Post by M. W. Gallaher on May 28, 2022 22:54:56 GMT -5
I haven't praised Murphy Anderson enough for his two-issue contribution to the Hourman mythos. When I pondered whether he was intentionally evoking Bernard Baily in the previous issue, it had slipped my mind that he had done the very same thing in his Spectre work, recreating memorable shots, showing that he had done his homework, showing respect for the originals in ways that most readers were never going to recognize. (And of course, he obviously referred to back issues to draw the three Dr. Fate villains and the original Psycho Pirate accurately.) Of DC's stable of artists in '65, he'd definitely be the man for the job if Hourman had taken off.
And I very much appreciate your points about Hourman's powers being a lot easier to swallow. And it's not just the more modest extent to which normal human abilities are amplified that make the concept more plausible, but the mechanism as well: performance-enhancing drugs are for real, and their effects are temporary, so it's really just the precise one-hour duration that the reader has to agree to not think too hard about. That's a biochemically unlikely coincidence, but the tradeoff for having that running countdown to expiration is worth it!
Post by M. W. Gallaher on May 31, 2022 21:08:03 GMT -5
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #55-56 (Aug-Sep 1967) and #64-64 (Aug-Sep 1968)
Sales of the SHOWCASE team-ups with Dr. Fate must have been disappointing, indeed, as Hourman disappeared from the stands for over two years before returning in the annual JLA/JSA team-ups two years in a row.
JLA #55-56 featured “The Super-Crisis That Struck Earth-Two” and “The Negative-Crisis on Earths One-Two”, written by Gardner Fox with art by Mike Sekowsky and Sid Greene. This year the reduced roster of six JSAers includes two of the longest-serving members (Hawkman and Wonder Woman) with short-timer Hourman and the only heroes who had appeared with the JSA fewer times than he had: Wildcat, Mr. Terrific, and Robin (Johnny Thunder joins in at the end of the issue, where he summons the JLA from Earth-One. While the other JSAers pair off to battle one of three enemies who have been transformed into super-powerful criminals by mysterious black spheres that fly up and absorb themselves into the otherwise ordinary people’s bodies, Hourman actually gets a little solo sequence, taking on the mighty Chinese bandit How Chu. In three consecutive pages, Hourman confronts the bandit on Earth-Two’s Silk Road between Lanchow and Kashgar. Judging by how he’s tossing that car around, Rex has indeed upgraded his Miraclo:
The following issue promises a battle between the two teams, with the cover showing Hourman going head-to-head with Superman. I don’t think he’s improved Miraclo quite that much. But he does indeed battle the Man of Steel, enhanced not just with Miraclo but with the “negative radiation” from those black spheres:
(Hey, Mike Sekowsky gets a bad rap for often static, boring pages, but he’s bringing it, here, no? I get the feeling Julius Schwartz must have been telling Mike to look at some Gil Kane pages for inspiration.)
JLA #64-67 features “The Stormy Return of the Red Tornado” and “T.O. Morrow Kills the Justice League—Today”, by Gardner Fox, with pencils by new JLA artist Dick Dillin and returning inker Sid Greene. Issue 55 was close to a JSA-only story; #64 doesn’t even bother including the JLA in the first installment, which features the debut of the android Red Tornado. Hourman has not only improved Miraclo, but he’s branched out into computer science, creating a “crime-caster” that forecasts criminal activity:
Hourman again gets some pretty spectacular action, this time courtesy of new artist Dick Dillin, but the team ends up all apparently dead, and that’s unfortunate timing, since there are a lot more than seven JSAers active in this adventure.
Of course, with the arrival of the JLA in the story in the following issue, everything gets back to normal, and the Red Tornado becomes the second new member of the JSA in the 60’s.
These issues had some more of the dynamic rough-and-tumble action I argued that Hourman was well-suited for, and for stories that center around new additions to the JSA, Hourman gets a respectable amount of attention. Hourman's civilian identity of Rex Tyler gets no page-time, as one might expect from a star-studded set of issues like these. We can presume he has married Wendi Harris, and he's apparently taken up computer engineering! I never liked the tendency of inflating the capabilities of any scientist super-hero beyond their particular specialty. I'm going to assume this "crime-caster" is being developed by a branch of Rex's company as it expands beyond its roots as a chemical lab, and that by "working on it" he means contributing to the design effort, maybe writing requirements and managing engineers that do the technical stuff.
Post by M. W. Gallaher on Jun 1, 2022 11:14:04 GMT -5
SPECTRE #7, Nov/Dec 1968
“The Hour Hourman Died” by Gardner Fox, Dick Dillin, and Sid Greene
Unannounced (in the previous issue), unpromoted (on the cover) and unexpected (by Spectre readers), Hourman popped up in a solo story, his first since 1943. I myself first found out about this little gem at a comics convention in Chicago, 1992, when I was looking through some original art pages for sale, and discovered a beautiful piece of Bristol board lushly inked by one of my favorites, Sid Greene. I had no idea where this Hourman story had been published, but you better believe I snapped that page up (at a bargain price of, as I recall, $35).
The story opens with Hourman about to enter the subterranean vault where he stores his Hourman garb and Miraclo pills. A thief by the name of Tricky Dick Arnold passes right through the door of the vault, surprised to find Hourman seemingly aware of Arnold’s plans to look Tyler Chemicals’ “top-secret blueprints”. Arnold, armed with a futuristic ray-gun that apparently allows him to pass through metal doors, wallops Hourman with the blueprints, stored in a cylindrical container.
At 1:19:13, Hourman discreetly pops a Miraclo pill (he was on his way home from a JSA meeting, which was presumably a procedural meeting or a social gathering rather than a mission, so he obviously is at least an hour past whenever his previous dose wore off). In the battle to recover the blueprints, Arnold’s strange weapon goes off. Although this device (the “Metalizer”) typically has no effect on human life, but instead temporarily vaporizes metal, it strikes Hourman dead on the spot! Arnold freaks out when he finds no sign of life in the fallen hero and high-tails it out of there!
After about 30 minutes, Hourman regains his senses, but he really is dead! The Miraclo charge is supporting a “crude semblance of life” that allows Hourman “the energized reactions of a—robot!”
(This is the page I used to have the original art for. I think I sold it to our old compadre from the CBR boards, Lone Ranger.)
The only possibility is to track the Metalizer, which is emitting radiation that Hourman’s transformed, Miraclo-charged body is sensitive to. If he can determine the nature of the radiation, perhaps he can cure himself—but he’s only got 29 minutes, 55 seconds to do so! If he doesn’t, the Miraclo will wear off, and even the artificial life he has now will come to an end.
Inconveniently, Tricky Dick Arnold proves to be wiser than most criminals we encounter in the comics pages: he tosses all the evidence—the blueprints and the Metalizer—into the river! Hourman’s urgent mission to save his own skin is interrupted by an out-of-control gas truck, which he heroically devotes a precious 13 seconds to stop from plunging into a gorge!
He then follows the radiation trail to the bridge and dives into the river, having deduced that the thief must have ditched the weapon. He finds the gun and the blueprints, but to his distress, he finds that the water has “washed away the lingering radiation” as well as ruined the Metalizer. Lucky for him, something in Arnold’s car is still emitting radiation—loot from a previous heist he used the device on. This allows Hourman to chase down the car. He battles Arnold to take hold of a suitcase full of irradiated money, which Arnold is, of course, loathe to part with. With his superpowers, Hourman is able to defeat his opponent, but he must take Arnold with him back to the lab—no time for anything else when the clock is running out on Hourman’s life!
Some analysis reveals that the radiation only affected Hourman because of his Miraclo energy, and with only a few minutes remaining, an antidote seems possible—but that’s when Arnold revives, starting up the combat again. A head-butt from Hourman’s Miraclo-protected noggin puts Arnold out again, and Rex prepares and consumes the life-restoring concoction just as time runs out!
Finally, a healed Hourman delivers Arnold to the police, as Arnold complains “What gripes me is—if I didn’t get that money for a stake—you’d never have caught up with me!”
Yeah, this is what I’m talking about! No, it’s not the greatest story, but it’s got plenty of dynamic Hourman action: hand-to-hand combat, stopping a runaway truck bare-handed, leaping, diving, punching! I found Dick Dillin a rather boring artist in the early-to-mid 70’s, but he’s absolutely killing it here, with inker Sid Greene making Dillin’s pages look so much better than the likes of Giordano, McLaughlin, and Giella would when I was getting familiar with his work! Even the coloring is impressive—Hourman’s colors look great in a nighttime setting, and that twilight purple monotone coloring in the truck rescue scene looks mighty fine to this reader, who’s never tended to appreciate monochromatic shortcuts in his comics!
Apparently, Gardner Fox and/or Julius Schwartz thought that Hourman’s vault was an important detail, as it shows up again and again in Hourman’s Silver Age appearances. Secret headquarters were a pretty big deal back then, so I get the idea of setting him up with some cool digs, but one would think he wouldn’t also use the vault for official Tyler Chemical work product storage! This is the same place he’s been shown to leave out candy jars full of Miraclo, and store his Hourman costume; surely some employees other than the president would need access to the secure storage area!
And I guess Gardner Fox didn’t have any clear ideas of what kind of secret information a chemical company might have worth stealing, or in what format, and opted for the 60’s standby McGuffin of “top-secret blueprints”. I can’t imagine what kind of blueprints they would have that would be so attractive to a minor-league thief like Tricky Dick Arnold. Yes, they might want to keep their laboratory plans proprietary, but who would Arnold possibly know that he could fence those plans to?
And while we’re veering into the technological, one might question how it is that Rex Tyler can whip up a chemical antidote to a unique form of radiation poisoning in a matter of minutes. It does strain plausibility, but Rex is a top-notch chemist who presumably knows exactly how Miraclo alters the body, and he must have developed some expertise in radiation thanks to the development of the Miraclo Ray form of exposure, even if he’s no longer relying on that device. I can't quite buy radiation "washing off" in the river, though.
This was the second time the SPECTRE series was used to try out a JSAer solo, having had a Wildcat/Spectre team-up in issue 3 that included a Wildcat solo chapter. Schwartz wasn't giving up on trying to find another Golden Ager who could make it into the big-time in the 1960's. Judging by this offering, I think Hourman had a lot more potential than some of what DC was publishing around this time, and I think readers saw it, too, even if they didn't respond in numbers strong enough for DC to take a chance on him. But of the JSAers who didn't have Earth-1 counterparts, my impression has always been that Hourman and Sandman intrigued a lot more fans than, say, Starman or Mr. Terrific. I do wish Hourman had made it into an issue of BRAVE & BOLD, at least, but all we were to get in the 70's were some more JLA/JSA team-ups and some appearances with the revived JSA in ALL-STAR COMICS and ADVENTURE COMICS. Up next, another brief review of those appearances before we get to the final solo adventure...
Enjoyable and perceptive as always, M. W. Gallaher. I think you're probably spot-on regarding Sekowsky following Gil Kane's lead on those fight scenes.
Especially agree that Dick Dillin, who was the JLA workhorse of workhorses, always was poorly served, by the inking of Giella, McLaughlin and even Giordano, all of whose inks tended toward the scratchy, when what he needed was the lush inks of Greene or someone similar (like Murphy Anderson), to bring out the dynamism in his action scenes and to soften and smooth out the blockiness and stiffness of his figure-drawing. His many Blackhawk stories inked by Chuck Cuidera were more attractive than most of his JLA work, despite the heaviness of the Cuidera inks, who took lushness too far, giving those Blackhawk stories almost a smudgy, greasy look.
Sid Greene was clearly Dillin's Goldilocks inker.
"The rarer action is In virtue than in vengeance." -- The Tempest, 5.1
Strange to see how Hour-Man's trajectory into The Silver Age isn't all that different from The Spectre's. I suppose once these characters get relegated to Earth-2, they don't have that many opportunities to set foot in Earth 1's line of comics, but a couple of mismatched team ups in Showcase/Brave and the Bold, appearances in JLA, and now a solo showing in Spec's own mag isn't all that different from what the green ghost went through.
Why there was no promotion for this is beyond me, but using The Spectre title to get readers more familiar with a different JSAer every issue in a back-up of their own would have been a welcome idea (again, had readers known about it either in advance or by mentioning it on the cover). I mean, really? Was "The Ghost That Haunted Money!" too good of a title to not eschew in favour of a catchy "Plus: A Bonus Tale Featuring Man of the Hour Rex "Tick Tock" Tyler Hour-Man with "Tricky Dick" Arnold but no Minute-Men and Thorndyke but Plenty of that Amazing Wonder Invention Miraclo Created by, Yes, You Guessed it, Rex "Tick Tock" Tyler: The Hour-Man!!"?
And this is a beautiful looking story. Something about the colors here which I love - the purple skies, the gravity-defying shadows, that three in the morning back-alley ambience when everyone but criminals and your favorite hero sleeps - really did a wonder on the New Look Batman stories which, before this period, weren't really doing much for me. I really like that panel of Hour-Man smashing Arnold's car window below - somehow, the black little eye irises feel perfectly creepyin a way that the more traditional Phatomesque blank white eyeballs wouldn't.
One thing though - since when can Hour-Man fly? See - his "jetting" at the top of page five seems to be claiming that he can.
Post by M. W. Gallaher on Jun 1, 2022 20:02:47 GMT -5
chadwilliam is always picking up on details I missed! That is indeed a head-scratcher. There's nothing else to imply that Hourman can fly, so I wonder if Gardner Fox used "jetting" metaphorically and Dillin interpreted it a bit more literally? Or maybe readers were to assume that Hourman was leaping from a position across the gorge from the out-of-control truck?
Post by M. W. Gallaher on Jun 4, 2022 6:07:08 GMT -5
Looming ahead is the final published solo adventure of Rex Tyler, Hourman, but before we get to that, let’s quickly review the intervening comics in which he joined his colleagues in the Justice Society and the Justice League for several more of the annual team-ups.
JLA #82-83, Aug-Sep 1970:
“Peril of the Paired Planets” and “Where Valor Fails…Will Magic Triumph?” by Dennis O’Neil, Dick Dillin, and Joe Giella
Hourman is nothing but window-dressing in the first installment. In the second, we actually see him popping a Miraclo and jumping into action “like a dervish” (and reaffirming that no, Hourman can't fly, despite that implication in the previous solo story!):
But that Miraclo proves useless when Hourman is accelerated in time so that his hour of power passes by in a second. After that, The Spectre hogs the spotlight by sacrificing himself to save the world (and we get the intriguing tease about the unrevealed reason The Spectre is confined to a tomb, allowed only to act when summoned. For my take on the reason, see my post in chadwilliam ‘s excellent “Peer into the Eyes of The Spectre – Golden Age Reviews” thread:
“The Unknown Soldier of Victory”, “The Hand That Shook the World”, and “And One of Us Must Die” by Len Wein, Dick Dillin, and Joe Giella and Dick Giordano
This was my all-time favorite of the JLA/JSA pairings, the 3-parter in which the assembled heroes split into smaller groups to travel in time to rescue the displaced and forgotten Seven Soldiers of Victory, and to figure out the identity of the “Unknown Soldier of Victory” who sacrificed himself to save the world from the menaces of the Iron Hand and the Nebula Man that now threaten Earth-2 on a cosmic level:
Hourman’s chance to shine comes in issue #101, when he travels with Earth-1’s Batman and Earth-2’s Starman to ancient Egypt:
The trio find their Soldier, Stripesy, forced to use his considerable strength as a slave building a pyramid. The team doesn’t succeed in their rescue attempt and end up tied in the Pharaoh’s burial chamber deep inside the pyramid. Starman’s Cosmic Rod is too far away to respond to his mental control, and, inconveniently, Hourman’s Miraclo boost has expired. Batman effects the trio’s escape by breaking the hourglass our hero has worn around his neck for years:
Aside from throwing a few non-powered punches as they rescue Stripesy before being returned to 1972, that’s Hourman’s big contribution to the mission: sacrificing a keepsake so that its shards can cut the ropes that bind them. With such a large cast, it’s no surprise that Hourman also plays little part in the big finale in #102, not even ranking a spot on the cover, but when Red Tornado sacrifices himself to defeat the Nebula Man, Rex gets the unfortunate role of justifying Reddy’s inferiority complex by regretting his past anti-android prejudices:
JLA #107, Sep/Oct 1973:
“Crisis on Earth-X” by Len Wein, Dick Dillin, and Dick Giordano
As the JLA and JSA simultaneously test out new equipment to facilitate transfer between dimensions, Hourman is present on the Earth-2 end, but he’s not among the guinea pig heroes who end up transported to Earth-X, home of the Freedom Fighters. In the following issue the heroes are returned to their proper Earths, but we don’t get to witness the dimension-hoppers sharing their experiences, leaving a gap where Roy Thomas could later insert Hourman as one of the first Earth-X immigrants. I can’t work up the enthusiasm to revisit the ALL-STAR SQUADRON issues that retconned Hourman into the Freedom Fighters, so I don’t know if there is enough wiggle room to explain why the JSAers who do travel to Earth-X don’t remember that the one-time Quality heroes originated in the JSA’s universe, but I’ll assume that Hourman at least regretted not having the opportunity to say hi to his old pal Uncle Sam and the gang.
JLA #113, Sep/Oct 1974:
“The Creature in the Velvet Cage” by Len Wein, Dick Dillin, and Dick Giordano
In this one-issue team-up, the united teams battle the Sandman’s one-time partner Sandy, who has been transformed into a monster. An interesting moment comes when Hourman uses Sandman’s “trick hourglass” to open up a secret passage in Wesley Dodd’s mansion:
The hourglass, of course, is one of Hourman’s symbols, and the sand is, well, obviously suggestive of Sandman, so I can see how Wesley would make a point of demonstrating it to his ally. In this disappointingly brief and depressing installment in the traditional annual meetings of the two teams, Hourman contributes very little.
JLA #123-124, Oct-Nov 1975:
Yes, Hourman's costume is miscolored as all yellow on the cover!
“Where on Earth Am I?” and “Avenging Ghosts of the Justice Society” by Cary Bates & Elliot S. Maggin, Dick Dillin, and Frank McLaughlin
This was the notorious pair of issues that pitted the combined teams against self-indulgent writers Bates and Maggin, who wrote themselves into the story as the antagonists. Hourman is here with fellow JSAers Wonder Woman, Dr. Mid-Night, Wildcat, Johnny Thunder, and Robin, but he contributes almost nothing to the story, in part because the JSA is “dead” for a large part of the story. Hourman, along with the others, manage to return to the land of the living, of course, once The Spectre returns from the dead himself and gets involved:
The tale concludes with a plug for “the Justice Society in its own book—Super Squad! On sale soon!” In the next installment, we’ll look at Hourman’s contributions to those Bronze Age adventures of the JSA (in ALL STAR COMICS, not “Super Squad”).
As the annual JLA/JSA events got bigger and bigger, it’s no surprise that there is less and less room for the individual heroes to participate, especially when spotlighting things like The Spectre and Red Tornado sacrificing themselves or introducing more Golden Age revival characters like Quality’s stable of top heroes grouped as the Freedom Fighters or DC’s counter to their allied publishing company’s JSA (which was from the All-American branch), the Seven Soldiers of Victory (all characters coming from the DC branch). Consequently, there’s little of interest here regarding Hourman. He provides some additional color on the pages, but that’s about all.
Post by M. W. Gallaher on Jun 5, 2022 15:35:52 GMT -5
The JSA was revived as the “Super-Squad” when ALL-STAR COMICS returned to the stands with #58 in Jan/Feb 1976, but Hourman took his time showing up for duty. He appeared with the team in ALL-STAR COMICS #62-70 and 74 (between Sep/Oct 1976 and Sep/Oct 1978). On cancellation, the JSA took up residence in ADVENTURE COMICS, and Hourman appeared there in issues 462 (Mar/Apr 1979) and 466 (Nov/Dec 1979), making for a total of 11 appearances. (During this run, he also appeared in the “Untold Origin of the Justice Society” in DC SPECIAL #29, Aug/Sep 1977, covered earlier in the thread.)
When he returns to the comics pages, to visit the dying Dr. Fate (rendered by the appealing team of Keith Giffen and Wallace Wood) we learn that he is now retired:
(It’s a nice nod to the short-lived “Super-Team Supreme” that Rex is shown to be very devoted to Dr. Fate here.)
Hourman is not just here for visiting hours; he’s joining their team on their mission to Egypt seeking a cure for the mysterious Dr. Fate:
In this issue, Rex is characterized as being annoyed by the Marvel-style infighting among the team: “This isn’t the Justice Society I remember!”
This time, his hourglass pendant is shown to function as a JSA signaling device—an upgrade after Batman destroyed the old one, I suppose! Anyway, after his bellyaching about the bickering between Wildcat and Power Girl, Hourman is left behind guarding the JSA headquarters while Superman, Power Girl, Hawkman and Wildcat head to Egypt, and begins to regret suiting up for this nonsense. In the following issue, Rex gets the sad role of being witness to his one-time partner’s expiration:
Pairing with the Star-Spangled Kid, Hourman does get to use his Miraclo super-strength against the villain Zanadu, and bears witness to Dr. Fate’s revival joyously: “Looks like I picked the perfect time to come out of retirement. The gang’s gonna be all together again!”
In issue 64, Hourman’s on the roll call with 6 other members, but he gets left behind to control the time machine the team will use to assist special guest The Shining Knight, and Rex is not too happy about that:
Unfortunately, Hourman was not briefed on the security system, and gets frozen solid by intruding villain The Icicle while the rest of the team is off time-traveling. We don’t see him again until the closing panels of the following issue when he appears to be under the hypnotic control of The Icicle, firing a raygun directly at his team-mate Wildcat, who has arrived to relieve Hourman of guard duty.
In issue 66, The Icicle and his fellow members of the Injustice Society of the World have taken over JSA HQ, and are holding an unconscious Hourman and Wildcat hostage. He’s rescued from a death trap by his team-mates, but remains unconscious for the entire issue. We’re told that he is taken off to the hospital.
The next issue blurb promises “The fate of Hourman!” in issue 67. Although Hourman is never visible on-panel, we do see the JSAers watching successful surgery being completed on the injured hero.
In #68, Dick Grayson escorts the still-recovering Hourman from South Africa (where the surgery took place) to Gotham. When they arrive, they are met by the Earth-2 Bruce Wayne, who is onto the suspicion that the JSA is being controlled by Hourman’s one-time opponent, the Psycho-Pirate. The team escapes that control on their own, but the final panel teases that Bruce, Dick, and Rex are planning something…
That something, as we learn in #69, is the arrest of the current team (by now-Police Commissioner Bruce Wayne) on charges of reckless endangerment. Inactive JSAers Dr. Mid-Night, Starman, and Wonder Woman join Hourman and Robin as they try to bring in their former comrades. Hourman (now sporting a new look with red tones) takes on his former partner:
Ultimately, it turns out that Bruce Wayne was himself being manipulated by the Psycho-Pirate.
In issue 70, Hourman is at the JSA’s table when Hawkman adjourns the meeting. Hourman goes home. That’s it. Nothing to see here.
OK, I’ll show you. See, he’s leaving, panel 1, page 2. That’s him with the yellow cowl and red shoulders. Remember, new color scheme?
The series doesn’t feature Rex again until the final issue, #74, where he (barely) makes the cover:
The JSA breaks off into several sub-teams, some of which get their own chapters. Hourman does not, he’s squeezed into a single panel fighting some tentacles with the Star-Spangled Kid. It’s a token appearance, necessary because Paul Levitz wanted to include every active and available JSAer (as he explains on the letters page, Spectre has vanish, Batman has retired, Black Canary and Red Tornado have changed Earths, Wildcat is on the Disabled List, and Mr. Terrific…well, he doesn’t want to give that away, but you can find out “in the pages of another magazine”. I think we all know why Mr. T didn’t make this big adventure, but if you don’t, check out JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #171, published several months after this one.
And then, Hourman returns to the magazine in which he debuted for appearances with the JSA in ADVENTURE COMICS 462 and 466.
The story in #462 was plugged in the final issue of ALL STAR as coming next, but the cancellation of that title shuttled this tale to the Dollar Comic anthology series. “Only Legends Live Forever” tells the final chapter in the life of the Earth-2 Batman. Hourman is a mourner at the funeral.
In #466, we see “The Defeat of the Justice Society!”, a flashback by Paul Levitz and Joe Staton. This is the tale of what lead to the disbanding of the team in 1950. He appears only on the splash page, which depicts the end of a funeral for one JSA member (no, not the Batman funeral, that was several issues back).
And that was Hourman’s involvement in the 1970’s JSA revival. No, it didn’t amount to much, with his very presence often trivial and his particular contributions mostly negligible. Almost astonishingly so; it's clear that Hourman's inclusion was usually sort of obligatory, rather than relevant to the story.
As Hourman himself says, this was not the JSA he remembers. While the Justice Society originated the concept of the all-star superhero team, the approach to those teams had evolved in ways that made Hourman an inconvenient member. In his brief time with the original team, the format had the members assigned to go off on independent missions in support of the larger goal, so Hourman could use his limited duration of power when he chose. But contemporary super-team comics did not offer their team the convenience of scheduling their efforts, they were about large scale, sudden threats that called the team into immediate action that might last hours. Superheroes whose powers expire in the middle of a mission, with no way to restore them for another hour? Not the best pick for the squad!
He appeared with the team in ALL-STAR COMICS #62-70 and 74 (between Sep/Oct 1976 and Sep/Oct 1978). On cancellation, the JSA took up residence in ADVENTURE COMICS, and Hourman appeared there in issues 462 (Mar/Apr 1979) and 466 (Nov/Dec 1979), making for a total of 11 appearances.
He appeared with the team in ALL-STAR COMICS #62-70 and 74 (between Sep/Oct 1976 and Sep/Oct 1978). On cancellation, the JSA took up residence in ADVENTURE COMICS, and Hourman appeared there in issues 462 (Mar/Apr 1979) and 466 (Nov/Dec 1979), making for a total of 11 appearances.
Wouldn't that be 12 appearances?
Indeed. My first draft was referencing a source that didn't credit ALL STAR COMICS #67 as an "appearance", but I decided that Rex Tyler hidden behind a curtain in an operating room is more of an "appearance" than a tiny figure leaving a funeral for one panel.
But really, I suppose counting "appearances" in this run of the series is ultimately pointless, right? They were reminders that the character existed, but little more than that.
Post by M. W. Gallaher on Jun 7, 2022 11:31:11 GMT -5
DC COMICS PRESENTS #25, September 1980
“Whatever Happened to Hourman?”
Written by Bob Rozakis, Illustrated by Charles Nicholas and Joe Giella.
And here we have the final Hourman solo story for Rex Tyler. This backup series in DCCP was intended to provide updates on long-unseen characters. Many of the installments brought some sort of closure to the characters—Crimson Avenger, Johnny (Lawman) Thunder, Robotman—but others, this included, just related a new adventure of a character who had been long inactive, typically in “story time” as well as publishing time. So we’re going to see the mostly retired-from-crimefighting Rex Tyler donning the outfit and taking Miraclo for the first time in a long time.
After a brief introduction to the character and a montage of generic Hourman action, the story opens with President Rex Tyler of the Tyler Chemical Corporation opening letters from customers, only to find a crudely drawn threat: “Since you won’t stop production of TCR-113, we will stop production for you!”
When Rex attempts to solicit the aid of the police, not only does he receive no cooperation—“Big firms like yours get crank letters all the time…”—but the phone lines are cutting, indicating active saboteurs on-site! It’s off to the now-familiar vault in the basement. The Hourman uniform is still hanging by the entryway: it’s time to come out of retirements for another 60 minutes of action, just like the old times he pauses to reminisce about:
The ol’ candy jar is down to a single Miraclo pill, left for emergency use only, and Rex consumes it and flips his hourglass pendant over, starting the timer at precisely 8:27. Surveying the campus, he finds the phone lines and burglar alarms disabled, a hole in the chain link fence, and the intruders already in the building where TCR-113 is being developed.
Inside, gas-masked reactionaries are preparing to burn all documentation and blow up the lab when Hourman makes the scene, with only 50 minutes remaining on the clock.
The gang’s leader recognizes Hourman, though he’s surprised since he was aware the hero has retired. Spouting uncharacteristic and less-than-clever quips, Hourman battles the industrial terrorists, but is felled with a wooden chair to the head at 8:39. When he recovers consciousness, he has been dumped outside the lab. His aches tell him that the Miraclo has deteriorated, and the jostling of the hourglass has caused him to lose track of time: the corner clocks—with 1980’s tech, now, providing a digital readout!—now read “?”
The intruders return to find Hourman is no longer where they left him, and then Hourman leaps from the shadows to resume the fight. He finishes taking the three out with a final one-punch knockout and reenters the lab to face the group’s leader, who is planting a bomb. “They’re making a dangerous chemical here! Its use could ruin future generations!”
Hourman argues that it’s only dangerous if mis-used, and that “Tyler Chemical is taking every precaution!”, but he needs to get close and put a stop to all this before his Miraclo powers wear off!
Diving at the saboteur in a not-quite-Baily-dive-but-close-enough, Hourman disarms the man, pointing out the stupidity in trying to save the world from TCR-113 by triggering an explosion that would have spread a cloud of the stuff across the city. Hourman congratulates himself on finishing before his powers expired, only to note that according to the wall clock, they ran out 18 minutes ago—all that final action was Rex Tyler’s doing, not Hourman’s!
Although this final story was admittedly pedestrian, I have to acknowledge how nicely the modest tale echoes—even if unintentionally--different aspects of past Hourman tales, first off by being exactly 8 pages, just like most of his ADVENTURE COMICS installments were.
We open with Rex Tyler reviewing mail. Yes, it’s unlikely that the company president would be reading unscreened mail, and I don’t know how many customer concerns would be written to a chemical company, but this does evoke the opening of the very first Hourman story, in which Rex was selecting his missions from letters submitted to his P.O. box.
Then on page 2, Rex takes the entirely reasonable approach of calling the authorities, but the police refuse to help (“with budget cuts being what they are, we can’t send out men unless something happens!”). And hey, Hourman always had a difficult relationship with the police, right?
Leading from the final panel of page 2 into page 3, we return to the basement vault, with its circular door, that we kept returning to in the Silver Age (although artist Charles Nicholas doesn’t follow Murphy Anderson’s lead on rendering the curious footwear). In the flashback to the JSA in action, it’s nice to see that in addition to the star JSAers Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkman, we see Hourman’s co-feature from ADVENTURE COMICS, the Sandman, and his partner of the Super-Team Supreme, Dr Fate (in a rather oddly-drawn helmet!)
But the trip down Memory Lane isn’t over! On page 4, we see the old “candy jar” in the lab, no longer full of pills like it was when Murphy Anderson first illustrated it, but still serving its purpose after 15 years! Then we get, for the first time, the explicit turning of the hourglass, which in recent years had been established to serve as his timer. As we’ve noted in this thread, using an hourglass as a timer in these situations is not remotely plausible, but he has to have some way of monitoring his time, especially in stories like this where the climax depends on it. A watch seems like it would have been a smart thing to incorporate, but Bernard Baily never thought of it, nor did Baily ever imply that the hourglass was anything other than decorative.
From here on, the action is perfunctory, but the conclusion does remind us that Hourman was fairly capable even without augmentation by Miraclo (although, when the final bomber starts crying after being subdued, Hourman observes that “they sure don’t make bad guys like they used to”, so maybe we shouldn’t be too impressed that he achieved final victory under his own, unenhanced steam.
And I’ve got a little sympathy for this activist. I don’t know what TCR-113 does, but I would be skeptical of Tyler Chemicals’ “taking every precaution” when they have a history of dumping radioactive waste in the swamp next to their factory!
We learn a little bit more about the Hourman legend in this last tale: Hourman is known by the general public to be retired, he’s been off of Miraclo for some time, and Miraclo itself has a limited shelf life. Not that the information will be of much value, except as Hourman trivia. It would have been nice to see some mention of Wendi Harris, or, embarrassing thought it might have been, a fond recollection of Thorndyke in this little send-off, but you can’t have everything!
I can't figure out which "Charles Nicholas" this was, the guy that originated the Blue Beetle or Charles Nicholas Cuidera, of Blackhawk fame. Both were still alive when this was published, and both were surely past their prime. Inker Joe Giella makes it all look like Joe Giella, as usual. I'll just note that my old pal Chris Khalaf once called Giella out of the blue and chatted with him for an hour or two, reporting that Giella was one of the friendliest pros he'd ever spoken with, generous with his time and happy to talk to a fan. Bernard Baily was only 64 when this was published--what a cool thing it would have been to give him this assignment!
Grand Dictator for Life of the Classic Comics Christmas
Post by M. W. Gallaher on Jun 12, 2022 20:54:32 GMT -5
Hourman participated in two more of the yearly JLA/JSA team-ups:
JLA #195 featured “Targets on Two Worlds” by Gerry Conway, George Perez, and John Beatty. A coalition of villains—a new Secret Society of Super-Villains!--from both Earth-1 and Earth-2, including the Psycho-Pirate, who has become the closest thing Hourman ever had to an arch-nemesis. The first installment is devoted almost entirely to the villains, whose plan, understood only by the advanced mind of the Ultra-Humanite, is to disrupt the cosmic balance by eliminating ten specific superheroes, which will result in the universe eliminating all superheroes from one of the two worlds. The villains Ultra has recruited are happy to participate, in hopes that it will be their world that becomes hero-free. It’s all quite scientific, according to Ultra. Anyway, our man Hourman is among the critical five members of the JSA that need to go, including Flash, Hawkman, Johnny Thunder and Superman. All five of these are currently attending the annual JLA/JSA reunion, along with the critical five JLAers and other members of both teams.
After the party, The Mist takes out Black Canary, the first of the ten targets. Hawkman and Wonder Woman fall soon after, and Ultra’s internal monologue reveals that he knows exactly which of the Earths will lose its population of superheroes—he’s lying to his gang in order to have the necessary support from the team which is certain not to benefit when the heroes of their world do not disappear.
Issue 196, by Conway and Perez joined by inker Romeo Tanghal, the Secret Society continues its efforts, and appropriately, it’s the Psycho-Pirate who is tasked with taking down Hourman. As Rex Tyler addresses an auditorium of listeners at a charity even, the Pirate projects his own emotion-manipulating face on a screen behind Tyler who, ironically, is speaking on “the preservation of our environment, and its protection from the dangers of toxic waste. I’m thinking he’ll be sidestepping the issues of Slaughter Swamp…
Psycho-Pirate strikes terror into the audience, hoping to trigger the early arrival of Hourman, who is rumored to be making an appearance. With Rex being the only one in the room not exposed to the video screen, he’s able to facilitate just that, by popping a Miraclo pill and suiting up as Hourman. By guarding his line of vision with his cape, Hourman is able to avoid Psycho-Pirate’s powers, until the Pirate utilizes the “psycho-prism”, which projects his face everywhere Hourman looks. Compelling sleepiness in his victim, the Psycho-Pirate prevails and Hourman goes down for the count.
By the end of the issue, all ten heroes have been captured and placed in a “cosmic-fuge”, which spins them around to generate a space-time warp that will transport the captives out of the cosmos.
In #197, “Crisis in Limbo!” (by Conway, Keith Pollard, Perez, and Tanghal) the ten targets are sent into limbo, and the cosmic balance is reset, eliminating all superheroes from…Earth-2! The Earth-1 villains figure out that Ultra knew that there was never a chance of the Earth-1 heroes disappearing, and they revolt, but Ultra was expecting this, and teleports them back to Earth-1.
The villains find their way into limbo and free the fallen heroes, determined that if their world won’t benefit from Ultra’s scheme, than neither will the villains of Earth-2. The returned heroes defeat the Earth-2 contingent of the Secret Society, with Hourman getting another shot at the Pyscho-Pirate:
The villains themselves end up trapped in limbo.
Hourman sits out the next reunion, and returns for #219’s “Crisis in the Thunderbolt Dimension!” by Roy Thomas & Gerry Conway, Chuck Patton, and Romeo Tanghal and #220’s “The Doppelganger Gambit” by Thomas, Patton, Tanghal, and additional inker Pablo Marcos.
It’s another casual get-together on the JLA Satellite, and the first we see of Hourman shows him giving romantic advice to Firestorm. When Johnny Thunder’s Thunderbolt inexplicably appears to crash the party, Hourman pops a Miraclo and attempts foolhardily to defeat the T-Bolt:
Villains from both Earths attack across the globe, and eventually Starman and Black Canary team up once again to visit the T-Dimension, home of the Thunderbolt, where they discover that the previously-unknown and unsavory Johnny Thunder of Earth-1 has taken control of the genie. At the end of the story, this Johnny shows Black Canary the plastiglass-enclosed bodies of Larry Lance and…Black Canary herself?
The follow-up reveals the convoluted true origin of the modern-day Black Canary, who is revealed to be the daughter of Larry Lance and the original…the one in the glass coffin, of course. Hourman gets a little action in this difficult-to-follow saga that also manages to cram in non-JSAer Sargon the Sorcerer and the Earth-1 Jim Corrigan.
Unless one of these JLA/JSA get-togethers is centered around a specific character, such as Red Tornado, Black Canary, Sandman, and Johnny Thunder, focusing on one of the participants tends to reveal how little they contribute. Thus, Hourman’s contributions tend to be of little consequence: he’s adding a bit of flair, upping the action quota a bit, but generally easily replaced by any other JSAer. The one bit to be garnered from these last two engagements was the apparent recognition of Psycho-Pirate as something of an “Hourman villain.” It makes more sense than pairing him up against Dr. Fate again, especially after the absurd imposition of a face over Fate’s helmet—no one wants to see that again! Psycho-Pirate has proven to be one of the most durable of the Earth-2 bad guys over the years, despite a rather ridiculous super power, and his jumping off from an Hourman story may just make that Hourman’s biggest contribution to the greater DC Universe.
Last Edit: Jun 13, 2022 5:20:01 GMT -5 by M. W. Gallaher: acknowledging an error, see next post
Grand Dictator for Life of the Classic Comics Christmas
The villainous Johnny T of Earth-1 was not "previously unknown." He was the big bad of the third League-Society team-up in JLA #37-38.
Cei-U! I summon the 411!
Thank you for the correction! I blame a temporary feebleness of mind from trying to process that painfully convoluted story in short time following a family party. In an already footnote-heavy story, there was an easily-overlooked editorial reference to that tale in issue 220 tucked beneath a panel depicting a glowing pyramid (maybe it's just me, but that kind of panel composition doesn't compel me to consult the footnotes like an action scene depicting an interesting past event would).