|Edited by Roy Thomas||Alter Ego, the greatest 'zine of the '60s, is all-new, focusing on Golden and Silver Age comics and creators with articles, interviews and unseen art. Each issue includes an FCA (Fawcett Collectors of America) section, Mr. Monster & more!|
Two Co-Creators Reveal--The Secret Origins of Infinity, Inc.
by Roy Thomas (with the special input of Jerry Ordway)From Alter Ego Vol. 3 #1
Jade and a couple of possible forerunners of Obsidian, as rendered by Mike Machlan, with notes and kibitzing by Jerry Ordway. For more Machlan/Ordway designs, be sure to pick up ALTER EGO #1.
© 1999 DC Comics Inc.
I. A Concept a-Borning
The sons and daughters--the natural children and spiritual heirs--of the Justice Society of America!
Turns out this may be one of the oldest ideas in the so-called Silver Age of Comics, and I'm just lucky I'm the guy who got to write it first.
Luckier still that, when I got my shot, I had two of the most talented young artists around to do it with me!
Let's backtrack a bit:
In Bill Schelly's 1995 book The Golden Age of Comic Fandom, Larry Ivie, a comics/ science-fiction fan as well as a talented artist and writer, reported that in the late '50s he spoke to a DC editor about an idea he had: "Ivie's great disappointment was that National wasn't interested in his proposed revival of the Justice Society of America, to be called the Justice Legion of the World, which would be made up of the sons and daughters of the original JSA."
Larry moved on to other projects, including his own magazine Monsters and Heroes, and has promised that one of these days he'll tell Alter Ego the full story of his "Justice Legion," a concept that was perhaps a bit ahead of its time.
In 1960, of course, under editor Julius Schwartz, National (as DC was then officially known) launched the Justice League of America, an updated version of its 1940s Justice Society of America from All-Star Comics.
It was quite a different group from what Larry had envisioned, but his "sons and daughters" concept was an idea that was bound to surface again. It was, as they say, "in the air."
In 1975, having resigned the previous year as editor-in-chief, I was still employed by Marvel as a contractual writer/editor (its first, after Stan Lee). One night, at the Manhattan apartment of my friend Gerry Conway, who had recently stopped writing for Marvel to return to DC, the two of us were kicking around ideas, as was our wont. And suddenly I heard myself suggesting a few pet notions I'd like to see DC publish, even if I wasn't free to write them myself.
One of those ideas was the return of All-Star Comics, with the Justice Society of America.
Gerry sparked to the idea at once and carried the ball from there, with no further input from me. All-Star Comics #58 (Jan.-Feb. 1976), the first of the new series, was of course set on Earth-Two. And if you have to ask what Earth-Two was, you're probably too young to be reading this, but:
From 1963-1985, the JSA existed on a parallel world of that name, from which they made annual forays into the pages of Justice League of America. Writer/editor Gerry took them out of that limited guest-star sphere and into their own magazine again, though still set on Earth-Two.
To add a youthful accent to a bunch of heroes who after all had been around since World War Two and before, he added to the JSA an "All-Star Super Squad" composed of three heroes who hadn't been JSAers in the old days: the Earth-Two Robin, the Star-Spangled Kid (from 1940s Star-Spangled Comics)--and Power Girl, a new heroine he created as the cousin of that world's Superman, and thus the alternate Earth's equivalent of Supergirl.
Power Girl, named Kara (Gerry and Carla Conway would later name their only child Cara; she also happens to be my godchild), proved instantly popular. Of course, her stunning figure and cut-out bust, as drawn by Ric Estrada and Wally Wood, probably didn't hurt any.
Later Gerry offered me a chance to ghost-write an issue or two of All-Star. I thanked him, but told him that if I ever did a comic about the JSA, I wanted my name on the splash page. He understood.
Soon afterward, when Stan and I lured Gerry back to Marvel, Paul Levitz of Legion of Super-Heroes fame took over the scripting _of All-Star. In issue #70 (Jan.-Feb. 1978), he and artists Joe Staton and Bob Layton introduced The Huntress. In the 1940s this had been the name of a Wildcat villainess, but this one was different: She was the daughter of the Earth-Two Batman!
Thus, the notion of the sons and daughters of the JSA picking up the torch from the older heroes was slowly and unconsciously taking form, even if Power Girl was Superman's cousin rather than his daughter.
When the great DC Implosion of 1978 led first to cancellation of the revived All-Star and then of the Adventure Comics into whose many pages the JSA had retreated, Power Girl and The Huntress went mostly into mothballs.
But not for long.
II. Elements Assemble!
In 1980 I reluctantly ended my 15-year stay at Marvel and (not at all reluctantly) signed a writing contract with DC.
Among other things, I was allowed to create a new title--All-Star Squadron, set during the World War II years--to utilize the many Earth-Two super-heroes of that era (including but not limited to the JSA). My longtime colleague Len Wein was assigned as the book's editor and chose the artists, though it was understood that the story direction of the series would be left to me.
With art by Rich Buckler and inker Jerry Ordway, and a brilliant cover concept by Len, All-Star Squadron #1 (Sept. 1981) had a very good sale of 250,000+ copies; and while it soon fell from those lofty heights, the comic fared well for some time. A primary reason for that was Jerry Ordway.
I won't go into rhapsodies here about Jerry's talent, because I'll admit that, no less than twice, he was thrust upon me by editor Len Wein.
First it was as an inker. Now, I had nothing against Jerry--it's just that Len hadn't shown me any samples of his inking, so to me Jerry was an unknown quantity when he was made inker of All-Star Squadron. But as soon as I saw his embellishing of Rich's pencils on the 16-page preview slated to appear as a teaser in JLA #193, I fell in love with his work.
As an inker, anyway.
Nineteen issues later, after Rich had long since departed and Jerry had spent more than a year inking the pencils of Adrian Gonzales, Len forced Jerry on me again--this time as penciler as well as inker. Since again I hadn't seen specimens of Jerry's work in this area, I back-pedaled, but it was Len's decision.
(Jerry told me recently that actually he'd been trying to get penciling work from DC for some time. He once agreed to ink Joe Staton on JLA, being led to believe that he was being groomed to take over as penciler; but he quickly learned Staton wasn't going anywhere, so Jerry left JLA instead. Finally, he says, he announced that if he wasn't made penciler of All-Star Squadron, he would have to leave the title. He got the job.)
I'll admit to initial misgivings when I pored over the first few pages of Jerry's pencils for #19 (March 1983). Not that they weren't good--in some ways they were very good. I was especially impressed by his renderings of the Trylon and Perisphere and other artifacts left over from the 1939-40 New York World's Fair. Still, I wasn't quite 100% sold--
--until I flipped over Page 8, and saw his powerful full-page panel of six All-Stars staring wide-eyed at eight comatose but upright, tube-encased members of the Justice Society of America!
At that moment I fell in love with Jerry's work all over again.
As a penciler, this time.
This isn't an article about All-Star Squadron--although I'll admit I'm toying with the notion of an ongoing series about that title and its 1980s offshoots in Alter Ego--but there's no getting away from the mag, because it brought together Jerry and me--and, before long, Jerry's friend and fellow Wisconsan Mike Machlan, who began inking Jerry's pencils with #21.
Ere long, Jerry got restless again, and decided to move on from All-Star Squadron. But, at that point, being now a DC editor as well as writer, I had someplace he could move to.
It was called Infinity, Inc.
III. The (Watery) Road To Infinity
In the fall of 1982 I made a working trip from Los Angeles to New York with my wife Danette. (No, I didn't shoehorn in another wife between Jean and Dann; in the early 1980s Danette legally changed her first name to Dann.) While in the Big Apple, I remarked to her casually that, during the eleven years I'd lived there from 1965-76, I'd never gotten around to taking the ferry out to the Statue of Liberty. Next thing I knew, we were on the boat out to Liberty Island.
Now, Lady Liberty is impressive and all that. But after a while, there's not much left to do but sit around staring up at her, while waiting for the next ferry to take you back to the mainland.
So, partly on the island and partly on the boat, Dann and I got to batting around the idea of a new, younger group that would take over from the Justice Society--their sons and daughters. A new generation of super-heroes, with a built-in potential for the generation gap to end all generation gaps.
I quickly decided that this, rather than another long-forgotten notion I had at the time, was the idea I wanted to present to DC while in New York. I loved writing All-Star Squadron, set in the darkest days of the Second World War, and Arak, Son of Thunder (Danette's concept, actually), set near the turn of the ninth century A.D.; but I wanted to write something that was definitely "Eighties," as the expression then was. (And gee, didn't that sound cool then--the way "Nineties" did through about, oh, 1993.)
My lovely red-haired spouse, whose parents hadn't allowed her to read comics as a child and who's never shown much interest in any since except Howard the Duck and Groo the Wanderer, nonetheless has had a number of good comics-related ideas over the years--plus her rightful share of bad ones. I've always figured my job was to figure out which was which.
I don't recall many details of our conversation, but by the time the ferry docked in Manhattan we had made up the names, parentage, and powers of many (though not all) of the others.
Now, let's see what concepts came out (or may have come out) of that ferry ride:
IV. The Young (Sea) Lions
My wife and I had only recently co-written Wonder Woman #300 (to be cover-dated Feb. 1983), with "Danette Thomas" becoming the first female ever to receive scripting credit on the world's foremost super-heroine. For it, with penciler Ross Andru, we had created Lyta--short for Hippolyta--the vivacious and super-powered blonde daughter of the Steve and Diana Trevor of Earth-Two. In a sense, like others before us, we were gearing up subconsciously for the sons-and-daughters-JSA _concept. To keep up the Graeco-Roman connection, we decided Lyta would become Fury, one of the members of the new group.
As a longtime Hawkman fan, I wanted Carter and Shiera Hall represented in the new group, even if not by a blood relative. After all, for an offspring of theirs to have real wings, we'd have had to jump through some hoops, since the Halls strapped on synthetic wings and belts of Ninth Metal when they went trolling for criminals. Instead, we settled on a godchild. For years I had been enraptured by the Gardner Fox/Joe Kubert Hawkman tale "The Land of the Bird People" in Flash Comics #71 (May 1946); so Dann and I came up with Northwind, a half human, half Arctic bird-person. (See Alter Ego, Vol. 2, #1, in Comic Book Artist #1 for scenes from that story. It would later be re-created by Kubert _aficionado Al Dellinges in Infinity, Inc. #4.) Whether or not we decided that day that his human half was African-American, that addition wasn't long in coming.
By including Superman's cousin and Carter Hall's godchild, we were drifting slightly away from our concept of "the sons and daughters of the JSA"--but only slightly, we told ourselves.
Neither Dann nor I can recall if Hector Hall, the real son of Hawkman and Hawkgirl, was a product of that ferry ride. At any rate, in his case we decided to use a different motif identified with his parents: ancient Egypt. (The Golden Age Hawkman was the reincarnation of an Egyptian prince.) Thus Hector became the Silver Scarab--no relation to the Scarlet Scarab, an Egyptian villain I'd created five years earlier for my Invaders series at Marvel, except that both were homages to the Nile-spawned, scarab-related, first Charlton Comics incarnation of the Blue Beetle, about whom I had written my second professional comics story back in 1965.
Somehow, though, the Silver Scarab never seemed to jell quite as well as most of the other characters in the group. (Jerry Ordway feels, perhaps rightly, that "when Brainwave Jr. was plugged into the group, it took a little away from Silver Scarab, because Brainwave seemed more dynamic.")
Back to that boat ride--and the new group's answer to the Earth-Two Atom--Nuklon:
In All-Star Squadron #21, I'd had the non-super-powered Atom of 1942 knocked around by an atomically-charged villain I called Cyclotron. (An "atom-smasher," get it?) The artists were a couple of guys named Ordway and Machlan. It was hinted that radiation absorbed from Cyclotron would act slowly on The Atom--a subtle (?) foreshadowing of the atomic strength the Mighty Mite would gain in Flash and All-Star in 1948. Cyclotron was given a capeless costume otherwise nearly identical to The Atom's '48-'51 duds, thus retroactively establishing that Al adapted it from Cyclotron's.
By the time All-Star Squadron introduced Cyclotron's newborn daughter Terri in its first Annual, the new teen-group's comic was well in the works; the Squadron connection was done to establish that Terri's radiation-altered genes would be passed on to her children. It had already been long enough since World War II that one of our new stars was going to be the grandson of a costumed character of that period--and a villain, to boot.
Cyclotron--Dr. Terry Curtis, who had been a supporting character in a very early Superman/Ultra-Humanite story--thus became the grandpa of Albert Rothstein, whom Dann and I named after science-fiction/comics fan (and friend) Alan Rothstein out in L.A. We thought it high time comic books had an overtly Jewish super-hero. (Maybe we were first with that bit, maybe we weren't; we didn't know and didn't much care.) And so was born Nuklon, who ultimately got his strength from the same source as The Atom--and whom we made a virtual giant to contrast with his godfather's short stature.
Of course, Nuklon, too, was not strictly a son or daughter of a JSAer. Why didn't we make him the son of The Atom? I can't remember, but maybe Al and Mary Pratt had been depicted as childless in one of those "Whatever Happened to...?" backup features I had hated in DC Comics Presents.
("Hated," incidentally, because those five-pagers gave away information about a hero's future for the sake of a mere one-shot story, which seemed dumb to me. God, was I glad I'd talked the powers-that-were into decreeing that no more 1940s super-heroes appear in that series after All-Star Squadron was originated! Not that I wasn't happy to write "Whatever Happened to the Black Pirate?" a couple of years later, you understand.)
To make up for Nuklon's and Nightwind's non-blood-relative status, Dann and I decided that Alan Scott, a.k.a. Green Lantern, would have two kids in the new group--twins, no less.
Coming up with Jade was the easy part: we loved (and figured our pubescent male readers would drool over) the idea of a green-skinned girl, who possessed from birth the powers her father gained only by slipping on a magic ring which had obviously affected his genes. Obsidian became the dark side of the ring's magic, but that concept seems to have taken a bit more time to come together. (More on that below.)
Who was to be the mother of Green Lantern's progeny? I'm not sure I considered Rose a.k.a. Thorn as a candidate from the start, or if we worried much about who the mother would be. Even Jade and Obsidian don't seem to know in Infinity, Inc. #1, and I'm not sure I was just being coy there. I suspect I toyed with having Mom turn out to be Molly Mayne, The Harlequin, who had set her cap for GL in the late 1940s, only to later decide that was too obvious... too "on-the-nose," as the more obnoxious types in Hollywood used to say. (Maybe they still do.)
Another member of the new combo, whether created that day or not, was also not the offspring of a JSAer, but of one of their arch-foes: none other than Brain Wave.
Dann and I liked the idea of a hero with psychokinetic powers. In the second issue of the 1970s All-Star revival (#59), Brain Wave had donned a new body and a real costume instead of a scientist's smock. Though I hated both body and outfit for Brain Wave "Pere," I felt the garb would be perfect for Brain Wave "Fils"--or Brainwave, Jr., as we christened him. (Being a "Junior" myself, I thought some hero besides Captain Marvel, Jr., should bear that burdensomely diminutive appellation, even though it never actually bothered me as a kid.)
V. They Also Serve...
We also decided, that day or soon after, that there should be a young female linked in some way to Ted (Wildcat) Grant. At first she was to be a Canadian called The Lynx.
Soon, we would instead make her a Mexican-American we christened La Garro--The Claw, in Spanish. La Garro appeared once only--in a two-page spread drawn by Messrs. Machlan and Ordway for All-Star Squadron #28 (Dec. 1983). There you'll see her Wildcat-style orange outfit (a throwback to her origins as The Lynx), riding a modern-day version of her mentor's Catcycle.
She was soon dropped from the early mix--but of course, in 1985 one Yolanda Montez, daughter of a boxer pal of Grant's, became the new but dark-clad Wildcat with our blessing in Crisis on Infinite Earths #6. I think it worked out a lot better that way. (And I've reserved a special place in hell for whoever killed her off in that Zero Hour mess a few years ago. But of course she and Dr. Midnight aren't really dead. Those were just clones that got killed... like the Hector Hall clone in Sandman's dreamworld. Didn't you know?)
It was with a shock that, recently, eyeballing that pin-up of Infinity, Inc. in All-Star Squadron #28--already overcrowded with ten members, counting Power Girl and the Huntress!--I read the accompanying caption:
"All this, plus the STAR-SPANGLED KID and SANDY THE GOLDEN BOY--in the comic-mag that tells what it's like to be a super-hero's kid--when you don't wanna go into the family business!--DON'T MISS IT!"
The Star-Spangled Kid?
Sandman's sidekick Sandy, for cripes sake?
Actually, the Star-Spangled Kid (who was still "young" only because of a time warp) would soon join the group, and would finally shed the "Kid" appellation for "Skyman," a name I took from an old Gardner Fox character. Spangles had been in the 1970s All-Star revival, after all.
We didn't need him, even though he'd once become a sand-monster in a Len Wein story, which would have enabled us to dredge up some super-powers for him. He'd have wound up as the DC equivalent of Marvel's Sandman, thereby further confusing a situation that has been a minor irritant between the two companies from time to time.
Anyway, with membership already "standing room only," Sandy was quickly and quietly dropped.
So--why no new hero who was the spawn of Jay (Flash) and Joan Garrick? We could _easily have explained why no heirs of theirs had been mentioned in any of the Two-Flashes tales. (Maybe he was away at boarding school.) But there were so many speedsters around that we didn't want to add another.
Dr. Mid-Nite? His power of seeing in the dark didn't amount to much in the context of a super-hero group. La Garro would probably have had that ability anyway.
Hourman? What would be his heritage? Drug addiction? Even the JSA had dropped his namesake after only a few issues in favor of Starman.
(Of course, later I'd yield to the temptation to add both a new Hourman and a Dr. Midnight to the group. I can resist anything but temptation.)
Johnny Thunder? Dann's and my and Dick Giordano's beloved Jonni Thunder, a.k.a. Thunderbolt was still a year or two in the future, though she too would eventually pop up in Infinity.
Dr. Fate? The Spectre? Starman? As one who started buying comics in 1945, I'll admit I thought of the JSA more in terms of the heroes who were JSAers from then through 1950, when All-Star was discontinued. Besides, the Star-Spangled Kid had Starman's Gravity/Cosmic Rod, which was all that made him special; while Dr. Fate and The Spectre were far too powerful (and ageless) for the new group. (If The Spectre had had a daughter, she'd have had to wear a bra over her white breasts. Hmmm... maybe a "Spectress" wouldn't have been such a bad idea, at that.)
Anyway, by the time that ferry ride was over, Dann and I are certain that, at the very least, Fury, Nuklon, Nightwind, Jade, and possibly Obsidian had been conceived and named--and it's quite possible that Brainwave, Jr., if not the Silver Scarab and La Garro, had, too. All in all, it had been a good day's work.
VI. An Infinity By Any Other Name...
Also on that boatride, we came up with the perfect name for the group.
Wait for it.
I'm not sure if that name was Dann's suggestion or mine. Of course, in my own defense, I had created the Scarlet Centurion in Avengers Annual #2 at Marvel, a decade before I even met my future second wife. And I was familiar with Joseph Wambaugh's cop novel The New Centurions and the movie made therefrom. The name had a strong, military feel I liked for a super-hero group.
Alas, a title search by DC's attorneys would soon determine that a forthcoming TV animated series had already staked a claim on the name "Centurions." (And Lord, what a series it turned out to be!) So Dann and I came up with, and discarded, many more names over the next few weeks. I honestly don't recall any of them. It's probably for the best.
My memory is that it was Dann who suggested Infinity, Inc. as the group's monicker. It didn't have the powerful feel I was looking for, yet it still appealed to me, suggesting a business-like approach to crimefighting in the dawning Age of Yuppies, with that "Incorporated" at the end (which many readers would doubtless pronounce "Ink," and more power to 'em!). Infinity suggested that they would go anywhere--do anything--as part of their mission.
DC liked it too, so Infinity, Inc. was born.
VII. Enter The Artists
Soon afterward, if Jerry Ordway's and my memories are correct, he and Mike Machlan and Dann and I were all flown to New York to discuss the new series, more with each other than with the DC brass. Under the prompting of Jerry's reminding me recently, I recall the four of us sitting in some restaurant, with one or both of them sketching away.
Afterwards, the lads went back home to really get down to work. I hadn't made any attempt at sketching out these new heroes myself as I had in the past with The Vision, the Squadron Sinister, Union Jack, and a few others at Marvel. I had faith in my artistic collaborators.
Recently, for this article, Jerry generously spent time with me on the phone, reminiscing into my tape recorder. On February 25, 1999, he remembered the artistic development of Infinity, Inc., thus:
"Mike and I used to go out in Milwaukee on Friday nights--we'd go to the comics store, and then we'd go out, and we'd drink. And we did a bunch of the sketches, really in rough form, on cocktail napkins in the bar. We got the basics worked out, and Mike did the sketches and I did the tissue overlays [with comments and colors] and we sent them off to you for approval. The sketches were all by Mike, though we had talked them out together. I think the first time I actually drew the characters was on the cover of All-Star Squadron #25."
Jerry also revealed to me an interesting anecdote about those early days: "With Jade, I remember you seemed stuck on the idea that she should have long hair, and we were concerned that she would look like She-Hulk, so we fought on it. Mike had originally drawn pretty much of a page-boy cut. It was pretty short, but it wasn't like today, where you see people with the sides of their heads shaved. So we compromised, and we drew it a little longer in back.
"As a little in-joke, from the first appearance in All-Star Squadron to the last issue I did of Infinity [#10], I was trying to draw it progressively a little bit shorter each issue."
And indeed, if you look over the first baker's dozen comics in which Jade appeared, her hair does indeed "grow" in reverse. I never noticed. Having pulled similar stunts myself on an editor named Lee, I can appreciate their stunt.
Originally, the plan was for Mike to be the penciler of Infinity, Inc.; Jerry would ink Infinity, and would also pencil and ink a four-issue, giant-size America vs. the Justice Society series I had proposed as a way to relate the biography of the JSA.
Somewhere along the way, that battle plan got changed. Jerry became the penciler of Infinity instead, and Mike became its inker. Still, together they developed the visual look for the Infinitors, as we would gradually come to call them. (While others inherited America vs. the Justice Society, starting with a talented youngster named Rafael Kayanan.)
VIII. The Machlan/Ordway Designs
Fortunately, nine character designs still exist from those Machlan/ Ordway sessions (as do, in fact, color overlays for each drawing, if we could but show them here). You've been enjoying them, hopefully, as you've ploughed through all this text.
Jade is there in the drawings, but no Obsidian, and I'm not sure why not.
Instead, and perhaps in his place, next to her is an African-American wearing an updated Hourman costume and listed as "Kronus," referred to as possibly the "ward of the Earth-II Hourman." In fact, there's even a head-and-shoulders drawing of a second African-American, listed as "Black Spectre," a "possible ward of Spectre." (See preceding page for these two and Jade.)
Fury is there, of course, even if the color overlay has blue in it, not just red and yellow as would the final version. But next to her (see below) is "Blue Dolphin," who would have been the daughter of--whom? Aquaman? More likely of Neptune Perkins and Tsunami from All-Star Squadron. None of that trio were ever JSAers, so I never warmed to that idea.
Next to Nuklon, who sports a tall Mohawk haircut which is the natural equivalent of the crest atop the Atom's post-1948 mask, there's even a "Sandman," colored in two shades of blue on the overlays. (See above.)
In Jerry's words: "a Vision type (the 40's version) of character." His costume lines are not unlike those that would end up on Obsidian, so maybe Obsidian was a bit slower to develop than I thought.
Whenever Obsidian came along, Jerry has a few strong memories of him: "I was the guy who put in the solid blacks on a few of the costumes, like Obsidian--a no-highlights type of black, which I always liked. I think Obsidian went through more changes, and earlier he looked more like the Timely version of the Vision. I think Obsidian might have had a couple of different names.
"I probably had a bit more input with Obsidian's powers than Mike did, because I wound up drawing the book. I had fun with the shadow stuff. I'm sure that had been done by somebody else in comics, but it was kind of a fun idea to me to have him peel himself off the wall or something like that. It was very exciting to have a hand in co-creating characters. I hadn't been in comics that long, and Mike had been in them an even shorter time."
Northwind is shown--but at his side (see P. 33) is a new, young, male Harlequin, who Jerry's notes suggest might become "comics' first 'gay' character. Or we could just assume it." Not a bad idea, and maybe we should have played it that way; but we were already going to have two Green Lantern-derived heroes in Infinity, Inc.
We didn't particularly need drawings of young Brainwave, Power Girl, and The Huntress, of course, since we already knew the look of those three. And La Garro would just be wearing a skintight Wildcat costume with her hair streaming--if she was in our minds at that time.
Jerry remains happy with the coloring he did, especially Jade's white and green costume: "I think the temptation was always to use some sort of yellow in there, but it was a good choice to go with the white and the green."
IX. The Overcrowded Arc
The summer before Infinity, Inc. #1 came out, Jerry relates: "Mike and I were at the Chicago con, and DC had a big presentation where they were going to show slides, and we were supposed to get fifteen minutes to talk on stage. At that point all we knew was the characters' designs and kind of who they were the children of, but we had no real conception of the book. And we did our presentation, which would up getting squeezed to about five minutes, and the slides were all upside down--Mike and I were winging it, and we thought it came off pretty well in a bad situation. I remember Bruce Bristow [DC marketing executive] saying something to us like, 'Don't give up your day job.'
"But," Jerry goes on, "the fans were certainly enthusiastic about it, even just seeing the sketches, because it was a big deal at the time. There weren't many second-generation characters then. The Teen Titans had been sidekicks, while these were the actual children of the heroes."
What else went through our minds in those heady, halcyon days?
"One thing I remember," Jerry told me, "was talking about having one of the characters become a turncoat in some way. We talked about using Fury as the person who goes bad--kind of swiping Jack Kirby's idea where Dr. Doom isn't really scarred up, he just has a little scar but it ruins his perfection. Of all people, the daughter of Wonder Woman, the goddess and all that--if she had somehow suffered some minor disfiguring, it could certainly lead to some sort of twisting in her brain."
I myself have no recollection of our discussing that, but of course the idea of a turncoat hero is always appealing. On the phone recently, Jerry and I discussed how one potentially evil Infinitor who had been around fairly early in our discussions got knocked back a couple of years: Mr. Bones.
I had drawn a sketch of Bones--actually, I simply took the old Black Terror from 1940s comics and moved up the skull from the skull-and-crossbones on his chest so that it became his face, leaving the crossbones as a chest symbol. Some time later I turned that sketch over to Mike Machlan, who did a powerful Kirbyesque drawing of Mr. Bones, adding a couple of touches (such as thigh-high boots); that illustration was eventually printed in Infinity, Inc. #15. However, it was Todd McFarlane, a later Infinity artist whose work had almost literally come to me over the transom, who became the first to draw a story featuring Mr. Bones, one of my favorite co-creations from my DC writer/ editor days.
Another thing Jerry reminded me of--which I had totally forgotten--was that originally the plan was for Infinity, Inc. to get a bit of advance publicity by debuting in DC Comics Presents, co-starring in a full-length adventure with Superman. "But [editor] Julie Schwartz' slate was booked up," Jerry recalls. "He had plenty of inventory, and there would have been too long a wait. So you said, 'If they won't let us put it in DC Presents, we'll put it in All-Star Squadron!'"
Of course, that made Infinity's first appearance a time-travel story, with all the complications and time paradoxes that that implies, but somehow together we carried it off.
Jerry also feels that DC kind of "pushed" me to use Power Girl and The Huntress, "to have some recognizable characters in there at first."
Perhaps they did. I don't recall.
"I think maybe Brainwave Jr. wound up in there for that reason, too," Jerry says, "because at least he'd appeared before." Or anyway, his costume had. Still, I suspect my own commercial instincts made me not unfriendly to the inclusion of Power Girl, Huntress, and Brainwave--it's just that Infinity, Inc. wasn't even out yet, and already it was getting overcrowded!
I liked Power Girl and Huntress as _characters, so it was only the burgeoning size of the cast that bothered me. Jerry and I both suspect that La Garro was probably a victim of their coming in--even if she'd be back later as Wildcat. Even Power Girl and The Huntress found themselves relegated to the sidelines after the first year. Still, I wanted and needed them--and even the adult Earth-Two Robin--for the "Generations" storyline I had in mind for the first year of Infinity, Inc., which would pit the new, young super-heroes against their parents and mentors--the Justice Society of America.
"I think probably the most fun in doing the book was doing the first issue," Jerry says, "with the backstory: here's how these guys got together, etc."
That ten-issue storyline, I think (and other people tell me from time to time), was a nice piece of work, and much of the credit goes to Jerry's exquisite penciling and Mike's painstaking inking. For me, to revisit the Justice Society and the original Brain Wave and even the Stream of Ruthlessness (from 1947's All-Star #36) was like living a dream.
X. War Clouds
Still, in comics, every silver lining has a cloud.
"There was a point," Jerry feels, "when DC was looking down on these books [All-Star Squadron and Infinity, Inc.] because of their 1940s connection. I don't know what it was, a weird snob thing. For some reason they've always seemed to have some sort of problem with that, like somehow the past wasn't worth looking at. I remember the feeling when I was doing All-Star Squadron, too--it was almost like, 'Why are you wasting your time doing that when you could be doing Batman or something?'"
Possible royalties aside, and despite the fact that I've been a Superman and Batman reader since the 1940s, I had my own question for those scoffers:
Why would I want to write Superman or Batman when I could write All-Star Squadron or Infinity, Inc?
"The same kind of thing," Jerry feels, "happened with Captain Marvel [in the recent Shazam! series], where they say, 'All right, give it up already and do something like Superman or Batman.' I just hate hearing that. There's enough Superman and Batman books. Nowadays every Golden Age character seems to end up being a Vertigo character, and I hate seeing it. I guess I'm just an old-fashioned guy."
You and me both, Jerry... you and me both.
But with Infinity, Inc., for a year or so there, we had the best of both worlds... the old and the new.
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