Thursday, July 14, 2016

Captain Comet: If They Only Knew...

As a writer, I like to retain, recycle and recast material I’ve written when it might be useful again, and DC Comics also long practiced this form of intellectual thrift.
For example, compare the Murphy Anderson covers of Strange Adventures 35 (The Cosmic Chessboard, Aug. 1953) and Justice League of America 1 (The World of No Return, Oct-Nov. 1960).
In both cases, heroes are playing a cosmic chess match that imperils real people, and both stories even feature a dinosaur fin-headed alien who sports a third eye, (one green-skinned, the other red-skinned). That’s one easy “tell” for recognizing the hand of particular comic book artists, by the way. They all tend to have distinctive types of fantasy aliens that they draw.
For DC, publishing in an era in which it was expected that readers would begin and then stop reading their product within a span of five to seven years, it made good business sense to recycle fantasy ideas that had proven popular. Hence all those intelligent gorillas…
Note, too, the way John Broome’s Captain Comet story might slyly be read as merely the daydream of a frustrated librarian.
When Adam Blake offers a suggestion to a chess player in Midwest City Park, the man sneers at his intellectual abilities. Then the inconspicuous librarian muses that he is really a secret superman who saved Earth and other planets in a recent cosmic chess match against an extraterrestrial despot, but of course nobody on this planet knows that…
Superheroes as wish fulfillment? Could it be?

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