Saturday, December 31, 2011

Mystery in Space #75 Ad

Be here tomorrow for the Justice League and Adam Strange in "The Planet That Came To A Standstill!"

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Justice League of America #200 30th Birthday!

Today--December 3--is the 30th birthday of one of my all-time favorite comic books, Justice League of America #200, which hit the stands on December 3, 1981!

Not only is this book one of my all-time favorite comic books, in any genre, but its hands-down my favorite superhero comic, and I put it on my Top 10 list of Greatest Aquaman Stories Ever Told, since it features the Sea King drawn by my all-time favorite Aquaman artist, as well as (IMO) one his finest moments as a superhero.

While I had originally hoped to do an Aquaman 70th Birthday-styled celebratory post, I just couldn't pull it together in time. So I'm settling for this, a re-run of my original post on the book from back in 2008.

At the bottom of the post I added portions of the interviews I did with this book's writer, Gerry Conway, and editor, Len Wein. While talking to Gerry, I tried to remain as professional as possible, but by the end I couldn't help but completely geek out and blabber on about the book, since how many times would I get the chance to talk to the man who wrote it? Also, we have some scans of original JLA #200 art, plus some shots of a very special, one-of-a-kind copy, courtesy of a F.O.A.M. member.

So sit back and enjoy:
"A League Divided" by Gerry Conway, George Perez, Brett Breeding, Pat Broderick, Terry Austin, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano, Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, Frank Giacoia, Brian Bolland, and Joe Kubert.

Welcome to the 200th issue of Justice League of America!

This mammoth, 72-page anniversary issue opens, after the wonderful three-page origin prologue, with Firestorm, bored out of his mind while on Monitor Duty.

Suddenly, founding member The Martian Manhunter comes smashing through the hull of the satellite!:

Firestorm, not having boned up on JLA history, has no idea who this guy is. At the same time, Manhunter is acting very strangely, even without all the satellite-smashing. He doesn't seem to know that this is the JLA satellite, even though he has been here before.

Firestorm manages to fend off Manhunter for a while, until his inexperience gives Manhunter the chance to knock him out and grab what he's there for--a small green meterorite residing in the JLA Trophy Room.

Minutes later, Firestorm wakes up amid the wreckage, and, not knowing what is going on, sends out a Triple Priority Signal to all members, past and present!

Soon the satellite is filled with JLAers Atom, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, Black Canary, Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Zatanna, and Green Arrow. They inform Firestorm who it was he faced, and alone among them its Green Arrow that seems to know what's going on, and why none of the original members--Superman, Batman, etc.--have answered the distress call!

They quickly figure out that all the original JLAers must be after the Appellax Meteors, relics of the JLA's first case.

Then another face from the past shows up--Snapper Carr! Green Arrow takes charge, breaks up the heroes into teams, ordering Firestorm to stay behind with Snapper. Pwned!

Next we find ourselves at the Indian Ocean:

Cut back to the satellite, where Reddy, unconscious, mysteriously appears from out of nowhere! Firestorm wonders aloud, "How did Reddy get up here, anyway?"

As the book says, "somewhere, a Stranger is smiling. His job is done."

Next we go to Paradise Island, where Zatanna is hoping to stop Wonder Woman before she performs her task:
Unfortunately, the Amazing Amazon beat her there, and Zatanna proves to be no match for her. She gets knocked out by Diana using one of Zee's own spells against her, and she wakes up, hours later, with the Amazons using their curative Purple Ray on her.

Next, in Zimbabwie, a local General receives a phone call, and is a little shocked to see who made the call:

The Atom finds Green Lantern, digging up one of the Appellax meteors. He momentarily knocks GL on his butt, and tries to reason with him, trying to make him remember who he really is.

It seems to be working, except that GL has just been sneaking up on Atom, and traps him with his ring. He grabs the meteor and takes off.

The Atom shrinks beneath the atoms of the ground, and slips out of the bubble, and heads back to the satellite. The Atom chalks up all their defeats to the "edge of experience" the others have, but Red Tornado theorizes that its because the original members are facing unknown opponents, while they are fighting friends.

Over in Italy, The Elongated Man lays in wait for The Flash:
He gets the drop on The Flash, and feels sick about attacking his friend, but like Reddy guessed, the Scarlet Speedster has no such compunctions. One good super-speed punch, and The Flash has accomplished his mission.

Down at the original JLA Sanctuary, the original members start to talk, and can't figure out when all these changes--Wonder Woman's new uniform, the sancutary in ruins, Mars II--occurred.

On the North Carolina coast, Green Arrow joins Black Canary in searching for Batman:
The Batman, of course, gets the drop on both of them, and uses the tight, confined space to his advantage. Green Arrow fires off an arrow, which misses, bounces off a tree, and knocks out Black Canary!

As Green Arrow finds himself handcuffed, he yells at a departing Batman: "You can't do this to me!" To which a smart-ass Batman replies: "I already have."

Canary then wakes up, and Brian Bolland shows off his mastery of distinct facial expressions:
...I love Canary's annoyed, pursed face in panel four. They move on, thinking they've found Batman, but it turns out to be a decoy--Batman, and the Appellax meteor, are gone.

Last is what can only be the result of Hawkman drawing the short straw: he has to take on Superman!:
Hawkman figures Superman can't retrieve the Kryptonite-laden meteor himself, so he isn't surprised when he encounters several Superman robot duplicates instead. But the third one looks a little different--its actually Superman!

One punch, and its all over, ending with Hawkman being hit so hard he drifts into outer space. Superman, using a paper-thin lead alloy suit to cover himself, finds the meteor and heads off.

Hawkman wanders so far into space he hits an oncoming Zeta Beam, and disappears! He is then found by old JLA friend Adam Strange, who calls the JLA and tells them they plan to beam Hawkman back. The Elongated Man, stretching himself farther than he ever has, shoots himself out of an airlock, and retrieves The Winged Wonder.

Meanwhile, at the Secret Sanctuary, the JLAers notice that all the Appellax meteors are glowing, and they eventually explode open, releasing the seven Appellax warriors!

This obliterates the JLAers' amnesia, and they are told, years ago, the Appellax meteors put a post-hypnotic suggestion in them, triggered to go off, just as it did.

The JLAers attack the Apellax warriors, but they find themselves overwhelmed, one by one, until finally there is only Wonder Woman:
...that panel always felt so harsh to me. Yeah, I know Diana is nearly invulnerable, but taking a bunch of crystals to the face like that? Ow.

The Appellax warriors decide to pick up where they left off--that is, to fight one another, to see who will be the leader of their home planet!

Next, we see Batman and his fellow JLAers slowly waking up, but surrounded by their fellow heroes. Apologies are made, the heroes collect themselves, and head out to stop the aliens:

(click to JLAify!)

The massive group of heroes split up into teams, classic Gardner Fox style, and Batman, Black Canary, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Zatanna head to Vermont to battle the Wood King, Crystal Creature, and Mercury Monster.

Unlike what defeated them before, the JLAer use teamwork, and after a well-placed Batarang shatters the Crystal Creature, its over.

Next, we go to the Irish Coast, where Aquaman, Elongated Man, Flash, and Red Tornado find the Glass Creature and the Fire Monster. The Flash tries a frontal assault, giving Aquaman the chance to sneak up from behind:
...this is one of my favorite Aquaman sequences of all time. I love the examination of Aquaman's ability to survive in depths that would kill almost anyone else, but holding the Glass Creature by the throat until he shatters into little bits is just hardcore.

In the meantime, Flash, Elongated Man, and Red Tornado take out the Fire Monster--mission accomplished.

Last, in the heart of New York City, The Atom, Firestorm, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter take on The Golden Roc and The Stone Creature.

Lantern pummels the latter into chunks of rock, and The Atom is fired directly into the head of the Golden Roc, giving Manhunter the chance to shatter it with a well-aimed punch. It's all over!

Back at the satellite, Green Lantern and Red Tornado shoot the aliens' remains into the sun, destroying them forever.

Then the three old JLA friends, Green Arrow, Martian Manhunter, and Snapper Carr take their leave...well, two of them do:

What to say about this issue? Its one of my all-time favorite comic books ever, and certainly my all-time favorite superhero comic, ever.

I love the scope of it, and the fact that Conway took the time to work in as many people from the JLA's past as he could--The Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow, Snapper Carr, Adam Strange, The Phantom Stranger...

Of course, the one glaring exception is Hawkgirl. Apparently over in the solo Hawkman feature in World's Finest running at the time, Hawkgirl was missing or something, hence her not being here.

As as kid, I loved internal continuity, and having all the characters work in a definable time line. But--in this instance, I wish Conway and whatever other editors would've made the call had forgotten that for a moment, and put Hawkgirl in here. This is the big JLA story, and Shayera definitely should've been included.

The art is of course fantastic--Aparo, Perez, Kubert, Bolland, and lots more, many of them working on their signature characters (Aparo even gets a two-fer). Having Perez do all the linking chapters gives the book a cohesiveness that improbably works, considering all the people involved.

(Fun Fact: The Superman/Hawkman chapter was lettered by The Joe Kubert School, the first time I can remember hearing of such a place. Little did I know I would be a student there, a little less than eight years later.)

As if all this wasn't enough, Gerry Conway gives us a two-page text piece on the history of the team, which is enormous fun. Click
here to read it.

I remember buying this comic at the now forgotten-but-not-gone Voorhees Tobacco and News Shop, which had a huge selection of comics, many more than my local 7-11. To that end, I used to beg my Dad as much as I could to take me there.

Like I said, the place is still there:

The copy I have is the same one I bought in Dec. 1981--its beaten up, has brown pages, the binding is held together with high hopes and a lot of scotch tape. Yet if there was ever a fire in the house and I could only save one comic, this would be it.

To me, this book sums up everything that is fun about the world of superhero comics, and what drew me to the Justice League so passionately at such a young age--camaraderie, action, humor, plus a sense of enormous history. Not too long after this, the Crisis would take place, forever putting the DCU I knew and loved into the Past Tense. This book is one glorious 72-page tribute to what made DC so great for so long.

In regards to Aquaman, there was some debate on my JLA blog at the time about how it was disappointing that The Phantom Stranger had to "save" Aquaman from being defeated by Red Tornado, since of course us Aqua-Fans didn't believe Aquaman needed any such help.

And while I can see that point of view, I've always thought that it was worth it to have Jim Aparo draw both Aquaman and The Phantom Stranger again, after distinguished runs on both characters.

Also, Aquaman has, to me, one of his all-time best moments in later in the book, when he grabs the Crystal Apellax alien and crushes him to bits which, thanks to a random series of events, showed up as an example of Aquaman's amazing powers in the book The Physics of Superheroes:
So, in the end, I thought it was a good trade-off. I would never trade the above moment for anything--in a book full of great moments, Gerry Conway makes this scene unforgettable.

Here's some original art from the book. Man, I would kill to own some of these:

Speaking of art, John Trumbull--also a huge fan of this comic--went on a crusade to get as many signatures from JLA #200's creative personnel as possible, and he's amassed quite a collection! John was kind of enough to provide some scans of all the John Hancocks, along with the story of how it all got started:

Wow--Perez, Broderick, Giordano, Kane, Infantino, Bolland, and Kubert! How'd you do it, John?:

"A little history of how I got started on this project: My original copy of JLA #200 went missing sometime back in the late 80s (I subsequently found it, so I have two copies now). Since, like you, this is one of my favorite comics of all time, I knew I had to get a replacement copy. I managed to pick one up at The Great Escape in Nashville, TN for $1.50. When I got it home & cracked it open, I discovered that the very first page was signed by none other than George Pérez! I'm sure the dealer hadn't noticed, or I would've paid a LOT more than $1.50 for that copy. I wondered for years if it was really a George Pérez signature, since it looked a bit different from how he traditionally signed his artwork. Thanks to Facebook, I was finally able to reach out to George personally in 2010 and verify that it was an authentic signature. Here's my correspondence with him:

'November 28, 2010

George Pérez

John: My autograph has mutated quite a bit over the many years and many times I've had to sign it. That is most definitely my signature-- before I developed a style wherein I seldom pick up my pen between signing my first and last names.

Take care,


Needless to say, I was ecstastic to get this response. It was a thrill to correspond, even briefly, with one of my artistic idols, as well as get the answer to a question I'd had for nearly 25 years!

So the Pérez signature planted the seed in my mind that I should try and get the various artists who worked on JLA #200 to sign my copy as well. Dick Giordano, Gil Kane and Brian Bolland were all guests at the Atlanta Dragon Con in 1990, so I got all three in one fell swoop. I got Joe Kubert to sign it when I attended a weekend workshop the Kubert School did in Nashville in 1992, prior to my attending the school from '94-'97. I had a friend get the Carmine Infantino signature for me at a New York con in the early 2000s. I think I must've had my friend get the Pat Broderick signature for me at the same con, as I don't recall ever meeting him myself.

Sadly, I never had the chance to meet with Frank Giacoia, Jim Aparo or Adrienne Roy before they each passed away, which is too bad, because I was a big fan of all of their work. I'm still hoping to someday get signatures from writer Gerry Conway, editor Len Wein, inkers Brett Breeding & Terry Austin, letterer John Costanza and colorists Carl Gafford & Tatjana Wood to add to the book! I think it's safe to say that if this book hadn't engaged my imagination at age 9 the way it did, that I may not have grown up to be a cartoonist. So thanks, one & all who where involved with such a great comic book!"

Now we hear directly from two of the people involved in the making of this awesome comic. From my interview with Len Wein on 6/16/2008:

JLA Satellite: As editor [of JLA], you presided over my--and a lot of people's--favorite era of JLA, roughly issues 185-220, including the blockbuster 200th issue. Whose idea was it to have such a massive 200th issue, with so many characters and artists?

Len Wein: Oh, mine. After all, I had to come up with some way to top what I'd done with issue #100. As an editor, I'm incredibly proud of that issue. We had an amazing array of artists and Gerry Conway's script weren't exactly chopped liver neither.

Finally, from my interview with Gerry Conway on 7/23/2008:

JLA Satellite: I've mentioned here before, and on your blog, that--and I am barely kidding when I say--that I think that JLA #200 is the single greatest piece of literature ever produced by Western Civilization.
Gerry Conway: [laughs] Oh, wow. How old were you when that book came along?

JLA Satellite: Let's see...1981, so I would've been ten years old.

GC: I figured it would've been around that time.

JLA Satellite: This probably won't make the interview, but I have to mention this--years ago, I had a girlfriend who also read comics.

Now that's rare enough, but she didn't like superhero comics. I guess if you don't first find them as a kid, they don't resonate with you, so she couldn't understand why I liked them so much.

So one day we decide to exchange comics we each liked, and she asked me for one comic that summed up what I liked about superhero comics. So I bought her a copy of JLA #200.

GC: Wow.

JLA Satellite: So anyway, I give it to her, its in a bag and board, and she puts it off to side.

She lived in another part of the country, so we only saw each other every few months. I go back, a month or two later, and there's the book, in the same spot it was when I left, completely untouched.

And I thought to myself "This relationship's doomed! She can't find the time to read one measly 72-page superhero comic!"

And you know what? I was right! We eventually broke up.

GC: [big laughs].

JLA Satellite: I thought "How can you not read this?" Its so much fun, it moves so fast, the artwork is so nice..."

Really, I'm like, "If Gerry Conway only wrote one comic book in his life, this would be enough." This thing was the most tremendous comic ever.

GC: [laughs]

JLA Satellite: I'm going to leave it at that. I cannot express how much it means to me to get to talk to you. I appreciate all the work you did, its so beloved to me, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me for the blog.

GC: Oh, it's been a pleasure. Thanks so much for remembering.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Justice League of America #42 Ad - 1966

I missed this ad during the blog's original run, and its too spiffy not to post--"Metamorpho Says No!"

DC letterer/designer Ira Schnapp (who most likely designed this ad) was a genius at cramming in a ton of text in a small space, yet making everything look clean and readable. An amazing talent!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

DC Retroactive: 1980s Justice League of America

The return of "Justice League Detroit"!

The Story: "Siege" by Gerry Conway and Ron Randall.

Deep inside the new HQ of the Justice League of America, we see our heroes and some civilians clearly the worse for wear:
Aquaman informs us this the work of the original JLA's old foe, Felix Faust. Aquaman, the team's new leader, tries to give his teammates an inspiring speech, intended to rally the troops, but it falls on deaf ears when Steel is openly contemptuous of it and, seemingly, Aquaman himself.

When Aquaman refuses to back down, Steel loses it and goes after the Sea King!
A loud "whomp" from outside the chamber focuses everyone's attention. As Aquaman formulates a plan, we flash back to ten hours earlier, as the JLA is giving a tour of their new HQ to local schoolchildren, as part of a plan to be part of the community.

Everyone seems up for the meet-and-greet, except Martian Manhunter, who feels a sense of unease. Good reason, since Felix Faust is nearby, watching his old foes. Using some sort of magical tablet (no, not an iPad), he calls forth massive black clouds which descend upon Detroit!

Meanwhile, Aquaman is defending the new JLA from one particularly snotty kid, who insists the team is now a bunch of nobodies. Another kid, in a Superman t-shirt, pipes up and defends the new group, much to the JLA's admiration. But just Zatanna is about to entertain the kids with some magic, there's an explosion, and the cause of it reveals himself:
The JLA fans out, taking on Faust's demonic creations. After Manhunter and Aquaman are knocked out, the team regroups in the medical lab, which is hermetically sealed behind them.

As Faust's minions pound their way in, the JLA forms a plan and, for once, acts as a team:
...except for Gypsy, who ignores Aquaman's order to help Elongated Man and Dale Gunn get the kids to safety. While Faust was distracted, she sneaks by and grabs the mystical tablet, breaking it in two over Faust's head!

As the demons fade into oblivion, Aquaman decides what to do about Gypsy's disobedience:

...the end!

Roll Call: Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Elongated Man, Zatanna, Vixen, Steel, Vibe, Gypsy

Notable Moments: Like the Retroactive 1970s book, this story feels like a bit of a missed opportunity: this is the first time the JLD has been seen in years (and probably will be the last time, with the new DCU just around the corner), so I wonder why the story is so focused on the internal monologues of the characters, in that I mean we get a lot of dialogue with the JLAers (Steel mostly) yelling at each other, which was one of the things I think that sunk the team in the first place.

Also like the 1970s one-shot, its up to another character (in that book Adam Strange, in this one the young superhero fan named...Geoff) to sort of spur the plot and get the JLA moving. Since when can't the Justice League of America carry their own story?

All that said, of course its great to see the JLA--even this version--back again one more time. I still think the JLD could have worked, if given enough time, but editorial meddling kept that from ever really happening, so the team remains a mostly sad footnote to the legendary team's history.

Not to be too picky about this, but I'm not exactly sure when this story takes place. The story mentions (repeatedly) that the "Big Guns" are decidedly no longer part of the team, which places it after the events of JLA #239 (see below). But by JLA #241, Aquaman was already off searching for Mera, never to return. So I guess we'd have to say this is what the JLD was doing while the book was doing a sort of special "DC Retroactive" of its own.

This issue also features a reprint of Justice League of America #239, also by Gerry Conway.

We hope you JLA fans enjoyed this look back, both in the comics and on this blog! I know I did!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

DC Retroactive: 1970s Justice League of America

The original Justice League of America returns!

The Story: "Enter Justice League Prime" by Cary Bates, Gordon Purcell, Jose Marzan Jr., and Andy Smith.

In Creedvue Mental Hospital, two doctors are talking to a patient. This patient insists he is an interplanetary traveler, regularly visiting the planet Rann. Getting frustrated, the patient demands to talk to the Justice League of America.

One of the doctors is familiar with the Justice League, but not in the form the patient is:
Of course, the patient is Adam Strange--how did he end up here?

Six hours earlier, aboard the JLA Satellite, 22,300 miles above Earth, six members of the Justice League pick up a Zeta Beam headed their way. They figure its their old friend Adam Strange, and it is--locked in hand-to-hand combat with their mutual foe Kanjar Ro!

Suddenly the Zeta Beam splits into two, causing the JLA to go into action. Flash determines one of the beams went to Earth-Prime, "our" Earth, where superheroes only exist in comic books (and TV shows, and multi-million-dollar film franchises). The JLA splits up into two teams:
On Earth-Prime, Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, and Zatanna attempt to rescue Adam Strange, except now Strange doesn't remember them either!

Turns out Strange has been receiving electro-shock therapy, which has screwed up his short-term memory. To help recover it, they turn to this world's foremost Adam Strange authority: DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz!

Meanwhile, on Earth-One, Green Lantern and Hawkman track down Kanjar Ro, who is more powerful than they remember:
Back on Earth-Prime, Schwartz jogs Strange's memory by showing him his comic book adventures as told in issues of Mystery in Space. This sets him straight, and they make their way back to the JLA Satellite.

As Kanjar Ro is making quick work of Hawkman, the other JLAers arrive, while Green Lantern and Zatanna execute another part of their plan--deflecting the Zeta Beam energy from hitting Earth, thereby depriving Kanjar Ro of his enhanced powers. With a well-placed punch by Adam Strange, Ro is defeated.

Wonder Woman decides this was a moment worth preserving. With the help of a camera inside her robot plane, the JLA snaps a picture and sends it to the person who will appreciate it the most:
...the end!

Roll Call: Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Red Tornado, Zatanna.

Notable Moments: When I ended the JLA Satellite blog back in August 2008, I truly never had any intention of bringing it back, even for a day. I liked ending with the conclusion to the original JLA book, I thought it gave the blog a nice, clean end.

But when DC announced their line of DC Retroactive one-shots, I immediately thought maybe, just maybe, it would be worth dusting off this old blog and giving it another spin--after all, this wasn't just a book starring the original JLA, it was being written by one of the classic JLA writers, Cary Bates! So here we are.

Overall, I have to say I was a tad disappointed with this issue's story--its mostly about Adam Strange, not the JLA. Add the fact that only a handful of members appear (don't even get me started on who I missed the most...), and how it becomes, IMO, a bit too in-jokey when they end up hanging with Julius Schwartz.

The plot is fine, very classic JLA, but there's almost no tension or menace. Also, there are little in-jokes to later stories, which to me broke the spell of this adventure's (heck, the whole DC Retroactive line) conceit that its set in the past--we're referencing Identity Crisis, wink wink
. Which makes this a missed opporunity: as any die-hard JLA fan knows, Cary Bates could write a Justice League story with the best of 'em.

It's also too bad the whole JLA couldn't have appeared here--if you're going to bother doing this book, why feature just a handful of members and give Adam Strange so much to do? Even with all that said, it was great to see the classic JLA one more time!

Judging by Zatanna's costume and Green Arrow's presence, this story takes place somewhere between Justice League of America #s 161 and 180.

This issue also features a reprint of Justice League of America #123, also by Cary Bates, and also "stars" Julius Schwartz.

One final thing--yes, will be back once more to recap DC Retroactive: 1980s Justice League of America!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...