Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Justice League of America Annual #2 - 1984

sgThe biggest change to ever happen to the Justice League of America! New faces, new motivations, new leaders!

The Story: "The End of the Justice League!" by Gerry Conway, Chuck Patton, and Dave Hunt. Following what transpired in the Earth/Mars war in JLA #s 228-230, the members of the League who were present take a space shuttle to go back and see what--if anything--is left of their beloved satellite headquarters.

The various members of the team fan out and start assessing the damage. Black Canary wonders if it can be rebuilt, and Firestorm jokes "rebuild what?"

But Aquaman isn't in such a goofy mood. He takes one look at what has happened, and mutters to himself that this is the end of the Justice League
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(click to JLAify!)

Hawkgirl wonders if she heard Aquaman right. Hawkman, worriedly, says that she did.

After they return to Earth, Green Arrow suggests they start rebuilding immediately. Aquaman walks away, suggesting that even if it could be rebuilt, the team itself may not be able to be repaired. He says for everyone to meet him at the U.N. in one week.

He heads home, happy to finally see his wife, Mera. Unfortunately, she has left, leaving him a message saying that clearly his duty to the League is the most important thing in his life. She suggests he not try to find her...

One week later, at the U.N., Aquaman calls for a special audience, and makes a startling announcement
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...in just five pages, the JLA we all knew is gone.

The announcement is heard all over the world, like by an older man who seems to have massive wealth, and by fashion model Mari McCabe, who abruptly quits her job upon hearing what has happened.

At a high-rise apartment in New York, the JLA--such as it is--is deciding what to do next. They are met by a mysterious stranger, who seems to have fantastic powers!

She is revealed to be the super-heroine The Vixen, who says she is there to join up. Another new hero makes his introductions, as well, a man named Steel:
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Steel comes with a new HQ, in Detroit. Its a fully-functioning base, complete with living quarters, a pool, training rooms, etc.

They are met an armed guard, who attacks them for breaking into this place. Steel busts the guy's head, and we learn that inside the suit is Dale Gunn, an old friend of Steel's grandfather, and sort of a surrogate father to the young man. Both Zatanna and Vixen like what they see.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to a young man, a street kid/grafitti artist named Paco, who goes by the name "Vibe." When he runs afoul of some gang members, he displays amazing powers that can be directed at people and shake them uncontrollably.

This little show is seen by Steel and Vixen, and Steel tries to talk Aquaman into letting the kid join. Aquaman says no, pissing off Steel in the process, but he reconsiders when Vibe walks up to their front door and Aquaman gets a first-hand lesson in what this kid can do.

The kid is full of himself, that's for sure:
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On the way to meet Vibe's family, he and Steel meet another seemingly super-powered person, a young street thief that the people in the neighborhood call "Gypsy."

While Steel meets Vibe's family (and is immediately smitten by his sister, Rosita), Zatanna introduces herself to Dale Gunn, in about a forward a manner as possible:
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While these two flirt, Gypsy breaks in to the HQ, setting off the security alarms!

The JLA all run to the sound, with Martian Manhunter using his shape-shifting powers to nab Gypsy. When they ask who she is, she gives them a long, implausible story. When pressed for the truth, she disappears.

Aquaman is worried none of this is going like he planned, but his doubts are interrupted by a neighborhood welcoming committee, who are throwing a block party to welcome their new neighbors:
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Of course, to be continued!

Roll Call: Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Elongated Man, Zatanna, Vixen, Steel, Vibe

Notable Moments: Well, what to say? This turn of events absolutely floored me when I read it, way back in 1984. While I was *thrilled* that Aquaman was taking such a large role in the JLA, I was very unsure of these new characters.

And while I was happy to see action-hogs Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern depart, it was the removal of my other favorites, like Green Arrow and the Hawks that made me scratch my head.

I was even more confused by this passage in the annual's text page by editor Alan Gold:
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...in retrospect, of course Gold was just trying to make sure comic fans didn't storm the DC offices like the mob in Frankenstein, but it left me confused. Were "The Big Ones" gone from the book, or not? And if not, what chance did these new characters have? Questions, questions!

Before we move on to JLA Detroit's (as it came to be known) first appearance in JLA proper, we'll take a moment tomorrow to try and answer some of the questions about this strange turn of events in the history of the World's Greatest Superheroes, when the JLA Satellite talks to the man himself, Gerry Conway! Be here!

14 comments:

buttler said...

Ah, the classic JLA. Came in like a lion, went out like a punk.

"In your heart you know I'm right."

Wait, Aquaman's secretly . . . Barry Goldwater?

At first I thought Steel said, "And I don't come empty-handed. If you're looking for a roll of quarters, maybe we can work a deal."

Because really, that seemed like all it would take to join the League at this juncture.

"One thing's sure about this new set up . . . nobody's gonna drop dead from boredom."

If only that were true, Ralph. If only that were true.

John Trumbull said...

This issue floored me as a kid, too, especially since I hadn't read any of the Earth/Mars War issues (I let my JLA subscription lapse sometime before this). I can't remember if I knew this annual would be introducing a new league or not, but still -- shocking.

Looking over that 5 page sequence (Thanks for featuring it all, btw, Rob!), one thing that really strikes me is that it's very well written. You get a nice feeling of melancholy from the old gang breaking up, followed by the renewed optimism of a new JLA.

Coincidentally enough, earlier today I was rereading Mark Gruenwald's Squadron Supreme series. The first issue, also opening with the World's Greatest Super Heroes salvaging their ruined satellite, captures the same feelings. So much so that I wonder if JLA Annual #2 was an influence on Squadron Supreme #1.

But I can feel my interest wane about halfway through the annual, as the new JLAers were introduced. I would've been fine with Steel and Vixen joining as JLAers in training, but I loathed Vibe and Gypsy right from the get-go. Honestly, they still annoy me.

A reader at the time summed up the basic problem with the new JLA: If JL Detroit was faced with the Martian invasion, they would've suffered an even worse defeat than the classic JLA did.

Butch R said...

You know, this is the first time I've read this and it works better than I thought. Though some of the "joining ups" are a little quick. "Hey, I've got a headquarters, cool costume and cool name. I'll join." "Sure, come on in." No checks on powers? Real id's? No fingerprinting just to see if Amazo or some other villain joined up? I realize there was a lot to do in a just this book, so realize I'm not trying to be mean.

I was thinking what if Supergirl had joined? For years various creators had seemed to hint at that possibility, this would have been a great time for it. And add some legitimacy to the JLD.

Bring on the Conway! :)

Earth 2 Chris said...

I remember getting this issue very well. My mom picked it up for me on her way home from work. JLA was spotty on the newstands around here, so I had missed all but the first part of the Mars storyline. I was emotionally shattered by this issue. I actually cried. My 9 year old brain could not fathom why Aquaman would do this, and how dare he anyway? And this writer, and editor, what wer they thinking?!? My mom noticed I was teary-eyed and asked what was wrong. I told her the JLA had broke-up! She told me "Oh, honey, it's a comic. Nothing ever really changes. They'll be back next issue."

Oh Mom, how wrong you were.

Chris

Outburst said...

Just knock on the door if you want a job with the JLA?
What a sad turning point. It's almost like the precursor to the modern age of comics where everything got so dark. The JLA prior to this period was the exact opposite to everything that came after.

Batman became The Dark Knight and Green Arrow became a "mature" read. While that may not have entirely been a bad turn of events for a decade or so, this disbanding of a great team was a sad moment in time and their replacements were inferior amateurs. It just feels like it all ended too prematurely. I love Gerry Conway but sometimes he seemed way too fond of these kind of massive shakeups.

Anonymous said...

Those comments from Alan Gold were typical of his rather long-winded, and increasingly defensive lettercol replies in those days.
He made quite a few empty promises about how 'great' the JLAD would be, and did indeed throw readers a bone by using some of the old members once or twice. I assumed that after the first six months or so, the 'missing' members would finally rejoin, Superman would eventually get to know them by teaming up in DC COMICS PRESENTS, and all would be right with the world again. Instead, they made things 'interesting' by adding Aquaman to the list of 'former members'.
Some people consider this annual to be League's 'Jump the Shark' moment, but we're actually about a week away from that...the first few pages of #239, when Superman essentially says, 'Well, you know, Wonder Woman, Flash and I are just a bunch of old farts, and none of us will survive the Crisis anyway...oops, I didn't say that...but you young people need room to grow,so we'll just go sit on rocking chairs, and if you really need us, let us know, and we'll try to stop by...as long as it's before mid-1986.'

russell said...

I too, remember reading this story thinking, This could have been really cool. But I had already seen the cover, and I think I had already gotten the first "new" JLA issue, too. If Batgirl and/or maybe some other "second string" characters had joined (can't think of anybody off the top of my head, but SUPER FRIENDS had a world of GLOBAL GUARDIANS to choose from, Earth 1 versions of Earth 2 characters could have been introduced, etc), and if Red Tornado (quit to become an Elemental...really?) and Black Canary/Green Arrow had stayed, I think this would have worked out pretty well. Atleast, better than it did.

Luke said...

DETROOOOOOIT JUSTICE LEAGUE!

The next time I am on a DC Nation panel, besides asking for Mike W. Barr back on Outsiders, I'm going to request an Detroit Justice League Omnibus.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the "new" League!

Randy said...

It really could have been better than it was. The team they had minus Vibe and Gypsy was not that bad. I always felt that Red Tornado should have been willing to make the commitment, mainly because I thought it would have been neat to pair him with J'onn. I always felt these two would make great 'kindred spirits.'

BentonGrey said...

I can't imagine why they ever thought this would be a good idea. I mean, there are bright spots in the Detroit League, but not that many. I suppose the key is that this is where things started to go bad on a big scale. The Atom lost his wife and became a mess, Hawkman and Hawkgirl were heading towards retconning, Batman was headed to jerk-city, Green Lantern was in the midst of being torn apart himself...why should the League be any different? Also, the irony of the choice of leadership does not escape me. A man with a terribly screwed up history himself, Aquaman. The fact that he would lead the Justice League would be really exciting to me, IF it were a different team, and IF he were portrayed as something more than an absolute jerk most of the time. What a shame.

Neal Snow said...

This crapola turned me off the JLA. I tried to get back into it during the Giffen run, but it was too jokey for it's own good. As far as I'm concerned, the JLA died in 1984.

Tick-Tock Tyler said...

I'm really late to this party, but I'll comment anyway.

There are too many things here that are just plain stupid...

1. The Justice League of America needs a UN charter? Why?
2. The JLA--which has always welcomed new members as equals ("...with all privileges and gratuities...", see http://www.jlasatellite.com/2007/11/justice-league-of-america-4-may-1961.html)--has a clause in its charter that says the original members have a special privilege? And no one else knew or remembered this? Not even Red Tornado, the android with the computer brain?
3. Aquaman and the UN think that no JLA or a "new full-time JLA" made up of uberlosers is better than a JLA with part-time members like Superman and Wonder Woman? Really? The Legion of Substitute Heroes or Sugar & Spike could take down these clowns. BTW, did Aquaman and his pals go back in the UN to get a new charter?
But here's the big one:
4. Superman, Wonder Woman, and the other ex-JLAers didn't say "we don't need no stinkin' UN charter" and carry on as the "classic JLA"? This would, or course, have led to a showdown with the "new JLA revealing that Aquaman was being mind-controlled by Hector Hammond or Despero or Ocean Master.

Ah, how I long for the JLA as guided by Julie Schwartz.

security services perth said...

Justice League members are known for their abilities to secure their places from harm and danger. If only our security service worked just like them, then we could probably had a peaceful country or even world.

Accursed Interloper said...

According to Aquaman, the Martian Invasion was "the moment of our greatest crisis." Yeah maybe but I don't get how this was a bigger crisis than the Brainiac attack or the Pantheon attack, both of which happened in just the prior six months, and both of which saw the JLA teaming up with two whole other supergroups, so how does this particular outer-space-attack rank as their "greatest crisis"? Bronze Age Aquaman has the memory of a goldfish.

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