Or – “Her… Um… Character Wasn’t Quite As Large Then.”
There’s an urban legend in comics that inker Wally Wood (known for his rendition of very buxom and attractive women) made a point of inserting the type of figures that he loved into his inking jobs for DC, to the point where a new character in All-Star Comics became so buxom that it has become an intrinsic part of her character even 40 years later. Are you ready for the first appearance of Power Girl?
ALL-STAR COMICS #58
Scripter: Gerry Conway
Penciler: Ric Estrada
Inks: Wally Wood
Cover Art: Mike Grell
Editor: Gerry Conway
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 25 Cents (Current Near-Mint Price: $80)
Previously, on All-Star Comics: The original super-team, the Justice Society of America had originally debuted in All-Star Comics #3, and rode that title for another fifty-odd issues before suddenly getting replaced with ‘All-Star Western.’ Superhero titles went by the wayside for half a decade, until the advent of Barry Allen and Hal Jordan changed everything we knew about comic books. The new Flash and Green Lantern led to a new super-team, which inevitably led to team-ups and crossovers with the Justice Society, now headquartered on the alternate world of Earth-2. 25 years after their ignominious exit, the Justice Society and All-Star Comics both returned in America’s Bicentennial year, and not much had changed during their absence. In the first issue of the relaunched All-Star Comics (#58, continuing from 1951’s #57 and ignoring the issues of All-Star Western that followed), the JSA faces a threat to the ENTIRE WORLD!!!
It’s an interesting line-up of heroes here, with original chairman Hawkman (the only hero to appear throughout the team’s 40’s run) teamed up with The Flash, Green Lantern Alan Scott, late replacement Doctor Mid-Nite and Wildcat, who had only made a couple of appearances in the Golden Age. Notably, characters who had identical duplicates (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman) were absent from this team. As the team rushed off to save the day, we check up with the Star-Spangled Kid, whose backstory is complicated as all hell: A wartime member of the Seven Soldiers of Victory, he was lost in time, then brought back and was awarded the cosmic rod of Starman to use due to Starman’s age and injuries. Of course, SSK isn’t exactly untouched by his ‘man out of time’ status…
At this stage in the game, Marvel Comics had gone from upstart company to new top dog, and the Kid’s problems here owe a lot to Stan Lee’s characterization of Steve Rogers after he came out of the iceberg… As with many of the titles around this time, though, there isn’t a lot of space to worry about it (thanks to a lower page count due to a paper shortage) as Doctor Mid-Nite and Hawkman arrive to help him deal with the earthquake. Is it really Mid-Nite’s portent of doom come to life, or is there something else going on?
Yeah, it’s something else in the form of the Brain Wave, one of the Justice Society’s oldest foes, albeit in a whole new form. In Capetown, South Africa, we catch up with another old friend in the form of United Nations ambassador Dick Grayson, the artist formerly known as Robin. There’s an odd discussion of apartheid that seems feels prescient, since I normally associate that with the mid-80’s era, but Brain Wave’s machines force Robin into action just in time to meet up with Doctor Fate and Green Lantern of the JSA!
The grown-up Robin gives us the Batman-boost that every comic book has to have (according to Stephen, anyway) and we’re left with the powerless Adult Wonder last man standing to save the ultra-powerful mage and ring-slinger. Of course, that has to happen in the future, as we head off to Peking (also known as Bejing) the capital of China. Flash and Wildcat leap into action against a volcano, only to find themselves assisted by a mysterious blonde in a kinda familiar universe. The powerful young lady takes care of the entire crisis single-handedly, irritating Wildcat, who reminds her of the power of a mean right cross. The three heroes set off to follow up on their mysterious disaster master, but are a bit suspicious to discover that she knows a lot more about the situation than the JSA does…
I’m not sure if it’s Gerry Conway’s distinctive no-holds-barred writing style or the cramped page-count that does it, but this issue feels particularly rushed, as though it were created for more pages and retrofitted to this length. Power Girl’s appearance is treated as just another thing that happened, with only a quick footnote to mention her counterpart on Earth-1. The art is a weird melange of Ric Estrada’s style and the VERY strong inks of Wally Wood, causing the art to flip back and forth as to which artist is dominant. Since I adore Wally’s style, but don’t have the same love for Ric, it makes the reading experience a little bit whiplashy. Even though the abbreviated debut feels unsatisfying, I’m sure if she showed up today, she’d have a six-issue arc dedicated to giving us everything about her origins and such, leaving her in the perfect position to be broken down to mush. Overall, the issue (while historic) doesn’t necessarily hold up four decades down the road, leaving All-Star Comics #58 with a breathless but still respectable 2.5 out of 5 stars overall.
Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: With all the changes going on at DC, why is the impending sabbatical of the JSA such a polarizing issue?