The Usual Double Talk

The Usual Suspects: Answering Anti-Catholic Fundamentalists
By Karl Keating
Ignatius Press, 2000, 195 pages

1 Star

In 1979, a young Roman Catholic lawyer, Karl Keating, became angered when members of a local Bible Christian church left tracts on car windshields during mass at his Catholic parish. In retaliation, he created tracts of his own and distributed them at said Bible church. Thus was born the Catholics apologetics organization, Catholic Answers. Then as now, many Catholics were hearing the Gospel from friends, neighbors, and co-workers, repenting of sin, accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior, forsaking the Roman church with its false gospel, and attending Gospel-preaching churches. Keating and Catholic Answers sought to “stem the tide.” Keating’s first book, “Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on “Romanism” by “Bible Christians” (Ignatius Press, 1988) was fairly popular among Catholics who had “lost” family members and friends to “Christian fundamentalism.” In his attack on “fundamentalists,” Keating mixed together credible ministries with disreputable extremists (Chick Publications, Tony Alamo). Keating’s brief explanations of various Catholic doctrines rivaled the sophistry of any Jesuit.

“The Usual Suspects” is Keating’s fourth book and picks up where “Catholicism and Fundamentalism” left off. The credible evangelicals/fundamentalists targeted this time include Bart Brewer, Frank Eberhardt, Dave Hunt, and Bill Jackson, all four now deceased, and John Ankerberg, John MacArthur, and James McCarthy. Mixed in are several bad apples including Jack Chick and Bob Jones, III.

Keating’s approach is the same as before: short explanations of Catholic doctrine expressed with obsfucation masquerading as certitude, but lacking Biblical substance. Two examples will suffice:

  • Bible Christians criticize the continual Catholic mass as a fraudulent repetition of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ at Calvary, since the Bible clearly says Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was offered once for all time (Hebrews 10:12). Keating confidently responds that Catholics certainly don’t “repeat” Jesus’ sacrifice, they “re-present” the very same once-offered sacrifice. Ach. Please.
  • Bible Christians criticize Catholics for worshiping Mary. Well, of course Catholics don’t “worship” Mary, objects Keating. They rightly offer her “hyper-dulia veneration,” which is her due. Hyper what? Ninety-five out of one-hundred Catholics could not define “hyper-dulia veneration,” but most do attribute deific powers to Mary, adore her, and pray to her for their salvation. Call it whatever you’d like, but THAT’S worship.

Each short chapter is filled with similar equivocations. Keating accuses his opponents of lacking charity and sophisticated nuance in their arguments, yet turns around and commits those offenses himself, labeling all Bible Christians as “fundamentalists,” “Bible-thumpers,” and “tract-pushers.” Recommended only to those involved in Gospel outreach to Roman Catholics.

Postscript: This book was written in 2000, way before the current papal crisis, with Catholic conservatives accusing pope Francis of sowing doctrinal confusion and some even accusing him of being a heretic. Conservatives like Keating and his successors at Catholic Answers are no longer boasting that their pope is incapable of leading the Roman church into error. Should Catholics follow pope Francis and his doctrine-bending reforms or the conservative Catholicism of Keating and cardinal Burke? Neither camp teaches salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

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A memorable Legion tale in more ways than one

It’s hard to believe that it’s already time once again to climb into our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for another adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…

“School for Super-Villains!”
Adventure Comics #372, September, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Curt Swan, Inker: Jack Abel, Cover: Neal Adams

5 Stars

Plot

A couple of weeks ago, we witnessed Colossal Boy being expelled from the Legion in disgrace for stealing classified training material. Unbeknownst to the Legion, he had been blackmailed by mysterious criminals who were holding his parents captive.

As the action picks up, Colossal Boy dejectedly walks the streets of Metropolis deciding on his next step when he is accosted by Science Police. He escapes, but accidentaly drops his mother’s “life jewel” in the tussle. The criminals subsequently reconnect with the fugitive ex-Legionnaire and offer him a new deal.

In the meantime, Brainiac 5 deduces the recovered “life jewel” can guide the team to Colossal Boy’s mother for some answers. Shrinking Violet diminishes to sub-molecular size and follows the beams connecting the life jewel with its owner across the galaxy. The beams lead her to a distant planet and a training center for the newly-created Legion of Super-Villains run by Tarik the Mute, with Colossal Boy as the reluctant trainer. Violet returns to Earth and informs the Legion of her findings, including the real reason why Colossal Boy turned traitor. Brainiac 5 devises a plan in which Superboy and Chameleon Boy and candidates, Chemical King and Timber Wolf, infiltrate and subdue the collection of super-criminals and free Colossal Boy’s parents.

With Superboy and Chameleon Boy in disguise, the quartet stage a phony battle with the Science Police on Mars in hopes of attracting the attention of Tarik’s recruiter. The ruse works and the four are transported to the super-villains’ training center. The heroes observe several disgruntled Legion-rejects from the past including Nemesis Kid, Spider Girl, Radiation Roy, Ronn Kar, and Lightning Lord; Legionnaire Lightning Lad’s brother. However, Colossal Boy recognizes Superboy, and, out of fear for his parents’ safety, sounds the alarm. A battle ensues and the super-villains overcome the super-heroes. Tarik condemns the four to death, but as they await their execution the following day, Superboy conceives of a plan. But will it work?

At dawn, Tarik orders Colossal Boy to use a ray gun to turn the Boy of Steel into glass, just like his parents. When the teen titan hesitates, Tarik pulls the trigger and an executioner immediately shatters Superboy into a million pieces with a sledge hammer (see cover photo). Enraged by Superboy’s death, Colossal Boy snaps and joins the three remaining heroes in battling the villains. In the melee, Timber Wolf radios Legion Headquarters for reinforcements and Duo Damsel, Phantom Girl, Starboy, and Ultra Boy quickly come to the rescue like a 30th century cavalry. Just as Tarik prepares to smash Colossal Boy’s crystallized parents, Superboy KOs him with a steely left hook. Huh? Superboy? Turns out Chameleon Boy and Superboy had disguised themselves as each other prior to the dawn execution and CB had dodged the ray gun, changed himself to glass, and then into broken glass at the appropriate times.

The criminals are taken into custody, Colossal Boy’s parents are restored to normal, and he’s voted back into the Legion along with new members, Chemical King and Timber Wolf.

Commentary

This was an entertaining story, especially since it includes the origin of the Legion of Super-Villains and the introduction of Chemical King and Timber Wolf as Legion members. The abrupt and overly-simple ending was admittedly a bit lame, but quite par for the course for the Silver Age era. This issue is significant for a couple of more reasons. It was Curt Swan’s last outing as the Legion’s penciller. His drawings would be judged as stark and too simple today, but his classic lines put him at the very top of the DC’s pencillers of that era. This was also my last Legion comic book at that time. I began following the Legion in November, 1966 in Adventure Comics #350 and would continue for twenty-two issues, but I reluctantly quit comics after that because I was entering into seventh-grade and reading comics was definitely “not cool” as it would become a couple of decades later (and comic book plots would become so convoluted, no seventh-grader could possibly follow them). But don’t worry, we still have eight more Legion installments to review before DC ended the franchise’s tenure in Adventure Comics with the May, 1969 issue.

Throwback Thursday: Behind Catholicism’s “Purple Curtain” in Latin America

For today’s “Throwback Thursday” installment, we’re going to take a look back at this slightly revised post that was first published on August 29, 2015.

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Behind the Purple Curtain
By Walter Manuel Montaño
Cowman Publications, 1950, 327 pages

5 Stars

Americans in the 1950s Cold War-era were accustomed to hearing about the poor souls trapped behind the Soviet Union’s “Iron Curtain” and Communist China’s “Bamboo Curtain.” In “Behind the Purple Curtain,” ex-Dominican monk and evangelical missionary, Walter Montaño, examines the intolerance of Roman Catholicism in regions where it enjoyed a religious majority and received the strong support of the local and national governments.

In 1950s Europe, the Catholic church was closely allied with the fascist regimes in Spain and Portugal and there were still disturbingly vivid memories of Catholicism’s strong ties to Mussolini’s National Fascist Party in Italy, Pavelic’s Ustase in Croatia, the post-Pilsudski Sanacja and Dmowski’s Endecja in Poland, and to Petain’s Vichy France. But Montaño’s focus is mainly on Latin America where the Catholic church held sway for 400 years.

The rule of the Spanish conquistadors and their successors eventually gave way to unstable, quasi-democracies and military-backed dictatorships throughout Latin America, but the Catholic church maintained its death grip on the enormous peasant population through its falangist political organizations and alliances with civil governments. Montaño gives many examples of the church’s often-lethal intolerance of Protestants within Latin America and cautions North American Protestants to maintain their vigilance otherwise they would face similar circumstances. Montaño’s warnings may come across as quaintly paranoid and sensationalistic to the contemporary reader accustomed to today’s prevailing spirit of tolerance and ecumenism, but the reality for believers in many parts of world in the 20th-century was that Catholic hegemony often meant harassment, persecution, and even death.

Sixty-nine years after “Behind the Purple Curtain” was written we find that the Catholic church no longer enjoys anywhere near the political prestige and influence it once did. American evangelicals no longer need worry about the pope manipulating Washington politics from his Vatican throne. These days, pope Francis can’t even get his American membership to attend obligatory mass on Sundays. The real danger to contemporary Christian witness began several decades ago when some evangelicals began embracing Catholics as co-belligerents in social causes, which transitioned into compromising the Gospel of Jesus Christ and embracing works-righteousness Catholics as fellow Christians (see Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, Rick Warren, etc.). But Catholicism still teaches the same fundamental doctrines as those taught at the time of the Reformation. Most importantly, Catholics teach salvation by sacramental grace and merit while evangelicals proclaim salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. For most Catholics, the “gospel” is receiving the church-administered sacraments, trying to live a “good” life, and hoping their “good” outweighs their “bad” at the end. They’re relying on their works-religion and their own righteousness, not Jesus Christ, for their salvation. So why are some evangelicals so eager to embrace Roman Catholics as “brothers in Christ”? Montaño saw the coming evangelical compromise and betrayal of the Gospel even as far back as 1950 when the leading figure of American Protestantism at the time, Dr. John R. Mott, was already embracing Rome and discouraging mission work to Latin America.

In addition to his many other Gospel ministries, Walter Montaño was executive director of Christ’s Mission, a mission to Roman Catholics based in New York City, from 1951 to 1960.

Very recent reprints of this book are available from Amazon.com. See here. Also see my Books tab here for a long list of books which critically examine Roman Catholicism.

To read my review of the biography of Walter Montaño, see here.

Star Trek / Legion of Super-Heroes Crossover: Mr. Spock, meet Brainiac 5

Star Trek / Legion of Super-Heroes
Written by Chris Roberson, Pencils by Jeffrey Moy, Inks by Philip Moy, Colors by Romulo Farjardo, Jr.
IDW Publishing and DC Comics, 2012, 152 pages

4 Stars

What do you get when you mix the crew of the original Star Trek television series (1966-1969) with DC Comics’ Legion of Super-Heroes? Writer, Chris Roberson, explored that fascinating concept in this crossover graphic novel, which compiles six separate installments published monthly from October 2011 to March 2012.

Plot

Chapter One

The story begins with six Legionnaires – Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, and Shadow Lass – traveling in a time bubble from a mission back to the 31st century. Something goes wrong with the craft and Brainy struggles to make an emergency “landing.” Meanwhile, back in the 23rd century, the senior officers of the USS Enterprise – Captain James T. Kirk, Lieutenant Commander Spock, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, and officers Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov – enter the ship’s transporter expecting to enjoy some shore leave in San Francisco. What about Scotty? Hey, somebody has to stay behind and run the ship. The Legionnaires and Star Fleet officers reappear in different locales on 23rd century Earth; the Legion immediately harassed by an angry mob and the Trekkers confronted by hostile military units, but both Brainy and Spock deduce it’s a different Universe!

Chapter Two

We learn that a mysterious emperor controls the Imperial Planets from his palace on Earth and his forces relentlessly subjugate additional worlds. The Legion escapes the mob via their super-powers and the Trekkers escape the Imperial army via a shuttlecraft. Brainy leads the Legion contingent on a hunt for the source of two “temporal disturbances” registering on his “chronometer,” when the sextet is suddenly confronted by the equally surprised Trekkers (i.e., temporal disturbance #1).

Chapter Three 

A confrontation ensues between the Legionnaires and Trekkers, but serious damage is averted when cooler heads (Brainiac 5 and Spock) prevail. After the formal introductions, the two teams begin to discuss possible solutions to the timestream problem when they are attacked by the “new universe” version of the Legion’s classic foe, the Fatal Five (replete with some Star Trek elements), in service to the Imperial Planets. The attackers are defeated by the Legionnaires’ powers in combination with the Trekkers’ technology. The two teams then adopt a joint plan: three LSHers and three Trekkers will take a jury-rigged time machine to try and fix the time line at the “point of historical divergence” while Team B checks out temporal disturbance #2.

Chapter Four

Team A (Brainy, Spock, Bones, McCoy, Checkov, Cosmic Boy, and Saturn Girl) don’t get too far with their time machine jalopy and “crash land” in the pre-historical past where they are confronted by primitive tribesmen. Team B (Kirk, Uhura, Sulu, Shadow Lass, Lightning Lad, and Chameleon Boy) follows their sensors to the headquarters of the Imperial Planets where the emperor, informed of their approach, awaits. Both teams come face to face with the same “immortal” being known by various names in different eras: Vandal Savage/Flint/Vandar the Emperor.

Chapter Five

On pre-historic Earth, Vandal Savage imprisons Team A. Shortly afterwards, a young girl helps the six escape. Who is she? The girl is actually being mind-controlled and leads the team to a powerful being, although captive, who has been secretly playing a major role in this story from the start. The being reveals himself to be the powerful Q (a character in the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager Star Trek series), who has been forced to do the bidding of Vandal Savage/Flint/Vandar. Forward to the 23rd century; Vandar initially fetes Team B, but then reveals his intent to forcibly extract information from them about the future so that he can manipulate the present reality accordingly.

Chapter Six

Emperor Vandar tortures three members of Team B close to death, but with no results, and prepares to interrogate the remaining three. Kirk buys time by chiding Vandar and eliciting unrestrained emotion. Back on pre-historic Earth, Brainy and Spock discuss with Q possible ways to free him from the control of Vandal Savage. Vandal and his savage tribesmen interrupt the deliberations, but when Cosmic Boy releases the “inhibitor collars” from the warriors, they resort back to intertribal squabbling. Spock and Brainy free Q from his confinement and the powerful being immediately “fixes” the time line. We next see the six Legionnaires back in their time bubble headed to the 31st century and the six Star Fleet officers beginning their shore leave in 23rd century San Francisco, both groups completely unaware of their alter-Universe adventure.

Commentary

I enjoyed this crossover quite a bit. Fans of the Legion and/or Star Trek will appreciate the many details Roberson includes from both franchises. The intellectual sparring between Brainy and Spock is not to be missed. Kirk’s brash bravado is also well-characterized. The artwork is a big step-up compared to the illustrations of the Legion’s latter years, especially Romulo Farjardo, Jr.’s striking coloring.

The plot of this story was a bit convoluted with the various timelines and the alter-Universe. But that’s the name of the game these days. I cut my teeth on comics during DC’s Silver Age, when time was linear, reality was reality, and there was only one Universe. But DC and comics in general are in a precarious financial situation and reboots with changing characters and different dimensions and Universes are intended to keep things perpetually in flux for younger minds that are less satisfied with linear predictability.

CSN&Y: Squabbling Troubadours

Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young
By Peter Doggett
Atria Books, 2019, 359 pages

5 Stars

My five older sisters always had the record player or radio constantly playing in the house when I was growing up, but I began listening to AM Top 40 in earnest for myself in 1969 at the age of thirteen with my inexpensive Panasonic AM radio/cassette player combo. My oldest sister happened to be in college that year and she came home for winter break with a box of her roomate’s LPs in tow. Flipping through the albums, I was intrigued by three grungy looking hippies; David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash, on the cover of their eponymous debut and gave it a spin. Wow! I was captivated by the trio’s songcraft and soaring vocal harmonies. No more Top 40, bubble-gum pop music for me. Neil Young joined the group before they went on tour and I became a hardcore fan of CS&N and CSN&Y and all of their various solo and collective permutations and faithfully bought ALL of their albums (see far below) for the next eight years. I was such a dedicated fan that I even collected the back catalogs of their previous bands – the Byrds (Crosby), Buffalo Springfield (Stills and Young), and, to a lesser extent, the Hollies (Nash) – and would subsequently become a lifelong fan of the Byrds. CSN&Y had a huge fanbase, which began with their appearance at the 1969 Woodstock festival from whence they were subsequently crowned the “voice of a generation.” 

However, after the release of their “CSN” album in 1977, I lost interest in the group. Why? Their music seemed to grow stale and their never-ending political rants began to grate. In recognition of the group’s 50th anniversary, a couple of biographies were just published, including this one by music journalist, Peter Doggett, who focuses mainly on the first five years of the band (I’m currently reading the second biography). I thought I knew all the stories pretty well, but Doggett provides a lot of interesting new information.

It’s tough enough when a group has one prima donna, but CSN&Y had four by design. Although they were the #1 rock group in the world after the release of their second album, “Déjà Vu,” their demise was already guaranteed. These guys made millions by singing about peace and love, but after their initial start, they couldn’t stand being in the same room together. Copious drug intake and hyper-inflated egos fueled the interpersonal animosity and the declining quality of the music. The internecine squabbling within CSN&Y was symbolic of the false promises of the Woodstock Nation. Yes, there is peace eternal and perfect brotherhood, but they are only found in salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

CS&N (and occasionally with Y) periodically joined together to pay the bills from 1977 until 2015, although they had largely devolved into an oldies band. Crosby then permanently alienated his bandmates with some rather infelicitous remarks. However, freed from the restricting confines of CS&N, Croz has recorded four interesting solo albums in the last five years.

Just for grins, I plugged my memory battery into my CPAP machine and came up with the list below of all of the CSN&Y records that I bought between 1969 and 1977. Rather than spend a lot of time reviewing the albums, I’m providing just a simple 1-to-5 star rating:

  • Crosby, Stills, and Nash (1969) – CS&N  5 Stars
  • Neil Young (1968, remixed and re-released in 1969) – Young  3 Stars
  • Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969) – Young  4 Stars
  • Déjà Vu (1970) – CSN&Y  5 Stars
  • Stephen Stills (1970) – Stills  4 Stars
  • After the Gold Rush (1970) – Young  4 Stars
  • 4 Way Street (1971) – CSN&Y (live)  4 Stars
  • If I Could Only Remember My Name (1971) – Crosby  3 Stars
  • Songs for Beginners (1971) – Nash  4 Stars
  • Stephen Stills 2 (1971) – Stills  3 Stars
  • Graham Nash/David Crosby (1972) – Crosby and Nash  4 Stars
  • Stephen Stills/Manassas (1972) – Stills and Manassas  5 Stars
  • Harvest (1972) – Young  5 Stars
  • Wild Tales (1973) – Nash  2 Stars
  • Down the Road (1973) – Stills and Manassas  1 Star
  • Time Fades Away (1973) – Young (live)  1 Star
  • Byrds (1973) – Crosby and the other four original bandmembers 2 Stars
  • On the Beach (1974) – Young  2 Stars
  • Wind on the Water (1975) – Crosby and Nash  4 Stars
  • Stills (1975) – Stills  3 Stars
  • Stephen Stills Live (1975) – Stills (live)  3 Stars
  • Tonight’s the Night (1975) – Young  1 Star
  • Zuma (1975) – Young  3 Stars
  • Whistling Down the Wire (1976) – Crosby and Nash  2 Stars
  • Illegal Stills (1976) – Stills  2 Stars
  • Long May You Run (1976) – Stills and Young  1 Star
  • CSN (1977) – CS&N  4 Stars
  • Live (1977) – Crosby and Nash (live)  3 Stars

Yup, twenty-eight albums was A LOT of recorded output for four guys in eight years. They cranked ’em out like pizzas.

Colossal Boy betrays the Legion?

It’s the beginning of the month, so that means it’s time to once again climb into our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for another adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…

“The Colossal Failure!”
Adventure Comics #371, August, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Curt Swan, Inker: Jack Abel.

5 Stars

Plot

After a routine day at Legion headquarters, Gim Allon, aka Colossal Boy, heads home for an evening of rest and relaxation with his parents. Two strangers show up at the door claiming to be journalists and ask the famous super-hero and his parents for an interview. But the men’s 3-D camera is actually a ray machine that transforms the parents into glass. The couple are somehow still alive in this fragile form, but the villains tell Allon they will destroy them unless he divulges the secrets of the Legion’s candidate training and testing process. Not privy to that information, Allon reluctantly agrees to acquire it.

In the Legion’s very next emergency mission, Colossal Boy purposely displays uncharacteristic incompetence resulting in the Legion’s newly elected leader, Ultra Boy, ordering him to attend re-training classes. Bouncing Boy notices Allon’s strange satisfaction with the demotion and several days later, after Colossal Boy has begun his retraining regime, breaks into his comrade’s apartment in search of clues, only to find a stash of classified candidate training documents. Allon is brought before the Legion council and charged with conspiracy. He offers no defense and is found guilty. The story ends with Colossal Boy being expelled from the Legion and walking dejectedly out of the team’s headquarters. Is this the end of Colossal Boy? Who were those thugs working for? Find out in a couple of weeks when we review Adventure #372.

Comments

This is a good intro to an interesting two-part saga. With the large number of Legion members, a story that focuses primarily on one member is always a nice change of pace. One of the more memorable events in this story is Shooter’s introduction of Chemical King as an aspiring Legion candidate. In our review of the Adult Legion in Adventure #354 last August (see here), we learned that Chemical King would join the Legion and subsequently sacrifice his life “to prevent World War VII.”


Also included in this issue is the lame secondary story below:

“When Superboy Walked Out on the Legion!”
Writer: Ed Hamilton, Penciller: George Papp, Cover art: Neal Adams

2 Stars

Plot

Strange aliens from the planet Thrann visit Smallville and put the town’s entire populace into a deep slumber with a sleep ray. When Superboy confronts them, the visitors inform him that they desire that he be one of Thrann’s resident super-heroes. Fearful that the scientifically advanced Thrannians could wreak havoc on Earth if he refuses, Superboy reluctantly complies. At that moment, a contingent of Legionnaires show up at Smallville saying they need Superboy’s help with an emergency in the 30th century, but the Boy of Steel declines, saying he’s joining a new super-hero team. On their way back to their planet, the Thrannians pick up five additional heroes from different worlds using the same gentle extortion. Assembled together at Thrann, the super-heroes gradually warm to their new environs, but the sextet still miss their home planets. A quarrel soon breaks out between Superboy and the other five, and the Thrannians reluctantly advise the entire group to go back to their own worlds. Behind closed doors, the group celebrates the results of their staged quarrel and return to their own planets.

Commentary

This story was originally presented in Superboy #101 (December 1962) as “The Valhalla of Super-Companions.” Two panels were added to the original layouts for this issue in order to force-fit an awkward Legion connection. This is a very simple story with simple artwork typical of super-hero comics in 1962. It’s rather surprising that the cover is connected to the much-inferior secondary story rather than to the primary Colossal Boy saga.

Argh! Those “massive fireballs of force” will getcha every time.

Yes, it’s time once again to climb into our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for another adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…

“The Devil’s Jury!”
Adventure Comics #370, July, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Curt Swan, Inker: Jack Abel

Plot

We pick up where left off last issue (see here); in 1930s Smallville with Legionnaires, Duo Damsel, Mon-El, Shadow Lass, and Superboy hunted down and cornered by the powerful sorcerer, Mordru the Merciless. Before executing the four heroes, Mordru boasts that he has destroyed the other members of the Legion and their headquarters back in 30th century Metropolis. But before Mordru can act, Superboy saves himself and his comrades by burrowing an escape tunnel at lightning speed. In order to thwart Mordru’s evil mental probing, the Boy of Steel uses a hypnosis ray to erase all memories of the Legion from the minds of the quartet and they quickly assimilate into Smallville’s citizenry.

Foiled in his attempt to locate the Legionnaires, Mordru summons his formidable army from the 30th century. To limit the search for the foursome, the powerful sorcerer isolates and lifts Smallville to the fringes of outer space. Mordru’s soldiers eventually apprehend the four teens as likely suspects, but release them when they manifest no knowledge of their hero identities.

In the meantime, Pete Ross, Clark Kent’s best friend and the only person on Earth who knows Clark’s true identity, is befuddled by his friend’s inaction in the face of such calamity. Surmising that Clark has somehow forgotten his identity, he devises a plan, with the help of Lana Lang as Insect Queen, to trigger his friend’s memory, which proves successful. Superboy then uses the aforementioned hypnosis ray to jolt Duo Damsel, Mon-El, and Shadow Lass back to full cognizance.

With Pete Ross disguised as Superboy and one of Duo Damsel’s selves masquerading as Shadow Lass, the Legionnaires attack Mordru’s army, but are defeated. In his cavernous lair on the outskirts of Smallville, the sorcerer prepares to execute the four, but the real Superboy and Shadow Lass, along with Insect Queen, attack and momentarily defeat Mordru. However, the sorcerer’s powers prove to be too formidable and all six teens are subdued.

The young prisoners are forced to stand before Mordru and a jury of the “greatest criminals of the 30th century” where they are unanimously found guilty of “numerous acts of anti-crime” and sentenced to a slow death in a sealed, underground vault. However, the jury foreman turns out to be a malcontent who enables the heroes to escape. Nevertheless, Mordru becomes aware of the breakout, and prepares to annihilate the heroes once and for all with a conjured “massive fireball of force.” Instead, the powerful fireball causes the cavern to collapse, entombing Mordru and freeing the six teens.

After the hypnosis ray is used once again to erase Lana’s knowledge of Clark Kent’s true identity, the four Legionnaires return to 30th century Metropolis expecting their fellow Legionnaires to have been annihilated as Mordru had claimed. Instead they discover that through the combined efforts of Princess Projectra, Dream Girl, and her sister, the White Witch, Mordru’s sorcerous attack had been neutralized and he was tricked into believing he was victorious.

Commentary

This issue was a decent ending to the excellent introduction in Adventure #369, although the reader will inevitably ask themselves why Mordru went to all the trouble of staging a foregone jury trial after he had vanquished the Legionnaires. The novelty of seeing the Legionnaires navigate the 20th century along with cameos by honorary Legion member, Lana Lang, and reservist, Pete Ross was entertaining. The artwork in this issue is noticeably not up to Curt Swan’s usual high standards. Perhaps Shooter’s preliminary layouts were given too much prominence in this case? Swan was undoubtedly running out of steam at this point given all of his responsibilities at DC. His assignment as the Legion’s penciller would run out after two more issues.

I surely don’t endorse the presentation of sorcery, witchcraft, etc. in this and some of the other Legion tales. It’s strange that young writer, Jim Shooter, utilized “metaphysical” content in some of his stories when there were so many non-metaphysical possibilities in a fictional series based in the 30th century. But this preoccupation with the occult and non-Christian “spirituality” was as prevalent in 1968 as it is now. I’ll address this topic at more length at the end of this series.

Folks, only ten more issues to go in our thirty-five-issue, Legion Silver Age series. Let’s throttle back the rocket engines and begin our long descent to the Metropolis Spaceport!

Irish-Catholic Fervor and the 1993 Brink’s Heist

Seven Million: A Cop, a Priest, a Soldier for the IRA, and the Still-Unsolved Rochester Brink’s Heist
By Gary Craig
ForeEdge, 2017, 280 pages

Way back in January 1993, the Brink’s armored truck depot in my hometown of Rochester, New York was robbed of $7.4 million dollars, making it the fifth largest robbery in U.S. history. The robbery and subsequent criminal trial of the accused accomplices, including a Catholic priest, made quite a splash in the local media at the time and the memory has stayed with me. As I was scanning the county library system’s collection of books recently, I stumbled across “Seven Million” and was eager to give it a spin.

As the story unfolds, we learn about Tom O’Connor, 53, a retired Rochester cop and proud Irish-American who had a lot of sympathy for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) at the time of the Catholics vs. Protestants conflicts (aka “Troubles”) in Northern Ireland. He belonged to a local Irish-American organization that was suspected of sending funds to the IRA. O’Connor became so involved in “the cause” that he personally assisted an IRA guerrilla, Sam Millar, 34, to immigrate illegally across the Canadian border into the U.S.

The ex-cop, O’Connor, happened to work security part-time at the Brink’s armored truck depot in downtown Rochester, which regularly handled pallets of cash from the Federal Reserve branch in Buffalo that were subsequently distributed to Rochester area banks. Security at the facility was somewhat lax and on January 5, 1993 several masked crooks robbed the depot of $7.4 million. Rochester police detectives and the FBI were convinced it was an “inside job” and suspected O’Connor’s involvement, especially after the ex-cop became increasingly uncooperative as the investigation progressed. In spite of O’Connor’s stone-walling, the Feds were able to uncover his connections to the IRA and Millar. Given the circumstances, it was suspected the stolen loot was going to be funneled to the IRA.

The continuing investigation determined that IRA radical, Millar, had moved from Rochester to Queens in New York City. An undercover police surveillance team repeatedly witnessed the Irishman spending a lot of cash without much of any means of support. Millar eventually led the Feds to a Manhattan apartment, which was being sublet by his friend, “father” Patrick Maloney, 61, a Catholic priest* of the Melkite Greek Rite who ran a halfway house, and was also a very proud Irishman who regularly gave speeches at IRA fundraising events throughout the region. Millar and Maloney were regularly seen entering the apartment followed by the unmistakable “whurr” sound of an electronic money-counting machine. The G-Men put two and two together and busted into the apartment, finding $2 million dollars. As expected, the serial numbers on the cash matched those of the stolen Brink’s money.

O’Connor, Millar, and Maloney were arrested in November 1993. The IRA thug and priest were convicted and jailed for four and five years respectively, but there wasn’t enough evidence to convict O’Connor and he walked despite having spent tens of thousands of dollars in cash on home improvements shortly after the robbery.

Two years after the heist, in 1995, a friend of Millar’s, Irish boxer Ronnie Gibbons, was convinced he deserved a pay-day for his part in the initial planning stages of the robbery and he made the drive on Interstate 90 from NYC to Rochester to see O’Connor to settle the score. He was never seen again. In 2000, severed body parts were found along the eastern banks of Lake Ontario. It took eleven years, but police forensics were finally able to determine the severed foot and torso belonged to Ronnie Gibbons. However, there was not enough evidence to charge O’Connor.

After serving his sentence, Sam Millar returned to Northern Ireland and became a successful crime-novelist. As for “father” Patrick Maloney, who would now be 87, he was still operating his charitable halfway house in Manhattan when this book was published. Tom O’Connor died in 2013 at the age of 74 without ever serving one day in jail. In addition to the murder of Gibbons, he had also been a suspect in another unsolved Rochester homicide. No one is sure how much if any of the missing $5 million dollars from the Brink’s robbery was forwarded to the IRA. It has never been recovered.

Author, Gary Craig, a reporter for the local Rochester Democrat and Chronicle newspaper, had covered the Brink’s heist for the paper from the outset. The book has a few lulls, especially the emphasis given to a jailed criminal who claimed intimate knowledge of the heist, which turned out to be a dead end. There’s also a disproportionately large number of pages devoted to the Gibbons sub-story, which Craig admits at the end of the book was due to an emotional connection to the boxer’s family. The editor should have helped Craig stay on target. Other than those minor qualifications, this was a very enjoyable read.

*Maloney certainly wasn’t the only Irish Catholic priest who lent support to the murderous IRA.

IMG_0041
The nondescript former Brink’s depot at 370 South Ave. in Rochester, N.Y. now serves as the home of Prime Automotive.
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Deceased Brink’s heist suspect, Tom O’Connor, and his former home at 256 Pattonwood Drive in Irondequoit, N.Y. Investigators speculated the substantial improvements made to this unassuming house in 1993 were financed with the money stolen in the Brink’s robbery.

Wait!!! Don’t touch the spindle wheel on that vault! Ach, too late.

My inbox is bursting at the seams with emails from readers asking when the next Legion installment will be posted (Not!), so without any further ado, let’s climb into our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for another adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…

“Mordru the Merciless!”
Adventure Comics #369, June, 1968
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Curt Swan
Cover art: Neal Adams, Inker: Jack Abel

Plot

Our story begins with Legion members, Duo Damsel, Mon-El, Shadow Lass, and Superboy, desperately fleeing Legion headquarters and the 30th-century via a time-cube to 20th-century Smallville, home of Superboy. In a subsequent flashback, we learn that Shadow Lass had inadvertently helped release Mordru the Merciless from a vault in the Legion headquarters’ subbasement where he was being held prisoner. Mon-El explains that Mordru had mastered the ultimate mystic powers of his sorcerers’ world and was gradually subjugating planet after planet in the galaxy. When Mordru set his sights on Earth, the Legion opposed him and were eventually able to imprison him inside an airless steel block, where he remained until newcomer Shadow Lass’s rookie mistake.

Safe for the moment in circa 1930s Smallville, the quartet knows that Mordru will soon be searching for them and arrange to blend into the town’s woodwork as quickly as they can. Mon-El stays with Superboy’s adoptive parents, the Kents, as a brush salesman cousin. Shadow Lass, with make-up covering her blue skin, stays with Lana Lang (Clark’s girlfriend) and her family as an exchange student, and Duo Damsel fibs her way into staying with Police Chief Parker and his family, pretending to be a distant relative.

Mordru quickly traces the team to Smallville and conjures up an evil darkness that methodically searches every crevice of the town for the heroes. Shadow Lass is able to shield her comrades with a protective shadow, but Mordru’s darkness turns some of Smallville’s citizens into his obedient spies.

Several catastrophes seem to overtake the town, but turn out to be only illusions. The heroes correctly surmise Mordru was trying to force their hand. Then, several real emergencies do occur, but Superboy and the other Legionnaires continue to hide their identities. However, another emergency overtakes Smallville when gangster, King Carter, and his entourage of henchmen roll into town and the King decides to make it his base of operations. The heroes’ hands are tied as the crook extorts tribute money from the town’s small businesses, but Pa Kent organizes a rebellion and the citizens successfully overthrow Carter and his thugs. Inspired by the example of the brave townsfolk, the Legionnaires ditch their disguises and decide to return to the 30th-century to confront Mordru head-on. Little do the heroes know they are being spied upon by Lana Lang, who is under Mordru’s control. In a matter of seconds, the teens are confronted by the powerful and angry sorcerer himself.

How can the foursome possibly escape their most powerful foe? Is this the end of the Legion? Find out in a couple of weeks when we review “The Devil’s Jury!” in Adventure Comics #370.

Commentary

Once again, Shooter does the incredible by introducing Mordru the Merciless, one of the Legion franchise’s most formidable and enduring enemies. This was such a good story with a lot of personal interaction (always rare for a Legion tale), including Duo Damsel’s unrequited crush on Superboy. When Legion fans talk about the franchise’s top-ten tales, this is one that’s always in the mix and not just because of the plot-line. Neal Adam’s cover is probably the best in our 35-issue review series. Curt Swan’s pencil’s are top-notch as usual, but in this issue, Jack Abel, joins on as the Legion’s inker and the results are extraordinary! Wow! Abel’s use of “chiaroscuro” (the use of strong contrasts between light and dark) is masterful and strongly enhances this story of the sinister master sorcerer.

Trivia alert: Shooter identified Mordru’s home planet as “Xerox.” The same-named, Rochester-based, copier company was already successful by 1968, meaning that Shooter’s problematic designation somehow slipped by the editor.

Credibility alert: Would we really expect to find vaults with mechanical spindle wheel handles in the 30th-century?

Brokeback Vatican

In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy
By Frédéric Martel
Bloomsbury, 2019, 555 pages

I didn’t realize that many Catholic clerics were homosexual until I began attending a Catholic high school that was administered by the Irish Christian Brothers and became indirectly aware about such things. Several of the brothers were decidedly effeminate and one of my guidance counselors posited some inappropriate questions to me during one of our sessions. That was back in the early 70s. Over the last twenty-years, we’ve all witnessed headline after headline of Catholic priests sexually abusing children, especially boys. What are the reasons for that? I’ve stated for years that Catholicism’s rule of clerical celibacy was both a magnet for and an incubator of sexual deviancy. Sources both Catholic and non-Catholic are now coming forward examining the reasons why so many priests are sexually deviant. For some strange reason, this topic was “off-limits,” until now.

French investigative journalist, Frédéric Martel, has dropped this bombshell on the Catholic church and the effects will be iconoclastic. In interviews with numerous priests, bishops, and cardinals, Martel exposes the truth that the church has kept hidden for centuries; a large percentage of Catholic clerics are either practicing homosexuals or sympathetic homophile “fellow travelers.” The percentage of gay clerics grows larger the higher one goes up the hierarchy. Powerful prelates reward their “proteges” with important positions and the “parish” is perpetuated.

Martel confirms that Catholic seminaries with their rule of clerical celibacy attracted young men who were societal misfits and not agreeable to marriage. He closely examines the papacies of Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, both for their promotions of homosexuals to powerful positions and for their strong denunciations of homosexuality according to official church teaching. In an example of “The lady doth protest too much” Shakespearean hypocrisy, Martel shows that some of the most vocal critics of homosexuality were/are practicing homosexual clerics.

This book takes no prisoners. Martel is a homosexual and clearly has an axe to grind in chastising the church and propagating the LGBTQ agenda. But the Catholic church has no answers for the truths he reveals. Although I applaud this book for revealing the Vatican’s dark secrets, it was difficult to read because of the abundance of sordid details.

I’m not an anti-homosexual crusader as my old pastor was 35 years ago. Sin is sin. But the propagation of the LBGTQ agenda has had and will have alarming negative effects on the family and society in general.

The salient irony of this tempest that I don’t want you to miss is that a religion that teaches merited salvation is led to a sizeable degree by men who are either practicing homosexuals, pedophiles, or homophile “fellow travelers.” Every Roman Catholic and evangelical Vatican-watcher needs to read this book, as difficult as it may be.

“26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” – Romans 1:26-27