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Subj: Reading JLA 1971--last part
Posted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 at 12:54:06 pm EDT
Reply Subj: how many of the alex ross posters are available?
Posted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 at 04:28:30 pm EDT

some terrific reaction out there folks, and I do appreciate it. 1972 will be an active year for JLA, with Mike Friedrich ("F") passing the writing duties to Len Wein ("W"), the title reaching issue #100 , yet another JSA crossover climaxed by death, plus the usual highs and lows of comic-book production. Dillin and Giella are on the boards. Was the stuff any damn good?

Well, first we have to leave 1971.

#96 "The Coming of Starbreaker" on sale December 14, 1971

The three-issue story to follow introduced a promising mega villain, who should have taken a place alongside Kanjar Ro, the Lord of Time, Despero, Amazo...instead, he was composted, and I don't recall ever seeing him again in this book--or anywhere else. Did he bother the Super Friends? No, but he did reappear against JLA in 1992 or so, and probably elsewhere, though not often enough.

The warehousing of Starbreaker is a better mystery than most anything Batman puzzled over in the late 60's. And it didn't have to be.

Remember, 1970 and '71 saw Denny O'Neill and F introduce such amaranthine villains as...Lorch Nar (the "Soul Stealer") Jest Master, Creator One, A-Rym and Teppy, The Zapper, crazy King Batman and mutant Johnny Dune. Starbreaker had the promise to revise that sorry history. Yes, the cover to #96 commanded "Meet The Cosmic Vampire" and yes, he looked and sounded like a rip of Morbius, who'd gummed up Spidey's summer of '71, and yes, this was a bit of a yawn, notwithstanding the nice Neal Adams cover...

But Starbreaker was really a sly spin on Galactus, with a decidedly relevant edge. Starbreaker too feeds on the energy of destroyed planets, but he also battens on the terror of the victim's inhabitants as their world dances into its sun. And he receives the energy from relay ships! How businessmanishly pedestrian! And he sells his energy to the highest bidders! How businessmanishly evil!

Finally, finally, F discovers the power of metaphor. No doubt certain US industries of the time were rapacious and parasitic, but instead of giving us another "the Corporation", another too literal "don't miss my point as it enters your eye!" we get Starbreaker, immeasurably powerful ("he defies capture by the Green Lantern Corps") but nonetheless dressing like an extra in "Plan 9 From Outer Space". I love it.

The issue begins with action! Superman speeding to Rann, to see other Leaguers getting dropped by mechanical bugs. Now, I never like seeing Superman bounce off things like Detective Chimp but I like his outwitting "the critter", that he acknowledges as "mechanically stronger than I am" with speed and guile.

I must confess here that my bias is for uber Superman, right down to super eyelash control. I derive great satisfaction from having him be able to do whatever needs doing, with consumate ease. So it bothers me, and bothered me then, to see him struggle. Weisinger created a universe for Silver-Age Superman that conceded at the outset that he was more powerful than any villain, so his stories revolved around contrivances depriving him of his unmatchable powers or preventing him from using them. Marvel set its stories in direct contrast by grounding its heroes in some semblance of reality, (albeit comic-book reality, as having at least half the Marvel Universe operate out of NYC and all oceanic invasions scheduled to arrive at Governor's Island): Thor didn't routinely move the planet, as Superman and Superboy did, seemingly sometimes just for laughs. When Thor lifted a bus, it was accompanied by standard-issue Marvel drama (but then, Spidey could barely get out of bed without the Mighty Marvel Checklist noting that as THE EVENT OF THE YEAR!!!!). I don't know just when Thor fans decided he could beat Superman: it always seemed obvious to me that Superman's strength, and weakness, as a title was that nobody could fairly beat, or even match him--you read the book if you liked that kind of hero, and read Marvel if you preferred your heroes more rooted in something approximating the world you occupied.

Huh? Sorry. I just hate seeing Superman physically outclassed. Just a bias.

BAck to #96, there's an unhealthy dose of F nonsense in the continued unmanning of Hal Jordan, here sniffing that he's "not up to super chores, except in spurts" and his goddawful cajolling of a Starbreaker energy double with " yeah Star Baby. The Guardians get their jollies by reducing my ring's capacities." and his cringe-inducing query to Flash: "how'd you catch on I was jivin' him?" Hal, you'll have to wait a few more years before auditioning for Huggy Bear in "Baretta".

Seems Hal figured "good old level headed Barry Allen" wouldn't understand the patois Hal had picked up hangin with Arrow around campfires. I get that the self doubt and downgrading of the ring's capacity is consistent with developments in GL's book of the time. Still, I really don't think anybody can read this dialogue with a satisfied smile. And Hal was a brave mother! Not a mumbler.

Ugly old F again peeks through with this thoroughly-gratuitous caption, set over Hal and Barry shaking hands: "Silently then, looking into each other's smiling eyes, they firmly grip hands in an age-old sign of human unity." You'd think they were gonna reprise Kanigher's Batman/Canary clinch. I hate this writing because (i) it describes exactly what I can see and (ii) it beats me about the head with F's, well, what? Philosophy is too grand a word. Musings is even too kind. Maunderings...that'll do.

Oh, Hawkman thrusts a diamond-tip spear through the "softer" underbelly of a bug, the same model that pushed Superman around, showing, I guess, that Starbreaker eats planets but can still run out of the better-than-adamantium he slapped on the bugs' backs as easily as we forget to get a new quart of milk. This puts a crimp in my fear of this ubervillain.

Still, it's a promising introduction, culminating with Starbreaker promising to attack Earth. I wanna see stuff fly.

So, into 1972 we plunge, with F, Dillin and Giella leading us to...

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