Thursday, July 28, 2016

Suicide Has Rarely Been This Much Fun

As instantly recognizable as its superhero titles or its science fiction anthologies, Silver Age DC Comics offered another genre that became familiar to its readers — the “uncanny team” comic book.
Actually, the heroes were canny while the menaces they fought were uncanny — alien invaders, giant monsters, mad scientists, what have you. Without super powers to support them against these fantastic foes, the heroes had to rely on their wits, their uniformly dauntless courage, some mid-century high tech and each other. Being miniaturized or propelled into other times or dimensions were not uncommon experiences for them, certainly no cause for panic. In the idiom of the day, they were cool cats.
Such uncanny teams included the Challengers of the Unknown, the Sea Devils, Cave Carson’s intrepid band of spelunkers, Rip Hunter’s temporal explorers and — borrowed from Quality Comics — the World War II military fliers the Blackhawks, re-enlisted into the fight against extraterrestrial enemies and super villains.
Often, the team consisted of the main hero, his strong pal, a young guy and the girl — a configuration borrowed by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for what was arguably the most significant team of the 1960s, the Fantastic Four.
And in Brave and the Bold 25 (Aug.-Sept. 1959), writer Robert Kanigher and artist Ross Andru introduced us to the Suicide Squad, a/k/a Task Force X, a team headed by pilot and military intelligence officer Col. Rick Flag (clearly a hero from the “Mike Hammer,” “John Shaft” and “Peter Gunn” School of Coincidental Naming).
The team included physicist Jess Bright, astronomer Hugh Evans and military nurse Karin Grace, “all the last living members of their respective crews, all willing to die to save the world and uplift their lost friends’ legacies,” as C. David noted. “They’re basically a crew powered by pure survivor’s guilt.”
They proved to be just the kind of plucky people you might hear say, “Never thought we’d be trying to save a whale from a flying dinosaur!”

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