Comics / DC Comics History

DC Comics History: Justice League of America (1964 - 1967: The New Look)

By Deejay Dayton
February 8, 2020 - 13:17


Justice League of America thrived during the period 1964 – 1967: the New Look, but there were some changes, not only to the team line up, but also to the way Gardner Fox used the increasing cast. Hawkman joined during this period, and Metamorpho was also offered membership, but declined. And while Mike Sekowsky remained as penciller throughout these years, changing the inker from Bernard Sachs to Frank Giacoia and Sid Greene gave the issues a very different appearance. These issues were packed with villains. Some of the League’s old foes returned, and quite a few new ones debuted, but there were also many cameos by villains from across the spectrum of the DC universe.


Early issues of Justice League of America would use the entire cast, but as it continued to grow the stories became overly packed. For much of this period, only five or six heroes would actively participate in the cases, the others either being absent, or having severely reduced roles. Justice League of America 40 was one of the few in this period to utilize the entire line up. There is no true villain in this story. Andrew Helm causes the problems, but he is an occult scientist, who creates a Corti-Conscience machine, which is designed to make people act decently. Once he turns it on, all wars stop, and criminals become peaceful as well. Helm is a master of astral projection, and his spirit travels around observing the effects. The various members of the League discover the effects of the machine while they are on cases. The Flash is facing Mirror Master and the Shark, and Batman is up against Captain Cold and the Penguin. In both cases, the villains simply give up. Other heroes notice the same thing, and though they do not understand why it is happening, the results are unmistakable.


But then things start to go wrong. Helm has been outside of his body for too long, and in unable to re-enter it and turn off the machine. As it keeps running, it causes even the Justice League members to give up fighting crime. The problem is, the machine has created its own backlash, and truly evil people are now running wild. Superman uses Green Lantern's ring to restore the drive for law and order in the other League members. The assembled heroes head to the island where the machine is located, and have to battle through a variety of defenses that Helm left to protect it. They prevail, and destroy the machine, returning everything to normal. Helm watches this all with sad resignation.


His Earth-2 counterpart had already appeared in two different stories in this book, and his enemy Matter Master had made his bow here as well before Hawkman was finally invited to join the Justice League of America in issue 31. The Atom, having already worked with him in his own book, is sent to inform Hawkman of the League's decision. Hawkgirl has a cameo as her husband learns of his induction. The Atom explains a rationale for not including her, that she has the same powers as Hawkman, but really it's because she's a woman, we all know that. Anyway, everyone is there for the ceremony, Aquaman, Batman, Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter, Snapper Carr, Superman and Wonder Woman. But most leave right afterwards, so the rest of the story belongs to Hawkman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash and Green Lantern. The League members have to deal with criminals who possess weird hoops that serve as time portals into the future. The heroes triumph, and take the hoops back to their headquarters, which suddenly shoots into space, as on the cover. Green Lantern solves that problem, but not the mystery of what is causing it all.


The villain of the tale is a simple hood, Joe Parry, who has stumbled upon an alien device that wound up on Earth. It links to an all-yellow dimension, but can produce anything the man asks it to. He used it to create the hoops and give them powers. Once the League get on his tail, Parry gets the machine to create someone to fight them, a hodge podge of the various members attacking him. It looks wonderfully strange, and goes by the name of Super Duper. I really wish it had appeared in more stories. Hawkman figures out that Super Duper's Green Lantern ring would not be functional, being as it was made up of yellow stuff, and fakes the effect of making the room fly again, using his own flying belt. Then he brings it all down on Parry's head, and once the man is out, Super Duper fades away. Despite that, we will see it one more time, four years down the road.


Metamorpho, the newest hero on the DC roster, refused membership in Justice League of America 42. The League send a strangely creepy invitation to Metamorpho, taking over his body and making him sky write his own invite. Metamorpho has no interest in becoming a member of the League anyway, but winds up having to deal with the Unimaginable, which can possess anything, who feels slighted for not being invited itself.  There is a visually wild battle between Metamorpho and the Unimaginable, which goes on until the League shows up to find out what is happening. Superman, Batman, Atom, Flash and Green Lantern are in this story. Metamorpho explains to them how becoming a super being was accidental, and not something he wants. Joining the League would mean accepting that he will stay Metamorpho, but all he wants is to turn back into a human. The Unimaginable has been listening to all of this, and it just makes the entity more determined to join the JLA.


But since the Leaguers have no interest in this thing that they cannot see and do not know, the Unimaginable goes on the attack, sending aliens to attack them. The visuals in this issue are really stunning, and kind of make you wish Metamorpho had joined, even though the logic behind it was true to the character. Metamorpho disguises himself as one of the aliens, which allows him to head back to the Unimaginable and give the League its location. Metamorpho is given as special reserve status with the League, and will show up on rare occasions.


This tale has a follow up in Justice League of America 44, as the Unimaginable returns. It's not a bad story, but twice it repeats a scene that is so unintentionally funny, as Dr. Bendorian informs some of the team that the plague they are carrying could have spread to anyone they touched. The Atom, Flash and Green Lantern think about their girlfriends, and Batman thinks of Robin. What have I done to you? Anyway, that scene takes a while to get to. First, those four, as well as Superman, all start growing to giant size. They were the same four heroes who faced the Unimaginable, and suspect a connection. They head to that creature's world, but though they find plenty to fight, they do not find the Unimaginable.


Back on Earth, they encounter Dr. Bendorian, a scientist who had come to help them, and begin working on a machine he has created for that purpose. The other heroes, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Martian Manhunter, Hawkman and Wonder Woman, have to deal with human thieves who seem to possess abilities to negate their powers. The heroes switch their abilities and weapons around, and overcome this problem. Meanwhile, the plagued Leaguers figure out that Bendorian is a fraud, and in fact, the Unimaginable. The cure is really a plan to destroy the Earth. The team take him down in that form, and also discover that the cure for the plague is simply rest.


Zatanna's search for her missing father, Zatara, which had run for the past couple of years through Hawkman, the Atom, Green Lantern and Detective Comics, comes to a close in Justice League of America 51. Zatanna magically summons the Atom, Batman, Green Lantern and Hawkman to the JLA cave, as well as Elongated Man, and thanks them all for their help in finding her father. The heroes are all confused, none moreso than Batman, who doesn't believe he has ever met her before. Zatanna reminds the other four of their meetings. Green Lantern refers to the Warlock of Ys as the Warlock of Dis, an error that would be brought back in the late 70s as an indication of the Warlock's spell on him.


Zatanna goes on to explain how she conjured magical versions of the heroes to aid her as she hunted for Zatara in a magical dimension. She also explains to Batman that she was the witch he faced, who was working for the Outsider. This begs more questions than it answers, and had not been the intent when the Outsider story was written. But as Batman was felt to be needed in the story, they had to add Zatanna retroactively into one of his adventures. In some ways, I am not too keen on this tale. Zatanna herself seems oddly passive, creating her magical army and then allowing them to do the work. And though it looks like we are watching the heroes in action, they aren't really there. On the other hand, I just love some of the art in the story.


There turn out to be two sorceresses named Allura, one good and one evil, and Zatanna was unwittingly possessed by the evil one. But the Alluras finally get banished, and Zatanna is re-united with Zatara once more.


Hawkgirl gets to play with the rest of the team in Justice League of America 53. The story opens as Hawkman and Hawkgirl discover an ancient coin in the museum they work in has been replaced by a counterfeit. Later, Batman, Green Arrow and Wonder Woman all find their weapons have also been replaced by inferior counterparts. The man behind all of this is a collector, called the Mastermind, who has created a matter-transporter. The device leaves a radiation trail, which the Leaguers are able to track and follow. The Mastermind brings to life a number of statues to fight the Leaguers, and then there are some hoods that the team has to face as well. The Leaguers who battle the statues wind up becoming invisible, due to the radiation.


The criminals fare better than the statues do, as they have stolen the matter-transporter, and use it to paralyze the Atom, Flash and Superman, when they get on the trail. Hawkgirl insisted on coming along on this mission, and it's a good thing she did. She was given the radiation detector to hold onto, and as it was connected to the Absorbacon, she remained immune to the various effects the heroes suffered, and was able to restore all of them to normal. So because of this, the League finally relented and let her join. Just kidding!


Of course, the main guest stars were the Justice Society of America, who made three team ups with the League during these years, each one a two-parter.
Justice League of America 29 has one of the best covers of any issue, and also contains one of my favourite JLA/JSA crossovers, as they introduce Earth-3, and the Crime Syndicate. The story opens on this new world, one where things have happened in a weird reverse of our world. Columbus was an American who discovered Europe, England fought a revolution against the US, and Lincoln assassinated Booth. On this Earth, there are no heroes. A group much like the Justice League exists, but they are the Crime Syndicate. Lead by Ultra-Man, they resemble the five big Earth-1 heroes. Super Woman, Power Ring, Owl-Man and Johnny Quick round out the Syndicate. Ultra-Man gains new powers from every piece of kryptonite that he gets exposed to. Recently, this gave him the ability to see through dimensions, and he discovered Earth-1. He informs the others about this, and Power Ring uses his magic ring to give the other members a glimpse of this world. There is nothing left on their own world that challenges them, so they send a message to the Justice League members, luring them into combat.


Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash and Green Lantern think they are heading out to face their evil opposites, but the Crime Syndicate has lied, and they face other members of it. Still, the JLA heroes win in each case. But as they defeat the Crime Syndicate, the say Volthoom, the name of the wizard who gave Power Ring his power ring. This has the effect of sending the Earthh-1 hero to Earth-3. On that world, the Crime Syndicate are victorious.  So, they figure they need to fight the Justice League on a neutral world, like Earth-2. The Crime Syndicate leave the Justice Leaguers trapped in their cave while they head to Earth-2 to get rid of the Justice Society. The Justice Society members appear only at the very end of the issue, warned about the Crime Syndicate by the Justice League. Black Canary, Hawkman and Dr. Fate are joined by Dr. Mid-Nite, who had been revived with other JSA members in the Flash, and Starman, making his first appearance since the 1940s.


The Crime Syndicate story concludes in Justice League of America 30. The Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 come to Earth-2 to fight the Justice Society. They have already been warned by the League not to let the villains say Volthoom. This time the pairings are not so obvious. The smaller cast gives the Justice Society members more of a chance to show themselves in action than they have really had up to this point in the Silver Age. And though they do defeat Ultra-Man, Super Woman, Johnny Quick, Owl-Man and Power Ring, this time, upon saying they have won, Black Canary, Dr. Mid-Nite, Dr. Fate, Starman and Hawkman still wind up getting sent to Earth-3 and imprisoned.


Then it's time for the rematch between the League and the Syndicate, with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash and Green Lantern facing their evil opposites, and beating them. They learn that the Crime Syndicate had also rigged things to destroy the other worlds if they lost and were imprisoned, but the heroes find out about this. The five members of the Crime Syndicate get sealed into a magical bubble, which sustains them without food or water, and left in a limbo realm. They will not be seen again until 1978, when Super Woman, Johnny Quick and Power Ring escape to face the Secret Society of Super-Villains. Ultra-Man and Owl-Man make their returns in 1982, in DC Comics Presents, and this book, respectively.


The Justice Society of America get to star in the two part story that begins in Justice League of America 37. The story brings back Dr. Fate, the Flash, Atom, Hawkman and Green Lantern of Earth-2, as well as Mr. Terrific and Johnny Thunder. While Johnny Thunder had made a cameo in the Flash a couple of years earlier, this is the first time Mr. Terrific had been seen since the 1940s.  Johnny Thunder is fascinated at the idea of parallel worlds and alternate versions of the heroes, so he commands his Thunderbolt to bring him to the Johnny Thunder of Earth-1. Unfortunately, that guy is nowhere near as noble, or as incompetent, as the Earth-2 Johnny. The Earth-1 versions knocks out his double, and then takes control of the Thunderbolt. The Earth-1 Johnny has big criminal plans, and wants the Justice League out of the way.


He sends the Thunderbolt through time to prevent the various incidents that create the heroes. I like the touch of using Batman's original costume as Thunderbolt messes up his first night out, and makes him re-think the hero game. Back on Earth-2, the other members of the Justice Society have become concerned about Johnny Thunder disappearance. They track him to Earth-1, and learn how his double has taken control of the Thunderbolt. The Society try to stop him, but the Thunderbolt is too powerful to beat. Then they try a bit of deception. Dr. Fate uses his magic to make the six Justice Society members look like their Justice League counterparts. Flash, Green Lantern and the Atom impersonate their alternate versions, but Hawkman does not, choosing to look like the Martian Manhunter.


Dr. Fate becomes Superman, and Mr. Terrific becomes Batman. Even so, this fares no better than when they attacked as themselves. Johnny Thunder gets the Thunderbolt to re-create the origins of the six Leaguers, but now with criminals in their positions. The Thunderbolt also strips the illusion from the Justice Society members, who now have to take on the evil versions of the Justice League.


Justice League of America 38 is set on Earth-A, a designation used only this once, for a world created by the Earth-1 Johnny Thunder, in which the League members have been replaced by criminal alternates, thanks to the power of the Thunderbolt. The Justice Society members, Dr. Fate, Atom, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman and Mr. Terrific go up against the twisted versions of Superman, Batman, the Martian Manhunter, Flash, Green Lantern and Atom, and wind up defeating the "new" Leaguers. Johnny Thunder of Earth-1 is angered by this, but the Thunderbolt explains that the Earth-2 heroes have had years to practice their powers, unlike the newly created League.


Johnny Thunder then commands the Thunderbolt to attack with Society members with natural disasters, and then creates three monsters to battle them as well. In every case the Society triumphs. Finally, after being chased right off the Earth, and with the Thunderbolt making things as difficult as possible, Johnny Thunder makes his last wish, to return everything to the way it was, removing his memory of even having met the Thunderbolt and his Earth-2 double. So as far as the League and Society know, there was no actual team up this year. Only the Thunderbolt knows the truth. For now.


The JLA/JSA team-up which begins in Justice League of America 46 incorporates most of the Justice Society members who had not yet appeared in this book, Wildcat, Sandman and the Spectre, as well as Black Canary, Dr. Fate and Dr. Mid-Nite. Both Wildcat and the Spectre had appeared in the pages of Showcase, but this was the first time Sandman had been seen since the 1940s. The story begins with characters of all sorts being shunted from Earth-1 to Earth-2, or vice-versa, with no apparent reason. Batman, Flash, Green Lantern and Hawkman are dealing with this on Earth-1. The story tries to upgrade Dr. Mid-Nite, giving him a "cryotuber," which he can use to control people's movements. It's a powerful weapon, but hardly suited for the character, and we won't see it again. The Spectre's involvement in the story is a bit different. He finds himself being pulled into the realm in between the two universes. The same force causes Solomon Grundy to be pulled back to Earth and freed from the bubble Dr. Fate and Green Lantern left him in last year in Showcase. Grundy winds up on Earth-1, and Dr. Mid-Nite and Black Canary join that world's Green Lantern, Flash and Hawkman in trying to bring him down. In space, the Spectre encounters the Anti-Matter Man.


This character is not a villain per se, simply a cosmic force. His approach to Earth is what is causing all the problems, as the universes shift around trying to avoid him, being made of anti-matter and all. The two Earths start moving towards each other, threatening the destruction of both, and the Spectre has to try to keep them apart. I also ought to mention that we see Ray Palmer a couple of times in this issue, trying to turn into the Atom, as he works with his lab assistant Enrichetta Negrini. For reason Ray does not understand, his size and weight controls are not working. The other villain in this story in Blockbuster, a recent foe for Batman. Dr. Fate, Wildcat and Sandman are no match for the brute, and it's Batman who manages to calm him down by unmasking. Although Blockbuster hates Batman, he is friends with Bruce Wayne.


The story concludes in Justice League of America 47 as Ray Palmer discovers that the experimental space warp machine that his assistant, Enrichetta Negrini, has been working on is what has been messing up his powers. It is also the thing that has been drawing the Anti-Matter Man towards the Earth. He now can turn into the Atom, though, and is able to alert the other heroes to the larger picture. Solomon Grundy and Blockbuster wind up switching Earths again, which starts that whole battle up once more. But Dr. Fate has learned of the Anti-Matter Man. He brings the various Justice League and Justice Society members out into space, while Green Lantern arranges pitting Solomon Grundy and Blockbuster against each other. My favourite pages of this story come as the members of the two teams fight the Anti-Matter Man.


They are split into smaller groupings, and attacking the top, middle and bottom of his body, with the pages divided up the same way. This goes on for five pages. Finally, they manage to alter the path of the Anti-Matter Man, while the Atom helps the Spectre move the two Earths back to the usual places in relation to each other. The Atom, Flash, Green Lantern, Batman and Hawkman, as well as Justice Society members Black Canary, Dr. Fate, Dr. Mid-Nite, Sandman and Wildcat return to Earth, all ready to resume their battles with Solomon Grundy and Blockbuster, only to find the pair have knocked each other silly, and are now friends.


Amazo comes back online in Justice League of America 27. The story opens with Snapper Carr reading some letters to Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Atom, the Martian Manhunter, Superman and Wonder Woman. The letters claim to come from Bruce Wayne, Ray Palmer and C. King (sea king).  Superman recognizes Bruce's name, and wonders why he would be writing, though no one catches on to the other two. The members split up to go see the three men, all of whom deny having written the letters asking for help. Of course, they then change to their other identities and join the League to solve the mystery. Robin gets a very small part during this bit. The Leaguers then split up again to solve three mysteries, but all of them wind up getting snagged by tentacles coming from another realm. The tentacles are part of a bizarre energy being called "I." "I" explains that the success factor the super-heroes have been using in their fights has threatened to destroy it and leave it dormant.


"I" has grabbed the heroes, after writing the letters to lure them into traps, and intends to prevent them from ever using their powers again, by removing their success factor. Now they will fail to be able to function as a team, and "I" will be safe. It's a bizarre tale, and it only gets weirder. Snapper Carr has the bright idea to re-activate Amazo. Since Amazo uses powers stolen from the League, it will still have the success factor. And, indeed, it seems that once Amazo goes into action "I" goes dormant. Of course, that just means the League has to defeat Amazo again, but by that point the story is almost over, so it's not as difficult as it usually is. While Amazo is periodically seen in the Justice League's trophy room, the next time it gets activated is four years down the road.


Dr. Destiny returns in Justice League of America 34, which was reprinted in a big oversize collection in the mid-70s. I still love this story as much as I did when I read it as a kid. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Atom and Hawkman are featured in this tale, which begins as each of them has a dream. In fact, Batman and Hawkman, and the Atom and Wonder Woman, actually share their dreams. Each one gains an article of clothing of a sort, which proves both a help and a hindrance. The Joker and Chac appear in the Batman/Hawkman dream, but in each case the heroes are battling some sort of villains, and find ways of triumphing in spite of their new weaknesses. But these are just dreams, right? Well, maybe not. The five Leaguers arrive at the cave the next day, only to find a sullen Snapper Carr. The articles of clothing that were in the dreams are now hanging on the walls of the cave. Though the team members insist that these were not used in actual cases, none of them seem to question the fact that they were sharing dreams. Before they can puzzle this out further, they learn of three attacks, matching the ones in the dreams, and head off to deal with them. Snapper just loses it when the five articles also head out after the heroes.


Yes, it's Dr. Destiny behind it all. The team has not yet figured this out, but the title gives it away anyway. Dr. Destiny has built a new and more impressive materioptikon, constructing it in his own dreams, and using it to bring to life the dreams the heroes had. Last time he fought them without leaving his cell, this time he fights them without even being awake! The heroes try to use the techniques that worked in their dreams, but with no success. This time they must find new ways of overcoming the limitations the articles impose on them. But they are the Justice League, and they still win. Once they have time to discuss the situation they figure out that Dr. Destiny must be behind it. The Atom knocks him out, which causes the articles to fade back into dreams. As the story ends, mention is made of preventing Dr. Destiny from ever dreaming that way again. And though he won't, that doesn't mean he won't be back and causing more problems for the team, returning three years down the road.


There are fewer villains in Justice League of America 35 than the cover would lead you to expect. The Three Demons, Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast, are the actual foes that the League must face in this story, although they remain sealed up for most of the tale. In their first battle with the Justice League they managed to imbue the costumes of some of the League members with magic energy, which they use to animate the outfits, hoping that the very costumes themselves will be able to free the demons. But this proves not to work. They need to increase the magic in the heroes outfits. The Three Demons go about this in a really roundabout way, although it's still impressive considering they are all sealed up in bottles and such. They bring to life the costumes of five villains, creating duplicates of the actual humans and sending them out to battle the heroes. So although it sure looks like the Pied Piper, Mask, Killer Moth, Dagon and Dr. Polaris are taking part in this story, they aren't. They are all still in jail. The Pied Piper and Dr. Polaris are current foes of Flash and Green Lantern, respectively, but Killer Moth had not faced Batman in quite a few years. The Mask had only fight Wonder Woman once, and that was waaay back in the 1940s. And as for Dagon, he has a great name and a cool costume, but had never actually appeared as an Aquaman villain before. But the heroes know none of this, and so Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Aquaman go after and defeat their old opponents.


Along the way, each of them winds up ruining their costumes, and must put on new ones. These are the costumes the Three Demons wanted them to wear, which are imbued with the magic they need to get free. The Three Demons animate the villain's outfits a second time, although they do not bother with the illusions of the villains themselves this time. The heroes still win, although by now they are exhausted, and the Three Demons are able to use the magic charge to get free. It's a complicated story, and undone by the ending. Green Lantern had pre-arranged that if the Three Demons ever got free the Bell, Wheel and Jar would return to the trophy room and pull them back in. That satisfies Snapper Carr, but is a real let down after such a long and twisting plan.


Felix Faust returns for a really entertaining story in Justice League of America 49. Felix Faust did not come off as really competent in his first outing against the League, and really screws up this time. While trying to escape from prison through a magic spell, Faust winds up creating a duplicate. The two argue over which is the real one. The magical one is inherently unstable, and which will wind up destroying the universe. Not wanting to do that, Faust reaches out to the League. One of the things that makes this story so much fun is the way Faust is eager to work with the Leaguers.


There is no deception or secret plan of betrayal. There are only four heroes in the story, Superman, Batman, Flash and Green Lantern, so each gets a chance to show their stuff. The heroes split up and each Faust creates some magical enemies for them to battle. They are all hoping that this will help the Leaguers determine which one is the real one, but they get no closer to figuring it out by the end of the story. Then Snapper Carr shows up for a great twist ending. The real Felix Faust has been in jail all this time. Both of the Fausts the League has been dealing with were magical doubles.


Justice League of America 50 came out when the Batman tv craze was at a high. Batman was being featured hugely on Justice League covers at this time. In fact, for 11 issues in a row Batman got the focus. In this story, Batman and Robin all but shove the League out of their own book. Eddie Brent, a war hero, turns evil after being controlled by the Lord of Time. The League has prevented the Lord of Time from using his own weaponry, so he needs to act through Brent. Batman and Robin get on the case, and eventually turn to other members of the League for help. It's not much of an outing for the Lord of Time. He got really shunted aside in his debut, with Felix Faust and the Three Demons commanding the action, and plays second fiddle to his pawn throughout this one. You can tell how disappointing I find this issue, can't you? Most people complain about it.


I do enjoy the scene with Snapper Carr and Robin each envious of the other. And look, you can even see Aquaman, Flash, Green Arrow and Wonder Woman wedged into it. Wonder Woman teams with Batman and Robin, so it's only on the couple of pages where we follow Aquaman, Flash and Green Arrow that Batman is actually not on the page. The heroes gather the weapons that Brent has been using and track the radiation from them to the Lord of Time. They take him down very easily, and free Brent. The Lord of Time does not return until 1976, showing up in the first issue of Karate Kid.


In Justice League of America 52 Snapper Carr addresses the fans of the Justice League in this story, explaining that not every member is required to show up for every case. He looks back at the Lord of Time story, and goes on to relate what the heroes who did not take part in the case were up to, starting with Hawkman and Hawkgirl. They are chasing after Faceless, the main opponent for the Martian Manhunter at this time in House of Mystery. But it turns out that the Faceless they are after is really the Manhunter in disguise, having forgotten his identity after the real Faceless shot him with an energy bolt. Green Lantern has to deal with a dog turned into a giant menace thanks to some of his own ring energy. Superman and Batman fight some alien cube creatures, like the one on the cover. For the Atom, the explanation is simply that he was busy with the case detailed in the latest issue of his own book. That all but begs the question as to why the same explanation was not used for all the other characters.


The Royal Flush Gang, a pretty much perfect concept for a villain team, make their debut in Justice League of America 43, although one of the Gang is actually a returning villain. That’s why I placed them at the end of the “returning villains” part of this article, but before the “new villains” section. Superman, Batman, Flash, Hawkman and Wonder Woman are featured in this story, and Hawkgirl gets a small role as well. Each of the five Leaguers winds up running into one of the five Royal Flush Gang members, all of whom are dressed like the playing cards they are named for - Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten. They have cards that can create a variety of emotions, which are based on the fortune telling attributes of the cards, powered by "stellaration," and use these to defeat the heroes. "Ace" is the one who discovered the stellaration effects, and who formed the team, using his old gang from childhood. A second round of fights with the Royal Flush Gang goes no better than the first, with Batman forced to betray the team, Superman losing his powers, and Hawkman falling into total despair.


Amazingly, it is Snapper Carr who is the one to really save the day. He goads Hawkman until the hero creates his own stellaration effect, empowering Snapper with it. Then Snapper gets into a Joker costume, and accompanies the League into battle against the Gang. Now, Snapper is able to neutralize the effects of the Royal Flush Gang's cards, and the League triumphs. Despite the awful costume he wears, this is probably Snapper's best outing. Ace is revealed to be Amos Fortune, which makes total sense. This is really not too far off from the luck glands concept of his first outing.


The Royal Flush Gang, with Amos Fortune as their leader, return for another round in Justice League of America 54. The story opens on Hal Jordan, who gets mugged after trying to pass on a map he got from a man who died in a car accident. The Flash, knowing Hal's identity through their team-ups in their own books, hears about this on the news and goes to see him, and learns about the map. The Flash calls in the League, and the Atom, Batman, Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman answer the call. But they are already involved in battling a number of odd characters, dressed as Alexander the Great, Elizabeth I, Lancelot, and others. The people are really the Royal Flush Gang, recharging their stellaration by using the people the playing cards are supposedly based on.


Batman figures this out, even though it makes little sense, and shows a total lack of knowledge about the development of playing cards. But I guess if Batman and Amos Fortune agree, who am I to argue? The two cases turn out to be the same. It was the Royal Flush Gang who caused the accident and mugged Hal, all to get the treasure map. Fortune uses it to find the locations of ancient books and weapons, which the Gang then go to retrieve. The League manage to stop them, though the map and scrolls get destroyed.


A new villain for the JLA, Headmaster Mind, makes his debut in Justice League of America 28, a story with also features three other villains. The story opens on Batman and Green Arrow struggling to face Hawkman's enemy, Matter Master. They are sad that they are not able to call in any of the other members of the League, who have all been banned from operating. The tale then goes on to explain how this all came about. Matter Master is one of three villains who are being "instructed" by Headmaster Mind, along with the Top and the Tattooed Man. Headmaster Mind has found a way to draw energy from the increased heart rates that the heroes have while using their powers, and use this energy to cause disasters. Thus, each time the heroes go into action, they cause more problems than they solve.


After this happens repeatedly, the United Nations orders the members to stop using their powers. This sidelines Aquaman, Atom, Flash, Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter, Superman and Wonder Woman - everyone except Batman and Green Arrow. The heroes decide not to give up, and to go after the villains without using their powers. Lucky for them that Headmaster Mind didn't recruit any power players on his side. The heroes, without their powers, defeat Matter Master, the Top and Tattooed Man, while Batman and Green Arrow track the transmissions causing the disasters and find Headmaster Mind, defeating him and destroying his machine.


Brain Storm, a scientist with a helmet that channels destructive mental blasts, among other things, makes his debut in Justice League of America 32. As the story begins, five members who will take part in this case, Atom, Batman, Flash, Hawkman and Superman, all find their powers going screwy, and at the same time, ordinary people suffer linked problems. The Leaguers discover that they all have traces of a specific radiation, and, tracking it, come to the man responsible, Brain Storm. He is totally happy the League has found him. He was prepared for them, and keeps them immobile thanks to his helmet as he explains how he blames them for the death of his brother.


The League members have their own mental abilities boosted by the discharge from Brain Storm's helmet, and are able to contact the five people who shared a connection from Brain Storm's radiation. The heroes teleport the people there, and they are able to free the Leaguers. Then there is some battle action, with Brain Storm sending in creations to do his fighting for him. Eventually it gets revealed that Green Lantern is the one he blames for killing his brother, a hood fleeing from a crime. But Green Lantern explains that it was actually a side effect of Brain Storm's own helmet. His brother is really alive. Green Lantern brings the guy back to them, but Brain Storm uses his powers to get away. I think it's the helmet, but I have never really liked this character.


Brain Storm is back for Justice League of America 36. It bears a thematic resemblance to a Justice Society adventure from the 1940s, which dealt with disabled people. In this story, Batman, Superman, Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern and Hawkman come to visit a hospital for children, and meet five young men with various problems. They entertain the boys, and Green Lantern turns Batman into a monster for them to battle. As the heroes battle the Batman monster, they find themselves gaining the same ailments that plagued the kids they were visiting, and must overcome their "handicaps" to defeat it. Brain Storm reveals that he was the one who gave the heroes their infirmities, and they head out to battle other creatures Brain Storm has created, despite their weaknesses. They triumph, and even get cured, but just fall further under Brain Storm's control.


Brain Storm turns the five heroes into mind controlled versions of himself, but able to use their powers, and channel those to the other members. Batman returns, along with Aquaman, Atom, the Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman, to take on their former teammates. As the mind controlled heroes change form every time they use a different power, the heroes are able to figure out which one is really which, and thus which one is really Brain Storm, and take him down. The conclusion of the issue makes reference to the JSA adventure that this resembles, and even closes with the same kind of scroll about treating the disabled with respect. Really creepy illustration of FDR on the scroll, though.


The Key makes his debut in Justice League of America 41. Though this story uses the entire team, guest stars, a new villain, and a couple of supporting ones, it manages to tell a really good story at the same time. The tale certainly has a memorable opening. Superman chairs the meeting, but everyone is in attendance, and Aquaman, Atom, Batman, Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter, Snapper Carr and Wonder Woman all vote to disband the Justice League and go their separate ways. We learn that this is the master plan of the Key, a criminal who uses psycho-chemicals, which are somehow connected to a board full of keys. He drugged Snapper Carr, and then got Snapper to drug the other members of the League. Now, they are all under the Key's control, but completely unaware of this. The heroes have not given up on fighting crime.


We see Batman and Robin in action against the Wrecker, who he had faced back in 1953 in Detective Comics. But while the pair see the Wrecker and his men, they do not see the Key's operatives, who are robbing right in front of them. The same thing happens with Flash and Green Lantern later, as they face Weather Wizard and the Invisible Destroyer. Hawkman and Hawkgirl are taking on the Butterfly Bandits when she spots some of the Key Men.  Hawkman insists that there is no one there, and this leads Hawkgirl to do some investigating on her own. She finds out that the milk she was supposed to have drunk that morning was drugged by Hawkman - and we can assume the same thing happened with Robin. But as she didn't drink it, she is not under the Key's spell. 


Hawkgirl uses the Absorbacon to restore Hawkman's mind, and then learn the identities of the other members of the team, and bring their proper minds back as well. You might think this would mean the League would reward her with membership, but they don't. They go up against the Key and his minions, and defeat them all. But even though the Key is beaten and sent off to prison at the end of the story, it is clear he has further plans, which this doesn't seem to interrupt.


The Shaggy Man may have a silly name, but he proves to be a worthy opponent as he debuts in Justice League of America 45. The story deals with two letters for help sent to the Justice League many years before, but delayed by a plane crash. The League gets alerted to a strange living rock creature that is draining natural resources, as well as an unkillable, self-reforming hairy monster, the Shaggy Man, created by a scientist who realized too late what a menace he had made. That one the League should have left alone, as the Shaggy Man is contained until they get there.


Flash, Hawkman and Green Arrow face the endless task of trying to defeat a monster that regrows and feels no pain, while the Atom, Batman and Wonder Woman face the rock monster. The heroes facing the Shaggy Man manage to divert it with a simple mirror. The creature may be powerful, but isn't very smart. Then, as they relate to Green Lantern, Snapper Carr and Superman, they just built a giant pit, while the scientist created a second Shaggy Man. They toss both Shaggy Men and the rock monster into the pit, where they can fight each other for eternity.

Justice League of America continues in the next period, 1967 – 1970: It’s a Happening!

Justice League of America: Justice League of America 27 – 54 (May 1964 - June 1967)

Next up – Star Hawkins!

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Last Updated: February 8, 2020 - 13:52

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