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Subj: The Once Doctor Mid-Nite.... Beth Chapel.
Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 at 07:10:39 pm EST (Viewed 1559 times)
The Crisis on Infinite Earths. The DC Universe would be reborn, but for Earth-2 and the Justice Society the year 1985 would prove nothing short of Devastating.
My awareness of the Justice Society was already there by 1984/5, but in so many ways Infinity Inc's first two years cemented my appreciation, a generational context gave this world an appeal all of its own - with the Daughter of Wonder Woman, the Son of Hawkman, The Green Lantern's children, there was nothing quite like Infinity Inc at the time and the book benefitted enourmously from being launched in DCs glossy high quality 'New Format', this unfortunately also meant it was next to impossible to find at the time as it was not distributed via Newstand and Comics shops were virtually unknown and out of reach to the common reader.
But an interesting observation on Roy Thomas' approach to the series is that despite what seemed to be the complete extended family of the JSA in its debut line-up Thomas was still evolving the team and expanding iits horizons even by the end of the second year, with the Crisis instigating the creation of three new members, the three having some novel connections to existing JSA members.
With browsing some of these issues again recently it struck me that it has now been 30 years since the debut of the New Hourman, Wildcat, and Doctor Mid-Nite. Yolanda Montez was, on the face of it, a typical example of 80s pop musical influence and fashion, what was most unusual about her though is her hispanic background. And this mission to broaden the horizons of the all-white nature of the book extended to the creation of the equally impressive, but also now sadly forgotten, Dr Beth Chapel.
There is certainly no defence for the gaudy (well, even back then it was terrible) costume Ms Chapel was saddled with, and it is quite possible the costume is what eventually doomed her, but looking at those debut issues again it brings back the sense of such a great waste with this character. Doctor Mid-Nite had always been a hybrid Batman character in the form of Charles McNider, with Beth Chapel however Roy Thomas took a decision to move the character wholly away from that association and into something that was more distinctive and individualist. Reading her first full appearance in Infinity #20 all of the signs are there to support the idea of a progressive reinvention of an old concept in much the same way that Pieter Cross would be introduced much much later by Matt Wagner and latterly reworked by Geoff Johns. But while Pieter Cross, like Beth, was an understudy of Charles McNider Beth Chapel never caught the same success as Cross did. Certainly it can be no fault of the character of Beth Chappel, Roy Thomas delivered a strong debut for her, and her specialist area as a medical Doctor would be used withing the following issues. Any Yet... was it the costume? The character is, as I say, a good strong one. Even when Infinity Inc was ultimately cancelled it should have been quite possible, indeed likely, that Beth Chapel would simply translate to another book, where her medical expertise would be exploited and the character firther refined. Cetainly Rick Tyler would survive the ages. But not Beth, or indeed Yolanda. And that has always seemed to me to be such a great waste of two memorable Earth-2 characters and an even greater waste of potential as well as fine examples of greater ethnicity in the DCU.
In some other world, if things were different, Geoff Johns might well have plucked Beth Chapel from obscurity. In place of Pieter Cross we might have had a fully realised female Doctor Mid-Nite, a more distinct creation at that.
So spare a thought for this now forgotten, but potentially excellent, Justice Society footnote.