A Tribute to the of
At one point in the early years of the Silver Age, our friends at DC came up with a winning idea to create a dream team of superheroes. An exclusive club, if you will, whose unwritten charter basically took on the responsiblity of enforcing justice throughout the world. Thus was born the Justice League of America. I'll once again display my ignorance here, since the ol' Sage isn't quite all-knowing. I'm not precisely certain who the charter members of the League were, but the roster has changed over the years despite there being a "hard core" membership that included Superman, Green Lantern, Batman, The Flash, Wonder Woman, J'onn J'onzz and Aquaman. Later members included Green Arrow, The Atom and Hawkman. The Justice League, incidentally, was the modern successor to the Golden Age group called the Justice Society of America.
This edition of the Silver Age Sage will showcase JLA #16, the December 1962 issue of the magazine. Written by Gardner Fox, drawn by Mike Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs & lettered by Gaspar Saladino. On the cover by Mike Sekowsky and Murphy Anderson, we see our lineup of heroes encased in bubbles that seem to be emanating from some modified pipe organ in a cave. The bubbles seem to be impervious to the Justice League and we see the same basic arrangement on the splash page where they struggle against "The Cavern of Deadly Spheres!"
The story begins innocuously enough. We first see Wonder Woman leaving her home base of Paradise Island in her famed transparent robot plane winging her way toward a regularly scheduled meeting of the JLA when she sees her colleague Green Arrow in what I can only assume is the Arrow plane or some such. We then come across Ray (The Atom) Palmer, also preparing to attend the meeting as he uses a pencil to dial (yeah, a real dial type telephone from the days of yore) the secret number to the meeting area so that he can shrink himself even further, enabling him to ride the electric impulse through the phone wire to his final destination. Back to Green Arrow and the Amazing Amazon who suddenly see odd goings-on at the small town of Three Corners. It appears that the local yokels are all fully engaged in manic dance. Wouldn't you know that as soon as our heroes emerge from their planes, they're suddenly subject to the music that's playing and begin to dance themselves. Both are powerless over the mysterious influence being broadcast throughout the town. We then rejoin the Atom as he's be-bopping through Ma Bell's lines when he abruptly emerges in a line put up by an unknown lineman who seems to be expecting him. The microscopic atom then begins a little dance of his own as he lands unseen at the feet of his compatriots in the Justice League. Then the plot thickens. A big ol' late 50's vintage Chrysler (you know the kind, with enough steel in the fins and bumpers alone to stamp out 27 new Ford Taurus sedans) with some apparently immune crooks who proceed to knock over the local bank. As the bizarrre dance continues, our heroes desperately try to come up with a strategy to free themselves from stomping frogs and give chase to the thieves. Green Arrow manages to position himself in such a way that he snags the magic lasso from Wonder Woman's side and flings it to her outstretched hand. She then is able to loop it about the archer and to counter the effects of the music, freeing him to use an explosive arrow to disable the van with the P.A. system playing the compelling tunes. Freed, Wonder Woman quickly overtakes the car and begins to question the thugs about the "Maestro" they'd mentioned before.
Fade to another set of justice leaguers who happen to have rendezvoused on the way to the secret sanctuary when they decide to stop an in-progress robbery. Well, wouldn't you know the ol' factory whistle suddenly begins piping in a familiar tune, rendering Green Lantern, Batman and the Martian Manhunter helpless to resist the urge to dance their little hearts out. The World's Greatest Detective decides that rather than futilely resist, he'll do the opposite and dance even more vigorously. His efforts cause some items from the famed utility belt to fall free. J'onn J'onzz then uses his martian breath to manipulate them up into the clouds creating a rain storm. As the rain falls, the Manhunter then freezes the newly fallen water around Green Lantern's feet, stopping his mad spinning. This in turn allows the Emerald Warrior to use his power ring to smash the source of the music (as depicted on page 7). The three heroes then scoop up this batch of baddies when we shift scenes yet again to...
...Aquaman, The Flash and Superman, who once again have coincidentally met along a river on their way to the meeting. So, whaddya think's gonna happen this time? You got it. A crisis in the form of a runaway riverboat, a band playing a tune that immediately sends our heroes onto the dance floor, and some opporunistic thieves on board. The JLA members team together in a fairly uniqe way this time. Superman warms up one of the Flash's boots with his heat vision, which causes him to bump into Aquaman, who finishes his jig underwater as he's pushed abruptly overboard. Since the music isn't traveling through the water, the King of the Sea recruits his finned friends and has them run the riverboat into a wharf, knocking the musicians free of their instruments, which then frees everyone aboard. Flash speeds across the water in pursuit of the fleeing crooks in a boat and within the hour, the three teams meet at JLA headquarters where honorary member and comedy relief provider Snapper Carr is waiting. As they compare notes, no one was able to find the hideout of the malevolent Maestro, but his powers are obviously formidable as he nearly immobilized the entire Justice League. The team shortly departs to a rocky area where they locate the macabre musician at an organ deep in one of the caverns. Armed with some hastily created ear plugs, the Justice Leage goes in for the capture. The Maestro is supremely confident as he begins to play the organ, causing the bubbles to emerge from the pipework, while simultaneously causing them to do their dance routines again. They cannot resist the shperes as they rapidly envelop each member. The Maestro then explains that the spheres have been specifically engineered to counteract each members abilities and that the music was never the cause of their uncontrolled dancing at all, but a high frequency cosmi-radio beam, camouflaged as music. As he gloatingly relates the properties of each bubble, a gas in Green Lantern's to weaken his will, a revolving bubble that keeps the Flash from gaining traction, Kryptonite in Superman's prison, magnetic fields to immobilize Green Arrow's quiver, super strong and insulating properties for the Martian Manhunter and Aquaman and immobilized limbs for Batman, The Atom and Wonder Woman, the fiend revels in holding them helpless. As a final insult, the Maestro again engages the beam, causing the Justice League to dance within their prisons and he then seals the cavern with an explosive charge, walking out triumphantly and laughing to himself that he won the battle of wits with the Justice League of America!
As chapter three opens, we're suddenly at JLA headquarters with all the members gathered around Snapper Carr as he says, "So there you have it, fellow members! That's the story as told and illustrated in these pages! It's called "The Cavern of Deadly Spheres!"
The first reprint of this unique yarn occured a mere 12 years later in Justice League of America #113, the September-October 1974 issue.
This story, as with all JLA stories, teams up the very best of the DC stable and even with the combination of their incredible abilities, managed to put them into the cooker big time, or so we think and then we're treated to a very surprising plot twist, which leads to some heavy duty detective work and finally a plausible solution. Overall, I'd call it a pretty fun ride and I give it a solid rating of 8 on the ten point scale. I love the versatility of the Justice League story lines and as you know, teamups are one of my passions.
Before I end this edition of the , I'd like to thank the reader who e-mailed me and filled me in on some trivia about my last review with the Composite Superman. It turns out he did make a return appearance in World's Finest Comics #168, August 1967 but was ultimately destroyed. Perhaps one day I'll get my hands on that issue and spotlight it here, too. Thanks again for the note and as always I solicit your feedback, opinions and thoughts at email@example.com. See you in a couple of weeks with another review here at The Silver Lantern.
Long Live the Silver Age!
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