By Gary Carlson
Big Bang Comics #19, published in June of 1998 by Image Comics was the second issue to be subtitled TOP SECRET ORIGINS. The first had been BB #5 two years earlier. That issue had starred Ultiman, Knight Watchman and the Silver Age Blitz,
This particular issue didn’t contain any of Big Bang’s headliners, but it did expand our horizons and started to pave the way for the two volumes of HISTORY OF BIG BANG COMICS that would be printed in the next year.
The Golden Age (GA from now on) Beacon had previously appeared in a few earlier issues. There was a text piece from our very first issue from Caliber Press, plus he was a part of the 3rd Caliber issue featuring THE CRISS-CROSS CRISIS (a classic story reprinted in #6 of the Image series).
Nodell had co-created (with Bill Finger) the Beacon’s inspiration, DC’s original Green Lantern in 1940. Mart and his wife Carrie were fixtures at Comic Conventions in the 1980s and 90s, and it was always fun to visit with them (and fellow Golden Age legend Sheldon Moldoff and his wife Shirley). It was fun that they each did some work for the early issues of Big Bang (or “The Bang” as Carrie always called it – which is where the title of this blog came from).
The GA Beacon’s origin here in BB #19 was written by Bud Hanzel, who had scripted most of the character’s other appearances mentioned above. This particular story tells how geologist Scott Martin discovered a subterranean city and was thrown into a prison as a spy. There he finds that a dictator has taken over the underground kingdom using a fragment of the powerful Ko-Dan crystal to control the inhabitants’ minds.
Scott Martin escapes from prison and ends up battling the usurper Tyrnos, who uses the power of the crystal to subjugate Martin. A battle of wills develops and Martin wins. The jewel was capable of emitting multi-colored beams of radiation, each of which bestowed a different ability. One enabled him to fly. Another made him strong, while a third made him bulletproof. Yet another produced a heat ray.
He affixes the crystal to his mining helmet and returns to the surface world, adopting the guise of the Light of Justice – The Beacon! Layouts for this story were by Stephanie Sanderson, with finished pencils and letters by Chris Ecker and inks by Jim Brozman.
The second origin story in this issue stars the Silver Age Hummingbird in, naturally, The Hummingbird’s First Flight! In it, ornithologist Alan Laurel and his girlfriend Margaret Silver are hiking in the woods outside of Circle City in search of a new breed of Hummingbird that has been sighted. Instead, they witness the Mayor of said city being kidnapped, shrunk and taken aboard a miniature alien spaceship.
They find the shrinking device and follow the aliens into the tiny ship, where they discover the aliens are the Kr’wallian race, micro-fascists from another galaxy. They have been kidnapping and brainwashing Earth’s leaders, who will be programmed to surrender when the invasion begins. Alan garbs himself in an alien spacesuit and the pair rescue Mayor Hughes.
Alan fights off the aliens while Margaret and the Mayor escape and return to normal size. However, the size changing device and the alien ship are damaged, and the aliens fly off, leaving Alan Laurel trapped at a height of six inches tall. Since the alien suit allows him to fly and communicate with certain birds, he adopts the identity of the Hummingbird to fight crime.
The Hummingbird’s First Flight! was written by Terrance Griep Jr., with art by Jeff Weigel. While clearly intended as an avatar of the Atom, Terrance also wove some aspects of Ant Man and the Wasp into the mix.
The third and final story in Big Bang Comics #19 features the origin of the SilverAge Beacon, in a story by Bud Hanzel, pencils by Carl Taylor, with inks by Mike Matthew and Tim Stiles. Set in the early 1960s, Dr. Julia Gardner witnesses a flying saucer crashing. Inside, she discovers an injured alien who urges Julia to take the jewel that has apparently powered the ship.
The alien disintegrates, and Julia wraps the glowing gem in the alien’s clothing. Heading back to her car to inform the authorities, the spaceship blows up. Heading back to her lab, the energy from the jewel encases the car in a yellow glow, causing it to car fly through the air! Back at the lab,she and her assistant study the jewel, which only seems to work for Julia – endowing her with special powers connected to the colors of the spectrum.
As they work, a news flash on the radio tells of another spaceship outside of Gateway City – this one bent on conquering the Earth! Using the alien uniform,the power gem and some safety goggles to hide her identity, Julia flies off to help the army, calling herself the Beacon!
The army, led by Julia’s boyfriend Capt. Jordan Stuart are getting their butts kicked by the Synestrom invaders until the Beacon shows up and starts kicking Synestrom ass. Purple force fields, yellow flight rays, green strength beams from the amazing crystal make the Beacon a force to be reckoned with.
The invaders recognize the Beacon’s outfit and jewel as coming from their enemies the Dextrons, who had come to protect the Earth. When the Beacon discovers that the Synestroms destroyed the Dextron ships, she obliterates their weapons and flings their ship out of our solar system. And best of all – Julia’s boyfriend Captain Stuart didn’t recognize her in her Beacon gear. The Beacon was here to stay.
I guess that I have always felt that the Beacons were a bit too close to their inspirations, but always enjoyed Carl Taylor’s very Gil Kaney art on the character and this story. The Silver Age Beacon had appeared previously in issues 3 and 4 of the Caliber Press Big Bang mini-series (and the reprint in #6 of the Image run).
There were two other fun things that appeared at the end of the issue.
Major Discovery, one of the comic strips that Chris Ecker and I had created appeared on the inside back cover to fill space above a 3/4 page ad from Bill Schelly’s Hamster Press.
And there was an ad on the outside back cover for Mark Lewis’ Bugboy comic, alongside one for Knight Watchman: Graveyard Shift #2, both soon to be published by Image Comics.
That’s the end of the story on Big Bang #19. Remember, back issues for most Big Bang’s are available for purchase for $3 at our back issue store:
Until next time. . . .
Big Bang Comics, the Beacons, Hummingbird and all related characters are © and TM Gary S. Carlson and Chris Ecker. Knight Watchman is a registered trademark of Gary S. Carlson and Chris Ecker. Bugboy is © and TM Mark Lewis.