Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Freedom Fighters #7

Freedom Fighters #7 (April 1977)
title: "The Emperor of the North Pole!"
writer: Bob Rozakis
penciller: Dick Ayers
inker: Jack Abel
letterer: uncredited
colorist: uncredited
editor: Tony Isabella
letter column: Tony Isabella
cover: Rich Buckler & Jack Abel

Order of Appearance: All appear in one group scene on page one: (from left) Uncle Sam, Phantom Lady, The Human Bomb, Black Condor, Doll Man, and The Ray. 

Guest Stars:  The Crusaders (one-page cameo)

Supporting Characters:
Martha Roberts, NYC District Attorney David Pearson 

The Elf, Homilus (behind the scenes)

Overall Summary: 
The Freedom Fighters investigate Santaland and come across an attempt to tilt the world on its axis to create a new Ice Age! 

Plot Summary:
At Martha Roberts' cabin in Rutland, Vermont where the Freedom Fighters are hiding out, the Black Condor goes crazy trying to use his new mental powers to track down the Silver Ghost. Ever since Homilus the demon had attacked them, when he tries to access his mental powers he goes berserk. This time, after he calms down, he tells the others that he had a vision of Santaland in upstate New York. They head there. 

At Santaland, a villain known only as The Elf is planning to tilt the earth onto a new axis, causing a new Ice Age with him as the new Emperor of the North Pole. His motivation is that the world "scorns anybody who isn't like everybody else." 

The Freedom Fighters arrive at Santland, and the Elf sics deadly toys on them: tin soldiers that fire real bullets, and a teddy bear that resembles a Grizzly! 

In New York, Martha hears about the battle going on at Santaland but cannot get away from her job at the television news station to join her friends. 

The Freedom Fighters ask Black Condor to use his mental powers again to try to figure out why toys are attacking them. Just as he succeeds in "seeing" the Elf, the master villain arrives with deadly toys of Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Robin, and Supergirl. 

The Freedom Fighters use team-work to destroy the super-powerful dolls. As they destroy them, Uncle Sam tries to calm down a berserk Black Condor. However, Black Condor does not calm down. Instead he flies off with Sam due West. 

Just as the rest of the Freedom Fighters destroy all of the super-hero dolls, the Ray inadvertently freezes the Elf. He therefore cannot corroborate that he was working with or for the Silver Ghost. Reluctantly, the Freedom Fighters escape again. 

Back in New York City, a group calling themselves The Crusaders arrive at DA Pearson's office, ready and willing to hunt down the Freedom Fighters. 

The big news this issue is the debut of the new art team, Dick Ayers and Jack Abel. Although I had been familiar with Jack Abel by this point in my life, I was not familiar with Dick Ayers. And to tell you the truth, except for a few issues of Kamandi and a Dr. Light origin story, I am still not familar with Dick Ayers. I researched him for this review, and it looks like he was a staple on Marvel western series up through the Fifties and Sixties. Then in late 1977 he moved from Marvel to DC, and Freedom Fighters was his first super-hero book. He would stay on it until it was cancelled. 

I enjoyed Dick Ayers' work immensely. His layouts seemed good, and there were very few incidents where I could not figure out what was happening in the story. And his close-ups and emotive scenes always seemed good. However, I never cared for Jack Abel's inking work. I had seen him on older Legion of Super-Heroes stories and did NOT like him. he always seemed to overpower the pencils. For better or worse I lumped him into the same inking group as Vince Colletta, Joe Giella, and Mike DeCarlo, those inkers who just seemed to overpower their pencillers. No matter who the penciller was, the art would always make obviously (and usually painfully) clear who the inker was. 

Still, after the somewhat restrained, "cartoony" style of Ramona Fradon, I can't say that this issue's art was a disappointment. 

On the other hand.....the story! WHO approved this? Let me recap, in case you missed it: a nameless Elf gets a job at some Christmas-themed amusement center which is secretly working to tilt the Earth on its axis so that the Northern hemisphere will experience a new ice age, because other people treat the Elf badly. 

Whew, okay. 

Missing in here somewhere is the explanation that the Elf IS working for the Silver Ghost, who provided all the high tech. But why the Elf would need an army of Toyman-themed weapons is beyond me. Did he really expect the Justice League to show up and try to stop his plan? 

Unfortunately for most of the Freedom Fighters, they are not on their game this time out, as both the Ray and Phantom Lady try to blind the dolls; it takes Doll Man to point out the obvious pointlessness of that attack. Likewise, Black Condor doesn't do much except fly around in a berserk fit. This is definitely one of the lowpoints of his career. 

And of course, any story that features dolls of "the Justice League" that doesn't feature Aquaman gets demerits in my grade-book. Come on, Rozakis, sheesh! 

By the way, am I the only one who thought of the unnamed elf from Marvel's The Defenders while reading this story? That Elf would pop up in that book randomly and murder people, without any particular reason ever given. If you remember him, you know what I'm talking about. If not, that's really all there was to him. Defenders writer Steve Gerber left the book before any explanation at all could be provided for his appearances. 

Speaking of random appearances of Marvel characters, next week we will interrupt our regularly-scheduled Freedom Fighters run-down to introduce you to their cousins across the pond....The Invaders! Don't miss it, True Believers! 

Black Condor Moment 
Black Condor successfully uses his mental abilities to zero in on Santaland, 
a site secretly under the control of the Silver Ghost.    

Doll Man Moment
Doll Man successfully destroys the Supergirl doll via his new telekinetic powers.   

Human Bomb Moment
The Human Bomb (with a little help from his friend) successfully destroys 
one of the teddy bears threatening the Freedom Fighters.   

Phantom Lady Moment 
Phantom Lady successfully hides their escape from the arriving police.  

The Ray Moment

The Ray successfully melts the majority of the deadly dolls sent after them.  

Uncle Sam Moment
Uncle Sam successfully rids the fight of one of the 
deadly teddy bears by kicking it into orbit.  

Best Moment
It's Doll Man's show this time around, 
as he leads the Freedom Fighters to victory over the toys. 
He helps destroy a teddy bear, takes care of four of the Super Friends dolls, and 
tells the Ray and Phantom Lady how to better use their powers
(shown here).   

Worst Moment
The Ray freezes the Elf solid, making it impossible for him to corroborate their theory that he was working with and or for the Silver Ghost. Geez, Happy, think things through next time, eh?   

Moment They Could Have Been Cleared:
If the Ray had not accidentally frozen the Elf, the Fighters might have been able to get him to admit in front of the police that the Silver Ghost was alive and funding the Elf's activities. As it is, the Elf isn't talking. 

Freedom Fanmail
This issue's letter column features four letters, two in favor of the book, one luke warm, and one down-right against. Editor Tony Isabella introduces the new artists, Dick Ayers and Jack Abel, and wishes former artist Ramona Fradon well. Click to enlarge it for an easier-to-read version. 

Freedom of Information

  • The Human Bomb does not appear on the cover. 
  • The Fighters have been holed-up in Martha's cabin since Halloween, so they have been hiding for approximately 45 days.  
  • The Elf is never given a name, and we never learn if he survived being frozen solid by the Ray.
  • Although Martha hears about the ongoing battle at Santa Land while she is at her job in NYC, there are NO camera crews shown during the story who would supposedly be on-site filming the action. For that matter, there are no tourists running to escape the melee, either.   
  • Although I could not find any real-life equivalent to "Santa Land," there IS a Christmas Land located in upstate New York (Altamont, NY). Photos of the destination look similar to this issue's Santa Land. 
The Freedom Fighters
assembled by Len Wein

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