Monday, June 30, 2008

Justice League of America #212 - March 1983

sgThe conclusion of the JLA's desperate attempt to save Earth from self-destruction!

The Story: Untitled by Gerry Conway, Rich Buckler, Paris Cullins, and Romeo Tanghal. Picking up from last issue, the JLA tries to take on the War-Kohns who have invaded Earth.

The Flash is zapped by some sort of energy beam, Wonder Woman is pummeled by the biggest of the War-Kohns, and even the Phantom Stranger's mystical powers only seem to barely work against them.

The War-Kohns start rounding up humans, and we get to see some of the other races these conquerors have ground under their boot. It ain't pretty.

Meanwhile, in the Treasurers' ship, Superman and the others are barely holding their own. Luckily the Atom has sneaked off, and frees all the other aliens the Treasurers have been holding captive. These aliens help turn the tide, and the War-Kohns aboard the Treasurers' ship are defeated.

Back on Earth, Elongated Man has deduced that the War-Kohns ships seem to be purposely avoiding any contact with water
This seems to work, and the JLAers on Earth start spraying the War-Kohns ships with water, evening the battle.

Back in space, Superman and the others find George Stuart, and they find out why he's so special. While the JLA is shocked, he tells them they are more needed on Earth. They beam down to the different trouble spots to help out their fellow JLAers and start taking out the trash:
The JLA, having defeated the War-Kohns on Earth, then regroup, head back into space, and defeat the War-Kohns leaders. The head War-Kohn gets hit simultaneously by Superman and Wonder Woman, something I wouldn't wish on anyone.

Turns out that George Stuart--and he alone--carries in his genes the genetic pattern of the entire human race! Only he could combat the mutated X-Element, which is why the War-Kohns wanted him off Earth!

The Atom designs a huge machine that uses Stuart to convert all the affected humans back to normal, while we also see that our brave human David has found his beloved Olivia.

The JLA is satisfied with a job well done, but the Atom has to rain on their parade a little bit by telling them that the Treasurers don't create the X-Element problem, they just find a world and exploit it. So what happens if the X-Element loaned to them by the Treasurers starts to decay? What will any of them do then?

Gee, thanks Ray...

Roll Call: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Atom, Hawkman, Black Canary, Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Hawkgirl

Notable Moments: A great wrap-up to the story, I like particularly that Aquaman got a lot to do. I still chuckle at the top of that third panel above, where Aquaman in on top of one of the War-Kohns ship, single handedly Bringing the Pain to several alien baddies all at once.

A superb cover by George Perez. How many times have I said that?

This story is untitled, which most likely had to do with the fact that this was originally one story, titled "When A World Dies Screaming!" They remembered to give last issue's chapter a separate title, but somebody forgot about it this time.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Justice League of America #211 - Feb. 1983

sgPart 2 of the JLA's desperate attempt to save Earth from self-destruction!

The Story: "The Devil's Bargain" by Gerry Conway, Rich Buckler, and Romeo Tanghal. Continued from last issue, the JLA meet with the aliens--who call themselves The Treasurers--to deliver the samples they requested.

The JLA balks at them taking an actual human being, but lowly, simple George Stuart volunteers to go, saying he's been ordinary his whole life--here's his chance to be special.

While Ray's co-worker David steals a jet(!) to find his fiancee, Superman decides that some of the team needs to head into space and investigate these treasurers--this whole thing is all too conveniently timed.

When Red Tornado heads into the upper atmosphere to release the sphere containing the X-Element, it explodes in his face!

The JLAers rescue Reddy, and while the X-Element from the aliens seems to do the trick for the moment, things quickly turn sour. All of a sudden, people and animals touched by the sparkling dust falling from the sky turn into horrible monsters!

Superman and the others, spying on the treasurers, find them making some sort of deal with another set of aliens, seemingly for the person of George Stuart. At the same time, the JLA satellite is attacked by those same aliens, named the War-Kohns.

These War-Kohns think they've killed the JLAers inside, and they head to Earth. The heroes of course are not dead, and they decide to head to Earth to fight these alien attackers, with an added bit of muscle suddenly appearing...The Phantom Stranger!

Superman and the others learn that the Treasurers and the War-Kohns have been warring for years, and struck an uneasy bargain. The Treasurers would find a planet, deplete its X-Element, then offer to replace it. But this new supply of X-Element was infected with a germ, causing the natives on a planet to turn into War-Kohns!

This enrages the JLAers, who have had enough of talking
...that is one scary Superman!

The JLAers find themselves evenly matched by the War-Kohns. Meanwhile, our lovelorn human David lands his stolen jet in Sweden, where he is met by a bunch of snarling War-Kohns! He knocks a few of them around with a well-swung fire extinguisher, and heads off to find his fiancee Olivia! To be continued!

Roll Call: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Atom, Hawkman, Black Canary, Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Hawkgirl

Notable Moments:As I mentioned yesterday, artist Rich Buckler offered up a couple of awesome full-page shots, meant to take advantage of the treasury comics-sized format this story was planned for.

Also, while last issue ended at an understandable point, this one ends on the most minor of the sub-plots. I guess DC only had so many choices where to break up a 72-page story into three 23-page chapters.

Hey, Phantom Stranger--nice of you to show up, but are you a member or not?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Justice League of America #210 - Jan. 1983

sgHow can the JLA fight a menace they can't even see?

The Story: "When A World Dies Screaming!" by Gerry Conway, Rich Buckler, and Romeo Tanghal. An untold tale from the JLA Casebook!

The story opens with Ray Palmer, discussing a dire discovery with a co-worker--that a collection of pseudo-neutrino energy called the "X-Element" is quickly evaporating! This X-Element does nothing less than affect all other elements on the Earth! Without it, all of the world's basic chemical reactions start to fail!

Ray takes off to "notify some people", leaving his friend David to do the same. David vows to be reunited with his fiancee, who just happens to be on the other side of the world at the moment.

David assumes Ray is going to find his wife Jean, but of course he's actually headed out to the JLA satellite, to warn them of what's about to happen!

As the JLA discusses what's happening, distress signals go off all around the world, on every continent, so the World's Greatest Superheroes spring into action! Meanwhile, a giant spaceship ominously orbits Earth, watching the events unfold.

Teams of Superman and Wonder Woman, Flash, and Elongated Man, and Green Lantern and The Atom try and stop natural disasters from becoming tragedies. The Atom does some more digging, and discovers that all these events are "X" related--its decaying at an alarming rate, and he can't figUre out why. The Earth might only have mere hours left!

In Southeast Asia, water used to grow crops is turning into gas, potentially causing mass starvation. Luckily the animal friends of both Aquaman and the Hawks team-up to lend a hand
The JLA is successful, but they know they are just combating the symptoms, not the disease. Suddenly, the giant spaceship we saw earlier arrives in the skies of Manhattan!

Out of the ship come a group of magenta-skinned aliens who offer a deal with the world's governments--they will provide the elements needed to reverse the decay of the X-Element...for a price!

But its not money they is samples from various surfaces around the world, like snow from the peak of Mt. Everest, salt from the Indian Ocean, and sands from the Sahara. The JLA is suspicious, of course, but they do what the U.S. government asks them to do, and use their powers to round up these items.

One item the JLA was not asked to get old man named George Stuart?? What's going on here? To be continued!

Roll Call: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Atom, Hawkman, Black Canary, Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Hawkgirl

Notable Moments: As a kid, I wondered why we were getting an "untold tale from the JLA Casebook".

It wasn't until I started doing research for my site that I learned this story had originally been commissioned for an all-new, treasury-sized, JLA edition of All-New Collectors' Edition. DC ran blurbs for such in their Amazing World of DC Comics fanzine:
For whatever reason, around the time of the "DC Implosion", DC decided to shelve most of the material originally planned to run in ANCE. Some of it was immediately re-purposed for the regular-sized books (Action Comics #500), some of it jettisoned entirely (The Legend of King Arthur, also written by Gerry Conway).

This story sat in inventory for almost six years, and then someone at DC decided to drop it in here. Presumably it was called an "untold tale" to explain the absence of the team's two newest members, Zatanna and Firestorm.

That this was originally going to be a treasury-sized book breaks my heart. I'm such a devoted fan of the format, and an all-new treasury-sized JLA book would've made my then-seven-year-old head explode (in a good way).

When you realize the story was originally meant to run at 10 1/2 x 13", you can see how artist Rich Buckler prepared to deliver artwork that made the most of the bigger size. I particularly love the splash page:
*sigh* What could have been...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Justice League of America: The Lunar Invaders

sgOne of the most obscure JLA adventures ever, complete with words, pictures, and sound!

The Story: "The Lunar Invaders" by Marv Wolfman, Ross Andru, Rich Buckler, and Bob Smith. On the moon, a collection of astronauts from different countries are working on Moonbase Peace, a livable space colony being built there.

Suddenly, they and the base are attacked by...the JLA satellite?!?

Yes, the satellite starts firing missiles at the base, destroying most of it, leaving the astronauts diving for cover.

NASA sends a distress signal, and members of the JLA--who are home, on Earth--respond to the call and can't believe what they are being told:
The JLA is completely baffled, since the JLA's weapons are defensive weapons, and can't even be used to attack anyone or anything. Yet, it has happened, which makes the JLA confused and angry, none more so than the Atom, apparently:
Wonder Woman is the current chairperson, so she sends Superman and Batman to the moon to help out there, and the rest of them to the satellite to see what's going on up there!

They try to beam up there, but find the teleporters aren't working, so Green Lantern uses his Power Ring to transport them there.

They find the airlock doors sealed shut, but Red Tornado blasts his way in using his tornado powers (again, how exactly does Reddy do that in airless space?) and then the JLAers search the satellite for intruders.

Gas starts seeping in the air vents, almost knocking the heroes out until Reddy connects to the computer and has the gas sucked away.

Meanwhile, on the moon, Superman and Batman discover giant monsters, which threaten them. Superman tries to fight them, but finds he passes right through them! As Superman tries to engage them, Batman figures out what's going on.

Back at the satellite, the JLAers are attacked by other systems in the satellite. They easily defeat them, but it leaves parts of the satellite destroyed.

On the Moon, Batman tells Superman to use his X-ray vision to scan under the surface, where the monsters emanate from, and he discovers an underground city!

They find their way in, and discover two yellow-skinned aliens pointing ray guns at them. The same thing happens at the satellite, where the heroes find two more aliens in their main deck!

Turns out this race of aliens--called Orians--escaped their doomed planet and moved to the moon, and built giant underground cities. When the astronauts started inadvertently damaging their cities while building the moonbase, the Orians assumed it was an attack and used the nearest set of weapons--the ones at the JLA satellite--to defend themselves, but taking pains to only attack the machinery, not the people.

The JLA makes peace with the Orians, to the benefit of all:
Roll Call: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Atom, Red Tornado

Notable Moments: This is one of four book and cassette adventures made by Fisher-Price and released in 1982, the others starring Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. They run 61 pages, which is presumably why you have the penciling chores spread over two artists, Ross Andru and Rich Buckler.

They are printed on nice paper and in full-color, and with the use of DC stalwarts Buckler and Andru, this looks a lot like any other DC comic of the time, albeit one inside a hardcover.

They feature full-cast recordings on a single audio cassette, and you can listen to an mp3 file of this story
here, something I fully suggest you do, JLA fans!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #31 - Dec. 1982

During the same month as JLA #209, the World's Greatest Superheroes headlined another digest collection, with front and back covers by Gil Kane!

Inside are "In Each Man There Is A Demon", by Denny O'Neil, Dick Dillin, and Joe Giella (JLA #75), "Specter in the Shadows" by Len Wein, Dillin, and Dick Giordano (JLA #105), "Wolf in the Fold" by Wein, Dillin, and Giordano (JLA #106), and "The Reverse-Spells of Zatanna's Magic" by Gerry Conway, Dillin, and Frank McLaughlin (JLA #161).

Collecting issues where new members joined is time-tested, great idea, so I only have two quibbles:

1)Hawkgirl is "skipped" over. That's probably because the issue she joined (JLA #146) isn't really about her joining, the way the above stories focused on Black Canary, Elongated Man, Red Tornado, and Zatanna, respectively. Plus, the story was extra long, so to include it would've bumped one of these.

Still, Hawkgirl gets the short shrift so much, it was a shame she couldn't be included here in some way.

2)Someone at the printers must have bumped the machine, because pages 26-27 and 74-75 are printed out of sequence, so the Black Canary story suddenly stops and we get the final page of the Red Tornado story and the cover to JLA #161, then vice-versa later on, a jarring effect.

But there is this super-cool, retro ad for JLA #209, which I really wish they had run somewhere in color, its so cool:


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Justice League of America #209 - Dec. 1982

sgThe biggest JLA/JSA cross-over ever concludes!

The Story: "Let Old Acquaintances Be Forgot..." by Gerry Conway and Don Heck. Picking up from last issue, the JLA, the JSA, and the All-Star Squadron reconnoiter at the White House, having broken up into several smaller teams to find the nuclear missiles stolen by the Crime Syndicate under Per Degaton's instructions.

In Switzerland, Steel, Firestorm, and Power Girl defeat Johnny Quick and destroy the missile. At the same time, Green Lantern, Firebrand, and Zatanna go back in time and head for Cuba, to try and stop Per Degaton from triggering World War III.

Meanwhile, the remaining heroes find Degaton's headquarters, defeat his army of armed henchmen, while the Huntress makes short work of Owlman. I mean, the guy's name is Owlman.

The Crime Syndicate show up in 1962-era Cuba to steal the Russian's missiles, but the heroes are there to stop them, thereby righting history. Immediately, all the heroes begin to fade away, back to their original times.

The All-Star Squadron has some hazy memories, Per Degaton is back working as a lowly lab assistant, dreaming of world power, and the Crime Syndicate is back in their inter-dimensional prison.

We then cut back to the moment the JSA was supposed to beam across to the satellite, and this time they do, and marvel that, for once, nothing bad happened:
"...Now what was that you were saying about wanting to get me alone?" Wow! Score one for Firestorm!

Roll Call: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Zatanna, Firestorm

Notable Moments: ...I probably did this story a disservice, condensing it down so much. A lot happens in these five issues. Nowadays this plot would run for two years.

Another awesome cover by George Perez, nicely summing up all that has come before. You have to admit, Per Degaton got a lot accomplished, more than most supervillains ever dream of. It took three sets of heroes to beat him, and he doesn't even have any superpowers!

Four of the five issues of this story came out when I was on vacation in the Poconos, a favorite spot when I was a kid. With two of the month-old issues still on sale at newsstands in August 1982, I got to read 4/5ths of the story in two weeks, which was very exciting.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Justice League of America #208 - Nov. 1982

sgThe biggest JLA/JSA cross-over ever continues here!

The Story: "The Bomb-Blast Heard 'Round The World!" by Gerry Conway, Don Heck, and Sal Trapani. Picking up from last issue, the JLA and the All-Star Squadron find themselves face to face in the ruined headquarters of the Justice Society.

Not knowing each other, they of course start beating the crap out of each other, Marvel-style. Aquaman takes a swipe at Steel, and is surprised to find that he doesn't immediately fall over. The heroes from each side approach each other, fists clenched...

Superman can't take it anymore, and yells "Stop It!" at the top of his lungs, nearly bursting the ear drums of every one but Robotman.

The two teams get each other their back stories, Firestorm tries to hit on Firebrand, and then they get a call from...President Roosevelt!

FDR is amazingly calm, meeting all these new superheroes, and Zatanna is quietly stunned at the (to her) former President's magnetism. I think I'd feel the same way.

Anyway, FDR explains they got a crate in the mail, inside of which is a machine that plays a tape of...Per Degaton!

None of the heroes know who he is, exactly, and Firestorm makes an interesting observation:
...I bet Ronnie also believes in Phrenology.

Anyway, the heroes figure out that somehow Per Degaton changed history, something the JSA is learning too, while searching the destroyed Earth-Prime.

Turns out, on Earth-Prime, the Cuban Missile Crisis ended with all-out nuclear war, leaving the world the way it is now. Clearly, also the work of Per Degaton.

Back on Earth-2, Per Degaton's promise to explode a nuclear bomb out in the Pacific Ocean is fulfilled, but then the JLA sees a bubble in the aftermath, filled with their JSA friends!

As the JLA cares for their unconscious friends, they don't realize Per Degaton is watching them, plotting the end of his terrible plan! To be continued!

Roll Call: Superman, Aquaman, Hawkman, Zatanna, Firestorm

Notable Moments: awesome cover by George Perez. I would've loved to have seen it full bleed, but the overall design is cool, too.

Part four of the story takes place in All-Star Squadron #15:

sg...I thought I had these issues in my collection, but apparently I don't. That's a shame, since I remember Aquaman gets a lot to do in, er, ASS #15.

Time to hit eBay...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Justice League of America #207 - Oct. 1982

sgThe biggest JLA/JSA cross-over ever begins here!

The Story: "Crisis on Earth-Prime!" by Gerry Conway, Don Heck, and Romeo Tanghal. The JLA and the JSA prepare meet at the JLA satellite for their annual get together. Think something will go wrong?

The JLA's transmatter machine lights up, but its not the JSA that steps's the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3!

Startled, the CS make quick work of the JLAers, and then steal one of their spacecraft, heading for Earth-1.

Meanwhile, we find the JSA trapped in the same prison bubble in another dimension that the heroes left the Crime Syndicate in, waaay back in JLA #s 29 and 30.

Luckily, the combined powers of Green Lantern and Dr. Fate free them, and GL uses his ring to find the "hole" in reality that they believe the baddies left through. They follow that path, and make their way to Earth-1, or so they think:
They find this other Earth, Earth-Prime, completely destroyed in a nuclear holocaust, and filled with all sorts of irradiated creatures. GL scans the planet, and picks up psychic patterns which reveals who did this...the supervillain Per Degaton!

Back at the satellite, the JLAers wake up, and head to Earth-2 to try and find the JSA. But when they get there, they see they've arrived on Earth-2, all right, but this Earth-2 is different than the one they know...its a fascist world, filled with statues of its leader...Per Degaton!

The JLA sees that the JSA's headquarters was destroyed in 1942, so they decide to head back to that time, to figure out what happened.

Once they arrive, they are greeted by superheroes, but not the JSA--it's the All-Star Squadron! To be continued!

Roll Call: Superman, Aquaman, Hawkman, Zatanna, Firestorm

Notable Moments: The biggest JLA/JSA team-up ever, spanning over five issues and two books. It was even more unusual, because you got to see the All-Star Squadron's "side" of the story in fourteenth issue of their book:

sg...which ended basically on the other side of the door to the JSA's headquarters, at the exact same moment this issue ended, leading into tomorrow's JLA.

The cover design, with all the heads reacting to the center image, is quite striking. Kudos to whoever designed it!

Aquaman, for whatever reason, rarely participated in the yearly JLA/JSA team-ups (he only appeared in two in the last decade), so its nice he was in on the biggest one they ever did!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Justice League of America #206 - Sept. 1982

sgThe return of the Demons Three!

The Story: "The Secret That Time Forgot!" by Gerry Conway, Carmine Infantino, and Romeo Tanghal. This issue opens in a very unusual place...the 25th Century!

Thomas Parker and his son Gardner are visiting the Space Museum, where Gardner marvels at a very unusual display--a bell, a jar, and a wheel, all broken and damaged.

The museum's description reveals that these objects were an essential part of a case involving the Justice League of America.

Gardner, having no idea who that is, is led by his father into The Hall of Justice, where they see:
...if this place existed in my world, I'd be there every day.

Anyway, Thomas gives his son some backstory about the JLA and the Demons Three, relating to him the events of JLA #s 10, 11, 35, 147, and 148.

We then learn that, back when the JLA was moving from its Secret Sanctuary to its satellite, Green Arrow was assigned the task of packing up the team's trophies.

Just as he got to the bell, jar, and wheel, the Demons Three projected themselves into Green Arrow's mind, making him leave the three objects behind.

Many years later, a man on a mountain climb finds the ground underneath him giving way, and he finds himself at the lip of the former Secret Sanctuary's entrance, where he finds himself compelled to cart off the three objects. He then sells them to a Pawn Shop owner, who uses Black Magic to release the demons!

For his trouble, the now-free Abnegazar, Rath, and Ghast immolate him.

Meanwhile, the JLA was having a meeting, electing their new chairperson--Zatanna! The meeting then breaks up, leaving just a handful of the members behind, where The Flash brings up--again--his feelings for Zee
"...when Zatanna is around, it's hard to remember what What's-Her-Name even looks like."

I assume Barry is talking about Fiona Webb, who was in his solo book at the time?
Wow, that is harsh.

Anyway, the festivities are dispelled when the Demons Three--in giant form--attack the satellite, trying to rip it apart! The satellite's defenses fend them off momentarily, and Zatanna says their mystical trail leads to Stonehenge.

Once there, the demons blast Flash, Elongated Man, and Atom. Batman then uses himself as a decoy, assuming that the Demons Three won't expect an attack from Zatanna, who was not a member when they fought last.

After thinking Zatanna fell into a trap (involving switching themselves with the three objects), Abnegazar, Rath, and Ghast are defeated when Zatanna recreates the objects with her magic, which drags them back inside, imprisoning them.

We end our tale back in the future(!), and Gardner's Dad tells him that the reason he knows this story is because one of the JLA is an ancestor of theirs! Which one, well...

Roll Call: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Atom, Elongated Man, Zatanna

Notable Moments: An unusual issue, since with Carmine Infantino as guest-penciler and its futuristic, one-issue-only setting, this story feels like an inventory tale. But since it fits in with current JLA storylines, it was obviously planned out.

Superman and Wonder Woman appear in only one panel, and we do get Green Arrow as well, in the flashback.

This same month, the JLA also made a guest-appearance in the Air Wave back-up feature in Action Comics #535, courtesy Bob Rozakis and Alex Saviuk:
You know, in a lot of ways, I could've pictured Air Wave joining the JLA--he was young, but he had a connection to an old-time DC hero. But I think once Firestorm was in, there wasn't any real "room" on the team for another young, inexperienced hero.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Justice League of America #205 - Aug. 1982

sgPart 3 of the JLA versus the new Royal Flush Gang...and Hector Hammond!

The Story: "The Final Hand!" by Gerry Conway, Don Heck, and Romeo Tanghal. Continued from last issue, Black Canary and Elongated Man arrive back at the JLA satellite to find a comatose Green Arrow.

But Ten is still there, and tries to get the drop on them. It almost works, but Black Canary is so pissed off she lets loose her Canary Cry, knocking Ten out.

Green Arrow is added to the list of patients at UCLA Medical Center, and Elongated Man notices the similarity to the loss of brain function the JLAers are suffering from, and what happened with Derek Reston last issue--how he "lost his mind", as well.

We then see Firestorm's other identity, Martin Stein, as he desperately tries to wake his other half up. It's only Stein that knows the real villain behind all this is Hector Hammond, since they both exist on the same ectoplasmic plane (that's fun to type).

Ten is also at the hospital, and when she almost reveals the big plan, Hammond goes ballistic and induces a heart attack in her!

Meanwhile, Batman and Flash have been called in, and are heading to the desert with Canary and Ralph to find the Royal Flush Gang's HQ. Ralph is temporarily fooled by the image of his wife Sue, and is zapped by Queen.

They wind their way through a giant maze, and each get attacked by the Gang, and are defeated. They wake up strapped to giant playing cards, which Ace blasts into the sky. Ace is ecstatic of his victory over the JLA, and finally Jack has had enough:
Jack reveals the truth about Ace, who doesn't bother to deny it, and now says the rest of the Gang are "disposable now that the League has been smashed!"

Oh, really?

Ace suddenly explodes, the victim of Black Canary's Canary Cry! Jack cut a deal with the JLA--he saves them, they save him from Ace.

Unfortunately, the JLAers are still in a coma, and Hammond reveals his real plan--to steal the brain energy from the JLAers, taking it in for himself, which would allow his corporeal form to finally move again!

This drives Martin Stein to "create" a body for himself, and he decides to open a can of ectoplasmic (see? fun!) whoop-ass on Hammond:
Stein beats up Hammond, who backs down like the little twerp he is, releasing the JLAers out of their comas.

Firestorm wonders why Martin Stein seems so happy, and Stein promises he'll tell him later. At the moment, the JLA is wondering why Firestorm is talking to himself!

Roll Call: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Elongated Man, Firestorm

Notable Moments: A solid ending, I've always liked the idea of a villain cutting a deal with the heroes to save his own skin. I also like how much of a sniveling little jerk Hammond is. Big head, little guts.

The JLA Mail Room page has letters concerning JLA #200, and the response was uniformly positive, although some take the editors to task for not having Hawkgirl involved.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Justice League of America #204 - July 1982

sgPart 2 of the JLA versus the new Royal Flush Gang!

The Story: "The Cut of the Cards!" by Gerry Conway, Don Heck, and Romeo Tanghal. This issue opens with Superman entertaining some kids at a local circus by juggling...elephants!

Afterwards, he is met by Lois Lane, who grabs him and plants one on him, much more passionately than usual. Before he realizes what's up, "Lois" reveals herself to be Queen, who blasts him with some sort of sceptre.

Up at the JLA satellite, Elongated Man is trying to keep track of all these attacks on his fellow teammates, and soon Green Arrow and Black Canary arrive.

Ralph and Canary head down to Earth and find an unconscious Wonder Woman, and they take her to the same hospital where Aquaman and Firestorm are. They are all in comas, with very little brain activity showing up on scans.

Green Arrow, still up on the satellite, is shocked when he sees a strangely-dressed woman outside in space! He goes to investigate, and she blasts her way in, chasing him:
...yes, Green Arrow, Ten is now a woman (no, Ollie, you can' know).

Anyway, Ten catches up to Arrow, and blasts him the way the others were.

Meanwhile, Canary and Ralph are investigating the manufacturer behind the trading card components found near each of the scenes. The trail leads to Megaform Industries, and they have to bluff their way into the company's compound. Luckily, Black Canary is one the doing the persuading to the guard
...I love editor Len Wein's Stan Lee-esque footnote.

The two sneak around, grab some normal clothes, and find their way to the company's president, Derek Reston.

Once they enter the room, Reston goes insane and attacks the two of them, raving about how they are "two of the hated Justice League!"

They manage to subdue him, and after he wakes up, he is totally calm, and has no memory of what just happened! What's going on here?

It's here we see the ghostly image of Hector Hammond, bragging about how this is all his plan, and that Reston is only doing his bidding!

To be continued!

Roll Call: Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Elongated Man, Firestorm

Notable Moments: Great, insanely-detailed cover by George Perez (I'll be saying that a lot in the next few weeks). And even though nothing like this happens in the issue, who cares? Its still way cool to look at.

I don't know if the Royal Flush Gang sent Ten specifically to take on Green Arrow, figuring he'd be thinking with his arrows instead of his head. If they did, that's just good supervillain planning.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Justice League of America #203 - June 1982

sgThe JLA takes on an all-new Royal Flush Gang, who are even more deadlier than ever!

The Story: "Shuffle and Deal...with Death!" by Gerry Conway, Don Heck, and Romeo Tanghal. This issue opens up in my favorite way...with Aquaman!

We find the King of the Seven Seas and Firestorm as they cruise the ocean waves, on a beautiful, cloudless day.

Firestorm asks why Aquaman asked him to meet him here so early in the morning, Aquaman says its to give the Nuclear Man some pointers on super-heroing, just as Black Canary did in JLA #189.

Firestorm retorts "Thanks but no thanks! I know all I need to know!"

That puts a grin on Aquaman's face, and then:
Yes, Firestorm The Nuclear Man is taken down by some flying fish. And he's the one who has a solo title?

Anyway, Aquaman rescues Firestorm, and he then receives a telepathic signal about trouble ahead. They investigate, finding a giant cloud hovering over the water. Firestorm charges headlong into it, and is just as quickly hit by something, sending him hurtling out of it!

Aquaman then has his octopi friends help down the giant hovercraft he sees inside the cloud, and he rips his way into it, only to be blasted into unconsciousness as well. Who did it? It's...the Jack of Spades!

Also with him is another member of the Royal Flush Gang, Ten, who this time is a woman. Jack makes a move on Ten, who threatens to break Jack's hands off if he tries it again. Awk-ward...

The ship makes it way to the desert, to the new headquarters of the Royal Flush Gang! Here they meet the other members, King, Queen, and their leader, Ace.

We then get a brief rundown of how they all ended up here--Ten was a test pilot who kept finding her achievements belittled by sexism, Jack was a petty thief whose carelessness led to murder, Queen was an actress who couldn't stop hitting the bottle, and King was a bum facing a slow death by cancer. They were all approached by Ace, who offered them a different life if they would join this new team he was putting together.

Later, Firestorm and Aquaman are found in some fishermen's nets, and they contact the JLA. Elongated Man sends out a distress signal, and before she can answer, Wonder Woman is attacked--and defeated--by King.

Back at the Gang's HQ, Jack's inherent distrust of Ace leads him to spy on him, where he makes a shocking discovery
To be continued!

Roll Call: Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Elongated Man, Firestorm

Notable Moments: I love that a kid reading it for the first time, I was genuinely shocked, and its sets up a nice tension for the next issue.

I always wondered, how do supervillain gangs get these massive headquarters built, anyway? I mean, do they outsource it to contractors, or is there some sort of bad guy union?

Aquaman gets a lot to do this issue, which I always enjoy, and he uses some flying fish to knock out Firestorm. That makes me laugh.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Justice League of America #202 - May 1982

sgThe JLA get lost in space and have to fight...Batman?!?

The Story: "Star Fall" by Gerry Conway, Don Heck, and Brett Breeding and Friends. We open with Batman, outside in airless space, making some repairs to the JLA satellite.

Suddenly there's a power surge, and a major electrical strike hits Batman, knocking him out, and he begins to float away into space.

As Hawkman prepares to head out and rescue him, plates of the satellite's bulkhead start to peel off, rupturing the life support system! Hawkman strains to hit the JLA distress signal.

Wonder Woman, Zatanna, Red Tornado, and the Atom answer the call (after we see what the others are tied up with), and within a few moments they repair the bulkhead and restore life support...but not before Batman has disappeared off their radar!

They all suit up and get into a mini spacecraft, and head for Batman's last known location. They fly the ship unknowingly right into some sort of wormhole, which transports them a great distance into another galaxy.

They find themselves face to face with a massive star cruiser, which sends out a robotic arm to grab the JLA's ship. It pulls them in, but the JLAers fight it off and make their way into the cruiser itself, its proportions bigger than anything they've ever seen.

Then some sort of robot drone approaches, and responds to the JLA's question of where are they?

It tells them of the race of the people that created it, about how they were an advanced, curious people, who sent of their own, an explorer named Ursak, out to wander the stars.

On one planet, Ursak ran afoul of the people on it, and they damaged his ship's life support system, so he put himself in suspended animation, and put out a distress call to his planet's medical ship, which came looking for him. It has been waiting a long time--approximately 200,000 years--for Ursak to show up!

And when it found the floating Batman, it assumed he was Ursak and "healed" him the best he could, basically turning him into a sort of monster!

The mad Batman attacks the JLA, who does their best to defend themselves without hurting their friend. Hawkman tricks him into charging into a massive computer board, shocking Batman unconscious, where they program the drone to return their friend back into Batman.

In the meantime, Hawkman discovered that the planet Ursak visited was, in fact, pre-historic Earth, and the transmission got garbled, so the medical ship has been waiting all this time in the wrong place!

Hawkman reprograms the ship's navigation computer, and sends it to the correct location to find Ursak, who has been waiting all this time...

Roll Call: Batman, Wonder Woman, Atom, Hawkman, Red Tornado, Zatanna

Notable Moments
: The splash page by Heck is fantastic, and still makes me a little nauseous (in a good way) when I look at it:

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Justice League of America #201 - Apr. 1982

sgThe return of Ultraa! Let's see how he screws up this time!

The Story: "A Hero For All Seasons" by Gerry Conway, Don Heck, and Bob Smith. On the Atlantic City boardwalk, down-on-his-luck fella Joe Perry ponders the failures of his life.

You see, one time, many years ago, Perry found a sort of "wishing machine", and instead of using it to make himself rich and famous, he ended up in a battle with the Justice League, way back in JLA #31.

As he walks down the boardwalk, he notices a young man sweeping up the dirt, and is amazed to see the guy yank up a plank of the boardwalk with one hand! Yep, it's everybody's favorite loose cannon, Ultraa!

We then see Joe talking to Ultraa, trying to talk him into using his extraordinary abilities to make himself--and Joe--rich and famous. Howabout ads for health clubs?

Meanwhile, on the JLA satellite, Green Arrow and Black Canary are going through some training sessions, when they receive a distress signal. Superman and The Flash also arrive to see what's up.

The alert is from The Atom, who is at FBI headquarters, and while there he shows his fellow JLAers some disturbing footage: their old friend Ultraa going into a bank and robbing it, ripping the bank vault door right off its hinges!

The Flash spots Joe Parry in the background, and heads to Midway City to ask Hawkman for help. Partly because he was in on the case previously, and partly to shake Carter from his depression over Shayera's extended absence.

At first Hawkman turns him down, but The Flash is persuasive, and eventually he and the other JLAers head to Atlantic City to find Joe Parry's apartment.

They knock out Joe with a Concussion Arrow, but Ultraa attacks them and the battle spills out into an Atlantic City casino, one that uses giant props as a backdrop (this must be the Finger Casino they just opened up).

Ultraa takes out Superman and The Flash, and then calms down, realizing he's been duped and led astray again. As he kneels at the feet of Joe Parry, wondering how it all went wrong, he is approached with a different tack by Hawkman, having just woken up from taking a giant pair of dice in the chest
...a nice sequence by Heck. The back and forth between the two is effective and dynamic.

Cut to: Joe Parry being convicted of conspiracy to commit theft. But where's Ultraa?

Hawkman and the JLA saw it Ultraa went where he would belong--with a tribe of Aboriginies, in the outback of Australia, just like the kind of place he came from on his home planet. Here, Ultraa is finally happy.

Roll Call: Superman, Flash, Green Arrow, Atom, Hawkman, Black Canary

Notable Moments: Patience is strained, watching Ultraa get duped into fighting the JLA again, but at least Conway knew how to end this--with Ultraa finally being put somewhere where he can't cause trouble anymore.

Replacing George Perez is not a task I'd envy for any comic book artist, and after two mediocre issues (198-199), I think Don Heck brought his "A" game here--the layouts are inventive, the storytelling effective.

Monday, June 16, 2008

JLA Satellite Interview with Len Wein

To anyone attempting even a cursory history of the Justice League of America book, the name Len Wein looms large.

Not only did Len write the book, making numerous, long-lasting changes, but later he also was its editor, guiding the book during what some (like me) consider its finest moments.

Len was generous enough to talk with JLA Satellite and offer some of insight on his dual tenures with the World's Greatest Superheroes:

JLA Satellite: How did you end up writing JLA?

Len Wein:
Honestly, at this late date, I no longer really recall. If I had to guess, though, I'd say that I was probably the next guy in line. I'd started doing some writing for Julie Schwartz by then, and we were getting along really well. Also, I made it a point back in those days to be in the office almost every day, so I could well have been the first guy to walk past Julie's office when he needed a new JLA writer.

JLA Satellite: Did you pursue the assignment? Did you always want to write JLA?

LW: I was always a fan of the book, but I don't think I rally pursued the assignment. With rare exception, I never really pursued any assignment. They usually came to me.

JLA Satellite: How was it working with Dick Dillin? You threw a lot at him right off the bat--33 heroes in that year's JLA/JSA team-up!

LW: Dick Dillin was one of the sweetest men I ever worked with. He was a real honey of a guy, big, bearish, in fact, he looked very much like Hendrickson from the Blackhawk book Dick penciled for so many years.

There was nothing I could ask Dick to draw to which he would not rise to the challenge. 33 heroes, 330 heroes, whatever I asked, Dick would draw and draw wonderfully. I imagine he might have muttered some under his breath over some of the bigger mob scenes, but he never complained to my face. I miss him to this day.

JLA Satellite: There were a lot of membership changes under your tenure. Elongated Man and Red Tornado joined, Phantom Stranger sort of joined, and Hawkman left. Was that your doing or were membership changes something editorial asked for?

LW: Actually, all the new members joining was entirely my doing. Julie just went with the flow. Oh, and thanks for noticing that the Phantom Stranger only sort of joined. He was offered membership but vanished, as per usual, without actually accepting the offer.
Over the years, other writers have just assumed PS was a member, but in my world, he never really said yes.

JLA Satellite: Did you have particularly favorite characters you enjoyed writing for more than others?

LW: I loved writing the Green Arrow/Hawkman relationship, certainly. It was probably the thing I was proudest for having brought to the book.

When I took over the JLA, it had always bothered me that these characters all got along so well. In fact, most of their personalities were almost interchangeable. I always felt that, like in any combat unit, these people would absolutely die for one another without a moment's hesitation, but wouldn't necessarily like one another at leisure.
Here was Green Arrow, the ultimate '70s radical Liberal, always at odds with the establishment, and there was Hawkman, interstellar policeman, epitomizing the establishment. These guys would never get along.

JLA Satellite: You brought back a lot of unused DC characters during your run--the Seven Soldiers of Victory, the Quality Comics characters, etc. Did you read those comics growing up and want to use those characters?

LW: I'd seen random issues here and there of many of these characters as a kid and thought it would be a kick to get to play with them. Bringing back the Seven Soldiers was just trying to find something big enough to warrant being the 100th JLA story. And I've always had a soft spot for the Quality characters. I mean, c'mon, the Human Bomb? How cool is that?

JLA Satellite: You were writing lots of comics at this time, most famously Swamp Thing, which was about as different from JLA as possible. Was one assignment harder, easier, more or less fun than the other?

LW: They both were fun and both had their challenges. As I went along with the JLA, I'd find myself coming up with new ways to challenge myself in the writing. I'd come up with the basic scenario for the issue, then figure out to break the JLA into teams. I got more creative as I went along.

One issue, I broke up the JLAers according to their costume colors. In another issue, I split them up alphabetically. I'd create the threat, then break up he teams, and then have the challenge of trying to figure out how, say, Aquaman and the Atom were going to defeat Darkseid. It kept the book fun for me and, thankfully, the readers as well, it seems.

JLA Satellite: You had a relatively long run as writer(about two years) on the title, and you were bracketed by a lot of different writers working on JLA. Why did you stop writing the book?

LW: As I recall at the time, I ran out of ideas. I'd done so many big stories, I was having a hard time coming up with smaller ones.

Also, Marvel was busily luring me away from DC at the time, so it became, in essence, struggle to find a JLA story or go write Spider-Man. Though now, after so many years, I'd love a crack at writing the JLA again.

JLA Satellite: Me, too! As editor, you presided over my--and a lot of people's--favorite era of JLA, roughly issues 185-220, including the blockbuster 200th issue. Whose idea was it to have such a massive 200th issue, with so many characters and artists?

LW: Oh, mine. After all, I had to come up with some way to top what I'd done with issue #100. As an editor, I'm incredibly proud of that issue. We had an amazing array of artists and Gerry Conway's script weren't exactly chopped liver neither.

JLA Satellite: You were editor when Dick Dillin passed away after drawing the book for so long. After that, there was a succession of artists doing the book for a few issues each--George Perez, Don Heck, Rich Buckler. Were these "try-outs" for each artist, to see how sales reacted, or was it based mostly on who was ultimately available?

LW: I seem to recall George doing the book for quite a while. In fact, each of those guys did a decent stint on the book. When Dick Dillin passed away suddenly, George Perez--who loves drawing mob scenes--became the obvious choice to do the JLA. When George moved on, other artists followed.

JLA Satellite: What projects are you working on now?

LW: Well, aside from doing occasional issues of The Simpsons and Futurama for Bongo Comics, I'm writing a video game that should be out next Spring and I just got back from New York where I talked to Dan DiDio about a number of new projects, though it's way too soon to speak about any of those.

I probably could've come up with another hundred questions for Len, but I decided the man has done enough for me already, as a JLA writer/editor, and now taking time to talk JLA with me for the blog. Thanks Len!

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