I recently finished Showcase Presents: Justice League of America, volume 2, and I have to say, it’s one of the most concentrated doses of stupid I’ve ever come across. This is Silver Age nuttiness at its finest, folks. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love this stuff. I’m just saying, though, don’t be surprised if, after reading a few of these stories in a row, you find yourself falling down a lot.
To demonstrate, I’m now going to go through this volume story by story and point out important details along the way. There may be spoilers involved, if you truly think these stories can be spoiled. If you have some kind of stupidity-reducing headgear, you may wish to equip it at this time.
The Triumph of the Tornado Tyrant! – Right out the gate we get a tale that makes no goddamn sense whatsoever. A sentient tornado — and this is a returning character, folks — has created and seemingly populated a fake Earth on which it pretends to be the Justice League. A different tornado somehow arrives on the planet and fights the fake Justice Leaguers, defeating them. So the good tornado goes to the real Earth and fights the real Justice League by acting like the evil tornado to get a tip on how to defeat it back on fake Earth. The real Justice League triumphs using “anti-energy”. The good tornado returns to fake Earth, but it can’t use anti-energy against the evil tornado because “I would destroy myself at the same time!” Instead, it forms into the fake Justice League and defeats the evil tornado (which is actually the evil spirit of the good tornado) by calculating “the exact amount of energy needed to teleport the evil spirit into the anti-matter universe”. And thus proves that good will always triumph over evil, at least among intelligent tornados.
Journey Into the Micro-World! – The Justice League — except for Atom, who has to join them on his own — find themselves shrunk and landing on a microscopic world. This world has three giant robot protectors which need to be destroyed because they contain a certain element that is endangering the very people they were built to protect. Unfortunately the robots are invulnerable — a fact they insist on repeating — and neither the people nor the robots themselves can destroy them. Hence, the Justice League. They discover, however, that they too can’t seem to defeat the robots, always making boneheaded moves that blunt their attacks. The robots trap them in a cage that not even Superman can seem to break out of, but suddenly Batman bends the bars! Huh? Batman has figured out what should be obvious: something in the atmosphere makes it so that is someone tells you something, such as “I am invincible and you can’t defeat me”, it becomes true! The solution, then, is to have Atom go fetch Snapper Carr, the JLA’s non-powered mascot, tell him to fight the robots, and have Green Lantern make Snapper deaf so no one can tell him he can’t do it! Snapper polishes off the robots and then Green Lantern uses his power ring to remove from the atmosphere the element that causes people to be “brainwashed”, which begs the question of why he didn’t just do that in the first place, since this now enables Superman to bend the bars. No one asks if maybe the citizens of this world had found a good use for such an element or maybe need it to breathe or something else which would make them unhappy about its removal.
The Super-Exiles of Earth! – The JLA discover dopplegangers of themselves that seem to have powers even more super than their own! The twins turn out, of course, to be evil, and to be “dream duplicates” of themselves. Despite being represented in court by “lady lawyer Jean Loring” the good JLA are sentenced to exile from planet Earth, since they can’t prove they are being framed by their evil dream twins. Of course, since the doubles are still at large, as far as the average Joe in the street is concerned, the JLA are now more powerful, are evil, and didn’t leave Earth even though they said they would, so they’re liars too. Once in space, the JLA immediately prove their commitment to law and order by finding a loophole by which they can return to Earth — although their superhero identities were exiled, their civilian ones weren’t! They return to battle their dream selves in their civilian identities and lose, but then the Atom gets an idea. He shrinks down, goes into the dream beings’ heads, and stomps around on their brains until they have no normal control over their body movements, allowing the real JLA to take them out. It turns out the dream beings were the work of Doctor Destiny who, in jail, invented a device to make dreams into reality as well as a gas that makes people dream. He sent the JLA a letter covered with the gas, had them dream about even super-er versions of themselves, and used the materiopticon he built in the prison lab to make the dreams into reality. He is then “placed into solitary so you can never invent another such terrible machine”. Superman uses amnesium to make everyone in the JLA forget each others’ secret identities.
The Mystery of Spaceman X! – This one is tough to describe. The JLA are in outer space, with teams on three different planets, trying to help the citizens. Each planet’s inhabitants are in some kind of peril caused by a machine on that planet. Each team takes out the machine on its planet, but this fails to help the people. They then return to Earth where a giant spacemen is doing things that at first seem like destruction but eventually turn out to be protecting humans from natural disasters. The JLA are unable to communicate with the giant spaceman, however, and usually end up trying to fight it first, assuming it to be evil. Superman and Batman discover what’s going on with the machines on the other planets, but since that ultimately has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the main story I won’t bother explaining it. Anyhow, the spaceman turns out to be a robot and its flying saucer turns out to be a metal alien in disguise controlling the robot. The alien was only making the robot do good deeds until it absorbed enough energy from the disasters to become invulnerable. Superman flies the alien far out into space, which deactivates the robot. The JLA learns that “things are not always as they seem” because the giant spaceman they originally thought was evil was, in fact, evil.
Crisis on Earth-One! and Crisis on Earth-Two! – These are the original stories that started the whole Justice League/Justice Society team-up tradition of “Crisis on Earth-X” until the Crisis on Infinite Earths got rid of the multiple Earths. Thus, this two-part story is a milestone in the canon. It’s also quite stupid. Try and follow along. Three villains from Earth-Two end up on Earth-One and shack up with three Earth-One villains. The villains commit crimes on their own Earths and then flee to the other Earth to hide, using “the portable vibrators the Fiddler made”, but only after capturing the two Flashes in “vibratory traps”, since each is the only one who might be able to identify the other Earth’s villains. Soon, though, the Earth-Two villains are up to no good on Earth-One . They disguise themselves as the Earth-One villains and rob “Casino Town”. the JLA try to stop them but are teleported instead back to their secret sanctuary, which is now magically sealed. Batman suggests they use a crystal ball to solve their problem, and they contact the Justice Society on Earth-Two. They swap Earths and the JSA are able to penetrate the magic barrier. The two Green Lanterns go looking for the two Flashes, and that’s the end of part one.
Part two begins with the JSA fighting the Earth-Two villains on Earth-One. Even though Black Canary “can’t shake this man-rock off!” they are ultimately victorious, and the JLA has equal luck with the Earth-One villains over on Earth-Two. The Green Lanterns find the Flashes and try to free them with their power rings, but this triggers yet another trap which causes the JLA and the JSA to be teleported to magical cages in outer space. This is the worst trap of them all because it takes only a few panels before they’re all free, and then in only two more pages the mop the floor with all the villains. After claiming they will “take precautions to see that [these villains] will never threaten anyone or anything else again” they decide to keep in touch in case they need to join forces again.
Drones of the Queen Bee! – Bee-Men are committing crimes around the country. They strike at the National Library, the Hall of Science and Invention, and the “famous Tower of Jewels in a large coastal city”. When our heroes try to stop them, they are at first thwarted by the advanced weaponry of the Bee-Men which include a huge ruby (which the Martian Manhunter “does not notice…hanging in mid-air. Why should he?”) and the ability to shoot letters out of books (another instant and the yellow letters would have “flattened” Green Lantern!). The heroes triumph and the Bee-Men “pop” out of existence. The Bee-Men are led by Queen Zazzala of the planet Korll, who uses her “magno-nuclear rod” to control the JLA. If they refuse, she will activate a machine at the center of the Earth which she claims is a bomb that will destroy the planet. She wants the JLA to help her get the three parts to an immortality serum hidden on a distant planet. The vials are protected by an aggressive plant, a teleporting island, and a fire giant, and it takes all of the JLA’s wits to defeat the guardians and retrieve the vials for Queen Zazzala. They are then returned to Earth but it turns out that Green Lantern used his power ring to fix up the vials so they can never be opened. He has also “taken precautions that the Queen Bee can never threaten us that way again!”
Thus concludes Part One of this journey into the Stupid Age of comics. Join me tomorrow for Part Two, won’t you? (I understand if you won’t.)