Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Justice League of America #4 Ad - 1961

This is one gorgeous ad for Justice League of America #4, the induction of the team's first new member. Most likely the work of Ira Schnapp, who could cram a ton of material into a tiny amount of space and still have the final product look clean, elegant, and exciting as all heck!

I like how they took the classic JLA "shield" logo and raised it up a bit so they could fit in the "...as a full-fledged member" line. In the pre-desktop publishing era, that was probably a lot of work!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Action Comics #314 - July 1964

What is the story behind this hideous mash-up costume?!?

The Story: "The Day Superman Became The Flash!" by Edmond Hamilton and Al Plastino.

Superman gets an urgent message...from the Justice League of America!

Jor-El consults a "computer" built by Zhan-Zar, who says his machine can use probability statistics to peer into the future (and also figure out what baseball players are underrated). By putting into the computer that he will be potentially sending his infant son to various planets, the computer presents several scenarios.

On the planet Xann, for instance, Kal-El would be miniature compared to that planet's giant inhabitants. Turns out that young Kal, still with Superman-like powers, would again become a costumed superhero, similar to The Atom! Jor-El tries again, seeing what would happen if Kal was sent to the all-water planet known as Valair:
On the planet Ntann, due to that world's red sun, Kal wouldn't have superpowers, but the computer extrapolates that he would take up archery, turning into him an ersatz Green Arrow. Kal's future on the planet Saruun is a grimmer one, where he is adopted by a widower to teaches his son to take the form of a bat-like creature known as The Diro. Finally, on the planet Gangor, young Kal would gain the power of super-speed, but that doesn't turn out that well either:

Roll Call: Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Arrow, Atom

Notable Moments: What a bizarre story! It has become known over time that during the early 1960s, DC was having a lot of trouble coming up with stories for its big three characters, and this story certainly reads like someone was desperate for inspiration. "Hey, wouldn't it be fun to see Superman act like the other Justice Leaguers?" seems like a fine enough proposition, but the whole "Jor-El peering into the future" conceit is so ridiculous and contrived that (IMO) it clocks an 11 at the Goofy-Meter.

And while I'm not complaining of course, it feels strange to A)have Aquaman as the spokesman for the League (since when?) and B)have the other JLAers never utter a single word in the story! They show up and then just stand there, as Aquaman drones on and Superman gets all misty-eyed, as he always did when talking about Jor-El and Lara.

This story marks the JLA's fourth-ever appearance outside their own title; other than helping out Adam Strange in Mystery in Space #75, the team was generally written into members' solo books as a colorful mob who basically just sat around, commenting on the action. At least here some of them got a nice trip to a tropical island!

One final thing: I wonder why the cover and title of this story focuses on Superman becoming The Flash only? I'd say "The Day Superman Became The Justice League" has a little more snap to it.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Fury of Firestorm #4 - Sept. 1982

Firestorm versus...The Justice League of America?!? 

The Story: "The Icy Heart of Killer Frost!" by Gerry Conway, Pat Broderick, and Rodin Rodriguez.

Over on The Fire and Water Podcast, my co-host The Irredeemable Shag and I have moved on from reviews of the now-cancelled New 52 Firestorm comic to looking back at what we're calling Fury of Firestorm Classic; issue-by-issue recaps of the 1982 series. We just finished looking at Fury of Firestorm #3, the first of a two-part tussle with The Nuclear Man's (IMO) premier villain, Killer Frost.

Some of you might know that the Justice League of America makes a guest appearance in FoF #4. And while we'll be getting to it soon enough on the show, it occurred to me that it's been forever since I updated JLA Satellite, so why not "read ahead" a little and cover it here?
At the end of the previous issue, Killer Frost has taken over all of New York, and has forced Firestorm to do the whole kneel-before-Zod bit. Of course, KF doesn't trust Firestorm to willingly be her slave, so she demands he pass a test: in this case, it means flying to California and retrieving Big Time Movie Star Curt Holland. KF has a big crush on Holland and is looking to get her icicles melted, or something.

Firestorm initially refuses, but when Killer Frost almost kills some innocent civilians with a frozen billboard, he relents and takes to the skies. It's here that The Nuclear Man runs into his new found teammates in the Justice League, and earns his nickname Hot Head:
At the JLA Satellite, Firestorm explains everything that's happened, going so far as to reveal his dual secret identity once it's revealed that a detailed knowledge of physics will be needed to deal with this problem.

With Prof. Stein stuck back at the Satellite, Ronnie needs help finding Curt Holland, so he and Red Tornado teleport to Los Angeles. Holland is not interested in helping out (can't really blame him), angering Ronnie and they head back to space. In the meantime, Prof. Stein has developed a machine that, while cumbersome, has the capacity to freeze Killer Frost!

A little while later, Firestorm arrives with Curt Holland, and Killer Frost is overjoyed. She plants a frosty kiss on him, but when he doesn't seem affected by it, the jig is up! Killer Frost blasts "Holland", revealing him to actually be Red Tornado!

Firestorm engages in battle with Killer Frost, keeping her distracted while Red Tornado, who has Prof. Stein's device implanted in his chest, goes into action. It works, sapping Killer Frost's powers long enough for Firestorm to knock her out. But all of New York is still encased in ice!

Reddy is frozen too, and Firestorm uses his powers to boost Prof. Stein's device and creating a massive heat bubble over the city:
I really loved this story; I can remember buying the issue off the newsstands at the time. I think I bought Firestorm intermittently, but when I saw the JLA on the cover it was a Must Purchase.

Roll Call: Superman, Wonder Woman, Hawkman, Red Tornado, Zatanna, Firestorm

Notable Moments: This story (according to Mike's Amazing World) takes place between JLA #205 and another guest appearance in Action Comics #535.

The scene where Firestorm just loses it and attacks the JLA is quite powerful and well-executed; he uses his powers in nearly lethal ways and it's fun seeing the new kid on the block really put a beat down (albeit temporarily) on the big guns like Superman and Zatanna. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense that the World's Greatest Superheroes would just let NYC stay frozen, handing off the assignment to just Firestorm and Red Tornado, but that's a standard trope of superhero storytelling and it's something you just have to roll with.

Gerry Conway, writing both books of course, used this guest appearance to actually forward the characters relationship, something pretty rare for guest appearances, which are often as not done as sales drivers. Here the JLA learns Firestorm's real identity (Superman already knew but kept it from everyone; as we all know, Kal is big on keeping secrets from his JLA teammates), and while it never really came that much into play over in Justice League of America, it's still a nice moment.

Top it off with learning that Red Tornado is a Steve Martin fan, and you've got one fun issue of The Fury of Firestorm!

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