she recanted, and the two wed at long last.
Funnily, enough, having taken almost two whole decades to bring this clearly loving pair together, the marriage didn’t last five years. The Atom 2’s original artist, Gil Kane, a fiercely independent creator, had been pushing for more barbarian comics for several years and, with writer Jan Strnad, finally had a proposal accepted to completely revolutionise Ray Palmer.
Via a four-part Sword of the Atom mini-series and two Specials, Palmer firstly discovered that his preoccupation with his work at Ivy University and his superheroics had driven an increasingly lonely Jean into an affair with her Law partner, Paul Hoben (they call it an affair now, but in 1983 it was being caught snogging in the car). Hurt, Palmer jetted off to a South American conference to think, but the plane crashed in the Amazon jungle. Palmer escaped by shrinking to Atom-size but, in the fall, his controls were destroyed and he was stuck at six inches (with his hair flapping in the breeze as the top of his cowl was torn off).
Palmer then discovered a colony of six inch tall, yellow-skinned barbarian pygmies called Mohrlaidians. He became their protector, a frog-rider, and decided not to return to civilisation, except for once, to grant Jean a divorce, tell his life-story to a thinly-disguised Norman Mailer (Brawler) which revealed his identity to the world, hand his Atom costume and belt to the afore-mentioned Paul Hoben (who in some quarters is regarded as The Atom 3, but not here, given that the new Protector of Ivy Town never even used them once), and returned to the jungle to re-unite himself with the lovely five-and-a-bit-inches tall Princess Laethwyn.
I’m sorry, I apologise. It was by Kane, whose art is tremendous, and Strnad’s a good, subtle writer, and it’s far better than I’ve made it sound. But it’s hardly surprising that it didn’t last.
Palmer did not return until post-Crisis on Infinite Earths in Power of the Atom, written by Roger Stern. Pratt, at this point, had gone into a Teutonic Gods limbo with the Justice Society, holding back Gotterdammerung.
Stern quickly dispensed with Princess Laethwyn and her Mohrlaidians, having an illegal logging operation slash-and-burn that quarter of the jungle, and them, forcing Palmer to return to civilisation. At first he went back to superhero stuff and his old villains, though another new direction came in after Palmer learned that the rainforest raid had been deliberately aimed at driving him back to America, where a sinister CIA offshoot wanted to recruit him as an operative. Palmer got his revenge, which involved killing the director of the operation and shrinking the five operatives to the standard six inches.
These operatives then formed a Micro/Squad working for the Cabal. With Power of the Atom cancelled after only 18 issues, Palmer’s story carried on into Suicide Squad, working deep cover, assisting the Squad, and attracting the Cabal’s attention. This backfired spectacularly when Blacksnake of the Squad suddenly turned on the Atom and impaled him.
It was a stunning shock, but it was also a cheat. Palmer then revealed himself as having infiltrated the Micro/Squad by impersonating one of its fallen members: the Atom who has assisted the Suicide Squad and fought against the Cabal is The Atom 3, aka Adam Cray, son of a Senator murdered by the Cabal, who had been working with Palmer to facilitate Palmer’s infiltration. A retrospective Atom 3, like Fel Andar as Hawkman 3. Cray, incidentally, was using the costume and controls Palmer had left with Paul Hoben.
In the meantime, Al Pratt had returned to the scene in 1992. The success of the Justice Society of America mini-series, from which he’d been omitted, led to a short-lived ongoing series, with Al Pratt as a regular. Pratt returned from limbo in his original costume, but rapidly changed it for a blue face-hood, sleeveless yellow top and blue pants. He was now bald, with a bushy moustache, a touchy, defensive, stocky man, protective of team-mate Wildcat (who had been crippled for life before the JSA had gone to limbo and been mystically rejuvenated), and quietly heartbroken that, whilst he had gone, his wife Mary had died, without him being able to say goodbye.
Pratt was not long for the DC Universe. Justice Society of America was cancelled after 10 issues, amid allegations that it was a political, not commercial issue. The JSA next appeared in Zero Hour, when they gathered to face the apparent villain, The Extant. Hot-headed as usual, The Atom 1 was the first to spring into the attack. He was killed instantly by a blast of radiation. Apart from the occasional flashback, he would never return.
DC were thus left with one Atom, Ray Palmer, and his life had been put through so many changes that DC decided to use Zero Hour to completely reset him. In the final confrontation, The Atom tries to slip into the molecules of The Extant’s body, but finds him to be composed of pure energy: Extant reverses Palmer’s ageing, intending to send him all the way back past his birth, but Waverider intervenes, stopping the reversal with Palmer aged about eighteen, albeit with all his memories. Adopting an Animal Man style jacket over his re-redesigned costume, Palmer founds and leads a new incarnation of the Teen Titans.
That didn’t last long either, just 24 issues, ending with Palmer returning to his standard 30-ish age and disappearing into the background again, until Identity Crisis.
I’ve written about this series elsewhere: suffice to know that the death of Sue Dibny, wife of the Elongated Man, starts a frenzy of concern for the superhero community, who fear attacks on their loved ones. One such attack is made on Jean Loring, now single again. Palmer’s fear for her safety is manifest and indeed he saves her at the last moment, bringing them back together, to his intense delight. It’s short-lived however, as a casual remark from Jean exposes her as Sue Dibny’s killer, albeit clumsily rather than deliberately, and that she has done everything in the hope of winning Palmer back to her: instead, it gets her into Arkham Asylum.
(Where she becomes the new Eclipso, and becomes a forever-tainted character, in a way that Carol Ferris was never so irretrievably tainted by being Star Sapphire. It was a bad move, cutting off an avenue for Palmer’s life.)
Hurt beyond measure, bitterly ashamed and distraught, Palmer shrunk himself into oblivion, pausing only to tell his close friend Carter Hall (the restored Hawkman 1) that he was never coming back. And throughout Infinite Crisis, One Year Later and 52, there was no Ray Palmer. But one of the underlying stories of DC’s next weekly, Countdown (to Final Crisis) was the hunt for Ray Palmer.
Palmer’s shrinking had taken him into a microscopic universe where, after Infinite Crisis, he found himself on Earth-51 of the new Multiverse, a seemingly-idyllic world in which their Ray Palmer had just died before going on a blind date with a woman named Jean Loring. It seemed too good to be true. Palmer’s friends were all his old Silver Age colleagues, all of whom had retired after crime was eradicated (due, it seemed, to Batman killing all the villains).But Palmer found his Earth-51 equivalent had been working on something to avert a danger to the whole Multiverse,which made it essential that he complete the research.
This idyll ended when he was finally found by a search team from his own Earth, bringing with them an unsuspected danger who ruins Palmer’s life in exile. He teams up with his colleagues to help save the Multiverse.
Meanwhile, in the wake of Infinite Crisis, DC came forward with The Atom no 4, whose series was entitled The All-New Atom, but which was as short-lived as the others before it. The Atom 4, who was developed from ideas put forward by Grant Morrison at a time when he’d been trying to re-write virtually the entire DC Universe, was Ryan Choi, a Hong Kong-born and based Physics Professor and a correspondent with Palmer, who took his place among Ivy University’s faculty. Choi then found Palmer’s old size-and-weight belt and became the latest Atom.
Over the 25 issues of the series, Choi was initially mentored by a mysterious figure whom everyone assumed was Palmer, but who instead was exposed as Palmer’s oldest foe, Chronos, who had manipulated everything, up to and including Palmer’s side of the original correspondence. Choi was part of the team that retrieved Palmer from Earth-51, and eventually impressed Palmer sufficiently that Palmer insisted both use the name, The Atom.
During Blackest Night, Palmer took on another role by being deputised into the Indigo Tribe, the Corps that wields the light of compassion, though he retained his size and weight command, which has long since been keyed to his thoughts so as to make things easy for unimaginative writers. Then, in Brightest Day, Choi was found to have been murdered, offstage, by the mercenary assassin Deathstroke, arousing controversy over the killing of one of the very few Asian-American heroes at DC.
Once again, that left only The Atom 2.
It seems clear, down the years, that there is a small fandom for the shrinking Atom, but not one large enough to sustain Ray Palmer, in any form, as other than a supporting character.
It should be mentioned in passing that, in addition to his godson Nuklon, who would later be admitted to the new JSA as Atom-Smasher (i.e., a cyclotron) in a new costume based on The Atom 1’s, Al Pratt was later credited with a son he never knew, Grant Emerson, aka Damage. Emerson’s origin was eventually that he was conceived by Pratt and his wife Mary, but she was kidnapped by an old JSA foe, during which ordeal she was led to believe she had miscarried. Instead, the foetus had been removed and, treated with DNA taken from every JSA member, was born artificially, As Damage, Emerson could channel energy into explosions: he was used to re-start the Universe in Zero Hour, after Parallax was attacked. He too ended up donning an Atom-inspired costume and joining the even newer JSA, post Infinite Crisis, only to be killed off some years later.
So now it’s the New 52. Ray Palmer appears as a scientist and supporting character in Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E but not as a superhero. Sgt. Al Pratt appears in Earth-2 and has now have received superpowers that once again make him The Atom. Ryan Choi was supposed to be resurrected and appear in Justice League, but the frontline Atom is actually The Atom 5, aka latina student at Ivy University (apparently, nobody can learn to shrink anywhere else), Rhonda Pineda. Good luck to her.
For better or worse, a Roses match at Headingley was always an event: three days of daily trips from Manchester to Leeds and back along a road that became so familiar that I could almost have done it in my sleep and, on one occasion, returning from watching United at Newcastle on a horribly foggy Sunday evening, did do in five yard visibility fog, judging every twist, turn, dip and rise with my body and memory as much as my eyes.
I never considered staying in Leeds – what, in Yorkshire? – not with it being so easy to reach – ninety minutes from gate to door, or seventy-five if you tested the speed limits for their elasticity as I did on one memorable occasion where I had to be back quickly. I even bought my first car to avoid having to mess with buses and trains for three days, when I paid my first visit in August 1981.
That was an experience in itself. Saturday was fine. I discovered the Winter Shed, enjoyed the cricket, found my way there and back by a mixture of luck and judgement. Unfortunately, on Bank Holiday Monday, I had barely got half way up the Saddleworth Valley when my car overheated rapidly and I had to pull up.
Fortunately, there was a call-box not too far distant, so I phoned my Uncle in Droylsden, who was the car expert in our family, and half an hour of lovely, sunny, cricket conditions later, he and Grandad turned up to refill my radiator and lead me back home, where he patched up the hose leak that was draining the radiator and causing the overheating.
(A year later, it would have been very different, for both would be gone).
Emboldened, I set off again, only for the engine to overheat a second time. By then, I was across the Pennines and running downhill towards Huddersfield, so I topped the radiator up again, with the water canister my Uncle had given me, and carried on. I had to do that a second time, north of Huddersfield, but I got to Headingley by Lunch. In Yorkshire, it was growing overcast, so much so that play was abandoned for bad light before Tea.
The car was frustratingly worse going home: I could barely managed five miles at a time before having to pull over, and I was lucky to find a tap at which I could refill the water canister halfway.
On Tuesday, I wasted no time in taking the car back to the garage where I had bought it, only a fortnight ago. They reluctantly agreed to repair it free of charge, so I set off for Headingley again: bus to Piccadilly Station, train to Leeds, bus to Headingley. I walked into the ground at 12.30pm, just in time to see the fourth Yorkshire wicket falling.
By Lunch, half an hour later, the Tykes were eight down, and within fifteen minutes after Lunch, they had lost their last two wickets and we had won by an innings.
All that messing around, for about 45 minutes of cricket.
I made a day of it, coming home, wandering the centre of Leeds on the way back then, on a whim, taking a train home that went via Bradford to Victoria Station. It was older, slower, stopped everywhere, but reversing out of Bradford, I found myself alone in the back carriage, staring through the windows of an empty drivers cab, as the train climbed into and snaked its way through the Pennines, in soft, early evening sun, travelling backwards through strange, remote, narrow valleys that seemed to go on far longer than the map would allow. It lent a lustre to the day that made up for the paucity of the cricket I’d seen.
One of my favourite memories of Headingley was of the Roses Match of August 1990. I was on my third car by then, a very reliable Nissan Polo that carried me back and forth without the slightest issue. As for the cricket, there was a substantial Lancashire First Innings, with only Fairbrother out of the top eight failing to contribute runs, and two quick Yorkshire wickets before close of play.
On Monday, one of Mike Atherton’s best bowling performances – he took a career best 5 – 26, as well as two catches – forced Yorkshire into the follow on, in which a match-saving 146 by Ashley Metcalfe contributed to a substantial Second Innings score that was taking the game towards a tame draw, until Atherton snatched the last two wickets.
By then, we were in the Twenty Overs in the last Hour period. In fact, after the break between innings there would be fourteen overs left and a notional Lancashire target of 148 . At least, you’d have assumed it was notional.
But Lancashire in 1990 were a fast-scoring, attacking side, full of batsmen who were full of runs. We were very strong in One-Day cricket: we had won the Sunday League the previous summer, and would create history that year by becoming the first County to win both the Benson & Hedges cup and the national Westminster Bank Trophy in the same summer. And this was a one-day run-chase.
There wasn’t another County in the Championship that would have gone for it, but we expected it of our Club, and the batsmen fulfilled our hopes.
The target was 10 an over from the beginning, and it was very rapidly 12 an over, with Graeme Fowler and Gehan Mendis falling early victims, and Fairbrother not long after. That left the methodical, cautious, accumulating Atherton at the wicket with young Graham Lloyd, nicknamed Bumblebee, after his father, David Lloyd’s nickname of Bumble.
And, in glorious fashion, they went for it! And they were hitting the ball extraordinarily hard and accurate, and within a couple of minutes every Yorkshire fielder was on the boundary. Because it might have been a One-Day target, but it wasn’t a One-Day match. There were no fielding restrictions here and if Moxon wanted to stick everyone equidistant on the boundary, he could do so. The target rate was two a ball: we’d never maintain that with the field so widely spread.
So we didn’t try. Athers went for power, and placement, pulling, cutting and driving with such precision that the ball would be at the boundary before either fielder could reach it, accompanied by Lancashire roars every time. And Bumblebee went for power, murderously smashing the ball to all parts, high, hard and handsome, out of any fielder’s reach on boundaries that suddenly seemed too short.
It was glorious, it was astounding, and with every over, we were getting closer and closer to the amazing possibility that, from this unlikely position, we could very well win it!
But it didn’t last. First Atherton, then Lloyd, caught in the deep going for his sixth six, for 70 runs scored off only 35 balls, fell. With the first of them, the task became exponentially harder: with the second it became impossible.
We still tried, for a moment or two, but a sixth wicket turned the tide too much. Now it was Yorkshire who had the prospect of victory more clearly in their sights.
So we shut up shop. The Tykes were still using their opening bowlers, Paul Jarvis and Steven Fletcher, but De Freitas and Hegg were aiming to bat out time, and though Jarvis eventually broke through and got De Freitas out, with another eight balls left in which to try to snatch the last three wickets, the draw was offered and accepted, and the players left the field with honours even (except in bonus points, where we came out with 8 to Yorkshire’s 5).
But we’d gone for it. And we were making it. And it was glorious to watch, to hope and to dream. I’m very glad I was there.
Cricket is an astonishingly difficult game to define for those who do not instinctively understand its subtleties, its rhythms and, most of all, its length. Worst of all, when you show them what the game is capable of producing, the skill and drama inherent in its every moment, they will say that yes, they’d be more interested in it if it were like that all the time.
But one of the fundamental aspects of cricket is that it is not like that all the time, but the potentiality is always there for it to be like that at any time.
One superb example is the ultra-rare circumstances of a hat trick. For those who are corrupted by too much exposure to football, a hat trick is not three of something. It is very simple and very precise. It is three wickets taken by the same bowler in three consecutive deliveries. In forty years of watching and playing cricket, I have only seen hat tricks on three occasions.
The joy and brilliance of a hat trick lies in the intensity of the moment of potential, of anticipation and desire, that covers the very short space and time between the second and third balls of the achievement. No matter what the state of the game, the drama or otherwise of the situation, the first wicket is, of itself, commonplace. Even if it only happens, at most, twenty times during a game, it’s one of the objects of the game: we expect it.
It is only when the next delivery takes a wicket too that the excitement reaches an immediate height. The second wicket is essential: without it there is nothing to expect. But it’s real function is to open that door onto the vision of a future memory, a moment you’ll take deep within you, for ever, if only…
But only is all too often only. How many times have we seen two-in-two’s, been brought in an instant to that line? There’s no longer any relaxation in the ground, no somnolence, no leaning back and letting the game flow. Everyone cranes their necks, concentration is shifted, with laser-intensity, on the moment that might be to come.
Then the batsman blocks the ball, or sways out of its way, or knocks it away for runs and it’s over, the bubble gone, and everyone falls back in denied tension. The game returns to its base state. But oh, when it doesn’t…
The first hat-trick I ever saw as it happened was bowled by me. It wasn’t exactly something to boast about, given the circumstances, though the figures – O0.5 M0 R1 W4 – are fabulous. There’s a more detailed account of it in my book My Brilliant Sporting Career for those who might be interested.
The second came in a game in which I was playing, for the Nottingham Articled Clerks in August 1979, and I had nothing to do with it. Thankfully. It was taken by Nigel Kay, our left-arm spinner and, if not our best bowler that summer, then certainly in the top two.
We played twenty overs a side after work and, as far as I can recall, the Articled Clerks were batting second. If I’m right, we must have had the game wrapped up by the time the last over started, with our opponents seven wickets down and with no realistic prospect of winning. Then Nigel got a wicket with his fourth ball, and another with his fifth.
What a situation. Last man in, last ball, last wicket and hat trick ball all in one. Our captain pulled us all in to surround the bat – I was one of two fielders in the decidedly short covers – and I didn’t know who was more nervous: their Number Eleven, ringed around by all of us, or me, in case the ball came in my direction at catchable height, at which point it was almost certain there would be no hat trick.
And Nigel spun it in, the batsman prodded desperately, it came off the edge and Rob Penna clutched it, throat height, at third slip, to give Nigel his deserved hat trick and get me off any nasty hooks.
But only once have I been through the full, breath-holding experience.
Flash forward to the summer of 1995, a summer of blazing skies, sun and heat and a West Indies tour. These were my second favourites: I marginally preferred Ashes tours, because of that visceral, deep-seated rivalry, but the WIndies were the only other side for whom I took off the entire Test to watch. Even in these diminished days – no matter how good he was, Brian Lara was, at the last, not Viv Richards – I waited hungrily to see them play. Even though we could now put up a fight against them, these were days when partizanship died on me: five days of cavalier cricket, fiery fast bowling, lusty striking, the sheer joy of watching the West Indies engage in playing their natural game: this was what I came to see.
Old Trafford was hosting the Fourth Test, to which England came 2-1 down, results having alternated thus far. England’s team included the Derbyshire all-rounder, Dominic Cork, winning his third cap, and having already making his mark on the series by taking the best bowling figures for an England débutant, 7 – 43 at Lords, as well as falling only 7 runs short of a début century.
I wasn’t having that great a summer. Three times in six weeks, my car had been broken into or had a window smashed whilst I was at the cricket, and it now seemed to be targeted, so for the rest of the season I kept it away. On the first Sunday after that decision, I’d parked it in back of Piccadilly Station and used the new Metro the rest of the way. I’d hardly been in Old Trafford for half an hour, having described my plight to my friends by way of explanation for being late, when there was a loud, reverberating bang from the City Centre. “Knowing my luck,” I said, “that’s probably my car going up.” (Thankfully, the joke did not rebound on me by coming true, though I did worry when I got back to Piccadilly…).
For the Test it was public transport all the way: bus to Manchester, Metro to what was still, then, the Warwick Road Station. Despite the freedom to drink all day, I brought Diet Coke: initially two 1.5 litre bottles but, when the days scorched down so hard, two 2 litre bottles, which were still only just sufficient to keep me hydrated until close of play.
Travelling was extra difficult on the Fourth Day, Sunday 30 July, but I was in place in the Pavilion well before start of play., basking in the sun and trying not to down too much Coke too early.
West Indies started play on 159 – 3, still 62 runs away from making England again, but with the batting power ahead of them to make that a formality and perhaps, by close of play, put themselves into a position where they could set England a last day target. That vanished in the first over of the day.
It was bowled by Dominic Cork from the Stretford End. Richie Richardson and Brian Lara added a single apiece in the first three deliveries. Off the fourth, Richardson managed to drag the ball onto his stumps whilst trying to leave alone one outside off stump. A noisy crowd was appreciative of such a quick start.
Junior Murray took guard at the Warwick Road End. Cork returned to his mark, bustled in again off that curved run, swept his arm over fierce and fast and rapped him on the pads. The roar went up in anticipation as Umpire Mitchley raised his finger. Two-in-two.
There was no indolence in the ground. This was a hat trick ball and everyone turned to the field of play, the vast majority I’d guess being like me, who’d never seen one and we’re once more caught up on the hook of that moment of is-it-this-time?, tuned higher because this was England with a Test series to level, and this is still the first over of the day. Bloody hell.
Carl Hooper wandered out, calmly took guard, looked round, keeping his nerves to himself. Cork started his run-up. The tide of sound from a crowd building their throats up to a roar rose with every step, and he was delivering the ball, and it pitched and shot through, and it smashed Hooper on the pads and that roar crested and broke into a collective howl of exultation, and I, in the Pavilion, sat at cover point, at ninety degrees, the absolute worst position to judge a leg before, was on my feet and roaring, because I knew, I KNEW he was out, that it was foursquare, it was plum, I’d just seen a hat trick after all these years, and Mitchley’s finger, overcome by the explosion of sound and fury, came up, even if, on sober recollection, that ball might have been sliding down the leg side a fraction, but fulfilment had come for once on that screw of tension that exists between the second ball and the third. A hat trick. The West Indies blown apart, their guts dragged out of them. And the second over to come.
England went on to win. Brian Lara held things together superbly, ninth out for 145, setting England a target of 94 to win, which they dithered over but won after losing four wickets, saving the game from going over into its Final Day. And there was the history of it: only England’s eighth hat trick and only the twenty-second in all Test Cricket: the first since Peter Loader almost forty years before and only the second since the Second World War: only the second home hat trick of the Twentieth Century.
None of which changes what is the greatest significance of that moment: it was my first hat trick. My only hat trick. It turned a Test Match on its head, it was the greatest start to a day there has ever been but most of all, I was there to see it. I was there.
Green Lantern was created by artist Mart Nodell and writer Bill Finger for All-American Comics no 16. He was conceived by Nodell, and refined in concert with Finger in much the same manner that Finger had previously done for his pal Bob Kane and his costumed creation, except that Nodell was not so selfish as Kane, who made sure that Finger never got any official credit for co-creating Batman.
Nodell originally called his hero Alan Ladd, for reasons that will become clear when you realise he will possess a Magic Lantern, but was persuaded to accept Alan Scott, this occurring short months before the actor Alan Ladd came to prominence.
Scott was a railroad engineer on a test trip on a new line designed by himself in the Southwest States. Unknown to him, a business rival had sabotaged the line. The locomotive and its crew were destroyed, but Scott mysteriously survived, carrying an old railroad lantern. A voice from the lantern spoke: it had fallen to Earth as a meteorite, prophesied to flash three times, once to bring death, once to bring life and once to bring power. It had destroyed the frightened villagers who had killed the ancient Chinese scholar who found it, restored the mind of the man in an asylum that had carved it into the shape of the lantern, and now it would give Scott power over metals.
He was to form a ring from the body of the lantern that, if touched to the lantern every twenty-four hours, would give him power under his mind’s control. Scott could fly, and the green beam that issued from the ring put metal under his control: this would later be extended to cover all materials except wood, which remained his weakness.
After his origin story, Scott moved east to Gotham City (yes, that one) where he became a radio engineer, in order to find out about crime, fast. He adopted the name Green Lantern, after the magic lantern, and a costume that, puzzlingly, was not dominated by green: Scott wore a purple domino mask, a long, grey, high-collared cloak, a loose-sleeved red top, with the symbol of the lantern on his chest, and green tights with red boots.
Green Lantern was a founder member of the Justice Society and its second chairman, though he held that position for only one issue of All-Star. This abrupt departure was later explained via a previously unrevealed JSA adventure in which Green Lantern failed to save an unnamed boy, implied to have been a future President, from being killed: recognising that he was spreading himself too thin, GL quit the JSA to concentrate on his own cases and prevent that happening again.
Like the Flash, Green Lantern was very popular in the Forties, appearing in All-American, Green Lantern and Comics Cavalcade as well as returning to the JSA and All-Star. He too was appearing in more titles than Superman and Batman, although the former would soon outstrip him on that score.
At a very early stage, Green Lantern acquired a comic relief character in taxi-driver Doiby Dickles, a small, round, pugnacious little man with a pronounced bronx accent, a derby (i.e. bowler) hat forever clamped on his head and a taxi named Goitrude, providing ‘Soivice dat don’t makes youse noivous.’
The Lantern also had an oath that he took when charging his ring. Its wording changed over the years, but the form used in later years has always been the first version, “…And I shall shed my light over dark things, for the dark things cannot stand the light, the light of the Green Lantern.” Later in the decade, this was replaced by a four-line verse devised by future Science Fiction giant, Alfred Bester that became better known as the oath of Green Lantern 2.
After the War, when the tide turned against superheroes, many series became dominated by comic relief, but not Green Lantern, who instead found himself playing second fiddle to Streak the Wonder Dog.
In 1948, Green Lantern and Comics Cavalcade were cancelled, and All-American became All-American Western with issue 103. Green Lantern remained with All-Star until the end before going into limbo.
After the successful revival of the Flash, DC looked for another character to transform. Julius Schwartz has told it both ways: that he was asked to do the same thing with Green Lantern, that he was asked what he wanted to do next and chose Green Lantern. However it was, Schwartz this time turned directly to John Broome, and to Gil Kane – whose, angular, vigorous, balletic style was superb at portraying movement – to create Green Lantern 2.
Alan Scott was a hero with a magic weapon: typically of Schwartz and Broome, and of the Fifties, Hal Jordan’s near identical weapon was firmly based in science, or rather science fiction of the most florid kind.
Jordan, whose features were based on Kane’s neighbour, aspiring actor Paul Newman, was a test pilot for Ferris Aircraft, based in Coast City, California. Jordan is testing a new, flightless trainer when, suddenly, it is enveloped in a green light, torn from its place and drawn into the mountains outside the city. There Jordan finds a crashed spaceship and a red-skinned alien, dressed in a strange green, black and white uniform, who ‘speaks’ to him telepathically.
The alien is Abin Sur and he is dying, his spaceship crashed after being hit with a blast of yellow radiation. His final duty is to pass on his Power Ring and Battery to a worthy recipient, someone who is completely honest and without fear. The Ring has chosen Jordan. The Ring and Battery are made of an alien metal which responds to thoughts: because of a yellow impurity in the metal it is ineffective on anything of that colour, yet remove the impurity and the metal ceases to have any power.
Jordan accepts and tests the Ring, astonished to realise just what raw power it contains, subject only to the limit of his imagination and the strength of his will – and the colour yellow, of course.
He takes Sur’s uniform as his costume, adding a green domino mask. It is a one-piece body-suit, with a green leotard decorated by the ring symbol on the chest, with black sleeves and white gloves, black leggings and white boots. Over the next few years, the design will change, the black spreading in symmetrical curves across the chest until it almost reaches the symbol.
He also adopted, and made famous, Bester’s old rhyme as his oath on charging the Ring: In brightest day, in blackest night No evil shall escape my sight Let all who worship Evil’s might Beware my power – Green Lantern’s Light!
Green Lantern 2 needed only three, consecutive try-outs in Showcase to be awarded his own series, although this one did not pick up the numbering of Green Lantern 1’s old series, either of them. Before the last of these appeared, his third outing was as a founder member of the Justice League of America: Schwartz was very certain about this one.
Over the first eight issues of the series, Broome started to unfold the makings of a wide-ranging series, and a mythology that is still being exploited and expanded upon to this day. Jordan would slowly learn that he was not alone in being a Green Lantern, and that there was an entire Corps of them, 3,600 being strong and each with a sector of space as their responsibility, not merely a planet. The Green Lanterns worked for the Guardians of the Universe, little blue-skinned immortals from the planet Oa, their common appearance based on the Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
This gave Green Lantern an unparalleled scope, as well as 3,599 potential comrades. He would find a mentor in winged Tomar-Re, and an arch-enemy in former Green Lantern Sinestro, expelled from the Corps from using his ring to make himself dictator of his planet, and still yearning for power.
Broome also created an intriguing romantic background to the series. Barry Allen had Iris West as fiancée, Carter Hall was married to Shiera, but Jordan’s eyes were set upon his boss, Carol Ferris. Carol was the daughter of Ferris Aircraft’s owner, Carl, left in charge whilst he was away on a world cruise. She was determined to prove herself as good as any son could be, and despite reciprocating Jordan’s attentions, held him at arm’s length, since he was an employee. Unfortunately, Carol fell whole-heartedly for Green Lantern, leaving Jordan the psychodrama of being his own rival.
And Broome knew how to twist that knife, making Carol into a semi-villain equivalent of Green Lantern, Star Sapphire, possessed of her own gem of power. Carol was never conscious of her submerged identity, who was supposed to be Queen to the man-hating Zamoran race, whilst Star Sapphire, though hating Green Lantern, was subconsciously aware of Carol’s conflicting attraction to him.
Carol Ferris as Star Sapphire
When the Golden Age revival started, the two Green Lanterns met each other in the first JLA/JSA team-up, and immediately paired off to rescue the two Flashes. Scott and Jordan were firm friends, occasionally teaming up. Their first adventure together, in Green Lantern 40, was not only a great story in its own right but would become an essential element in the mythos of the DC Multiverse/Universe, proving to be the foundation story for Crisison Infinite Earths.
Whilst The Flash was fun and games, and he and Green Lantern became close friends, sharing identities and guesting in each other’s titles, Broome’s work on Green Lantern was in a wider range. Beginning to toy with the inherent concept of the interchangeable Corps, Broome introduced unemployed actor, Charley Varrick, who was saved by Jordan and inducted into the Corps, to become a Green Lantern himself, in another sector.
Another story, in Green Lantern 59, introduced Guy Gardner. Whilst on Oa, Jordan learned that Gardner could have become Green Lantern in his place: Sur’s ring had identified Gardner as equally deserving but, being a physical instructor in an East Coast school, was further away than Jordan. The Guardians went on to construct what Gardner’s career might have been had he inherited the ring, which was more or less on the same lines as Jordan. Except for the adventure that ended with Gardner dying of an alien disease, and Jordan, inevitably, being the Ring’s choice as his successor.
Gardner would go on to become part of the Green Lantern mythos in a big way but, for reasons we will shortly come to, cannot be named Green Lantern 3.
Perhaps the biggest change under Broome came in issue 49, which climaxed with the unexpected revelation that Jordan, frustrated at Carol’s sudden decision to get engaged to someone else, threw up his job and took to the road as an Insurance Adjustor. Instead of the bog-standard hero with a home city and a steady girl, he became an on-the-road traveller, turning up any and everywhere.
But as the Sixties wore away, Broome found himself less and less interested in comics. He began to travel, mailing in scripts from Paris and Israel, where he planned to settle. It was all part of the sea-change that saw the long-established writers disappear from DC/National in the wake of a threatened strike for benefits and pensions. In their place came writers and artists with a fraction of their experience, prepared to work for a (slightly higher) fraction of their page-rates, former fans eager to play with the symbols of their youth, and more in tune with the wavelengths of the readers of the day. Schwartz, as editor, took the opportunity to play with the mood of the times, the Age of Relevance sweeping through all DC’s titles. He brought in writer Denny O’Neill and artist Neal Adams to take over Green Lantern with issue 76, which added the revitalised Green Arrow as co-star.
Green Lantern’s Power Ring was restricted by the Guardians, confining him to Earth and he was sent on an Easy Rider style journey across the country, to discover what America was really about.
O’Neill has confessed that he had difficulties with Green Lantern, that he could only see him as a cop, and it is true that over the 13 issues of his collaboration with Adams that Green Lantern is first demeaned and his confidence broken over his failure to engage in social issues but that, in the so-called dialogue between Jordan, the Law and Order figure, and Green Arrow, the anarchistic liberal, it is the Archer that wins every time, until sales died out and the series was cancelled.
Not before the creators were able to introduce Green Lantern 3.
In a time of social upheaval, it was unacceptable to have another White Anglo-Saxon Protestant as Hal Jordan’s alternate, so Guy Gardner was abruptly disabled, whilst behaving heroically, of course, and Jordan was forced to choose a new alternate, to take his place at times when he was incapacitated.
This time, the Ring chose John Stewart, up and coming architect but also, crucially, black. Stewart’s characterisation was DC’s cliché for 1971, Angry Young Black Man. Jordan was allowed to both advise Stewart of his new status and try to train him, including emphasising that the ring is not for personal gain or political ends, with Stewart, naturally, finding ways around that proscription.
For a number of years Jordan went into a back-up series in The Flash, during which the restriction on his ring’s powers were lifted and he again returned to the stars. In 1976, he had had his series restored, initially with Green Arrow as co-star, but eventually permitted solo glory.
During this period, Guy Gardner recovered from his injuries and finally learned of the fate that could have been his. In fact, he was enlisted as a Green Lantern during a period when Jordan was in another dimension, becoming Green Lantern 4, despite having been introduced before Stewart.
This was only intended as a temporary measure, and not as a serious career for Gardner, for the duplicate Power Battery provided to him was faulty, and he was dragged into a limbo dimension when he tried to use it, suffering brain damage. However, both Gardner and Stewart had greater roles to play in future.
The stories during this period were not particularly glorious. Jordan was now a truck driver, and he was being pursued by a pretty young hero-worshipping Green Lantern named Arisia. Unfortunately, Arisia was, a) alien and b) underage. It was not a good era.
One story that was of some moment sought to tie Alan Scott into the Green Lantern Corps mythos. It appeared that, when the Guardians first assumed their role, they determined that theirs should be a Universe of Science. Thus, they gathered together all the Magic into one object, the Starheart, and transferred it into another dimension, that of Earth-2. The Starheart, naturally enough, became the source of Scott’s ring and lantern.
In the meantime, Green Lantern 1 was undergoing a new lease of life in the revived All-Star. Having risen, in the intervening years, from Radio Announcer to Station Manager, Scott had gone on to be President of Gotham Broadcasting Company, only to find that the time he spent on superheroics with the JSA denied him the time to keep his corporation afloat. GBC went bankrupt, Scott lost his life’s work, and immediately turned upon Gotham and the JSA, driven to despair by the second Psycho Pirate, though the Pirate was soon beaten by the Justice Society.
When All-Star Squadron started in 1980, Green Lantern 1 played a more prominent role than others, as Roy Thomas wanted to get around All-Star 13, in which the newly-enlisted Justice Sociey threw back the Japanese in a way America had signally failed to do in real life.
Thomas constructed a story in which these victories were a delusion, created by the Brain Wave, but took things further by having Green Lantern 1, believing his team-mates to have been killed, cut loose with his ring (still in delusion, thankfully) and single-handedly destroy Japan, a heavy-handed foreshadowing of Hiroshima that had profound mental effects upon Alan Scott, who was now conscious of the true extent of the power he wielded.
In the main Green Lantern series, a new direction led to big changes. Accused by the Guardians of neglecting his Space Sector in favour of his planet, Jordan was ordered off Earth for a year of space stories. The Arisia situation was alleviated by ageing her to at least above the age of consent. But the big shock was when Jordan got home. Glad to be on Earth, eager to spend some time just … with… Arisia, he resigned as Green Lantern. His ring, his costume, his role went to John Stewart, now Green Lantern 3 in fact.
Stewart took over and starred in the series for the years until Crisis on Infinite Earths, though the ongoing events of Jordan’s life remained a big part of the series. Stewart was mentored by Green Lantern Katma Tui, a female from Abin Sur’s planet who held a resentment for Jordan (whose identity was withheld from Stewart) because he, whilst Green Lantern, had talked her out of resigning to be with her love, only to do the same himself with Arisia. Of course, Katma ended up getting it on with Stewart.
Green Lantern was one of the books substantially affected by Crisis, and new writer Steve Engelhart made use of the issues leading up to issue 200 to set up the forthcoming ground condition. Jordan got his ring back, a new, hardline faction among the Guardians split from their fellows and gave a ring to Guy Gardner – who dressed in a green, military jacket and massive padded boots and had definitely not recovered fully from his brain damage – and ended issue 200 by disbanding the Corps, whilst leaving all the Lanterns their Rings and Batteries, but freed from the obligation to defend specific Space Sectors.
Immediately, that is, in issue 201 of the newly-retitled Green Lantern Corps, half a dozen of them settled on Earth.
This included Green Lanterns 2, 3 and 4, together with the girlfriends of the first two, Arisia and Katma Tui, although Gardner – portrayed as an obnoxious, sneering, cold blowhard, who believed himself to be a natural leader – was displaced into the new Justice League International after the events of Legends. The team also included Salaak, a crusty four-armed alien, Ch’p, a cute and furry alien chipmunk and Kilowog, who looked like a warthog and was a scientific and engineering genius. It didn’t last, but it left DC with three contemporary and active Green Lanterns.
I don’t count any of Arisia, Katma Tui (who was killed by Star Sapphire), Salaak, Ch’p (who was run over by a truck) or Kilowog (who was killed by Jordan when the latter became Parallax, but was resurrected) as Green Lanterns in Alan Scott’s legacy. None were successors in any way, none were leading characters, none were more than evidence of the breadth of the original Corps.
So it was for much of the next decade. The Guardians returned and sent Jordan off into space to recruit for a new Corps. He featured in the next Green Lantern series, which grew out of two Emerald Dawn mini-series that served to re-write Jordan’s past, establishing him as an older figure, hair white at the temples.
Stewart clashed with Jordan and went off into space himself. In Cosmic Odyssey he inadvertently allowed a planet to be destroyed, with its population, retired briefly, and returned to action in the short-lived series Green Lantern: Mosaic, as protector of a Guardians initiative bringing together cities from different planets to create a mosaic civilisation on a deserted planet. Stewart became the first human Guardian until Jordan destroyed the Corps again whilst become Parallax.
For a time, though, oddly, it was Green Lantern 4, Guy Gardner, who was the most popular figure. He was treated as primarily a comic character in the JLI, blustering, disrespectful, prey to pranks, but he was highly visible. Even after he challenged Jordan for the right to call himself the Green Lantern, and lost, Gardner couldn’t be kept down: he stole Sinestro’s yellow ring, changed his costume to eliminate the green, and was awarded his own series, unprecedentedly called Guy Gardner.
After eighteen months, Gardner was temporarily removed from the Green Lantern mythos, when he was retconned to discover that he had Vuldarian ancestry, the Vuldarians being an alien race who could create very modern and advanced guns out of his own body. That too didn’t last.
It was again a strange, bitty, unfocussed time. And the changes made to Hal Jordan’s backstory, which included a spell in jail, were not welcomed. Indeed, like Hawkman before him, between Jordan’s shifting story and the ups and down of Stewart and Gardner, it was getting complicated and confusing. A change was needed.
DC had Zero Hour coming up, which would re-reset continuity, but they weren’t prepared to wait. Green Lantern 50 was coming up ahead of the crossover and it would feature the third and final part of ‘Emerald Twilight’.
It had been a bad time for Jordan. He had been drawn into the long aftermath of the Death and Return of Superman story that had lasted almost ten months. One of the four might-have-been Supermen was a traitor, in league with the alien warlord, Mongul, and had offered him Earth as a new WarWorld. To move the planet, Mongul had to install two massive engines. The first of these was dropped on Coast City, vapourising it and its 7,000,000 inhabitants.
Jordan was knocked off balance. He tried to use his Ring to restore Coast City but didn’t have enough power. The Guardians refused to give him enough power. Maddened with frustration, after giving so much for so long, and being denied the one thing he’d asked for, Jordan rebelled. He marched on Oa, defeating every Lantern set against him and taking their Rings. His intention was to take the power of the Central Battery.
The Guardians sent Kilowog against him: Jordan killed him. The Guardians released Sinestro to stop him: Jordan killed him, breaking his neck. He stole the power of the Central Battery, destroying the Guardians and the new Corps. Renaming himself Parallax, Jordan set off to fulfil his aims. The final Guardian fled to Earth, where, after being turned down by Gardner, he handed the last ever Power Ring to a random stranger, having a breath of fresh air out the back of a disco, aspiring graphic artist, Kyle Rayner.
Enter Green Lantern 5. Rayner was to hold the ring for the next decade, form an uneasy friendship with Wally (Flash 3) West. He would be motivated early on by Major Force killing his girlfriend and stuffing her into a fridge (which gave a name to an increasingly frequent and mysogynistic trend in comics). He would radically re-design the costume, providing himself with a much more complex mask, keeping the green, black and white colours, but redistributing them. Later he would discover a Latino heritage. Even later still, he would twice rename himself Ion, a higher power version of a Green Lantern.
The once-cohesive Green Lantern mythos seemed irreversibly splintered, with no overall sense of direction or value. Scott, returned from limbo with the JSA, won his own solo series in a Green Lantern Quarterly extra-sized anthology. He was rejuvenated to his twenties by the power of his ring, his subconscious spurred on by the machinations of the new Harlequin (the old one was Scott’s wife). He survived the JSA’s destruction in Zero Hour, but retired, abandoning his ring (which was destroyed), only to discover that the years of exposure to its magic had caused his powers to become inborn: he continued his career as Sentinel before reclaiming the name Green Lantern, and creating for himself a new ring, in JSA 50.
As Parallax, Jordan was the villain behind Zero Hour, destroying the Universe by drawing together the entropies before and after Time. His intent was to restart it, control its development and prevent all the bad things, especially the destruction of Coast City, from happening, but in the end he was overcome – Green Arrow, his best friend, shot him in the chest – and Time reformed without anyone’s direction.
Jordan would sacrifice himself as Parallax at the climax of The Final Night, dying to help rekindle the sun. In Days of Judgement, he would accept the mantle of The Spectre, as we’ll see later in this series. It would take until the mid-2000s before he would be restored to his former position of glory.
Stewart became a Darkstar (a rival Corps who were real Eighties/Nineties bad-asses), was crippled in action, returned to being an architect, regained the use of his legs again thanks to Jordan, shortly prior to the latter’s death, and resumed being Green Lantern 3 when Green Lantern 5 went into space on extended duty. This resulted in his being cast as the Green Lantern of the Justice League animated series on TV, a substantial part of Time Warner’s growing animation division.
The nonsense about Gardner being a Vuldarian was finally dispensed with during Hal Jordan’s return in Green Lantern: Rebirth, when his Vuldarian DNA was overwritten. By this time, Gardner had gone through changes that mellowed him somewhat, and he had become less active, as a hero and more visible as a bar-owner and dispenser of gruff, hard-hearted wisdom.
As for Rayner, he would enjoy his time in the spotlight, becoming first a Teen Titan, then a Justice League member when the original ‘Big 7’ were reunited as the foundation stone of a new series, sweeping away the equally-splintered, multi-team years that were the ultimate end of the Justice League International era. He would go on to absorb all of Jordan’s abandoned power after Parallax’s death, temporarily becoming the God-like Ion, before siphoning off the surplus into the Central Power Battery on Oa and creating the Guardians anew, in order to regain his humanity.
But in the 2000s, the advent of Dan Didio as Managing Editor, and the growing prominence of Geoff Johns was turning DC into a very editorially-controlled operation, with an increasing urge to return to the iconic Silver Age continuity.
Thus Jordan’s entire life was refurbished by Green Lantern: Rebirth, which ‘redeemed’ Jordan of his crimes (or at least of responsibility for them), restored him as Green Lantern and hero, rewrote the entire Guardians continuity and laid the basis for several years of mythic continuity for the surging Green Lantern stable.
Parallax was revealed to be a creature of Fear, imprisoned in the Central Battery since time immemorial, and responsible for the so-called ‘yellow impurity’. It was Parallax who was responsible for Jordan’s Parallax period. The Battery and the Rings were a manifestation of the Guardians’ Will, and now the Green Lantern Corps was reinstated with two Lanterns per Sector (Jordan and Stewart). Rayner was recreated as Ion again, Gardner became a trainer with the Corps, bringing on the new recruits.
Green Lantern 1 remained with the JSA in its several forms, separate from Johns’ increasing myth-making. We discovered that the entire spectrum had emotional ranges that had Corps of differing degrees associated with them: Red was Rage, Orange was Avarice, Yellow was Fear, Green was Will, Blue was Love, Indigo was Compassion and Violet is Love: this sector is represented by the long-established Star Sapphires. The Blackest Night storyline, originally intended to be a Green Lantern story but elevated into a company-wide crossover, introduced Black and White to the Spectrum: Black Lanterns were the hordes of DC dead, returning to overwhelm the living, White was the Saviour.
And Blackest Night was just a prelude to Brightest Day, which was supposed to be the end of death’s revolving door and bringing back whole tranches of DC dead as a final flourish. And still there were five Green Lanterns, all active and, with the exception of Scott with the JSA, involved with the same, multiplying, spreading, too complex to summarise story.
Then came the New 52. So far, Green Lanterns 1 and 2 have appeared in the new continuity and, as with the Flash, their orders of precedence are now reversed. Hal Jordan is the Green Lantern and Alan Scott is the Earth-2 Green Lantern, again wearing a completely different and horrible costume. And he has become the first ‘major’ DC character to be gay. Green Lanterns 3 and 4 participate in the parallel Green Lantern Corps series. Kyle Rayner has yet to appear, but Simon Baz has debuted as Green Lantern 6.
So DC have chosen, again, to have five fully-fledged active Green Lanterns. It’s sad that the first is the least of them.
It’s FA Cup Semi-final weekend coming up and, since Manchester United have chosen yet again not to future-proof their station as most prolific Cup Winners (stuck on 11 since 2004), I’ve an unenviable weekend ahead.
On Saturday, I’ll be cheering on my temporary allegiances to their first Cup Final appearance, and on Sunday I will reluctantly be cheering on a team that I loathe and despise to beat a team that I loathe and despise even more, in the sure and certain knowledge that whichever of these loathsome and despicable clubs actually do win, they’re odds on favourites to nail down the Cup against my short-term soft-spot.
But, as a lifelong Cup enthusiast and a collector of Cup statistics, not to mention a Mancunian with a perpetual liking for Wigan Athletic – whom I recall playing in Non-League football – I’ll be singing them on to be number 56, with no real hope that they will also be number 43.
What do these numbers mean? Given that Wigan are the only team in the semi-finals not to have reached the Cup Final, the first of these numbers becomes self-explanatory: a win for Wigan over Millwall (who, themselves are number 54) will make the ‘Latics the 56th team to reach the FA Cup Final since those long-lost days of amateur and public school clubs and the meeting of Wanderers and Royal Engineers in 1872/3.
And with that definition, it should be simple to work out that if they were to actually prevail over either Chelsea or Manchester City, Wigan will become the 43rd team to win the oldest Football competition in the world.
First Time Finalists seem to have come along on a semi-regular basis in recent years. I remember that, when I first started studying such statistics, the relevant figures were 52 and 42: 52 different finalists and only ten in all that time who had never won the Cup. But since then there has been Middlesbrough (1997), Millwall (2004) and Stoke City (2011) to extend the list, altering the balance back towards the scenario I’d have envisaged.
New winners are a rarer breed, the last one having come along in 1988, when Wimbledon became the second First Time Winners in successive seasons (after Coventry City). If Wigan do reach the Final, it’s Lawrie Sanchez who holds the door of hope open for them: everybody but everybody expected an absolute slating by Liverpool, and a second Double, but the Dons won, and became the first Wembley Finalists to save a penalty kick on the way.
Wimbledon’s win upset an awful lot of apple-carts. For one thing, they became the fastest League-entrants-to-Cup-Winners in over a century, their victory coming in only the Club’s eleventh season in League football, and no-one had won the Cup faster than that since the Football League ended its eleventh season!
But then Wimbledon set their own record too, when the Football League allowed them to sell up and decamp to Milton Keynes: up till that point, only the first eight Cup Winners, the amateurs and gentlemen of the Victorian Age, and the unlikely northern upstarts, Blackburn Olympia, had ceased to exist and to no longer participate in the FA Cup, and here were Wimbledon, going that same route. The improbability of this in the modern era is further delineated by the recent revival of Wanderers as an amateur club: first winners, and the first team to win 2, 3 4 and 5 FA Cups are back with us whilst the last team to do it a first time no longer exist.
Discounting them for the moment, there are 46 professional clubs that can claim an FA Cup Final in their history, and 33 who record wins on their Roll of Honour.
Let’s not forget that, on Saturday, Millwall will be out to deny Wigan’s addition to the rolls. If they do, then they too will affect FA Cup History. They, like Wigan, would be bidding to be Winners number 43, but if they lose they would be diverted into a smaller and much more exclusive group, which currently numbers three, and which has been confined to that set of three since 1972: Clubs who have lost more than just a single Cup Final and never won the trophy.
When Leeds United won the Cup for the only time in 1972 they left behind Queens Park, Glasgow, Birmingham City (two apiece) and Leicester City, unwilling holders of the unwanted record of four FA Cup Finals and four defeats. A Millwall final and defeat would join them to Birmingham and Queens Park.
But there’s more fun, as well as County pride, to be had from Wigan Athletic increasing the ranks of those teams to have reached The Cup Final and, as Wimbledon once demonstrated, maybe another unlikely winner can break that 25 year barren spell.
In 1990 my mother phoned me at work to tell me she’d resigned. I jumped out of my chair and ran round the office to spread the news. Everyone stopped, and everyone began to speculate upon what would happen next.
Today, I was sat in the Oasis area, puzzling over the Crossword. A couple of guys were playing a series of pool games, no-one else seeming to be interested in getting on the table, and in the background, the TV in the corner was babbling away. They were talking about Maggie Thatcher, summarising aspects of her career. I interrupted the pool game to ask, “They’re talking about Thatcher on the telly. Has she died?” Yes, of a stroke, one of them told me.
Somehow I never imagined it would be like that. No rumble or buzz as the news spreads around the floor, little more than casual interest among people who are, in the main, 15-35 years younger than me. People for whom Maggie Thatcher is just a story from before their time, who never lived through her years in power, who don’t understand Britain as it was before she took power and have no conception of how different this country of my birth is, because of her.
I will be very honest, no matter how much you may think this diminishes me as a human being, but my response was – about fucking time. And, if only it had happened a long time ago, before she got into power.
There’s very little emotion about it after all this time. There was a long period where I would have jumped for joy, sang in glee, toured the celebration bonfires, but it’s all too long ago now, and everything she did has been cemented into place, immovable within what remains of my life. The damage has been long done, and she has contributed nothing more to it for many years. Nothing is ‘gained’, not even the satisfaction of outliving her, because I will never outlive that part of her that threw its hand across history.
I hated her for years. I hated her arrogance, her ignorance, her divisiveness, the way that, despite being Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, responsible to the entire country and all its people, she chose only to rule for those who agreed with her, those who grew fat and gross off her: during the Miner’s Strike, and even with all that you can say about the stupidity and ignorance of that, she declared overt war on part of the country she was supposed to rule and lead, and no leader who does that should be tolerated for a second.
They were years of destruction and waste, and dismissal of those who were damaged and destroyed by the forces she unleashed. For years I carried a cutting in my wallet, from the Guardian, a succinct summation of what she had despised and trampled on. I no longer have it, but I can put it in my own terms now.
She reduced this country. She reduced everything to one motive: profit and loss, and that which made no profit was rendered down and destroyed and turned into something that had to make a profit. Everything had to undergo that single rule, that only test – does it make money?
And by doing so she legitimised greed, avarice and grasping. She justified hurting anyone and everyone in your path in order to get more of whatever it is you wanted. She attacked and tore down the connections between people that acted to dampen the red rage instinct to take, tear, grab, mine, mine, mine! She denied society, she denied agreement, she denied the smallest thought of compromise to achieve something for everyone: compromise meant getting 100% of what you wanted. Worst, it meant denying anyone else anything.
I’ll never see history’s verdict. I hope, I breathe, I strain to believe that it will condemn her in the savagest terms possible, because she deserves them for destroying, attempting to obliterate permanently kindness, consideration and fellow-thinking.
She killed my world, my country. It is a smaller, nastier, more horrifying place in which to live because of Margaret Thatcher and those she gave birth to, encouraged and nurture, who blithely rob us blind now.
It’s reason to light bonfires, to sing in celebration, to stamp the dirt down upon her grave to ensure she can never return. For long years we all thought of that.
And now it doesn’t matter. Only Margaret Thatcher has died, one old and ailing lady, whose mind was already lost. There’s nothing to celebrate. What Thatcher was is still as vigorous and alive as ever. It will take longer, far longer to kill that.
So today’s flat. No-one around me cares. One old woman is dead, her family and friends mourn. I haven’t any emotions about that. Not even hatred any more.
Irrespective of the quality of the story, Identity Crisis represented a turning point in DC’s history. It had opened a door that could not be re-closed, via a writer who had no permanent role in comics, who had unleashed something that went everywhere. DC’s management took this opportunity quickly. What followed were a series of Events, polished, professional, one after another, one clicking into place as the reverberations of the one before had hardly begun to fade, until endings ceased to be endings but were, instead, set-ups for the next event.
Control of the DC Universe became ever more editorial and management driven, with fewer and fewer hands holding the reins of where things might go next. The quality of a story, its depth of imagination, the individual style and creativity of a writer and artist became subjugated to simple commerciality.
In a way, it was a reversion to the old days, to the Silver Age which had formed the opinions of most of this increasingly small inner circle (satirised by writer Brian Azzarello in his brilliant Dr Thirteen series as the ‘Architects of the Universe’). But that had been a time when veterans had edited, written and drawn, men (and very few women) whose early enthusiasm for the form had become a professional skill in producing stories that delighted, excited and amused their target audience, with no other aim in mind.
In those days, they used to believe that the comic book audience completely turned over every three years, allowing stories and characters to be recycled for the new influx of kids eager for four colour rushes, stories to open their eyes and their mind to strange new ways of seeing the world.
But it wasn’t like that any more. The fans themselves had started coming in at the end of the Sixties, wanting to write and draw their own adventures. They’d been in it for longer than three years and they weren’t interested in cycles. They wanted their comics to delight, excite and amuse their generation, to grow up with them, to deal with older issues, to go further. Thirty plus years later, these were the people who were now in charge.
The smarter among them knew that, from the moment they’d arrived, they’d committed the comics to a slow and very protracted suicide. Oh, sales were already in a long decline: they’ve declined since the end of World War 2, upthrusts, fits and starts aside. It’s a rare title today that sells in six figures: at the lower end, some comics sell less than did the ultimate independent, Cerebus, at its best.
But comics cut its own roots out. It stopped letting the little kids play with them, stopped its audience renewing itself, and when it allowed itself to target specifically the fan market, it completed the job by handing over the new kids to all the myriad other things they could do instead of read comics. Identity Crisis handed control back to the editors, control of the line instead of certain properties, like the Superman stable, or the Batman titles. An ever shrinking market would be fed more of what it, incestuously, wanted, no matter how much that limited the series’ appeal, or the writer’s creativity.
It was a rush towards the cliff’s edge, but then the lemmings had a get out clause, a featherbed, a trampoline at the cliff-foot, in DC’s ultimate owners, Time Warner, milking them for licensed products, for cartoons, for films, for television. The DC Universe was a character bed that saved anyone in another ‘creative’ field from having to create and sell something new, untried, untested. Something they might want, you know, as people did outside comics, to own for themselves and split the profits.
Such is DC in 2013.
So, where does the last part of Green Arrow’s career come into this?
I confess I’ve not followed it in great detail, and certainly not enough to be able to think of it easily or lightly. It has chopped and changed in a manner that suggests that the three-year turnover cycle is even more a thing of the past, and that something new has to be done to change the status quo every year. It’s done under the guise of shaking things up, of reviving interest, but the frequency with which this is done had entirely the opposite effect on me. Each new incarnation is less and less real, coming as it does with the guarantee that this ‘new, intriguing’ set-up will be thrown out before long.
So, where did we leave Oliver Queen? He was enjoying a successful run in his second solo title, with a family-style supporting cast consisting of Dinah Lance, Connor Hawke and the new Speedy, aka Mia Dearden, orphan and rescued street-kid who’d been forced into prostitution at the age of 14 and turned out to be HIV-Positive (well, if that isn’t just the most stereotypical Silver Age thing you could find…).
The new Speedy, naturally enough, ended up in the current incarnation of the Teen Titans.
And Green Arrow was still in the Justice League, shifting over temporarily to the Justice League Elite, a spin-off team with a more hardcore mission (and after all that trouble resetting Ollie to before he killed anyone so he can be more principled once more). Whilst there, he has an adulterous affair with Dawn, a Native American who’s actually from the very deep past, which continues after her husband Manitou Raven is killed (he knew, but Dinah didn’t, for those who wish to keep score).
The revelations of mind-stealing in Identity Crisis finally come to a head after Batman recovers his memories, sending his paranoia spiralling to operatic heights, and causing the break-up of the latest incarnation of the Justice League. Batman’s construction of a spy satellite to watch his own side, which is promptly taken over by the guy behind the ‘ineffectual’ Justice League of a few incarnations back, who’s out to shut metahumans down, and the unaccountable enthusiasm of the criminal fraternity for forming an alliance to protect themselves against having unmedical lobotomies, helped to create Infinite Crisis, a twentieth anniversary salute to the original Crisis which, amongst other things good and bad, recreates a limited version of the Multiverse, but one without any additional Green Arrows in it.
Ollie missed much of the action this time round: someone’s trying to kill him and his ‘family’ and they know where he lives. It’s a vengeful Dr Light (ungrateful bastard, given that Ollie voted against) with Ollie’s arch-enemy, the evil archer, Merlyn, who leaves Green Arrow 1 with two arrows through his upper torso and Green Arrow 2 with a collapsed lung.
Which have both been cured next issue, as Green Arrow jumps One Year Later, as Ollie suddenly turns into Star City’s Mayor, combining street-level vigilantism and trying to rebuild the city and STILL getting away with that beard and the tiny mask. His year of recuperation and creation of a political identity is filled in as we go along.
Are you shook up sufficiently yet? There’s more!
This time, it wasn’t Ollie who joined the newest Justice League (the sixth, I think, but I’m not sure), but Roy Harper, formerly Speedy, formerly Arsenal, now – you can see this coming, can’t you? – Red Arrow. In the course of this series, Red Arrow will be crippled by the villain Prometheus, who will rip his right arm off (don’t worry, he gets fitted with a just-as-good-if-not-better prosthetic, cybernetic arm, as you do). Prometheus also does something else that is not so good, but we’ll come back to that. Green Arrow (volume 2) continued until issue 75 before being cancelled. Not due to falling sales, but because nowadays, new directions always come with new series: JSA was cancelled to make way for Justice Society of America with no practical difference except a change of artist. For his last issue, Ollie, who’d been up against vested fatcat interests, resigned as Mayor whilst pulling a stunt that got his honest assistant into the Mayorality instead and, for an encore, proposed to Dinah Lance.
He’d come close before, in Meltzer’s ‘Archer’s Quest’, but this was the real deal. DC dragged the suspense out over a Black Canary mini-series before she agreed to say yes, followed by three Specials, the last of which featuring a Wedding Day that was going well in every respect until Ollie went mad, tried to kill Dinah and was killed in his turn.
This did not hinder the new Green Arrow/Black Canary series from starting with the obvious explanation: that it wasn’t Ollie after all but instead Everyman, a shape-shifting villain masquerading as Green Arrow. The kidnapped Ollie is rescued, he and Dinah finally get married and settle down to live happily ever after, ever after here being defined as for two years.
Incidentally, in that story about rescuing Ollie, Connor Hawke is shot and put into a coma, which forms the basis of the next two storylines.
Then, in Blackest Night, Ollie temporarily becomes a Black Lantern Green Arrow, during which he fights Connor, who tells him he knows Ollie abandoned him knowingly as a baby, and he has never forgiven Ollie for it.
However, time to go back to the villain Prometheus and his other villainous action. This and Red Arrow’s crippling took place in Cry for Justice, a Justice League spin-off from Final Crisis. In the wake of the Martian Manhunter’s death, Greens Lantern and Arrow set up a spin-off team to take a more proactive role on a ‘do it ta them before they do it ta us’ basis. But Prometheus destroys Star City, again, but this time far more comprehensively, and tops the last devastation by killing Roy Harper’s infant daughter, Lian: in every respect except blood, Ollie’s granddaughter.
The series ends with Prometheus found dead with an arrow between his eyes. A green arrow.
This time, the effect was far more profound and obvious than the first time Green Arrow killed for the first time (which hadn’t even been for the first time but to admit otherwise had been to undercut Mike Grell’s story). The Justice League confront Ollie and make him realise he’s crossed a line, so he turns himself in. Dinah ‘divorced’ him because his failure to tell her his plans in advance obviously meant that he wanted to be alone. And Ollie gets off on trial, thanks to the jury totally ignoring any principles of law but just liking what he did. Nevertheless, he’s exiled from Star City forever.
The ongoing series was re-named Green Arrow. The White Lantern transformed the ruined city into a giant forest and a mysterious bow and arrow carrying figure dressed in green moves in to try to protect a dying city whilst someone puts in a hostile takeover move on Queen Industries, purporting to be connected to Ollie’s father…
But that story, indeed that entire continuity was swept away, unresolved, by the arrival of the New 52, and the new Green Arrow series (volume 4), this time featuring a new Green Arrow and Oliver Queen, in a continuity much closer to that of the Arrow TV series and, for the first time in 40 years, without that beard!
Which brings us to where we began this series. I apologise if I haven’t treated the latter-day Green Arrow with the respect you may think it due, but as you’ll have gathered, I think it’s been a period during which the impressive work of decades, in turning a nothing character into a compelling one, has been trashed in the pursuit of desperate novelty, and of perpetual, undermining change.
The theme of this series is that there is no such thing as a bad character, but in these last few years, that’s what Green Arrow’s become. He’s not alone in that, far from it, but the chances of someone coming along, like O’Neill Adams, like Mike Grell, like Kevin Smith, and finding the right story to once more illuminate Oliver Queen and give him a future filled with possibilities again, are now marginal.
That kind of creative vision will need to come from outside what is now a very closed shop, one with no signs of being opened short of utter commercial disaster. My spoiling generation is far from ready to get its hands out of comics yet, even if I have.
All images in this article are (c) DC Comics, Inc and are taken with permission from Boyblue’s DC Universe
Hawkman was created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Dennis Neville for Flash Comics no 1, though Neville was replaced after three issues by Sheldon Moldoff, who was the Hawk’s artist until replaced in his turn by the teenage Joe Kubert in the mid-Forties, an artist with a legendary career ahead of him.
Hawkman was archaeologist and socialite Carter Hall who, one day, accidentally and literally bumped into débutante and heiress Shiera Saunders. Returning home, he found a mysterious parcel awaiting him. This contained a glass dagger, the sight of which caused Hall to lapse into unconsciousness. When he recovered, he now recalled that he was the reincarnation of the Egyptian Prince, Khufu, who, together with his favoured handmaiden, was slain with this dagger as a human sacrifice by the evil High Priest Hath-Set.
Hall also recalled the secret of Khufu’s fabled ‘Ninth Metal’ (later Nth Metal) which had anti-gravity properties. He used it to make himself a costume modelled on the Egyptian Hawk-god (Horus, obviously, though not named), consisting of a helmet/mask shaped like a screeching hawk (with upper and lower beak), long wings worn by using a yellow cross-harness, bare chest, red trunks and boots with dark green leggings.
His first outing as Hawkman involved saving Shiera Saunders from Dr Hastor, who was trying to kill her and steal her fortune. Hastor was the reincarnation of Hath-Set and Shiera of the handmaiden. Shiera immediately became Hall’s girlfriend and, before very long, his partner in the skies as Hawkgirl, wearing an identical costume (except that for prudence – and prudishness’s – sake, her wings were attached to a strapless red bathing costume).
Hawkman was a popular character in the Forties, appearing in all 104 issues of Flash Comics. He was a founder member of the Justice Society, its third, and later permanent Chairman and, of course, the only member to appear in every JSA adventure from All-Star 3 – 57 inclusive.
When the Hawk became Chairman, many readers anticipated that, like The Flash and Green Lantern before him, he would soon début in his own title. But, whilst that was, apparently, briefly discussed, the times were against it. World War 2 had begun and soon the need for paper rationing would send All-Star back to four times a year status, and later shrink the page count. Launching new titles was not on for the duration.
Throughout the Forties, the design of Hawkman’s mask kept shifting. The bottom beak came off eventually, and Kubert began drawing the wings as larger and more expressive, until the sudden decision to replace the helm with a simple yellow cloth hood, decorated with a red hawk-sigil on the forehead.
Hawkman and Hawkgirl 1 (L) Hawkman and Hawkgirl 2 (R)
Flash Comics was cancelled in 1949, but Hawkman stayed in print with All-Star until the end of 1950, and the end of the Golden Age.
Julius Schwartz’s successes with the new Flash and Green Lantern, and with the Justice League of America, led him to choose Hawkman for his third Golden Age revival. Hawkman was clearly a favourite character for him, as Hawkman 2 debuted in Brave & Bold 34 with a virtually identical costume to the original, accompanied by his own Hawkgirl, and with the same names: Carter and Shiera Hall.
Hawkman 2’s origin was vastly different. He was not a reincarnated Egyptian Prince, but instead an alien Policeman, and he and his wife’s names were actually Katar and Shayera Hol. The Hols were police officers from the planet Thanagar in the Polaris system. (What a glorious Burroughsian name is Thanagar, my favourite ever name for a fictional planet).
Apparently, Thanagarian’s had only recently learned to steal, which they did for thrills, not profits. The Hawk-Police had been formed to prevent this (by Hol’s father, Paran Katar), and Katar and Shayera’s costumes were actually their Police Uniforms. Katar wore a revised hawk helmet/mask, without wings, and Shayera a more feminine mask with mad eyes, plus a yellow, haltered bathing suit top. Both wore loose boots as opposed to the skin-tight forms of their predecessors.
The Hols had followed a Thanagarian shape-shifting criminal named Byth to Earth, and settled in Midway City as Museum Curators Carter and Shiera Hall with the assistance of Police Commissioner George Emmett. After capturing Byth and sending him to imprisonment at home, the Halls were given permission to stay on Earth to study Earth Police methods.
Schwartz had turned to the old team of Fox and Kubert to create Hawkman 2, which ran for three issues as a try-out. Confidently expecting another success, Schwartz was surprised to find that sales were poor. Undeterred, he commissioned another three issue try-out, for Brave & Bold 42 – 44, with no better luck, though Hawkman’s costume was subtly altered to give his helmet the wings of old.
Why did Hawkman 2 fail at first? Several reasons have been suggested, one of which being that, after the revival of Flash and Green Lantern – one with superspeed, the other with a weapon that could create anything – a man who could fly was not particularly impressive. Others have put the blame on Kubert, with some reason. His work on these six issues was exceptionally good, but his style had evolved a long way since the Forties, and it no longer suited superheroes. It stood out, vividly, from the clear-outlined, rounded, passion-free, steady and, dare one say it? somewhat bland art that characterised National/DC in that era.
Schwartz refused to let go. He put Hawkman in as a back-up character to the Martian Manhunter in Mystery in Space, but this time with full art from Murphy Anderson. Anderson worked more often as an inker, but had a rounded, clear, passion-free and steady style of his own (one that I like, tremendously). With a more conventional look, Hawkman 2 quickly built an audience and was finally awarded his own series in 1964, three years after his revival.
Shortly before then, and to give his character the final boost, Schwartz brought him into the Justice League in issue 31 of their series, the team’s 10th member and its third inductee since its formation. The issue also included a slap in the face for Hawkgirl, who was embarrassingly told she wasn’t being invited because the JLA only accepted members with different powers and, well, she wasn’t a man, was she?
Hawkman rapidly became part of the JLA’s ‘Big 5’ of regulars who appeared more often than they didn’t.
One curiosity about the Hawkman revival was the non-existence of Katar Hol’s relationship with Carter Hall. We have seen how intertwined the Flash story was between all the various Flashes, and the two Green Lanterns and the two Atoms were friends and teamed up, but there were never any Hawkman/Hawkman team-ups. They rarely shared a JLA/JSA team-up, and when they did, they had little to say to one another. Only once did they work in close cahoots, in Mike Friedrich’s 1971 team-up, in a story where Friedrich was deliberately pairing up heroes, even down to the Earth-1 Robin guesting to balance out the Earth-2 Robin, by then an actual JSA member. Both Hawkmen were portrayed as cold, stern and strict, a stance deriving from the growing antipathy between the law-and-order Katar Hol and the anti-establishment Green Arrow.
But no doubt there was a simpler explanation, facetious as it sounds: the near-identical costumes, the identical names and the problem of fitting all those wings into a single panel were near-insuperable difficulties in pre-Crisis, pre-continuity DC.
But though Hawkman had at last gained his own series, he was still not selling as Schwartz hoped. And was this a surprise when, for some inexplicable reason, Hawkman seemed to fight only ordinary crooks with guns and the occasional scientific gimmick? A SPECTRE/THRUSH-esque organisation named CAW didn’t take, and Hawkman started to run into unending numbers of lost civilizations, whether underground, in other dimensions or microscopic.
The series had a real problem with direction and it was little surprise when it was cancelled in 1969 after 27 issues, though Hawkman and Hawkgirl’s life was extended by taking the series into the marginally-less slow selling The Atom, in the hope that the joint audiences would sustain one title, a hope disproved after another year.
Hawkman 2 was thus homeless for the first half of the Seventies, and he was even uprooted from the JLA when he was recalled to Thanagar in issue 109. But eight issues later, he was back, with a new mission: a villain called the Equaliser had ‘equalised’ all of Thanagar, Shiera included, with an ‘equaliser plague’ that made everybody of equal height, weight, intellect and ability. With the Justice League’s aid, Katar Hol avoided that fate, but had to dedicate himself to restoring his planet – and his wife – to its full, individual glory.
Hawkman continued to appear with the Justice League for the next decade, and in 1977 succeeded in getting Hawkgirl, now restored from the Equalisation Plague, installed in the JLA alongside him. He would eventually get a regular slot as a back-up in World’s Finest, but overall, Hawkman had slipped back to being a unimportant figure in DC’s plans.
Hawkman 1 returned to a greater prominence during this period, as part of the JSA revival in All-Star, though he no longer attended every meeting as he had before. He still wore his cloth hood, until the penultimate issue of the run, when it was replaced by a stylised helmet of angles and planes, which Carter Hall wore for the remainder of the time until the end of Earth-2. And, despite the fact that he was technically unavailable to appear in All-Star Squadron, Roy Thomas’s own delight in the character, and his heavy-handed approach to continuity and tradition led him to feature Hawkman 1 – with lower beak – in nearly every issue, one way or another.
Hawkman and Hawkgirl 1 also became parents, retrospectively. Thomas created Infinity, Inc., a sort of Earth-2 Teen Titans consisting of offspring of the JSA, led by the Silver Scarab, aka Hector Hall, son of Carter and Shiera, wearing body armour made of Nth metal. When the Infinitors revealed their identities live on National TV, Carter and Shiera were similarly exposed.
Hector, it transpired, was born without a soul, cursed by Hath-Set to be the death of his parents. In the event, it would be Hector who died, and who would go on to play legacy roles for two other Justice Society members. Crisis on Infinite Earths saw Hawkman 1 removed into Limbo with the rest of the JSA, whilst Hawkman 2 was soon given a new series. This began with the four part Shadow War of Hawkman, which continued into an open-ended story. Writer Tony Isabella’s idea was that, after the Equalisation Plague, Thanagar had lost much of its advanced science and become a society intent on recovering its position by invasion and theft of other planets, Earth being the first. The Hols were forced to choose between their home and their adopted planet and chose to defend the latter. It was a secret invasion, headed by the Thanagarian agent Fel Andar: hence ‘Shadow War’.
Isabella’s concept involved a five year story, with the War meant to go through different phases in each year, but differences of opinion with new editor Denny O’Neil caused him to leave after issue 7, with the War concluded very swiftly after that. This series was cancelled after 17 issues.
So far, so simple. From this point onwards, Hawkman’s story – both Hawkmans – were to be thrown into such complexity that, a decade later, DC would place a ban on the use of the character because his continuity was so confused.
It began with Hawkworld, a 1987 three-issue Prestige series written and drawn by independent writer-artist Timothy Truman. Hawkworld completely revised Hawkman 2’s continuity, refashioning Thanagar as a fascist society bent on expansion by invasion. Katar Hol was a young officer rebelling against his society, and clashing with fellow officer Shayera Thal, towards whom he had no romantic aspirations. Even the costumes were fully revised, into full-body metal outfits, with triangular, metallic, stylised wings.
It was a radical departure, but a successful one, spawning a third Hawkman series, with Katar and Shayera, removed to Earth. At this point, continuity went haywire: Crisis, three years earlier, was supposed to have been the reset point, but in this series, Katar Hol was arriving on Earth for the first time, negating stories that had already been published in the Post-Crisis era.
The Shadow War was, implicitly, retconned out of existence, but Hawkman and Hawkwoman, as Shiera had renamed herself, had already been featured in Justice League International, in which much had been made of Katar’s stuffiness, rigidity and adherence to the old Justice League’s way, in contrast to the looser, loopier style of this incarnation of the team.
History was re-written. Retrospectively, the Hawkman of the early years of the JLA became Hawkman 1, acting as liaison with the JSA (now heroes of another generation, not of another Earth), whilst the Hawkman of the JLI became Hawkman 3, aka Fel Andar, posing as Carter Hall whilst still acting undercover for Thanagar. Hawkwoman, in turn, became Earthwoman Sharon Jones, brainwashed into thinking she was Shayera.
Hawkman 3’s story was concluded off-page, with Jones recovering her own memories, exposing Andar to the JLI and being murdered by him before Andar fled the planet, never to return.
Things just got worse. Katar’s father, Paran Katar, was then revealed to have lived on Earth, as Perry Carter, in the Forties, where he was best friends with Carter Hall, which was why Hawkman 1’s costume became police uniform on Thanagar. Then Hawkman 1 returned from limbo and played a small role in the short-lived Justice Society of America series, still using his Egyptianate helmet but now wearing a vest instead of going bare-chested (rejuvenations aside, he was still an old man).
And when the JSA were finally destroyed in Zero Hour, Hawkman and Hawkgirl 1 were treated to a separate fate by being drawn to the scene of a battle between Hawkman 2 (new version) and an avatar of the Hawk-god, where a blast of energy fused all of them into a single being, based on Katar Hol but possessing the memories of all three, whilst able to generate and withdraw natural wings whenever he chose. This Hawkman 2 (even newer version) joined one of the several Justice League groups around in that period, but eventually (and understandably!) went insane and was confined to a different limbo.
At which point, DC held their hands up and said no more. To the extent that, when Grant Morrison started writing a new high-tempo, classic JLA series, he was forced to create the Earth-bound, winged angel, Zauriel, to fill the Hawkman role he envisaged.
The bar may have kept Hawkman out of comics, but in 1999 James Robinson was permitted to create a new Hawkgirl for the revived JSA series. This version was Kendra Saunders, the troubled and disturbed niece of Shiera, and granddaughter of the Forties war-time adventurer ‘Speed’ Saunders, now revealed as Shiera’s cousin. The twist was that Kendra had attempted suicide at eighteen, but had survived, except that Kendra’s own spirit had departed her body, and Shiera’s had entered it, but without Kendra being able to access any of Shiera’s memories of her own or earlier lives.
It took until JSA 23, and Geoff Johns as writer, for this setting to become the springboard for the return of Hawkman, drawn from the Pit of Souls on Thanagar using Kendra as the conduit, resurrected in a youthful version of Katar Hol’s body but with Carter Hall’s features, mind and memories.
So Hawkman 1 was back for the next decade, not only with the JSA but in his fourth series. This time round, the Hawks returned to being Museum Directors, in the southern city of St. Roch (the equivalent of New Orleans). Hawkman was a savage, flying warrior and he and Hawkgirl – who was originally Khufu’s Princess, Chay-Era – were eternal lovers, reincarnated over and again (Hawkman’s previous lives included DC characters such as The Silent Knight and western gunfighter, Nighthawk).
The problem was that, though Hawkman knew all his lives and loved Kendra, Hawkgirl knew only Kendra’s life and didn’t love Carter, indeed was afraid of the trap of history.
The two separate legends were mingled. Nth metal derived from Thanagar, and was originally discovered by Khufu from a Thanagarian ship that crashed in Egyptian times (linking the Hawkman legacy to that of Captain Marvel and the wizard Shazam). Paran Katar was still Perry Carter. The only thing to disturb this well-constructed scenario was a bizarre one-off Hawkman Special by Jim Starlin that sought to rip away the Egyptian façade and re-orient the character as Hawkman 2 again.
It was a wonder it was published, and it wasn’t followed up on, which made it a confusing affair all round. On the other hand, DC was now under the control of Managing Editor Dan DiDio, who would be making many changes, along with Geoff Johns, towards returning DC to its Silver Age status, so perhaps this was a trial balloon.
For now though, Infinite Crisis was due in 2005. The Hawks played a leading role in The Rann-Thanagar War, one of four six-issue series that led up to the Crisis itself, during which Hawkwoman, Shayera Thal, from Hawkman (third series) was resurrected to be killed off. After Infinite Crisis, Hawkman stayed on Thanagar to help with the peace settlements and gain revenge for Shayera’s death, whilst Hawkgirl returned to Earth and, with issue 50, the series title was changed to Hawkgirl, only to be cancelled with issue 66.
Once more things got complicated and confusing, but this was the way of things in comics now, with crossover series following crossover series, grand climaxes serving only to set up the next series, each featuring multiple, fractal sub-plots and interwoven stories that blurred together to form the main line of progress.
Carter and Kendra finally became the lovers they were meant to be, taking a step further towards their ultimate deaths. In Final Crisis they appeared to be killed trying to lead refugees to another Universe, only to reappear as merely badly injured in Blackest Night, where they are subsequently killed by having their hearts ripped out and being turned into Black Lanterns, but in Brightest Day they are among the heroes resurrected in the end, although when Hawkgirl removes her helm she does not have black hair but red, for it is Shiera returned and Hawkman and Hawkgirl are truly reunited, and as far as we can tell, this is still Hawkman and Hawkgirl 1, except that when the White Lantern tells them they must be separate forever and Hawkman refuses, they are disintegrated…
Dear reader, must I go on?
No, I’m not going to. The New 52 has happened, and another Hawkman has already been and gone, his series, The Savage Hawkman, cancelled for low sales. This is apparently Hawkman 2 again, Katar Hol, Thanagar, once more re-written. As to whether there will be a new Hawkman 1 again, in the nascent Justice Society of Earth-2, we are all waiting to see. Well, you are, maybe.