I was going to do a thread on my FIVE favorite Justice League/Justice Society team-ups when I discovered that I couldn't pick just five! So I'm going to write about all of them. These won't be synopses since I am assuming that everyone is familar with them, thanks to the Justice League Archives and the Crisis On Multiple Earths TPBs. This will just be my personal recollections and observations with a few facts. I'll start in the Mister Silver Age sub-heading then continue in my Fan of Bronze.
The first seven team-ups were written, of course, by Gardner Fox and the first six illustrated by Mike Sekowsky.
JUSTICE LEAGUE #21-22 (Au-S'63): The Crisis on Earth One & The Crisis on Earth Two
The JLA: This was the only JLA/JSA meeting that the Martian Manhunter played a part in the Silver Age.
Green Arrow meets his future love interest, the Black Canary. Naturally no reaction.
Both Flashes are taken out of the story early since they already had three team-ups in Flash.
The JSA: Instead of including Wonder Woman and Doctor Mid-Nite, Fox revived Doctor Fate and Hourman, neither seen since WWII.
Doctor Fate-restored with his full golden helmet, something that Silver Age readers would not know or even Bronze Age ones since DC would only reprint one Dr.Fate story with his half-helmet! But his gloves would be missing for awhile.
Hawkman-was revived wearing a hawk helmet in Flash #137 yet returned to wearing his yellow cowl. He appeared in Justice League before his Silver Age counterpart, even though he was mentioned in #3.
Black Canary-her marital arts skills and amulet devices are highlighted.
Hourman and the Atom--neither's super-strength is mentioned.
Green Lantern-seemed to hit it off with Hal Jordan right away.
The Villains: The Crime Champions are a great idea but...
Chronos takes on Batman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman!
The Icicle goes one-on-one with Doctor Fate!
The Fiddler is bald and wears a wig. Take that, Luthor!
The Icicle looks like Groucho Marx! "Last night, I shot Green Lantern in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I'll never know!"
The Crime Champions have a HQ between the Earths in "a great sphere of vibratory energy" that is multi-leveled and tastely furnished. Their civvies however leave a lot to be desired!
Some Notes: The golden, chained cages that the two teams are trapped in #22 was ripped off inspired by Mystery In Space #18 from 1954!
While the two groups meet, they do not team-up until the end when sixteen heroes gang up on six villains.
The Crime Champions do not return until the 80s!
For the li'l Capn, this team-up was quite an eye-opener. A WHOLE OTHER JUSTICE LEAGUE I DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT? For reals? From 20 years ago? Man, I wanted to know more!
And when I did learn more about the JSA -- perhaps in this crossover, perhaps in later ones -- one thing that struck me is how many of their members seemed to be non-powered brawlers. Even Hawkman was just a punch-em-up guy, albeit he could fly (one of the most passive of super-powers). It disappointed me that Mr. Terrific, Dr. Mid-Nite, Hourman, Wildcat, even Black Canary, despite looking really cool, were virtually interchangeable and had no super-powers to speak of. However, Dr. Fate alone made up for it. What a cool character! He was instantly my favorite.
It also struck me that the Crime Champions were vastly outclassed and shouldn't have lasted as long as they did. They were outnumbered, and they were pantywaists. No way they could beat Dr. Fate or Martian Manhunter solo, much less the whole bloody Spandex army coming at them. (The Li'l Capn could be quite persnickety.)
And then these losers somehow came up with interdimensional cages that PERFECTLY NEGATED EACH CHARACTER'S POWERS. When you're dealing with Flashes, Green Lanterns, Dr. Fate and Ray Palmer, that's quite an array of super-powers to neutralize. The Li'L Capn wasn't really convinced.
Still, it looked cool. Even with Mike Sekowsky on art, THIS WAS AWESOME for a kid in the '60s.
Ah, Philip, I should be enjoying greatly your contributions here---at least for the first five JLA/JSA team-ups, since I consider the JLA title to have stopped after issue # 63 (the last Fox/Sekowsky effort).
Of those five, the premiere JLA/JSA meet-up, from JLA # 21-2 is my second favourite, greatly because of the reason Cap put forth---seeing a whole different team of super-heroes in action. Of the first five, this one came closest to an "everybody into the pool!" effort, with the entire JLA membership on hand, plus seven Justice Society members (with four others mentioned in passing).
The only "from the horse's mouth" information that I ever got from somebody behind the scenes came many years ago, at the annual Heroes convention, when during a Silver-Age panel, I asked Julius Schwartz if he was surprised at how enthusiastically the fans responded to the parallel-Earth concept. He replied that he most certainly was. He had intended "The Flash of Two Worlds", from The Flash # 123 (Sep., 1961) to be nothing more than a sop to the small number of older comics fans, the ones who had been around for the Golden Age and were still reading comics. Sort of a nod to them.
Schwartz did not expect how wildly contemporary fans would accept the idea that there was a separate parallel Earth on which all of those old Golden-Age tales had taken place, or how much they would demand to see these "old" heroes whom they had never seen before. That's what led to further pairings of the two Flashes and, subsequently, the appearances of the original Green Lantern and the original Atom in the pages of their Earth-One titles.
It's what also led to the brief glimpses of the Justice Society that we got---first, a one-page flashback to the JSA's last case in All Star Comics that appeared in The Flash # 129 (Jun., 1962); and then the first actual (then-) modern-day appearance of the Justice Society in The Flash # 137 (Jun., 1963). The epilogue of the latter tale, of course, took us right to that historic first JLA/JSA team-up in JLA # 21-2.
But, as I'm sure Cap will echo, it was more than just simply having a bunch of new super-heroes. It was the idea that these heroes had already existed, that they had a history that we just hadn't known before. Most of the appearances of the original Flash and Green Lantern contained in-story and footnote references to old Golden-Age tales; thus, we fans became aware that there was a panoply of super-hero stories out there that we had never read.
Seeing the Justice Society in action again brought feelings akin to cleaning out your attic and discovering a box of comics that you had never seen before.
One of the most thrilling panels of the Silver Age is the first meeting of the two Justice teams . . . .
It's prosaic and convivial, like two sports teams meeting for the first time. Yet, it's exciting for that very reason---you almost never saw super-heroes socialising in such a manner. There are only two dialogue bubbles in that panel; but more wasn't needed. It's explicit in the body language. Whatever else one wants to say about Mike Sekowsky's artwork, the man certainly knew how to compose scenes like this and make them seem natural and uncrowded.
It's that thrill of discovery that overcomes some of the plot shortcomings. Cap's right. The Crime Champions might have posed a threat to the Justice League---if it had been one of those adventures in which half the team was absent, "tied up on urgent cases of their own". Thus, it makes sense that the climax---sixteen heroes whupping up on the six villains---consists of only two pages of six panels each. (And even then, at least four of the heroes don't seem to be actually doing anything.) It's a bit of a disappointment that the end comes so swiftly, but really, how could it go any other way?
Something you mentioned, Philip---how the two Justice groups didn't actually team-up until that abbreviated conclusion---reminded me of an interesting point. In the six JLA/JSA tales written by Gardner Fox---1963 through 1968---the heroes of both groups actually team up in only two of them (JLA # 46-7 and JLA # 55-6).
In JLA # 21-2, as you pointed out, they only work together at the end, to escape their inter-dimensional prison cells and then clobber the bad guys.
In JLA # 29-30, the Justice League and the Justice Society tackle the Crime Syndicate separately, on their individual Earths.
In JLA # 37-8, it's all the Justice Society's show, with the Earth-One heroes making little more than cameo appearances.
And in JLA # 64-5, once again the JSA and the JLA tackle the threat of T. O. Morrow separately, on their own respective Earths.
Looking forward to your thoughts on the next ones, friend!
The Cap'n wrote: >> Even with Mike Sekowsky on art
I think you meant *especially* with Mike Sekowsky on art. Sekowsky wasn't really much of a writer or an editor (as we were to discover as the Silver Age faded into history), but he was a fabulous artist.
My very first comic book was JLA # 45, way back in 1966, and with the very next issue, I was indoctrinated into the full glory of the JLA/JSA teamups. I hadn't even figured out yet who all was in the JLA, and now here comes a whole 'nother super group to learn about. I loved it!
I don't think anybody considers JLA 46-47 one of the best teamups ever, but it'll always hold a warm place in my heart. I was one of those kids who grabbed any comic book with Batman prominently displayed on it, so DC's policy of having Batman dominate the front covers of any comic he was in certainly paid off when it came to my buying habits.
Unfortunately, times change.
There has not been an ANNUAL team up of the JSA/JLA since before the original Crisis on Infinite Earths and sadly, this is a decision I agree with.
After the uniqueness of the doing so first wore off at the end of the Silver Age, DC had to start bringing a third team into the mix starting in the 1970s. It was only the last (couple?) before the Crisis that went back to the original format of just the two teams.
Yet I also do not agree with the JSA/JLA only meeting in times of need as they do now. Why can't there be like some kind of annual summit or other type of friendly meeting between the two groups? Even if it's just a panel in one of the team books every once in awhile, it would be nice to know that they do not just get together in times of dire need.
Since the Good Commander brought up Flash #137, it jogged my memory of a question that I would like to put to him and the esteemed Mister Silver Age. The Earth-One Flash was brought into the adventure by strange lights appearing over the skies of cities that were the home of the various Justice Society members on Earth-Two, which he knew about because he read the comics as a kid! This is important. That means that he knew about the concept of Green Lantern, Hawkman and the Atom before those heroes debuted on E-1!
And what about Wonder Woman? Was there a WW comic on E-1 that young Barry read? He was not shocked to see an exact double of his Justice League teammate on E-2. He seemed to know about her existence as part of the JSA. So was WW a part of Barry's All-Star Comics?
...I believe that a lot of 60s fans did not like Mike Sekpwsky's approach to the JLA very much , Dave , and that may have been what the Cap'n intended to write .
It has occured to me that , when Sekowsky took over Metal Men and Wonder Woman in the late 60s , BOTH titles had the costume-/similar elements disposed of ( The Metal Men were not only New Hunted , but had human forms for all of the story , IIRC exercising their metal powers when action was required , but still retaining human appearances . ) .
Frankly , I have thought that Sekowsky , given his druthers , was #&!$^( sick of drawing costumes at that point !
Especially when you have such a variety of different charactes , who need to be shown at different angles/places within the panel...
The JLA/JSA teamup that mentioned thet " The Cae Of The Chemical Sybdicate " was Batman's first case in a footnote was rather a mistake - Remember , in the opening of " TCOTCS " Batman is an already having-presented-himself quanity/factor , that Commissioner Gordon is discussing with Bruce !
A comment to Captain Comics: It was amazing how many JSAers had no powers or minor, limited ones. When All-Star Squadron came out, it dawned on me to ask why wasn't Robotman, Zatara, Johnny Quick or Aquaman part of the JSA? Even the non-powered heroes like the Guardian, Air Wave, Green Arrow and Manhunter would have been as effective or moreso than the Atom or Sandman. At one point, the active roster was supposed to be Hawkman, Atom, Johnny Thunder, Doctor Mid-Nite, Wildcat and Mister Terrific with Wonder Woman in a non-active role. Hardly the A-list team! The Avengers at the least powerful (Captain America, Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, the 10' Goliath and the Wasp) take them out. Heck even the original X-Men have a chance, though Hawkman clobbers the Angel easy! The remedy was apparent, have WW take a more active role, reinstate the Flash and Green Lantern and give the Atom super-strength! Onward!
JUSTICE LEAGUE #29-30 (Au-S'64): Crisis on Earth-Three/The Most Dangerous Earthof All!
The JLA: No fooling around here. The A-list (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash and Green Lantern), the only time the Big 5 were featured "alone" in a JLA story. When the League expanded to ten members with Hawkman, there were usually 5-6 heroes per issue with picks from Column A and picks from Column B. Here it's all Column A.
My favorite bit is when the heroes spend a page protecting each other from the Crime Syndicate's attacks.
Too bad there wasn't an Earth-Three version of Snapper Carr. "Whistler Boate?"
The JSA: Hawkman, Doctor Fate and Black Canary return. Hawkman may be the JSA chairman (they haven't had an election since 1941??) but Doctor Fate is in charge! His star power grows with every apparance.
Starman-revived with a new, far more powerful cosmic rod which made him more like Green Lantern. He had an interesting look, a cross between Superman and Adam Strange which led to two Brave and Bold team-ups with Black Canary and a complete overhaul by James Robinson who created an entire mythology about a character who had no mythology!
Doctor Mid-Nite--a personal favorite. Doc was a reliable journeyman hero, never the star but always played a major part. I remember reading a reprint of All-Star Comics #36 where Johnny Thunder and the Atom were replaced by Superman and Batman but Doc stayed in the line-up. The last roster of the JSA all had JLA counterparts except for Doctor Mid-Nite. Plus he was a real doctor, an advantage in his field!
The Crime Syndicate: Now these guys are trouble. It was a shame that they did not reappear again in the Silver Age with more JLA counterparts. Definitely a missed opportunity. I like that they were bored out of their minds and wanted a challenge and they nearly won! They could have destroyed both E-1 and E-2 if it wasn't for the fact that they have the worst poker-faces in the DC Multiverse!
Each one could have easily battled their rival in their solo books. I would have liked to seen a true Wonder Woman/Superwoman fight.
But you have to feel sorry for them, too. Stranded in space with no privacy from each other, nothing to do, no entertainment or diversions. They must have really been bored then!
Personal Notes: This is my favorite of the early team-ups. There is real drama and great Villains. I read this when it was reprinted in JLA #114 and loved it. An evil Justice League! What a terrific concept! I was happy when they finally got their rematch in the 80s!
The first part focused on the JLA with the JSA appearing in the last pages. As the JSA grew more popular, the roles would be reversed!
Philip Portelli wrote:
>> When All-Star Squadron came out, it dawned on me to ask why wasn't Robotman, Zatara, Johnny Quick or Aquaman part of the JSA?
Of course, the answer is far more mundane than any discussion of powers. It's because those four weren't from the All-American side of the house.
"Sekowsky wasn't really much of a writer or an editor (as we were to discover as the Silver Age faded into history), but he was a fabulous artist."
Sekowsky is perhaps best described as, like Kirby, a superb STORYTELLER. His drawing style and approach to human anatomy were, well, unique (to put it mildly). But you were never confused as to what was happening on a Sekowsky page -- which is more than you can say for some of Neal Adams' early work, where you really weren't sure which panel came next. Sekowsky started in teen humor comics at Timely, and he never completely lost that cartoony style. Whether this is good or bad is a matter of personal taste.
My real problem with Silver Age JLA is Gardner Fox's writing, with the endless captions describing things you can see in the drawings. Maybe Gardner was paid by the word. I dunno. But it makes these comics a real slog to read.
Justice League of America # 29-30 (Aug. and Sep., 1964)
Here is where I, again, swim against the tide.
I have read a great many folks state---as you do, Philip---that, of the five JLA/JSA team-ups from the Fox/Sekowsky era, this one is their favourite. But it’s the one I like the least.
This particular cross-over has a few things going for it. At least, at the start.
The concept which Gardner Fox came up with for Earth-Three was intriguing. He keeps with the notion that the other parallel Earths are pretty much like Earth-One, with some exceptions---except that the exceptions on Earth-Three are slightly more exceptional. On Earth-Three, Columbus discovered Europe and Southern loyalist Abraham Lincoln assassinated President John Wilkes Booth. Fox presents this Earth-Three history as mirror images of events to set up the big reversal: that on Earth-Three, there are no super-heroes---only super-villains!
I also like the way he presented the members of the Crime Syndicate as essentially analogues of the “Big Five” Justice League members. Ultraman, Owlman, et.al. are clearly recognisable as their Earth-One counterparts, but with certain distinctions. It also makes sense to me that there were only five super-villains in the Crime Syndicate. If there had been a greater membership, it would be more probable to expect them to have laid waste to Earth-Three, or at least to hold that Earth in total domination. With only five super-villains, it’s more plausible that they would restrict themselves to mere plunder, rather than take on the amassed forces of the world.
The notion that, without worthy challengers, the Crime Syndicators have grown bored and overconfident to the point where they are getting sloppy and nearly fall prey to the efforts of law-enforcement to capture them also rings true. So I can easily accept the idea that, once they discover the presence of other Earths, ones on which super-beings are champions of justice, that they would seek to flex their muscles against true opponents.
It’s also appropriate that, like the sneaky, underhanded types they are, while they want a good work-out, they are also going to hedge their bets by arranging fail-safes, should they be defeated.
I also preferred the idea that only some of the Justice Leaguers were available to tackle the threat at hand. Some fans prefer their epic crises jam-packed with super-doers. But to me, the menace is more . . . er . . . menacing when there are only a few heroes on hand to tackle it.
You mentioned, Phil, how at this stage, Gardner Fox was using only five or six JLA members in a story. That was, in fact, the last of the four formulae that Fox employed in casting his Justice League stories. The first three were:
Formula One---the curtailment of Superman and Batman: used, with a couple of exceptions, in the three Brave and the Bold JLA appearances and JLA # 1 through # 9.
Formula Two---using all of the Justice League membership equally in each story: Fox used this “everybody into the pool” approach in JLA # 10 through # 22.
Formula Three---all of the membership would appear, but some would get sidelined: this formula had the briefest life, used in only JLA # 23 through # 29. Here, Fox would have only five JLAers carry the main event, with the remaining Leaguers getting only a little piece of the action, usually by arriving in the last chapter, cavalry-like.
The last formula, the rotating membership version, actually began with this JLA/JSA cross-over. Technically, it was tried in one issue before---# 25---but here is when it became the standard approach. From here on to the end of Fox’s tenure as Justice League scripter, only some of the JLA members show up for a case. Once in a while, during this period, Fox would use the whole group in a tale, and because that had become so infrequent, they came across as real treats.
The premise of the 1964 JLA/JSA team-up was fine. However, the execution fell short, to me.
First, like most of Fox’s JLA/JSA efforts, it wasn’t truly a team-up. Except for a scene in which the Justice League warns the Justice Society about the Crime Syndicate, at the halfway point, and the last-page final wrap up, the two Justice teams never interact. And they never go into action together.
Moreover, of all five Fox/Sekwosky JLA/JSA epics, in this one, the Justice Society gets a short shrift. The Earth-Two heroes only get into action in the first half of the second issue. So we only get to enjoy seeing the Justice Society participate in about one quarter of the entire crisis. That makes the Golden-Age heroes come across as real second-stringers.
This team-up also lacked the “epic sweep” of most of Fox’s “Crisis” scripts. The whole thing was episodic---like watching the play-offs in a sporting event. Round one: the JLA versus the CS (the CS wins); round two: the JSA versus the CS (the CS wins); round three: the JLA versus the CS, again (the JLA wins).
There were some nice touches in that final confrontation between the Justice League and the Crime Syndicate. Like you, I enjoyed the panels of showing a Justice Leaguer eschewing his own personal danger to come to the aid of another. And if one studies those panels, they interconnect, providing sort of a panorama of the battle.
And it was a clever twist that the Justice League defeated their evil Earth-Three counterparts by increasing their powers to the point in which the villains couldn’t handle them anymore, rather than simply have the heroes outperform them.
But the real “Oh, come on!” moment was in how the JLA tumbled to the fact that the villains had planted planet-destroying bombs on Earths-One and –Two. Even as a youngster, I couldn’t buy that the defeated villains would just stand around passively and expose their hidden machinations by letting their faces show their emotions so blatantly. That was just too pat, too simple.
I thought the Justice Society line-up that Fox presented for this story was just fine. Doctor Fate was never one of my favourites (sorry, Cap!), as I do not, as a rule, cotton to magic-based super-heroes. But at this point, he had not been overused in the annual team-ups.
And, as you’ve probably noticed, in the six JLA/JSA efforts scripted by Fox, in each one, he brings in one or more Golden-Age members who had not yet been seen in a previous JLA/JSA cross-over. In this one, Fox reïntroduced Starman and Doctor Mid-Nite. In JLA # 37-8, Fox brought back Johnny Thunder and Mister Terrific. In JLA # 46-7, the Sandman, Wildcat, and the Spectre would make their first showings in the annual event. For JLA # 55-6, it would be Wonder Woman and an grown-up Robin (since, evidently, there was still a moratorium on using the Earth-Two Superman or Batman, even though they both got mentioned).
By JLA # 64-5, Fox was out of Golden-Age Justice Society members to reïntroduce, so he fudged it a bit by debuting a new version of the Red Tornado (especially since the original Red Tornado was never even a JSA member).
I really don’t have a problem with the final fate of the Crime Syndicate. Imprisoning them in a bubble situated in the misty borderlands between worlds doesn’t seem the least bit cruel for villains who were perfectly willing to destroyed the combined five billion innocent people on two Earths as a spoilsport measure. They deserved it. Frankly, I always wondered what kept them from going after each other’s throats after a while.
Keep ‘em coming. It’s always fun to read another fans take on these singular JLA stories.
To Dave: Of course that's true but if you look at the non-JSA features of Flash Comics, All-American and Sensation Comics, there really was slim pickings, super-power-wise. The only viable candidates were Sargon the Sorcerer and the Gay (later Grim) Ghost. The other choices were more non-powered types like the Whip, the King, Hop Harrigan or Little Boy Blue.
To George: Sekowsky had a very personalized style. You couldn't mistake it for anyone else's. But he was an excellent story-telling with a vast range of facial expressions. He drew the JLA, not as modern gods but real people. He also had strong inkers in Bernard Sachs and Sid Greene. Apparently the guidelines to DC's art changed in the late 60s and his artwork suffered because of it.
I liked most of Gardner's stories. His main problem was too many plot points and gimmicks that bogged down his tales. Sometimes you felt that you had skipped over a page or two or that you walked into the middle of a scene and missed the beginning.
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