Monday, April 1, 2019

Liberty Belle / Jessie Quick Comic Box Commentary

Yesterday was the 60th anniversary of the release of Action Comics #252. That means it was the 60th anniversary of Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) being introduced into the DC Universe.

There was a tremendous outpouring of love and support on social media, particularly on Twitter where fans and creators tweeted their love for Supergirl.

Yesterday afternoon, a new episode of DC Superhero Girls aired on the Cartoon Network, Supergirl being one of the members of the team.

Last night, the 17th episode of the fourth season of the Supergirl television show aired.

In essence, Supergirl is everywhere. There are even multiple other blogs and now podcasts dedicated to her history.

A couple of months ago I began to wonder if my creative energy might be better spent touting some other character. Maybe my work covering Supergirl was 'done'. Maybe I didn't need to champion her any more.

At first I thought about simply retiring the site and stopping blogging all together.

But then I thought, why not concentrate on another young woman, striving to be a hero, dealing with a legacy, and also being a sometime star of the small screen.

And so I welcome you to the new Comic Box Commentary, this one focusing on the enigmatic Jessie Chambers, better known as Jessie Quick, and also known as Liberty Belle. With a ton of history to pull from, a backlog of stories of her parents, and even a season of the Flash to pull from, it seemed too perfect. Heck. I read her stories in the Robinson era JLA, the early JSA issues, and even a Supergirl/Jessie Quick racing issue sponsored by Snickers.

Of course, we need a jumping on point for the blog. So I figured why not start where I first discovered Jessie, in the pages of Mark Waid's Flash.

The year was 1994. A number of DC's titles that had been rebooted after the Crisis were approaching their landmark 100th issues. And  to commemorate those anniversaries, each title had a major story arc running. Wonder Woman was in the midst of the arc where Artemis took over for Diana. Superman had Conduit 'killing' Clark Kent.

The Flash had 'Terminal Velocity'.

Now writer Mark Waid and artist Mike Wieringo were already spinning a lot of magic into the Flash title. But Waid was about to expand the mythology of this series by leaps and bounds. He introduced Max Mercury, an updated version of the old non-Marvel character Quicksilver. And with that the idea of 'the Speed Force', the extradimensional energy which fueled super-speedsters throughout time, came into being. It is hard to remember a time when the Speed Force wasn't part of the Flash and his stories.

Waid also was emphasizing Wally's love for Linda. We hadn't seen or heard the 'you are my Lightning Rod' style speech yet.

And Waid was bringing a larger sense of legacy to the Flash. He really wanted to show that there was a sense of belonging to all speedsters. They were a sort of club or extended family.  From Max (who had been around since the 1800's we learn), the veterans Jay Garrick and Johnny Quick, the Wally as the Flash, and down to the next generation, Impulse and our girl Jesse.

These issues are drawn by Sal Larocca.

Now I am dropping us into parts 3 and 4 of Terminal Velocity because this is where Jesse joins in.

The Flash is currently in a war with the Kobra Clan. Wally had recently run so fast that he nearly broke the speed of light and was nearly swallowed by the Speed Force. During that brief tangential run, he saw a vision of Keystone destroyed and his own death. Max Mercury, the 'zen master' of super speed, has been teaching Wally all the legends of the Speed Force.

Now, each time he pushes himself, the Flash crackles with speed force energy. He knows he might get absorbed at any time. He has to get his affairs in order. That means picking a successor. He gathers all the super-speedsters together.

Everyone assumes that Bart Allen, Impulse, is being groomed. But Impulse's out of control speed is concerning. Equally as inexperienced but much more polished is Jesse Quick.

You have to love the 90s version of Jesse's costume. Big goggles? Check. Leather jacket? Check. Excessive leg gear like pouches or knee pads? Check.

Max tells the story of a speedster from the days of the wild West how gained his speed via lightning and was able to stop a massacre between cowboys and Native Americans.

None of the speedsters there know of this minor speedster except Jesse who is a student of super-speed, putting together a thesis for her History degree.

It turns out that speedster is Max Mercury who has jumped through time when he also skidded by the Speed Force.

Meanwhile, Jesse's dad, Johnny Quick, is a nay-sayer, saying all super-speed is derived from science, not metaphysical energies.

Heading into the city, the group is shocked to find another Chillblaine (low level hoods using Captain Cold's tech) trying to pull of a simple 'snatch and grab' robbery!

Chillblaine against six super-speedsters isn't fair. But as the older guard helps with bystanders, Jesse and Bart take out the villain. Jesse taunts Chillblaine's attempts to drive off in a sports car, spinning the keys she grabbed from his hand at high speed.

It opens up Chillblaine to a super speed punch by Bart.

Hooray for the younger generation!

But this side mission is definitely an eye opener for Wally.

Bart is still to raw to wear the mantle of the Flash.

She's smart. She's careful. And she's fast.

Jesse Quick will be the new Flash!

What an opener for my favorite!

The next issue opens with Jesse now wearing a new costume, her own version of the Flash's classic look but still with the jacket which was de rigeur for the times, as well as the big goggles and the open cowl so her locks can flow. It is a great look. It must be short sleeve under the coat as she is wearing gloves and you see her forearms.

What a splash page!

You really felt like Jesse was poised to be the new Flash, or at least the new Kid Flash.

As an Allen and as a brash kid, Bart had to believe that he was the heir apparent.

Wally is pretty tough on Bart. He says outright that he has more faith in Jesse than he has in Bart.

I don't think it is false modesty. I think Jesse is a true student and knows her own limitations. She admits that she is just as green as Bart. She barely has been running. But Wally assures her it is the wisest move.

This isn't just schoolwork though. That threat of the Kobra cult is real. Wally has had a vision of Keystone City being surrounded by a force field and destroyed from the inside. He has that vision of his own death.

A force field that covers a city has to require a huge energy source. Maybe if the Flash family can uncover where that energy is coming from they can stop it from ever forming the field therefore changing the vision Flash saw.

They split into groups. Jesse and Bart head off on their own and discover an enormous field of solar collectors hidden in plain site as greenhouses. Kobra is using solar power.

Together they demolish the site.

On the other side of the county, the older Flashes discover a windfarm doing the same thing. Kobra is using wind power. Together, those Flashes destroy this site.

At least Kobra is a clean energy despot?

The speedsters regroup outside the city limits.

Despite their small victories, Kobra still has enough energy to activate their plan. The Flash family sees the force field manifesting around the city.

Perhaps they can get inside the field before it solidifies? Wally takes off. Jesse and Bart are right behind him.

Alas, on the way, Bart almost trips on a rock. He really is untrained. Jesse is able to stop him from falling without breaking stride. But with that pause, Bart cannot catch up in time.

Only Wally and Jesse are able to be in the city when the energy dome drops down, trapping them in and the other speedsters out.

In this one page we see the differences in the training and skills of Jesse and Bart.

But Wally isn't happy.

He needed all the speedsters if he was going to stop his vision from happening.

It turns out his vision isn't just his own disappearance into the Speed Force. In the vision, Wally also saw Linda die.

It is up to him and Jesse to change that fate.


This is some first adventure for Jesse. Assuming the mantle of the Flash, learning about the Speed Force, saving Linda! That's a lot on the plate of a young hero!

But Jesse is up for the challenge!

For a Jesse Quick collection, this is a hugely important set of issues and well worth seeking out.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

First of all: Good try, Anj, but I don't buy it.

Second: Boy, I didn't start reading DC comics until Infinite Crisis and the 90's feel weird to me. Yuppie "What is a 'Krypton'?" Clark Kent, Matrix Supergirl, leather-wearing Wonder Woman, Darkstar Donna Troy, one-handed "Forget Mera" Aquaman, Green Lantern Kyle "The Greatest -and only- of them all" Rainer... It all looks so dated now...

I find ironic that, at the same time that the existence of other Kryptonians and Green Lanterns were vetoed, the Flash Family exploded. And in hindsight, fans should have realized the Superman and Green Lantern families's culling set a precedent. They should have seen the Flash implosion coming. Six speedsters? There was no way DC wouldn't cut the number down sooner or later.

"You have to love the 90s version of Jesse's costume. Big goggles? Check. Leather jacket? Check. Excessive leg gear like pouches or knee pads? Check."


Anyway, the story is interesting, at least. And a good introduction for Jesse Quick. It's funny to think that sixteen years later Jesse and Kara would be full-fledged Leaguers.

Martin Gray said...

We need a new name for the blog - Quick Thoughts?

Anyway, nice first post, it was good to see Jess return after her debut in the 1992 JSA series. It's a shame, though, that she didn't tell Wally she'd happily continue his work, but she had her own legacy to build upon - sure, Johnny Quick and Liberty Belle weren't massive names, but Johnny was a first generation speedster (well, ignoring Quicksilver/Max Mercury) and Libby led the All-Star Squadron against the Ratzis... lots to be proud of there!

Anonymous said...

Came here for the annual comicboxcommentary April Fool's Joke, was not disappointed :) Thanks again Anj for putting a smile on my face... well done and well played!


Anonymous said...

This Gag never gets old does it Anj?

April 1st 2020 "Merry the Gimmick Girl Comic Book Commentary" starting with her historic team up with Mary Marvel and Clare Booth Luce...



Jeremy said...


I realize it may be in poor taste to comment on this publicly...but why hasn't DC acknowledged Supergirl's 60th?

Anonymous said...

I’d like to see the blog focus from now on solely on super-powered women wearing goggles. I don't think there is anyone blogging strictly about this yet - it's an unmet need of the community.

Sunglasses could also be featured weekly, on Sunglass Sundays.

Any character wearing goggles or sunglasses along with a baseball cap automatically gets featured in at least the year's honorable mentions.

With a special focus on:

Jesse Quick in James Robinson’s JLA/JSA crossovers during 2010/2011 - she was pestered by a minor supporting character going through a dark period, a Supergirl, but I don’t know if that part of the plot needs to be covered by this blog.

Teri Magnus, resurrected as The Flash by Ariel Masters (who may be Lois Lane?) in Justice League 3001. She also had to interact with that annoying Supergirl person.

The Interceptor, part of the lengthy Trinity book (2008), a goggled member of the military who may just be that same Supergirl.

Just some ideas to get the new blog started!