A Tribute to the of

I'm forever asking for your feedback here. In case anyone wonders why (besides just the simple curiosity of who, if anyone, is out there perusing my work) I thought I'd share the reason. In a former life I was a disc jockey at a classic rock station. It is, hand's down, the most fun I've had at a so-called job. I noticed after awhile, however, that my shows were much better if I was getting callers. It created a dynamic, dare I say a synergy that simply wasn't there if I was working in a void. Similarly, I find that with some of the commentary that you, the readers, provide, I produce a little bit better product. I gain insights as to what you're looking for and what avenues that you'd like me to pursue with my little corner of cyberspace. In a nutshell it helps me to do a better job. I must, however, offer a disclaimer that is probably obvious to most people. This is a hobbyists site. Nothing more. The webmaster and I are having a ball going through our second childhood by spending time with the comic books we loved. Our first order of business with the efforts you see here is to please ourselves. I hope that doesn't sound too narcissistic, but what is a hobby for if not for the person indulging? I compare it to a guy I knew who had a beautiful 1955 Chevy Nomad. He owned a body shop so this car was really a thing of beauty. He was showing me some of it's features one day and explained that while he could have gone the restoration route, he fixed it up the way he wanted. Among the things he wanted was diamond tuck interior work and a bit more zip under the hood than she originally came with. I guess what I'm trying to say is that if at any time I come across as the last word on this era in comic books, it just ain't so. I mention this partly because recently I got a minor avalanche of feedback and believe me when I say I appreciated it. Even the stuff that was less than complimentary was grist for the mill. One person implied, though, that I was blowing it in a few areas as far as missing some key points from certain issues and continuities. Well, hey, sorry about that. Again, I'm discovering many of these issues for the first time myself and I do not claim to be the expert. I learn along with you, so I'll ask your patience with my human failings, too. Either way, under no circumstances should you stop sending those notes to me and being frank, too. I don't promise to follow every suggestion, but I do promise to pay attention to what you have to say and to weigh out the value of your feedback. There was also a common theme among a couple of the notes I received.

It was pointed out to me that these aren't truly reviews. They're more like a synopsis. I must concur. My approach is that, unlike the sort of review you might get from a Roger Ebert or some book reviewer for the New York Times, these aren't current media. I'm not trying to either disparage or drum up interest in something you might decide to run out and spend your money on. Odds are good that you've not had the chance to read the comics I put under the spotlight and unless you already own them or decide to race over to eBay or your local comic shop to try and find them, your only exposure will be right here, so why not go into a little more depth? It was suggested, though, that I add more of my thoughts and less on the synopsis. I'll see what I can do. I did get a kick out of one reader's observation that perhaps the ratings I provide serve little purpose. He said that due to nostalgic value and such, they were all 10's. Well, maybe, but if you look at some of the issues I've written up, it ain't necessarily so. ;-) Again, thanks for your comments. I hope you'll continue to share your thoughts, too.

With that, let's get down to business, shall we? At the webmaster's request, I will be reviewing (or synopsizing, if you will) the debut of the Justice League of America in Brave and the Bold #28 from March of 1960 (on sale December 29, 1959) where they face Starro the Conqueror. Writing credits go to Gardner Fox. Both the cover and interior pencils came courtesy of Mike Sekowsky. Now get this: The cover and chapter 4 were inked by Murphy Anderson, but inking details for chapters 1, 3 and 5 were done by Bernard Sachs, while chapter 2's inks were produced by Joe Giella. I guess a super team story requires a team of artists as well.

Mr. Sekowsky did a pretty admirable job with the art duties, even though anyone would be hard-pressed to tackle a project on this scale. When you've got some well-established characters who have magazines or regular features of their own I think the readers get used to a certain look and no matter how good a penciller you've got, he or she (were there any female comic artists during the Silver Age? Ah, yes! How could I forget Ramona Fradon and her splendid handling of Aquaman, Metal Men and Metamorpho?) will be in a bit of a jam trying to draw several familiar heroes in a way that everyone will appreciate. Occasionally, in fact, utter disaster has resulted. I can think of a particular issue of Adventure Comics which will likely be reviewed here at some point that tried a bold experiment. They let one of their better writers try his hand at drawing. Extra large mistake. He could spin a good tale, but his art frankly sucked. In this case, things worked pretty well, but for the reasons mentioned above, I try to cut the artist sufficient slack for a Herculean task.

As I've mentioned in past reviews (primarily my other JLA effort, #16) the Justice League was the successor to the Golden Age's Justice Society of America. Since the resurgence of the super hero comic genre was picking up a good head of steam, editor extraordinaire Julius Schwartz and company decided to take the successfully re-introduced Flash and Green Lantern and add in Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter for the superhero Dream Team. Oddly enough, there is no prelude or origin. [That tale, "The Origin of the Justice League", would reach eager fans almost two years later with the release of JLA #9, February, 1962.] The Justice League is just suddenly there, complete with their handy signal devices to call emergency meetings and their secret cavern headquarters hidden within a mountain. In fact, that is exactly how the meeting within the first few pages comes about. Aquaman, patrolling the Atlantic, happens across Peter the Puffer Fish (nice touch, Gardner; why not Percy?) who tells the King of the Seven Seas of a fantastic sighting. A space traveler in the form of an enormous starfish plunged into the ocean and promptly used it's other-worldly powers to transform three common starfish into duplicates of itself. It then sends each of them on a mission with specific instructions. The Sea King signals his fellow members and they rendezvous at headquarters to formulate a plan. Superman and Batman are predisposed with urgent missions, so the initial meeting has only the other five members in attendance. Flash, the current chair, quickly distributes assignments, dividing the team up to maximize the territory they can cover, particularly since there are 4 distinct threats to deal with. Incidentally, this became a recurring formula for Justice League endeavors. Two and sometimes three members would be dispatched and they would use a divide and conquer strategy. As you look through the storylines you should easily see the thread. I suspect that in part it was to keep the stories and especially the panels from getting too crowded.

As the team members head off to their assignments, the chapters subdivide to follow each encounter with the minions of Starro. The first is Green Lantern, who single- handedly takes on one of the creatures as it intercepts an Air Force bomber. Using his power ring not only for propulsion but to save the plummeting plane after the enlarged starfish has attacked it, he is surprised to see the detonation of the atomic bomb that the Starro clone had lifted from the aircraft and the subsequent absorption of the exploded energy. The super-energized creature begins to trade blasts of energy with the ring slinger, but the will and power of Green Lantern prevail and the menace is returned to it's natural state of being an ordinary starfish. The next chapter follows Wonder Woman and the Martian Manhunter as they fly to intercept another Starro clone at the hall of science, where the massive creature is ripping the building from it's foundation and spiriting it away with the mission of absorbing the brainpower of all the intellectuals inside. Maybe instead of starfish, these should have all been massive sponges, eh? Anyway, the strange being heads for the upper reaches of the atmosphere with it's cargo while a transparent robot plane and a hero from another world are in close pursuit. This particular Starro copy taunts the Justice Leaguers via telepathic communication right before firing atomic energy from it's tentacles. Wonder Woman deflects some of the energy with her indestructible bracelets of Amazonium metal, while J'onn J'onnz uses his terrific Martian muscle to rip some lead shielding from the building as a barrier. The Amazing Amazon's golden lasso is brought into play and the building is freed at last from this Starro who is also successfully vanquished. JLA 2, Starro's 0 as we head into chapter four.

This time it's the Fastest Man Alive who zips over to the coastal city of Happy Harbor to take on the third Starro duplicate. This chapter also introduces us to teenage hipster Lucas "Snapper" Carr. In fact, Snapper shows up first thing as he's busily adding turf builder to the family lawn along with lime and sodium chlorate. All the necessary ingredients for greenery. Snapper realizes moments later that his family and indeed every citizen of Happy Harbor but himself are suddenly acting like extras from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. They congregate in zombie-like fashion at the town square where the giant figure of Starro's deputy floats in the air above, informing them that they are under it's mental control. Snapper is then singled out by Starro as being immune and an atomic blast is soon heading straight toward the confused teen. Luckily for him, the Scarlet Speedster is just hitting town and he whisks him out of harm's way. Flash then goes to take on the monster and creates a vortex around the creature by running a super speed circular pattern. The starfish exerts a great effort and does break free, heading for a nearby lake, but the Flash is close behind and starts to run in place, setting up vibrations that part the waters to expose the monster. He then stops his running, letting the large waves crash down upon Starro, knocking it cold. Flash then takes Snapper back to the town to try and determine where the people were being ordered to go. Once he secures the information, he takes Snapper along for the ride to see if they can determine what caused his immunity to the influence of Starro. Summoning his fellow members, the Justice League converges on the unlikely Turkey Hollow for the final showdown with the original Starro.

As the final chapter opens we are privy to the thoughts and therefore the plans of the otherworldly creature. Despite the loss of his assistants, Starro reveals that the atomic energy gleaned by the first and the knowledge from the scientists harvested from the second and the manipulative properties of the third clone were all passed along to the original Starro, providing it with the tools to conquer the earth, using it as a starting point for moving to other worlds and, like any self-respecting galactic menace, to eventually run roughshod over the entire universe. The Justice League of America, however, has something to say about the plan and they quickly converge on Turkey Hollow in response to the signal of their chairman, The Flash. Green Lantern, freshly off his victory, is the first to make contact with the creature, though it wasn't quite what he had in mind. Starro emits a mental beam and does a quick mind probe, giving it the critical information that yellow is the weakness in Green Lantern's powers. The monster quickly changes it's color to yellow and then begins to wage it's battle with the other members of the JLA. Interestingly, a beam of energy from the beast strikes at Snapper with no effect. Since Barry (The Flash) Allen is a police scientist by trade, he follows a hunch and has Green Lantern use his ring as a spectroscope on Mr. Carr to find out what could be thwarting the creature while the other team members continue to battle Starro. Green Lantern soon learns that there's a heavy concentration of Lime on Snapper. Aquaman mentions that oyster men use quicklime to fight starfish who prey on oysters in the sea. With this key bit of information, Green Lantern soon locates some barrels of Lime from a nearby farm and peppers Starro liberally with the compound rendering it completely helpless. With Starro encased in an unbreakable shell of Lime, the threat of conquest is neutralized. Snapper is voted an honorary member for his assistance and the editorial staff invite us back for another peek at the Justice League in action next issue.

While this issue is a standout classic, I'm going to break with my tradition here just a touch. I enjoyed the story and must of course acknowledge that the greatest team in the DC Universe converges here in great fashion. Even without the formidable powers of Superman and the keen intellect of the Batman they tangle with and defeat an alien being who has it's own massive intelligence and incredible powers. A team of the caliber of the Justice League would be needed for nothing less. I was, however, less than inspired by the choice of a starfish of all things. Much like I mentioned recently with General Immortus being the villain for the Doom Patrol, a starfish just doesn't strike much fear in the heart, at least for me. Also, while Snapper Carr provides some comedy relief and was a nod to the older reading audience, he grates on my nerves a bit, so I must dub this issue a 9 on my 10 scale. In later issues the writing and editorial team really hit their stride and this combination was certainly a winner. The Justice League is a great favorite of mine and it's a toss-up to me as to whether I like them or the Legion of Super Heroes better, though I lean toward the Legion. The concepts are quite similar and the nearly limitless opportunities for storylines told from a wide variety of perspectives made the titles fertile ground indeed as the dynamic between the various members was fleshed out and the ability to rely on strengths outside those enjoyed by the individual members. The greatest strength of the JLA was their ability to work as a team. With that important distinction, they were poised to take on any threat, whether it be domestic or from deep space. Most, of course, were the latter and the science fiction aspect made it that more appealing, at least for this reader. You just can't go wrong with an issue of the JLA. Very good stuff.

Now for the moment at least some of you have been waiting for. It's time to announce the winner of our anniversary contest from last time. Thanks to those who showed an interest and the proud new owner of the Silver Age DC Classics reprint of Showcase #22 is L. Stroud. Congratulations! Thank you all once again for your patronage. I invite you to express yourself with questions or comments at my e-mail address of professor_the@hotmail.com or our ever popular guest book. Don't forget to come back in about two weeks for another new review and the archive section is linked below for anything you may have missed or would just like to re-live.

Long live the Silver Age!

2000-2001 by B.D.S.

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