Obviously the reason why old comics provoke a certain sort of joke is the underwear on the outside, plus dialogue that, apparently, dare not speak the name of whatever the hell it is the characters are trying to discuss. But sometimes this can really be taken to extremes:
What are we supposed to think? Johnny Thunder is a gay robot? But this isn’t really what I wanted to talk about tonight.
When we left our heroes, Hawkman was setting us straight about the Treaty of Versailles. But let me give you a bit of backstory.
Honorary Justice Society members, the Flash and Green Lantern, drop in for a visit. Hawkman proudly holds up a newspaper with the headline “Sergeant Dick Amber given congressional medal of honor – entire nation honors hero”. Wonder Woman encourages Hawkman to tell the story, in the hopes that the Honorary Members will agree to become Fighting Members again, as opposed to mere bicep squeezees.
A troubled neighbor who knew me only as Carter Hall brought me a pressing problem. His boy, about to be drafted, refused to see any reason for fighting … he was not cowardly … he was just confused … I went to see him.
No, I’m not afraid to fight! I just can’t see where this war with Germany is our war?
CARTER HALL [HAWKMAN]
Hmmm, suppose I told you that giving in to Germany would inevitably bring us back to the dark ages.
Dark Ages? Rather strong talk, Mr. Hall. Are you implying that Germans have no moral values?
Suppose I arrange for you to meet a group I’ve done some research for … The Justice Society! Let them explain things to you …
[Changing in secret to Hawkman, I took Dick Amber to the Justice Society of America … ]
Members, this is Dick Amber … He’s about to be drafted. He loves his country but doesn’t see any point in our war with Germany …
It’s just that I … I resent being fooled!
Wildcat provides a helpful history lesson:
This and that. But engaging Wildcat in dialectic is like taking a cold shower with 10 kittens tied to your arms and legs. (Plus Hawkman on the Treaty of Versailles.)
No! It’s unfair .. you keep giving you your view of things … The German view may express things differently .. and equally truthfully.
Dick! If there were only some way to prove the truth … make you see it …
Fortunately Hawkman’s plea has the effect of awakening “in the cold, limitless reaches of the outer void … a shape created by the concentrated thoughts of decent men”. It is … the Conscience of Man. She looks like Snow White, and has a magic wand, with which she sends the Justice Society and Dick Amber back in time to learn that Germans … are … always … evil. (They meet various famous Germans. Oddly, not Kant. Seeing the Sage of Königsberg go toe-to-toe with Wildcat ? “How did you defeat him?” “He had me on the ropes, but then he started monologuing …”)
From comments to my previous post, I learn that some soul has scanned in the last part of the issue, in which Johnny Thunder punches out some Nazis. Hawkman and Wildcat decide that, basically, the trouble with Germans is that they are convinced their way of thinking is superior, so they can pronounce concerning the destiny of races, etc. As Hawkman editorializes: “What colossal conceit.” Yes, concludes Wildcat: “No doubt about it … the present German manner of living and thinking is … doomed.”
Now, all this is interesting. Please feel free to discuss. And men of good will can disagree about what part is the funniest. For my part – I suspect this may be a minority opinion – the funniest bit is the idea that the Justice Society would hire civilians to research the nature of justice for them. It’s so crazy it just might work. Do you ever think about how no one in, like, the Justice League, even has any actual justice powers. Never gets bitten by a radioactive philosopher and acquires a tingling justice sense? There are no heroes with the uncanny ability to settle complex moral disputes – to bend the fearsome steel of moral dilemmas and make the lines straight. Alright, I confess: I use this joke in one of my Plato lectures. So I have a graphic all lined up to go.
This is touched on, in a different sort of way, when Johnny Thunder mentions that Conscience has given him some of her powers – including increased smarts, but mostly increased ability to punch Germans, it would appear.