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Subj: Reading Justice League 1970-Part One
Posted: Tue Aug 14, 2007 at 08:37:16 am EDT
Reply Subj: Questions About Justice League Villians- Especially the Key.
Posted: Tue Aug 14, 2007 at 04:06:05 pm EDT

With new Moderator Gernot's kind permission, I'm reposting readings of certain years of JLA. I regret that I have no capacity to post images. These readings were originally posted on the GSB Board. I'll try to correct typos and incoherent sentences, but otherwise they stand as originally posted. Perhaps some JLA readers will be spurred to respond. Perhaps some of you will print them out and rely on them when caught in an endless bowel movement with nothing more interesting to read than the back of a can of Comet. So here goes. SPOILERS ABOUND Original text follows.

Thought it might be fun to revisit JLA issues in calendar year 1970. Why 1970? Well, it's got it all: relevance! Characterization! Green Arrow vs. Featherface! DC's answer to the Squadron Supreme! Denny O'Neill! Mike Friedrich! Dillin and Giella! Who can resist?

A few notes. JLA was then published 8x/year, and I'm reading issues on sale in 1970, regardless of cover date. The run, including the semi-annual November publication of an Annual, covers #s 79-87. OK, let's go.

#79. "Come Slowly Death, Come Slyly" O'Neill/Dillin/Giella (O/D/G). My copy date stamped January 20. I had been off comics for years, diverting change to Warren mags, Spaulding punch balls and the like. This cover offered two oddities suckering me in: Superman gagging with the rest of the gang in a cloud of pollution, and a roster of (fleshy) faces on the left side. Black Canary looks like...Sally Struthers, who would debut in a year on "All In The Family".

Right, this is the tag end of a two parter concerning the Doomsters, invaders who pollute worlds to make them habitable for themselves, as they got caught in a "Twilight Zone" twist--ahh, read it. This cover is the start of several cheats in a row displaying Superman in some compromising position that appears no where in the story, or is a distorted view thereof. Vigilante's on hand, a gutsy revival in 1970 of...a cowboy? Well, "Butch Cassidy And the Sundance Kid" was recently successful, so maybe not so gutsy.

In an early fight scene, Batman muses aloud "wonder why we feel the need to wisecrack as we fight?" setting off mid-punch answers from Vig, Canary et. al. Who cares? Batman may be a morose sod today but O'Neill was struggling for a handle on him here and this prattle just won't do. Much of O's characterization was conveyed through dialogue--fair enough, but, as we'll see, the tone ran the gamut from a to b, that is, stiff-ass cop or smirky wiseass. Here O kept Batman in the 60's sometime mode of punster--a bad call.

Then there's Vig's rap. Commending Canary's response to Batman's airheaded query, he offers "right smart for a lady" (happily it's about a year too early for BC to whinge "sexist!") and later refers to "that Landtern waddy." There's plenty of "right smart" and "heap o" too.

More interesting is GL's action, a departure from character when, after hearing the sad tale of the Doomster's destruction of another world, he blasts a planet-shattering beam at it, only to have Superman block it, without even an itch, and tell us that the dead world, "Monsan" (which must be an inside joke--Monsanto Chemical maybe?)must stand as a warning. The first of several episodes of Superman as conscience of the universe.

this is different. It's the umpteenth invasion, but I don't recall Superman lecturing me in the 60s on much more than crossing at the green or fire safety, and that from the pulpit of a public-service ad. But here he is, consuming a precious panel with a pollution rap. And I like it--it's the sort of adult direction that rewards a revisit, unlike say, the serial murder/spousal abuse angles of later decades.

Seems odd that GL the cop would decide on destruction of a non-threatening thing as the answer, but O has him going through them changes in GL's book, so I accept the oddity.

There are some fisticuffs featuring the sadly standard Dillin powder-puff fist, just slightly-curled fingers really. Did he learn this hurried style from Infantino, master of the palsied fist? (See the cover of Detective #354 and tell me I'm wrong). Green Arrow declares his love for BC as she's held at polluty-gunpoint, leaving Atom to drop the head baddy, who leaves us with "I can't stand this chamber...it's full of... fresh air AGGHH". No doubt about it, pollution aint hip.

The final panel gives us GA still hittin on BC, as she stiff-arms him and factories belch smoke into the night sky. More disturbing is the circulation statement directly below: 248,000 paid circulation nearest to filing date, hardly robust, as sub-200 was generally the cancellation zone.

I liked this one enough to buy the next, and the next, right through 1993. In retrospect, if O's execution is sometimes weak, his intention, to bring JLA into some contact with my world, your world, the world, is always worthy, and worth another look.

#80 "Night Of The Soul Stealer"--a title right out of "The Wild, Wild West". Date stamped 3/10/70. cover gives us a surreal montage of dejected Leaguers sitting on a curb, being hectored by a nutcase waving an end of the world sign and, inexplicably, a jumbotron is on that same street showing Superman floating fecklessly in space.

Nobody's lost any weight in the face gallery.

Somebody with a QVC jewel box is stealing souls. Hawkgirl goes first, then Batman and GA fumble a capture (really bad, and it would get worse--see JLA # 95 for GA and Atom getting dropped by a college kid) and get zapped. I don't like Batman any less than supremely competent (same for Captain America--they're the human reps in these superhuman gaggles and I want them to do well, always). The villain is Norch Lar--another joke? Clue me in.

At least Superman is still power incarnate. He doesn't need to breath in space and wrestles Hawkman's ship out of a fatal gravitational pull--this is super stuff I like seeing in comics. But did I say power? Tomar Re chances by, and lays Kal out: "my ring recognized him as a Kryptonian and I commanded it to radiate Kryptonite waves". No, no,no-- last issue a planet-shattering blast powered by the will of Hal himself, the baddest Lantern in the Corps, bounced off Superman like a ping pong ball, but Tomar "I'm having difficulty" Re gets it done? C'mon, not on his best day. And the ring has to recognize the only Kryptonian still walking (yeah, yeah, Kara) as Superman--he's not in the Guardians's database? Some weak plotting here, but how else to get Superman floating for the arresting, if inaccurate cover? Was it done before the story? Or were there no other highlights? The cover couldn't have shown Batman and GA tripping over themselves trying to catch Lar?

Atom gets a nice sequence rescuing the soul box in space, without a suit, but that's it. A weak issue.

#81 "Plague Of The Galactic Jest Master" stamped 4/30/70. A Neal Adams cover (as was that for #79) shows Flash, Canary, Hawkman, Batman and Atom raving behind bars, in strait jackets (including the cutest little six-inch jacket you've ever seen--kid you not)with Superman gravely saying he had to jail them as they're insane.

Interesting. Mind you, it doesn't happen in the story, but interesting, and the kind of dilemma comics weren't ready for then. So, it's another alien troupe invading worlds and stealing the reason of the populace, leaing inhabitants cackling idiots. O's subtext emerges.

There's a lovely Dillin two-page spread showing the Jest Master's world as seen by Jean Loring, yes, her, the only one sane, and by the irrational Leaguers. and at the end, after a nothing fight, she recovers from the state she was left in years before, when Atom/Hawkman folded after issue #45. Given the events of Identity Crisis, this seems very long ago indeed.

We've had invaders polluting land and stealing souls and minds. Sounds so much like our stated goal to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese, while napalming the land to glass. Recall that the war was still on, and Kent State had happened by the time I bought this book in May, 1970. O has a subtext going, and it's a good one, though he hasn't yet cast the League as villains.

Sadly, his run ends here. He'll write two more issues, but, as we'll see in the next post, they tell a story far removed from the themes he's offered to date. And waiting in the wings is Friedrich--ouch.

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