Way back in the summer of 1963, two legendary teams of superheroes bridged the dimensional gulf and shared an adventure. That adventure became an annual event, which continued on for another twenty-one summers.
I've been fondly remembering each of those summer adventures, which you can catch-up on by reading parts one, two, and three. We now find ourselves in 1978, fifteen years after that first fateful meeting...
Justice League of America #159-160 (1978)
JLA: Superman, Flash, Elongated Man, and Hawkman. Cameo appearances by Batman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Hawkgirl, Wonder Woman, Red Tornado, and Black Canary.
JSA: The Huntress, Dr. Mid-Night, Wonder Woman, and Star-Spangled Kid. Cameo appearances by Superman, Dr. Fate, and Green Lantern.
The Heroes of Yesterday: Jonah Hex, Viking Prince, Miss Liberty, Black Pirate, and Enemy Ace.
Villains: The Time Lord and his computer, The Eternity Brain.
Summary: As the JLA and JSA enjoyed an elegant dinner at the swanky Club 22, five heroic figures from the past suddenly burst through the walls and plunged a number of the modern-day superheroes into a mysterious coma. Unsure of why or how they had done such a terrible thing, the oddly superpowered time-lost figures fled the scene.
Meanwhile, in the year 3786 A.D., the Time Lord and his time-manipulating "Eternity Brain" computer gloated over the attacks they engineered. However, unknown to the Eternity Brain, the Time Lord actually feared the sentient computer and was plotting to destroy it with the unwitting help of his historic champions, the JLA and the JSA. The plan appeared to work, since the vengeful JLA and JSA followed the "history warriors" across time and space, straight to the Time Lord's Palace of Eternity. One by one, the castle's defenses defeated the superheroes, sending them into the same coma-like state as their teammates back in 1978. One remaining hero, the Elongated Man, rose to the challenge and managed to destroy the Eternity Brain...proving to himself that he wasn't a "circus clown" unworthy of JLA membership.
Highlights: Er...not many to speak of here. Yeah, it was intriguing to see historical heroes brought into the mix, but check out the Lowlights to see how that worked out. I thought the reluctance and fear of the Time Lord toward the Eternity Brain was an interesting twist to the standard supervillain motivation. Elongated Man's big save at the end of the story was also nicely done.
Also, a tiny Atom hooked to a tiny I.V. on
a hospital bed. Awww....ain't that cute?
Lowlights: While it was a novel idea to include some of the historical heroes of DC's past, granting them immense yet nonsensical superpowers while whisking them around the time stream was a really poor way to utilize them. Because of the breakneck pacing and the bewildering sci-fi surroundings, they were little more than one-dimensional, cliche-spouting caricatures. The modern day heroes didn't fare much better, since their bizarrely overheated emotions and endless internal monologuing only added to the feeling of sensory overload. Top it off with some exceptionally weak Dick Dillin art, and it's safe to say this story is one of the most forgettable JLA-JSA team-ups in my entire collection.
Justice League of America #171-172 (1979)
JLA: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkman, Zatanna, and Red Tornado.
JSA: Power Girl, the Huntress, Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkman, Dr. Fate, and Mr. Terrific.
Villains: The Spirit King.
Summary: Following a rare uneventful meeting, the JLA and JSA relaxed and caught up with each other within the orbiting JLA satellite. As JSA member Terry "Mr. Terrific" Sloane talked with the two Flashes and Power Girl, he recounted a recent run-in with his old enemy the Spirit King, who'd stolen a mysterious piece of equipment then vanished into thin air. When the Flashes hinted that the retired hero may no longer have what it takes to track down the Spirit King, he left them with these cryptic words:
Within the hour, a massive explosion blew a hole through the hull of the JLA satellite. As the first one on the scene, Superman made a grim discovery drifting amongst the debris...the dead body of Mr. Terrific!
Once they repaired the damaged hull, the grim-but-determined heroes began their investigation into Sloane's death. After the data had been compiled, the two super-teams came to a startling conclusion: Terry Sloane was not only killed before the explosion...but one of them was his murderer!
After the JLA satellite was "locked down" with an escape-proof barrier, Superman appointed Batman and the Huntress to discover the identity of the murderer. Living up to his title as "the World's Greatest Detective", Batman soon revealed that it was the Earth-2 Flash who'd killed Mr. Terrific...that is, a Flash possessed by the evil Spirit King. Following the Spirit King's confession, he eluded the gathered heroes and escaped to Earth-2 via the JLA's transmatter machine. The story ends with these parting words from Earth-2's Hawkman:
Highlights: This attempt at a classic "locked room mystery" was an interesting change of pace, exchanging the bright spectacle and bombast of previous team-ups for a darker, smaller-scale story of tragedy and paranoia.
Also, echoing Hawkman's parting words, their calm, collected, and fair investigation of the crime really was a fitting tribute to Mr. Terrific...not to mention a great "modeling" of the heroic ideal.
I also enjoyed some of the smaller emotional beats of the story, such as the exchange between Batman and the Huntress as they discussed the recent death of her father, the Earth-2 Batman.
Lowlights: Despite the "escape proof" JLA satellite, the getaway of the Spirit King/Flash was far too easy, making it a pretty lazy ending for a locked room mystery. The two Green Lanterns admitted as much when they exclaimed "We set up a shield to secure the satellite--but we forget (sp) to put a barrier on the transmatter device...a fine job we did!" Making matters worse was the lazziez faire attitude of the departing Dr. Fate:
"The Spirit King is our responsibility now, Leaguers.
We must capture him--or not--on our own."
Talk about keeping the fans waiting!
Justice League of America #183-185 (1980)
JLA: Batman, Firestorm, Green Lantern, and Superman.
JSA: Dr. Fate, the Huntress, Power Girl, and Wonder Woman.
The New Gods: Big Barda, Metron, Mr. Miracle, Oberon, and Orion the Hunter. Cameo appearances by Lightray and Forager.
Villains: Darkseid, Granny Goodness; Fiddler, Shade, and Icicle.
Summary: While teleporting to their annual meeting, members of the JLA and JSA materialized on New Genesis, home of the New Gods....most of whom had been abducted by a trio of supervillains to Apokolips, their dark sister world. A handful of the remaining New Gods, lead by the mysterious Metron, asked the JLA and JSA for their help in rescuing their people. Naturally, the super-teams agreed and set out for Apokolips.
At the same time, unknown to the New Gods, their ancient enemy Darkseid was being restored to life by the Fiddler, Shade, and Icicle. A squad of heroes arrived and tried to stop the process, but failed. Darkseid was back. Elsewhere on Apokolips, the heroes shut down the slave factories of the sadistic Granny Goodness, while others rescued Highfather, the leader of the New Gods. Meanwhile, as Darkseid began transporting Apokolips into the physical space occupied by Earth-2, the "cavalry" of united heroes and the freed New Gods arrived and managed to defeat Darkseid and his allies.
Highlights: Bucking popular opinion, I'm not a fan of Kirby's so-called Fourth World concepts...especially when they'd interface with DC's more mainstream characters. However, there are always exceptions...and this is one of them. The interaction between the superhero crowd and the New Gods somehow works here. It's as if the JLA and JSA were a stabilizing presence helping to mute the campier, kookier elements of Kirby's cosmic opera. Also, despite the grand scale and huge cast (typical of a JLA-JSA team-up), writer Gerry Conway managed to work in some excellent character interplay. Moments that come to mind were Superman and Wonder Woman's liberation of Granny's slaves and Power Girl's flirtation with rookie JLA member Firestorm.
Of course, I'm sure the artwork of a young George Perez also played a role in my enjoyment of the story. Taking over for Dick Dillin (who died at age 50 as he began the pencils to issue #184), Perez brought a dazzling new look, sense of design, and dynamic energy to the JLA title.
Lowlights: Nothing major. I could quibble about the unusually high power levels of the three Earth-2 villains (supposedly kidnapping most of the populace of New Genesis by themselves), but in the larger picture, it didn't bug me.
Justice League of America #195-197 (1981)
JLA: Batman, Atom, Black Canary, Firestorm, and Wonder Woman.
JSA: Superman, Flash, Hawkman, Hourman, Johnny Thunder and his Thunderbolt.
The Secret Society of Super-Villains: Ultra-Humanite, Brainwave, Psycho-Pirate, Floronic Man, Killer Frost, Cheetah, Signalman, Rag Doll, the Mist, and the Monocle.
Summary: Ten supervillains from both Earth-1 and Earth-2 are gathered together by the Ultra-Humanite, an evil scientist and "serial brain transplanter" whose mind now controlled the body of a mutated white ape. (Note: The preceding sentence perfectly encapsulates why I love superhero comics. ) His plan? According to the Ultra-Humanite, if five superheroes from Earth-1 and five from Earth-2 were removed from reality, the Multiverse would rebalance itself by eliminating all superheroes from both Earths.
Sound crazy? Well, the assembled villains bought it and began their systematic capture of the heroes targeted by their albino-ape boss-man. One by one, members of the JLA and the JSA were nabbed and brought to the Humanite's mountain citadel and, according to plan, exiled into Limbo (ah, good ol' Limbo...just like the JLA-JSA team-ups of old).
However, in a classic villainous double-cross, the plan was only intended to remove the heroes of Earth-2...so the villains of Earth-1 were understandably a little miffed. So much so, they broke the ten superheroes out of their Limbo prison. At this point, they realized their impulsive revenge scheme didn't include what to do once the superheroes were free...which resulted in their predictably quick defeat.
Meanwhile, back at the Ultra-Humanite's citadel, the Earth-2 villains gathered for a meeting requested by one of their members. After figuring out that none of them had called the meeting, the villains realized that something was up:
As you can imagine, generous amounts of butt-kicking, clock-cleaning and table-turning ensued, resulting in the Earth-2 villains joining their Earth-1 colleges in Limbo (sweet Limbo).
Highlights: Though no less crowded with super-beings, this adventure seemed much more straightforward and nowhere near as bewildering as past JLA-JSA team-ups had been. By sticking to a simple formula (issue #195: methodical assembly of villain team; Issue #196: methodical capture of superheroes), the focus became the characters themselves and not the plot mechanics that defined so many previous JLA-JSA soirées.
Making the story all the more special was the wonderful George Perez artwork (with an assist from Keith Pollard on issue #197). Even though it was still relatively early in his career, the energy, rich detail and drama he brought to each panel was light years beyond what was happening in comics at that time...making it obvious that he would be around for a long time (and he has been)!
The leadership role of the Earth-2 Superman was also a big plus for me. For most of his modern age appearances, he was essentially just a background figure. However, once the 1980's rolled around, the Earth-2 Superman began to pop up in a variety of places such as the WWII era All-Star Squadron, the Superman Family anthology title, and a memorable appearance in DC Comics Presents Annual #1...culminating in his central role in DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985-86. It was during this period that the character enjoyed the distinction of being "the first superhero on any world", which tied nicely into the fact that (in a way) he was the first superhero of any world (since this version of Superman was the one who made his debut in June of 1938, coinciding with the publication of Action Comics #1).
Oh...as if all of that wasn't enough, how about that amazing two-page
spread of the JLA & JSA team rosters by George Perez in issue #195?
Lowlights: Are you kidding me? Zero. Zilch. Nada. This is definitely one of the very best. In fact, after a "mountain top experience" like this story, it could only go downhill from here...and it did. Be sure to come back for the fifth and final chapter of Summers End to find out how it all....well...came to an end!