A Tribute to the of

Nothing says DC’s Silver Age like an adventure of the Justice League of America and since I’m still a long way from exhausting that title, I think it’s time for a new review from that series. So, this time around I’ve chosen to spotlight Justice League of America #5 with a publication date of June/July 1961. The cover is by the ever-prolific Mike Sekowsky with Bernard Sachs on inks, ditto the interior. Julius Schwartz is our editor and the wonderful Gaspar Saladino did the lettering chores. Let’s look now at Gardner Fox’s “When Gravity Went Wild!

The League members on deck are the Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Superman, Green Arrow, J’onn J’onzz aka the Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, Batman and Snapper Carr. This adventure has an equally impressive villain lineup that we’ll get to a little later.

Things kick off at JLA HQ, where the members are grimly assessing the notion that one in their ranks is a traitor. Just then, newest member Green Arrow (who just joined last issue [Sage #104], in fact) arrives and is confronted by his fellow members, beginning with the Martian Manhunter, who accuses the Emerald Archer of aiding his foe, the Getaway Master. Chiming right in, our Amazon in residence, Wonder Woman, makes a similar claim about a foe from her rogue’s gallery, Professor Menace.

Before the charges can continue, however, GA demands a jury of his peers with Batman and Superman acting as those jurors since they had no involvement of the case about to be discussed. It is agreed and the testimonies begin with J’onn J’onzz describing how things began with a teletype (hey, it’s 1961, remember?) he received at the police station where he works in his civilian identity of John Jones about a 6-man prison breakout, prompting him to call a meeting of the JLA.

It seems Monty Moran, better known at the Getaway Mastermind or Getaway King was living up to his moniker by creating an avenue for he and five fellow prisoners’ escape. He holds in his hand a small helium filled balloon that a child might play with and suspended from it by nylon threads is a matchbox gondola. It seems Moran is a trusty and had access to the prison laboratory (really?) and tinkered together a shrink ray, which he promptly uses on his fellow cons so they can board the tiny vessel in their new 1/2” heights and sail effortlessly over the prison walls.

The sextet has vowed to take revenge on the Justice League and the game is afoot.

At the hastily summoned meeting, a receptor device informs the members of what is happening. Captain Cold, Professor Menace and Clock King are committing a robbery near Chicago while Electric Man, Monty Moran and the Puppet Master are together off the Florida coast. Since this is Green Arrow’s first case as a full-fledged member, Snapper wishes him good luck as he, Wonder Woman and the Flash take off to tackle the miscreants in Chicago, closing out Chapter I.

Okay, I gotta pause here and make a confession. For an aficionado of this era of DC Comics I found myself in the odd position of recognizing only two of these villains and in the case of Clock King, only in passing as I have yet to read (with the exception of this story, of course) of a single tale involving him.

So, in the public interest and for historical purposes, I will now share my research on all six of these baddies, by listing their first appearance and when it occurred. In fact, as I began to dig, I discovered I had encountered one of them before, but it had been so long ago, he’d remained forgotten, probably because he didn’t show up much more. Okay, here we go:

First is the Puppet Master, who would later become the Puppeteer and he bedeviled Green Lantern in his first issue of his self-titled book. That’s the one I failed to recall. GL #1, in the archives, was published in July/August of 1960.

Electric Man first showed up in the November, 1958 issue, #254, of Adventure Comics in the Aquaman backup tale and should not be confused with an alien of the same name appearing in Action #280 from September of 1961.

Monty Moran, the Getaway King arrived in Detective #259 from September of 1958 to tangle with J’onn J’onzz.

Professor Menace first gave our amazing Amazon some trouble in Wonder Woman #111 from January of 1960.

Clock King, ironically showed his face (ha!) for the first time in a Green Arrow backup story in, ironically, World’s Finest #111 in August of 1960.

Finally, good ol’ Captain Cold, as long-time readers already know, made his debut against the Flash in Showcase #8 [Sage #395] in May/June 1957 making him the senior villain.

Now, on to Chapter II, where our heroes are following clues to the location of the trio of rogues inside an ice palace of Captain Cold’s creation. They enter and begin to cross a massive, icy sundial toward their foes when the ice breaks beneath their feet and they find themselves in quicksand. WW is able to wrest an arm free and throw her lasso with such force that it embeds itself into the icy ceiling. She begins to climb, freeing her teammates along the way and they begin to ascend when Captain Cold fires a burst from his cold gun.

As a countermeasure, Flash begins to rotate one arm at super speed to create enough heat to melt the effects of the cold gun, but it’s also melting the other ice, causing the lasso to loosen and send them plummeting. Fortunately, Flash had also been swinging enough at the end of the rope to send them safely through the melting wall and clear of the quicksand. As the criminals take flight, Flash and Wonder Woman are in hot pursuit when a pair of arrows fly past them, causing a blinding explosion. When our heroes recover, the terrible trio is gone, as is Green Arrow, ending their testimony and Chapter II.

Chapter III takes up with Aquaman, J’onn and Green Lantern in pursuit of the felons in Florida. They’ve chosen to follow the jet stream when abruptly a lightning barrage strikes, somehow converting the air in the jet stream to water. The three heroes are battered, but of course Aquaman is used to such and swims over to aid his fellow members. Using his legs to kick and grasping both teammates he manages to provide a soft landing, but then the bolts of Electric Man drive them further along as they run for cover, but between the yellow bolts, impervious the GL’s ring and the fires being caused, weakening the Martian Manhunter, it is apparent they’re being herded into a trap.

As they enter a chute leading to a spaceship, they’re in full, helpless sliding mode. J’onn, having recovered enough to use that vaunted super breath, begins to blow, lifting the ship and keeping them out of the trap. Soon the two flying members, with Aquaman in tow are airborne again and GL spots two massive backlit forms: Giant puppets of the Puppet Master. GL uses his power ring to blast them into space when they notice the Arrow Plane’s arrival, right behind the ship being used by their enemies. Three arrows emerge and another blinding explosion with similar results: Stunned JLA members and no sign of the villains or their seeming accomplice, Green Arrow.

Chapter IV opens with our archer beginning his defense. GA’s first explanation stems from the trap in the quicksand, when he realized that despite the extreme cold, their foes didn’t have foggy breath. The archer deduced that they were robots created by Professor Menace, the same way he’d created a robot Wonder Woman in issue #111 of her book. When queried about why he shot his arrows at them, the battling bowman explains that it proved his theory that they were wired to explode on contact, and he actually saved his teammates lives.

Next up is the encounter in Florida, where GA knew what to expect and “…brought the Arrow Plane to a halt, hidden in a cloud formation above and behind the criminals’ craft so they couldn’t see me…” Brought the plane to a halt? Maybe I’m not well-read enough on GA’s gadgets, but how is that possible? Anyway, he fires a harpoon arrow at the ship and when it’s destroyed by an electrical force field, he fires three other arrows from his perch on the wing of the arrow plane so that it appeared the ambush worked. As Aquaman, J’onn and GL fell, unconscious from the concussion, GA quickly fired off three fishhook arrows “—which I use for fishing when on vacation—“ and snags each hero to keep them from going splat. He then urges them to look at the backs of their uniforms for the telltale tears of the hooks, which gets him off the hook.

Superman then asks why he didn’t explain in the first place and Green Arrow announces that he couldn’t because one of them is an imposter! He continues to explain that an underworld informer alerted him to the fact that one of their number had been captured and then impersonated. Later he captured the six villains single-handedly at their hideout, which delayed his arrival at headquarters, still uncertain as to who the imposter might be, but after the testimonies, he now knows.

It seems the massive puppets that were being blown away, weren’t through the super breath of the Martian Manhunter, as GA had assumed, but by the power ring of GL. The only problem is that the puppets, backlit by the sun and appearing black, were actually yellow and therefore the power ring wouldn’t have been effective against them. The bogus member is wearing a Green Lantern set of togs!

Superman and Batman seize the phony GL, who admits that he used some gravity controlling metal he’d discovered to mimic flight and a mini battery inside the ring to project a false beam. As he’s escorted to police headquarters, though, the cover scene is recalled when the members abruptly float into the sky, closing the chapter.

Chapter V opens with the bogus Green Lantern and the other members of the JLA aboard a ship where their helpless figures had been scooped up. Henchmen are there with some massive equipment that has rendered our heroes without willpower courtesy of the gravitron-will-deadener ray. Say that three times fast…

Who is the man behind the green mask? Doctor Destiny, in his first appearance. It seems he’s an aspiring thief, but knew with the Justice League out there, his career would be over before it started. Thus, the plot to capture them and render them immobile with the will-deadening ray. He even has a chamber aboard with spots for each of them to stand in the beam of the ray where they will be imprisoned, alongside the one member already there, the real Green Lantern.

After each member is placed on their individual platform, the triumphant Doctor Destiny explains how he’d pulled it off, using the gravity control discs and a fake uniform to attract the attention of GL and then using the will-deadening beam to capture the hero. Later, they detected the JLA signal device in Green Lantern’s power ring, summoning him to a meeting. Seizing the opportunity, Doctor Destiny flew along until the Arrow Plane came by and he simply followed to JLA HQ, taking Green Lantern’s place and getting the lay of the land.

Just then, the real Green Lantern steps off his platform and sweeps his power ring over the rogues, rendering them helpless. The question, of course, is how did GL escape the immobilizing beam and how could his power ring still function after being uncharged for well over 24 hours? He refrains from explaining until the malefactors are safety in police custody and he’s had a chance to recharge the ring. Then, back at JLA HQ, the revealing begins.

First, though, I found myself smiling when I realized that the second panel on page 25 is the one that would later be used to head the lettercol (replacing this rather crude one) for the JLA mailroom. How’s that for some good trivia, Silver Age fans?

Green Lantern describes what had happened when he notes that the ship’s lights dimmed during the use of the anti-gravity and will-deadening ray on his fellow Justice League members. The cosmic generator drew so much current that the beam holding our hero weakened enough that he could free himself. He used the chance given to the lamp and remove the transistor that converted the cosmic rays to the will-deadening beam and then placed the transistor in his power ring. Then, time to play possum and prepare to spring his own trap, using the will-deadener on Destiny and his men the way he’d ordinarily use his power ring, putting a nice big ribbon on the case.

I really enjoyed this story and frankly I was a bit surprised, because the cover really didn’t grab me. I should have had more faith in Gardner Fox’s seemingly limitless imagination. In summary, the tale included six villains, a few of whom I needed to learn about and then a twist seventh one in the final chapter, along with some other plot twists in an unusual five chapter format. I felt like this was a wonderful representation of our favorite era of comics and gladly give it a nine on the 10-point scale for some satisfying reading.

As always, readers, we will be back with another story for your reading pleasure, right here at this very URL. I also remind you that I’m not averse to suggestions if there’s a particular book or story you’d like me to explore. Naturally your feedback is welcome, too, so let us know what’s on your mind. Just send the message to: professor_the@hotmail.com.

The next installment of this ongoing feature will hit the internet on the 1st of March, so do join us then and in the interim…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2017 by B.D.S.

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