Thursday, July 20, 2017

If you wanted the new Dr. Who to look like this, I don't feel bad for you, son.


This was a quarter bin find I had never seen before, and feels like a throwback or a fill-in issue--it's right in the middle of the Detroit League era, with an old artist, and a different writer, although one that had another book on the racks the same month. From 1985, Justice League of America #240, "The Future Ain't What it Used to Be!" Written by Kurt Busiek, pencils by Mike Sekowsky, inks by Tom Mandrake. (Dr. Anomaly co-created by Richard Howell.)

The letters column notes this was a fill-in, written by Busiek in 1984; but you can see a few themes that he would use later (about ten years later!) in Astro City. Two co-workers at S.T.A.R. Labs, who may or may not be becoming a couple, have spotted a mysterious human figure on the "chronal scanner." The scientist is able to see the figure's history; and while the phrase "the fantastic fingers of Fred!" sounds like something a lab geek would say, they shouldn't.

The figure is Dr. Phineas Quayle, from 1932. Deep in the Great Depression, he helps out as best he can, but wonders what a physicist can do to solve it. The expression at the time was "prosperity is just around the corner," and the doctor figures he could invent a time machine, go forward to figure out what solved the Depression, and bring the answer back. (Google "what solved the Depression," and you get the answer World War II; I shudder to think how he would've brought that back.) Building a "telechron," he travels forward to the sixties, and isn't that impressed with a dead president, counter-culture, and super-heroes. Bah! Individualism!

Quayle decides to return to 1932 and try to stop that future from happening, but his machine only functions one-way. Using "modern" technology, he's able to create time weapons, but laments being unable to go back: he also looks into the near-future, and likes that even less. With no other choice now, he decides to get down to fixing the problem...super-heroes. Actually, it could've been anything: video games, women drivers, TV dinners. He would've picked something, blamed it, and fought it to the best of his ability. Of course, he also sees himself as "the only right-thinking American left in this era," which strikes me as troubling: if he was so smart, how come he couldn't fix 1932? Jerk. Calling himself Dr. Anomaly, he decides to start at the top, with Superman himself, and a weapon he can't defend against...since it hadn't been invented yet!

Anomaly uses the teleporter technology from the future's JLA satellite to trap Supes, and quickly follows up with Batman, Aquaman, and Hawkman. The S.T.A.R. scientists realize Anomaly couldn't have wiped out Superman, since he was still in the news regularly, and wonder if they were looking at an alternate timeline. Nope, just impatient: while Anomaly fights Wonder Woman, the Atom, Flash, and Green Lantern; Superman manages to free himself, destroying Anomaly's lab as well. Trapped, he jumps into the timestream, but with no set destination is stuck--until the chronal scanner gives him an out! Freed in 1985, he decides to plan more in his attempts to save the world; but he never appeared again, so maybe he decided eh, good enough. And the scientists head out to dinner, to talk about their own futures...

With the focus on civilians, and a character appearing in different eras, Dr. Anomaly might've been better served as an Astro City villain. Too bad he didn't see that future, eh?

3 comments:

Dale Bagwell said...

Huh. yeah this Dr. Anomaly guy is EXACTLY the type of villain you'd see in Astro City. maybe he could show up there,albeit with a different name, but same purpose?

googum said...

It would work better in Astro City since time passes a little more realistically in that book. In JLA, Anomaly could come back every five years, and the team might be a little different, but everyone's the same age?

Dale Bagwell said...

He'd be tripping balls and shitting bricks at all the ret-cons and CRISIS(I?) that have occurred since he last showed up. It'd be our luck if HE was the one behind Rebirth, not Dr. Manhattan right?

Oh shit. Shouldn't have given Didldio the idea....