DC Comics History: Justice League of America
By Deejay Dayton
Jun 26, 2017 - 10:56
The Justice League was the successor to the Justice Society of America from the 1940s, and the line-up reflected this. Superman and Batman were listed as being a part of the team, but did not appear in this first outing, and were marginalized at first. The remainder of the team consisted of heroes who had their own books (Wonder Woman, Flash), or ongoing series (Aquaman, Martian Manhunter), with the exception of Green Lantern, who had only recently debuted in Showcase, but was soon to get his own book. In this first entry on the team, I am just going to look at all the early issues in order, and examine how the team developed, and the way the stories were told, from using the core team, to including Batman and Superman, to moving towards issues with only a few members, developed.
The Justice League of America make their debut in Brave and the Bold 28, in a story by Gardner Fox, with art by Mike Sekowsky, Bernard Sachs, Joe Giella and Murphy Anderson. The villain in this first story is Starro the Conqueror, a giant telepathic alien starfish. So it's hardly surprising that the first hero to encounter him is Aquaman. Aquaman's telepathic connection with sea life enables him to learn of Starro's nature and goals from a friendly fish, and he then alerts the other members of the League. This is their first recorded story, but not their origin. The tale makes it clear the League is already in existence. They even have their cave headquarters already, which evokes the look of the late 50s/early 60s. There are seven chairs at the table, but only five are being used in this story. A nice way of reminding the reader that Superman and Batman are members, even if not around. As will become the standard format for Justice League adventures, Starro has been spotted in three different locations, so the Justice League split up to deal with him. This hearkens back to the way that the Justice Society stories were, originally with each hero having their own chapter.
In this case, Aquaman (at the start), Green Lantern and the Flash each face Starro on their own, while Wonder Woman teams with the Martian Manhunter in one chapter. In the Flash's chapter we meet Snapper Carr, a teenager who is the only person in his hometown of Happy harbour immune to Starro's mind control. This catches the notice of the Flash, and they use Green Lantern's ring to determine that it is the lime Snapper had been spreading on his yard earlier in the day that has immunized him.
Realizing that Starro is vulnerable to lime, the League coats the would-be conqueror in it. Starro is not seen again until 1968. In the one really poor decision in the book, Snapper Carr is made an honourary member. This would result in the boy being around in virtually every adventure for the next few years. His role in this story was fine, but there was rarely any need for his presence in the book.
In Brave and the Bold 29 the League faces Xotar, a criminal from the year 11,960. He comes across the JLA casebook, and although the pages are worn down with time, he believes that he finds proof that he defeated the League in their own era, using one of four super-weapons that has has acquired. He wants to figure out which of his weapons is the unbeatable one, so travels back in time with all four to face the Justice League. Xotar traps the Leaguers in their cave, paralyzing them, and only releasing them in team to battle his weapons. Batman is around for this adventure, and Snapper Carr is back, doing nothing much. The Flash defeats the first weapon on his own. Aquaman and the Martian Manunter team-up for the second, and Batman joins Wonder Woman and Green Lantern for the third.
Everyone gets released for the final weapon, and even Superman shows up at this point. Xotar suspected this would be the unbeatable weapon, which makes you wonder why he saved it for last. It causes the heroes to see each other as foes, so when they think that they are fighting menaces, they are really fighting each other. Superman's late arrival means that he was not subjected to the illusion machine, and destroys it before his teammates destroy each other. Xotar is sent back to his own era, and Snapper Carr writes up the adventure in the casebook. We see the undamaged version, and how the words missing in the version Xotar read clearly state that he lost against the League. This story was briefly retold in Action 650, in the post-Crisis reality, as Superman's first meeting with the Justice League.
Amazo and Professor Ivo make their debuts in Brave and the Bold 30, the final tryout issue of the Justice League of America. Superman and Batman appear in this story, but only briefly. Flash's enemy, the Mirror Master, also makes a cameo at the top of the story, as the Flash's powers vanish for a moment while they are fighting. Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter experience the same, temporary, power loss. The heroes then begin to individually encounter Amazo, an android who is stealing various species of animals, while using the same powers as the Justice League members. He even has a copy of Wonder Woman's lasso. While the Leaguers can see no logic in the animals being stolen, Snapper Carr provides the information that each of these creatures is the longest living of their species. Amazo then confronts the League members, and we learn that he was created by Professor Ivo, who is seeking immortality. That's why he needs the different animals, to study what gives them their long lives.
Amazo takes down the five Justice Leaguers, who get placed into the glass cells seen on the cover, while Ivo drains what remains of their powers, and channels it all into Amazo. He also perfects and takes his immortality serum. Green Lantern is the one to save the day. He inhaled some of the (yellowish) chlorine gas being used to keep them all weak, and then exhaled it when Amazo was about to use his Green Lantern ring energy to kill them all, neutralizing it. Amazo is really far more impressive than he seems, as he not only steals powers from those with innate abilities, but also from such things as the Green Lantern ring, and Wonder Woman's lasso. Anyway, after being defeated the League de-activates him, and puts him into their trophy room. Professor Ivo gets an ironic end, sentenced to 500 years in prison, which he will survive, due to his newfound immortality. The final panel asks readers to write in if they want an ongoing Justice League of America comic. But since the JLA's book began only two months later, there is no way they actually waited for reader response.
A couple of months after the end of their trial run in Brave and the Bold, the Justice League of America move into their own book. The tale introduces an alien warlord, Despero, from the planet Kalanor. Jasonar, a scientist from that world, comes to Earth to work on a weapon to defeat Despero, along with his daughter, and winds up meeting the Flash. Jasonar has a blue ray beam, and this will serve to protect the Flash from Despero's third eye, which has, among other things, hypnotic abilities. The Flash heads for the Justice League cave, in order to let the rest of the team know about Despero, but gets there too late. Despero has already used his third eye to take over the minds of Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, the Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern. By the time the Flash arrives, the cover scene is pretty much already set up. The other Justice League members are paralyzed under Despero's control, and the Flash has to play a weird board game to try to save them. Despero is cheating, though, and sends the various League members off to deadly worlds. Despero does look more menacing on the cover than he does in the issue itself.
The story follows what will be the standard format for a while, dividing the group up into pairs, for the most part. Superman and Wonder Woman work together on their world, he fights dinosaurs while she disposes of kryptonite. Green Lantern and Aquaman wind up on a water world, being heated to boiling by a yellow lens. Batman and the Martian Manhunter, later joined by the Flash, get sent to a world about to be incinerated when its star goes nova. Snapper Carr plays a small role in the story, but does manage to save the day. While the other heroes are dealing with the situations on their various worlds, Snapper Carr sneaks along in Despero's ship. He gets doused with the blue ray, and so is immune to Despero's mind control, and is the one to defeat the villain at the end. Considering how useless Snapper Carr is in most tales, this at least makes him important in the book's launch.
Justice League of America 2 sends the team to Magic Land in a re-write of a late Justice Society of America adventure. I'm not too keen on the 1940s version of this story, nor of this version, to be honest. The Lorelei is replaced as the main villain of the tale by Simon Magus, but otherwise it is much the same, as science stops working on Earth, and magic takes over. Nonsensically, this will cause Wonder Woman to lose her powers, as happens with Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Flash, and the Martian Manhunter. This is not the only story in which a sweeping effect has results on a Justice League member who ought to be immune. Story takes precedence over logic.
The Justice League members invoke Merlin to help them, and he sends the heroes into Magic Land to defeat Saturna, the Troll King, and Simon Magus, who have overthrown him. Snapper Carr just hangs out with Merlin and enjoys the ride. The Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern have to battle a griffon and a manticore before they can take down Saturna. Wonder Woman and the Flash have to deal with a race of giants, the Troll King's minions. Superman, Batman and Aquaman each work separately as they chase down Simon Magus. Formulaic, with little to set it apart.
Justice League of America 3 introduces Kanjar Ro, a would-be alien conqueror, and ruler of the his homeworld of Dhor. He faces three rivals on his world, and so decides to come to Earth and enslave the Justice League, to use them as his pawns. Kanjar Ro paralyzes the League members with his Gamma-Gong, and then takes Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter and Aquaman out into space on his slave ship. Batman and Snapper Carr get left behind as bait in a Superman trap. Of the three other alien that the League has to defeat, Kromm, who gets taken down by the Martian Manhunter solo, and Sayyar, who is the target of Flash and Green Lantern, would be of lesser significance as the years went by.
It would be Hyathis, who has to deal with Wonder Woman and Aquaman, who would be the most important of these minor villains, although all three would return in the next Kanjar Ro story. The League members manage to get vocal recordings of Kanjar Ro while in the battles, recording which are needed to break the spell of the Gamma-Gong and release everyone else on Earth from Kanjar Ro's control. Once this is done, Superman takes Kanjar Ro, Hyathis, Kromm and Sayyar out to a small planet he has built, stranding them there. Presumably to die. This doesn't actually happen, though, as is revealed in their next appearance, in Mystery in Space. That story, which sees the League work with Adam Strange, was released the following year, but must actually take place between this story and the tale in issue 4, which makes reference to it, retroactively.
Green Arrow becomes the first new member to join the Justice League of America in issue 4. Green Arrow was more or less an omission when the Justice League was assembled, being the only hero with an ongoing series at the time that was not included. The splash page of the issue features a scroll announcing his inclusion in the team, and later members would also be inducted with a similar scroll. The villain of the piece is not actually a bad person. Carthan is a notable general and popular on his homeworld. After a space accident renders him invulnerable, the leader of his planet exiles him to Earth, feeling that he is a threat to his control. The man also puts three super destructive devices on Earth, which are also the key to Carthan returning home. But Carthan would have to be willing to sacrifice the planet, and he is too good a man to do so. Carthan decides to play the villain, alerting the Justice League to the devices so that they will find a way to neutralize them.
While all this is going on, Wonder Woman chairs the Justice League meeting that discusses inducting a new member. Batman suggests Hawkman, the newest hero on the scene at this time, while the Flash suggests Adam Strange. This created a problem, as no one on Earth knew about Adam Strange's adventures on Rann, so how could the Flash suggest him for membership? The story in Mystery in Space 75, released the following year, clears that all up, but must take place between this issue and the previous one. It's Green Lantern who puts Green Arrow's name on the table. Good thing he did, as Carthan has already captured and imprisoned Green Arrow, and is using him as bait for his big plan. So off go the League members to deal with the deadly machines. The Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman shut down one that turns insects into monstrous creatures.
The Flash works with Aquaman to stop the second machine, which threatens to sink Australia. Green Lantern goes solo to deal with the third machine, which controls some giant destructive statues. Superman and Batman go to free Green Arrow, but wind up trapped, along with the other members of the League, inside a giant diamond. By this point, Carthan has explained the entire situation to the League, and helps Green Arrow find the precise point on the diamond that he needs to hit to free the rest of the team. Snapper Carr shows up at the end to join in the official vote to make Green Arrow a member of the team.
Justice League of America 5 introduces my favourite Justice League villain, Dr. Destiny, though this story has none of what would come to be the usual themes for the character. The story begins with various members of the Justice League complaining to Superman, Batman and Snapper Carr about how Green Arrow betrayed them all on their most recent missions. Monty Moran, the Getaway Mastermind, leads a breakout of a number of villains the various heroes had faced before. Flash and Wonder Woman relate their battle against Captain Cold, Professor Menace and Clock King, annoying referred to throughout this story as King Clock.
Green Arrow prevented the villains from being captured by the other heroes. Much the same thing happened later on, when Green Arrow joined Green Lantern, Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter against the Puppet Master, Electric Man and Monty Moran. But this proves to be a much more complex tale than it seems. Green Arrow had found out one of the other members was being impersonated, and when the team thought he was betraying them, he was really saving their lives. Green Arrow proves this, and then explains how the phony Green Lantern gave himself away, using his "ring" on yellow puppets. Green Lantern is really Dr. Destiny, who has invented anti-gravity discs, Exposed, he uses these against the heroes, as seen on the cover.
The real Green Lantern is the one to defeat him, faking out Destiny with his ring, which has actually lost all power at that point. The use of the various other villains in this story resulted in a handful of really obscure villains showing up in the first villain" team" in this book. While this was the debut of Dr. Destiny, it was the second and final appearance for Martian Manhunter's enemy Monty Moran, Wonder Woman's enemy Professor Menace, and Aquaman's opponent Electric Man. It was also the second appearance for Green Lantern's villain Puppet Master, and Green Arrow's foe Clock King. Though both of these villains would return, Clock King would not be seen again until 1979, and the Puppet Master would return to face the New Teen Titans in 1981. Only Captain Cold, who had already dealt with the Flash a couple of times, would be back the following year.
Another villain I really enjoy, Amos Fortune, makes his debut in Justice League of America 6. The cover, and the villain himself, are based on the cover and enemy of a late Justice Society of America story, in which they faced Professor Zodiak. The story begins as each of the Justice League members wind up experiencing bad luck during the course of their usual crime fighting activities. We meet Amos Fortune, who has spent years studying the concept of luck, and has discovered that human have luck glands. He has devised a way to stimulate bad luck, and does this to the Justice Leaguers. The Justice League encounter Amos Fortune on their next case, as Green Arrow, the Flash and Martian Manhunter try to help a near destitute woman find the fortune left to her.
Amos Fortune gets the treasure that was the goal, but the Leaguers find other things that help her out. Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Aquaman are later on the case of thefts from a museum, and Amos Fortune's good luck allows him to find the hidden loot. Still, the Leaguers solve the case and find the thief, so it's not like their luck was all bad. Fortune determines that the heroes have such strong luck glands that they are compensating for his effects. He does manage to capture them, putting them on a wheel that will overload and destroy their luck glands. But the Martian Manhunter, not being human, does not have these glands, and is able to defeat Amos. Wonder Woman, being made of clay, should have been able to do the same thing.
Snapper Carr gets to open Justice League of America 7, going to a carnival with his girlfriend, Midge. They go into the fun house, and wind up entering a passageway that takes them to an alien world. Snapper uses his Justice League signal device to call on the team, who come to his rescue. The Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and the Flash decide to go back and investigate the fun house, but in their civilian identities, so as not to alert them. Turns out they needn't have worried. The aliens fully intended to lure the Justice League members there. They have an invasion plan that involves using the fun house to draw the Leaguers in and replace them with aliens made to look like them. The four teammates are captured, and fake Flash and Green Lantern aliens head back to the headquarters. While the fake Green Lantern and Flash decoy Superman, Batman and the Martian Manhunter, convincing them that Xotar, who they faced back in Brave and the Bold, is the one behind this, sending the most powerful heroes away, the four who were captured break free in their special Justice League way.
One thing I never tire of is seeing how the team manage to escape things by working individually, yet as a unit, each one aiding one of the others. After a scene along the lines of the cover, in which Aquaman has to help the malformed Justice Leaguers, they get rid of the aliens before the big guns get back home. The final panels of the story see the heroes return to the park in their civilian identities, along with their romantic partners. Clark Kent has Lois Lane, Barry Allen has Iris West, Hal Jordan has Carol Ferris and Diana Prince has Steve Trevor, all those are familiar. John Jones shows up with Diane Meade (called Diana here), who is more of a work partner. Bruce Wayne attends with Kathy Kane, better known as Batwoman. Oliver Queen has the most interesting date, Bonnie King. She is also Miss Arrowette, but her romantic pairing is with Green Arrow, not Oliver Queen.
Justice League of America 8 deals with a low life hood, Pete Ricketts, who finds a device that allows him to control anyone he beams with it. When organized crime offer a million dollar bounty on the Justice League, Pete shows up to claim the prize. He uses his device on Green Lantern, and gets him to round up the other members of the League. Only Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Flash, Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter arrive, though. Superman and Batman are off planet on a secret mission. Shhh. At first the mob intends to kill the League, but then, seeing how much control Ricketts has over them, they decide to auction them off, and use them for crime. Meanwhile, Snapper Carr has been sitting around the cave, bored. He pokes through the mail, and finds a letter from the inventor whose device has fallen into Pete's hands.
Snapper decides to take an active part in getting it back, and takes the antigravity discs that Dr. Destiny had invented. We also get to see a decommissioned Amazo in the background. Flash and Green Lantern, Aquaman and Green Arrow, and the Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman are sent out after three targets, each competing against the other Leaguer. As it turns out, none complete their thefts. The stuff they are going after always winds up disappearing. There is another sequence in which the mob put the League members into individual traps, but working together they free each other. Snapper's role is not made clear until after the bad guys have been rounded up. The Justice Leaguers activated each others signal devices while they fought, and Snapper kept using the discs to "steal" the things they were meant to get.
The origin of the Justice League of America gets revealed in issue 9, but it's not one of the better stories. It lacks any sort of significant villain. The tale takes place on the first anniversary of the formation of the team. Snapper Carr and Green Arrow do not know the story of how the team came together, so the other heroes relate it to them. The story involves seven aliens from the planet Appellax, who have come to Earth to battle each other, the winner getting to rule their homeworld. Each of the seven has a different physical make-up: stone, fire, mercury, crystal, wood, etc. and are able to transform humans into the same thing, making them their army. The Martian Manhunter is the first to encounter one of the Appellaxians, the stone man. He defeats it, but as he goes hunting for others, falls victim to the glowing meteor containing the wood man. One by one the other heroes get involved. Aquaman faces the glass creature, and Wonder Woman the mercury one when it lands on Paradise Island. Hippolyta makes a brief cameo in this scene. Green Lantern has to face yet another giant yellow bird. There have been a few of those in recent years for him. The Flash is the last of the core group, defeating the fire monster and then joining the others. I do like the cover image, with all the members turning into trees, although the panel that duplicates the shot is not as impressive.
As the five heroes follow the tree leader, all the while turning into wood themselves, they do their group escape for the first time, each one aiding one of the other members, in a chain that eventually sets them all free.
They then catch up with Superman and Batman, who have been dealing with a crystal creature in Antarctica. Oddly, it is Batman who makes the suggestion that they form a team. Flash is the one to sort of name them, although no one says the precise title in the sequence. A different origin for the team would be shared in the mid 70s, one I prefer, but which has been all but forgotten.
Five new villains to make their bows in Justice League of America 10. The tale begins as Felix Faust conjures up Three Demons, Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast. These are ancient entities, well designed by Sekowsky. I love how they look the same, except for the distinctive markings. The Three Demons ruled the world long ago, but were defeated by friendly aliens, and their spirits placed into three objects. Felix Faust is basically the Justice League's version of the Wizard, except not as competent as the Justice Society's magical foe. He is able to invoke the Three Demons and learn of the Bell, Wheel and Jar that they are sealed in. Once retrieved, it will still take 100 years for the spell to free them, during which time Faust will be able to control them.
The Demons give Faust the finger effect on the cover, which enables him to curse each of the Justice Leaguers, and when they come into contact with a specific substance, they will become his pawns. Batman and the Flash are already dealing with the final new villain in the story, the Lord of Time, when they get pulled away. The same thing happens to Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Aquaman, the Martian Manhunter and Snapper Carr. Snapper is treated like any other member in this tale, and is part of the groupings that are sent out to gather the three objects the Demons are in.
So there are still some very formulaic parts to the story, with the heroes working in smaller groupings, but overall this one feels very different than the earlier tales. For one thing, there are a lot of plot threads going on. The Lord of Time gets the shortest draw, introduced and then seemingly forgotten about. Aquaman proves to be the one to defeat Faust, using fish who are not subject to the mind control spell. Although the team takes Faust down, they are not aware of the hundred years spell now in place to free the Demons.
The story concludes in Justice League of America 11. Now that Felix Faust is out of the way, and completely unaware of the hundred year spell resurrecting the Three Demons, the Justice League focus their efforts on capturing the Lord of Time. The villain cheerfully announces his plans to head to the future, gather up some nifty weapons, and then return with them to the present and conquer the world. Superman's vision allows him to spot the year that the Lord of Time is heading to, and he builds a time bubble so they can follow him. That actually doesn't prove very difficult. The problem lies when the team tries to return. They find their way blocked by Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast, who have been freed from the Bell, Wheel and Jar by this time. They capture the Leaguers, turning them into gas as shown on the cover. Green Lantern is the big hero, using his ring just before the team is turned into gas, giving the other members energy charges that will restore them to their own bodies. Then, turning things around again, Green Lantern body shifts all the team members.
They have noticed that the Three Demons need to focus their spells by saying the name of the person they are using their magic on. By putting Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, the Flash and Martian Manhunter into other bodies, they can avoid the effects of the spells. Then it's just a matter of dividing into smaller groups, splitting up and taking down the Three Demons. They seal them back up in their Bell, Wheel and Jar, where they will remain, in the JLA's trophy room. A heck of a complex story, really, but it works. The only real weak point is the Lord of Time, who manages to make feeble appearances in both halves of the tale.
Dr. Light makes his debut in Justice League of America 12, taking on the entire team. Snapper Carr arrives at the JLA cave to find it empty, aside from Dr. Light, who proudly announces that he has already defeated the Justice League. He makes Snapper Carr write up the story of his victory. The cool light ball attack pictured on the cover has already happened before the story began, followed by Dr. Light using the weapon on Superman and Batman. Dr. Light claims to have mastered all forms of light, and indeed shows an impressive array of inventions in this tale. The light ball had the effect of sending the various team members to sidereal worlds, each one chosen to play on the weaknesses of the individual members. It all worked as planned. Almost. Superman and Batman feared that Dr. Light was going to be a major challenge after he took out the rest of the team, so they traded costumes. This means Batman is on a reed sun world, and Superman is not. Superman then gets to zip around and save all the other members of the team.
The Justice Leaguers return to face Dr. Light again, but wind up having to split into little groups and chase after what turn out to be solid light illusions of Dr. Light. Green Lantern figures this out, and uses his ring to find and capture the real villain. In a very nice touch, Snapper Carr closes out the story by pointing out that it was April Fool's Day, making Dr. Light's triumphant report on his victory a big joke. Dr. Light returns the following year, beginning to go after the Justice League members individually, and starts by attacking the Atom in his own book.
Aquaman gets both sidelined and showcased in Justice League of America 13. The tale opens with a great Green Arrow and Speedy scene, showing the Arrowcar and the catapult. In the middle of the case, Green Arrow just vanishes. Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter all disappear as well. Green Lantern disappears right in front of his sidekick, Tom Kalmaku, and Jimmy Olsen gets a decent scene, pretending to have magic powers, when Superman disappears. The Justice League members have all been brought to an alien world that is under threat from an invading planet. The invaders like to challenge other worlds to a series of competitions, and then use their victory as a justification for conquest. The aliens ask the Justice League to fight for their planet, and the team agrees, although this means Earth will become a target as well. The invaders use their technology to create robot duplicates of the League for the team to fight against.
As the world has no water, Aquaman gets put into a floating tub, and just watches the games. This proves to be a good thing, though. The Justice Leaguers find their robot doubles to have more power than they do, and Aquaman's encouragement helps them push on to win. Then the invaders decide to blow up the Earth anyway. The Leaguers know the device is somewhere on the planet, and rush off to hunt for it. But Aquaman sees that the invaders are in no way stressed about this, which leads him to conclude that the device is in the arena itself. He calls the team back, they find and destroy the device, and head triumphantly home.
The Atom, whose solo comic had recently launched, joins the Justice League of America in issue 14. The tale opens as Snapper Carr counts the votes for the latest Justice League induction. Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash and Martian Manhunter have all voted for the Atom, but none of them can remember who he is. And when we see the Atom, we find out that he has no idea either. Green Lantern uses his ring to learn about the hero, which also serves as a mini introduction to the reader. The Martian Manhunter is sent out to find and inform him of the vote.
A cloaked figure, Mr. Memory, has been using a device to remove people's memories. He has recruited some foes of the various League members, and armed them with similar devices, to remove the hero's memories of themselves. Hector Hammond makes a transformed appearance in this story, having exposed himself to a meteor since his debut in the pages of Green Lantern, which has altered his body, but empowered his mind. The Pied Piper also makes his second appearance overall in this tale, stripping the Flash's memory from him. The only one of the villains to be a major player at this time was Angle Man, who was Wonder Woman's most frequent foe at this point. Green Arrow fights against Dr. Davis, who he had faced once in World's Finest Comics, but Aquaman gets pitted against the generically named Sea-Thief, who had never appeared before, or since. As for the Atom, when the Martian Manhunter finds him it scares the little guy so much that he shrinks down even further.
This winds up restoring his memory, and he follows Mr. Memory back to his lair. The other members have been captured by this point, and we get the cover scene, with the Atom being bowled at them. He enlarges and breaks free, and restores the minds of the other team members. Mr. Memory turns out to actually be Batman, who was captured and mind wiped by Amos Fortune.
Fortune was operating as behind the scenes as he could be, and not even using his luck gimmicks, but still gets caught. He would return four years down the road. Superman and Snapper Carr show up for the conclusion, which introduces the tiny floating chair that the Atom can sit in during the meetings, one of the wonderful little details in later Justice League stories.
It's beginning to feel a little crowded in Justice League of America 15. Superman and Batman are no longer being marginalzed, and the stories are now packed with heroes, as well as Snapper Carr. The tale opens on Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash, as a new rocket winds up getting stolen by aliens the heroes cannot make contact with. These aliens show up around the world, and the team splits into little groups to try to stop them, with no success. As each team has three people, no one gets much of a chance to do anything special, and Snapper Carr is stuck minding the cave.
The aliens come from a parallel world existing a minute out of phase with ours. Nuclear testing has caused that barrier to shrink. The aliens are trying to wipe out specific cities on Earth, which are in the same place as their cities. Their own cities are mined, and their destruction would blow up their entire world. Green Lantern is the big hero of the day, using his ring to move the other world back to being a full minute out of phase with ours, so all is well.
Justice League of America 16 contains easily my favourite story so far in the run. It starts much like any other tale. A group of heroes, in this case Wonder Woman, Green Arrow and the Atom, find themselves forced to dance against their will, along with other people, while a crime is being committed. They still mange to stop the theft, but with difficulty. The same thing happens to the other heroes in the tale, Batman, Superman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Flash and the Martian Manhunter. They cannot quite figure out how the villain, the Maestro, is pulling this off. As Superman is affected, it seems like it might be magic. The heroes follow the Maestro's trail, and go right into his cave lair. There he traps them all in specially designed bubbles. He had been using a sonic weapon, and the sound and dancing were just diversions, to prevent the League from figuring out what he was really doing. They are unable to escape from their bubbles. The Maestro makes the cave collapse, and the heroes all slowly die. Huh?
Well, it turns out this entire adventure was written by a young fan of the League, and sent to them. Snapper has been regaling the League by reading it to them. The boy's name is Jerry Thomas, a composite of Jerry Bails and Roy Thomas, fans who were yet to make their mark. The real team tries to find a flaw in the tale, and the Atom does, noting that he started dancing when he was still too small to hear the music. So from this, the League guess that they would have been prepared for the Maestro, and have switched costumes. Therefore, the specially designed bubbles would not have worked, and the League would have escaped. It's not like the actual story itself is so brilliant, but the original way it is told really stands out.
Justice League of America 17 brings back the Tornado Tyrant, defeated by Adam Strange three years earlier in Mystery in Space. The Tornado Tyrant has decided to become a force for good. It followed Adam Strange around invisibly for a while, and saw his adventure with the Justice League. So the Tornado Tyrant, having renamed himself the Tornado Champion, now pretends to be the Justice League on his own world. The problem is that part of him has split off, and become the evil Tornado Tyrant again. The Tornado Champion cannot stop his evil self as the Justice League, so it heads to Earth and starts pretending to be the Tornado Tyrant, to see how the Justice League will defeat him, so that he can go back to his planet and become the Justice League again in order to defeat the real Tornado Tyrant. Oh my gosh could you follow that all?
It seems like an absurdly, and unnecessarily, complicated way to tell the story. The Justice League themselves have no idea that they are fighting a villain-turned-hero-pretending-to-be-a-villain. Not that it would make things much different if they did. The whole line-up is here for the story, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, Atom, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter and Snapper Carr, so no one gets much of a chance to do anything special.
Snapper Carr gets to be the focus of the tale in Justice League of America 18. Snapper opens the tale complaining to his girlfriend Midge that he hasn't done anything except sit around and mind the cave on the last few adventures. Coming back to the cave, Snapper Carr finds no one else there. It turns out that all the rest of the team have been shrunken, and pulled into a microverse. The Atom descended on his own to follow Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter. The League has been brought to the subatomic world of Starzl to save the lives of the people there from their android protectors.
The androids were designed to patrol and protect the land, sea and air, and though they have done their job well, the radiation they emit is killing the people. As usual, the League splits into three groups, but they fail to defeat the androids. Batman makes the discovery that the world seems to have a degree of malleability according to belief. The heroes have all been told that they are unable to defeat the androids, and unable to break out of a cage. Batman finds that he can do it, but does so before anyone tells him he can't. The Atom re-emerges to grab Snapper and bring him down to Starzl. They do not let anyone tell Snapper that the androids are invulnerable, so for him they are not. The League them basically uses him like a battering ram, rushing around and hitting the bad guys with Snapper Carr. It must have been just brutal for the kid. But he is so thrilled to be a part of an adventure that he doesn't mind being a weapon.
Dr. Destiny returns in Justice League of America 19 and causes an awful lot of trouble for the team without ever leaving his cell. The story begins as each of the Justice League members gets accosted by an evil version of themselves. For Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Atom, Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter, the villainous version attacks them when they are in their civilian id. Aquaman, not really having one, is just plain old attacked. Each gets defeated by their opponent.
The evil versions of the Justice League members do not seem to have the same weaknesses or limitations that the heroes do, and go on a really successful crime spree. Of course the Justice League are assumed to be the ones doing the crimes. Jean Loring, the girlfriend of the Atom, takes their case and represents the team in court. Although they are unable to prove their innocence, the fact that they cannot be held in any existing prison means that the heroes have to agree to be exiled from Earth. In a scene that duplicates the cover, they are all sent off on a rocket ship, while their evil counterparts watch. Only at this point do we discover that Dr. Destiny is behind this all. He has built the earliest version of his materioptikon, a device that makes dreams into reality. He sent a gassed letter to the League, which prompted the members to dream about their other selves. The materioptikon brought these to life, and they have been increasing in evil the more they do evil things. The Justice League decide to return to Earth and battle the evil League. To return, they adopt their civilian identities, sharing those with each other for the first time. It's a strange element of the series that they all want to keep their secrets from each other, and at the end of the story Superman will use amnesium to remove their knowledge of each other's true selves.
Not having a secret identity, Aquaman just has to stay behind. So once again we wind up with good and evil versions of the characters battling it out, and once again the evil ones win. The Atom is ultimately the one to save the day, entering the brains of the evil Justice League and frying their motor skills, rendering them all helpless. At the very end of the story the League finally gets around to figuring out that Dr. Destiny was behind this all. As he is already in prison, it's not like they can do much, but the team insists Destiny will be moved to solitary, and prevented from ever constructing another materioptikon. But since the character returns in two years, it's not like that worked out as planned.
Justice League of America 20 contains a decent, but passable, adventure. The tale begins midstream, with Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Green Arrow on an alien world. They find and destroy a device that they believe is killing the inhabitants, but it seems to have no effect. The story them jumps backwards, and we learn about three alien worlds that are in peril. The League has been requested to help, and the team splits into three groups to go destroy the dangerous machines.
In fact, each planet's machine controls the disaster on a different world, so not until all three machines are wrecked is every world safe. At the same time, a mute giant appears on Earth, but seems to be benevolent in its actions. It isn't. It's really a giant robot sent by the evil alien behind this all, collecting disaster energy. It was programmed to do good deeds so the Justice League would leave it alone until it was ready to be used as a weapon. Not the most exciting tale, but ok.
Justice League of America 21 was one of the most important issues from the entire run of the book. The Justice Society of America had been slowly re-introduced in the pages of the Flash in the year or so leading up to this issue, with the Flashes of two Earths rescuing the Justice Society from the clutches of Vandal Savage a few months before this story. Now, Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs bring the two teams together in a two part story that would be so popular it would launch an ongoing tradition. I do have to say, though, that this story is packed. Snapper Carr is off writing college exams, but the story still contains Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Atom, Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter. And that's just the JLA side.
Of the Justice Society, the tale uses Black Canary, Dr. Fate, Hourman, and the Earth-2 versions of Flash, Green Lantern, Atom and Hawkman. Although the Earth-1 Hawkman had already been introduced, he was not yet a member of the League. Though the others had appeared in the Flash, this story marks the first Silver Age uses of Black Canary, Hourman and Dr. Fate. The Justice League are engaged in battle with their old foe Felix Faust, as well at Dr. Alchemy and Chronos, enemies of the Flash and the Atom. At the same time, The Justice Society have to face three of their old enemies, the Wizard, the Icicle and the Fiddler. The Fiddler had appeared a couple of years earlier in Flash, but the Wizard and Icicle are making their first appearances since the 1940s.
The two groups of villains are in contact with each other. Having beaten their respective opponents, they decide to trade Earths in order to hide out safely. They take the precaution of capturing the Flashes of both Earths first. The Earth-2 villains then dress up as the Earth-1 villains they are working with, and take down the Justice League, just for kicks.
The Wizard magically seals them into their cave, but they contact the Justice Society, and the two groups meet for the first time just as this first part draws to a close. Most of the heroes are out to take down the villains, but the two Green Lanterns head off in search of the Flashes.
The story concludes in Justice League of America 22. The Justice Society members battle their old enemies on Earth-1, while the Justice League head to Earth-2 to face their opponents. In both cases, although the heroes triumph in their battles, at the end, the good guys all vanish. This is thanks to the Wizard, who has placed a spell on the various heroes, which they activate in their fights. By the time the two Green Lanterns find the Flashes in their limbo prison, all the other heroes are in cages alongside them. Still, this doesn't matter too much, and the combined power of the Green Lanterns frees them.
Then it is finally time for the big final battle. Two Flashes, two Green Lantern, two Atoms, plus Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Dr. Fate Black Canary, Hourman, Hawkman, Aquaman, Green Arrow and the Martian Manhunter (did I miss anyone) taking on Chronos, Dr. Alchemy, Felix Faust, the Wizard, the Icicle and the Fiddler. Whew!
Sadly, this is all done in a two page spread. It's a great spread, in and of itself, but honestly not as satisfying as if more pages had been devoted to the various characters. Still, this tale was so wildly successful that, every year for the next 22 years, there would be JLA/JSA team-ups.
The League's first female villain, Queen Bee, makes her debut in Justice League of America 23. Superman, Batman, Aquaman and the Atom do not show up for the meeting that starts off the story, in which the League celebrate Snapper Carr passing his college entrance exams. This limits the number of characters in the tale, and though the others do show up, and get cameos, the smaller cast improves the tale immensely. Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman are left to deal with the Bee Men, slaves of the Queen Bee, who are out committing robberies for their alien leader. The Bee Men get defeated, but Zazzala does not mind.
She has succeeded in imbuing the five members of the team with radiation, which allows her to control their movements. Zazzala wants an immortality serum, devised by a scientist on her world, Korll. It has been divided into three parts, and each is extremely dangerous to retrieve. The Queen Bee sends the Justice League in little groups to get the vials containing the serum for her. Green Arrow and Green Lantern work as a duo for the very first time as they go to get one of the vials. Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter use a combination of strength and green energy to seal the vials, so that even though they give them to the Queen Bee, she is unable to open them. The missing characters show up for cake as the story comes to an ending, and mention is made that the Atom was busy fighting Dr. Light in his own book during this adventure.
Kanjar Ro returns to the pages of Justice League of America in issue 24, and brings along Adam Strange, two years after teaming up with them in his own strip in Mystery in Space. Some weird radiation winds up endowing Kanjar Ro with great mental powers, and he uses these to split off his own aura, which looks and acts like a real person. He leaves the aura in his cell, and then heads to Earth to get revenge on the Justice League, creating auras he can control of the heroes themselves. Mention is made of Superman and Batman being off on a mission, and Green Arrow and the Martian Manhunter are also absent, and referred to as "the new team." This must be a reference to their recent adventure together that was chronicled as the first super hero team in Brave and the Bold. I think it likely that those events were taking place simultaneously with these.
The remaining heroes, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Atom, and Wonder Woman, are all lured by auras of other members, who are trying to defeat them. It makes for a fun variation on a round robin, with all the different fighting combinations. And once again, limiting the size of the cast allows for those who are actually in the story to do a lot more. Adam Strange stops by to check on Kanjar Ro, and discovers his aura in the cell.
For no clear reason, Adam's aura them manifests and splits from his body. His aura then teams up with the Justice League to confront Kanjar Ro's aura, and find out where they can locate the villain. The other four members show up for the big finale. It's kind of a bizarre little tale, but fun enough.
Justice League of America 25 is the first issue of the book to unapologetically use only some of the team in the story. Mention is made of the others being busy with various missions, but no attempt is made to shove the entire cast in with cameos. The heroes pictured on the cover, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern and the Atom, are the only ones who come to the meeting, and shortly after have to deal with the cover situation, as the Flash gets pulled away to the Sahara Desert. The other heroes follow, and learn about three aliens who are being warped from world to world, inadvertently destroying the planets that they leave.
The aliens get physically changed to blend in on whatever world they arrive on, and the five Leaguers take a combination of pills, kryptonite and power beam energy so that they will also transform. They all wind up on a world of crystal people, and become crystal as well. The League succeeds in preventing an invasion of that world, and so gets drawn to the man behind the whole situation. Kraad the Conqeror plots universal conquest, and uses the telekinetic power gained from teleporting the scientists from planet to planet. Don't ask how, he just does. Kraad has a fairly impressive scene, seemingly destroying he Leaguers, but the Atom simply shrinks away, and then uses Green Lantern's ring to revive the others. It doesn't quite work as planned. Superman, Green Lantern and the Flash wind up in weirdly merged bodies. But even messed up this way the five are still able to overcome Kraad and destroy his machines.
Despero comes back in Justice League of America 26, showing that he has a very high regard for his own abilities. While this story does include almost all the members of the League, the beginning takes a number of them out of action, as Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, the Atom, and even Snapper Carr wind up aging rapidly. Despero turns out to be the one behind this, the aging effect being the result of his third eye. Despero faked his own death in order to escape from Kalanor, and has returned to Earth to seek vengeance on the world, and on the Justice League.
He imprisons Aquaman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter in giant hourglasses as he explains his master plan to them. Although he intends to conquer the Earth, Despero thinks this will be too easy, so he has created three alternate worlds as well, ones where various reptiles have become the advanced species. Despero sends his captive Leaguers to the different worlds to watch how he conquers them, all a big warm up to taking over the Earth. Probably should have just conquered the world in the first place. Of course the heroes work with the different creatures on the three worlds to stop Despero and ruin his plans. There are also alternate Desperos, one for each world, so as the heroes triumph again and again he sees his big plans fall apart.
At the conclusion of the story, an aged Superman shows up at the cave. He says he has also fallen victim to Despero's electronic aging effect, but as only kryptonite or magic could affect Superman, Wonder Woman thinks he is lying. The magic lasso reveals that this is really Despero. So much arrogance, which just served to completely undo his plans.
Justice League of America continues in the next period, 1964 – 1967: the New Look.
Justice League of America: Brave and the Bold 28 – 30 (Feb/Mar – June/July 60)
Justice League of America 1 – 26 (Oct/Nov 60 – March 64)
Next up – Star Hawkins!
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