The Secret Wars boys take a quick break from their coverage of all things Beyonder to review and discuss the seminal Squadron Supreme mini-series by Mark Gruenwald and Bob Hall. Often referred to as "Watchmen before Watchmen", this comic takes a hard look at what would happen if superheroes stopped fighting villains and tried to actually save the world...almost destroying it in the process.
In this inaugural episode, Greg and Sean review the issue that starts it all, Squadron Supreme #1. Join us as they discuss what the world would actually look like after a comic book crisis, their favorite works that begin as pastiche but became their own legends, and what kind of key Roy Thomas would bring to a key party.
Promos: JLI Bwah-Ha-Ha Podcast and Coffee and Comics
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Hi Sean and Greg! Well done on episode one! I am looking forward to hearing you talk about this series. Especially as it is Sean's first time reading it! I appreciate having the fresh eyes without "nostalgia glasses" opinion. The writing and the artwork deserve all the praise you give it. I want to quibble on a couple of contemporaneous points.
1. SS as status quo shakeup. While SS explores "real world" effects of superheroes, DC had already started shaking up their own status quo. The JLA had been defeated and re-formed as something new. Even though The Flash still had the same writer for more than ten years, and its original artist, that title had long abandoned the traditional superhero formula. The Flash (Bates, editor Ross Andru, etc.) never gets any credit for how groundbreaking this series was. The title character committed murder, for Pete's sake! "Watchmen" came out a bout a year later, but it was already planned, and I expect its themes were set.
2. Superman and Batman. I believe this all comes form an interview with John Byrne (in his portfolio book, or in The Comics Journal) where he stated that he believed that today's Superman and Batman would dislike each other. That may have been the beginning of my dislike for Byrne. This idea was already being explored in World's Finest Comics, where for almost a year S and B had a sort of antagonistic relationship. The title would be cancelled with five months. This was already the new normal when SS premiered.
3. Green Arrow. Far too often I have heard podcasters dismiss Green Arrow as though one adjective could define him. "Liberal," "chauvinist," "obnoxious," etc. The great thing about Green Arrow, c. 1970-1986, was that he was passionate! He LOVED Dinah, he HATED injustice, he LOVED chili, he HATED bureaucracy, and he wasn't shy about showing his emotions. That's what I found so appealing. He would show tears as well as anger. When you said that Golden Archer, as Green Arrow stand-in, would probably have voted against Princess Power's idea because he was anti fascist, I think you miss the point. The archer, either of them, would probably have an instinctive rejection of a system that is failing the "little guy." He was not the kind to say, "let's all work on it." He's the guy to say, "this kid needs food, now!" And then address the immediate concern with little or no thought to the long-range consequences.
4. Which leads me to Kyle Richmond. In hindsight, and not having read the series for many years, I see Kyle as being no different from the rest of the SS. That is, "I know what ought to be done, and I am going to do it." This is a major part of the superhero wish-fulfillment fantasy. It's not an accident that Billy Batson was given wisdom to go with his strength. Let's find out. Does Kyle pout because he lost the vote? Does he rig the outcome because he wants/needs/has to be right? Can we find parallels in our society with this thinking?
On with the podcast!
Guys! Guys! Yes! Oh man, yes! This series is perfect for you to discuss! I'm loving so many things about the show: Greg's passion, Sean's discovery, the analysis, the DC parallels. This is going to be great!ReplyDelete
I haven't given this a re-read in a decade or more, so I'm enjoying that already. Bob Hall's art really strikes a chord for me. And naturally, this was Mark Gruenwald's masterpiece. It's so good.
So, I'll try to answer Greg's twitter questions.
Favorite character: Whizzer. He's the most relatable AND the most heroic of the bunch. Plus he has the Barry Allen buzzcut. Will there be echoes of Barry's upcoming martyrdom? We'll see.
Favorite costume: That's hard. Doc Spectrum's is very eye-catching. I also like Lady Lark's but wonder if that's just by comparison to her original costume which is AWFUL! Sure, it worked for Tinkerbell, but not here.
Why Nuke should be Sean's favorite: In some ways, he reminds me of Nova (Richard Rider). Costume, flying, blasty hands, attitude. If you like Nova (not that I think you do), then Nuke should be your fave! Or maybe his attitude is like Namor's? Or maybe I'll keep thinking of characters with "N" names?
Now for various thoughts. As is my wont.
How cool is Arcanna surfing on a flying branch? That's all it is, right? A flying branch? I dig that so much!
Aquaman has an Atlantis. So does Namor. Does Amphibian have an Atlantis? Or was he raised by dolphins (a la Aquaman: Time and Tide) and lives with them exclusively when underwater? Is that why he's so uninterested in surface dwellers, which would drastically set him apart from Aquaman?
I doubt this was on purpose, but Tom Thumb could be a mash-up of both the Golden and Silver age Atoms. Short and scrappy like Al Pratt, genius like Ray Palmer, but never discovers how to change size so he makes machines to do his fighting.
Your discussion of Captain Hawk was excellent. I hadn't thought about him being a Silver Scarab analog, but that works even better than the Golden to Silver age relationships. Nice.
So Nighthawk has possibly the only Argonite rock on Earth. The parallel to Man of Steel is amazing, where Byrne allows only one Kryptonite rock in post-Crisis, probably not due to this story, but prescient by Gruenwald. That K rock eventually becomes Luthor's ring, and Superman gives that ring to ... Batman! I was wrong. THAT'S prescient!
Oh, it's so hard to keep my comments non-spoilery for Sean's benefit. Trying my best.
So again, great job, guys! See you next time, Beyondisss.... that doesn't work anymore. Oh, I've got it. See you next time, Squad-drones!
Would love be to hear you guys do a pre crisis Justice Society podcast. The Squadron is a cool concept and this was a groundbreaking mini series. Also there were many more Nighthawks on this Earth including Neal Richmond aka the Nightwing if this world and son of the Huckster, aka faux Joker. The Nightwings and Blue Eagles would be two opposing factions on this world much like later in Civil War on Earth-616.ReplyDelete
Hey......thanks to everyone for responding! Talking about the Squadron Supreme has been on my wishlish for years and I'm beyond ecstatic the overall response has been positive.ReplyDelete
1. You are absolutely correct about DC's status quo shakeup; however, I still maintain a lot of the innovation occurred in the non-tentpole titles. The JLA and Flash changes-while jaw dropping--weren't particularly popular at the time. A lot of these changes were built on the knowledge the slate was about to be wiped clean by the Crisis, particularly for the Flash.
2. The Superman and Batman relationship. I wouldn't be surprised if this was something cooked up by Byrne. I've never been a huge fan of Byrne's post-Crisis Superman reboot and the new Batman/Superman relationship is at the top of the list. Sure, the characters had a falling out when Batman left the JLA to form the Outsiders, but it spanned from World's Finest #394-300. By issue 300, they had reconciled. World's Finest continued for another 22 issues. Even as shocking as the initial spat between the World's Finest had been, it definitely hadn't reached the point where Batman was contemplating shooting Superman with a Kryptonite bullet.
3. Green Arrow. Once again I agree with you. Although, I think Green Arrow would have been more vocal once the team's plans started to veer into things like behavior modification, where Golden Archer is along for the ride no questions asked. Then again, the events in Identity Crisis, probably prove me wrong.
4. Kyle Richmond. Keep a look out for an upcoming episode which will be very Nighthawk-centric. I plan on discussing many of the things you mention in that episode.
As much as I enjoy talking about this mini-series, my favorite part is Sean discovering the series for the first time. His unintentional decision to set the series aside has improved this podcast by about 100%
I wish Arcanna's broomstick made more appearances in this series.
The Earth-Two characters have been some of my favorites from the very start of my comic reading. As much as I'd like to cover their appearance, "Tales of the Justice Society" on the Two-True Freaks network fills that niche.
Even though the other Nighthawks appear outside Gruenwald's mini-series, there is a chance we'll being covering them at some point.
Thank you to everyone for listening. Keep the comments coming.....
Hope you include Captan America 314 which directly ties into this maxi-series and introduces new characters as Nighthawk guest star.ReplyDelete