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Monday, 8 January 2018

Justice League of America -The MEGA Post!

All images are (c)2018 DC Comics

They were the Justice League of America but what is their story?

Brave And The Bold #28, March, 1960. Comics Vine tells the story so succinctly:

 "The Justice League of America first appear with Wonder Woman, The Flash (Barry Allen), Aquaman, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), and the Martian Manhunter teaming to spare the denizens of Happy Harbor, Rhode Island, from the mental thrall of Starro the Conqueror. Superman and Batman are revealed as fellow JLA members, although they do not aid in the adventure. "Young hipster" Lucas "Snapper" Carr is made an honorary member of the JLA and becomes the team's official "mascot". The Secret Sanctuary, a mountain cavern outside of Happy Harbor, is established as the League's first headquarters.


Upon its arrival on Earth, Starro enlisted three starfish "distant relatives" for planetary conquest. Aquaman in told of the plan by Peter the Puffer Fish. Seeing Starro as a too big of a threat he calls the Justice League of America together.
As there are multiple Starros the team is forced to slip up to deal with the threat. The first Starro attacks an United States Air Force jet and steals a nuclear bomb. Starro explodes the bomb and Green Lantern is able to survive by using his power ring to make a bubble around him. After the explosion Green Lantern the Starro copy is reverted to a regular starfish.
The next Starro attacks the Hall of Science in Science City. It actually lifts up the Hall od Science and flys away with it. Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter are able to defeat Starro and lower the Hall of Science safely to the ground.
At Happy Harbor the third Starro put the whole town in a trance with the exception of Snapper Carr who was doing lawn work at the time. The Flash shows up and chaces down Starro and defeats him by crashing water down on it and destrying it.
With this the Justice League of America and Snapper Carr meets and discusses how to defeat the last Starro. They confront Starro when they figure out the turf-builder lime that Snapper was using made him invulnerable. Using more lime they defeat Starro. For his help Snapper is made an Honorary Member of the team."
It was an excuse to get these characters together but when you look at it the story was somewhat childish. But when facing an all-powerful finding something rather common (in the United States) can defeat it -why not?  I once had a rampaging robot in a story lay waste to every super hero I had until someone noticed the "Off" switch on its back!  It's fun.

But look at "Snapper" Carr and his contribution and to reward him the JLA makes him their pet? "We need more sanwiches an cawfee, boy!"  Really.  Rick Jones and through his instructions, The Teen Brigade, were responsible for bringing the Avengers together and he was made an honorary Avenger -later going on to act as unofficial sidekick to Captain America (let's not forget that he and the Teen Brigade were the ones screwed up Kang The Conqueror and his plans!)

 

 In it's second appearance, the JLA battles Xotar the Weapons Master, a fiend from the future who, after finding Wonder Woman's diary in the future, decides to travel to the past to face the Justice League! Using the information from the diary, Xotar prepares for battle and challenges each member in turn. Will the Justice League be able to defeat Xotar's ultimate weapon?

And then comes what will be the usual formula of a villain(s) tackling individual members of the JLA because he/they have the perfect plan or weapon to defeat them...but one at a time first try!  Of course, the twist is that WW's diary entries are all damaged through the ages so Xotar bases his genius plan on these entries and then, when he gets his arse kicked,  discovers making plans that way just ain't good. Of course, the JLA members coming together to fight this foe is a real cheat!


He has come a long way since JLA #1 but Despero the alien dictator from another dimension has been well deserving of his status as a top foe for the team. In the first official JLA comic the Flash has to rescue his fellow JLAers from Despero,  but can the Scarlet Speedster really find a way to rescue his comrades from "The World of No Return?"  SPOILER -yes, he can/did!

In JLA #2  all man-made objects on the planet stop working and unable to find a solution individually, the JLA members come together.  Realising that they must look to magic to save the day they summon Merlin and he transports them to another dimension called Magic-Land where they battle the evil sorcerer Simon Magnus!

I know! I know!  It all sounds a little bit childish but you had Mike Sekowsky as penciller and Bernard Sachs on inks and the art alone carried the story -most of the stories in fact. The problem was that DC writers were catering to what they saw as the comic audience -kids and semi literate adults. They never could understand why Marvel was beating them in popularity!  But the JLA comics were still fun.

Look at the cover -fun!  Now the plot (you'll notice I am not mentioning dialogue!): after he freezesfthe entire planet, Kanjar Ro enslaves the Justice League and forces them to defeat his enemies. Worse, the League's only means of escape may be to ally themselves with criminals. 

Conquerors and dictators...it seemed to be almost ingrained into writer Gardner Fox's JLA plots.  Which sounds a little mean since his stories brought us covers and artwork like this....

There seemed to be certain story ideas and themes running in DC comics and they were all used in JLA which, considering DC meant their heroes to be space age and modern, were all rather fairy tale or magical in some way (remember that Superman had two weaknesses -kryptonite and magic).

Ahem.....

Well, what can I say about issue 10.  Anyone who is a true JLA fan or "old school" will smile if you mention "The Fantastic Fingers of Felix Faust"!

The cover has been "hommaged" so many times and it is a true classic JLS story: The Lord of Time unleashes warriors of the past and future on to 1963 and as the League tries to stop him they vanish one-by-one and find themselves under the control of ..Felix Faust!


So what?  Why? And how? Well, the spirits of the Demons Three, aka: Abnegazar, Rath, and Ghast, are summoned by Faust who demands the demons bestow power upon him. Well, the Demons Three can only do so when their bodies have been freed. Millennia ago, the Demons Three were defeated, and imprisoned by the beneficial Timeless Ones.  However, as a fail-safe against imprisonment, the Demons Three crafted three mystic artifacts...the Red Jar of Calythos, the Green Bell of Uthool, and the Silver Wheel of Nyorlath. Used in unison, as part of a mystic ritual, these artifacts could release the Demons Three.
Guess who Faust has captured to retrieve the items?  Faust is another one of the great JLA villains and I never had this story until....
....DC started reprinting stories in 64 Pages Giant JLA 85 and I still have my cover-less, tatty copy. Re-read many times!
Then came the issue that was to yield so much fun in future issues.  well, the cover says it all really.

The story-line is a bit basic but who cared? JLA and JSA and the Crime Champions!!

When the Crime Champions, consisting of The Fiddler (no, stop it and behave: we're better than that!), Icicle and the Wizard, of Earth-2 (that is the JSA's Earth) went to Earth-1, they managed to trap the JLA in their Secret Sanctuary. Did I mention that ChronosFelix Faust, and Doctor Alchemy are thrown into this vile villainous mix at one point?  ahem.  The JLA summons the JSA, who could escape the Sanctuary just fine. Doctor Fate also sent the JLA to Earth-2 to tangle with their old foes, while the two Green Lanterns go to free the two Flashes. The JLA and JSA defeat their foes, but when the two GLs freed the Flashes, the energy they used activated a trap that the crooks had prepared for their foes. However the heroes managed to escape that trap, and went on to defeat the Crime Champions for good.

Well, until the next time!

The Crime Syndicate of America has a problem. Without a worthy challenge to test themselves against, the villains are becoming complacent, resulting in their near capture by law enforcement. Ultraman arrives with a solution. During a recent theft, Ultraman exposed himself to a large, kryptonite meteor. The kryptonite radiation gave Ultraman the power to peer through the dimensional veil between parallel Earths. Ultraman bore witness to the heroic exploits of the Justice League of America, on Earth-1. The Crime Syndicate of America decides to journey to Earth-1, to pit themselves against the Justice League of America.
Below -I have this issue amongst other old JLA ones that I picked up at the old Bath Mart in the 1980s for 45p!  Much cherished and I loved the Crime Syndicate who have, over the years, been killed (Crisis on Infinite Earths) and mishandled, killed again and then brought back and even starred as the villains in the DC animated movie Crisis on Two Earths!

And, fer Heavens sake -the Justice Society of America!!

Wait, in issue 43 the Flash, Wonder woman, Batman, Hawkman and Superman face...the Royal Flush Gang

 Okay, Hawkman's first outing as a JLA member was in issue 31....

So he was still a kind of newbie, however, the Royal Flush Gang beating the JLA with that members roster?  Stroll on. Not in a million years!!

Oh. Maybe not a million years then...11 issues.  Wow.  The Royal Flush Gang are a team of villains that gave the JLA some hard times over the years and are almost DCs "Masters of Evil"!
 Of course, the silly story ideas appealed to DC fans, like my year older brother, but to Marvelites (me) the question was "How am I lowering myself to read this again....maybe one more look..."!!

Oh, whoever thought of the name for Shaggy Man had no idea how it was going to be abuse by dirty minded Britishers!

 The fact that Shaggy Man  and his abilities were so weird was interesting.  As were the ways the JLA contrived to get rid of him.  He is another character that has been badly mishandled over the years and just how is so convoluted I had to turn to Wikipedia to explain it all!
 The Shaggy Man debuted in Justice League of America #45 (June 1966) and was created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Mike Sekowsky. Shaggy Man returned in Justice League of America#104 (Feb. 1973). The character reappeared in a one-shot story in Justice League of America #186 (Jan. 1981). The original Shaggy Man reappeared in Crisis on Infinite Earths #9-10 (Dec. 1985-Jan. 1986).
Another version returned in JLA #24 - 26 (Dec. 1998 - Feb. 1999) and was updated and rechristened "The General". The General reappeared in the "World War III" storyline JLA #36 - 41 (Dec. 1999 - May 2000). Another Shaggy Man was created and debuted in Justice League of America Wedding Special (Nov. 2007), the first chapter of a story line that continued in Justice League of America #13-15 (Nov. 2007 - Jan. 2008).
Shaggy Man returned as a tool of Black Manta and N.E.M.O. in Aquaman Rebirth #8-9 (2016).

To which I can only respond...YOY!

 Oh yeah, Solomon Grundy, one of the best DC villain-heroes (in the Justice League animated series he actually sacrificed himself in an heroic act).  And, yes, I did look at the cover and ask "Who the hell is that other Robin??"

You see, while Solomon Grundy has defeated the combined forces of the JLA and JSA, Robin has his damaged uniform  temporarily replaced with a new and different costume supplied by his Earth-Two counterpart. Earth-Two's Green Lantern teams with his name-sake to over-come Grundy and imprison him in his swamp-land home. 

A-Rym is finally captured, on the verge of death, and the two Robins deduce that he can be saved by being brought together with his pet. Green Lantern brings the two together, and A-Rym and Teppy are then retrieved by their extradimensional companions. Atr this point I really wanted to vomit as it was so preachy and almost soapy!  Even today I totally skip the whole A-Rym and Teppy part of the comic.

 Solomon Grundy had proven too much for the heroes before but back then Blockbuster was thrown into the mix...oh, and the Anti-Matter Man.  But you'll notice that the "Go-Go Checks" are on the cover and so is a typical "camp "Pow!"  This was 1966 and all super heroes (including Archie Comics Mighty Crusaders) just had to be camp.

Basically, some strange force has caused people on both Earth-One and Earth-Two to suddenly switch worlds. While Dr. Mid-Night and Black Canary are transported to Earth-One, Batman finds himself transported to Earth-Two. To make matters worse, the Spectre is drawn to the Anti-Matter Man, the being responsible, and Solomon Grundy is freed from his mystical prison and transported to Earth-One, while Blockbuster breaks free of the Alfred Foundation and finds himself transported to Earth-Two.

It was fun.
Who just asked who the Anti-Matter Man was?  Here -


I wrote about the differences between Marvel's The Avengers and the Justice League of America in this post: http://hoopercomicart.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/avengers-or-justice-league-of-america.html

When you read all of the Marvel Essential Avengers (vols. 1-9) and then the DC Showcase Presents Justice League of America (vols. 1-6) it really is noticeable because, though the Gardner Fox stories may not have been on a par with Lee or Thomas on the Avengers, they were fun.  In fact I actually shocked myself once when I was in a comic shop and some know-it-all wannabe Marvelite said that JLA never had any memorable villains and I rattled off more than I thought I knew. I could feel my Merry Marvel Marching Society membership card curling up in disgust in my pocket.

Denny O'Neill could write good stories, as could other JLA writers after Fox, but there was a problem.  They tended to be all "Right-on" social preachers.  And the preachiong in their stories was so leaden footed (particularly O'Neill's) that I felt I needed to check and see whether I needed some left wing liberal membership to continue reading.

Pollution was a big thing....let's get preachy to the kids on pollution!

There are people in Africa starving...let's preach to the kids about starvation!

Do not get me wrong.  I know what Wein, O'Neill et al were trying to do and that was raise awareness amongst "the kids" about these issues.  Very noble but when you start following certain political agendas...well, look at Marvel Comics recent problems.

Here is the thing -word balloons.  Marvel knew when to use them and not use them with effect. That starvation cover above without the dumb word balloons is VERY striking and if you take away the "Roll Call" heads -smiling Flash, Atom and Batman on a cover like that just trivialises the message- you have one very usable poster that makes a point.

But 1972 and this cover...

Dramatic but then you find that part of the story involves Green ArrowBlack Canary, and Johnny Thunder saving the Vigilante from being burned at the stake by Indians.  Seriously, it seems that a few of us kids reading comics and who had all watched movies (not legally) such as Soldier Blue were more aware of Native American culture than European Americans.  We really and seriously thought "that is so wrong"!

Getting heavy. How about a cover gallery?

 But what if I want to be...Black Canary? hmm?
And that Wonder Woman really needed to get out of the 1940s with her look -it was the 1970s after all!
Come on -robots had to fit in here at some point and I'm surprised that it wasn't a bunch of Superman's robots.  Notice "2 All New Novels!"  Pretentious?
 Look at the cover below: no word balloons. Effective.  Love it.
 Below: cover by Carmine ("Mr. DC Comics") Infantino ...who worked for Marvel in the 1980s including on The Avengers.  Just saying.




 Music used to hypnotise people...anyone heard of the Pied Piper of Hameln?
 Now...dramatic or what and who would not want to read this?
 oooooooooh....goose-bumps!

With such art teams as Dick Dillin, Frank McLaughlin and Frank Giacoia inking as well as Don Heck, Rome Tanghal, Mike Sekowsky and the later #100s really began to make the JLA feel different and Gardner Fox, Gerry Conway,J. M. DeMatteis and  Kurt Busiek were writing.  

 Get some old timers to face off the JLA and JSA.  And I do mean Old Timers! Now if you cannot get excited by this go crush some grapes (which is not a euphemism).



 Anyone remember the Golden Age Sandman, who was to join the great All Star Squadron created by Roy Thomas ?  Well, his sidekick, Sandy, vanished.  So what does that have to do with the new JLS-JSA shocker and that Creature in the Velvet Cage?  That is sandy -turned into some silica creature -this was later dealt with further when the 1990s saw the return of the JSA in its own great series.
 Sandy...that's him, pointing.  Bloody rude.
Below -did the Freedom Fighters under Uncle Sam ever defeat the Nazis?  The Freedom Fighters had their own 12 issue series you know.  I enjoyed it.
 Hmmm.  Who on Earths could this exile from Earth-2 wearing fishnets be?  SPOILER -Black Canary!
 Jeez, cut them some slack will you? The last 99.9 times they did save the Earth!

In October, 1968, issue # 57 of The Avengers the Vision first appeared then joined the team..  In August, 1973, # 106 of JLA -the Android Red Tornado appeared and joined the JLA. Nice to see how he developed and how his personallife was so fifferent than the Vision's!

You still hungry for more covers?  Okay, but do not get too excited. Just take a deep breath and....
 Perez anyone?
 Maybe a little Bolland to tease you into the week?
 Yeah, well this is a JLA-JSA cross-over and those were always anticipated by fans....not that I was a fan.  Just an "interested party" okay?

 Oh what a surprise.  The JLA and JSA teaming up and...the Crime Syndicate...and All Star Squadron!
 There are some great covers and I have to admit this one still gives me a mushy warm feeling!
 Conway tried his best to build up a new JLA but some fans can be very hard to please.  Yes, there were some things that did not work but this period ("The Detroit Period") was akin to The Avengers Cap, Quicksilver, Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch period. But things were changing.



 In January, 1987, issue #261 arrived.  It was the end of the true Justice League of America.
In 1987 Justice League appeared and the creative team consisted of Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire, Terry Austin.  It was now a humour comic despite all the 'menaces' and 'threats' it was no longer really a good action comic.  Yes, it sold well. I bought the series and kept expecting the more serious stories to start "maybe next issue?"   The art was exceptional and made Maguire a comic star back then -apparently no comic reader had ever seen artists draw facial expressions on characters before.  That was even a big DC point to sell the book.



Justice League Europe, International, Antarctica (not joking) followed and to be honest it drove me away from the title. Giffen and DeMatteis were turning out similar jokes and storylines and getting those pay-cheques collected but there was nothing of real substance.

DC seemed to forget  that it had a super hero humour comic that was first published in the 1960s and would have been far more suitable for the trio...The Inferior 5!
Oddly, The Inferior 5 was drawn by non-other than JLA artist -Mike Sekowsky.

GiffenDeMatteis and Maguire teamed up for Marvel's 2006 Defenders series and the same old goof-ball humour was there and though it was only 5 issues I dropped it with #3.  How bad was it?  Well at the bottom of one first page was the text "How long can we keep getting away with this?".

As long as idiots keep spending their money I assume.  There have been other incarnations of the Justice League and I have some issues but deconstruction of the super hero is quite borning.  I consider the true JLA to still be going on some parallel Earth but we just stopped reading about them after issue #261.

And what created all this mess?







4 comments:

  1. Well, "Flash of Two Worlds" started it. If not for that, DC would have published Earth-1 stories and we wouldn't have had Earth-2, Earth-3, Earth-X, etc. That's basically what Marvel did, just pretend no story prior to 1961 was in-universe, and it worked fine. Then Marvel decided to start folding in Golden Age stories and ended up in the same mess as DC.

    Think of that. We'd still have the real Supergirl. We'd still have the real Superboy. Maybe we'd even still have the real Batgirl.

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  2. I got all the CRISIS ON MULTIPLE EARTHS trades out of curiosity for more JSA stories and I have to say the early crossovers between the JLA and the JSA are hard to read. It gets a bit better with the later stories that I remember from the GERECHTIGKEITSLIGA albums but it still is tough until the Perez issues.

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  3. The annual team-ups were THE comic to try to get though I had no idea originally that they were annual! The trades are a great way to see how they developed...then came Crisis!

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  4. The annual team-ups were THE comic to try to get though I had no idea originally that they were annual! The trades are a great way to see how they developed...then came Crisis!

    ReplyDelete