Tales from the Calendar: All-Star Comics 22

Each month I write about the comic behind the cover featured that month in the 2018 Vintage DC Comics Calendar from Asgard Press. The July entry is All Star Comics #22, the Fall 1944 issue, with a cover by Frank Harry.

Frank Harry is one of those Golden Age artists about whom not a lot has been written.  He was a longstanding cover artist for DC, producing works such as the classic finish line cover from Comic Cavalcade #1.  On interiors, Harry co-created Ghost Patrol and a humor strip called Willy Nilly.  He also was a long-running artist on Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys, creating Little Miss Redhead for that strip.  He also became a part of the artist rotation on Justice Society stories in All Star.

This cover, of course, would be explained in
an issue of All Star Squadron.
When this issue was on the stands, World War II was at its height.  Having finally taken the battle in the European theater to mainland Europe, the Allies were fighting their way through occupied Europe in a number of bloody battles.  The Holocaust was at full bore.  But still, there was hope.  The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet debuted on the radio, setting the stage for a happier, simpler 1950s, at least for parts of America.  Laurence Olivier made his cinematic directorial debut with Henry V, a masterpiece that no one remembers any longer thanks to a stellar adaptation by Kenneth Branagh decades later.

All Star Comics #22 presents the story, "A Cure for the World", which wonders how much better a world would it be if white people were just nicer to each other?  That description is a little facetious, as it's clear in the book's rhetoric that it means to address inequality and hatred among all peoples, but 1940s comics being 1940s comics, you can sure bet that every character here is white (and given how minorities were portrayed in comics at that time, that might be sadly for the better).  As such, when looked at with 21st Century eyes, the story is both inspiring and cringeworthy at the same time.

The adventure begins when Dr. Midnite (this is how it's spelled in the book), on his way to a JSA meeting, stumbles across some kids beating up another kid.  He stops them and finds out that the beating was because the beating victim goes to a different church.

Warning: this won't be the last time this
looks eerily familiar.
The kids apologize, and Dr. Midnite brings the victim to the JSA meeting.  He tells them his tale, which starts to depress the JSAers.

Somewhere across the cosmos, a celestial being is awoken and come to the JSA, wanting to send them throughout history to make "men understand their fellows".  They agree, so she sends them all through time.

Hawkman is sent into the stone age and becomes Ga, a mighty hunter. Mistaken for a big bird and attacked by other hunters, Ga leaps into action, winning the tribe's admiration.  Brought back to the tribe's cave, he meets Tow, who has just scared his fellow tribe members by painting a huge mammoth on the cave wall, inventing art in the process.  The scared tribe members attempt to kill Tow, but Ga steps in and saves him.  The two then manage to save the tribe from a mammoth rampage and Tow wins over the tribe's leader, Mok, with a portrait, establishing the long-standing tradition of mollifying the vanity of leaders with official portraits.  Mok orders the tribe to accept Tow, and Ga disappears as Hawkman is pulled back through time.

Nothing inspires the troops like condescension.
Starman is sent to ancient Greece and become Theodoratus, a member of the Greek ruling class.  The Greeks are facing an the Persian invasion made famous in 300.  Theodoratus meets with the Greek Strategoi and proposes that they arm and train their slaves.  This is met with derision because, according to the story, Greeks looked at slaves as less than human (this appears to be an application of racist thinking from the U.S. South and other more recent cases applied to the Greeks, because while some Greeks considered slaves to be below free citizens in terms of cognitive faculties as well as rights, they nonetheless portrayed them as higher than animals, as Aristotle did in Politics).  Theodoratus vows to show his fellow Greeks, in particular Leonidas, that slaves are men who can be taught to fight and goes off to train his slaves to fight.  Note that this contradicts established history of the Spartans of Leonidas using their primary slave population, the Helots, in battle.  In any event, Theodoratus succeeds in training his slaves to fight, and they hold off the Persian advance at Thermopylae, helped by Theodoratus accidentally activating this gravity rod.  Impressed by this, Leonidas decrees that slaves shall be taught to fight and then takes his Spartans in to hold the pass against a second Persian advance.  Starman is sucked back to the present, and the rest, as they say, is a Zack Snyder movie.

Johnny Thunder is sent to medieval England, where he starts a poor shepherd boy who is constantly abused by passing knights.  Johnny goes to complain to the baron who rules over his lands, and through his normal magical thunderbolt-aided hijinks, becomes the baron's new jester.  Johnny enters the baron's tourney in an attempt to show the baron his serfs can fight, and manages to win, thanks once again to his thunderbolt.  He is made a knight and offered the hand of the baron's homely daughter just before being pulled back to the present.

If you didn't read this in Monty Python voices,
you're just dead inside.
The Atom lands in Salem during the witch hunts and becomes Nathaniel Pratt, just returned from England.  One night, he is sent on an errand that takes him through a reportedly witch-infested forest.  He rescues a purported witch who's trapped under a fallen tree and saves her.  Afterward, he learns from her that all of her supposed witchcraft is really just her practicing holistic medicine.  Returning to town, he thwarts a mob that's been raised to capture and kill the witch.  Despite the other heroes only ending their missions after changing hearts and minds, apparently in the Atom's case, a good head thumping is sufficient, and he is yanked back to the present.

Dr. Mid-Nite (note that this issue spells his name two different ways) becomes Monsieur Le Docteur De Nider, a physician in French Revolution Paris.  The French throngs call for the heads of any noble, but De Nider learns that at least some of the nobles support democracy and hated the corruption inherent in the French monarchy.  De Nider beats a mob sent after Le Duc De Harignys, and De Harignys wins over the crowd by offering his life for the good of the land.  The rabble accept him as one of their own, and that triggers Dr. Mid-Nite to return home.

The Spectre is sent to 1815 America, where he is an anonymous ghost looking out for Stephen Hale, an inventor of an electric motor that the local working class is scared will put them all out of jobs.  The Spectre saves Hale from these thugs, then introduces Hale to another inventor, Robert Fulton, who encourages Hale to keep at it.  This appears to be enough to declare success, and the Spectre returns to the present.

The JSAers return back to their headquarters and reflect on their adventures with Wonder Woman, who just realized that she should appear in this story somewhere.  The heroes learn that the mysterious figure who sent them to the past was The Conscience of Man, who encourages them to continue fighting ignorance and prejudice.  Their first step in this new mission is at the young beating victim's school, where the heroes lead everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance (note that this is a decade before "Under God" was added to the Pledge to separate America from the Godless Communist hordes), with an emphasis on the "liberty and justice for all" part.

A classic page.  Note that this is a decade before
"Under God" was added to the Pledge to separate
America from the Godless Communist hordes
"A Cure for the World" was written by Gardner Fox.  The art for the story was split between Joe Gallagher, who illustrated the sections featuring the JSA as a team as well as the chapters featuring the Atom and the Spectre.  The Hawkman chapter was illustrated by his regular artist, Sheldon Moldoff.  Stan Aschmeier did the art for the Starman, Johnny Thunder, and Dr. Mid-Nite chapters.

Though honestly this wasn't
Shelly's best work.
I talked about both Gardner Fox and Sheldon Moldoff back in February when discussing All Star Comics #2.  I don't think it's possible to overstate the importance of Gardner Fox to DC Comics.  Siegel and Shuster, Kane and Finger (and all of Kane's ghost artists), and Marston made DC possible, but Fox gave DC a universe.  Moldoff, of course, is my favorite Golden Age artist, a fact that I will no doubt continue to proclaim, as this won't be the last time we see him in this blog series.

I talked about Aschmeier in the second part of my discussion of All Star Comics #2.  This story features two of his creations, Dr. Mid-Nite and Johnny Thunder.

Joe Gallagher had a brief comics career, his work only appearing in less than two dozen comics.  His one significant character creation during this time was the Golden Age Brain Wave.

The issue also features a text piece presenting the latest adventure of aviation hero Hop Harrigan.  The author is unknown for this story of Hop and his fellow pilots taking on the Japanese as they try to get a transport to the Chinese.  Like many other contemporary World War II tales, the way the Japanese are portrayed (and labeled) is problematic, but it's consistent with the times.

That's it for July.  I'll be back in a week with a look at the legendary Flash Comics #1.

JL Franke is a fan of both hard science fiction and hard fantasy.  He has been collecting comics for over 40 years and has been an on-and-off active member of online fandom for 25.  Those interested can find other writings at his personal blog, NerdlyManor.com.  When not geeking out, you may find him at a baseball park or cheering on his favorite college and pro football teams.  In his spare time, he is chief scientist for a research and development laboratory somewhere in the Washington, DC greater metropolitan area.
Tales from the Calendar: All-Star Comics 22 Tales from the Calendar: All-Star Comics 22 Reviewed by JL Franke on Wednesday, August 01, 2018 Rating: 5
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