Looking back at the Golden Age of comics, taking a focus on a few characters (Tarantula, Johnny Quick and Liberty Belle) from that era that got a revival in the 1980s with the All-Star Squadron...
...and where to find reprints of their classic tales from the 1940s!
John Law was a mystery writer in the 1930s, who, with the introduction of other mystery men, and inspired by his pet spider, decided to become the mystery man known as Tarantula (though a radio announcer called him "Spider-Man" in his first appearance, in Star-Spangled Comics #1
of October, 1941 by Mort Weisinger
and Hal Sharp
...and he had no relation to the Tarantula who was an early nemesis to the Sandman). Armed with suction cup boots and a web-firing gun (and a loyal housekeeper named Olga), Tarantula was ready to fight crime in the Golden Age....at least until Star-Spangled Comics #19
Sadder still, only one of his Golden Age stories was reprinted...
...that of Star-Spangled Comics #11
(August, 1942) with the tale of "Galloping Gold" by writer Wade Wellman
and artist Ed Smalle, Jr.
, where Tarantula goes west to face Bandana Bardon and other cattle rustlers.
This was reprinted in World's Finest Comics #207
(November, 1971), under a Curt Swan
cover with Superman and Batman facing some cowboy outlaws as well...along with a reprint of a sci-fi tale from Strange Adventures
Don't feel too bad for Jonathan Law, he came back in the 1980s All-Star Squadron series by Roy Thomas
, and Jerry Ordway
gave him a new costume as well (via John's housekeeper, Olga)....and thanks to the time-traveling kids from Infinity, Inc., we know he had a successful novel on the Golden Age mystery men!
Jonathan even survived World War II, to show up as an elderly writer in issues of Nightwing, starting with Nightwing #14
(November, 1997), as a resident of Dick Grayson's apartment building, and showing up here and there, including issues #16
(and Titans #36
of February, 2002), until problems with Blockbuster resulted in a new, female Tarantula.
Johnny Chambers was an orphan, taken in by Professor Ezra Gill, who believed one could travel at super-speed by reciting a mathematical formula, 3x2 (9YZ) 4A. The professor passed of old age, because Johnny wasn't fast enough to save him...and eventually Johnny became a photographer for Sees All/Tells All News, along with Tubby Watts (who worked as his assistant). Johnny and Tubby found themselves in trouble while on assignment at a circus, and this time, when Johnny said the formula, it worked, and Johnny quickly mopped up the crooks, modifying his circus outfit to work as his super-hero costume, with Tubby as his assistant not only with the paper, but as a hero. All this happened in More Fun Comics #71
(September, 1941 by Mort Weisinger
and Chad Grothkopf
), which sadly has not been reprinted (though a version of it with more details, including his inspiration coming from the Flash, can be found in All-Star Squadron #65
, January, 1987 by Roy & Dann Thomas
and Don Heck
It's a good thing Johnny was so quick, because quite a few of his Golden Age tales were reprinted!
Johnny's earliest reprint came from More Fun Comics #73
(November, 1941), by writer Mort Weisinger
and artist Ed Moore Jr.
and inker Chad Grothkopf
, in the story "The Black Knight", where Johnny faced off against, well...the Black Knight, and the man behind the scenes pulling its strings....Sam Kirby.
This story was reprinted in the Millennium Edition: More Fun Comics #73
of January, 2001, which also features the first appearance of Aquaman and Green Arrow
, of Dr. Fate foe Mr. Who
(with the doctor capturing the cover in his half mask that he was using at this time), as well as Spectre, a ton of Golden Age goodness!
Johnny Quick's next reprinted story is from More Fun Comics #76
(February, 1942) by Mort Weisinger
and Mort Meskin
, entitled "The Adventure Of The Human Streak", where Johnny and Tubby faced off against Dr. Clever and his henchman, Breezy, whom the doctor gives super-speed via a ray invention of his. Pretty clever, that doctor...but not good enough to not get boxed down by Johnny Quick!
This story was reprinted in Wanted, the World's Most Dangerous Villains #7
(March-April, 1973), with a cover by Nick Cardy
, and also contained Golden Age Hawkman and Hourman reprints
, in a series edited by E. Nelson Bridwell
(who was responsible for so many Golden Age reprints finding new life).
The last of Johnny's More Fun Comics appearances to be reprinted is from More Fun Comics #101
(January-February, 1945) by Don Cameron
and Mort Meskin
, in the story "An Investment In Happiness", where Johnny and Tubby help dying tycoon, Darius Droobe, give money back to people he swindled over the years...much to the chagrin of Droobe fortune inheritor, Ambrose.
This tale is found in the Millennium Edition: More Fun Comics #101
of November, 2000. This issue also features Green Arrow, Aquaman, and in his last Golden Age appearance, the Spectre, as well as debuting a new feature...Superboy (a story of Superman, as a boy! Johnny quickly left More Fun Comics after this issue (with More Fun Comics #107
of January-February, 1946), and along with Green Arrow, Aquaman and cover feature, Superboy, ended up in Adventure Comics, starting with Adventure Comics #103
Johnny's earliest Adventure Comics
reprint was from Adventure Comics #117
(June, 1947) with "The Man Who Wore Ten Hats" by Bill Finger
and Mort Meskin
, with Johnny and Tubby helping a small town man who works too much against a crooked mayor.
This tale was reprinted in Flash #229
(September-October, 1974), under a cover by Nick Cardy
, and along with Johnny Quick, features a new team-up of the Golden Age and Silver Age Flash (vs. Golden Age villains Rag Doll and the Thinker
), as well as Silver Age Green Lantern, Kid Flash and Flash reprints, and a Golden Age Flash reprint as well!
Next up, reprint-wise, is the Johnny Quick story from Adventure Comics #121
(October, 1947) by Bill Finger
and Mort Meskin
called "The 9th Wonder Of The World"...
...wherein Johnny helps out some kids in a hospital's children's ward who were about to get a featured in an upcoming issue of his Pal the Wonder Dog comic when Mel Mitchum (the cartoonist) loses the issue in a fire. So, Johnny quickly turns out a replacement issue for him...what comic book creator wouldn't like to have a super-speeding artist on hand?
This story ended up reprinted in Flash #232
(March-April, 1975), under an awesome Nick Cardy
...within the issue is featured Barry Allen's Flash in team-ups with Kid Flash and Green Lantern, as well as a Golden Age Flash reprint.
Quick with that next reprint, as the story from Adventure Comics #123
(December, 1947) is, with the story of "The Adventure Of The Antelope Boy" by Don Cameron
and Mort Meskin
, with Johnny and Tubby traveling to Africa to see this "antelope boy" who can run really fast...but they end up having to save him from mobster, Mobs Bracket.
This story ended up being reprinted in Flash #160
(April, 1966, and is also known as 80 Page Giant #G-21
), under a cover by Carmine Infantino
and Murphy Anderson
, and as Barry Allen's Flash shows you, contains quite a number of quick adventures...
...all under a DC Comics checkerboard!
Johnny faces a slow foe, that of Sleepy, in Adventure Comics #129
(June, 1948) in the story "The Slowpoke Crimes" by an unknown writer, and art by Mort Meskin
...where Sleepy is able to use his lack of speed as an advantage for a time against Johnny Quick!
This story was reprinted in the 100-Page Super-Spectacular DC-22
of November, 1973 under a cover by Nick Cardy
, and also has a Golden Age Flash reprint...
...as well as a story involving the change of Kid Flash's costume!
Next up, in Johnny Quick reprints is Adventure Comics #144
(September, 1949), with the story of "The Day That Was Five Years Long" (which might be how you feel reading about Johnny's reprints), but this was a story by Otto Binder
and art by Dan Barry
, wherein Johnny helps a wrongly accused man, Joe Everett, get back the five years he lost in prison, all in one day (and oddly enough, all Joe wants is a job, so Johnny helps him...but Joe finds he likes making things like clocks, and he invented one in prison!).
This story was reprinted in the Greatest Golden Age Stories Ever Told
hardcover of 1990, which featured a stunning cover by Jerry Ordway
, and many Golden Age stories that were, well, just great, and featured a few other JSAers like Hawkman, Wildcat, Sandman, Flash, Green Lantern
, Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Black Canary
and the Spectre as well!
The story from Adventure Comics #174
(March, 1952) focuses on "Tubby Watts, Efficiency Expert" (written by Don Cameron
and art by Ralph Mayo
), with Tubby trying to find better work as an efficiency expert, and Johnny Quick having to speed things up and work extra hard helping his buddy out!
This story was reprinted in World's Finest Comics #224
(July-August, 1974) under a Nick Cardy
...and while it has no other Golden Age stories, it does have plenty of Superman/Batman action, and even a little Metamorpho, for fans of the Element Man!
Next up is a little adventure in pretending for Johnny Quick, as Johnny and Tubby go to cover the unveiling of a Paul Bunyon statue, and then Johnny has to perform feats to make him "The Modern Paul Bunyon" in this story by an unknown writer, with art by Paul Norris
in Adventure Comics #179
This story found itself reprinted in Flash #214
(April, 1972, also known as 100 Page Super-Spectacular DC-11
), under a spectacular cover by Nick Cardy
, and along with the many reprints in the book, it features a Golden Age Flash story that had never been published before as well as a Golden Age tale of Quicksilver (the Quality hero who later became known as Max Mercury!).
"Joanie Swift, Queen of Speed" was the focus of the story in Adventure Comics #181
(October, 1952, with no credited writer and art by Paul Norris
...as Joanie was transcribing for a college professor, and said the formula that Johnny Quick uses, gaining super-speed for a time. Johnny was more annoyed with her help, but lost it later, as Joanie couldn't remember the formula (a good thing for Johnny as well, as he didn't need another woman in his life, but more on that soon).
This tale was reprinted in World's Finest Comics #198
(November, 1970), under a Curt Swan/Murphy Anderson
cover, which featured the start of the third and deciding Superman/Flash race
Johnny faced the problem of "Too Many Speed Kings" in the story by an unknown writer and art by Ralph Mayo
from Adventure Comics #189
(June, 1953), where Professor Rollins gives Johnny Chambers a speed formula, and Johnny uses his powers to fake that it works, then has to continue to help others whom the professor gave the formula to as well!
This story is reprinted in Flash #205
(April-May, 1971) under a cover by Dick Giordano
...along with a few Silver Age tales including the first appearance of Professor Zoom, also known as the Reverse-Flash
, and a Golden Age Flash tale that had never been printed until this issue!
Adventure Comics #190
(July, 1953) is up for Johnny Quick's next reprint (with no identified writer, and art by Hy Mankin
), and it features Johnny as the "Stand-In For 100 Convicts", having Johnny have to fill in for 100 convicts who were released in an experimental program, with one of them (but only one) returning to criminal ways.
This issue was reprinted in DC 100 Page Super Spectacular #6
(1971), which, under this awesome Neal Adams
cover, also had a reprint of the first JLA/JSA team-up, a Golden Age Spectre story, and a previously unpublished Golden Age Wildcat story
(as well as lists of "every" DC hero's first appearance up to that time.). Even better, DC made a replica of the World's Great Super-Heroes Super Spectacular (yes, a reprint of a collection of reprints) in May, 2004 (though the cover was slightly altered)!
Last (but not least) of Johnny's reprints is Adventure Comics #202
(July, 1954) with "The Human Hot-Rodders" by Otto Binder
and Ralph Mayo
, having Johnny and Tubby facing off against the gang of Bull Barton, who are trying to distract police to allow Bull to escape prison and his execution.
This tale was reprinted in World's Finest Comics #186
(August, 1969) under a cover by Carmine Infantino
and Neal Adams
, with Superman planning to execute Batman!
Johnny's Golden Age adventures ended with Adventure Comics #207
(December, 1954), but that wasn't the end of Johnny's adventures...even in World War II, as the 1980s All-Star Squadron later proved!
Libby Lawrence first appeared in Boy Commandos #1
(Winter, 1942) with an untitled tale by Don Cameron
and Chuck Winter
...that told of her escape from Poland to Holland, then to France, all the while, being followed by the invading Nazis. Libby even swims the English Channel to get to England, before the German forces start to invade their as well. Libby goes to Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell, and gets a tiny replica as the bell (which she wears on her belt), which gives her strength when the real Liberty Bell is wrung...thus beginning her career as Liberty Belle (all recapped in All-Star Squadron #61
of September, 1986)!
Liberty Belle appeared next in Boy Commandos #2
(Spring, 1943), along with boyfriend Rick Cannon and Liberty Bell guard Tom Revere, then the Liberty Belle feature runs from Star-Spangled Comics #20
(May, 1943) to Star-Spangled Comics #68
(May, 1947) replacing Tarantula's series...which none of which have been reprinted; in fact, if not for the cover of Adventure Comics #416
(March, 1972), readers wouldn't have seen Liberty Belle...
...until the All-Star Squadron, Roy Thomas
' series focusing on World War II adventures of DC's mystery men (and women) of the time!
This series lasted for 67 issues (plus a preview in Justice League of America #193
and three Annuals), and featured World War II era versions of the Justice Society of America (including Flash
, Dr. Mid-Nite
and more), as well as the Seven Soldiers of Victory
, the Freedom Fighters
, and even individual heroes like Commander Steel
, Air Wave, TNT and Dan the Dyna-Mite
, and even introduced characters like Amazing Man and a new female Firebrand....
....and later in the run, Johnny and Libby got married (and later still, after the All-Stars and World War II ended), we readers found the results of that union, with their daughter, Jesse Quick
(whom continues the legacy of both her parents to this day).