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Mike Aragona - Freelance Writer / Editor

Off The Rack


One Man's Views: Freedom Fighters Issues 1 - 5 (DC Comics) — (November 1997) In keeping with my personal theme of Nostalgia, I'll be reviewing DC's Freedom Fighters. There were 15 issues in total, and my plan is to review 5 issues at a time. You may be wondering what's up with my title. Simple, really. Because of DC's attempts at CPR (Continuity Perception Repair) these great characters of Earth-X (where the Nazis won the war and ruled the earth) aren't viable any longer. Sure, the Team as they were are still the same, but we now have a new Ray, a new Phantom Lady, a new Black Condor, and soon, a new Uncle Sam in the DCU. Thus, no one's interested in the original group of Freedom Fighters (who fought alongside the Justice Society of America and All-Star Society). Oh well, at least I still have my memories.

By the way, as always, these aren't real reviews. And, considering they're 20 years old now, I won't worry about spoilers. Let it be known, I'll be spilling the beans on all the storylines!! :)

In case you're not familiar with them, they are: Uncle Sam- the Spirit of Liberty; as strong as people's beliefs in America, Roy Lincoln- who swallowed a special formula rather than hand it over to the Nazis and it concentrated in his hands and changed him into The Human Bomb, Sandra Knight- who crusades as The Phantom Lady with her special blackout ray, Darrell Dare- a six footer who can shrink to 6 inches through sheer willpower alone and fight as the Doll Man, Happy Terril- a newspaper reporter who got caught in a cosmic storm and came out of it with the power to travel on beams of light who fights by the name of The Ray, and The Black Condor- a mutant, a biological oddity with the natural power of flight who was a senator on Earth-X by the name of Tom Wright. With the help of the Justice League (in JLA 107-108), they defeated the nazis and brought freedom to their world. However, with that threat defeated, "...democracy began to turn once more. But they hummed right along without us. With Liberty restored, we had nothing to fight for any more. And frankly, we were bored... so with the help of a Teleporter developed by a scientist-friend, we arrived in Times Square..."

For those of you who love the behind-the-scenes story, here's some minor comments lifted from the Freedom Fanmail letters page of issue 1:

"The six stars of this mag began their careers with the QUALITY COMICS GROUP in the early forties. They prospered during World War Two, but as the forties ended, so did their success. QUALITY folded and sold most of their titles and characters to DC, including Blackhawk, Plastic Man and G.I. Combat. But DC's own superstars weren't selling too well at the time, so the QUALITY team was relegated to the back of the filing cabinet for seventeen years.

"Then came the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA... and when their annual team-ups with the Justice Society began to require guest-stars for variation, the QUALITY sextet was recast as The Freedom Fighters and brought back to life.

"The legend was recast also. Now the six were the surviving super-heroes of an alternate world called Earth-X, where the Nazi hordes had won World War Two and slaughtered all the other American heroes. Surely this was the nicest and most ironic touch --for it was the end of World War Two that really had killed the QUALITY characters, and here World War Two was being extended to keep them alive.

"When a combined JLA-JSA team was accidentally catapulted into the Earth-X universe, the Nazi mind-controlling devices were quickly smashed, and Earth-X freed. The JLA and JSA members returned to their own worlds, and the Freedom Fighters sat down to get used to living in a free world again..."

This pretty much sounds like the same kind of thing that happened to all those Fawcett characters DC acquired and then set up on Earth-S, doesn't it? :) Well, anyhow, on to the reviews!


Issue #1 - April 1976, $0.25
W- Martin Pasko, A- Ric Estrada & Mike Royer, E- Gerry Conway, with a nice cover by Ernie Chua/Chan.

Our heroes arrive on Earth (supposedly 1, but later relegated to 2) and immediately spring into action against The Silver Ghost (who can turn opponents to silver by touching them) and King Samson (a super strong palooka). During the battle, Phantom Lady turns wraith-like without knowing how! A New power! Probably due to something the transporter which brought them to this earth did to them. The bad guys get away and the city offers the Freedom Fighters an old castle/armoury to live and work out of. They try to settle into regular life but The Silver Ghost strikes again, changing Condor, Doll Man, and Phantom Lady to silver. Then, he confronts Human Bomb, Ray, and Uncle Sam to work for him or they will never get their silver-friends back!

Issue #2 - June 1976, $0.30
W-E- Gerry Conway, A- Pablo Marcos & Tex Blaisdell

Uncle Sam, Human Bomb, and Ray seemingly become villains and terrorize New York. However, when they learn of The Silver Ghost's plan to release nerve gas at the reservoir, they change their mind and attack. During the fight, the Ghost's outfit shorts out and everyone realizes he didn't have real powers! Human Bomb, being a physicist, states that he should be smart enough to reverse the gizmo and save his teammates. Sure enough, he does. But, just as things look hunky-dory, the police surround their castle and tell them to give themselves up!

Issue #3 - August 1976, $0.30
W- Martin Pasko, A- Ramona Fradon & Juan Canale, E- Gerry Conway

Ok, check this out. The FF break away from the cops and find another hideout. With their faces plastered on want ads, Doll Man whips up a gizmo (yes, I like this word (grin)) which extracts powers from each of them to build up a type of individual cloak of invisibility. Then, as they're stopping a burglary, they're observed by Qwardians who decide to help the bad guys by beaming them a weapon. Well, they don't aim very well and the beam strikes a passerby (who just happens to be a homicidal maniac who just murdered his wife) and turns him into Skrag The Super Sniper (insert theme music here). They fight, he gets subdued, then goes berserk. They fight, he starts to get subdued and then Ray, trying to pull him to safety, turns wraith-like and drops him to his death!! Oh well. "The power transfusion - it must've given you more of Phantom Lady's power than I figured!" says Doll Man. Hmph.

Issue #4 - October 1976, $0.30
W- Martin Pasko, A- Ramona Fradon & Vince Colletta, E- Gerry Conway

The FF are upset at being hounded, so they storm the UN Building to speak their mind. Unfortunately, Wonder Woman is there to stop them and a fight ensues! But, Wonder Woman lassoes them and they go see the D.A. to work out a deal. Three members are detained and the other three go looking for Silver Ghost's henchmen. And sure enough, they find King Samson, who's now wearing the Ghost's gloves. Those gloves are a little haywire and are spewing energy. If he isn't stopped, New York dies!

Two quick notes this issue. We discover that King Samson got the gloves from The Silver Ghost's body (still lying in the pool of water which fried him). The FF are piling up bodies of their enemies, aren't they?! So far they killed their first 2 major villains, the Ghost and Skragg! King Samson, somewhat of a dim bulb, rushed home to his mother without taking off his gloves and thus turned her into silver and accidentally shattered her (blaming the FF for having used up all the antidote even though the Bomb never used an "antidote"). Then, while aimlessly wandering around town, he saw a woman that looked like her. He reached out, touched her, and turned her into a silver puddle. Gruesome, no? And the previous issue, the guy that became Skragg killed his wife by splitting her skull. Gee, this is way much gorier than I remembered! In fact, until now, I had no idea it was as bad as this! I guess my selective recall removed these images from my mind, or I never paid them much heed when originally reading these issues...

Issue #5 - December 1976, $0.30
W- Bob Rozakis, A- Ramona Fradon & Vince Colletta, E- Tony Isabella

All right, ready for this? Wonder Woman was blasted by King Samson and turned to silver. The Bomb's plan- tie her lasso around her and King Samson and then explode his hand on Samson's glove (a la Wonder Twins). It works, however Samson breaks the lasso and... "The energy backlash blasts Uncle Sam and Wonder Woman then continues onward shooting across the city toward the only other body primed to receive its incredible power. The result? The Silver Ghost lives again!" Aye Caramba! How long has it been since he died? Shouldn't he be rotting by now? Why wasn't there an autopsy done already? Sheesh. Anyhow, the three heroes being detained are the only ones who happen to be looking out the window of their cell and see the Ghost flying away. Naturally, they have to go after him and thus break out of jail to do so. (BTW, somehow, being dead managed to increase the Ghost's mental capabilities. Imagine that. One good thing is that he knows Samson's use of the glove could spell disaster for everyone in the city, and thus forces him to use it on himself. Then, he battles the Freedom Fighters and another unexpected thing happens. The Ghost knocks out the Condor in flight and he's about to fall to his death when Doll Man somehow stops his fall by just wishing it! Well, the Ghost escapes, and the cops arrive to arrest the team. They realize that to keep their Freedom, they'll have to Fight for it and escape. Once again, they're on the run.

My Thoughts So Far:
Well, the art isn't up to the usual standards of today, but for the times, it was fine. I can't say it detracted from the stories as there have been a lot worse during those years. Of course, the way they went through 3 art teams in 5 issues makes one wonder what was going on or if it was general practice in those days. Storywise, it seemed like they were floundering. Not quite sure what to do with the team nor how to go about establishing their MAJOR villain or the villain's reason for being. However, one thing Tony Isabella promised in the lettercol of issue 5 was that he definitely had ideas for the direction the book was going to go in. The book being bi-monthly added an extra layer of difficulty in keeping readers coming back and may have contributed to this lack of direction.

All in all, being 9 years old, it was a major blast seeing all these "old" superheroes in action. Especially considering their ties to the JLA and JSA! And, the best was yet to come for young Mikey as he was introduced to The Secret Society of Super Villains (the series I'll be reviewing once I've finished with the FF).

Memories built during these years are what strengthened my ties and love of the WW 2 superheroes and my infatuation with the era. Of course, this all came to fruition with Roy Thomas' All-Star Squadron series (and to some extent Infinity Inc.) Going full circle would mean that one day, *I* would be the one to write the adventures of these heroes. I think that would be my ultimate writing dream...


(Off The Rack (c) Mike Aragona. All rights reserved. No reproduction or retransmission of this article is granted without written permission of Mike Aragona)

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