I've been at this comic book collecting thing for awhile, and part of the fun has always been hunting down and (occasionally) completing major runs of a specific title. Earlier this year, I bragged-up my 50+ years of Superman comics, so now I thought I'd cover another major milestone of my collection.
But before we get to that, let me set the stage a bit.
One of the great summer traditions when I was growing up was the annual team-up between the Justice League of America and their Earth-2 counterparts the Justice Society of America. Fascinated by all-things JSA and Earth-2 from the first moment I saw them, I anxiously awaited the annual JLA-JSA meeting from about the mid-70's onward. Since then, I've managed to collect every JLA-JSA team-up from the first one (1963) all the way through to the final one of the so-called "Pre-Crisis era" (1984).
Despite what the calendar says, we all know summer really ends when the new school year begins (which is next week for us), so what better way to mark the waning days of summer than by taking a look back at those legendary JLA-JSA team-ups of summers past?
Besides listing issue numbers and cover images, I'll also be including some additional information and art along with my own impressions for each of the team-ups. However, since there were a whopping twenty-two of them, logic (and compassion for my readers) dictates that I should probably break up the survey into smaller, easy-to-digest sections.
WARNING: If stories from simpler times aren't your thing, or if extended nostalgia trips make you crazy, click on any of the excellent blog links in my sidebar and I'll see you another day. But for those of you who share my fond memories for the JLA-JSA adventures, or if you're a newbie who wants to learn more about them, let's get started!
Justice League of America #21-22 (1963)
JLA: Superman, Batman, the Atom , Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, J'onn J'onzz, and Wonder Woman.
JSA: Dr. Fate, Black Canary, Atom, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, and Hourman.
The Crime Champions: Earth-1: Chronos, Dr. Alchemy, Felix Faust Earth-2: Fiddler, Icicle and the Wizard.
Summary: The Justice League and the Justice Society bridged the dimensional gap and met for the first time. The reason? Supervillains from both Earth-1 and Earth-2 had deviously swapped Earths, causing havoc on the other world unfamiliar with them and their powers. Following a brief imprisonment in a limbo "between worlds", the combined power of the JLA and JSA handily defeated the so-called "Crime Champions".
Highlights: What do you think? It's the historic first meeting of the JLA and the JSA! What more needs to be said?
Lowlights: The Mike Sekowski artwork. As my pal Scott Tipton of Comics 101 perfectly described it:
"Sekowsky’s figures weren’t the most heroically cut––sometimes the Justice League looked like a bunch of middle-aged businessmen dressed up for a Kiwanis Club masquerade party."
Justice League of America #29-30 (1964)
JLA: Flash, Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman and Green Lantern
JSA: Hawkman, Blck Canary, Dr. Fate, Dr. Mid-Nite and Starman
The Crime Syndicate of Earth-3: Superwoman, Owlman, Ultraman, Johnny Quick, and Power Ring.
Summary: Earth-1 and the Justice League were attacked by the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3, a world where there were no superheroes...only supervillains! Seeking a "neutral ground" to continue their battle, the Crime Syndicate moved the action to Earth-2, where the Justice Society joined the fight. Following a banishment to Limbo for both the JLA and JSA (this Limbo stuff was pretty popular then), the Crime Syndicate were finally defeated by the JLA and banished to...you guessed it...Limbo.
Highlights: As someone completely ga-ga over opposite number stories, the first appearance of the Crime Syndicate is obviously a huge highlight for me. Also, Earth-3 was an interesting early twist on the alternate earth concept by featuring a world that was dramatically different from Earths 1 and 2.
Justice League of America #37-38 (1965)
JLA: They don't participate...because they don't exist! (see summary)
JSA: The Atom, Dr. Fate, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Mr. Terrific, Johnny Thunder and his magic Thunderbolt..
Villains: The Earth-1 Johnny Thunder, the Lawless League, Medusa Man, Absorbo-Man, and Repello-Man.
Summary: Harebrained JSA member Johnny Thunder sought out and met his Earth-1 counterpart, who then turned out to be evil and immediately usurped control of Johnny's magical Thunderbolt. Evil Johnny then commanded the Thunderbolt to go back in time to prevent the Justice League from ever existing, leaving him free to commit crimes with impunity. After they learned about what happened to their teammate Johnny and the Justice League, the JSA impersonated the JLA and battled Evil Johnny and his reluctant Thunderbolt. Evil Johnny then transformed the thugs working for him into a superpowered "Lawless League", each of them mirroring a member of the non-existent Justice League. Naturally, the JSA made short work of the Lawless League, forcing Evil Johnny to think up increasingly extravagant and desperate ways to the battle them. Finally, overwhelmed and frustrated, Evil Johnny commanded the Thunderbolt to put everything back to normal, restoring the Justice League to existence.
Highlights: The part where the Thunderbolt travels back in time and systematically erases the Justice League from history is very entertaining...not to mention very similar to the plot of an episode of The Super Friends some thirteen years later, in which Lex Luthor pulls off a similar time-travel eradication of the League ("The Secret Origins of the Super Friends").
Above: The Thunderbolt erases Batman from history.
Note how the art style of the original Batman is evoked, something extremely unusual for comics of that time
(click on the panels for a larger view).
Lowlights: The anti-climactic "trump card" of Evil Johnny, as he commands the Thunderbolt to create three rather generic monster-threats to battle the Justice Society. Along with Medusa-Man were two more guys we can add to DC's "Legion of O", Absorbo-Man and Repello-Man (click on the panels for a larger view).
Justice League of America #46-47 (1966)
JLA: Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkman.
JSA: Black Canary, Dr. Fate, Dr. Mid-Nite, Sandman, Spectre, and Wildcat.
Villains: Solomon Grundy, Blockbuster, the Anti-Matter Man.
Summary: A mysterious force caused random people of Earth-1 and Earth-2 to switch places, including members of the JLA and JSA. The Earth-1 team (composed of various JLA and JSA members) battled a displaced Solomon Grundy, while the Earth-2 team battled Blockbuster, a powerhouse from Earth-1.
Confused yet? Good...because while all of this was happening, an Earth-1 scientist's space warping machine was causing Earth-1 and Earth-2 to move toward each other on a collision course...with only the Spectre powerful enough to keep them apart. If that wasn't bad enough, the eerie Anti-Matter Man appeared and hampered the Spectre's efforts to save the two worlds. When Dr. Fate learned of the approaching doom, he gathered the JLA and JSA to battle the Anti-Matter Man while he assisted the Spectre. With the help of the tiny Atom, the Spectre managed to push the two Earths apart by exploding...which also blasted the Anti-Matter Man back into his own universe.
Highlights: Scenes like this:
Lowlights: Narration like this (click to enlarge if you dare):
The enormous hair of Blockbuster and a very chubby Solomon Grundy.
Note: This story was obviously published when the campy Batman TV show was at the height of its popularity, since the covers feature very prominent appearances of Batman along with the "POW, SOCK, THUD" sound effects that accompanied his TV show fight scenes.
Justice League of America #55-56 (1967)
JLA: Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Green Arrow.
JSA: Hourman, Johnny Thunder, Wonder Woman, Mr. Terrific, Wildcat, Hawkman and the adult Robin.
Villains: How Chu, Gem Girl, Horace Rowland, and Marty Baxter (not exactly fear-inducing names, I know).
Summary: On Earth-2, four mysterious black spheres transformed four innocent people into supervillains, who then defeated the JSA. Realizing they need help, Johnny Thunder sent his magical Thunderbolt to Earth-1 to summon the JLA. As the JSA and JLA tackled the threat, the "negative energy" from the black sphere villains made some of the superheroes evil, who then attacked their teammates. After a number of superhero clashes, Johnny Thunder finally figured out how to eradicate the black sphere evil: through laughter! A few zany jokes later, the threat of the black spheres was completely eliminated from their victims. Simple, huh?
Highlights: The novelty of seeing Earth-2's grown-up Robin becoming a member of the Justice Society. Gotta love that powerful cover for issue #56 (being the "clash cover" fan that I am). Another thing to note is the appearance of the Earth-2 Wonder Woman, the first of the virtually identical Earth-2 versions of DC's "Big Three" to appear in a JLA-JSA team-up. The Earth-2 Superman and Batman wouldn't show up for a few more years.
Lowlights: Robin's ill-advised costume (see cover for JLA #55 above), a bizarre amalgamation of his childhood Robin costume and the costume of his mentor Batman. Quite possibly one of the worst costume upgrades in comic book history.
Well, that's it for now. Stay tuned for part two of Summers Past: The JLA & JSA Team-Ups, which will feature greater threats and ever-increasing numbers of superheroes!