So - the last Balloon Buster story.
Writer James Robinson took the reigns of the Balloon Buster legend 15 years after Robert Kanigher's last BB story, and in one full issue, plus hints dropped in various others, made sweeping changes to Steve Savage's history - and in the process, and with help from 2 excellent artists, produced what might be the best ever Balloon Buster story.
Spinning out the 1994 crossover event Zero Hour (which made some loosey-goosey, but mostly minor changes to the timeline established in Crisis on Infinite Earths), James Robinson's title Starman, besides being an excellent title in its own right, did something very important - it made the idea of legacy important. In the time between the Crisis (which while celebrating the long history of DC Comics, kind of closed the book on many of its characters) and Starman, DC Comics seemed to try to forget its history and classic characters. The Justice Society of America, DC's 1st superteam, comprised of such golden greats as Hourman, Starman, original incarnations of The Flash, Green Lantern & Hawkman among others, was shuffled off to an alternate dimension, then eventually brought back only to have 1/2 the team murdered. This treatment of its past by DC Comics was entirely disrespectful, perhaps, in the eyes of James Robinson, as he used Starman to celebrate not only the golden age of heroes, but many aspects of DC's long history.
|1 panel appearance, revealing Steve Savage as Son of Scalphunter - from Starman Annual #2 (1997)|
Equally preposterous is that Robinson applies this affect to Steve Savage, The Balloon Buster. The name Savage is used to link 3 separate and previously unrelated DC Comics features. Robinson (in various issues of Starman, but finally illustrated in Starman Annual #2) proposes that the man who raised the young Savage and taught him to 'be the GUN!' was not his father - Steve Savage was the son of Brian Savage, the former Old West vigilante, Scalphunter. After Brian Savage's scalphuntin' days were over, he became sheriff of Opal City (Robinson's fictional city in the tradition of Metropolis, Gotham, Central City, etc., and longtime home of the Starman line), and was eventually shot & killed. A family friend, possibly a relative, took in the infant Steve Savage, and the story could resume as told in Steve's 1st appearance in All-American Men of War #112. It is also suggested that Brian Savage was the son of an even earlier Western hero, Matt Savage, Trail Boss, so Steve Savage was the inheritor of a newly fabricated heroic legacy, courtesy of James Robinson.
|Batman v. a faux-Balloon Buster|
|Final fate of Steve Savage - as related by Batman's thought balloons|
|Steve Savage - inheritor of a grape - I mean GREAT - family tradition|
In the present, Batman finally confronts the Balloon Buster-look-alike killer and is forced into an aerial chase in which Bats pulls some Steve Savage-esque stunts such as jumping from one biplane to another to rescue a hostage, then jumping BACK to his own plane in time to make a safe landing. WOW!
|Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery - Batman performs a Steve Savage-esque stunt by jumping from one biplane to another (with a hostage in tow!).|
|Pouring one out for The Balloon Buster|
With this issue re-cap, the initial mandate for this blog has been fulfilled. I've loved looking back at these obscure and mostly uncollected Balloon Buster stories, and hope to have posts on topics I love equally - sometime soon.
For the time being, I'm contemplating a tropical vacation in an alternate universe . . .