A Tribute to the of

It’s November and that means that it’s time for a new entry and furthermore, we’ve got a pretty big milestone to mark: 60 years of the Justice League of America! That’s right. The greatest team of superheroes made their debut in their own self-titled magazine in October/November 1960 with an on-sale date of August 25th of that year. This was closely on the heels of their successful try-out in the pages of the Brave and the Bold, issues #28 [Sage #25], 29 and 30 also published in 1960. The JLA, of course, was modeled after the Justice Society of America from the Golden Age and just to lend more authenticity, original JSA scribe Gardner Fox was called upon once again to write the tales under the editorial guidance of Julius Schwartz. Cover art for issue #1, which, by the way, cannot be found on the cover, only a small box with “NOV.” was provided by Murphy Anderson. Cover logo and lettering were by the amazing Ira Schnapp while interior artwork comes courtesy of the pencil of Mike Sekowsky and the inkwell of Bernard Sachs with the great Gaspar Saladino letters. Let us see how our favorite heroes handle the threat of new space villain Despero and “The World of No Return!

The famous roll call (in order of appearance at the bottom of the splash page) for this adventure includes the Flash, Wonder Woman, J’onn J’onzz aka the Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, Superman, Batman and Aquaman.

Join us now (on page 2) as Barry Allen, the civilian identity of the Fastest Man Alive is tooling along in his convertible on a country road when he spots something suspicious. There is a blue haze and it’s seemingly killed his engine. He then notes a blue light coming from a nearby house. Time to investigate, as the Flash!

As he races to the farmhouse, he spots a pair of people, a man and a woman, sporting green hair. From that, he deduces they must be aliens. Good thing ol’ Flash hasn’t seen the world decades later, eh? In this case, he’s correct, with a father/daughter team from Kalanor. It’s Saranna, the daughter, and Jasonar, a scientist from his world, who have arrived here via their dimensional traveler to escape the despotic Despero and to put the final touches on a device designed to absorb energy. A counterpoint to Despero’s super-energy weapons. They’re in a race against time as Despero is searching for them, but the Flash offers the help of the Justice League of American and activates his signal device, summoning his fellow league members to their secret HQ for an emergency meeting.

One by one, far and wide, the heroes get the signal and back at the farmhouse, the Flash is looking on as Jasonar explains the workings of the dimensional traveler, but there is also trouble afoot. Flash notices that Saranna has been spirited away by an otherworldly beam and now it’s being pointed and he and Jasonar, but they seem to be at least temporarily immune due to absorbing the blue glow from the dimensional traveler, so the Crimson Comet quickly scoops up Jasonar and swiftly hides away the traveler, anti-weapon and Jasonar himself in a nearby cave. Then it’s off to JLA HQ, where a surprise awaits, and it’s not a pleasant one.

Despero himself greets the Scarlet Speedster and points out how his fellow members are in a trance at the meeting table, thanks to the villain’s mystic mental powers. Since only he can release them, he is confident the Flash won’t attack and he further explains that when he captured Saranna, he read her mind to get the intel to pull off this caper. Since the Fastest Man is Alive is still protected by the blue glow, Despero proposes a little game that should look awfully familiar from the cover. The Flash is instructed to use the 64 cards provided by Despero to move the pieces that correspond with his comrades. If he wins, Despero will free his teammates and Saranna and return to Kalanor. The odds seem to be stacked in the Flash’s favor as there are 63 free squares and only one disaster square for each piece. Draw the cards, move the pieces accordingly and go from there. “If you place your piece on the single disaster square, your fellow member will be transported instantly into a dimensional world---from which I’ll make sure he can never return! Lose with all six pieces and you become my prisoner!” Feeling he has little choice, the Monarch of Motion begins.

Incredibly, as the Flash moves each piece and the card is drawn, it corresponds to a disaster square, causing Despero to teleport the corresponding member away. When the final piece is yet another losing proposition, the Flash honors the terms of their agreement and boards a dimensional traveler that Despero just happened to have on hand, since he remains immune to Despero’s powers for his own disposition.

Despero’s thoughts reveal that he rigged things with his third eye, changing each card number to the disaster square, but in his smug moment of triumph, he fails to notice he is being observed by honorary member, Snapper Carr, who promptly stows away in another dimension traveler while Despero contemplates continuing his search for Jasonar.

Chapter Two opens with Wonder Woman finding herself on a world inhabited by prehistoric dinosaurs. Eluding them with all her Amazonian skill, she finds herself in peril nonetheless when she gets stuck in a tar pit. Luckily, the Man of Steel arrives to release her. He’s able to see Batman and the Martian Manhunter on a different planet in that dimension with his telescopic vision, but as he scoops up Wonder Woman to join them, he begins to lose his super strength, feeling as though he’s exposed to green kyrponite. Sure enough, there is a boulder of the stuff at the top of a cliff. Wonder Woman uses her tiara to carve hand and footholds into the face of the cliff, climbs up and with a mighty Amazonian heave, hurls the boulder away, allowing Superman to recover and carry her high into the stratosphere so they can make the leap to the other planet.

Chapter Three brings us to the water world of Thanakon where Aquaman and Green Lantern find themselves. There’s a massive magnifying glass in the sky, focusing the rays of the sun and it’s making the water boil and evaporate and raise the temperature. Naturally, the glass is yellow, and therefore impervious to GL’s power ring. The glass is locked into a parallel rotational path with the world as well.

Aquaman discovered life below the ocean’s surface and as a temporary stopgap measure, Green Lantern uses his power ring to create some emerald glaciers to cool the waters, but they’re well on their way to the 212 degrees that will boil the oceans away. They cannot escape the planet as it’s ringed by a belt of yellow radiation, similar to the Van Allen radiation belt on Earth. The heroes continue to ponder solutions when GL says he has an idea.

Aquaman dives below and finds his powers of influencing sea creatures is intact and he orders some to the surface. It turns out they are very similar to the earth octopus and when transported to the surface of the glass, Aquaman orders them to release their inky fluid, coating the glass and stopping the effect. Further, it allows GL to place massive power-ring generated weights onto the glass, sinking it into the ocean. Just then, grateful undersea aliens arrive (although if it’s their world, I suppose they aren’t actually aliens, eh?) and offer their thanks from their transparent submarines. They also tell them that thanks to their telescopes, they’ve spotted similar humans on a nearby planet. Aquaman takes a peek and notes that it’s Batman and J’onn, but they still have no way to leave the water world until the wily GL develops yet another solution, this time with the aid of one of the subs. Using the power ring, he brings it up to jet speed and they successfully coast through the yellow belt of radiation and are on their way.

Chapter Four takes us to the world of Narx where Batman and J’onn J’onzz have just found one another. It appears to be a highly advanced world, but there’s a strange telepathic countdown going on as well. That is soon explained via telepathy by a member of this world. It seems it’s a countdown of doom and a missile of Flamerite is headed toward their sun. When it strikes and explodes it, Narx will be burnt to ashes in 3594 seconds, 3593, 3592…

To further complicate things, the world of Narx underwent complete disarmament and therefore has no weaponry to fire on the missile and Despero has further stacked the odds by placing a sentry at the top of a tower with a powerful ray-gun to shoot down any spaceships they might launch to deal with the missile. After conferring, J’onn and Batman come up with a plan. J’onn will try to neutralize the tower while Batman learns to handle a spacecraft. The Martian Manhunter tries nearly every power at his disposal, finally finding success by tunnelling beneath the tower and causing it to sink into the ground. He then signals the Caped Crusader that the coast is clear.

As J’onn enters the tower, he discovers to his great dismay that it’s manned by flame creatures, who wouldn’t look out of place alongside the original Human Torch and Toro. As fire is our hero’s weakness, he begins to figure he’s done for, but at least he has cleared the way for Batman. The cowled crimefighter has successfully altered the course of the missile and when J’onn figures he’s had it, a mighty wind paralyzes the flame creatures. It’s the Flash and just in the nick of time. The dimensional traveler just so happened to deposit him on the same world as J’onn and Batman. Soon, the gang’s all here with the arrival of Superman and Wonder Woman and Aquaman and Green Lantern.

Chapter Five opens with Despero at the controls of his dimensional traveler where he’s been feverishly searching for Jasonar and his anti-weapon. We see Snapper Carr safely concealed on the traveler, waiting for an opportunity to act.

Below, Jasonar has completed his work on the energy absorber and it’s ready to go. Abruptly, Despero arrives and overcomes Jasonar, but Snapper emerges, too and announces his intention to “queer your game.” Despero deploys his mental controls on the youth, but they don’t seem to be working. Snapper, however, acts as if they do and when Despero turns to Jasonar, Carr swiftly fires the anti-weapon at the villain and subdues him. The rest of the JLA then arrive and things get mopped up with Jasonar taking the beaten villain with him back to Kalanor in the dimensional traveler. One question remains. Why was Snapper immune to Despero’s powers? It seemed obvious to the Flash: “Just as I was immune to Despero’s mental domination because I had absorbed the blue glow of Jasonar’s dimensional traveler—so you, Snapper, were immune because you had absorbed the blue glow while inside Despero’s traveler.”

And another successful case of the Justice League of America goes in the books; you might’ve thought Julie and Gardner would have used this auspicious occasion to reveal the origin of the JLA since they chose not to do so in the Brave and Bold try out run. Readers had to plunk down 12 cents over a year later when the tale was finally told in JLA #9. [Sage #43]

These classic JLA stories were always thrilling to me as a boy. Who could resist a massive team-up of all your favorite heroes, even though it took me a long time to appreciate the work of Mike Sekowsky? Still and all, my hat is off to the man for successfully rendering an entire stable of heroes, issue after issue and as fast as has been reported. Long time readers may recall that the wonderful Joe Giella referred to Mike as “the speed merchant.” [Sage #171 ]

This story easily ranks a maximum 10 rating for being a true classic DC Silver Age gem and my thanks to the webmaster for suggesting it. I’ll admit as we creep closer and closer to 500 reviews here at the Silver Age Sage, I don’t always remember what’s been covered and what hasn’t and frankly, I thought I’d reviewed this one long ago. Gotta work harder on a searchable database…

While the jury is still out on how well they translated to the big screen (yeah, I have a copy in my personal library), the exploits of the JLA have long thrilled me in the comics, well into the Bronze Age and for me, it seldom got better for sheer satisfying entertainment.

One final trivial tidbit. This classic cover was given the homage treatment in the April 1992 issue of Justice League of America #61. Not nearly as often as Carmine Infantino’s immortal cover to the Flash #123, [Sage #33] but still a nice gesture.

Remember, faithful readers, we’ve been here for two decades and have no intention of going anywhere soon, so do join us again on the 15th for a new review. Meanwhile, you know the drill: Feedback, questions and comments are welcome, always. Just shoot a message to me at my e-mail: professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you again and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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