Friday, June 21, 2013

It all started with the Big Bang! Part 6 (Issue #5)

You know, I was reading Hero Hotline when I realized I have this thing with alliteration.

Is it significant that the Silver-Age Blitz looks sort of like Prof. Zoom? Probably not. I have to say I'm impressed that they came up with a lightning motif and logo that didn't look anything like the Flash's. Also, is it me or did they tone down the purple on the Knight Watchman's costume since the last time he was on a cover?

Anyway, this issue's all about origins -- the origin of the Blitz, of the Golden Age Ultiman, and of the Knight Watchman

At a Monte Carlo raceway, East German Formula-1 racer Helmut Schlechtmann, seen in the car above, curses the success of American driver Jimmy Travis. With Travis' latest victory, he's now headed for the championship race against Schlechtmann, who isn't sure he can win. Luckily, he thinks, he's left little to chance. 

During their race, Schlechtmann runs Travis off the road. Travis discovers his steering column's been tampered with as he careens towards a mountain, but manages to stop and crawl away unscathed. However, the car's in no shape to continue the race. Travis is upset, but realizes there's nothing he can do about it -- which is when he sees a door on the ground, uncovered and unlocked by his driving. Inside, he discovers some secret Nazi lab (in Monte Carlo?)

Meanwhile, American mobsters, hired by Schlechtmann to finish off Travis, arrive on the scene -- turns out he expected Travis to survive hurtling towards mountain rocks in a racecar. Back in the lab, Travis quickly deduces (based on the label on that costume case) that whatever scientists were working here, they were trying to create super-humans. He checks out those test tubes and sees that they're all busted and empty except one labeled "Blitz-Geschindigkeit".

Outside, one of the mobsters accidentally drops his gun, which goes off when it hits the ground. Travis is startled by the noise and accidentally spills the contents of the test tube on himself. It starts to burn through his racing suit, which he takes off in a panic. Deciding to investigate the gunshot he heard, he puts on the "ubermensch" costume. That's when the mobsters get the drop on him. As they take aim, Travis desperately rushes to stop them -- and sees that the formula gave him "Blitz-Geschindigkeit", lightning speed! He dispatches them quickly enough, and one of them mentions Schlechtmann. Travis, or the Blitz, realizes what's going on, and that he can still win the race.

He rushes to Schlechtmann's car and disassembles it at lightning speed, like in the first page, leaving him wrapped up in his own car's parts.

The Blitz then pushes his own car for most of the length of the race, before heading back to his hotel room for a new racing suit, pushing it across the finish line, and jumping into the driver's seat before anyone can see he wasn't driving. Cheating? Yeah, but you can't say Schlechtmann deserved to win it. The police take away the mobsters and Schlechtmann, and Travis is left with a new second career in mind...

Moving on to a short two-page Ultiman origin story, we see Chris Kelly driving home, rejected by the draft board for his poor eyesight, when his car is struck by a meteor! The meteor turns him into the Ultimate Human Being, who pledges his services to the government and armed forces.

I find it fairly interesting that Ultiman is a government agent, and it's hinted that his identity isn't secret here (strictly speaking; there might be a Golden Age Carl Kelly).

Anyway, is it me or is anyone else more interested in the Knight Watchman's origin? I've been reading about him in just about every issue so far, it's time I found out what his deal is, you know? All we really know about him is that his real name is Reid Randall and he lives with his mother and nephew.

Well, flash back to when Reid was an Olympic hopeful and college student living away from home. Called back to Midway City by news that his brother Ted had been hospitalized, Reid consoles his mother, who reveals that the family garment business is in peril. Ted had fallen in with a bad crowd and racked up gambling debts -- and now the mobsters he owes want to take over their business. The beating was a warning, and it only stands to get worse from here.

Across town, at the hospital, Ted is comforted by his wife Janet and son Jerry. Later that night, he's visited by a gangster, who starts leaning on him a little harder to hand over the family business. That is, until Reid shows up.

Reid and Ted reminisce about the old days, like when they were teased at school because their dad made women's clothes. He says this is just like that -- they faced off against bullies almost every day, and can do the same now. 

Later that week, Reid joins Ted's wife and son in seeing his brother home. Unbeknownst to them, however, henchmen working for mob boss "Gentleman" Mac Duggin are lying in wait, preparing to strike. Jerry decides to ride home with Reid; Ted remarks that Reid is Jerry's personal hero, with Janet adding that Ted is Reid's. Reid drives ahead, as he's stopping for ice cream on the way, but Ted's car explodes the second Janet starts it.

Man, is it me, or is this a lot more complicated than Batman's origin? Parents shot, layabout millionaire, superstitious lot, bat through window, BAM, Batman. Anyway, soon Reid visits the graves of his brother and sister-in-law, vowing to bring their killers to justice and to take care of Jerry just as Ted always took care of him. Meanwhile, "Gentleman" Duggin decides that if killing her son won't get the old lady to turn over the factory, he'll start arranging "accidents" around the factory and her home, and sends her a letter to that effect. 

Reid consoles his mother again, who says that her late husband, her knight in shining armor, would know what to do.

Ah, there's the "bat through window" moment. Reid sees gangsters staking out their house in shifts, and thinks he can make them act if he pretends to head back to school by packing his bags and getting in a cab. That night, he's proven right as the gangsters break into the factory and start wrecking it, until interrupted by a mysterious shadowy figure - the Knight Watchman! His costume's kind of different here, with a much darker blue (or black?) cowl-and-undies, no shield symbol, a gray bodysuit, and much like first appearance Batman, purple gloves. Using the physical prowess that made him a multiple sport star, he easily trounces Duggin and his goons. There's a really great exchange where Duggin tries to offer the Knight Watchman money or a job, but the Knight Watchman somberly states that Duggin owes him much more than he could ever pay.

This feels kind of Silver-Agey, despite being based on GA Bats (what with the different costume and all) -- if anything I'm reminded of Daredevil #1, where Daredevil finds and defeats his father's killer by the issue's end.

Finally, we're on to a short four-pager with Silver Age Ultiman, who shows a contest winner his Secret Citadel. There's a nice continuity nod to #3 by way of a shot of Robot #1's grave. Naturally there's a giant dollar bill and a rubber apatosaurus, because it's not like they did those Batcave things last issue. There's also a "City of Atlantis" that fits in an oversized fishbowl like Kandor. Oh, and a "Hall of Secret Identities" featuring statues of his Round Table of America teammates; I'm hoping he doesn't show the kid that one.

We also learn about SA Ultiman's origin (a little more, at least) -- Chris Kelly was an astronaut in whose space capsule was hit by a radioactive meteor. The other astronaut inside died, and Chris was very sick for a long time, but upon overcoming his illness he was the Ultimate Human Being! 

I probably mentioned this before, but that power source strikes me as a deliberate reference to Silver Age Ultraman, a human astronaut who got his powers from space rocks and becomes more powerful from further exposure. Also, take note of the costume differences between Golden and Silver Age Ultiman -- well, it's gloves mostly right here, but as we saw last issue Golden Age Ulti later added a belt to his ensemble. Also, the "no undies" look is obviously a little funny these days, since that's what Superman himself is wearing.

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