Thursday, May 3, 2007

I Meet The Justice League

Ah, 1976. It was our country's bicentennial. There were tall ships and parades and fireworks and celebrations galore. I wore a tri-corn hat and knickers myself on more than one occasion. It was quite a lot of fun.

By then the Super Friends were on Saturday morning TV, so I kind of knew who the Justice League was. That summer, DC released a number of over-sized comic books, all reprints of earlier stories.

Here were all the world's greatest heroes (well, most of them), coming together to save the world one way or another. 1963's "Decoy Missions of the Justice League" starts things off, featuring (alphabetically from the Roll Call) Aquaman, Atom, Batman, Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, J'onn J'onzz (the Martian Manhunter) Superman and Wonder Woman (with a special guest appearance from Adam Strange) in a tight little encounter with the bug-eyed alien Kanjar Ro, story by Gardener Fox, with art by Mike Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs.

The second tale (from 1965)related "The Deadly Dreams of Dr. Destiny", featuring another great JLA villian, who went on to some fame in a few memorable issues of Sandman at the end of the last century. The roll call this time out included Atom, Batman, Hawkman, Snapper Carr, Superman and Wonder Woman.

What a classic pair of stories...and such a great introduction to the Justice League. DC really knew what they were doing when they released these. There were four pages of character sketchs from Super Friends, as well as a double-page centerfold featuring the entire 18 person full roster of the JLA in their satellite headquarters. This stuff was like crack to me.

From knowing just a few heroes, I'd known been introduced to all the world's greatest super heroes...and now I was hooked and interested in all of their adventures. With this one over-sized edition, DC had created an addict...uh, that is to say...a fan for life.

Even better, the back cover of the magazine offered the mirror image of the front cover shot...only featuring the parallel versions of our heroes from World War II...though it would probably be another couple of years before I learned that they now lived on something called Earth Two. (Please, give a kid a couple years to get through puberty before you break out that complicated sh*t...)

Childhood finances being what they were (and other comics to be collected), it was a year before I picked up my first "in-continuity" issue of JLA, that being #143 in June of 1977.

I'm glad to say it was a Giant-sized issue, with 80 pages for sixty cents! This was "A Tale of Two Satellites", featuring a particularly large roll call, adding Black Canary and Elongated Man, with special guest appearances from Hawkgirl and Mark Shaw, Manhunter, who by then was calling himself the Privateer.

Our story, by Steve Englehart, with art by Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin, begins with a blowout between Superman and Wonder Woman, since her performance is being a little heavily monitored and critiqued by other Leaguers.

I always thought they portrayed her here a little...shall we say...premenstrual (and who's to say she wasn't? Not that there's anything wrong with that.)...but she's still Wonder Woman. Just listen to her roar. She actually quits the team!

Diana teleports to Earth and all too quickly finds herself in the midst of a bank heist by Poison Ivy and Scarecrow, in which she and Mark Shaw cross paths. After the villians escape, he takes her out for dinner and she pours out her heart about about the JLA but when he doesn't say quite the right thing in response, she goes nuts and starts flipping tables over in the restaurant. It actually sounds more like menopause, doesn't it? It's always the waitstaff who suffer.

Anyway, the portrayal seems a little one-note and stereotypically female, until we learn that an alien construct...called Construct II, has recently taken over the satellite headquarters of the Injustice Gang, and has all of them (Ivy, Scarecrow, Mirror Master, Chronos, and the Tattooed Man) under mind control...and now add the Amazon to the unwilling army, which (say it with me, people) Construct II will use to rule the earth.

The JLA breaks down after Diana leaves and the heroes break off into smaller groups...and are eventually attacked by one of these villians. And of course, Mind Control Wonder Woman returns to the satellite and gets to kick some kryptonian ass. It's amazing that she and Superman didn't destroy the satellite, considering the damage the two did in the much more recent "Sacrifice" storyline, but Supes does realize that she's not herself, so he's holding back. In fact, he's concerned that her condition may kill her.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team have regrouped, compared notes and realize that they are being lured into a trap at the IG satellite, and so arrive by the backdoor, using GL's trademark green bubble to make a surprise entrance, and then...

...Fight Scene!!

The bad guys actually do pretty well with their sneak attacks, but clearly they're outnumbered by the full roster of the JLA.

Their defeat takes about a full page and then they've destroyed the infested IG satellite and Wonder Woman is freed of mind control: "a suddenly liberated lady is sobbing softly in Superman's comforting arms." and just in time, we run out of pages.

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