A Tribute to the of
Sound the trumpets, fill the glasses and release the pigeons! With this edition of the Silver Age Sage the feature celebrates its second birthday! A veritable eternity in cyberspace time and it's been a wonderful ride so far. Many thanks to our regular and new patrons and I hope you'll continue to join us and by all means participate by sending in your comments and questions about the greatest age in comic books. Kudos also to our benevolent webmaster for providing this forum and being the guiding force behind the Silver Lantern. Well done!
I've been teasing you a little about the selection for this landmark review and it's time to deliver the goods.
DC Comics Editor Julius Schwartz struck gold when he successfully integrated the two Earths, bridging the gap between the Golden and Silver Age heroes and creating some heretofore impossible interactions with the heroes of the day and their progenitors from yesteryear. The groundbreaking issue, as you know (or if you didn't know, I'd direct your attention to my review of same here at the archives) was found in the September 1961 edition of The Flash, issue #123 entitled "The Flash of Two Worlds", when Barry (The Flash) Allen first makes contact with Jay (The Flash) Garrick. This issue has been hailed as the most important effort of the era. It wasn't long until they gave it another whirl with other Flash/Flash team-ups and riding that success, they finally pulled out all the stops with the team-up to end them all. In August and September of 1963 the entire Justice Society of America (well, at least seven of them, as I'll soon explain) was resurrected to join the Justice League of America in their magazine for issues #21 and #22, where we experience "Crisis on Earth-One!" followed in the next issue by "Crisis on Earth-Two!" Writing credits go to none other than the great Gardner Fox with pencils by Mike Sekowsky, inks courtesy of Bernard Sachs and Glen Whitmore as colorist.
Let's begin with that great JLA tradition, the roll call: Representing the Justice League is The Atom, Aquaman, Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, J'onn J'onzz, Superman and Wonder Woman. Those in attendance from the Justice Society of America are The Atom, Black Canary, Doctor Fate, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman and Hourman. Additionally, we will see some formidable foes from both Earths to include Chronos, Felix Faust, Doctor Alchemy, The Fiddler, The Wizard and The Icicle. So, without further ado, let's go through this two-issue blockbuster.
Our story opens in the meeting room of the Justice League where an emergency session is taking place. Batman is the chairman and he explains to the assembly that they have received a challenge from the newly christened Crime Champions; Chronos, Felix Faust and Doctor Alchemy. The team of villains have boldly declared their intention to rob the Powers City Bank, a sunken ship and a Safeway Armored Car. The members of the Justice League quickly form teams to take on the malefactors with Aquaman, the Atom and the Martian Manhunter going after Felix Faust; Wonder Woman, Batman and Green Lantern joining forces to take on the time thief Chronos, and Superman, Green Arrow and Flash forming the final trio to tackle the holder of the philosophers stone, Doctor Alchemy.
Fade quickly to another meeting on another Earth, separated from Earth One by it's vibratory status, where another group of heroes is having a gathering of their own. This, of course, is the legendary Justice Society of America, reconvening after a 12 year hiatus. Remarkably like what we just witnessed with the Justice League, the Justice Society has similarly had the gauntlet flung their way by The Fiddler, The Wizard and The Icicle, who have vowed to commit a trio of million-dollar robberies. The text of the story explains things nicely, so I'll let it speak for itself: "Yes, after more than a decade of inactivity, the old Justice Society of America is meeting once again! True, there are a few gray hairs showing--and their faces are lined with the passage of time--but their mighty powers are only slightly dimmed." Doctor Fate comments that their revised bylaws call for a rotating membership of seven, chosen by lot, which is why you don't see some of the other well-known heroes such as Starman, Sandman, Doctor Mid-Nite or the Spectre. Just as their Earth One counterparts did, the JSA members split into teams to meet their foes. Hawkman, Atom and the Flash will engage The Fiddler while Green Lantern and Black Canary seek out The Wizard with Hourman and Doctor Fate on the trail of The Icicle. Chapter One ends on this promising note.
Chapter Two begins at the sea where Felix Faust is using incantations to remove a safe of treasure from a sunken vessel while simultaneously holding back the waters with another spell. Aquaman, the Martian Manhunter and the Atom arrive to thwart the master of magic and after a brief battle are surprised when Faust's image simply vanishes before their eyes.
Fade to another scene where Doctor Alchemy, armed with the philosopher's stone, a matter transformer, stands along Route 55 awaiting the arrival of an armored vehicle. As the truck pulls into sight, the villain swiftly causes some major changes undreamt of at the factory. First changing the wheels to rocks, effectively slamming it to a halt, he next transforms the fenders to wings and prepares to fly it to another destination with it's cargo of cash. Before he can complete his deed, though, another trio of Justice League members converge on the scene. Oddly, the Flash suddenly turns into wisps much like Felix Faust did before. Superman appears, but the stone of Doctor Alchemy renders him helpless by transforming a nearby telephone pole into Kryptonite. Lurching away, he is only victimized again by a fire hydrant that has also been transformed into the deadly mineral. Diverting his attention from the prone form of Kal-El, he then engages Green Arrow by encasing his red-boote! d feet in a river of glue. Stun arrows fired by the archer are rapidly turned into harmless weeds by the stone and boarding his newly created aircraft, Alchemy makes his escape, cackling that the Flash has been taken care of in a very special way. The Emerald Archer shifts his focus to helping Superman by coating the hydrant that holds the Man of Steel helpless with lead-based paint from a handy paint-arrow. No sign, however, of the spackle-arrow. ;-) Flying swiftly after the flying armored car, our heroes are stunned when it simply vanishes.
Fade again to Powers City and it's bank, which are about to be breached by Chronos with the aid of his hourglass filled with "bottled time" allowing him to age the wall and reduce the bricks to powder. Easily entering, he begins to sack up the banded cash when two planes, one transparent and one bat-like, along with the figure of Green Lantern show up. Using his time gimmicks, Chronos soon thwarts the three Justice League members long enough to pull the latest in a long line of fade-outs. Our story follows suit and fades into what is described as a great sphere of vibratory energy on the rim of the twin earth's where Felix Faust, Doctor Alchemy and Chronos are rendezvousing with The Fiddler, The Icicle and The Wizard where the rogues compare notes. It seems each of the Earth Two villains were equally successful in defeating their respective heroes as they committed their individual crimes, stopping Green Lantern, Black Canary, Hawkman, the Flash, Atom, Hourman and Doctor Fate in their tracks. Interestingly, Earth Two's Flash, just like his Earth One counterpart also drifted into wisps.
Felix Faust then relates that the portable vibrating device he and his comrades had received from The Fiddler worked perfectly, ensuring their escape to this place. The Fiddler adds that it was a lucky day for him when he stumbled across the vibratory pitch on his instrument that opens the doorway between the two Earth's. It just so happened to have been achieved during a jail break by the Fiddler, Wizard and Icicle and they found themselves on the very stage that was the jump-off point for Barry Allen when he first breached the barrier in "The Flash of Two Worlds!".
Chapter three begins again with the crime consortium filling in the rest of the gaps by recalling that Chronos, Felix Faust and Doctor Alchemy had just so happened to be in the theater when the trio appeared. Quickly joining forces, the malefactors of both Earth's then pulled the heists already witnessed. The rest of their plot is soon revealed as they plan to switch Earth's and use their anonymity to enjoy their spoils, undetected by the heroes of Earth One and Earth Two, who know nothing of the counterpart Earth villains. As added insurance, the six super criminals have trapped both Flashes in vibratory spheres that neutralize their ability to escape and thus to stop them.
Proceeding with their plans, the Wizard, Icicle and Fiddler go on extended holiday on Earth One, but soon grow bored at the lack of a challenge. They agree to take on the personas of their counterparts, Felix Faust, Chronos and Doctor Alchemy to challenge the Justice League and prove their superiority. The challenge is soon issued to the JLA from Casino Town, where the trio of villains have laid eight enchanted traps involving the curious combination of hard rubber poker chips, a wooden roulette wheel, a shower of metal quarters, a stuffed moose's head, a pane of yellow glass, a jewel, sand and a pool of cold, clear water. The reader is told that when all eight objects are touched, the magical trap will be sprung.
The action begins on the next page as Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern converge on the figure of "Chronos," but each in turn touch and are neutralized by the quarters, moose head and yellow glass pane mentioned before. Similarly Superman and Green Arrow, charging the Wizard, masquerading as Doctor Alchemy, are pushed into touching the hard rubber poker chips and wooden roulette wheel. As Aquaman confronts "Felix Faust" he is shoved into sand. Then a sapphire is bounced off the chin of the Atom and finally the Martian Manhunter is diverted into the pool to avoid some magically conjured flames. After all this has happened, the JLA regroups for another attack, only to disappear en masse, finding themselves back in their sanctuary where they are held prisoner by magic. Seeing no alternative, Batman suggests fighting magic with magic, via a handy crystal ball (acquired in issue #2) from the souvenir room. Joining hands to begin an impromptu seance, the Justice League first tries to contact their missing partner, The Flash. Their efforts are rewarded by a vision of Barry Allen, who explains that he is trapped as well, along with his counterpart Flash. Filling in all the gaps for his fellow members, he suggests an answer to their predicament by having the Justice League summon the Justice Society, as they won't be subject to the magic holding the JLA prisoner. Following Barry's suggestion, the mists of the crystal ball rapidly reveal the heroes of Earth-Two and the Justice League and Justice Society meet for the first time in history. Seeing two Atoms shaking hands and two Green Lanterns comparing emerald rings is one of the great scenes in this story and Doctor Fate proposes that he use his formidable magic to send the Justice League to Earth-Two to battle the foes they know so well while the Justice Society takes on The Icicle, Fiddler and Wizard in their world. No sooner said than done as most of the JLA find themselves in the JSA headquarters while most of the members of the JSA pierce the magical barrier at JLA headquarters to begin their quest. Did you follow all that alphabet soup? Good. Meanwhile the dual Green Lantern's go on a special dispatch of their own to free the Flashes. In classic cliffhanger fashion, this issue ends, only to be taken up in issue #22 as "Crisis on Earth-Two!"
After the obligatory recap, we join Hourman and The Atom at the Clayville Natural History Museum as they pursue The Fiddler who has ditched his Felix Faust disguise. Bringing his magical violin to the ready, he animates a couple of the exhibits in the form of a polar bear and a gorilla. Calling upon the power of his Miraclo formula, Hourman decks the bear while The Atom uses his famed Atomic Punch to K.O. the gorilla. More creatures are activated by The Fiddler and the Man of the Hour then utilizes his radio belt to neutralize the villain's tune, allowing he and Atom to put him out of commission.
Next stop, an open air art gallery where Doctor Fate descends on The Icicle. Pulling his cold ray gun, the thief freezes the falling rain around our hero. The good doctor calls upon his mastery of magic to release bolts of lightning from his hand that in turn become sheets of airborne flame, freeing him from the frozen prison. As a consequence, the newly melted ice washes the Icicle into a brick wall, rendering him unconscious.
The final engagement pits Hawkman and Black Canary against The Wizard, who wastes no time in magically commanding the wings of the Flying Fury to carry him high into the stratosphere. With a second malevolent gesture, large rocks become man-like figures, wrapping Black Canary in a vise-like grip. She pulls open her canary amulet and produces a burning glass that ignites nearby bushes, blocking The Wizard's magical manipulations, allowing her to escape, giving the villain a vicious judo toss. He retaliates with a spell that begins turning her into marble. Meanwhile, the resourceful Hawkman has removed his rebellious wings and with the help of his ability to speak to eagles (who knew?) he catches a ride with a couple of them down to the action. Wielding a mace, he knocks the Wizard cold, breaking all spells.
Chapter two opens with the Justice League splitting up to take down Felix Faust, Doctor Alchemy and Chronos once and for all. The first team of Green Arrow, the Atom and J'onn J'onzz arrive at a carnival where Faust is robbing the receipts. The sorcerer swiftly causes our three heroes to go into uncontrollable pinwheel-like spinning. As a result, Green Arrow's shafts fly from his quiver, allowing the Martian Manhunter with his super breath to blow them toward Felix, who conjures up a large, protective target. Green Arrow then pulls a miniature bow and arrow out and fires it toward the Atom, who rides it down to the target. Continuing his spin, the Mighty Mite goes from the shaft right into the vulnerable chin of Felix Faust, releasing them from his incantation.
We next join Wonder Woman and Batman in their respective planes, seeking Doctor Alchemy in a mountainous canyon area. Spotting them first, the dreaded philosopher's stone is brought into play, converting their planes into winged horses, intent on bucking their riders off and onto the deadly rock formations below. The Amazing Amazon uses her magic lasso to rope a rock formation below, linking it to her steed as a way to catch it and break their fall, but Alchemy strikes again, causing a deep chasm to open beneath them. Amazingly, they land without harm, but the chasm begins to bury them alive. Leaping into action, Wonder Woman spins at a high rate of speed, making her body into a human drill and tunneling an escape route. As they emerge to face Doctor Alchemy, Batman hurls a glass pellet at his philosopher's stone, which bursts into flame on contact due to it's powdered lead payload. Scratch one more bad guy.
Time now to catch up with the Emerald Gladiators as they locate the twin Flash's in their bubble prisons. They spend a couple of panels trying various ring methods to no avail, but are determined in their purpose. While they continue we join Superman and Aquaman as they reach Chronos at a lighthouse. To the duo's surprise the time thief immediately surrenders. Commandeering his flying sundial, they take off only to discover he's managed to incapacitate Aquaman with a vibration watch that puts the Sea King into a coma, which can only be negated by exposure to a Kryptonite meteor that's been carefully placed on a Pacific island. Despite the danger to his person, Superman doe not hesitate to deliver his fellow Justice Leaguer to the site. The Man of Steel is soon overcome, but while Aquaman recovers, Chronos makes a break for it. When Aquaman is able, he pulls Superman to safety and they search for their quarry. Unable to spot him with telescopic vision, Superman deduces that ! he's taken his craft underwater. Aquaman sends a telepathic query to the creatures of the deep who respond that he is moving towards the straits of Magellan. In short order they locate and capture the criminal.
Back to Hal Jordan and Alan Scott in the borderland between the two earth's. The two Green Lantern's determine that light and sound waves are able to penetrate the bubbles, which means if they will their rings to reduce the Flash's to protons of light, they can escape, which they do. Immediately, however, all four figures shimmer out of sight. Similarly on each Earth the Justice League and Justice Society members fade into oblivion, closing out chapter two.
The final chapter of this saga opens with our heroes in their greatest predicament yet. Two by two, they find themselves in cages, linked by chains in the depths of space! Worst of all, the cages are impervious to the formidable powers of the heroes. Their magical properties resist Superman, Hourman and the power rings of the Green Lantern's, each apparently designed to specifically resist their individual captives. Ray Palmer as The Atom cannot shrink between the atoms of his prison and reports the same to Hal Jordan through a handy telepathic communication system linking the cages. He suggests that perhaps Hal and Alan, using his same technique can succeed. Reducing themselves to sub-atomic size, the ring wielders do escape. Flying toward the cage holding both Flashes, they attempt to free them, but lack sufficient power. Taking a calculated risk, they allow their protective auras to drop for a moment in order to concentrate the full power of each ring on their task and b! last Barry and Jay free. Quickly the auras are restored, to include the Flashes and the rest of the heroes are released in turn. Speeding back from the depths of space, they are determined to clean up the crime champions once and for all.
The villains, in the interim, have gathered on Earth Two and sense the imminent arrival of their foes. Chronos proposes escaping which leads the Fiddler to cry out, "I've got it! There is an Earth-One and an Earth-Two! Somewhere there must be an Earth-Three! If we can find the doorway into it--before the Justice Champions find us--we can escape them forever!" They begin to make the attempt, each exploiting his own talents, but too late, as the heroes of two worlds arrive to put them away in a team-up like no other. Victorious, the Justice League and Justice Society vow to stay in touch in the event that they need to join forces again, closing this colossal tale.
Choose your superlative. Historic. Blockbuster. Groundbreaking. Any or all fit this tremendous effort where you get everything a fan could ask. Classic Golden Age greats rubbing shoulders with their Silver Age successors for the first time on this scale. Action on two Earths. Six Super Villains wreaking havoc on those same worlds. This was simply the gold standard by which the silver age is measured. It goes without saying as well that "Crisis on Infinite Earths" owes a great debt to this double-issue spectacular. A truly satisfying, engaging read through and through with nary a misstep. I crown it a 10 without reservation and invite any and all to peruse it for themselves. You will not be sorry.
You may have noted my nifty new e-mail address. Take it for a test drive at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear from you. Also, remember that two weeks is the dateline for the next stellar review here at the ol' Silver Lantern. Don't miss it!
Long live the Silver Age!
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