Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Quality's Uncle Sam

Uncle Sam was a known figure (being based on New York meat packer Samuel Wilson), was referred to in the lyrics of Yankee Doodle Dandy in 1775, was a literary character in 1816, and was an image as he was usually known by in J. M. Flagg's recruitment poster of 1917 (for World War I).

He's even made it into a few other comic book companys...like Marvel's Captain America and Fawcett's Captain Marvel...

A Quality Uncle Sam


The spirit of America was made into an official comic book character at Quality Comics, with National Comics #1 (July, 1940, thus before Captain America even existed), and this Uncle Sam was created by Will Eisner (who also created and retained ownership of the Spirit), and the cover was drawn by Lou Fine (and interior story drawn by Dave Berg).

Uncle Sam was joining the fight for World War II to save us all!

Uncle Sam's origin appeared in National Comics #5 (November, 1940), with story by Will Eisner, and cover and interior art by Lou Fine (this issue also introduced Quality's speed hero, Quicksilver....).

Uncle Sam stayed to fight for America from National Comics #1-45 (that last issue in December, 1944, and Uncle Sam was on the covers up to #41 before being replaced by the Barker...).

During this time, Uncle Sam proved popular enough to even get his own book as well!

Uncle Sam Breaks Loose


Uncle Sam Quarterly #1 came out in Autumn, 1941, and the title wasn't quite quarterly...#2 was Winter of 1941 cover by Lou Fine, #3 was Summer of 1942 cover by George Tuska, #4 was Autumn of 1942 cover by Gill Fox, #5 was Winter of 1942 cover by Al Gabriele, #6 was Spring of 1943 cover by Ruben Moreira, #7 was Summer of 1943 cover by Al Bryant, and the last issue of the series, #8, was in Fall of 1943, and cover by Alex Kotzky.

The title then became Blackhawk, which is why Blackhawk started with issue #9 at Quality Comics!

Sam's last Quality appearance was in National Comics #45 (December, 1944)...but that wasn't the last appearance of Uncle Sam.  DC Comics had purchased the Quality characters, and kept the Blackhawks, G.I. Combat, Heart Throbs and Robin Hood Tales titles going under the DC banner (or is that checker?)...and even revived Plastic Man in the 1960s...but as for the rest...their freedom came in the 1970s...

Freedom for the Quality Heroes


Len Wein and Dick Dillin brought back 6 of these unused Quality characters as a team in Justice League of America #107-108 (September-December, 1973) as the Freedom Fighters.  Uncle Sam had recruited Phantom Lady, the Human Bomb, the Black Condor, Doll Man and the Ray to help him fight the Nazis who had won World War II on their Earth (Earth-X)...and with this story, also got the help of Earth-1's Justice League and Earth-2's Justice Society.

The Freedom Fighters then graduated to their own book, entitled Freedom Fighters, that lasted for 15 issues from 1976 to 1978, by writers Gerry Conway, Marty Pasko and Bob Rozakis and artists Ric Estrada, Pablo Marcus, Ramona Fradon, and Dick Ayers, facing a foe from Earth-X, the Silver Ghost!

While the JLA stories are reprinted in Crisis On Multiple Earths 3 under an Alex Ross cover, the Freedom Fighters tales have yet to be collected (and are wanted....)

The World War II origins of the Freedom Fighters got covered in All-Star Squadron #31-35 (March-July, 1984, by Roy Thomas and Rick Hoberg), and told how these (and other) Quality heroes (like Miss America, Magno and Neon the Unknown) had originally started on Earth-2, and left to help Earth-X, and unintentionally allowed the Nazis to win World War II!

Sadly, these Freedom Fighters saw their modern adventure together end soon after their appearance in DC Comics Presents #62 (October, 1983 by Bob Rozakis, Dan Mishkin and Irv Novick with a text piece resolving the Firebrand/Silver Ghost battle left from the original Freedom Fighters series) in Crisis On Infinite Earths (though others continue to pick up their legacy...

...most recently in two 8 issue mini-series of Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters by writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmioti, and artists Daniel Acuna on the first series, and Renato Arlem on the second series, and a Freedom Fighters series with the same writing team and with art by Travis Moore for 9 issues before it ended...reviving even more Quality characters under the DC banner).


More Uncle Sam History


Uncle Sam himself got a more recent origin with Secret Origins #19 (November, 1987, by Len Wein and Murphy Anderson, which is pretty faithful to Uncle Sam's stories from National Comics #1 and 5, and Uncle Sam Quarterly #1, and has a cover by Anderson for Sam, and Captain America co-creator Jack Kirby drawing DC's shield-slinger, the Guardian!), and if you still want more Quality and Uncle Sam comic history, check out the wonderful Quality Companion from TwoMorrows, by Mike Kooiman and Jim Amash with a cover by Dick Giordano!
Uncle Sam, we salute you!





3 comments:

  1. Still need to get the Quality Companion!

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  2. Nice entry on Uncle Sam and Quality Comics, Dave. I had some vague memories of Quality, just based on some fanzine articles, this enlightened me. Eisner among others helped make the company a great one, at least for a while.

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