Last week, when I covered the Beefeater in this column, I mentioned how that Beefeater’s dad was a partner to a World War II era American hero named General Glory. When the Beefeater tried to tell his wife about his old man’s adventures with the good General, his wife reminded him that General Glory was a fictional character from American comic books.
Thing is, the Justice League books of the time dropped that line a couple times, and so it came as something of a surprise that General Glory was actually a real guy.
The story was that, yes, General Glory was a comic book hero in the DCU. Basically, he was Captain America type, complete with his own Bucky, a kid named Ernie with a bowl haircut.
Hey, does a bowl haircut sound familiar?
Yeah, it turns out that Guy Gardner, the only Green Lantern in the League at the time, was a HUGE General Glory fan, such that well into adulthood he was still getting an Ernie haircut.
General Glory’s return started when Guy and some old guy named Joe Jones got into a bidding war at an auction for an original General Glory comic. Guy won, but the old man persisted in wanting to read it, before he finally got ahold of the comic from an angry Guy and recited a few lines from the comic:
“Lady Liberty, hear my plea
From the land of the free
And the home of the brave!”
And then there was a flash of light, some stars and stripes went by, and when everything died down…there was General Glory.
Yes, General Glory was real. The old man was the real deal, but he didn’t remember the magic words to change into General Glory. Once changed, he had the innate goodness of being a Golden Age World War II era patriotic American superhero. He could run, leap, and fight while carrying on long monologues describing his actions as he went. Seriously, he did that, much to the confusion of the Justice League who wondered how anyone could talk while jumping around all over the dang place fighting Nazi super weapons that came out of the woodwork trying to kill him.
Oh, he also had one other superpower: he could make Guy Gardner polite.
See, General Glory’s return also had his (now elderly) archenemy come out looking to kill him. Plus, his old sidekick, now a high ranking Army officer named Ernest E. Ernest, wanted Glory for treason (Glory was innocent). The final confrontation between Glory and his old enemy, with Ernie by his side and an exasperated Justice League dragged along for the ride, did feature some of my favorite dialogue from that era.
GENERAL GLORY: It’s my archenemy, the Evil Eye!
MARTIAN MANHUNTER: Of course it is. I wonder if I am too old to join the Titans…
General Glory’s backstory unfolded gradually. His wartime adventures were sold as comic book stories to promote the idea he was, in fact, just a comic book hero. At war’s end, he was taken in by the government, forced to recite his magic words backwards, reverted back to ordinary Joe Jones, and then brainwashed into forgetting the words. Since Joe actually had been chosen by the spirit of Lady Liberty, eventually he remembered the words, became General Glory again, and joined the Justice League.
And yes, the Justice League creators made sure to reference who he was an obvious stand-in for so particularly slow readers would further get the joke.
General Glory more or less disappeared when the humor era ended. He actually quit between issues, in a move that was described as incredibly moving. Kinda wish we coulda seen it…
Joe Jones would eventually pass the powers along to another man, one Donovan Wallace. Wallace would be killed off-panel during a Justice Society storyline where World War II legacy heroes were being hunted down and killed. Man, that sure sucked. But General Glory wasn’t the sort of character that could survive outside a humorous superhero book, so it made a sad sort of sense that his fictional history actually more or less repeated itself.