Modern comic books like to tout the first appearance of new characters on the cover, or even with a limited series featuring their first adventures.  Back in ’41, with the debut of Hawkgirl, it was more a matter of “Oh, yeah, by the way…”  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of All-Star Comics #5 awaits!

ALL-STAR COMICS #5
Writer: Gardner Fox
Penciler: E.E. Hibbard/Hal Sharp/Cliff Young/Sheldon Moldoff/Howard Sherman/Bernard Baily/Ben Flinton/Sheldon Mayer/Irwin Hasen
Inker: E.E. Hibbard/Hal Sharp/Cliff Young/Sheldon Moldoff/Howard Sherman/Bernard Baily/Ben Flinton/Sheldon Mayer/Irwin Hasen
Editor: Sheldon Mayer
Publisher: All-American Comics (DC Comcis)
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $10,000.00

Previously in All-Star Comics: The first super-team in history, the earliest adventures of the Justice Society Of America weren’t actually team-ups at all.  In their first appearance, a couple of issues before this one, the team came together to share stories of their solo adventures and enjoy the camaraderie of their peers (presuming that one accepts The Atom, college nebbish, and The Spectre, arcane force of vengeance as peers.)  Of course, their combined mighty powers occasionally make things a little boring…

The JSAers worry that they’ve done so well in their battles against crime that they’ve put themselves out of a job.  (And does anybody else find The Spectre and Green Lantern futzing around with their powers to be adorably silly?  “Apparate!  Disapparate!  Now you!”)  Of course, the criminals of the world aren’t gone, they’re just regrouping their forces to address the Justice Society’s activities…

The criminal confab is interrupted by a mysterious milquetoasty man in a derby hat, who asks if anyone has a match before exiting, stage left to leave the criminals to their nefarious plans.  First up: Jay Garrick, The Flash, whom their leader, Mister X, has identified as operating in a specific neighborhood of…  wherever this is?  The story doesn’t specify, so I’m going to assume New York, somehow.  Their perfect plan to smoke out the Scarlet Speedster?

Literally smoking him out with the power of arson!

Once again, a mysterious man in a derby hat walks through Jay’s burning bedroom, while the Flash leaps into action to save the endangered residents of his now-flaming block.  Catching a few of the mobsters escaping, The Flash smokes THEM out by lighting their car’s tires on fire (!!), and getting the name of the arsonist responsible, one “Flame” Farmer.  He then gives “Flame” a little of the Golden Age hero treatment by hucking him out a window to his certain doom…

Of course, Mr. Garrick’s super-speed stops “Flame” from splattering on the concrete, but even the notorious torcher doesn’t know the identity of the man behind the mob.  Fortunately, Flash has the brilliant idea to send telegrams to his partners, warning them of the incoming threat…

Elsewhere, Wesley Dodds, The Sandman swings through the night (or at least possibly the night, as the background tend to be bright yellow?) in the hopes of finding a crime or two to bust…

Arriving at the home of his lady-friend Dian Belmont, Sandman discovers that she has been kidnapped by the mobsters as bait to lure him into a trap.  Using his detective skills and two good fists, Wesley tracks Dian’s location, busts through the ambush meant to lure him in and literally kicks a mobster in the butt for his troubles…

Though Flash’s telegram arrives too late to help him avoid attack, Sandman puts two and two together and decides it’s time to track down the mysterious Mister X who is behind the new wave of attacks on the JSA.  As for Hawkman, the lack of crime has left him time to tinker with a pet project: A backup pair of wings to make sure that remains a flying fury…

While Carter Hall works diligently on his Ninth Metal devices, the criminals of the underworld take the same tack with him that they did with Sandman: Targeting his known associates, including Shiera Sanders, secretly his immortal, reincarnated lady-love.  (These guys really ought to be more careful about putting their significant others in jeopardy like this.)

The art of Sheldon Moldoff is always wonderful, but at this stage in his career, it’s breathtaking in every panel, especially those related to the lovely Shiera.  Arriving just in time to bust up the jewelry store robbery, Hawkman quickly punches his way out of the criminals’ trap, while outside…

…the mysterious man in the bowler shows up again!  (I’m having flashbacks to ‘The Dover Boys’ and the man in the old-timey swimsuit.  Also: Curse you, Dan Backslide!)  Gathering Shiera, Hawkman returns home to find the missing piece of his puzzle…

For the first time, Shiera Sanders suits up as Hawkgirl, wearing a costume nearly identical to Carter’s (with a few obvious adjustments for modesty, although considerably fewer than I’d expect for 1941) in the hopes of fooling the underworld.  Shiera takes to the rooftops to pose as Hawkman…

…but that’s not the pose that’s going to convince them.  At least not of the “man” part, thanks to Moldoff’s wonderful figure work.  Still, her ruse is enough to give Hawkman the upper hand, though she takes a bullet for her trouble.  As for Hawkman, he makes short work of the criminals, but is unable to close the trap on their leader, instead rushing to his beloved’s aid (after punching everyone unconscious.)

Elsewhere, Doctor Fate returns home to his flame, Inza, to find that she has caught word of a mission for her helmeted hero…

The séance turns out to be a ruse, as the fake swami behind them is also in the employ of Mister X.  Inza takes a bullet (making three lady-friends endangered with two SHOT in the course of this single mission), forcing Fate to channel great and powerful magic to save her.  He then turns his attention to the man behind the whole ruse, leading him to discover the truth…

You may have noticed that each chapter of this story ends with a prompt of where you can find more adventures of the hero in question.  That’s because the idea behind the super-team was to serve as a buffet of sorts, providing a lot of different options for readers, and serving as an advertisement for their solo adventures in other comics.  In fact, the primary reason given for not involving Superman and Batman in these pages was the fact that they had their own books and thus didn’t require the additional visibility to help readers find them in the anthology books.  (Green Lantern and Flash would later leave the team when they got solo books, though the rule would eventually be dropped.)  Elsewhere, The Hour Man encounters his own racketeer ambush…

…which he dispatches with speed, in more than one sense of the word.  (That’s a Miraclo joke.  Google it.  You’ll laugh.)  As for college boy Al Pratt, aka The Atom, his attack comes in the form of a protection agency, which he manages to take down with only his wits and his rock-hard fists, leaving the criminals with an ominous warning…

While the least powerful JSAer seeks out Mister X, the most powerful DC hero of all is framed as the head of the criminal mob!  The police seek out the Spectre, causing problems for his alter-ago, police detective Jim Corrigan, but The Spectre uses his ghostly might to clear his undead name.  He, too, takes out on the trail of the mysterious Mister X…

As for Alan Scott, the Green Lantern, he finds himself in a particular pickle…

Rather than send goons or light his neighborhood on fire, Mister X calls Green Lantern out directly through the press, challenging him to stop the villain or have the entire city plunged into darkness.  Engaging the villain directly, Green Lantern finds that it’s not Mister X at all, but one of his lackeys.  Worse still, the racketeers manage to follow through on their threat, shutting down the power to the entire city…

…but NOT the power of the Green Lantern!  With all the JSAers having overcome their personal threats, they assemble again to compare their notes, each telling their tale of Mister X.  Before they can put all the pieces together, the little man in the bowler hat (who appeared during each of their stories, it should be noted) reappears, and the team decides to follow him…

Aaaand there it is.  The villain of the piece quietly and without fuss turns himself in, leaving the eight Justice Society members to gawp in shock at the realization, and bringing the running gag around to wrap up the story.  I joked earlier about ‘The Dover Boys’, but that cartoon didn’t exist yet at the time of this comic’s production.  Still, it’s the same sort of Shaggy Dog ending, leaving All-Star Comics #5 with an amused and entertained 4 out of 5 stars overall, even with the Hawkgirl reveal being kind of a non-starter.  Her later outings make Shiera into a stronger and much more formidable hero, but you have to give her props for arriving this early in the superhero game, predating even Wonder Woman in the female hero game…

Modern comic books like to tout the first appearance of new characters on the cover, or even with a limited series featuring their first adventures.  Back in '41, with the debut of Hawkgirl, it was more a matter of "Oh, yeah, by the way..."  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of All-Star Comics #5 awaits! ALL-STAR COMICS #5 Writer: Gardner Fox Penciler: E.E. Hibbard/Hal Sharp/Cliff Young/Sheldon Moldoff/Howard Sherman/Bernard Baily/Ben Flinton/Sheldon Mayer/Irwin Hasen Inker: E.E. Hibbard/Hal Sharp/Cliff Young/Sheldon Moldoff/Howard Sherman/Bernard Baily/Ben Flinton/Sheldon Mayer/Irwin Hasen Editor: Sheldon Mayer Publisher: All-American Comics (DC Comcis) Cover Price: 10 Cents Current Near-Mint Pricing: $10,000.00 Previously in…
A watertight clockwork script from Gardner Fox, with eight artists doing their own thing and a cute ending... Great stuff, although the Hawkgirl debut is a bit underwhelming.

ALL-STAR COMICS #5

Writing
Art
Coloring

A watertight clockwork script from Gardner Fox, with eight artists doing their own thing and a cute ending... Great stuff, although the Hawkgirl debut is a bit underwhelming.

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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