Thursday, May 29, 2008

JSA: Critical Times


The year was 1978. Something called the DC Explosion was happening, as the number of titles the company published jumped exponentially. It didn't last long and was followed fairly quickly by the less-discussed DC Implosion. However, during this time, the JSA made a comeback in the pages of All Star Comics. Here's issue #74 from October.

Now, this was an interesting time for the JSA. The team primarily featured the older heroes, all of them seasoned on the American homefront of World War II. Three young-ins had recently joined the team: a grown-up Robin, Huntress, the daughter of a retired Batman and Power Girl, the E2 equivalent of Supergirl.

Here's those two young female heroes in a gratuitous faux lesbian moment, responding to a call from Dr. Fate through the JSA communicator.

Now, it had already been established that a "crisis" was a story that teamed up the JSA and the JLA, so that wasn't really an option here for this, a solid Earth-Two based tale of adventure and derring-do.

So what did they call it: The Critical Time.

A giant creature (drawn as one dimensionally as every other character by artist Joe Staton)named the Master Summoner contacts Hawkman and Dr. Fate, and advises them that a "critical time" is coming for the[ir] earth and that the Justice Society will be called upon in certain locations around the globe to ensure that the demise of the planet can be averted. Fate says "Critical Time."

The heroes are dispatched to various locations, with Green Lantern, Power Girl and Hawkman heading to the border of China and the USSR, where they break up a battle between forces of the opposing nations. Green Lantern says "critical time."

For the first time, we begin to suspect that the Master Summoner (who looks just a little like Darkseid, now that I think of it) may not be entirely on the up and up. But that's for later.

We turn our attention Huntress, The Flash and Dr. Fate, who've been directed to Montreal. Now this brings up an interesting moment. I'd always assumed the primary differences between Earths One and Two were when the first heroes emerged and formed their teams to make a difference in the world...and in a few notable cases, there were costume differences. And the Daily Planet was called the Daily Star.

But here we've got something different.

Yes, you read that right, on Earth Two, Quebec successfully broke off Canada to become an independent nation. This was a big movement in the 70s, but I didn't remember this difference between the two Earths...and it makes me wonder how else things might've been different there. They were just starting this sort of story exploring when the Implosion occurred, followed fairly shortly by the Crisis on Infinite Earths, which took away all those possibilities.

This would be an interesting subject to explore, if the current DC ends up giving the new Earth 2's Justice Society a mini-series or something. And naturally, if they do this, then I should be on record as saying they had darned well better have an Earth 2 version of Wonder Woman on the team somewhere.

Anyway, digression over: Huntress says "Critical time."

Suddenly, Fate gets a clue that each of these (can I say crises?)situations actually gets worse for the efforts of the Justice Society members. It becomes clear that the Master Summoner is actually harvesting the powers of the JSAers to use to ensure the demise of the planet...(it also becomes clear that poor color seperation and one dimensional artwork seemed to go hand-in-hand back then, but please note the fifty cent cover price)and Fate summons the heroes and calls them all to the JSA headquarters...and gets to say "Critical Time" again.

It turns out his big solution for their solving this "critical time" and defeating the Master Summoner is for the Justice Society to do absolutely nothing. Without their active powers to harness for his evil purposes, the MS shows up briefly to offer a sort of "Oh, what a world, beautiful wickedness, yada yada" speech before saying he'll be back to try again in another millenia and vanishes in a puff.

And thus the JSA averts this Critical Time, and sort of foreshadows the Crisis on Infinite Earths (albeit on a small scale, and nobody important dies), by doing nothing. It isn't clear in the story if they have to stand absolutely still, or if they can pop popcorn and play canasta or anything.

As a nice change of pace to the art (I hate to say too much negative, as I've enjoyed Joe Staton's work elsewhere...but this seems a bit rushed, like he whipped it off in a night or two) in the story, this issue also offers a two page centerfold advertisement for a Clark Bar Promotional Contest, the first prize of which was being drawn in an issue of your favorite super hero's comic. A dubious distinction, if Staton was doing the honors...but whatever.

This art, featuring the five primaries of the then-popular Super Friends is uncredited, but pretty styling. But does anyone else thing Wonder Woman looks like the most masculine of the bunch. Those sideburns might be just a little thick.

5 comments:

Sea_of_Green said...

Geez, I HAD this issue, way back in the dark ages. Sad to say, until you posted this article, I had totally forgotten the story!

Greg said...

Quite understandable, really, Sea.

It's a representation of its times, though...a fun read, with a good cast and interesting adventures. I've always liked exploring the different Earths, and hope we'll get to do more of that after everything goes FOOM in Final Crisis this summer.

Wonder Man said...

I remember that ad...wow

ehirano said...

OH Greg Boy, you are right about Wonder Woman in that last pic! LOL
I love it, I have to use it as wallpaper!

Pod said...

she was my hero too
thanks for your comments gregory!
;0)