Who's Air Wave?

Who's This? The original, Golden Age Air Wave shared page 6 of Who's Who's first issue, but he's otherwise been forgotten by today's readers. Let's fix that.
The facts: Air Wave was really Larry Jordan, D.A. and he fought crime with his radio-related arsenal from Detective Comics #60 right on up to #137 (a solid 6 years between 1942 and 1948) in 6 or 7 page adventures.
How you could have heard of him: His son Harold (Hal) Jordan (no, not THAT Hal Jordan, but they ARE cousins) became the Bronze Age Air Wave who eventually became Maser in the pages of Firestorm. Air Wave the Elder also appeared in DC Comics Presents as a guest-star and in a "Whatever Happened to..." features, as well as some random issues of All-Star Squadron and Young All-Stars.
Example story: "Underworld Jam Session!" (with a title like that, how could I resist?) in Detective Comics #88 (June, 1944), reprinted in World's Finest Comics #212 (June 1972)
In this simple story, "reformed" criminal "Snake Eyes" Bentley is paroled, but he wants to use the electronic skills he learned in jail to get revenge on the superhero that caught him, and the D.A. that got him convicted. He doesn't realize they're one and the same! Bentley has a thing for complicated death traps which may be the end of him though. He gets the better of Jordan, but straps him to a bomb that will go off as soon as the phone rings. Well, maybe he should have called before Jordan could do this:
No, I don't know where his mustache goes when he turns into a superhero.

Using radio jammers, Bentley disrupts Air Wave's ability to "tune in on [his] gun" (say whaa?). Air Wave triangulates Bentley's position using the jamming signal instead. Speeding to the hide-out with his telephone-line skates, he has a little bad luck.
So Bentley's goons catch him and what do they do? They set him up to be murdered by a passing trolley. By tying him to the track? Why, no.
The idea is that the trolley's wheels will cut the ropes, he'll drop down the bridge and into the water and drown. That seems like just one step too many. As it the fates would have it, it allows Air Wave to use his skates to magnetically stick to the bridge's girders and escape. He catches up with the hoods, and we find out his real power is laying in some wicked puns.
That, and annoying the hell out of the criminals he catches by projecting his voice radiophonically (because Golden Age, live with it) and gloating.
No wonder they want to kill him when they come out!!

Most of the Air Wave strips were drawn by George Roussos who started at DC (then National) inking Batman, and who would eventually go on to ink Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four as George Bell. I really like his noir stylings and use of shadows in this story. He also handled colors, so those oppressive washes are his as well. And the lettering; I immensely enjoy his use of cursive every time the name Air Wave is used, like a tiny logo, though there are some spelling errors ("tacticts"?). The writer's identity is, as is the case for many Golden Age stories, unknown. Harris Levy took over the script with Detective #113 and his work is clearly more primitive. Not the same at all.

Who else?
Who's Who #1 had some other obscure characters like Aegeus and Angle Man, but I didn't want to start the series with a lame Wonder Woman villain. Maybe on the next pass. The Atomic Knight was new to me at the time, but it's my understanding that the series he appeared in, Hercules Unbound, is a lot better remembered than I ever gave it credit for, and the character later joined the Outsiders and took part in the Battle for Blüdhaven (not that anyone admits to reading any of this). Still, the original strips in Strange Adventures do intrigue me. Animal Man was obscure at the time, but would soon not be. And then there was Auron, but then I didn't know ANY of the Omega Men at the time.

24 comments:

d said...

I still love those old bronze age Air Wave stories that ran in the back of Action Comics. The whole trainee superhero concept done really well.

Martin Gray said...

Good old Air Wave I. Am I misremembering that he had a parrot or something?

This is just from memory, but I think the Atomic Knight (Gardner Grayle, 'revealed' to have dreamt the Atomic Knights stories and, presumably, the connected Hercules Unbound stuff) debuted in DC Comics Presents.

Anonymous said...

Golden Age Larry Jordan was firmly set on Earth-2. Yet Bronze Age Harold Jordan was firmly set on Earth-1. I would bet Roy Thomas has written fanfic to reconcile this.

Siskoid said...

d: Yeah, and I liked his second costume, once he got away from the Golden Age look.

Martin: Parrot? Not from those stories I got a chance to look at. The Atomic Knight's dreaming is in his Who's Who entry, there's even a shot of him sleeping. Well, it helps explain the rad image of medieval knights riding giant dalmatians!

Siskoid said...

Anon: It's obvious, really. He TRANSMITTED his offspring to a different Earth through RADIO WAVES.

Gotta be.

Siskoid said...

But joking aside, the Who's Who entry says Air Wave I traveled to Earth-1 under unknown circumstances.

Martin Gray said...

Hmm, does that mean he brought GL Hal's Dad with him? What if Hal Jordan is actually vibrating differently to his JLA colleagues?

Siskoid said...

I wonder if they're only "cousins" through cross-Earth genetic similarity.

Young Hal would have become Earth-2's new GL or something, had he actually been born over there.

Michel Fiffe said...

Oh, man, I love this idea. Who's Who was oftentimes more entertaining than the comics themselves, but looks like you're starting to prove me wrong!

Siskoid said...

Well, there's the comics, and then there's ribald synopses of the comics. The latter is the best way to enjoy a bad comic.

Not that Air Wave was a bad strip, it's just a product of its time.

De said...

So let me get this straight: the Pre-Crisis Air Wave I traveled to Earth-1, somehow resumed his DA duties, and was shot by a criminal he prosecuted?

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Zatara came to Earth-1 at the same time. Add to the fact that there is apparently only one Spectre who switched from the Earth-2 dead Jim Corrigan to the Earth-1 dead Jim Corrigan, and the oddities just compound.

I'm sure Roy Thomas has an answer. If you ever see him at a convention, just ask him, and you'll almost certainly get 30 minutes of quality time with him.

Anonymous said...

... though I much prefer the Siskoid-home-brewed Johnny Thunder blanket explanation: the Thunderbolt did it.

"Say, you guys [Air Wave, Zatara, Spectre] are out of this world!"

Erich said...

I've got a copy of Detective Comics #107, and the Air Wave story in that issue ("Calling Dr. Air Wave!") does feature his parrot (named "Static"). In that story, Air Wave comes across a gang of crooks hijacking some medical equipment; the crooks get away, but not before the leader is wounded by an arriving cop. Air Wave tracks down the gang by "tuning in on the wavelength" of the steel surgical instruments (no, it doesn't make any sense here either). Air Wave, being a true hero, saves the life of the wounded gangster by getting in radio contact with a doctor and following his instructions to perform the operation by proxy. The grateful gangster sees the error of his ways and surenders. Static comments on the bad guy's change of heart: "The tougher they are, the mushier they fall! Awwrk!"

Incidentally, I've been keeping a sketchbook collection of Golden Age characters for a long time now...when I first started, there were several Golden Age creators who were still with us at the time, and I had really hoped that George Roussos might come to a convention so I could ask him for an Air Wave sketch. Alas, it was not to be...

Siskoid said...

Erich: Thanks for the parrot update! Man, the Golden Age Static was truly a forgotten hero. Didn't Charlton publish a Static book in the early 80s too? I seem to remember one of those smaller-sized poorly printed books on the stands. That was all before the Milestone version whom we will call Static III from now on.

Everyone else: Though it would contradict Who's Who and DC tradition, I'd just have had certain heroes ALSO exist on Earth-1 during the Golden Age. They just weren't big news: Air Wave, Zatara, Spectre, even Black Canary (because that origin story is effffffed up!). On Earth-2, these characters were all in the All-Star Squadron, but on Earth-1, they had timid careers that inspired their kids to do better.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Siskoid, just to make things easier in my head, I just think of the ripples from Crisis on Infinite Earths. Regardless of what is written or what anyone says to the contrary, my default is COIE.

Incidentally, there are several Earth 2 characters that appear in one of those STARMAN issues where he is hanging out with his dead brother. He has dinner with Hourman, Black Canary's mom, Zatara, and a horribly drunk Red Bee. It is the Red bee's appearance that makes me believe in the great Earth-1 hero dump.

PS If no one here knows who the Red Bee is, after Hourman he is my favorite Golden Age character and I am not ashamed of it.

Siskoid said...

But by Starman, the Crisis had already collapsed the multiverse into a single Earth where everyone lived on the same planet. But ripples going BACK through the multiverse? That's not unlike Superboy Prime's punching continuity snafus into the post-Crisis universe.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Siskoid, even though I hate bringing it up, COIE mixed with the horrible Zero Hour works, too. ZH brought back the JSA from limbo, maybe all the second- and third-tier heroes reappeared.

And I will pay you a dollar if you write up a post for The Red Bee. Yes, there is Wikipedia, but you write great posts.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Oh, and by the way, I have THE ATOMIC KNIGHTS HC that DC put out last year. They were supposed to put in the HERCULES UNBOUND stories--there were only eight or so issues--but that didn't happen.

d said...

My theory is - remember that scene in All-Star Squadron where all the Earth-2 Quality heroes traveled to Earth-X to fight the Nazis there? Air Wave, et al. went with them but accidently ended up on Earth-1 instead. A geeky, obscure explanation, plus written by Roy Thomas!

Siskoid said...

Crisis put the Golden Age heroes in the 40s, same timeline as everyone else. For the heroes that had survived to the present (the JSA), they were sent to fight Ragnarok apparently forever (not limbo exactly, but close enough). They returned not in Zero Hour but in the Armageddon Inferno mini-series, so it was never a case of restructuring the timeline at that point. Crisis made it an unbroken history between the 40s and today, with changes made only really to the characters who had too long a history (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman) and a few special cases (Hawkman Katar Hol, for example). In post-Crisis continuity, there's no need for Air Wave to cross dimensions, he was here all along. The only puzzle is pre-Crisis.

I want to help you out with the Red Bee, do you mind waiting for the "R"s?

Siskoid said...

d: Because who wants to move to Earth-X, right! Nazi hellhole.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

You're right about Armageddon Inferno and the JSA. Was Alien Agenda the other mini-series that followed Armageddon 2001?

I don't mind waiting for the R's. I already have my dollar set aside...

Siskoid said...

Yes that's it. It chronicles what happened to Captain Atom when he was dumped back in time at the end of A2001.

 

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