Zero Hour Strikes! Superboy, Steel, The Ray and Green Arrow #0

Bass and Siskoid talk about the zero issues of several series starring heroes relatively new on the scene - Superboy, Steel, the Ray... and Green Arrow? Get all the skinny, right here, right now.

Listen to the Zero Hour Strikes! Episode 26 below!

Or subscribe to The Zero Hour Strikes! Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Relevant images and further credits at: Zero Hour Strikes ep.26 Supplemental

This podcast is a proud member of the FIRE AND WATER PODCAST NETWORK!

Subscribe via Apple Podcasts as part of the FIRE AND WATER PODCAST NETWORK.

And thanks for leaving a comment!

10 responses to “Zero Hour Strikes! Superboy, Steel, The Ray and Green Arrow #0

  1. To clarify, while I did grow up in El Paso (like your Max!), i frequented the San Antonio/San Marco/New Braunfels area and lived in Austin for time. Perhaps our paths did cross!

    As to the issues at hand! Never had an inkling to buy an issue of The Ray, and this certainly didn’t win me over. Hard pass. That iteration of Superboy always struck me as old people trying to be hip and it never felt genuine. I even tried the Ravers spin-off, but I’m pretty sure none of the creative team new what a rave or raver was. Now, Siskoid and the Ravers, there’s a title!

    Steel always struck me as better in theory than in execution. Never figured out why he just didn’t land for me, but here we are. Iron Man and Hardware are better versions of the character, with the latter finally making a comeback (I believe). And agreed, the Green Arrow title took its damn time with Connor Hawke. But at least we got a great GA out of it!

    Looking forward to next month!

  2. Man, I loved the Kesel/Grummet Superboy series. By the times Geoff Johns got a hold of him for Titans, he was essentially remade into another character, like Bass pointed out. “The Kid” was definitely a fun, exciting character, and his book was just a blast. I liked the goggles myself, and even put them on a custom Superboy figure I made, created out of a Kenner Michael Keaton/Bruce Wayne figure!

    I initially enjoyed both Steel and the Ray, but dropped off pretty quickly on their ongoings. The stories didn’t grab me, despite really liking the characters.

    I never knew Connor suffered from inadvertant “whiteswashing”. I wasn’t a regular reader of the GA book, but read it when it crossed over with the Batman titles, Flash, etc. In my memory, I recall him being colored darker than the usual comic caucasian…other than this cover, which I did believe was just Ollie at the time when I saw it. Too bad some incorrect coloring slipped in, as his mixed ethnicity definitely made him unique among the big DC heroes of the era. He made it into the Total Justice line, even! EXTREME!!!


  3. Kon-El never grew on me. He was more palatable after the Johns/McKone glow-up, but that also made him too similar to name brand Superman. As with Tom Grummett, Pasqual Ferry wasted his talents on the book for too long where they would have been better applied elsewhere. It’s kind of too bad Kesel did so many Kirby/Jimmy Olsen stories without proper New Gods or Jimmy Olsen.

    Even though his costume design was daffy with the bare legs, booties, and fin, “The Ray” was drawn by Lou Fine, so those strips were aces. Despite (mostly coloring) alterations, it didn’t work under other hands, and the Ray was a meaningless property to me in 1992 anyway. The mini-series generated some buzz, so I think I bought a random issue at a discount, but was lost on the story. Here was a sleeper based on debuting hot new find Joe Quesada, and so of course DC decides to spin it into an ongoing with none of the original creative team two years later while burying Quesada under a heavy-handed inker on a Batman side project. Marvel didn’t do much better, sticking him on the bottom basement X-title with the characters that were no one’s childhood favorites without a contract so that he could bolt after six (partial) issues. So anyway, I didn’t fall for the foil-enhanced #1, but I did get The Ray #0 as part of my “Zero Month” sampling. I definitely liked all the stuff with the Martian Manhunter, but the rest of the issue was buried in teen angst melodrama and jibber-jabber. I’d had a bad experience with Priest on some issues of Wonder Woman, and was disinclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. When I became a J’Onn J’Onzz junkie a few years later, I was glad to still have the issue in my collection. After I started reading back issues of Justice League Task Force, I noticed that threads routinely weaved back and forth between it and The Ray. I bought a handful of issues, but never committed to a full read through. My opinion of Priest had improved mightily, and where Howard Porter had at this time been a decent Image wannabe (especially by DC standards,) I loved his JLA work. It’s just that the whiny white boy from the ‘burbs types have never resonated with me, and Priest made Choices on this series that leaned into aspects of his writing that remain off-putting. Oh, and energy projection characters are only slightly more interesting to me than Runs-Fast-Man, so there’s that. A lot of Triumph stuff toward the end, and I have a morbid interest in that costumed conceit, but I can’t quite get past the never-ready-for-primetime Jason Armstrong art on the last dozen issues. Also, the Happy Terrill from this issue may have been a disguised Death Masque by this point, which would explain his douchiness.

    John Henry Irons was a swell character in a book from absolutely the wrong creative teams, and by the teens was in the dregs of the DC line, buoyed only by the buy-all-Superman crowd. I suspect even that wasn’t enough by mid-decade, but they had the movie coming up, so they floated the title until its release. In a final bid to salvage the book, they also hired *gulp* actual Black people to write and draw probably the most prominent African-American hero in their line at that point. Of course, they were increasingly notorious book-killer Christopher Priest and the same Denys Cowan whose co-creation Milestone Media was closing shop at that very moment. The first order of business was getting the “S” back on Steel’s chest. The second was revealing that the teleportation power involved traveling through a dangerous parallel dimension full of tentacle monsters, so lets ditch that specific armor and never employ that ability again. Third was to borrow even more heavily from Thor and Iron Man by giving Steel a soft aluminum foil suit that could be made rigid through SCIENCE! and also a short-handled boomerang techno-hammer that increases speed and impact the further it flies. Priest has accused Cowan of being broken by his Milestone experience and phoning it in on the title. They only manage to shed more readers over their 19 issues, with little to no critical reappraisal to this day. It’s almost certainly the best writing of Christopher Priest’s career, and for my money ultimately far outshone its rival Hardware. It was funny, insightful, inventive, complex, and sported an enviable supporting cast. There were some truly excellent covers by Dave Johnson and Howard Porter. The book was just hitting its stride before cancellation, and it’s a shame DC didn’t pick up Priest’s pitch for a team-up title with Guy Gardner to salvage both readerships ala his earlier work on Power Man and Iron Fist. I feel that end run of Steel is among the best books DC has ever published, and it’s criminal that those issues have never been collected.

    Already up way too late and haven’t finished listening to the episode. Laters.

  4. Despite being a Superman fan and a guy that liked both Superboy and Steel, I was only reading Superboy when these books came out. I have no idea why I didn’t pick up Steel starting with the World’s Collide crossover (which is what happened with Superboy) but I didn’t. In fact, it wouldn’t be until 1996, when Christopher Priest took over writing duties on the Steel book, that I bought it on a regular basis.

    Having recently re-read both of these titles it’s amazing how different they were. Both were full of tropes from the era they came out in, just on different ends of the nineties spectrum. Superboy was a fun book full of colorful villains, a great supporting cast, and a solid premise that would carry the title for several years. Kesel invested in the supporting cast and they all ended up fully formed characters, especially Roxy. The Tom Grummett artwork doesn’t hurt. When Kesel and Grummett leave the book it takes a dip in quality, especially art wise.

    Steel was almost an Image book with technology enhanced paramilitary villains that just never jelled because there wasn’t much to them. If I told you that Hazard’s Black Ops group was comprised of character’s named Shellshock, Hotspot, Quake, Cybernet, and Flatline you probably would assume that they were all legit names despite the fact that I made up the name Cybernet just now. The whole armor appearing and disappearing and John being a metahuman never worked. It just felt like Simonson didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do with the character and she just kept trying things.

    I was a fan of the armor that they designed for this series and when Chris Batista was doing the art I enjoyed the stories more. The next armor upgrade, which came along in 1996, brought back an S symbol, so Bass was on to something there.

  5. I had at least half of these and enjoyed them. I enjoyed this episode, too. Thank you.

    I still love Steel, and I agree he’s DC’s Iron Man. This arc with the magically appearing armor seemed to be trying to turn him into DC’s Venom, too. Tech versus magic can work, if the story is about one trying to match its strengths against the other’s weakness. Marvel did it with Iron Man fighting the dark elves from…Sniffleheim? No, that’s just cold and flu season talking. Anyway, John Henry Iron Man good, Eddie Venom Irons bad.

    I liked The Ray mini-series, but didn’t follow him too much after that. I should go back and get the Priest run. Bass is right that Ray should be supremely grateful for any attention from Black Canary.

    Clone Superboy started out fun, but occasionally irritating (you know, like a teenager). I remember this issue fondly. I didn’t enjoy the 180 Johns pulled on the character, but I didn’t enjoy that version of the Titans, either, and that probably intensified the effect.

    Connor is great, and I love his JLA intro issues you mentioned where he’s he’s fighting The Key. I remember Connor looking at Ollie’s old boxing arrow in a display case, his only option after his other arrows were gone: “Oh, Dad. You’ll be the death of me.” It was a great moment, building tension and giving us a laugh simultaneously. Regarding the zero issue, I don’t know why a Jim Aparo story would ever be hard to follow, unless someone was intentionally making him be oblique. I assume that was what was happening here.

    I clearly started too soon with my complaints about the sinister, shadowy government goon trope. There was so much more to come! As you said, it was popular in the nineties.

    See you next time. How many more of these we got? I have that feeling I get when I’ve been eating popcorn for a while, and before I even look down, I suspect the bowl is almost empty. Or when you’re a kid and you’re reflecting on how great summer has been, and then you realize school must be coming soon…

  6. There was something like a four decade gap between my visits to RenFair, but that second time I paid a few bucks to shoot some arrows, and I dug it. There’s an undeniable grace and power to archery that is so much better than firearms. I wasn’t going to set up a stand in the back yard or anything, but after years of mocking comic book archers for being hung up on Errol Flynn nearly a century after that particular zeitgeist had passed, it reminded me of why I had liked them as a kid. It’s probably why I kept dipping back into Green Arrow during “Crossroads,” even though I had pretty much figured out by that point that Oliver Queen was a knob.

    I was neutral on the teased new costume, but I retained a strong affection for Jim Aparo’s art, and when Gerry Fernandez toned down the Image affectations his inks were closer to regarding the Aparo that was. I liked all the zen in the zero issues, and appreciated that Connor Hawke was a handsome, heroic looking lad whose features were also unmistakably non-white. I didn’t feel any confusion in Kelley Puckett’s story. Oliver never shot the arrow… everyone was awed by his presence/posture/authority. Prince doesn’t need to actually strum the Love Symbol guitar. Your heart would skip a beat just from his picking it up by the neck and slinging it. I felt the potential here, and stuck with it. Puckett left very early on, and I was wary of the change, but I was also impatient with some of his manga touches that slowed the pace and left too much unspoken. Chuck Dixon was more meat & potatoes, but he kept the Ludlam vibe and the contrast between jaded Ollie and idealistic Connor. Aparo transitioned off the book and into the bitter end of being suffocated by Sienkiewicz art school noodling, but I barely had a chance to miss him before being stunned by the cinematic work of once & future world class storyboard artist Rodolfo Damaggio. I’m usually not into the roaming adventurer type series, bit Dixon and Damaggio did it exceptionally well, and I grew to love Connor Hawke. The forced relations with Green Lantern or the Flash were a drag, but when he was in his depth doing family-friendly martial arts heroics, it was a monthly highlight. After a year or so, Damaggio got replaced by an artist with a surface resemblance, Will Rosado, but whose style and narrative chops were not in the same ballpark. I don’t know whether Dixon lost enthusiasm or it was just me, but i struggled with those issues. There was also a period of round robin fill-ins, so I guess he was slow on top of everything else. Doug Braithwaite was one of those subs, and I hadn’t been into his art either, before he was paired with the exquisite inks of Robin Riggs as regular artist with #125. Good stuff, but the Kevin Smith takeover was announced years ahead of time, so it felt like a zombie title without momentum, to be enjoyed only episodically. There was a decent send-off on #137 marred slightly by the return of Rosada, and then a lame duck 1,000,000 finale. Oh god, please don’t do DC One Million next. Anyway, I never forgave DC for reviving Oliver Queen, especially the way they went about it, and I’ve barely read any Green Arrow comics in the near quarter-century since the cancellation. It was on the vanguard of rolling back progressive representation in favor of lionizing straight white guys like it was 1965. This is one of the many reasons everybody snickers at DC when they try to compete with Marvel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *