A Tribute to the of

On a recent Saturday morning I didn't have much to do, so I took a walk through the neighborhood.  It's a nice, tidy neighborhood and I often tell people I feel like I live near Beaver Cleaver.  I inevitably began to think of how I used to spend Saturday morning in my boyhood.  Those were pretty happy, carefree days and a lot of them centered on the collection of comics I shared with my best friend, our webmaster.  I still think that's a lot of the appeal to these old pulp wonders.  They always take me back to that place.  It' s a nice place to be.  Thus inspired, I came home and rummaged around, finally selecting a tried and true title, the Justice League of America.  The ultimate team-up magazine.  I was also thinking about how in a recent review I'd mentioned the stories of how both the Atom and Hawkman were inducted into the League.  With that in mind I thought we'd take a look at Justice League of America #14, dated September 1962, which features the Atom's initiation.  The story is called "The Menace of the Atom Bomb!"  Writing credits go to the great Gardner Fox, with cover art courtesy of Murphy Anderson with long-time JLA stalwarts Mike Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs rendering the interior action.

The story opens in the JLA's secret mountain headquarters where a balloting exercise is happening.  After the ballots are cast, to include proxy votes for Superman and Batman, Snapper Carr announces a unanimous vote to admit the newest member of the Justice League of America, The Atom.  A puzzled Snapper then asks just who the Atom is.  Perplexed, the rest of the League discovers that despite their votes, they can't recall who the Atom is either.  Flash then suggests that Green Lantern query his amazing ring to try and solve the mystery.  GL promptly does so and the ring, Green Lantern's answer to Google, begins to narrate a short history of the Atom, who works for justice and against crime in and around Ivy Town.  It recounts his first publicized case against the tiny alien from Julnar (Showcase #34) and also describes "The Doom from Beyond!," and his capture of the Disappearing Act Robber; exposure of the false scientist, Anton Kraft and his prevention of the plant conquest of Earth.  (Atom #1)  The members of the Justice League are impressed, but still confused as to why they have no memory of the Mighty Mite.  A decision is soon made to seek out the Atom in Ivy Town and discuss matters with him as a way to unravel the puzzle.  The Martian Manhunter volunteers to go and Chapter One closes with the adjournment of the meeting of the Justice League of America.

Part Two changes scenes to a courtroom in Ivy Town where the World's Smallest Superhero is being sworn in as a witness when a man in the gallery, acting at the behest of "Mister Memory," who apparently slipped him a "century note" (I'm guessing $100.00) fires an invisible ray at the Tiny Titan, which promptly robs him of his memory.  Interestingly enough, it also seems to successfully erase his identity from the minds of those in the courtroom as well.  The judge orders him removed and as the bailiff moves forward to carry out the judge's wishes, Ray (Atom) Palmer panics and jumps out a nearby window to escape the "giants" that surround him.  He manages to break his fall on a convertible car roof and we then join a group that is watching our hero on a surveillance screen.  It's a collection of villains who mean to do harm to the Justice League of America.  Mister Memory, garbed in a hooded cloak that conceals his face, is also in attendance and the gathered criminals acknowledge the power of his de-memorizer.  Each wants their own opportunity to use it against their favorite nemeses in the JLA.

Flipping the page, we see that J'onn J'onzz has arrived at Ivy Town and plans to use his Martian vision to seek out the Atom.  In the next panel, we join Green Lantern at his home town of Coast City.  He has just spotted a man with an oversized cranium on a balcony who resembles one of his foes, Hector Hammond.  The man announces that he is, indeed, Hector Hammond and as he dashes inside he thinks to himself that he has used the same evolution meter he'd used once before in battling GL (our editor Julius Schwartz reminds us that it was in Green Lantern #5, "Power Ring that Vanished!") but this time he's used it on himself.  Once inside, Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan sees that Hammond has used his new mental abilities to create multiple images of himself as decoys while he uses mind over matter to hurl inanimate objects in the room at the Emerald Warrior.  Thinking quickly, Hal spreads a wide heat beam over the many Hammonds and as soon as he sees the sweat on the real Hector's brow, he prepares to capture him, but before he can do so, Hammond pulls out the de-memorizer and successfully incapacitates Jordan.  A little later Hector is delivering the amnesia stricken Green Lantern to Mister Memory, commenting that it's a good thing he'd been equipped with a special pill to counteract the effects of the de-memorizer. 

We now join Flash in Central City where he's just encountered one of his rogue's gallery members, the Pied Piper, wielder of the Super-Sonic Flute.  Instantly he brings his weapon into play, turning the street beneath Flash's feet to liquid.  The Fastest Man Alive counters by rotating at super-speed, which causes him to rise via centrifugal force.  Realizing his methods aren't working, the Piper deploys the de-memorizer, bringing the Sultan of Speed to his confused knees. 

Next, far beneath the surface of the ocean, off the coast of California, Aquaman has run across the Sea-Thief, a man in full scuba gear with a holster at his side and dollar signs (really!) on the sides of his diving hood.  He draws the King of the Seven Seas past a booby-trapped sea chest which disperses explosive gas bubbles, but Aquaman uses his telepathic powers to call upon a pair of mantas to draw the bubbles away with their wing-like appendages.  The Sea-Thief follows the same modus operandi as his fellow crooks and beams the de-memorizer at his foe, robbing him of his memory.

Next up, Wonder Woman is engaging Angle Man, who has lain in wait for the Amazon princess with some self-propelled, atomic tipped fence pickets.  Swiftly bringing her golden lasso into play, Wonder Woman twirls it at a high rate of speed, causing the pickets to lose their velocity.  The bespectacled Angle Man then uses his de-memorizer to neutralize the Amazing Amazon. 

Another change of scene finds Green Arrow, traveling in his arrow plane.  He's in the midst of capturing a runaway hot air balloon with an arrow attached to a metal cable when one of his foes, Doctor Davis, arrives in his own aircraft and fires powerful bolts of electricity at the cable in hopes of knocking the Emerald Archer senseless.  In the blink of an eye the Battling Bowman fires a handy lightning rod arrow, drawing away the bolts, but while he does so, Davis fires the de-memorizer, sidelining another member of the JLA for delivery to Mister Memory in Ivy Town.

Speaking of Mister Memory, he is driving at a high rate of speed along a country road when he spots the Martian Manhunter, who in turn has just located the Atom.  When J'onn catches up with the Atom he attempts to inform the frightened hero about his identity, but before he can do so the Atom vanishes.  Mister Memory, meanwhile, has brought the Martian low under the insidious de-memorizer.  Where is the Atom?  Shrinking rapidly and closing out Chapter Two.

Chapter Three finds the Tiny Titan in a strange world of misshapen objects more likely seen under a microscope.  The shock of it all restores his memory and he recalls being in the courtroom and just seeing the Martian Manhunter.  He had been so startled that he brushed against his size-control device on his belt causing him to shrink rapidly into this ultra-microscopic world.  Palmer now reverses his descent to regain his classic 6-inch stature and to investigate matters.  When he reappears, the Atom spots the cloaked figure of Mister Memory escorting the Martian Manhunter to his vehicle (which looks a lot like about a '59 Ford) so the Mighty Mite bends back a nearby sapling and uses it to launch himself onto the rear bumper and tag a discreet ride.  He soon finds himself at a mansion on the outskirts of Ivy Town and as he follows Mister Memory and the Martian Manhunter inside he recognizes the other criminals present from newspaper features he's seen.  The assembled miscreants ask why they had to be in such close proximity to the heroes when using the de-memorizer and the cloaked figure responds that it would only work that way, since a person's memories of themselves are strongest.  The pills that protected their memories allowed them to follow their mission of bringing them in and now that the JLA is out of the way, the world is their oyster.  As the malefactors depart, Mr. Memory leads J'onn to the entryway where his fellow League members await.  The Atom takes the opportunity to climb the cloak of the mysterious figure to take him down.  Grasping the edge of his hood, the World's Smallest Super-hero swings around and adjusts his weight control to land a 180-pound blow to the concealed face in the hood.  Memory topples to the floor and the Atom simultaneously drops away as well.  Unfortunately, the sinister figure falls into a floor lamp that just happens to topple onto Palmer, putting him down for the count.  Moments later the cloaked villain revives and spots the prone figure of the Atom.  Fearing that the de-memorizer has worn off and therefore might also fail to be effective on the other members of the JLA, he takes a drastic step.  Carrying the Atom in a vise that pins his arms and denies access to his size and weight controls, he goes downstairs into a playroom that contains a bowling alley.  The Justice League of America is standing at the end, just like rigid bowling pins.  Mr. Memory then places the Tiny Titan inside a glass sphere that is filled with a powerful explosive gas and intends to use this "Atom bomb" as a bowling ball to destroy the JLA.  The Mighty Mite protests that Memory will be destroyed in the resulting explosion as well, but the fiend seems completely uncaring and launches the sphere down the alley.  The Atom quickly increases his weight in the rolling sphere and slams himself into the sides to divert its deadly trajectory and ultimately bringing it safely to a stop.  A swift shrinking maneuver allows him to escape the sphere.  He then uses his 180-pound force to knock Green Lantern over so that he can gain access to the power ring.  Grasping the gem with both hands as he leans on GL's fist, he wills the ring to stop the second explosive sphere that Mr. Memory has launched.  Success!  He then wills the ring to subdue the villain and to restore the memories of the assembled heroes.  As they recover, they converge as one on the subdued Mr. Memory.  Flash removes his hood to reveal…Batman!  The curtain then closes on Chapter Three.

Chapter Four begins with Green Lantern's ring coming to the rescue again.  Acting on a hunch, Hal commands it to restore Batman's memory and the Caped Crusader then explains that he had been pursuing the Joker when the real Mr. Memory struck with the de-memorizer and made Batman his unwilling lackey.  He describes how he was fitted with the cloak, which contained special equipment allowing the villain to see and hear what the Batman was seeing and hearing, but also allowing him to manipulate the Dark Knight with voice commands.  He didn't trust the crooks he'd be dealing with and also feared the JLA, so the Gotham Goliath became his surrogate.  Unfortunately, Batman has no memory of where the hideout of Mr. Memory is located.  J'onn J'onzz offers that he has an idea and invites the Flash to tag along.  Racing at super speed, the duo soon enter a large house and find none other than Professor Amos Fortune, a villain they'd battled previously in Justice League of America #6, "The Wheel of Misfortune!"  Fortune admits that he created the de-memorizer in prison, no longer trusting his efforts to luck and that he used his new device to escape and planned to rob at will once the JLA was neutralized.  J'onn then explains how he was able to home in on him, via the frequency pulsations from the cloak Batman wore that he could successfully track with his Martian vision.  Fortune is escorted to prison and the League members agree to hunt down the other fugitives and rendezvous back at HQ in two day's time.

After the successful mission of rounding up the fugitives, they do indeed return to headquarters with the Atom as special guest.  Wonder Woman announces that the Atom has been elected the newest member of the Justice League.  He humbly accepts and they proceed to show him his specially sized chair at the table.  Superman then arrives, having just returned from the Phantom Zone and then Green Lantern shows the Atom the features of his chair, which is strategically placed between hidden magnetic plates in the floor and ceiling, allowing him to hover at eye level and join in discussions.  The final part of the membership package is a miniature transistor that serves as the signal device for all members of the League.  With the Atom now a full-fledged member in good standing, they proceed to tell Snapper about the adventure that his just taken place and the story comes to a close. 

I've seldom read a story of the Justice League of America from this era that I haven't loved.  Gardner Fox consistently delivered superior stories that were imaginative, action-packed and enjoyable.  The interaction between the members, the seemingly impossible dilemmas, the splendid teamwork and skills all came together into a terrific adventure time after time.  Some high points to this particular story were the lineup of established villains and the return of Amos Fortune.  I think it added an extra element of depth that enhanced the story that much more.  Leave us not forget the important presence of the Atom.  I believe this is a classic and rate it a maximum 10.

Any questions or comments about this feature?  Let me know.  You can express yourself at professor_the@hotmail.com and I'll be glad to chat.  Meanwhile, the next edition of this feature will be available in about two weeks, as usual and you'll have new fodder to consider as we continue to explore this, the finest age in comics.

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2004 by B.D.S.

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