Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Spectre and The Invaders



I first encountered stories of the Spear of Destiny in the pages of All-Star Squadron, and I thought it was an effective plot device.  It's ability to control magic-based heroes was a good explanation for how some of the more powerful Justice Society of America members didn't just take matters in their own hands and end World War II.  It also allowed for nothing to be taken away from the accomplishments of the non-super powered service men and women during the war effort.

23 comments:

Cary Comic said...

Nice dramatic rendering! Was the original figure Jonn Jonzz look-alike Aarkus (the Golden Age Vision)?

Simreeve said...

Has DC ever explained why Superman was "magical" enough to be affected by the Spear?
I have a theory of my own...

Dark Avenger said...

It’s pretty much canon that Superman is vulnerable to magic.

Simreeve said...

I know, but did they ever explain why?

Bob Greenwade said...

Simreeve: I think it's just a Kryptonian quirk.

Ross: All-Star Squadron is where the Spear was first brought into play in the DCU, and I agree: it was a good plot device. In the original Golden Age, as I recall (uh... reading about it second-hand), several non-powered JSA members did enlist.

Open: With April 2 coming as National Autism Awareness Day (and being on the spectrum myself) I've been wanting to suggest an appropriate cover for the purpose. Unfortunately, the only superheroes on the spectrum that I can find are Reed Richards (from the Ultimate Marvel Universe) and Billy Cranston (the Blue Ranger from the 2017 Power Rangers movie). I'm not sure how a cover could be made from that, though a story of how their atypical brains make them immune to something that's affecting their teammates could be the impetus.

Bob Buethe said...

@simreeve : There was an issue of DC Comics Presents (I think either Zatanna or Dr. Fate was the co-star) that had a weak explanation of how there were no wizards or magic-users on Krypton, so Kryptonian genes have no resistance to magical forces. I didn't follow it then, and don't follow it now. But at least the issue was addressed.

Simreeve said...

Bob Buethe said...
"@simreeve : There was an issue of DC Comics Presents (I think either Zatanna or Dr. Fate was the co-star) that had a weak explanation of how there were no wizards or magic-users on Krypton, so Kryptonian genes have no resistance to magical forces. I didn't follow it then, and don't follow it now. But at least the issue was addressed."
Thank you. That explanation sort-of works, although I remember at least one story that did feature a Kryptonian magician (encountered by Superman in the Phantom Zone). My own theory, based on some deatils of how Kryptonite has been shown to work over the years as well as the improbability of any species so similar to Earth's humans (and dogs, and monkeys, and maybe gorillas) evolving on a planet as alien as Krypton is often shown to have been, is that the Kryptonians are actually -- although they lost this knowledge early on, while struggling to survive there -- descended from explorers who evolved on a much more Earth-like world (maybe even Earth itself, back when Atlantis was still on the surface: It's canon that at least one encounter with starfaring aliens took place in Arion's days, and a mis-handled FTL drive could possibly have taken the ship even further back in time...) and who -- finding themselves stranded in the 'Rao' stellar system used [all of] their magic to bond to the planet Krypton so that they could survive there.

Emsley Wyatt said...

I do remember a Superboy story featuring a Kryptonian gorilla, so there's that. And, yes, they did have dogs but one breed was telepathic.

Daviticus said...

@Simreeve: Is that also why they couldn't leave Krypton without dying? Well, except for Superman himself, of course, and only because his biological
parents both subjected themselves to special treatments prior to his conception.

Anonymous said...

@Emsley Wyatt: Superman did have a well-known "enemy", Titano, a King Kong-like ape whose previous experiences in space gave him Kryptonite-vision so Superman would have a challenge in him even though a normal "King Kong" could easily be beaten.

Reg Aubry said...

I believe the most common explanation of why Superman is vulnerable to magic is that *everything* is vulnerable to magic...it's kind of the inherent property of magic. It's why it's magic. Obviously magic users are vulnerable to magic, but if they are strong enough, their magic will protect them from a lesser magical being (e.g., Spectre trumps Constantine). Certain magical objects hold power and work on nearly everyone, while other magical objects just work against weak magic users or non-magic users. Shazam (ugh...I'm old: to me he will always be The Original Captain Marvel) is a magical being, so he is far less vulnerable to magic than Superman. That's why there was a cover with him going toe-to-toe with The Spectre. Now, Mxy's 5th-dimensional magic against Captain Marvel - or against The Spectre - that would be interesting...

Scott Cummins said...

@ Bob Greenwade
Which was published first All-Star Squadron or Dc Special #29-The Untold Origin of the Justice Society of America? The Spear was used there also and I was wondering which was published first.

Dave said...

@ Scott Cummins: DC Special #29 was published first. Roy Thomas later used that as the basis behind his All-Star Squadron story that explained why the most powerful JSA'ers couldn't directly participate in the war.

Dave said...

I loved All-Star Squadron, but Superman's susceptibility to magic in that story never made much sense to me. As Reg Aubry pointed out, Superman had never been extra-vulnerable to magic; he just wasn't invulnerable to it. He shouldn't have been any more affected than the other non-magic-powered heroes. (In my headcanon, one of the gems encrusting the Holy Grail — which the Axis was also using in the story, in addition to the Spear of Destiny — was actually Kryponite, the radiation from which, combined with the magical radiations emanating from the Grail and the Spear and permeating all Axis-controlled territory, weakened Superman's resistance to the magic and caused him to affected by it. And no, don't ask me how a Kryptonite jewel wound up on the Holy Grail. Maybe someone replaced a jewel that had fallen off.)

Matthew Baugh said...

I remember reading something, I think on a letters page, about this. It had something to do with all magical energy coming from a different dimension. Humans could process the energy, but for some reason Kryptonians were not compatible with it.

My thought has always been that it should depend on the kind of magic. Cast something like a love spell on Superman and he would have about the same resistance as a regular human. use magic to pick up and throw a rock, and it should have the same effect as a thrown rock. Transform him into a frog, and maybe you get Superfrog.

That makes me wonder... In the Justice League TV series, Captain Marvel came up with a way to use his magical lightning to hurt Superman. That was cool, but in the classic Captain Marvel stories, the lightning didn't hurt other people. When it struck them, they gained the SHAZAM powers. Super Marvel would have made for an interesting story.

Anonymous said...

Bob G, while I appreciate the thought about Autism Awareness, the fact is that each person on the spectrum is different: it's a spectrum and the autism can manifest itself in very different ways.

There are so many characters who might be on the spectrum, but who knows without them being properly assessed, or defined by an author.

Mr. Spock, very logical, but also deep emotions? Guy Gardner, does he misread other people's emotions or is he just obnoxious? Lex Luthor, is Superman his special interest or is he just evil? Bruce Wayne? You could argue a case for hundreds of superheroes and villains, but no-one really knows. I guess that's why you couldn't think of many clearly identifies characters.

But it is a nice idea.

Simreeve said...

Blogger Daviticus said...
"@Simreeve: Is that also why they couldn't leave Krypton without dying? Well, except for Superman himself, of course, and only because his biological parents both subjected themselves to special treatments prior to his conception."
Yes, it's why they couldn't leave, in my hypothesis, but I think it was the destruction of Krypton that freed baby Kal-L/Kal-El to leave.

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Dave said...
“I loved All-Star Squadron, but Superman's susceptibility to magic in that story never made much sense to me. As Reg Aubry pointed out, Superman had never been extra-vulnerable to magic; he just wasn't invulnerable to it. He shouldn't have been any more affected than the other non-magic-powered heroes. (In my headcanon, one of the gems encrusting the Holy Grail — which the Axis was also using in the story, in addition to the Spear of Destiny — was actually Kryponite, the radiation from which, combined with the magical radiations emanating from the Grail and the Spear and permeating all Axis-controlled territory, weakened Superman's resistance to the magic and caused him to affected by it. And no, don't ask me how a Kryptonite jewel wound up on the Holy Grail. Maybe someone replaced a jewel that had fallen off.)”

I agree, that idea also works.

Bob Greenwade said...

@Scott: I do not know.

@Anon, re: Autism Awareness: This is the very reason that I only cited those who are openly and explicitly diagnosed. Billy stated early in the film that he's "on the spectrum," and Reed has mentioned in passing that he's self-diagnosed with "mild autism." Suggestions have been made of a few other heroes, and a few villains have been stated to be on the spectrum (most notably Proteus and Black Manta), but other than these two there are no other notable heroes who have been explicitly identified as being on the autistic spectrum.

Related: I think I mis-identified which Reed Richards that was; I'd have to hunt it down, but I'm now thinking it was the main Earth-616 version.

Daviticus said...

@Simreeve: I got that explanation from a narration by Jor-El in a Superman comic, published shortly after the Crisis on Infinite Earths, as I recall. He also said that "there is a defect in the Kryptonian genotype that keeps us tied to Krypton". I was thinking maybe that's how the bond was manifested.

@Bob Greenwade: Being on the spectrum myself, I find your idea intriguing, but I agree with "Anonymous" that figuring out which heroes (and villains) qualify could get very complicated indeed. It occurs to me, though, that Ross could just skirt the issue by arranging a team-up between the Fantastic Four and the Power Rangers! 😊

Anonymous said...

"...a team-up between the Fantastic Four and the Power Rangers!"

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Cary Comic said...

@Anonymous: Macaulay Culkin, much?

Bob Greenwade said...

@Daviticus: That kind of is my idea; it's just a matter of getting the images to meld properly.

Cary Comic said...

"Images" or "I-mages?"

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