In the skull-shattering fourth installment of ATOMIC TWO-ON-ONE, Deane and Rod Keith continue customizing the uncharted plastic DC Universe, going head-to-head on Simon & Kirby’s “THE GUARDIAN”!
Deane: For this project, Rod and I selected yet another Jack Kirby creation to feature design variations past and present, namely the Guardian.
ROD: I think we both agree that the official Mattel version from DCUC wave 9, while welcome, seems somewhat bland. Despite proudly and accurately proclaiming on the package front “First Time in Six Inch!”, I have to admit feeling underwhelmed by how the Guardian turned out, especially in light of how the original prototype looked, that Mattel showed at Toy Fair in February 2009.
Despite being accurate to how Kirby portrayed him in his JIMMY OLSEN run (if one is willing to forego the Doctor Fate-fueled debate of whether ‘gold’ should be portrayed as ‘yellow’ when making a 3-D representation of a character from when printing processes forced such limitations), it seemed like Mattel ultimately went with the least interesting of all his looks. We know the Four Horsemen love the Fourth World, but still… .>sigh<
Deane: Of all of The Guardian’s looks, I think the Kirby NEW GODS era is pretty low-key and wanted to shoot for his original look.
ROD: From STAR-SPANGLED COMICS #7, April 1942, perchance?
Deane: Right. Recently, I picked up a collection of the original Joe Simon & Kirby stories. Policeman Jim Harper walks a beat in Suicide Slum and decides to mentor a group of unruly street hooligans, dubbed The Newsboy Legion. After being attacked by mob crooks, Officer Harper decides to don an outlandish costume, complete with a crash helmet and badge-shaped shield. He defeats the mobsters in front of the boys and earns their respect. Most issues end with the Newsboys suspiciously eyeing Officer Harper’s most recent bruises, trying to place where they had seen them before. The Guardian combines elements from two of Simon & Kirby’s past successes: shield totin’ CAPTAIN AMERICA and the boy-soldiers of BOY COMMANDOS. Somehow, it’s gets lost in the translation to lower Suicide Slum…
ROD: I remember reading some of the reprinted originals in the back pages of my tattered Jimmy Olsen Fourth World issues as a wee urchin myself, and not really appreciating them too much at the time. I also had a bit of a problem understanding what was going on with the Newsboy Legion and the Guardian that worked in CADMUS’ DNA Project, but I attribute that to Kirby’s crazy ‘jazz’ dialogue style, which flows a lot better when you’re reading it as an adult, and possibly inhaling liquid paper fumes. For the record, this clone of the original Jim Harper, now also called the “Golden Guardian” (once again, please note the ‘yellow’ of Mattel’s release) first showed up in JIMMY OLSEN #135, in 1971.
Deane: I was wracking my brain trying to recall my first contact with the character and I think the inauspicious occasion was 1976’s TEEN TITANS #44. Mal Duncan, a former gang member-turned Titan, was feeling bad about not having super powers and borrowed The Guardian costume from Speedy’s personal belongings. It turned out Speedy was the great nephew of Our Man Harper and somehow inherited the costume.
That lasted for about 5 issues and was never spoken of again.
ROD: I never even saw those issues, much less knew about that iteration of the character, until long after. Comic shops with a full roster of books were a fantasy back in the days of the newsstand, he said, revealing his age.
Deane: It wasn’t until reading ALL STAR SQUADRON that I found stories of the original hero. He didn’t contribute to many adventures, basically featured in ANNUAL #1 in which writer Roy Thomas decided to link the histories of three non-powered Mystery Men. In this story, we discover that the Guardian, the Atom, and the Wildcat were all trained by the same man.
That’s a page turner.
ROD: I loved that book, and likely that’s where I first enjoyed the character myself. But I think I really got to know him when the post-Crisis Superman books utilized huge chunks of Kirby’s ideas, with Project CADMUS and its crew part of the mysterious and majestic underbelly of Metropolis. The Guardian became a frequent guest in the books, as the head of security for CADMUS. That would be my most familiar version, especially since I love those pre-Doomsday years of the Super-titles.
Deane: For my end, I wanted to go with the Guardian’s original Golden Age look.
That required a new head sculpt, as the NEW GODS helmet is molded into the figure. I used a resin cast of an Aquaman head. I sculpted the new mask and crash helmet from a two-part epoxy putty. The Golden Age costume necessitated a new coat of blue to cover the neck, so I chose Tamiya French Blue. In retrospect, the yellow could have stood repainting as well.
ROD: Originally, when I first got my wave 9 figures (it seems so long ago), I went to the trouble of painting the helmet and shield gold. For the record, I used Tamiya Gold Leaf. He sat like that on my shelf for months.
I really did prefer Mattel’s prototype and thought that the gold detailing added some much needed richness to the basic yellow.
Deane: Agreed. I hadn’t realized The Guardian originally wore a red belt, with shield buckle. Thank goodness for that. The figure desperately needs the contrasting colour to give some excitement to the costume. It’s a shame that it was phased out over time. Again, trying for some sense of excitement, I painted his helmet, shield, and belt buckle Aztek Gold.
ROD: Once Deane and I decided to work on the Guardian for our latest 2-On-1, it was a simple matter to sand down the neck, upper torso and shoulders, and then paint the yellow shoulder and chest points to complete my version of Mattel’s original post-Crisis look. Oh, and because yellow is such a dink of a colour with which to try to get a decent covering, I went with an Opaque Yellow.
A simple but satisfying alteration: I have to say he pops much more on the shelf now. And, as a total non-sequitur, don’t the eyeholes in his mask make him resemble Adam West?
Deane: I would say that I like the Golden Age version more than the DCUC NEW GODS version, but that’s not saying much. He was never a member of the JSA and rarely hung out with the ALL STAR SQUADRON. Perhaps the figure could keep an eye out for some errant G.I. Joes… The Modern Clone Version is probably the most eye-grabbing of the Jim Harper looks.
ROD: Plus he looks a little less like a Doc Fate wanna-be. How hard would it have been for MATTEL to release a proper repaint in a funky Metropolis or Kirby-themed boxed set?
Next Up on ATOMIC2ON1: HAWKAPALOOZA! It’s a biggie!