A Tribute to the of

Year Four.  I find it amazing as I take to my keyboard that this edition of the Silver Age Sage marks 4 years of effort.  Twice a month for four years I've had the great privilege of producing these ponderings about the era in the history of DC comics that I hold in such high regard.  Together we've explored some of the best and some of the mediocre that the genre had to offer.  We've looked at landmark issues and out and out turkeys.  We've lost some friends along the way, to include Gil Kane and more recently the living legend, Julius Schwartz.  Fortunately, the legacy they've left behind grants them a bit of immortality and we will continue to honor their memory as this feature rolls on into the future.  Thanks, as always, for joining the Webmaster and I for the ride. 

The selection for this edition was a fairly obvious one.  I'd like to mark the anniversary once again with the annual teaming of the Justice League of America and their Earth-Two counterparts in the Justice Society of America.  I skipped ahead last year in the chronology.  Since I have a collection of reprints at my disposal and the pairing in issues #37 and #38 tickled my fancy, that's what I went with.  The anal retentive part of me is taking over this time, though and we'll back track to the second team-up of the greatest heroes of two worlds when we look between the covers of Justice League of America #29 and #30 from August and September of 1964, respectively.  Cover art credits for both issues go to Mike Sekowsky and Murphy Anderson with lettering by Ira Schnapp.  Inside, the stories come to us once again from the amazing Gardner Fox with art supplied by Mike Sekowsky and Bernard SachsGaspar Saladino provides interior lettering for #29 while in #30 the task fell to Milton Snapinn.  Editor Julius Schwartz, as usual, ably provided all oversight.  Now, let's get down to business as we check out "Crisis on Earth-Three!"

The splash page gives us a nice introduction not only of the players, but also of the likely action.  "On Earth-One, the Justice League of America has never been defeated in its ceaseless war against crime and injustice…" Directly below that block of text we see our lineup representing the JLA:  The Flash, Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman and Green Lantern.  "On Earth-Two, the Justice Society of America has tasted only victory as it battles against the forces of evil…" This time the roster includes Hawkman, Black Canary, Doctor Fate, Dr. Mid-Nite and Starman.  As you can see, they've shuffled the players a bit, just like in my last review.  Starman and Dr. Mid-Nite are the "newbies" in this case.  "Now meet the super-powered beings of Earth-Three…triumphant in every one of their missions…" The roll call for this newly introduced group includes Superwoman, who wields a golden lasso just like Wonder Woman; Owlman, whose costume is similar to that of Batman; Ultraman, a fair facsimile of Superman; Johnny Quick, who closely resembles The Flash and Power Ring, who very nearly mimics Green Lantern. 

On the following page the action begins, first on Earth-One in Central City where The Flash is disarming a pair of thugs intent on shooting a police officer.  The scene shifts rapidly to The Flash of Earth-Two in Keystone City, where Jay (Flash) Garrick is escorting a pair of criminals to the police station.  Then we peek in on a third scarlet speedster in action on Earth-Three, but his activities are much less altruistic.  Johnny Quick has just stolen a valuable sculpture from the art museum, valued at a million credits.  As he begins to speed away, a metallic net falls onto him. He vibrates free before the police can capture him, but he muses that he's gotten rusty having very little in the way of impediments to his crimes.  Power Ring and Superwoman come to the same sort of conclusions as they fight off efforts to subdue them.  Our writer then lets us know that Earth-Three is quite a different place from Earths One and Two.  The similarities of namesake heroes such as The Flash, Green Lantern and the Atom are displayed and it is then explained that Earth-Three has evolved quite differently.  A short run through the history of the planet demonstrates the point.  Christopher Columbus, an American, is shown discovering Europe.  Colonial England won her freedom from the United States and the actor Abraham Lincoln shot President John Wilkes Booth.  Consequently, the super-beings of Earth-Three are criminals who have banded together to form the Crime Syndicate of America in this topsy-turvy version of Earth. 

We now join the Crime Syndicate in their secret sanctuary where the members are comparing notes and are in agreement that they're losing their fighting edge due to the lack of worthy adversaries.  Owlman dubs it a "crisis."  Soon the final member, Ultraman, joins them and announces a discovery.  He describes a recent robbery at the museum of natural history where he obtained his coveted item, a newly landed kryptonite meteor.  In Ultraman's case, exposure to kryptonite gives him a new power and this time he received ultra vision, which enabled him to observe the Justice League in action on Earth-One.  He was astounded to see them averting, rather than committing crimes and he suggests Power Ring use his ring to open the dimensional barriers between the worlds so the others can observe, too.  After studying matters for a while, the group excitedly decide to pay a visit to Earth-One to pit themselves against the JLA.  (How Superwoman knew it was "Earth-One" is anyone's guess.)  Owlman, whose renowned intellect allows their crimes to come off without a hitch, suggests some contingency planning just in case things don't go quite according to plan and Part I ends.

Part II shows the Crime Syndicate rapidly overrunning Earth-One.  As the reports stream over the radio at Justice League HQ, the heroes fan out to take on each villain that sounds like they have complimentary abilities. 

The first close encounter has The Flash arriving at a bank in Central City, but instead of finding Johnny Quick, it's Ultraman in attendance.  Barely pausing, Flash creates a powerful wind around Ultraman to subdue him.  Ultraman reacts with a burst of ultra breath to blow the Scarlet Speedster into the wall.  Flash vibrates through harmlessly and then arrives at a plan.  He swiftly retrieves a chunk of green kryptonite from a nearby museum and hurls it at Ultraman.  The grinning criminal states that the mineral will serve only to give him a new power.  In this case, he can now shoot fire from his eyes.  Before he can harm our hero, though, Flash vibrates through the floor and appears behind Ultraman, using his rapidly moving hands to pummel Ultraman with tremendous air pressure.  Before the villain from Earth-Three succumbs, however, he follows Owlman's plan and utters a strange word:  "Volthoom!"  Flash asks what's happening, but we'll have to find out later because the scene has switched.

We now see Batman arriving at the scene of the crime in Gotham City, but rather than finding Owlman, it's Johnny Quick.  Never skipping a beat, the Dark Knight lives up to his nickname with a sleep gas pellet that emits dark clouds.  Quick counters with some super speed arm wind milling that drives the gas toward our hero.  Batman leaps through the clouds and takes the villain into a judo hold.  His adversary swiftly reverses the hold and sends Batman tumbling, but when he goes in for the final blow, the Gotham Goliath drops him with a right cross.  He doesn't lose consciousness, however, until he manages to also utter the mysterious "Volthoom!

Another swift change of scenery finds Superman about to engage Power Ring, who is emptying a bank, quite literally via a pair of massive emerald hands, of gold ingots.  The Man of Steel wrenches the bank building away and places it back onto its foundation.  He then flies toward Power Ring, confident that the ring's emanations will have no power on his invulnerable body.  Unfortunately, he is mistaken and the first blow sends him sprawling.  Krypton's favorite son briefly wonders whether the ring's powers could be gifted with magic or kryptonite, but has little time to consider matters.  He scoops up some of the golden bars from the bank and forms a massive shield, reasoning that yellow is the enemy of Green Lantern and therefore it may be the same for Power Ring.  Obviously he failed to notice that the massive hand created by Power Ring had no trouble scooping up the gold bars.  Power Ring sends a clear message by melting the shield with emerald flames.  Superman tries using a massive tree as a weapon, thinking that perhaps the wood weakness of Earth-Two's GL may be the answer, but Power Ring again demonstrates that this latest defense won't slow him down by chopping it up with a ring created buzz saw.  Finally, Superman triumphs by sucking the air around Power Ring into his mighty lungs, causing the Crime Syndicate member to black out, but once again the word "Volthoom!" is uttered. 

We now join our favorite Amazon Princess as she catches up with Superwoman, the only hero thus far to tackle their counterpart.  Another fierce but brief battle takes place and when Wonder Woman triumphs, successfully trussing Superwoman up in her golden lariat, the strange word is once again brought into play.

Now, we travel to Gotham City, where Owlman is robbing a jewel salon with the help of some knockout gas.  Green Lantern has arrived in time to absorb the gas and to place Owlman into a cage, but to his chagrin, he's made the bars too wide and the villain easily slips between them.  Owlman then uses his utility belt and draws his illumina-gun, but not before GL revamps the cage, making the bars much closer together and causing the villain to collide with them.  This time, however, the criminal vaults over the bars as the Emerald Gladiator has failed to put a ceiling on it.  Green Lantern then realizes that Owlman, with his super brain, has been manipulating his will.  He swiftly uses his ring to put a force field around his mind and then knocks his adversary out with a green boxing glove.  Owlman, however, is prepared.  "Even as my conscious mind blanks out under that blow—my sub-conscious mind will take over and put me into Earth-Three by making me say—Volthoom!"  Part II closes.

Part III brings a sobering sight as the assembled Crime Syndicate, safely back at their sanctuary; stand triumphant over the dazed members of the Justice League.  The sudden intradimensional shift has left our heroes dazed and the villains explain how they pulled it off.  Power Ring had placed a vibratory power in each member of the Syndicate so that their bodies would be instantly returned to Earth-Three upon their saying the trigger word of "Volthoom!"  So where did they get the word?  Power Ring elaborates:  "Volthoom was the name of the Poonghie (Buddhist Monk, according to our editor) who gave me this mystic power ring!  Because it is magical in nature, it was able to defeat you, Superman!"  Owlman then tells the JLA that while they've never tasted defeat on their world, neither has the Crime Syndicate been anything but victorious on Earth-Three, so they're counting on home field advantage as they engage the Justice League yet again.  This time the villains triumph, but it is a hollow victory, as they observe that they've only proven that each team is mightier on their own world.  A decision is made to prove once and for all which group is more powerful by moving the setting to a neutral ground.  Ultraman declares that Earth-Two is ideal.  Power Ring sends our subdued heroes back to Justice League headquarters and immobilizes them to the table, their hands on the surface, while they lay plans to conquer the Justice Society prior to their final showdown with the heroes of Earth-One. 

Unknown to the Crime Syndicate, however, the heroes of Earth-Two are aware of the surveillance being done to their world.  Starman's Cosmic Rod reveals that they're being watched from another world and that it isn't Earth-One.  Doctor Fate opens the transdimensional barrier to check on the Justice League and then uses his mystic powers to free them from their trance so that they can speak and reveal what has happened.  The Justice League members caution the Justice Society about not touching the Crime Syndicate until they've defeated them to avoid their fate.  The Justice Society assures the heroes of Earth-One that they will beat the menace and this issue comes to a close.

Issue #30 is entitled "The Most Dangerous Earth of All!"  After a short recap, we join the JSA as they ponder how to prepare for the imminent arrival of the Crime Syndicate of America.  They're not able to work on the problem for long, though, as one by one the super villains of Earth-Three appear right in their meeting room.  Each individual battle soon begins, the first between Johnny Quick and Hawkman.

The Winged Wonder leads Quick outside the secret sanctuary and uses the suction of his pinions in concert with his super speed to lift the thug high above the ground.  Back and forth the pair jockey for advantage, using super speed and mastery of the air to manipulate one another until finally Hawkman, being drawn toward his foe, dives forward, causing Johnny Quick to backpedal until he can land a mighty blow to his chin.  When Hawkman declares victory by stating, "I've won!" a disembodied voice retorts:  "You think you've won, Hawkman.  Actually, you've lost!"

Shift scenes to another battle, this time between Doctor Fate and Power Ring, who is emerging from the good doctor's crystal ball.  It's a test of magical powers as the ring creates a huge, groping hand that is quickly neutralized by the Master Mage.  Then menacing green mosquitoes seek out the Justice Society Member who counters with a magically endowed net, causing them to pop out of existence.  Finally, Fate goes on the offensive with a wheel of the zodiac.  Power Ring causes the wheel to dissipate, but the emblems continue toward him and pummel him into unconsciousness. "Insuring my triumph!" declares Doctor Fate, but again the voice:  "On the contrary, Doctor Fate!  It has resulted in your defeat!"

The next contest is between Owlman and Dr. Mid-Nite, who swiftly starts things off with one of his patented blackout bombs.  Mid-Nite works his way toward his foe, but Owlman is unaffected by the artificial night and swings a mighty blow at our hero, only to discover he's connected with a formless image.  It seems Dr. Mid-Nite tossed a distortion blackout bomb, just in case.  He then follows up by blasting a hole in the ground to catch the master criminal.  Unfortunately, Owlman switches tactics and uses his mental powers to draw Mid-Nite toward him, right across the trap.  Not realizing he's directly in front of the gaping hole, Owlman swings at the JSA member, who has fallen across the hole and managed to get a grip on the opposite ledge.  Owlman, meanwhile, plummets into the trap.  Once more, the strange voice has a reply for our hero's triumphant cry:  "I beat him!"  "No, Dr. Mid-Nite—Owlman beat you!"

Fade now to a pair of girl gladiators as Superwoman tries to make short work of Black Canary.  Using her athletic skills to avoid the golden lasso of Superwoman, Black Canary pulls a frigi-pellet from her amulet and tosses it into the open mouth of Superwoman, freezing her vocal chords so that she cannot speak the dreaded "Volthoom!"  A few quick judo moves allows Black Canary to truss up Superwoman with her own lariat.  "I'll tap you three times—just as a wrestling referee would—to signal I'm the winner of our bout!"  "Tough break, Black Canary!  By winning—you lose!"

Ultraman and Starman are the contenders in the final challenge and Starman wastes no time in using his amazing Cosmic Rod to propel Ultraman into space.  Quickly following, the Astral Avenger follows up by directing a meteor shower at the villain.  Ultraman counters by fusing them into one huge mass that he tosses back at his opponent.  Starman uses the rod's power to alter the nature of the sphere to make it into a nuclear bomb, reasoning that while Ultraman is invulnerable, it may weaken him sufficiently for Starman's purposes.  The blast rocks the criminal from Earth-Three, but the battle rages on as Starman follows up with a solar prominence.  Ultraman realizes that if he can relieve our hero of his cosmic rod, he'll be powerless, so he proceeds to do just that by beaming heat vision at the rod until the Astral Avenger cannot maintain his grip.  Scooping it up, Ultraman gloats that with the addition of the cosmic rod to his already formidable powers, he's now invincible.  He's in for a rude surprise, however, when he discovers that the rod is composed of anti-matter.  Starman had created it with his real cosmic rod as a decoy and soon the faux rod, in contact with the matter of Ultraman's body causes the inevitable explosion, powerful enough to knock the super villain out.  For a final time, we hear the words of the menacing voice:   "Seeing is not believing, Starman!  Ultraman has won—and you have lost!" Volthoom!" could trigger their transition to Earth-Three, simply stating that they'd won would do the job.  Chapter One closes on that note.

Chapter Two finds the Justice League being transported by an emerald beam to Earth-Two for a final showdown.  The Crime Syndicate wastes no time in eagerly attacking, but the Justice League follows a proven plan of action by watching each other's backs and teaming up against the super villains of Earth-Three, effectively thwarting the first salvos.  Soon afterward it's one on one, first with The Man of Steel and Ultraman flying into space where Superman has spotted a massive kryptonite meteor.  Ultraman, thinking the Man of Tomorrow is trying to get to the meteor to enhance his powers, heads quickly toward it and finds himself immobilized.  The meteor has overloaded his system and he is helpless, as Superman had hoped. 

Now it's a battle of power rings as Green Lantern and Power Ring square off with the JLA member firing a beam at Power Ring's ring.  Power Ring, thinking Hal is trying to remove his ring, says it won't be that easy and he forms a giant hammer to pummel Earth One's Green Lantern.  To his surprise, however, he cannot budge the huge weapon.  Green Lantern's thoughts are available to us and we learn that in reality he'd pulled a similar maneuver to Superman's by adding power from his ring to that of his opponent's and counting on Power Ring's inability to control it.  A good old fashioned right cross puts the criminal out of action. 

Wonder Woman is on the same wavelength as well, when she allows Superwoman to take her golden lasso.  Superwoman struggles to control both lariats and while she does, the Amazing Amazon puts her down for the count.

Shift now to twin crimson comets as the Flash and Johnny Quick engage and the Fastest Man Alive, at least on Earth-One, uses the combination of his super speed and that of Quick's to draw his opponent into a suction force that causes him to overload his body and collapse.

The last combatants, Batman and Owlman are in a good old fashioned fist fight, but Owlman has the advantage of using his mental powers to thwart Batman's attempts until the Caped Crime fighter turns the tables on him by turning his back and responding in the opposite to Owlman's mental commands until he lands a haymaker. 

With the Earth-Three villains in their custody, the Justice League must now decide what to do with them.  The pondering begins on the next page, which is also the beginning of Chapter Three.

First, the Justice Leaguers muse that they could leave them imprisoned on Earth-Two, but the horrified expressions on the Crime Syndicate member's faces give them pause.  Putting them on Earth-One is then suggested, but the worried looks continue.  Another notion is brought up to place them in the vibrational barrier between Earths Two and Three.  This time it's smiles all around and the intrigued Justice League decide to get to the bottom of things.  Green Lantern commands the ring on Power Ring's finger to fill them in:  "When they imprisoned the Justice Society members on Earth-Three, Owlman suggested that they take one last precaution…they so constructed their prison that if the Justice Society is ever freed from it—a special device would automatically blow up Earths One and Two!"

Armed with this new knowledge, the JLA goes to work.  First, Green Lantern places the Crime Syndicate into the misty borderland between worlds.  Then, they go to Earth-Three to free the JSA.  After successfully neutralizing the trap, the JLA fill in the JSA and Superman describes the precautions taken to assure their long-term incarceration.  The dimensional barrier jail, a familiar shade of green, bears warnings in many languages that state:  WARNING!  Anyone attempting to set free the Crime Syndicate will destroy both themselves and the prisoners!  They will be all right if left alone and—so will you!  The greatest heroes of Earth One and Earth Two then depart to their respective worlds as the curtain falls on this two-part epic. 

Those who have read the Crisis on Infinite Earths series know that the first casualty in the story is Earth-Three and we observe the Crime Syndicate, while heroically trying to save their world, become nothingness.  That would lead me to believe that at some point they escaped their prison, after a bit of research I found that my hunch was correct. The March 1978 issue, #13, of The Secret Society of Super-Villains chronicles their escape and #14 shows their rampage of revenge. (I do sort of wonder how they lived in the emerald prison, which didn't have so much as a stick of furniture in it, but I guess all things are possible in the world of comics.) 

As usual, I enjoyed another of the greatest team-up stories of the era.  The JLA/JSA crossovers never fail to please and I must admit that sometimes I miss Earth-Two.  I should also mention that I recently caught the first of the two-part Justice League episode "The Terror Beyond" that gave us the second animation appearance (the first occured in the Superman animated series episode "The Hand of Fate") of Doctor Fate, who tends to be the hero most identified with the Justice Society of America.  I tend to be a purist, but I liked the streamlined uniform and mask and his voice had the echoing, disembodied quality I'd always imagined.  I can't wait to catch part two. A maximum rating of 10 for this great two-part story, even though Mike Sekowsky's blocky, nearly overweight looking Ultraman left a little something to be desired.       

Thanks for seeing us through another milestone here at the Silver Lantern.  Never fear.  There is plenty more in store and with your kind patronage and feedback, it will be even better in the future.  I've got a veritable treasure trove that waits to be explored, so be sure and join the Webmaster and I every two weeks for another journey into the greatest era in comics.  Write me at professor_the@hotmail.com with any suggestions, accolades, questions or requests and I'l l be happy to reply.

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2004 by B.D.S.

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