Sunday, March 9, 2008

Justice League of America #110 - Apr. 1974

sgNot only is this one of all-time favorite JLA stories, it's one of my favorite superhero comic stories, ever. It's--

The Story: "The Man Who Murdered Santa Claus!" by Len Wein, Dick Dillin, and Dick Giordano, with special thanks going out to "Green Lantern Fan Dufy Vohland."

We open with Superman and Batman arranging a special visit by Santa Claus to some local orphans. Santa picks up his bag of toys, enters the next room, when it explodes!

Here we're treated to one of the best JLA splash pages ever, which kicks the story off right just as any good splash page should
...I can just hear the Dramatic Movie musical sting accompanying this image!

Anyway, a JLA distres signal goes out, and we get to see why some JLAers(like Flash, the Atom, Aquaman, and Elongated Man) can't make it, but others are, like Hal Jordan, who promptly falls in the shower, banging his head on the sink.

The power ring wastes no time in finding a replacement Lantern, John Stewart, which carts him off to the JLA satellite.

Batman shows the clue left in Santa's hand, and it leads them to a series of rundown inner city buildings to find Santa's murderer. Here the JLA faces a series of death traps, which leads each of the JLAers in turn having to sacrifice themselves to save the rest--starting with Superman, who heaves himself into a mini-Red Sun, killing himself in the process!

Black Canary is the next to die, and it's here we see the bad guy behind all this, watching the JLA get picked off, one by one...the villainous Key!

Next Batman and Green Arrow go, leaving only Red Tornado and Green Lantern, who are then overcome by the Key's army of robots. The Key begins to revel in his success...understandable, since he's managed to kill half the Justice League!

Unfortunately, the Key's victory party is cut short, by the sudden appearance of all the JLAers, safe and sound! Turns out they were all saved by...The Phantom Stranger! The Stranger went undercover as one of the Key's henchmen and helped each of the JLA only look like they were killed, so they could sneak up on the Key.

Before they can apprehend him, the Key sets off the "Doom-Bomb" implanted in his headquarters, and slips out a secret passageway. The JLA rounds up all the people living in the buildings, so they won't be killed in the explosion.

GL contains the explosion, but it still levels all the buildings. Fortunately, this GL thought ahead, and decided to give these lesser fortunate people an early Christmas gift
The epilogue takes place back at the satellite, where the JLA are exchanging gifts. Black Canary gives Red Tornado a new costume, to help him understand the season, plus she was "tired of that grim, drab outfit you've been wearing."

Even the grumpy Green Arrow gets in the spirit, and the JLA wishes everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Roll Call: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern(John Stewart), Green Arrow, Black Canary, Red Tornado

Notable Moments: This is such a sweet tale; I love Green Lantern's solution at the end of the story in how he finds a way to help these poor families yet stay within the "rules" of being a Green Lantern. Ingenious on Mr. Wein's part.

This is the first issue to feature the "Here Come TV's Super-Friends!" on the cover--DC had not yet created the Super Friends comic, so this was as close as they could get.

It's also the first issue of the 100-Page "Super-Spectacular" format, which wasn't a big hit but the issues done this way remain a lot of fun, stuffed to the gills as they were with fun comic book-y goodness.

Case in point, this issue also features a Justice Society tale, "The Plight of A Nation!"(co-drawn by Carmine Infantino and Alex Toth!), a JLA crossword puzzle, "Z--As in Zatanna--and Zero Hour!" from JLA #51, a double-page JSA pin-up by Murphy Anderson, and a two-page edition of the JLA Mail Room! All this for a measly fifty cents!

sgI first read this story not in the original comic, but in The Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #22, "Christmas With the Superheroes." I remember buying this book right off the stands in Dec. 1981 at the beloved Voorhees News & Tobacco Shop.

All the stories in it are pretty good, but when I saw a JLA story where it looked like they were getting knocked off, one by one, the sale was made.


Adama said...

Okay, I've got to ask, were there a lot of mysterious, machete related eaths at that tobacco store?

RAB said...

This has always been one of my favorite issues...but there was one thing in the story that bothered me so much on first reading it in 1974 that it was the first thing I thought of just now! To wit: John Stewart is confronted by some little ghetto urchins asking for a handout. Naturally, he says "Why don't I use the power ring to whip up some -- " when Oliver Queen interrupts him with a completely and wildly out of character "Um, John, I don't think the Guardians allow that!"

The Ollie who berated Hal Jordan for being an unquestioning puppet of the Guardians? Who was all "listen, you wrinkled blue prune-faces, get off your high horse and see how we're suffering here on Earth" and was so persuasive one of the immortal, insufferably pompous Oans actually took him up on the challenge? This guy is going "Sorry man, you gotta follow the rules and not help those poor kids"? No freaking way! Had that line been given to Superman or Batman, it would have worked just fine.

(Also, wouldn't you expect the lefty crusader GA to be a little bit more open to a Black GL than he is here?)

Apart from that, no complaints. This was only the second appearance by Stewart, and his first with the League...and it probably wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Len here set a precedent for his later more prominent role in the animated version.

Earth-2 Rev. Nørb said...

I don't recall thinking this story was particularly outstanding, but i know a few people who consider it their favorite JLA story. Go figure.

I really have a hard time understanding how that garish Red Tornado costume has essentially lasted to this day...i thought the ugly red and purple one was far more distinguished.

David F said...

I remember this as a fun issue. Green lantern's mundane reason for being out of action was one of those comic reading delights. A guy who been to other galaxies and fought off super powered villains is knocked out by slipping on a bar of soap. That's great!

I particularly liked the dialogue on the final page of the story, in which Green Arrow wants to avoid getting all saccharine about Christmas, but the group won't let him get away with it. That was classic salty Green Arrow. Red Tornado's cluelessness was touching. Fun to see his new costume, though I thought it was a bit gaudy.

This may not have been such an outstanding issue according to the criteria by which I'd usually judge comics. But it's something of a sentimental favorite. I remember buying it as a kid. There was some reference to the nobler meaning of Christmas. The JSA reprint story tackled the topic of juvenile delinquency in well-ntended fashion. I associate this issue with the goodwill and simply joy of Christmas as a kid.

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