Bring On The (DC) Bad Guys!

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A New Direction

We now return to the Sinister Citadel, where Sinestro can only stand the Flashman’s never-ending-bullshit loquaciousness (and cigar smoke) for two pages before cutting out. (Note that the Wizard is sticking around though.) Then we quickly return to the ruins of Darkseid’s former lair, where Captain Comet helps pull Green Lantern out of the rubble (he got wasted by Mantis in issue #4 if you’ll recall). At this point GL gets a great line in: “If you’re planning to pummel me like you did the last time we met [referring to SSOSV #2], don’t waste your strength! Just put me back in that hole!”

Comet assures him they’re fighting on the same side now and accompanies the Emerald Gladiator to the JLA satellite. After Comet hits it off with Hawkman, an alert comes in that Sinestro is causing an earthquake in San Francisco. GL wants go after him, of course, but Hawkman reminds him that he’s the one on monitor duty—so it’s Hawkman and Captain Comet that wind up answering the call. After preventing a building from toppling, the two heroes pursue Sinestro into space, where he and Comet duke it out.

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With Comet’s “declaration of war” on the Secret Society, we’ve got ourselves a fresh premise for the series going forward. Well, for all of the next two issues, anyway.

The Rozakis Era

And for those next two issues (6 & 7), Bob Rozakis will serves as writer with Jack Harris as editor. Issue #6 features the “Captains Cataclysmic” (Captains Cold, Boomerang, and Stingaree) going up against Comet and the Black Canary. It also sees the introduction of a recurring love interest for Comet (in his civilian identity of Adam Blake), a young woman named Debbie. Though it is never actually stated, it is obvious (and confirmed by Rozakis many years later) that Debbie is in fact Star Sapphire. (As this relationship has more to do with Captain Comet alone than the society as a whole, I’ll delve into this further in my upcoming Comet blogpost.)

At the end of the issue, Copperhead finally shows up at society headquarters again, along with the shadowy figure that helped bust him loose back in the third issue. Said shadowy figure claims that he’s here to “take over” the society in the issue’s cliffhanger. On the opening full-page splash of issue #7, this figure is revealed to be none other than Lex Luthor.

Issue #7 proves another fine candidate for best (or certainly most fun) installment of the series. Funky Flashman, who never hesitates to shamelessly go whichever way the wind blows, quickly starts sucking up to Luthor. When the Wizard reminds Funky that he was already promised leadership of the society, the Flashman offers this perfect retort: “If you expect me to keep all my promises… how could I make so many of them?” This, of course, leads to yet another fight between two of our villains—in this case, Lex and the Wizard.

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We also get yet another candidate for one of the greatest lines of the series here: “Aw, c’mon Funky– what’s a little hatred between friends?” In addition, there’s the beginning of a future subplot, as the Wizard’s magic has failed him for reasons unknown.

Humbled, the Wizard offers to “bury the hatchet” (“in your head,” he thinks to himself) with Luthor and agrees to go along with his plan. That plan, of course, is to destroy Superman. Knowing his vulnerability to magic, Luthor teams the Wizard with Felix Faust and Matter Master and sends them to Japan, where part of the Superman movie (cheap plug) is being filmed. Lex is hoping to write his “own ending” to the film by destroying Superman right in front of the rolling cameras.

We’re in for some Three’s Company-style hijinks however, as the real Superman (who’s supposed to help out the production by stopping by and doing some super stunts) isn’t scheduled to show up until the next day—a fact that is not known to our three spellcasters, who mistake the actor dressed up as Supes for the real thing!

Up on the spaceship of Hawkman & Hawkgirl (the latter having not yet changed her name to the more mature “Hawkwoman” at this point), Captain Comet is about to enjoy dinner with the Hawks when he spots the Wiz on a television newscast. He & Hawkgirl race to the scene while Hawkman is busy cooking in the kitchen. The two show up just as the villains have conjured up a giant, two-headed dragon.

“Look– up in the sky!” the Wizard appropriately exclaims. “It’s a bird–”

“That’s no bird, fool,” says Faust, “that’s Hawkgirl!”

After the heroes vanquish the dragon, Luthor fumes back at the Sinister Citadel over the incompetence of the villains. Funky tries to calm him, saying he needs to “tolerate the trivialities of your compatriots!”

“Compatriots?!” Luthor snarls. “What have I got in common with any of you?”

“Why, Lex,” Funky declares as he takes off his toupee and false beard(!), “we both agree that bald is beautiful!”

Back in the land of the rising sun, the heroes (along with the faux Superman) round up the bad guys pretty quickly now that they don’t have the dragon to contend with. Realizing “that wasn’t even the real Superman they were battling,” Lex REALLY blows his stack, to the point where Copperhead has to restrain him. After warning to let him go “before I release myself– the hard way,” Lex storms out in disgust, thinking he’ll drop a dime on these clowns once he’s far enough away.

Ah, but Funky proves every bit the fink Luthor is and calls the cops first. They’re outside waiting as Lex exits the building. “That double-crossing so-and-so,” Lex thinks to himself, “I’ll kill him!”

As the cops are carting Lex off, the Wizard phones to let Funky know he escaped authorities. Up on the Hawks’ ship, Comet and Hawkgirl are sitting there waiting when Hawkman emerges from the kitchen with dinner—and HM is totally stunned when he sees footage of the melee in Japan on the monitor. The story ends pleasantly on this comedic note.

The Rozakis formula was fairly clear: Team Comet up with a different JLAer every issue as he pursues the society. The main plots are wrapped up in the same issue while the subplots tend to continue. It’s a simpler formula than before, one much easier to follow (particularly for the very young readers). It’s not a better approach than the first four issues, but it does work particularly well here as a bit of a respite from the chaos that preceded it. Most importantly, Rozakis stuck the landing on the characterizations of the villains and kept it FUN—especially on this issue. I loved Luthor’s utter disgust with the incompetence of his fellow villains and, of course, how quick they all were to turn on one another. Some priceless interactions here.

Back to Conway

Issue #8 sees the return of Gerry Conway as writer, with Jack Harris continuing as editor. Conway will go on to write all the society stories from here on through the penultimate fourteenth issue (with Harris remaining in the editor’s chair through the fifteenth and final issue). And Conway appears to have brought the Roller Coaster back with him, as things are about to go crazy again and, while not as glorious a ride as the first time around, it’s still a great deal of fun.

We start off with those silly villains trying to murder each other again. This time it’s Copperhead and the Wiz. After the Wizard’s ectoplasmic noose (which he fully intended to use to strangle Copperhead to death) turns into flowers, Star Sapphire appears to suspect that Wiz is losing his power, furthering the subplot from the previous issue.

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Speaking of which, we’re about to get eyeball deep into fresh plots and subplots again. First, Funky reveals he’s sitting on a boatload of cash from some mystery benefactor who’s enlisted the society to recover the Sorcerer’s Treasure for him. Then, after a four-issue absence, Grodd pops back up (yay!), bringing the Trickster along with him. And then everybody’s off to Blue Valley to recover the first item on the list of treasures. Of course, Blue Valley is the home of Kid Flash, which means he’s getting pulled into this fight… along with the society’s tireless and relentless pursuer, Captain Comet.

After managing to procure that first item (the Power Prism), Conway shows he still has the proper feel for the series, as the Trickster almost immediately tries to double-cross his new teammates, only to get whacked with a chair, Roddy-Piper style, by Grodd.

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So ends the very brief career of the Trickster as a member of the Secret Society.

They then proceed on to the next treasure on their list, but are headed off this time by Comet & Kid Flash. The heroes capture Grodd, but Sapphire and Copperhead manage to make off with the second item on their list, the Power Glove.

Turnabout!

As we open the ninth issue, we get another creative glitch to add to our growing list: While it’s noted at the end of SSOSV #8 that Copperhead escaped with Star Sapphire, the first page of issue #9 informs us that he was captured. Aside from this, the issue comes roaring out the gates with its cover, which shows the Trickster on the side of the good guys while the Creeper is with the baddies.

ssosv09-covWhat’s going on, indeed! The cover does not lie, as the title confirms, “Turnabout Is Unfair Play!” So how did this happen? Well the Trickster part is obvious: he doesn’t appreciate the society giving him the boot the previous ish, so he’s working with the heroes out of pure spite. The Creeper, however, is a bit more complicated.

The Creeper is (or was) one of those misunderstood superheroes that was wanted by the law (much like Spider-Man in his glory days). So the society approaches him with an offer to join their ranks, thinking he’s a fellow crook. The Creeper sees this as an opportunity to beat the villains from the inside, so he plays along. The whole thing makes for a beautifully mad plotline. Ultimately, the two sides battle to a sort-of draw over the third treasure (the Dragon Box), with the good guys managing to keep the treasure out of the villains’ hands. (Strangely, the society won’t take another crack at procuring the box in the future.)

From here, the story picks up In Super-Team Family #13. The society appears for only three panels this ish while Comet and other heroes try to combat disasters inadvertently caused by the comatose Jean Loring (Atom/Ray Palmer’s girlfriend). When the action picks up in SSOSV #10, Star Sapphire is just returning from her reconnaissance mission to inform the others of the power Loring possesses. So Sapphire recruits the Creeper into accompanying her on a mission to abduct Loring so they might use her powers for their own evil ends.

That leaves just Grodd and the Wizard to procure the last item of the Sorcerer’s Treasures (the Invisibility Cloak). Grodd drafts Funky into accompanying them, just so they’ll have an extra set of hands. Funky’s reaction to this is as comical as you’d expect. Comet catches up to them but fails to stop them from obtaining the cloak. Meanwhile, Sapphire and the Creeper are equally successful in their efforts to abduct Loring.

Reunited, the society picks up their stash of the three captured treasures for delivery to their mystery man, but are interrupted once more by Captain Comet. Again, the numbers game catches up to Comet and he is defeated. Interestingly, Grodd thinks to himself at this point, “it does not suit my master plan for Comet to be defeated as yet.” The next page he reiterates, verbally, to Star Sapphire: “Comet can still be of use to me in ways you could not comprehend.” When she still insists on eliminating Comet, he hits her with a hypno-blast to restrain her.

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While the others are fighting, Creeper spies Funky sneaking off with the treasures and covertly follows him, anticipating being led to the mysterious money man. After switching to his Jack Ryder identity, he sees Flashman stuff the treasures into a locker and drop a key on the floor. This key is picked up moments later by the Wizard (who also snuck away in the previous battle), but he’s cut off by Ryder before he can pick up the treasures.

With this, the Creeper exits the stage, which may appear to make some sense on the surface—his goal from the beginning was to catch Funky’s mystery client/benefactor, which (spoiler alert) he actually does when he nabs the Wizard here. Except that there was no way he could be sure, at the time, that he’d actually caught his man. The Wizard himself claims to be a stooge for the “real” mystery man, logically pointing out: “If I had his money, why would I join the Secret Society?”

There’s also the little matter of Jean Loring—y’know, the innocent woman he helped KIDNAP? Remember her? The Creeper apparently doesn’t, departing on the last page thinking, “Captain Comet can clean up the rest of that gang.” Jeez, after punching the Atom in the face and taking his woman, don’t you think the least you could do is hang around long enough to help get her back? Yikes!

The issue ends on a cliffhanger back at the Cortney Building, as Funky stumbles in on Grodd’s all-new collection of society members. This new team of Poison Ivy, Sinestro, Angle Man, Grodd, and Bizarro has been assembled to take on their archenemies, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Superman, respectively.

NEXT: The Mysterious Machinations of Gorilla Grodd

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