For those coming in late, part one covered the humble beginnings of what became a treasured annual tradition: the JLA-JSA team-ups. Part two chronicled the expansion of the concept, as ever-greater threats were met with ever-increasing numbers of superheroes. We now find ourselves in 1973, as the superhero head count just keeps going up!
Justice League of America #107-108 (1973)
JLA: Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Black Canary, Green Arrow, Elongated Man, and the Red Tornado (now a JLA member).
JSA: Superman, Flash, Hourman, Sandman, and Dr. Fate.
The Freedom Fighters of Earth-X: Uncle Sam, the Human Bomb, Doll Man, Phantom Lady, Black Condor, and the Ray. Flashback cameos of Plastic Man and the Blackhawks.
Villains: The Third Reich of Earth-X.
Summary: When a new dimensional transporter malfunctioned, three JLA members and three JSA members were mistakenly sent to yet another alternate earth, where they were immediately attacked by high-tech Nazi troops. Just when things were looking grim, our heroes received an assist from the Freedom Fighters, the native superheroes of the nightmarish "Earth-X". Following the battle, Uncle Sam (yes, that Uncle Sam) gave the JLA and JSA a quick history lesson, explaining that the German Third Reich of Earth-X had won World War II, and now controlled the entire planet using mind control devices stationed in various locations.
Wasting no time, the three teams combined their forces to hunt down and systematically destroy each of the mind control devices, and met with heavy resistance along the way. When the final device was smashed, the JLA & JSA suddenly attacked the Freedom Fighters, indicating yet another mind control machine was in operation. Free of the device's control, the Red Tornado discovered it orbiting around the planet. After an encounter with "Adolph Hitler" (actually just an android), Reddy smashed the satellite and freed his teammates. Following a round of handshakes and back-slapping, the repaired dimensional transporter returned the JLA and JSA to their respective worlds.
Highlights: Wow...where to begin? This one definitely makes the Top Five cut, since there's so much to like here.
When I'm not reading fiction, I enjoy reading history..and occasionally I blend the two by reading "alternate history" fiction, so obviously the victorious Third Reich of Earth-X is a fascinating concept in and of itself. Add to that the revival of Golden Age characters originally published by Quality Comics along with the generous number of battles with high-tech Nazis, and you've got yourself one heck of a story.
Dick Dillin's artwork never looked better than when Dick Giordano was inking it (as he does here), evoking the work Giordano did with Neal Adams around the same time period. Oh, and you'll be happy to learn that the Earth-2 Superman finally received his own subtly distinctive look with this story (the graying temples and Golden Age "S" symbol I was going on about in Part II).
Lowlights: None come to mind. This really is one of the very best.
Justice League of America #113 (1974)
JLA: Superman, Green Lantern, Elongated Man, and Batman.
JSA: Hourman, Sandman, Flash, Wondwer Woman.
Villains: The Sandman's former sidekick Sandy (as a mutated silicon creature); the Horned Owl Gang.
Summary: During the JLA's annual visit to Earth-2, an alarm was triggered in the home of Wesley Dodds, a.k.a the JSA's Sandman. In the hidden quarters below the house, the two teams discovered that something had escaped from a holding cell and destroyed the room around it. Dodds used the occasion to finally confess his deep, dark secret that the creature who escaped was actually a mutated version of his old sidekick Sandy. Decades ago, while testing an experimental silicoid gun, it exploded and turned Sandy into a huge, silicon-based lifeform. Panicking, Dodds rendered the creature unconscious with his Sandman sleep gas and imprisoned it in a gas-filled chamber ever since. Utterly ashamed of himself, he destroyed his purple and yellow costume and once again donned his classic cape & gas mask outfit (a clever answer to fans wondering why he was wearing the original duds in previous JLA-JSA stories).
The JLA and JSA spent the rest of the story battling the rampaging Sandy, who exhibited an amazing array of silicon, mineral, seismic, and geologic-based powers. When Sandy was finally subdued, he regained his rationality and confronted a broken Wesley Dodds, who then begged Sandy for forgiveness.
Highlights: Following a number of epic-sized team-ups, this modest one-issue story was actually a nice change of pace. Instead of facing cosmos-warping threats, the JLA and JSA fight a threat from within, as the hubris and shame of the Sandman creates some rather ugly (and dangerous) consequences. Once again, top-notch art from the Dillin-Giordano team.
Lowlights: Though it definitely made for some good drama, the notion that Wesley Dodds would keep his mutated sidekicked drugged and locked in his basement for decades just doesn't compute. With the scientific and supernatural resources he had access to as a JSA member, he surely would've overcome his shame and sought the cure the kid needed.
Justice League of America #123-124 (1975)
JLA: Batman, Black Canary, Aquaman, Hawkman, Green Arrow, Flash, and an assist from comic book writer Elliot S! Maggin.
JSA: Robin, Wildcat, Wonder Woman, Hourman, Dr. Mid-Nite, Johnny Thunder and his Thunderbolt.
Villains: Comic book writer Cary Bates, the Wizard, Huntress, Sportsmaster, the Shade, Icicle, and the Gambler.
Cameo appearances: DC editor Julius Schwartz and DC Editor-In-Chief Carmine Infantino.
Summary: Established as "Earth-Prime" a few years earlier in The Flash's title, our own "real world" became involved in yet another trans-dimensional adventure. This time around, DC comic writers Cary Bates and Elliot S! Maggin were accidentally transported to alternate earths.
After he arrived on Earth-2, Bates was magically transformed into a supervillain by the Wizard, leader of the Injustice Society of America.
Meanwhile, Maggin arrived on Earth-1 and
convinced the JLA to help rescue his pal Cary Bates.
Transporting themselves to Earth-2, the JLA (and Maggin) met and handily defeated the Injustice Society...who then died for no apparent reason! Ahh, but known far and wide for his surprising plot twists, the Evil Cary Bates revealed that the mysteriously dead criminals were actually magically-disguised JSA members!
As the grieving JLA members attempted to avenge the deaths of their friends, the Spectre returned from his own "death" back in JLA #83 (see Part Two for details). In a genuinely touching scene (at odds with the deeply surreal nature of the story so far), the Spectre begged his Heavenly Master to restore the lives of his fallen JSA teammates...a request that was granted a few pages later. With the fallen JSA members back among the living, the actual Injustice Society was defeated and the displaced comic book writers sent back to Earth-Prime. As a final mercy, the Spectre erased the memory of the recent deaths from the minds of the Justice Society.
Highlights: Though I'm generally not a big fan of comic pros appearing in their stories (see "Lowlights"), I have to admit I was mildly amused by the interplay between Bates, Maggin and Julie Schwartz in their DC Comics office. If only there wasn't so much of it. I think the true highlight of the story for me was the Spectre going "straight to the top" on behalf of his fallen friends. Strange that a significant miracle like this would take place within such goofy, inconsequential surroundings.
Lowlights: I'm of two minds on the use of real-life creators in comic book stories. At best, it's a cute gimmick (see "Highlights"), at worst, it's self-indulgent vanity. My feelings about this story come down a bit closer to the "cute gimmick" end of the spectrum...but not without some annoyance toward Bates, Maggin and Julie Schwartz (for allowing and also appearing in it). The thing is, the story probably would have worked just fine without their presence, since their constant self-awareness and "I can't believe this is happening to me" kvetching never gave the dramatic portions of the story any authenticity or relevance.
Justice League of America #135, 136 & 137 (1976)
JLA: Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Hawkman, and Hawkgirl.
JSA: Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Robin, Wonder Woman, Johnny Thunder and his Thunderbolt.
The Crusaders of Earth-S: Spy Smasher, Ibis the Invincible, Bulletman, Bulletgirl, Mr. Scarlet and Pinky the Whiz Kid.
The Marvel Family of Earth-S: Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., Shazam, the Elder Gods, and Mercury.
Villains: King Kull, Clea, the Penguin, Ibac, Blockbuster, the Joker, the Weeper, the Shade, Dr. Light, Mr. Atom, and Brainiac.
Summary: In his ongoing quest to destroy the human race, the barbaric King Kull invaded the Rock of Eternity, a mystical centerpoint overlooking all reality. As he captured the elder gods residing there, fleet-footed Mercury managed to escape. Traveling across three alternate Earths, Mercury recruited a mighty force of superheroes to face King Kull and his army of supervillains. After a battle spanning past, present and future, a final showdown took place at the Rock of Eternity (including an almost-clash of Superman and Captain Marvel) resulting in King Kull's defeat and imprisonment.
Highlights: This "everything and the kitchen sink" epic is by far the most "Cecil B. DeMille" of all the JLA-JSA adventures. Following the simple formula of countless "quest" myths of the ancient world, noble champions are enlisted from near and far, then united against a looming, mutual threat. Sure, keeping track of the sprawling cast of heroes and villains is enough to make your head spin, but the urgent pacing and non-stop action mercifully distract you from that chore. A specific highlight was the major role the old Fawcett Comics characters played, whom DC had recently purchased the rights to. Assigned to "Earth-S", the Crusaders and the Marvel Family now had a place to call their own, separated from the turmoil of the mainstream DCU (if only that were true today). Another highlight was the Earth-2 Batman finally getting his first substantive (non-cameo) role in a JLA-JSA crossover. Sadly, it would also be his last, since the character would be killed a few years later in Adventure Comics #462.
Lowlights: From a modern storytelling standpoint, the story's warp-speed pacing and cast of thousands would probably lose quite a few of you...but I didn't mind it at all. When I consider what they were probably going for (big, bombastic adventure), I really can't find anything major to gripe about with this one. Does the art get a little shaky in spots? Sure. Was the non-clash of Captain Marvel and Superman disappointing? You bet. Did the plan of King Kull make any sense whatsoever? Absolutely not. But for whatever reason, it's a wildly entertaining romp despite those liabilities.
Maybe the fact that is was the first JLA-JSA team-up I bought new from the spinner rack has something to do with my warm regard for it.
Oh, wait...there was a minor lowlight that I wanted to mention:
"Mr. Scarlet and Pinky". I'll leave it at that.
Justice League of America #147-148 (1977)
JLA: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Black Canary.
JSA: Power Girl, Hawkman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Dr. Fate. Cameo appearances by Wildcat and Star-Spangled Kid.
The Legion of Superheroes: Brainiac 5, Sun Boy, Wildfire, Princess Projectra, Ultra Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Chameleon Boy, and Shadow Lass.
Villains: Mordru; Abnegazar, Rath, and Gast (a.k.a. The Three Demons). Cameo appearance by the Psycho Pirate.
Summary: As the JLA & JSA wrapped up a case involving the Psycho Pirate, a mystical hand appeared and whisked ten of their number one thousand years into the future. There they met the evil sorcerer Mordru, who commanded them to search the universe for three magical artifacts: the Bell, the Jar, and the Wheel. When the JLA, JSA and the 30th century's Legion of Superheroes finally tracked them down, Mordru used the artifacts to summon The Three Demons...whom he assumed would be his willing slaves. Wrong! The Three Demons knocked out Mordru, stole the artifacts and set out to rule the Earth. However, the demons immediately starting warring with each other and, when they realized they couldn't harm each other, decided to settle their dispute using the superhero teams as their proxies. With that, a reluctant JLA, JSA, and Legion of Superheroes began attacking each other in the name of their demonic puppet masters.
Finally, when no clear winner emerged, the demons once again fought each other directly, causing two of them to explode. Using the explosion's sorcerous energy, Dr. Fate cast a spell and imprisoned the remaining demon forever.
Highlights: Though it was great to see the return of obscure Golden Age heroes in previous JLA-JSA stories, it was fun to see the JLA and JSA finally meeting DC's popular Legion of Superheroes. There's something undeniably cool about seeing the past (JSA), present (JLA) and future (Legion) of the DC Universe interacting together in one story.
Lowlights: Like the story in JLA 135-137, this story was also packed to the brim with superheroes, sub-plots, and assorted craziness...all barreling along at top speed. Unfortunately, it didn't work quite as well this time around. So much time and legwork is spent on the quest for the three magic artifacts in #147, that by the time the three demons appear, the creative team seems as exhausted and unfocused as the reader. It's probably safe to say there was simply too much happening with too many characters in too short a time period. Visually, the Dick Dillin artwork seemed even stiffer than usual, giving the characters extremely posed, doll-like appearances.
That ends another chapter in the legendary JLA-JLA team-ups. Next up will be part IV of Summers Past, covering the JLA-JSA meetings of 1978 through 1981!