Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Welcome back ... The Green Team!

Your humble editor is here to help us all take a look back at The Green Team – you might remember them from a previous article lo these many moons ago, a single-issue pop-up in the pages of First Issue Special, coming to us by way of Seventies short-lived story veterans Joe (Captain America) Simon and Jerry (uh … not Captain America) Grandetti, the team which also brought us The Outsiders, Brother Power the Geek and Prez, The First Teen President.
You know, for the record, Abdul's not a shoe-shine boy any more, he's a millionaire. You racist dicks.
I do love me the Simon/Grandetti team, I have vivid fantasies about what they would have come up with if they’d been given the wide-open opportunity to create new titles higgledy-piggledy. What do you think, a super team of corporate mermaids? A cowboy dentist astronaut? A talking end table that is also magic and it fights communist unicorns? I DON’T FUCKIN’ KNOW, anything is possible on the world that may have been after the DC Implosion.
In any case, The Green Team did not – technically – make it beyond the pages of DC First Issue Special (That’s DC’s fault in the first place for not creating Second Issue Special, Third Issue Special, and frankly The Rest Of The Issues Specials. Seems to me they were flat-out jinxing some of these guys), although it’s almost a fair bet that they’ll have some pivotal narrative role in the current Superman books, like other First Issue Special losers like Jack Kirby’s Atlas and Codename: Assassin and just general We-Need-Our-Copyrights-Renewed-ers like the Creature Commandos and Ultra the Multi-Alien. Hell, I’m not a hundred percent sure that Lady Cop wasn’t actually Metropolis police captain Maggie Sawyer*, Superman’s Wold is seriously well Newtoned.
Who the hell gave that kid handguns full of barbiturates?
Right, but I was saying, The Green Team only technically did not make it out of First Issue Special alive. As a matter of fact, two issues of the series were fully scripted and drawn, and then put on hold, only appearing after the 1970’s collapse of a good portion of DC’s publishing material in the fabled Cancelled Comics Cavalcade.
Never seen a copy of Cancelled Comics Cavalcade? Probably not. But maybe you’re one of those lucky few who is a big enough nerd that other nerds, when the holidays come around, see fit to gift you with a photocopy of the rare and very difficult to find Cancelled Comics Cavalcade. Yes, it was a big Hannukah around the Humble Editor’s house, and then there was a lot of drinking and weeping about the kind of friends your Humble Editor keeps. Xeroxed, unpublished comics as a present? Also, I’m not even Jewish. I was utterly confused and depressed.
Of the two issues of The Green Team which made it into CCC, I wanted to talk about the second one, which features the most unusually empathetic take on an antagonist as I’ve ever seen. I mean, even in a Joe Simon comic, and this guy created Bee-Man.
When will you realize that not all of your problems can be solved with your guns full of barbiturates, JP?
The story begins with “J.P.” and Abdul – you’ll remember Abdul as the black shoeshine boy who was accidentally granted a million dollars and J.P. as one of the three white guys who goes out of his way to ignore Abdul or make him feel like shit all the time – going undercover in the poorest section of the bowery. As always, the Green Team are seeking out adventure, or at least some kind of problems at which they can throw money. I’ll pause here so you can make your own snide aside about how that’s exactly what whichever political party isn’t yours handles problems. No, no problem, I can wait. You done? All right.
Anyway, the boys go undercover for some nebulous reason, and are immediately caught in some sort of bum riot. Coming to their rescue is (decked out in white overalls and bearing a bucket of paste, an armful of rolled posters and – for some reason – a hangman’s noose) The Deadly Paper Hanger, who is also – and I say this at risk of losing an argument on the internet – Adolf Hitler.
I think we've all had that dream where Hitler rescues you from a "typhoon of sweaty, struggling bodies."
No joke. It’s Adolf Hitler, “down on his luck” since his big plan to “redecorate the world … went wrong.” You are going to witness, up through the conclusion of this story, a working class Adolf Hitler as a two-fisted, fearless brawler, a sympathetic character whom the boys of the Green Team embrace po-facedly. I bet they spent a lot of time hanging around Hitler and sort of nodding persistently towards Abdul when the little guy wasn’t looking. “What about this guy, Adolf, huh? Whaddya think, hunh?”
I don't have a joke here, I just wanted to prove that these panels existed.
The villain of the book is arguably a man named Saint Bernard and his welfare scam of a rescue mission, a horrible and degrading place which counts among its humiliating installations something called “The Man Wash.” There’s also a group de-lousing room and a giant vat of hot soup in which the bums are near-drowned, so it all basically sounds like a cross between Rollerball and the Big Rock Candy Mountain.
This is just the beginning of "The Man Wash."
Throughout the course of the story, the Green team decide to help the downtrodden by prettying up their residences – trust me, it was an improvement over Abdul’s suggestion to ‘wipe them all out,’ and you should have seen how J.P. got laughed at for suggesting they help the poor get jobs – meaning the Paper Hanger gets to set up his big plot device: wallpaper with growth hormones and plant seeds embedded in it, causing whole room to blossom into gardens of eden.
Whoa, settle down Abdul.
This is one obfuscated metaphor, no two ways about it.
We discover ultimately that the garden-growing wallpaper is actually part of the Paper Hanger’s plan to gain revenge against a world which failed to recognize his genius, a plan which comes to its fruition when the plants start growing wildly, smashing buildings and threatening the lives of the bums who were hanging around for free fruit and shady groves. Oh wait, did I say the plan came to “fruition?” Gardens! Fruition! How clever! I’m going to give myself a biscuit for that one.
I've been pondering for weeks what the message here is, and as near as I can tell it's a metaphor
for the political tensions between Germany and Switzerland during the period of the Treaty of Versailles.
Or that Hitler hates dogs. And trees explode. I DON'T FUCKIN' KNOW ACTUALLY IS WHAT.
Ultimately, the Paper Hanger and St.Bernard alike are apparently swallowed in the aftermath of an explosion, leaving the Green Team to wander around in the subsequent destruction and … poke at things with sticks. This is action in the purest sense of the word!
Honestly, the strangest part of the issue was how Simon – again, co-creator of Captain America, as well as the one-time top-sellers The Boy Commandos – seemed to take it so easy on Hitler. It’s as if he was saying, “hey, I gave the guy enough grief, let’s take it easy on Hitler.” You know, reclining back in his chair, “Let’s give Hitler a fair shake.”
This is, like, Hitler's sitcom catchphrase. Someone says "Does anyone know anything about decorating around here?",
and then Hitler comes in and everyone goes "The Paperhanger!" and then the audience goes nuts while he stands in the
door, waiting for it to settle down so he can do his lines.
I think there’s a lesson there for all of us. I have no idea what that lesson is, but it’s probably there for all of us. Somehow. For some reason. I guess.

*I honestly don’t want to hear it from the following people: People telling me that the Dingbats of Danger Street appeared in a 90s era Superman book, people telling me that the Green Team appeared in that same issue, people trying to pass off Animal Man and Ambush Bug appearances of any of these guys and MOSTLY I don’t want to hear about Lady Cop from readers of the All-New Atom, because I don’t want to hear it about the All-New Atom anyway, because I'm sorry but that book is terrible.

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negrofrankenstein said...

Glad to see you back in form!

They Call Me Calamity said...

Glad to be back, keep your eyes open for more stuff in 2009 ...

Jamie said...

You are a beautiful man.
Welcome back!

BillyWitchDoctor said...

For whatever reasons, a reformed/redeemed Hitler is more common than you'd think: he saves the day in the manga "Striker Versus The Third Reich," and appears in one strip of "Bob The Angry Flower" as a good-doer who can't accomplish anything because everyone hates him so.

So I ask you: where's the love for Mussolini?

Bill the Splut said...

But who won? Hitler or the Green Team? I'm really not sure who I should be rooting for.

Jeremy H said...

And more modernly, there's Dolf in Peter David's Fallen Angel.

Bill said...

Well, it's like Mon-El always said...

Chris Eckert said...

Lady Cop showed up in Gail Simone's All-New Atom. Unless I've missed something, every single "First Issue Special" character has shown up in a DC comic in the past couple years. Except maybe the Outsiders, though I probably just missed them.

They Call Me Calamity said...


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