JUSTICE LEAGUE # 183-185 (O-D'80): Where Have All The New Gods Gone?/ Apokolips Now!/Darkseid Rising!
By Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin (#183), George Perez (#184-185), Frank McLaughlin and Len Wein (editor).
Personal Note: George Perez is an amazing artist whose work has gotten even better over the years. Fantastic Four, The Avengers, Justice League of America and, of course, New Teen Titans have all benefitted from his contributions. Any true fan would want him on their favorite title. And he wanted to do JLA but not under these circumstances.
Dick Dillin, after drawing Justice League of America since #64 in 1968 (missing only two issues in that run) died at the young age of 51. He also had long runs in Blackhawk, World's Finest and DC Comics Presents. He was the artist of two of the first four comics that I ever read. His work improved throughout the 70s and he drew the majority of the heroes and villains of the DCU at one time or another. The news of his passing shocked the fifteen old me and was truly the end of an era. Thinking back, perhaps his passing combined with New Teen Titans #1 signaled the end of the Bronze Age, my Golden Age.
Character Notes: By this time, Gerry Conway had added to the Justice League his own creation: Firestorm the Nuclear Man! But as he giveth, Conway also tooketh away as Green Arrow resigned because he felt he and the League weren't on the same page anymore. That and his candidate for membership, Black Lightning, didn't even want to join!
The JLA: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and Firestorm
The JSA: Doctor Fate, Wonder Woman, Power Girl and the Huntress
The New Gods: Orion the Hunter, Metron, Mister Miracle, Big Barda and Oberon
The InJustice Society: The Fiddler, the Icicle and the Shade
More to follow!
Ultron was created by Henry Pym but he was constantly evolving, becoming stronger and more powerful. One way was his ability to transfer his essence to another body when he was destroyed. Now we would say that he just downloaded his A.I. to another system.
JUSTICE LEAGUE #231-232 (Part 3)
As Doctor Fate imprisons the "eldritch substance" that was once a monstrous army within the Pentagon, we get a helpful recap from the Monitor who showed up in every DC title just before the Crisis, even Jonah Hex! But the evil Commander senses the Celestial Snooper, revealing his power level!
Team One (Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Doctor Fate) await the return of Team Two (Doctor Mid-Nite, Superman, the Flash and Starman) from their rescue mission of Dr. Champion. Unfortunately they are immediately attacked by the latter three of Team Two who are under the Commander's complete mental control! The colleagues of Two Worlds battle like they're in a Marvel book! The three "pawns" are also trying to resist but the strain of that combined with the fighting is killing them!
Young Vicki Champion confronts the Commander/Daddy who tries to enslave her mind but her father gave her the power to resist but she begins to falter until Aunt Meredith helps her but sullen brother Ian Champion wants nothing to do with his family despite the cosmic danger! Ian's not a "Big Picture" guy!
Meanwhile (as they say), the JLA/JSA maneuver their "Independent-Thought-Challenged" comrades into Wonder Woman's magic lasso where she commands them to "Cease all physical activity (and) save all (their) strength to free (their) minds"! Which became a lot harder when Flash and Starman collapse from NOT breathing! Just kidding!
Finally Ian adds his power to his estranged family but the Commander resists. Then the five heroes lend their will to the struggle and at the last moment the recovered Man of Steel, Crimson Comet and Astral Avenger tip the scales in their favor, expelling the Commander from Champion's consciousness!
Just as they begin to hang the "Mission Accomplished!" banner up, the "eldritch substance" erupts from the Pentagon and constitutes a new form of the Commander! He towers over the heroes exuding power and swearing destruction but first he wants to give his backstory! No really! Apparently in a previous life he was Kang The Conqueror! Not really but darn close! He attacks the heroes who can't actually touch him so after a couple of pages of useless fighting, Doctor Fate and the Champion Family open a rift to the Commander's home dimension and suddenly the heroes are able to push him into it but he claws his way back, actually warping reality. All seems lost until the Monitor decides to check on what that nutty Commander's up to. As he does, he distracts the Commander so that he scatters his essence across a myriad of dimensions! Ow!
The heroes and Champion Family are swept up and tumble through the dimensions as well, briefly seeing other Earths like Earth-B, Earth-A and Earth-S. Luckily they stop in the Limbo that they imprisoned the Crime Syndicate, so Superman can get them home! As the JSA abruptly leaves, the Champions decide to "vacation" on the worlds they saw and teleport themselves away!
Superman: "Why am I sure that was a bad idea?" Because you're Superman!
This was probably my least favorite JLA/JSA team-up and it hurts to say that because I like Kurt Busiek but his script is so flawed with plotholes that you could drive a truck through. The hero-fights, mind control, bickering family and his deus ex monitor finale are so ill-conceived. The artwork is no better, unsophisticated and cartoony. The characters seem to just be there. I've read that Busiek wanted the Champion Family to get their own book. Thankfully that never occurred!
To be kind, the Champion family and the Commander (with his homage past) do remind me of his Astro City. I do see the connection from this attempt to his opus.
When I first read this, back in'84 the best thing about it was the "Super Powers" collection ad in the back! The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Luthor and Brainiac were finally getting their own action figures! I was nineteen and I was stoked!
Next: Crisis on Two Worlds: The Next Generation! Or Children Should Be Seen, not Fought!
It's funny how this gets such a bad rap. It looks, on the surface, like a good JLA-JSA team-up. Both teams joining up, jumping through dimensions, fan-tickling commentary on the whole JSA-JLA set-up, several big-guns involved, incorporation of line-wide heavy crossover stuff. But I guess there's nothing there at the heart of it.
On paper the struggles within the family should be a universal thing, and then the make-up of the family is interesting, Dad, two kids and aunt. (Was she Daddy's sister? We didn't really hear. And she didn't do much.)
I guess it needed more work. Some way to make something the heroes are personally going through resonate with the story of the blow-in family. Don't most of the heroes have families of their own? And then the Champions get caught up in superhero hoo-haa before we find out anything about them or sympathise with them. (If you were going to be a superhero comic writer there'd probably be a lot of profit in studying where this story goes wrong, and how you'd fix it. As I say, it seems to have all the right ingredients.)
I guess this team-up makes the mistake of assuming that lots of fan-favourite heroes we like fighting a bad guy makes a story, when you need more than that - themes, characterisation etc.
I think the Monitor stuff was the most interesting for me. I never experienced the build-up to COIE at all at the time, being away from superheroes then. I probably read COIE in 1999-2000 or so. Most of it on a long-haul bus trip...
Can you expand on the Astro City homage thing, Philip? Is it that the Champions are like the FF or the Challengers?
BTW I found this interview where Alan Kupperberg dolefully comments on his much derided artwork for this story. It might be of interest.
Your commentary is very entertaining, as ever, Philip. In this case definitely more fun than the comics under discussion.
RE: Astro City and this JLA/JSA team-up. Busiek loves putting ordinary people with their ordinary problems with his super-heroes. It's one of his themes and he does it very well. He's doing it in his current Astro City series. The Champion Family is an early attempt despite they're having undefined "super-powers". Clearly he found them more interesting than the heroes. He could potentially rewrite this as an Astro City story, substituting Samaritan for Superman, and so forth.
Also the Commander echoing Kang is similar to the homages to characters in Astro City. Sometimes he mimics known heroes/villains to fill a specific type of character or what that character may represent.
Again, it's certainly not on par with his latter work but you can definitely draw a line between the two.
While doing some research, I've come to the conclusion that Supergirl was in 1984's JLA/JSA team-up because the dreadful SUPERGIRL: THE MOVIE was coming out later that year!
According to an interview Julie Schwartz gave, Supergirl's sweatband was the movie makers' idea. He said he thought it stank but put it into the comic, only to have the movie guys change their minds. I didn't like it at the time but I do now. I think it gave her final costume an athletic look.
The headband was also an attempt to mimic the return of feminism in comics, particularly the replacement of Wonder Woman's eagle with twin 'W's and every super group getting a woman leader at the same time. We also had both the Invisible Girl and Hawkgirl becoming the Invisible WOMAN and HawkWOMAN.
Anyway, on Krypton, only men wore headbands as proof of their citizenship (which was why the Phantom Zone prisoners didn't have them--they forfeited their right to wear them). Kara decided that she would wear one, regardless of the tradition.
My mind boggles. Were the Phantom Zone criminals never shown wearing the headbands?
In the actual stories, no, not that I can recall but they never really showed all the Kryptonian men wearing headbands in the first place except for Jor-El.
As an example, in SUPERMAN #157 (N'62), Quex-Ul is released from the Zone not wearing a headband but in all the flashbacks prior to his sentencing, he's not wearing one then either.
But in the World of Krypton mini, they did show Jax-Ur wearing a headband before he was condemned to the Zone.