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!
Of course, the Spectre didn't really *die* so much as he was reincarnated as the Phantom Stranger. Not literally, of course, but for all intents and purposes, that's what happened. PHANTOM STRANGER # 1 appeared on the stands the same time as SPECTRE # 10, and the PS started grabbing those lucrative BRAVE & BOLD and JLA guest appearance gigs that the Spectre used to get.
Eventually, though, readers caught on to the fact that the Phantom Stranger never really did anything -- he just sort of hung out in the background, like that guy at parties who never really mingles but somehow manages to eat up all the good snacks before he vanishes without saying goodbye. So the Spectre started getting invited back to the DCU events, even if that meant sometimes he'd have to pretend to be an Earth-One version of himself.
The Spectre appeared five times in Brave & Bold: #72 (Jl'67) with the Flash and #75 (Ja'68) with Batman which was clearly the Earth-Two Spectre meeting Earth-One heroes. #116 (Ja'75) and #180 (N'81) reflect the Spectre's Adventure Comics Earth-One revival. The last, #199 (Ju'83), happened on E-1 but the Ghostly Guardian acted like his 60s E-2 self. The Ross Andru art reflected this.
By comparison, the Phantom Stranger appeared three times in B&B: #89 (My'70) with Ross Andru art, #98 (N'71) which won Jim Aparo the B&B artist's gig and #145 (D'78).
True the Stranger was voted JLA membership, real membership not an honorary role just to be clear, but he was as active as the Spectre was in the Silver Age JSA.
The Spectre's uber-violent return in Adventure Comics #431-440 (F'74-Au'75) may have achieved cult status but they did not have the same success of The Phantom Stranger which lasted 41 issues. The Spectre's next starring role was in Ghosts #98-100, hardly a high profile role!
In the context of the times, it makes a certain amount of sense as to why DC jettisoned the Spectre in favor of the Phantom Stranger. After all, DC was pretty much benching all of its B-team players, and even some A-teamers as well (e.g., Green Lantern), during the post-Silver Age era of mystery comics and "relevance." The Phantom Stranger fit the bill as a mystery character; although costumed, he didn't really wear a full-fledged superhero outfit. The Spectre, on the other hand (even though by the end of his title's run he himself had become mainly a mystery comics host rather than a superhero), carried too much baggage as a full-fledged Golden Age superhero. And since superheroes were supposed to be on their way out in the late 1960s/early 1970s, the PS made a better choice as DC's resident spooky-guy.
Eventually, of course, all the heroes returned during the Bronze Age, and since 1975 there hasn't even been the slightest hint that superheroes would wane as the dominant genre of comic books.
That's true. I was always staggered by the dearth of super-heroes in the late Silver/Early Bronze Ages. The cancellations of Metamorpho, Metal Men, Hawkman, the Atom, The Atom & Hawkman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Teen Titans, Doom Patrol, etc. Marvel only lost Nick Fury, Sub-Mariner, Doctor Strange and The X-Men.
But DC had the multiple Superman and Batman titles along with Wonder Woman and the Flash! Slim pickings indeed!
Sub-Mariner actually lasted well past the end of the Silver Age, until late 1974. Some of his last third of his series, which ended with #72, were beautifully written and drawn by his creator, Bill Everett.
In 1970, Marvel tried series for some of it's secondary stars, but of the four featured in Astonishing Tales (Ka-Zar and Dr. Doom) and Amazing Adventures (Inhumans and Black Widow), only the Widow could really be considered a super-hero, and she was the first to get dropped from the titles.
Thanks, Hoy! I'd forgotten about those other titles. They were dropping like flies, weren't they?
JUSTICE LEAGUE #91-92 (Au-S'): Earth--The Monster Maker!/Solomon Grundy --The One and Only!
The only JLA/JSA team-up by fan-turned-pro Mike Friedrich with artwork by the Dillin/Giella tandem.
THE JLA: In the previous issue, Batman goes to search for the missing Flash and finds him beaten into unconsciousness, which makes for a great Neal Adams cover. He and Green Arrow soon leave to answer a summons from Aquaman while Black Canary tends to the wounded Scarlet Speedster. He briefly awakens and utters the location of New Carthage, sending Superman, Green Lantern, the Atom and Hawkman there. They quickly encounter Robin the Teen Wonder, whose solo series were also written by Friedrich. The Teen Thunderbolt gets the "sidekick treatment" from Hawkman and seethes over it. As they look for this new menace, GL's power ring convienently picks up a vibe with Earth-Two and the team-up begins.
THE JSA: For the first time, there is an exact hero-to-hero match-up involved as The Golden Age Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Atom and Robin the Man Wonder are searching for an alien youth who stole Alan Scott's ring! They split up as the Supermen, Atoms and E-2 Flash head to E-1 while the Hawkmen, Robins and E-1 GL take E-2.
We finally learn that the E-2 Superman is the editor of The Daily Star but he still barely speaks and gets left behind on E-1 while the JLA's Man of Steel takes part in the main battle.
The main gist is that the E-2, ADULT Robin also gets "the sidekick treatment", claiming that Hawkman wasn't there when he joined the JSA in #55-56 even though the Winged Wonder was there and even welcomed him to the team. That and the cover lists him as a "special guest star" along with the E-1 Robin.
The Villains: A-Rym and Teppy are not really villains. They are an alien boy and his pet who have a symbiotic relationship and an actual physical bond. They are seperated with A-Rym going to E-2 where he injures Green Lantern and steals his ring while Teppy demolishes the Flash on E-1. The longer they're apart, the more they mutate and soon both will perish! But A-Rym encounters Solomon Grundy who, very Hulk-like, attacks the heroes to protect the boy! But he is far more violent, defeating and driving off the twin teams several times. Luckily there is a happy ending as the pair are reunited.
Some Notes: Of course, the big development was the Neal Adams designed Robin costume. The E-1 Robin wears it this issue only, thinks about keeping it but of course doesn't for advertising reasons! It is altered and worn by the E-2 Robin starting in All-Star Comics #58 (F'76).
Why doesn't Superman stand up for Robin? He knows how good he is, even if he acts impulsively and out-of-character here!
This was the last major appearance of the Earth-Two Atom in Justice League.
Green Lantern creates a temporary power ring for the E-2 GL, though it splits his power.
Solomon Grundy is imprisoned in a double GL created force barrier that surrounds Slaughter Swamp and he stays there until Superman #301.
Unrelated but interesting occurence: Black Canary sends for Iris Allen to help care for her husband, the Flash, proving that most, if not all of the JLA know each others' secret identities by this point. Not sure about Superman and Batman, though....
NEXT: Three Times the Teams, Three Times the Fun!
If I am recalling this correctly, back-ups gave former headliners added exposure in the early 70s.
Action had the Atom, Green Arrow/Black Canary and the Human Target.
Adventure spotlighted the Vigilante, Aquaman, the Seven Soldiers of Victory and the Creeper.
Batman, of course, featured Robin.
Detective had Batgirl, the Elongated Man and Hawkman.
Flash alternated Kid Flash and the Elongated Man. True story-when I went to fill in the gaps in my Flash collection, I found I had all the ones with EM on the cover and was missing most of the KF ones! Probably explains my rant on the Flashpoint thread! Then Green Lantern was the back-up.
Lois Lane showcased Rose & the Thorn.
Phantom Stranger spotlighted the Spawn of Frankenstein and Black Orchid.
Superboy had the Legion of Super-Heroes move in and take over!
Supergirl featured Zatanna.
World's Finest had Metamorpho.
Most of these kept the heroes in the public eye but it did give the Legion, Green Lantern and Aquaman their own books again!
Well, I’ve just finished Showcase Presents Justice League Volume V (Issues 61 - 83). I meant to just read the JLA/JSA team-ups for now, but I found it great fun. I can see why people now think JLA wasn’t a great fit with Denny O’Neill, but I enjoyed watching him trying to wrestle JLA into something that suited him, and his times, better.
As I said earlier, the Silver Age guys have picked over the bones of the team-ups pretty thoroughly, and there isn’t a lot else to say about these stories - as Silver Age stories, as they would have been experienced by their young readership during the 60’s. However, just as Fox hit on the crowd-pleasing tactic of throwing the then-current team into adventures with their 40’s counterparts, writers since the 60’s have been building on Fox’s JLA stories and exploring the ramifications of existence in the universe that he largely shaped. These issues are part of a conversation going back to the 40s and going forward to our own era. To view Fox’s stories only in light of their commentary on superhero stories that had preceded them, rather than as part of a conversation that spanned decades and generations, backward and forward, is to do them a disservice.
Having said that, I’m afraid today isn’t the day, nor me the man, to really explore that. My life has been really hectic, not to mention stressful lately. So I haven’t been able to find the time or energy to really apply myself to these team-ups. A few random impressions, relatively unsupported by chapter and verse quotations will have to do!
Really I am most interested in the stories explored in the Bronze Age thread which follows this one, for reasons which will become clear, but I wanted to add something to this interesting discussion before I moved on. A lot of the Commander’s views were ringing around in my head as I read these issues (even before I read them), so I will address some of those as they come up.
It seems strange that the Showcase doesn’t start with these first issues by O’Neill and Dillin. As it is the volume kicks off with the final three issues by Fox and Sekowsky. The first one – issue 61 was interesting to me because it featured Doctor Destiny. The second was a very old-fashioned tale about gangsters and long-buried secrets. I’m not used to seeing DC’s mightiest heroes involved in such a Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew kind of mystery, with very little in the way of super-powers being arrayed against the team. Issue 63 has a trap laid for the team by The Key, who would be used well by Morrison in the JLA series 30 years later.
I agree with Philip that Fox must have known #65 was his final issue, but there are hints that he knew #63, Sekowsky’s last, was the end of an era also. He tries to convince the reader that this must be the final adventure of the League, even going so far as to have a history authority from the future assert as much. In the end we see that the League will indeed go on after this point. Viewed in this light, there is a bittersweet quality to the ‘business –as-usual’ feel of Fox’s last JLA tale. In this story, Superman solves the problem by going back in time and swapping places with his counterpart from 3 years before.
It has to be said, that Superman’s time-travelling is highly problematic! In effect, it means that no scrape the team get into is unsolvable. Even the ‘Panic from a Blackmail Box’ in issue #62 revolves around a mystery set in motion a few decades before. Superman isn’t in that mystery, but if the team hadn’t been able to solve it or if any of them had been seriously hurt during it, they could tell Superman about it at any point in the future and he could go back and fix things. Thus all JLA stories are duds. Its probably possible to go through every one from that first B&B encounter with the dueling aliens and show how Superman could fix them before they even began!
OR MAYBE, there are largely unstated rules around when Superman can and cannot use his time-travelling prowess, a proposition I am happy to run with, if it means I can enjoy these tales as they are presented to us. It does mean though, that saying ‘Superman could solve it with time-travel’ isn’t really a valid criticism of any of the stories, during or after Fox’s tenure.
Given that Sekowsky’s art, as inked in his final 3 issues, is worlds removed from the elegance and coolness of his Adam Strange, early Justice League period, I didn’t find the Dillin art to be such a big jump when he took over. The difference in the two periods of Sekowsky’s art is much more jarring to me. I have seen it stated by our new Silver Age chums that DC’s response to the Marvel phenomenon was to try to copy what they perceived as Marvel’s selling point – bad art! I thought it was a preposterous notion, until I found myself comparing Sekowsky’s early- and late 60’s art. Maybe there’s something in it...
JUSTICE LEAGUE #64-65 (Au-S'68): The Stormy Return of the Red Tornado!/ T.O.Morrow Kills the Justice League--Today!
This is my first encounter with the Red Tornado, leaving aside Meltzer and co’s use of him in JLA a few years ago – which I’d like to do, frankly. It is amazing how similar to the Vision he is, down to his origin. Who did come first? In any case, the Vision obviously beats RT in several categories. The Vision, with his dark eye-sockets and eerie floating method of flying, is just more somber and spectral than the clunky leg-spinning Tornado. He’s obviously got much more sheer sexual magnetism going on too, as he eventually snares the utterly gorgeous Wanda Maximoff.
Actually, when you think about it, the only time that two very similar characters CAN be accidently introduced by two different comics companies is if they appear at around the same time. If one appears too long before the other, then the other company will have time to rejig the character so that theirs appears different. Thus the Vision/RT, X-Men/Doom Patrol, and Swamp/Man Thing.
Given that these JLA stories cannot revolve, Marvel-fashion around the hang-ups, misunderstandings and ingrained neuroses of the protagonists, I found that practically every tale in the Showcase depended on the writer throwing plot device after plot device at the story to fill up the pages. There are some great story ideas that get very short shrift as a result of this technique.
One is the intriguing notion that the Red Tornado remembers a completely different past to the rest of the JSA. We’ve discussed a few of the ways that the Golden Age past was reconfigured by Fox as he began re-using the forties characters. I can’t help but think that perhaps O’Neill is metatextually playing on this by introducing RT the way he does. By now, as readers we’ve all seen cases where one character has been rebooted/rejigged in one corner of the uNiverse, while another character who shares some of his same history continues on with the same old past as before.
In any case RT’s angst-ridden questioning of his own memories and identity has a nice Phillip K Dick feel to it while is going on.
I have no problem with the JSA taking a whole issue of a magazine labeled Justice League of America, nor with them getting a right good beating. Life doesn’t happen in neatly organized packages, with good guys always winning, so I’m happy with a bit of untidiness in my comics. Things seem very settled in Earth 2, with the JSA sitting around bored. Perhaps they’ve done their jobs too well. We also see the JLA sitting around bored in some of these adventures. O’Neill definitely has something to say about that, which we’ll get to later.
Dr Fate actually says in response to Hourman’s crime-predicting device “Wh – What?! Not even my crystal ball can do that!”
Either Fox doesn’t know his Dr Fate, this is only a similar Dr Fate to the Golden Age guy, not the identical one, or perhaps these stories are set in a universe where the past and reality itself is always fluctuating. Or all three?
The big thing that struck me, reading all these late-60s Justice League issues on top of each other, was how they contained the germs of so many stories of later periods that I enjoyed at the time. There are tons of examples. For now, the idea of T.O. Morrow using an android to infiltrate and undermine the Justice League was ripped off wholesale by Grant Morrison in his hugely popular Tomorrow Woman issue of JLA.
Regarding using the lovers of JLA to awaken them, I laughed at Jean Loring, after she'd snogged tiny 'stranger' The Atom, saying -
"Good Luck, Atom! I'm sure my fiance Ray Palmer will understand my kissing you was for a good cause!"
RT does indeed lay it on thick. When he revives the JSA, he says:
"They're ALIVE! -- Which is more than I can say for myself..."
I can see how some would find him a whinger, but I can also see that he embodies an almost unsayable suspicion we all have that we are just biological machines, we're not any more special than a rock or a tree, and everything we do is just genetically programmed. We think: "Maybe everyone else is a fully paid-up human, but I just can't seem to cohere as a real person. I'm just a mass of irreconcileable different impulses. Without a soul, then I am just some kind of automaton." It's the same archetype as Pinocchio and the Tin Man before him, his 'brother' the Vision and Data and Rick Decker after him. I love the way comics, especially, can give life to these little 'truths' or 'insights', and make them walk around and act our darkest secrets out for us.
I don't buy the similarity of the Vision and the Red Tornado is a coincidence. The argument that it was is, that the issues appeared too closely together for Vision's Avengers debut to have been prepared after the Tornado's Justice League of America debuted on the stands. But as this conversation points out, the creators at one company could have still have got wind of what the other was up to.
Roy Thomas was known to Fox and Schwartz from his fan days. The fan who sends the JLA a story in Justice League of America #16 was named for him and Jerry Bails. I found a fan suggestion here that perhaps Thomas had mentioned his plans to Fox. I don't know if they were in the kind of contact that would make that possible. Before finding the suggestion I wondered if Thomas might've suggested reviving the Tornado as an android to Fox or Schwartz in his fan days. The catch with both suggestions is one supposes Thomas would've mentioned that this was what had happened sometime, and I've never heard that.
Figserello - regarding Superman and time travel, it was pretty well established in the DCU that if someone time travels to another era where they already exist, the traveler is only a phantom, able only to witness events, not influence them.
That's still not a great answer in that Superman could travel a month into the future, watch Batman's cases, and come back with, "Bruce, watch out two Thursdays from now - you'll be chasing the Penguin and he's going to hit a woman and two children on Finger Street near Giordano's Deli" or some such. But then, concepts of time travel are so vague anyway that the DCU time travelers probably felt it incumbent upon themselves to strictly avoid changing history - and really, after Rip Hunter and his team, Superman and Supergirl, the Flashes, and the Legion of Super Heroes, who else transported themselves through time anyhow?