Secret Origins Redux 3: The Vigilante/Kid Eternity

It's Secret Origins Month at the Fire and Water Podcast Network, with Shag and Rob taking a look at the fourth issue of the 1970s SECRET ORIGINS series, featuring the beginnings of The Vigilante and Kid Eternity!

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25 responses to “Secret Origins Redux 3: The Vigilante/Kid Eternity

  1. Good show, Rob and Shag.

    You can’t blame Bob Haney or Denny O’Neil for the multiple Earth versions of Vigilante. The blame for that goes to Len Wein with his JLA/JSA team-up with the Seven Soldiers of Victory in Justice League of America #100-102. Before those issues — there was no Earth-Two Vigilante or an Earth-Two Green Arrow. (And it was explained in the comic that a side effect of being lost in time is that everyone on Earth-Two magically forgot about the Seven Soldiers, which is why no one had told Green Arrow that he had an Earth-Two counterpart before.)

    Vigilante, and also the Robotman who Siskoid and Bass covered, Congo Bill, Green Arrow and Aquaman were all published well into the 1950s. Just touching the edge of the Silver Age or beyond. There is no reason why those characters shouldn’t have been Earth-One heroes too.

    And we do see the Earth-One (Robert Crane) Robotman in Justice League of America #144 — well before he’s confirmed as an Earth-Two character in All-Star Squadron by Roy Thomas.

    It would appear that all those DC characters who were published into the 1950s existed on both Earth-One and Earth-Two. Although I understand some podcasters fight against this logic and deny the existence of the Earth-Two Aquaman.

    1. All-Star Squadron and Who’s Who made canon the Earth-Two versions and that the faux Earth-One pre 50s characters were actually transplants. Plus Aquaman and Green Arrow had different origins in the 40’s than in the later 50’s, making them distinct characters. Denny O’Neil, not Len Wein, is to blame for two Vigilantes as he didn’t do his research on Vig’s connection with a unique Green Arrow in the 40s.

      1. I think Green Arrow’s original origin is so forgettable that he really did’t seem like a distinct version. In all the Green Arrow comics I read, I can’t recall a single issue until the All-Star Squadron days that truly called back to GA’s first origin.

        Like Superman and Batman, it’s more tweaks of long-running characters than wholesale rewrites. The Lost Mesa and Island origin Green Arrow’s are pretty much the same guy until he gets the goatee. It’s not like how Alan Scott and Hal Jordan are radically different. I mean Alan Scott is magic-based and has a personality, and Hal Jordan is science-based and… well, he has a better costume.

        I don’t think the “all Earth One characters are from Earth-Two” fetish of Thomas’s works with Vigilante, as the one with the Seven Soldiers was time-lost and couldn’t be hanging around as the security guard in the JLA issue.

        I think Vig escapes the Earth-Two transplant rule as long as his Earth-One career doesn’t pre-date Superboy.

        But really the idea that all Golden Age comics took place on Earth-Two (or Earth-Two-A for all the early Superman changes) grew over time.

        1. I wonder if O’Neil just used Vigilante because he remembered the character from his youth and thought it would be fun. Just as Englehart used all the heroes who appeared in the 1950s in his “Origin of the Justice League Minus One” tale. It was just fun to see these characters, and who cared what Earth they should be on?

          (At this, Roy Thomas and the ghost of E. Nelson Bridwell shout “Well, I care!” And the ghosts of Bob Haney and Murray Boltinoff shout back “Shut up, he’s making sense.”)

  2. Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod!

    We’re finally covering VIGILANTE!

    Even though I’m a complete Earth-2 o-phile, I just never cared how an Earth-This or Earth-That Vig fit where, even before Crisis.

    If I did give a care, I just tacked it up to “Well, he was being tossed around through time by the Infinity Man, and he just showed up where he showed up.” The post-Crisis appearances rarely fixed anything anyway, and in many ways, muddled it up. There are ways that our brains use to fit these things where they land, and I don’t need too many canned explanations for it. That’s the whole fun of comics – we don’t need to rearrange the seats – Just put on a copy of Micheal Martin Murphy’s “Cosmic Cowboy” on in the back ground, and let’s enjoy the ride!

    “A supernatural country rocking’ galoot!”

    And the ride for Vig in 1972 and 1973 was good!
    Besides JLA 100, he had a team-up with Superman, and a semi-regular strip in Adventure Comics, with reprint appearances in Wanted and Secret Origins, with more to come in World’s Finest.

    I guess Should listen to the show now.

    To be continued.

  3. As far as Origins for Vig, the 3-panel wonder that is this origin had better expansions in World’s Finest #246-248, that also retold his meeting with Stuff – a thankfully non-stereotyped Chinese-American – so hopefully that forgives Greg’s grand-dad’s transgressions against the indigenous of the Rocky Mountains.
    (Please remember that this was written by the normally culturally sensitive Mort Weisinger – sarcasm, ya varmints.)

    Why, oh, why, oh, why did DC not run a DC Archives edition of Vigilante, especially considering the presence of the two Morts, Weisinger and Meskin, on duty?

    Consarn it.

    Well, I reckon I’d be plumb tickled to purchase an Omnibus of same. Ya, listenin’ DC, ya sidewinders, or do I have ta hog tie an’ brand ya?

    (Chris Franklin isn’t the only one that can talk cowboy ’round these parts!)

    Oh, and Stargirl show-runners – how hard would it be ta get an awesome Cycle’-ridin’ Vigilante from Wyoming to ride next door to Blue Valley, Nebraska. Not like he’s never been on film before.

    All in all, a great show about my all -time under-used favourite Golden Age and 1970s Super-hero. Couldn’t you just see and hear Dennis Weaver in this role — no wait, we did. It was called “McCloud.” There ya, go.

    So, until you cover that City Lights, Prairie Justice, I’ll just ride out of the city now. Got some cayuses to break, and some beeves to herd out here.

  4. I reckon this was a mighty fine epi-sode you put out thar, Robert-o and Shag.

    I’s a been a fan a…oh, Gord already did this schtick. I sounded like Terra Man!

    Yeah, I have liked Vig since I first saw him in one of my earliest comics, World’s Finest #247, which also featured naked Black Canary fighting a werewolf. Seminal.

    Seriously though, I love the characters look. It’s basically like dropping the Lone Ranger into the DCU, on a motorcycle. That’s just cool.

    Don’t forget the Earth-One Vig (who was named Greg Sanders there, too) had a nephew, the crimefighting Swashbuckler from a one-off appearance in Detective Comics #493. Created by Cary Burkett and…Don Newton! I actually wrote a Back Issue article on the character…which was only his second appearance in print!

    I can’t wait till we get to Vigilante in JLU. Voiced by Nathan Fillion no less! I would love to see him play the character on Stargirl, but since he’s in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad as another character, probably not. Maybe get a real country singer… how about Brad Paisley?

    Kid Eternity essentially has the same origin (grandfathers killed at sea by Nazis) as Captain Marvel, Jr., so that was E. Nelson Bridwell just taking the Otto Binder connection to the next level. I never got into the character much, but the next time I see Shag I’m going to shout “ETERNITY!” while flipping him the bird. Even in a crowded BBQ restaurant, after we are through the end times!


    1. Chris, I always wanted to see Vig take on Terra-Man!
      One drawback that Greg has always suffered is that his main Rogue is named The Dummy.
      One drawback that Terra-Man always had was getting his ass kicked by Superman!

  5. Impressive podcast. Most impressive. Vigilante is pretty cool. The movement is different. Kind of glad Jack Kirby happened. I understand his movement better than the way characters move in this. Still it’s a cool style of comics. Yeah not a great costume. Pretty much the same costume but with a mask. Killer Kelly. Hmm guessing he was named after Machine Gun Kelly… the Gangster not the mumble Rapper. Waaait the warden was worried what he’d do to his family? How he’d be kind of dead. Glad he beat him. But, yeah the leather bit is useful. Granted not sure he’d enjoy the smell. Ever have a wet leather jacket?

    Yeah our hero would live, but that won’t be a nice smell. Kid Eternity. Yeah he was probly based on that movie. He’s a fun enough character. Yeah the Angle looks like what’s his face from a wonderful life. Kind of like Captain Marvel was drawn to look like Frederick Martin MacMurray at the time.

  6. Yeah, good job on two excellent characters from outside the mainstream.

    I got a lot of family involvement on this one. Before I listened to the podcast, I was looking at the cover Netministrator gave us a link to (Action #52). One of my daughters asked what I was looking at. I named all the characters on the cover and explained that while the podcast was on The Vigilante, he never got a cover of his own in Action Comics because it featured a more famous character.
    “You mean Superman?”
    “No, Congo Bill.” (cue the drummer)

    Then my wife overheard the beginning of the podcast and was quick to point out that Heaven Can Wait was the remake. Then Rob said the same thing a few minutes later.

    I say all that to say this: Since the pandemic started, we may be spending too much time together.

  7. Vigilante: What I loved about the JLU episode you mentioned is that those “poweless heroes” were supposed to be the 7 Soldiers of Victory. You had Green Arrow and Speedy, Vigilante, Shining Knight, Stargirl and STRIPE (Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy), and the Crimson Avenger, all iin one episode.

    On Siskoid’s Blog of Geekery, I do a thing called “One Panel” that shows a single panel from every DC book of the Golden Age, in order of publication, and man, I often want to give the panel to Vigilante rather than Superman when it’s Action Comics. I noted that the first time a DC book ever spread a splash page to more than a single page, it was in Vigilante (as far as I noticed). You’re right that the art is a notch above, and closer to what you’d find in Quality Comics who, at the time, were graphically well ahead of the curve.

    Kid Eternity: My one issued of Wanted is the one with a Kid Eternity story in it, in which he fights his opposite, Mister Satan, who can call up the souls of the damned. Quite beyond Here Comes Mr. Jordan, there was a real fascination in the movies of the time (because of the war?) of angels and demons and strange reprieves, etc. However, Mr. Jordan would have been one of the few that I’ve seen that came out before Kid Eternity’s first appearance, and indeed, in a span of time where the film might have inspired the character. (I might also recommend, from after that, Cabin in the Sky and A Matter of Life and Death.)

    Grant Morrison’s Kid Eternity disappointed me, actually. And the series that followed in its footsteps too. I read them, and found things of interest in them, but absent was the fun inherent to the character concept. Expect a Who’s Editing fix in 2021.

  8. Great show lads, I bought this when it came out, such a fabulous series. And I totally bought that these were the most sought-after stories EVER!

    I like that Shagg picked the Wanted hardback as his recommendation, I did a whole blog post on that when it came out last year. Drop by if you have ten minutes, gang!

    DC should collect Secret Origins as a companion book to Wanted, I loved these comics as a kid.

    Did Shagg say he first read the origin of Aquaman on a micro fish?

    I’ve never been much of a Vigilante fan but I just love his look – hot cowboy on a groovy bike? Yes please!

    I do wish wish Kid Eternity had kept the cute wee baseball cap. I love his entire original look, he really rocked the sash.

    It was clever of ENB to see the parallels between Kid Eternity and Captain Marvel Jr, though I don’t actually like them being related. Billy Batson discovering he wasn’t a proper orphan was one thing, Freddy having a similar deal is daft. And I hate the Morrison tweaks to the Kid Eternity legend, that’s one Everything You Thought You Knew Was Wrong too many.

    1. Thanks, Martin! Now we know one of their upcoming themes.

      “So. Wanted. That’s your play….Thank you for your cooperation.”

  9. No joke– I remember most everything else in this episode… including Shag repeatedly calling Otto a “Binder” like he held one of Mitt Romney’s lady friends… I only tried to take a lunchtime nap during the Kid Eternity segment… but the part that I immediately forgot was the Vigilante’s origin. Was he the one who got framed for murder to steal his family’s farmland? Did I hear something about him pretending to have died to haunt criminals? Did he promise his mama to be the coward of the county, and got around it by wearing a magical handkerchief that’s even more implausible since we’ve all been recognizing each other without visible mouths for months? I just recall the part where counter-protestors in militia gear prevented the tearing down of a monument to Greg Sanders’ grandfather? Okay, non-powered masked vigilante in a superhero universe who rides a motorcycle and is drawn by Gray Morrow? Obviously I’m confusing that part with the Black Hood over at Red Circle/Archie. This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of my buying “City Lights, Prairie Justice” as floppies during my collecting all DC period pieces period without ever having read them. Don’t know if they’re still in my possession, honestly.

    I feel like there’s a joke in Kid Eternity to be constructed like the Blues Brothers’ “this club plays both kinds of music, country and western” where the lady dressed like Dale Evans with Tammy Wynette hair says he has both kinds of adventure, excellent and bogus. I couldn’t nail down the construction, though. Forget Black Adam– how did Geoff Johns sleep on Mr. Satan? That’s the dark mirror knock-off of a hoary bygone character that I want a manchild to try to sell me as an anti-hero!

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