Zero Hour Strikes! Brand-New Zeroes

Several series were launched on Zero Month, springing (sometimes limping) from the crossover event. Bass and Siskoid take on Primal Force, Fate, Manhunter and, yes, finally, you can stop hounding them, Starman #0!

Listen to the Zero Hour Strikes! Episode 29 below!

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Relevant images and further credits at: Zero Hour Strikes ep.29 Supplemental

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15 responses to “Zero Hour Strikes! Brand-New Zeroes

  1. Sorry for the hold up gents! Listeners can definitely blame me for Siskoid and Bass not getting to Starman #0 earlier, due to the desire for network synergy.

    But it was worth it! Great coverage fellas! So glad Bass found and loved Starman. Honestly it’s my favorite sustained, start-to-finish comic series. The quality of the series never faltered, and Robinson got to end it on his own terms, and thankfully, as of right now anyway, no one has dared muddy Jack’s story, at least.

    The one item in Jack’s shop burning up that REALLY got me was “Captain Action: Mint In Box”. Oh, the pain.

    I can’t agree more about Opal City. I would argue it’s identity is even stronger than that of Metropolis or Gotham, becuase those cities seem to change depending on who is creating the tales, even in modern times, where Gotham is a cesspool and Metropolis a beacon of light, normally. Looking at the art here and thinking back to our latest JS Presents episode and it’s jarring how much Tony Harris’ art changed. Almost looks more like Brian Stelfreeze if I didn’t know better! They were studio mates, after all.

    One minor note: The shop “Forbidden Tales” actually belonged to Charity, who was a 70s DC horror host in the title “Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion” (formerly The Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love). She predated Madame Xanadu by about 6 years, and was just another example of Robinson mining VERY obscure DC lore to populate Opal City. Charity becomes a recurring character in the title, and a friend and ally to Jack.

    Sorry you had to suffer through the others. No offense to the artist personally, but Vince Giararno’s art style was the visual version of nails on a chalk board to me. Of all the EXTREME artists of the 90s, his set me off more than any other. He did quite a few Batman fill-ins, and I just couldn’t abide them. Definitely not my bag. Fate isn’t much better. I did like Ken Hooper’s Aquaman run, and I ALMOST bought Primal Force. But I never gave it a try. Starman was enough to make Zero Hour worth it, despite my beloved JSA getting the shaft. Or maybe that’s a cosmic rod?

  2. Oh man, at least you guys had Starman to talk about this month because those other three comics sound ROUGH. I think all I remember about Primal Force, Manhunter, and Fate are the names and the cover images because I took a hard pass on all of them. The prior year, I’d been burned by the money vortex that was Bloodlines, Deathmate, and the X-books. I was finally starting to crawl out of that hole, so I wasn’t exactly going to jump back in with this. I mean, why does Fate look like Rocksteady and Bebop’s friend who didn’t get transformed by the mutagenic ooze?

    Anyway, I skipped Starman as well, although I can’t say why, because when I read it a few years later, I regretted not picking it up. I’m currently on a reread of all of the trades right now and am pleased at how well it is holding up. It’s also amazing how much you can cram into a premiere issue of a hero, and in my reread of the first story arc, I’m amazed at how much Robinson set up from the jump that wouldn’t pay off until way down the line.

    Another great episode and I’m looking forward to hearing what you think about Robin #0!

  3. Brenna seemed to just pop out of the garbage on page 2 on Manhunter 0, didn’t she?

    And Manhunter didn’t carry Brenna to the hospital on page 20. One of the gang members was defending her on page 23, and the then Manhunter picked her up and carried her off on page 24.

    Still confusing storytelling anyway. This was like reading an issue of First Issue Special published by Neal Adams Continuity Comics.

  4. Here is my first comic book confession…
    I bought all of these zero issues.

    Here is my second comic book confession …
    I only stuck with Primal Force, for about 4 issues.

    So that means my third comic book confession is …
    I have never read Starman.

    It is a huge hole in my comic knowledge. I have the first 6 issues. I have a bunch of the rest culled from dollar boxes. I have been yelled at by friends everywhere I need to read the book. I know one day I will.

    As for Manhunter, I like Giarrano’s art so I thought it might be a draw but that first issue is inscrutable. I did review the last issue of the book as part of my Mark Shaw deep dive. It was also pretty confusing.

    And Fate. Brrrr ….

  5. Bought all but Starman from LCS- through issue 3,
    Then I Was done with DC until JLA.
    I avoided the one title I would have liked, as I loved Starman years later in back issues. However Primal Force being bad Red Tornado, no JSA and THE fridging killing my favorite GL character drove me off for a bit.

  6. I have all 4 of these. I liked some of all of them – except Starman which was damn perfect.
    Subquestion: Was Zero Hour worth it since it gave us Starman? I say yes. What say you both?

    Siskoid, i urge you to revisit the Starman series if only to complete it. You won’t regret it.

  7. Bass sounded like he was on Sesame Street when he declared Golden Mullet “the best Aquaman.” I’m hoping it was overt satire, but I guess we’ll find out for sure in a later episode.

    I’m not sure how into Global Guardians I was in 1994. I was familiar with them almost exclusively from JLI, where they were not shown in the best light, and the whole point of buying Zero Month was my feeling the need to better acquaint myself with DC Comics. I have a long time interest in international super-heroes, but viable ones, not just any loser with a maple leaf or a sickle on their lousy costume. Anyway, JLI was my main angle of entry here, and Ken Hooper’s cover vaguely resembles the Maguire model, which could have helped my disposition. I’d liked Hooper’s art okay on Aquaman, but his work wasn’t as appealing here, and both series had a Chadwick “softness” to it that doesn’t lend itself to a super-team. Siskoid’s take on the book being mystical skewing was more accurate overall, but my perception as an uninitiated DCU reader was Captain Planet and the Planeteers. I recorded a bunch of Earth Day 1990 specials that one year when ecology was theoretically hip, which likely fed into a lifetime disdain for well-intentioned hippy pap that ultimately does nothing but make me feel indifferent about the inevitability of near-future human extinction. Nihilism doesn’t serve much of a purpose either, but at least it’s liberating, and not corny conservation cringe. I only bought one other issue during the run, #7, for the shameless cameos. I didn’t know my take was sort-of wrong until I doubled back years later, but even then it was too limp on the magic front, too.

    Bass’ Lay Lady Ley was almost a Pod Dylan crossover, but my favorite was when his accent finally made me realize how easily these guys become the Lame-Men, a near miss of nominative determinism. Meridian is right near the bottom of the barrel of period nondescript noun naming conventions, and she couldn’t even be bothered to ever put on a proper costume. I think even by ’94 I knew Red Tornado was an animated trashcan without the personality that might suggest. I already perceived Jack O’ Lantern as a bad guy from JLI, which could have been interesting, but they went with a neophyte in a potato sack instead. I did not catch the Claw reference, so he just seemed like a generic team swordsman, because that’s all he ended up being. It’s sad when “brazen Conan knock-off” is the “good” version of the property. I only read the first issue of Giffen’s Ragman, but yeah, I think that’s where Golem came from. My affection for the Global Guardians has expanded greatly over the years, in spite of their stories being generally risible, and this being perhaps even worse than those JLQ back-ups that at least came within a country mile of being interesting. I should totally be showing up for a book like this, if only as an apologist, but nothing of value came out of this title but a nice logo.

    Tony Harris has occasionally done pieces that I thought were awesome, but I’m just not as into his sequential work. I’d forgotten about the whole anti-cosplay thing, and I can still see his point as a guy who’s expecting to make money at shows off prints and commissions having so much oxygen and space taken up by trick-or-treaters. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of room in those get-ups for wallets, and I’ve been annoyed when I’m trying to get work done and their posing or gabbing in front of a table. I’m more live and let live on it than I used to be, but cons also got better at accommodating different types of attendees. Anyway, I wasn’t as into the angular minimalist Gaijin Studios style back in those days, and even in retrospect, Stelfreeze and Pearson were so much better at it than Harris. I never warmed to Jack Knight, that hipster doofus who dressed like a slightly more stylish Rodney Dangerfield and seemed ever poised to skank or swing. I already had a resistance to the old-timey JSAers, but Starman was the worst in his ugly fin Christmas costume waving a marital aid around. I prefer Opal City as a location over any of the characters who call it home. Hub City definitely has an identity, as well.

    I think I lasted 4 issues, broke without regret, and only dipped back in for one-offs like Times Past. I still credit #11 for turning around my opinion on the JSA to seeing them more as a group of Atticus Finches instead of dillholes dressed for the blind. I’m still positively disposed toward James Robinson, who also did good work on Forearm at the time, but I’d never consider myself a proper fan. Still too twee and mundane for my taste, more often than not, but he can surprise sometimes. Fans of this material really need to give Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer a read, especially the pastiche Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows. The reason why Starman worked is that DC is an inherently conservative company in the most classical sense of the word. It’s all about history and society and building continuity across decades. It was DC being its best self instead of the worst Image, despite my apathy toward the Knight and Savage (and, uh, Mist?) family lines. For me though, right neighborhood, wrong house.

    One of the times I interviewed J.M. DeMatteis, he mentioned words to the effect that the audience wanted new and bold in the ’80s, so radical changes were welcome and artistically fulfilling. Later, the pendulum swung toward the conservative and restrictive, which was less fun. DeMatteis had gone nuts with Dr. Fate, but it was only a cult success, so I guess they tried to be even more radical with the Jared Stevens “The Doctor Is Out” Fate. I should have been game for this, but it sucked.

    Does anyone have an opinion of John Francis Moore? Some folks seemed to like Doom 2099, but you also had Dr. Doom and Pat Broderick, so how much of that was him. He managed to get an X-Men book drawn by Ron Lim cancelled inside of three years. I don’t hate the guy, but he’s just kind of there. He’s the Primal Force of writers– comic book shelving as wallpaper. Coupled with art by Anthony Williams, a hindrance rather than an asset, and an unsympathetic jerk lead character, it’s a wonder Fate lasted over a year. There’s a reason for that. Moore left after five years, to be replaced briefly by Steven Grant and longer term by Len Kaminski. I just don’t think Kaminski had commercial instincts, and his stuff was bad when he’d chase an audience, but I delighted in quite a few of his single issues or micro-runs. He had that ’70s Marvel vibe, like a Bill Mantlo or Steve Gerber, for the good and bad of that. When he’d do a Doctor Strange yarn, it would make me happy, but then he’d try to be clever or edgy for Morbius or Bloodshot and lose me.

    Fate was an oddly good fit for Kaminski. An ongoing theme was Stevens’ unworthiness for the role, with Alan Scott serving as a critical fan proxy. It lent Stevens an underdog quality, and through Sentinel, the new Fate had to address legacy and the evolving state of DC magic post-Vertigo partition. I found the Giffen/Lords of Order & Chaos stuff too abstract, where Fate eventually fought proper sorcerous and pulp foes along the lines of Dr. Strange, but more contemporary and super-hero-y. The stories were better than Ankh-Tattoo-Dude deserved, but he became more likeable by association, and the quirkier direction better suited Williams’ art. That’s why the book almost made it two years, and rated a relaunch that almost extended that a year. Too bad Giffen and Randall were a return to those early John Francis Moore, but with a personality closer to his eventual drinking buddy Lobo. Very much part of Giffen’s reverse Midas touch period.

    Chase Lawler is the secret identity of Manhunter, and probably a better summation of the concept than I’ll muster. This book was so Chase Lawler– TO THE EXTREME! At that time, I was Team Mark Shaw on the Manhunter front, so I resented Lindor White Chocolate Spawn from the start. Rick Leonardi is one of my longest lived least loved artists, and I don’t have as strong an aversion to Vince Giarrano, but sometimes Leonardi can be good in a way Giarrano never approached. His stuff is just so obnoxiously proto-chromium (anticipating, never replicating or appreciating.) Somehow, this book was derivative of and had less artistic merit than Lightning Comics’ Perg. Yeah, I’m the guy who gave you a small headache from the sudden synaptic spike that reminded you Perg existed for the first time in three decades.

    I used a lot of Lawler lore in Who’s Editing, partly because I found it so odd that this book shared IP with Giarrano’s equally forgotten Haywire maxi-series, but I did it all for the novelty. Aside from maybe Michel Fiffe, nobody ever loved or mourned this guy’s passing in the Kate Spencer series. I wish I liked anything Steven Grant scripted as much as I did his old Master of the Obvious column for CBR, a distinction also held by Tony Isabella(‘s Tips) in CBG. He needed a Mike Zeck on this.

    My check has bounced for like six months, so I’m happily surprised that I’ve continued to be saved. Hopefully that will be resolved by this time next week, or I might end up in a Grant/Giarrano series by next episode…

    1. 1. I don’t know if Bass was kidding either, but I loved Peter David’s run at the time, even if I wouldn’t pick the look as the best out of a line-up.

      2. I don’t know what Perg (nor Lightning Comics) is, so you haven’t reminded me of anything.

      3. You have been saved, but mostly because I was either not told about the change, or told it would be remedied within the month, each month. So you have been saved, but on an external hard drive.

      1. Lightning Comics. Frank was a big Hellina fan, I bet.

        FRANK – some really terrific Steven Grant work – BADLANDS and DAMNED (w/ Mike Zeck). He’s a friend, so I’m biased.

        Also, John Francis Moore’s X-FORCE run was excellent. As was his work on The Flash TV show. He’s a friend, so I’ve got his back.

  8. Cheers for another super-duper show, I bought three of the four new series. The one I never bothered with was Manhunter, because it was so obviously utter pants, and I’ve never been interested in the Manhunter mythology. I think I have the Goodwin/Simonson collection somewhere but haven’t tried it, it just looks like more DC ‘Oriental’ assassin stuff, and the hero’s costume is horrible.

    Fate was indeed pretty rubbish, so I didn’t stick around. That eye design was so stupid – are you listening, Jessica Cruz?

    Primal Force intrigued me, I bought every issue. I love Siskoid’s theory that the first issue was rearranged… looking again, moving the scene with the retiring Leymen to the start of the issue is the only way it can make sense. You’re smart, Siskoid! I just wish you’d read the final issue, which is seriously whacked, it makes absolutely no sense and could do with a Super-Explainer. Those old sorceror guys were actually pretty intriguing, I’d love to have a flashback story with them and cranky old Dr Mist. How funny that Meridian worked at Ted Grant’s gym – is there anyone in the DC Universe who didn’t train there? And while you rightly praised Jack Knight’s mental list of collectibles, where were the kudos for Meridian’s shopping list? Don’t forget the peanut butter and leeks, pet! Willie Schubert deserves big thanks for trying so hard to give us different types of lettering, but given his default font is an annoying italic, his variations on that were often unreadable.

    I was with the Starman book from the start and never left: what a fine, fun comic book. I think you said, or at least implied, that David Knight debuted here, but he actually showed up as antagonist to ‘the pretender’ Will Payton. One odd thing is that on the opening page Opal City is said to have been founded by Burnley Ellsworth… I realise Whitney Ellsworth was DC’s editorial director when Ted debuted in Adventure Comics, but shouldn’t the nod be to his direct creators, so it would be writer Gardner Fox along with artist Jack Burnley – so that’s Burnley Fox.

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