Monday, April 9, 2007

War of the Giants

Here's another blast from the past, DC Special #19, December-January 1975-1976. DC Special took old stories from the DC archives and grouped them thematically. This one was the "War of the Giants", and full of fun-a-plenty. Sadly, no information was included in this volume about when the stories had originally been printed. I didn't care about that back then, but I'd be more interested to know now.

First up was a Superman tale, "Eterno the Immortal" (story by Jim Shooter with art by Wayne Boring), in which the ever-bumbling Superman Revenge Squad revive a giant metal robot, which had conveniently been long dormant below the Earth's mantle, loosing it via a volcano that bursts through the ground just outside the Metropolis city limits. For a while, it seems like Eterno will beat our Man of Steel, but eventually, the Revenge Squad messes up and Eterno accidentally hears them say they are using him as a puppet, and the rampaging robot turns his wrath on their rocketship. Before long, their mutual destruction is assured, leaving Kal-El to clean up the mess.

Second is a Green Lantern tale by John Broome, "Captive of the Evil Eye" with truly classic art from Gil Kane. Hal Jordan has left Ferris Aircraft for a job in the Pacific Northwest as a claims adjustor, and when he's sent out to the site of a meteor crash to report on damage to timberlands, he discovers the 300 foot tall alien giant Thotan, who has been sent to Earth by the Nabgorians, who are at war with the Joxandans (I'm not making this up!). Thotan's mission is to inhale all the oxygen on Earth, so it may be used to poison the atmosphere of the ammonia-breathing Joxandans' planet. Hal gets sucked into the giant, and seems to be trapped there, until he's able to engineer a sneeze by which he escapes. His ring brings his size up to Thotan's and the battle is a short one...and the story quickly wraps with Thotan's delivery back to the Nabgorians, along with a stern warning from Hal that the next invader will get worse.

Our third tale, "The Indestructible Giant" is a non-super hero story by Jack Miller, with art by Gil Kane and Sy Barry. "From out of the unknown" (was this originally offered in "Tales of the Unknown", I wonder??) a giant appears on Earth, rampaging across the countryside, derailing trains, upending cruise ships, knocking over buildings and trampling humans. The government tries everything to no avail, and only a chance lightning storm reveals a weakness to electricity. A lightning cannon is jerry-rigged and kills the giant. And only after his death do they discover that the dreadful weapons he seems armed with are fake, and he is apparently only a child.

The last story in the volume is my favorite, of course, featuring Wonder Woman in an odd tale of "The Human Charm Bracelet" by Bob Kanigher with art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. Diana Prince is working for Army Intelligence, wearing cat-eye glasses, and trying to remember why the date June 19th is supposed to be important to her.

Meanwhile, on Planet G, home of the space giants (really, folks...Planet G!!! No wonder they didn't have trouble meeting deadlines back in the old days...)a Giants Olympics is being held. The competition includes events like whale riding and submarine fishing, and Tooroo is quickly declared the champion, and receives the planet Earth as a plaything. Before he departs, his giant girlfriend Rikkaa asks him to bring back a souvenir for her charm bracelet, "not the Empire State Building, but something really novel--unusual--unique!"

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Diana has become Wonder Woman. Some captured spies are attempting escape with a helicopter, and she leaps into the fray to protect Steve Trevor...impressively balancing atop the spinning rotors of the helicopter. Of course she makes short work of them...while her mother Hippolyta watches her daughter on the Omni-Screen, concerned that Diana has not yet remembered the importance of the day.

By now, Tooroo arrives on the planet, menacing both boats and planes as he attempts to find the right charm for Rikkaa's bracelet. Wonder Woman attempts to engage him, but discovers that her lasso has lost its special powers. She suddenly realizes that it must be after ten a.m. on June 19th...which means (for no readily explicable reason) that all her special weapons against crime have lost their power for 24 hours. Apparently that's the day they recharge or something...

Tooroo quickly captures the Invisible Plane, with Wonder Woman and Steve inside and they are taken off planet and gassed by "insidious fumes". They wake up later to discover that they and all of Diana's accessories, including the plane, have been made charms on a special bracelet. This is classic stuff.

To Tooroo's public embarrassment, Diana challenges him to an Olympics competition to regain her and Steve's freedom. It seems an impossible challenge, without her special weapons, but they don't call her Wonder Woman for nothing, and she manages to match Tooroo in each of the proscribed events. When she has won the tournament, she claims Planet G as her prize, and when the nervous giants ask what she will ask of them, she replies:

"Just because you are big, doesn't mean you can disregard the rights of those who are smaller than you! It is my command that you respect the rights of others and live in peace." Chagrined, they thank her for teaching the lesson and wish she and Steve a safe trip home to Earth.

I believe that this was the first comic book I read to feature Wonder Woman with her powers and costumes...although this costume featured the red lace-up sandels and hair-encircling tiara of an earlier generation. Despite the confusion about the bizarre June 19th business, it was a nice, proper introduction for me to the Amazing Amazon.

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