The Stupid Age of Comics, Part Two

Continuing my look at Showcase Presents: Justice League of America, vol 2. I’m not making anything up here folks, just recounting the stories as they appeared. For the curious, these come from 1963-1965 and were written by Gardner Fox.

Decoy Missions of the Justice League – Also known as “Gardner Fox Reads a Newspaper Story on Auras.” Odd radiation in the atmosphere of the planet Rann gives supervillain Kanjar Ro, who is imprisoned there, immense intelligence. He immediately understands the secret of auras, which he claims all intelligent beings have. Using this knowledge he escapes from jail, replacing himself with an aura duplicate and also aural duplicates of the — presumably alive and intelligent — cell bars. He creates a machine that seizes the auras of five JLA members and sends them to far-away planets to lure their real-life counterparts away from Earth. This plan works perfectly until Adam Strange checks on Kanjar Ro and discovers his aural body, which informs Strange that the real Kanjar Ro has stolen Earth. Adam Strange returns to Earth, except that his aura returns to aural Earth and his real body to real Earth. He finds the JLA, who returned to aural Earth with their real bodies. They question Kanjar Ro’s aural self, which sings like a canary, informing them that real Earth is hidden near Arcturus. They find it and then punch him all at once. Green Lantern’s power ring returns Kanjar Ro’s intelligence to normal and returns the auras to their proper owners.

Outcasts of Infinity! – The Flash disappears before the very eyes of the JLA! It turns out he’s been grabbed by three space aliens with dire news. After a laboratory accident the aliens found themselves uncontrollably teleporting randomly through space. Soon after they teleport off a planet, that planet is destroyed — and they’re due to be whisked off Earth in less than an hour! The JLA teleports with them and upon arrival become crystalline beings. War machines appear and after a long battle the JLA emerge victorious, but are soon teleported away — without the alien scientists! They are brought to a parallel dimension to face Kraad the Conqueror, who has been using the teleporting scientists to build up energy with which he will conquer our dimension. He disintegrates the JLA except for the Atom who, by the nature of his powers, is immune. He uses Green Lantern’s power ring before it too is disintegrated to put them back together, only he gives the men each others’ legs. (Wonder Woman, no doubt to everyone’s relief, gets her own body.) They run after Kraad who is about to make his escape with a similar disintegration beam on himself (he has “swallowed an antidote that will reassemble” his body later). Wonder Woman blocks the beam by cramming the Atom into its lens. Another invention in Kraad’s lab gives everyone their correct legs, and further devices prevent the teleportation and the destruction of Earth. Green Lantern’s ring is also re-created.

Four Worlds to Conquer! – Snapper Carr has turned into an old man! And not only him, Green Arrow, Atom, and Wonder Woman have as well! Green Lantern’s power ring can’t seem to reverse the effect. The other JLA members, investigating the area where the effect took place, get trapped in giant hourglasses and transported elsewhere. Returning enemy Despero has, for some reason, created three other Earths in which reptiles, insects, and fish, respectively, evolved as the dominant forms instead of humans. On these worlds the heroes lose their powers but they get transferred instead to creatures that happen to touch them. Flash ends up on the reptile world, where he befriends a T. Rex driving a car and foils Despero’s attempt to conquer this planet which he himself created. Batman and Green Lantern end up on the insect world. Butterflies put Green Lantern’s power ring on display in their museum but Despero (again trying to take over his own planet) steals it and tries to use it against them, not knowing about its weakness against yellow. He is easily defeated. Aquaman and J’onn J’onzz appear on a water world where intelligent sharks give them air helmets. Once again they make short work of Despero on this Earth. Back on real Earth, an aged Superman enters the headquarters, but Wonder Woman knows him to be phony right away, since only magic and kryptonite affect Superman. She ties him with her lasso and reveals him as Despero who they force to return everything to normal.

The “I” Who Defeated the Justice League! – While they are investigating cases, a mysterious “ultra-galactic being” who refers to itself as “I” kidnaps the JLA. It informs them that their combined energies in overcoming foes created a “robber force” which stole away its life. Since the team succeeding in just one more case will render it completely inert, the being has removed their “success factors” from their bodies. If they act separately they can still succeed, but attempting to act together in any way will result in failure. Individually they cannot conquer the being either, so it returns them to Earth. Knowing they can no longer work together, the JLA mopes around their headquarters until Snapper Carr realizes how to defeat “I”. They re-activate Amazo, an android that stole all the powers from the JLA. Amazo defeats them using their own combined powers. This apparently counts in terms of “robber force” because it makes “I” inert and returns the “success factors” to the JLA, who then used their regained power to re-defeat Amazo. They then solve those cases from the beginning of the story that nobody really cared about anyway.

Case of the Forbidden Super-Powers! – Batman and Green Arrow are unable to stop the Matter Master from robbing a jet plane full of millionaires and the rest of the JLA merely look on as they fail, unable to help. What has brought this on? A criminal named The Headmaster Mind has discovered that when heroes use superpowers, their hearts create a “cardial force”. He develops batteries that can trap this force and use it to do things like create giant icebergs out of thin air. Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Superman, Green Lantern, and Flash all attempt to stop the iceberg but using their superpowers merely gives the Headmaster Mind more cardial force to work with, which he uses to make the problem worse. The United Nations issues a temporary injunction ordering the super JLA members not to use their powers. Batman and Green Arrow convince them to continue to fight crime only using their wits and natural skills instead of superpowers. They successfully capture the Head Mastermind’s criminal cohorts — Matter Master, the Tattooed Man, and the Top — and then capture the leader himself. Once the cardial batteries are turned off, the UN lifts their injunction and the JLA is back in business.

Crisis on Earth-Three! – On another Earth — Earth-Three — the superheroes are actually super-villains! Instead of the Justice League, the Crime Syndicate is made up of Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Power Ring, and Johnny Quick. Bored with always getting away with crimes on their own Earth, they travel to Earth-One to challenge the JLA. Our heroes are momentarily confused when they each set out to find one villain and instead find a different one, but soon they triumph. However, whenever they capture a foe, that villain says “Volthoom” and teleports them both to Earth-Three, where the Crime Syndicate triumphs, trapping the JLA! The super-criminals then head for Earth-Two to take on the Justice Society. The JSA is warned about this and discovers the trapped JLA, who tell them the Crime Syndicate’s plan. The JSA prepare to meet the CSA, and that ends part one.

The Most Dangerous Earth of All! – The CSA head to Earth-Two and fight the JSA, who do not allow them to say “Volthoom”. Unfortunately it turns out that this time the trigger for the teleport was the JSA members saying they won, so now they’re all on Earth-Three, where presumably the CSA has home Earth advantage. They don’t take this advantage, though, electing instead to lock up the JSA and bring the JLA to Earth-Two to fight them there, where neither supposedly have an advantage. The JLA end up defeating the CSA by giving them more power than they can handle. As they decide where to imprison these super-criminals, they debate holding them on Earth-One or Earth-Two, which the CSA don’t want. The suggestion of imprisoning them in some nether void between the two delights the bad guys, so naturally that’s what the JLA decide to do. But they find out that the reason the villains liked this was because the prison the JSA are in is booby trapped to destroy both Earths with “a special device”. Green Lantern uses his power ring to deflect the explosions to “two dead worlds” and the Crime Syndicate of America is left in a ten foot diameter sphere floating in a void with warning signs in different languages orbiting it.

Tomorrow: The final look at the Stupid Age of Comics!

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2 Responses to The Stupid Age of Comics, Part Two

  1. Hey, whoa, Dave. Nobody told me Adam Strange would be involved. Has any good ever come out of that Edgar-Rice-Burroughs pastiche?

    Seriously, remember that one graphic novel where the JLA find Adam Strange’s dessicated body in space, and Green Lantern is all like, “Oh, damn, there’s an invisible force-field around earth that kept the Zeta Beam from transporting Adam Strange to the planet Zzzzzzzzzz… whoa, sorry, I drifted off there for a second.”

    Volthoom was the name of the magic genie or devil or whatever inside of Power Ring (the Crime Syndicate version of Green Lantern). In modern-age comics, Volthoom is always giving Power Ring verbal abuse and advice about what to do, sort of like an evil Blackberry. Anyway, Volthoom isn’t a random choice for their trigger word.

    The first time I read a story about the Crime Syndicate was back in 1985, when I read the issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths where their entire world gets erased. I still thought it was AWESOME!!!

    Also notice there that the Crime Syndicate doesn’t have doppelgangers for the non-powered members, except Owlman/Batman. Poor Green Arrow… he’s not worth copying!

  2. Dave says:

    Maybe you’re new in town pardner, but in these parts we don’t crack on Adam Strange.