Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Justice League of America #220 - Nov. 1983

sgThe super-secret origin of Black Canary is revealed!

The Story: "The Doppleganger Gambit" by Roy Thomas, Chuck Patton, Romeo Tanghal, and Pablo Marcos. Picking up from last issue, the JSAers leave the JLA satellite and prepare to head off to various corners of the globe to stop rampaging supervillains.

They are startled when they are met by Sargon the Sorcerer, who uses his powers to freeze and pretty much embarass the Huntress, Power Girl, and Red Tornado, who don't know who he is. Hourman and Flash have a nice laugh.

Sargon explains he is here because the body of Jim Corrigan--who houses the astral body of their friend, The Spectre--was also zapped by T-Bolt, so Sargon is here to help the JSA get to the bottom of what's going on.

Meanwhile, in T-Bolt's dimension, Johnny Thunder forces T-Bolt to explain why all this is happening, and we get a rundown of the events in Johnny and Dinah's life in the late 1940s.

Johnny, now partnered (or so he thinks) with Black Canary, feels he didn't need T-Bolt anymore, and in an astonishing display of jackassery, tells the T-Bolt to get lost.

What Johnny forgot is, without the T-Bolt, he's basically Snapper Carr with worse fashion sense, and, realizing he is way, way out of his league in the JSA, eventually quit, to be replaced on the team by...Black Canary.

Johnny also takes a hit when he realizes that Dinah isn't interested in him as anything other than a friend
Johnny Thunder, Ungrateful Jerk.

Years later, Larry Lance and Dinah are married, and they have a daughter. One day, the supervillain the Wizard shows up, to extract revenge for the time Black Canary and the JSA busted him. He casts a spell on the baby, which gives it the ability to project an ear-piercing scream whenever it a Canary Cry.

They turn to Johnny Thunder and his T-Bolt for help, and the T-Bolt says he can take the tyke, and keep her in suspended animation is his dimension, until a cure could be found.

Black Canary is, understandably, a little shocked at this news...she has a daughter she doesn't remember?

Meanwhile, the various heroes are finally getting to the supervillains: Flash and Hourman take on The Fiddler and Chronos (ooh, I'm scared!), the Huntress and Red Tornado take on the Icicle and Dr. Alchemy, and Power Girl and Sargon take on The Wizard and Felix Faust.

All the heroes are defeated, and we learn they stuck a deal with Johnny Thunder: if he could get all JLAers out of the way, they would do the same to the JSA. Johnny Thunder, though, has plans to have the T-Bolt kill the villains once all this is done, as well.

He then commands T-Bolt to kill Starman and Black Canary, and he tries to resist the command. As he struggles, the Earth-2 Johnny Thunder--also imprisoned there--breaks free of his energy gag, and supersedes that original order, freeing T-Bolt!

After the evil Johnny is punched out the good one, he sends T-Bolt to earth to help wake up the JLAers, who then in turn help the JSAers defeat the villains.

Back in the T-Bolt dimension, Black Canary is still wondering what the hell is going on. Luckily Superman and the Spectre show up to answer her:
...well, sure, I can see how that would make sen...wait a minute, what?!?

Turns out that Black Canary developed her powers when she switched Earths, not because of the villain Aquarius, as was thought way back in JLA #75. Superman and the JSA knew, but decided it was best just to leave "well enough" alone.

Superman picks up Canary, and as they head back to Earth-1, she asks that he let her explain all this to Green Arrow...

Roll Call: Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, Black Canary, Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Zatanna, Firestorm

Notable Moments: This has got to be, hands down, the craziest, most absurd retro-fitting in the history of superhero comics.

Even as a kid, when I got to the above page, I went "What?!?" Superman just took it upon himself to do all this memory and body switching? And he's kept this huge secret all these years? Gee, thanks, Kal, I think I can manage my own life, thanks very much.

I understand the need to explain how Black Canary seemed to be as young, if not younger, than most of the JLA, yet she was supposedly around since World Warr II. But the idea of erasing someone's memory, so you think you're your own Mother, is just so odd and wrong and weird and crazy.

From 1 to 10 on the Goofy Meter, this story, as a great man once said, goes to 11.

Enjoy this issue's cover by George Perez, its the last one he ever did for the book. *sniff*

sgThe JLA was doing a lot of guest-starring around this time--sandwiched in between their appearance in Batman and the Outsiders #1 (in Aug. 1983) and their one in World's Finest #300 (in Feb. 1984) was this guest-shot, in The Flash #327.

The Flash had just killed his old nemesis, Professor Zoom, and the JLA put him on trial to decide whether he should stay in the League.

Only six members participated, with Green Arrow, Elongated Man, and Firestorm voting to let Flash stay, and Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Hawkman voting for expulsion. It's up to Superman, who shows up at the end, to cast the deciding vote (which ended up being for The Flash to stay, making for some awkward meetings between Barry and Diana, Arthur, and Katar).

Interesting note: less than two years later, as Tony Isabella was putting Katar through his paces in his excellent Shadow War of the Hawkman mini-series, he had a moment where Katar reflects on this moment, and chastises himself for being so inflexible and tough on Barry. A nice touch, I thought.


Tick-Tock Tyler said...

I disliked the previous issue (#219) so much that it was the last JLA issue that I bought "new". Looks like I bailed-out just in time. I'm glad I missed this turkey in its original glory.

Were only the JSA and Earth-One Supes in on this? What about the other JLAers who were in JLA #73-74? Apparently GA didn't know about it. So Dinah Junior spent several years believing she was her own mother, with memories of being married to her own father? Ewwww! And I thought the Power Girl/Firestorm thing was creepy.

Once upon a time, the multiverse was simple enough for a seven-year-old kid to comprehend. Thanks to revisionist garbage like this (and seen monthly in All-Star Squadron, also by Roy Thomas), the multiverse became a big, stinky mess. Wish you'd stayed at Marvel, Roy.

rob! said...

don't hold back, TTT, let us know how you really feel.

i wouldn't be as harsh towards Roy--i loved All-Star Squadron, since most of that wasn't retro-fitting continuity, rather filling in gaps left by untold stories.

and there have been times where i've enjoyed those kinds of stories, its just that this particular solution to the problem of BC being waaay too old is, like i said, so weird and goofy and strange that it sort of collapses in on itself, like a black hole.

but one thing i've learned from doing these blogs and talking to all these comics pros, is that there is WAY MORE editorial/corporate meddling in comics than you could ever imagine, so when a story like this comes down the pike, i wonder how much he blame needs to be spread around, evenly and smoothly, like peanut butter on a piece of bread.

...and i think that part thats goofiest is how Superman sorta took it upon himself to do this, and keep it a secret. it sorta plays into the dark suspicion that Supes really does believe he's better than the rest of us. :)

Anonymous said...

I used to have these issues, but traded them away when I was 9! Bad move, or so I thought. When I reread the story years later, I realized I'd forgotten was!
Too bad that Roy's only (solo)JLA writing assignment was little more than a JSA story with a few Earth-1cameos! Considering that CRISIS soon made the whole thing irrelevant(along with pretty much every other JSA-connected story Thomas wrote), this has to down as another nail in the coffin for the book.

Butch R said...

While the story isn't a masterpiece, it did explain about BC being in her 60's and looking 20 (or so). Rob, I think you were a bit hard on Johnny Thunder. I've been in situations like that before (minus the super heroes, powers and the woman wearing fishnets all the time *sigh*) and it sucks. Yeah, he was a jerk but he was crushed. So I give Johnny a break on it. :)
Now on the other end of the spectrum, Kal-El comes off as a super-JERK for what he did. I think BC's line should have been, "Maybe they do stuff like this all the time back on Krypton, but not here!"
Rob is right though, I've read multiple interviews and when something down right silly comes out usually it's the editor's fault. And I agree with Anonymous' comment about Crisis was soon coming, but I don't know how far along it was. But also from what I've read, Roy seemed to either be in denial or led to believe that it wasn't going to have the impact on Earth 2 (characters) that it did.
No more George Perez on JLA, if that don't ruin your day, I don't know what will. *sniff*

Earth 2 Chris said...

"Apparently GA didn't know about it. So Dinah Junior spent several years believing she was her own mother, with memories of being married to her own father? Ewwww! And I thought the Power Girl/Firestorm thing was creepy."

That aspect of this convoluted mess never ocurred to me. That is just...wrong. And according to the credits it was "based on a suggestion by Marv Wolfman". C'mon Marv, you should know better! :-)

You know, if you read a lot of Pre-Crisis DC stories, Superman did take it on himself to "fix" a lot of things. There is a creepy Ubermensch-under current in a lot of Superman tales.



Wich2 said...

But Chris - he's Superman!

Seriously, though, this ranks as much odder than just moving a moon so a planet of purple people survive.

It really IS the kind of counter-intuitive, "Wha...?" writing that, as TTT says, has cumulatively screwed up comics.

-Craig W.

BentonGrey said...

You know, in that Flash story, it makes sense for Aquaman to vote against him....after-all, if Arthur can spare the life of the man who killed his son...what excuse could Barry possibly have?

Earth 2 Chris said...

GA's vote to let him stay makes sense, since he also accidentally took a life once. Of course a few years later Mike Grell had him skewering people on a regular basis. :-)

I don't think the modern WW would have much problem with Flash now, do you?


Tick-Tock Tyler said...

rob! said...
"i wouldn't be as harsh towards Roy"

OK. Maybe I was too rough on Roy-the-boy. I enjoyed some of the All-Star Squadron stuff, too. But there was a lot of revisionism there.

earth 2 chris said...
"That aspect of this convoluted mess never ocurred to me."

I recall a DC Comics Presents story with Dinah and Supes just a couple of years before this JLA story. IIRC, Dinah talked about "darling Larry". Looking back, it makes Supes look like a Uber-sadist -- but he was really just ignorant of what someone would write in the future. Roy's retcon here sheds a new light on every story with BC from 1969 to 1983. How did Ollie react when he discovered he was competing with Dinah's false memories of her "husband"? How could the Superman and the others think that it was good for Dinah to grieve for her "husband", but not for her parents or her lost childhood?

Andreas Krauß said...

Well, this is the only pre-Crisis Story said by DC to be in continuity that I flat-out refuse to accept as part of the Justice League's canon. As far as I am concerned, it happened not on Earths 1&2, but on a pair of alternate earths that were superfically very similar to the earths of the JLA and JSA we know.

Sorry, Roy & Marv: You may be two of the greatest writers this medium ever had, but on this one, you dropped the ball complettely.

As to that FLASH story, I remember it well. At the time, Robin, Wonder Woman, Timber Wolf, Superman, Hawkman, the Phantom Stranger and Batman were my favorite super-heroes by far.

But I actually liked Wonder Woman and Hawkman less after reading that story. They came over not only as very insensitive, insensible and inflexible, but they were actually quite calluous. Even after they had all the data the flash had himself at this time, they STILL tried to vote Barry OUT of the JLA, just because he killed a super-speed-wielding killer who had allready murdered Barry's first wife and now had tried to do the same to Fiona??

At the time I thought: "Sheesh, what a couple of heartless creeps. Better to let an innoccent victim die than to 'murder' her killer, huh?" Boy was I disgusted with them two after that for a long time.

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