A Tribute to the of

You are perusing yet another major milestone in the history of this feature.  This marks not only installment number 120, but also the 5th anniversary of this, the Silver Age Sage series of comic reviews.  Not a bad run, so far, if I do say so myself.  As always, I extend my gratitude to those of you who have taken the time to not only read, but to e-mail me with encouragement, questions and suggestions and even the occasional request.  It all helps to come up with an improved end result.  My partner in this endeavor (he supplies the majority of the technical details and cover scans and is a wonderful editor) the webmaster, must be acknowledged, too for his invaluable help.  I certainly feel it's a team effort and continue to enjoy myself immensely. 

To mark the occasion and to continue in our tribute to the 70th anniversary of what we now know as DC comics, I've selected another classic tale from the Golden Age.  It seemed like a logical choice, too, keeping in mind my traditional anniversary offerings.  It was one of the very first major team-up stories, both in terms of heroes and villains.  Join me now as we turn the pages of All-Star Comics #37 from November of 1947, as reprinted in 1990's "The Greatest Golden Age Stories Ever Told," where the Justice Society of America takes on the Injustice Society of the World.  Our writer is none other than the amazing Gardner Fox (certain on-line reference sites give sole credit to either Robert Kanigher or John Broome).  For a story of this magnitude Editor Sheldon Mayer, assisted by Julius Schwartz, called in a crack team of artists, many of whom would rack up impressive credentials in the Silver Age, to include Irwin Hasen, Joe Kubert, Carmine Infantino and Alex Toth.  The colorist was Helen Vesik.

And now, the ever popular roll call:  On the side of Justice, it's Hawkman, The Flash, Dr. Mid-Nite, Green Lantern, The Atom, Johnny Thunder and Wonder Woman.  For Injustice, we have The Wizard, The Thinker, The Brain Wave, The Gambler, Vandal Savage and Degaton.  Let the contest begin!

Things begin on a set of a radio station, where the members of the JSA are gathered to be honored by Carlton Swayne, the announcer and a law-and-order type in his own right.  Oddly, however, when the broadcast begins, Swyane's monologue says that evil is that force that will carry the day and that the rightful honorees should be the Injustice Society of the World.  He then draws and fires a weapon toward the JSA members.  Fortunately Wonder Woman uses her amazing Amazon reflexes and bracelets to deflect the rounds while the Atom tries to apprehend the assailant.  He takes a swing, using his famed atomic punch, but Carlton crashes through a window and disappears.  The Mighty Mite comments that when he struck their attacker it felt like he'd hit straw.  Hawkman then verifies it by discovering and scooping up some straw from beneath the window.  Green Lantern has seen enough and announces an emergency meeting at Justice Society headquarters.

Later, assembled at their HQ, the Justice Society discusses this mysterious new threat in the Injustice Society.  No one has heard of this group and Flash comments that he hasn't heard of any crimes in the last month other than two small jail breaks in the west.  Wonder Woman then notes a signal light on a nearby piece of radio equipment indicating a special broadcast from the FBI in Washington.  The bulletin describes three more simultaneous jail breaks in different parts of the country.  The JSA ponders this new development for a moment when Dr. Mid-Nite arrives, carrying a page from Carlton Swayne's script.  He reads it to the assembly:  "Therefore, as of this day and hour, the mighty Injustice Society of the World declares war on the forces of law and order!  We will wipe truth and justice from the Earth!  Take heed!  Join our growing ranks—or die!"  The magnitude of the situation dawns on the heroes as they decide they're about to enter a full-blown war with the Injustice Society, who appear to be gathering members to their ranks through the jail breaks that have been happening.  Green Lantern suggests that they'll need to do a pre-emptive strike and that they'll have to split up in order to cover the whole country.  He begins dispatching his fellow members as follow:  Hawkman in the west; Dr. Mid-Nite in the south; Flash in the central United States while he'll take the North.  Johnny Thunder and Wonder Woman are asked to man the fort. 

We now switch scenes to another round table meeting, this time with the Injustice Society of the World.  The Wizard is conducting this meeting and announces that the JSA has fallen for their trap.  Brain Wave states that the page of script was planted by them and that the jail breaks were also of their design.  Now that the JSA is divided, the members of the Injustice Society intend to spring their own attack.  The Wizard shows a segment on the map of the United States behind him around the four corners area that they control.  The map itself is green and the region he points to is black.  He says that soon the map will be all black and all theirs.  They vow to succeed in destroying truth and justice and then do a similar divide and conquer strategy with Vandal Savage heading off to engage Hawkman; the Thinker pursuing the Flash; The Gambler taking on the Atom, Degaton seeking out Dr. Mid-Nite and the Brain Wave tackling Green Lantern.  The first chapter then closes.

Chapter two opens outside Gartmoor prison where a strange aircraft is flying low and dropping thousands of leaflets under the direction of Vandal Savage.  In the office of the warden, one of the leaflets has come in through the window.  The warden reads it:  "Prisoners!  You are free!  Come and join our great Army at once!  The Injustice Society."  He strides to the exit, only to discover bars blocking his departure.  In the prison yard, more bars spring up around the guards and the convicts are free, but they soon begin forming up ranks to follow the invitation of the Injustice Society.  Hawkman soon arrives to try and stop them, but he is intercepted by Vandal Savage, the man who is a million years old.  Hawkman takes a swing at Savage, who promptly disappears, along with the former prisoners.  Hawkman flies to the prison proper and speaks briefly with the warden before contacting JSA HQ.  He tells them to contact the Federal Government and to get the country under martial law to deal with this growing threat.

The winged wonder is now circling the local airport when he notes that the terminal has been overtaken by the former inmates and that the federal planes are walking (flying?) into an ambush.  Hawkman boards the lead plane to warn them and the chief responds by leveling his pistol at our hero.  The surprised Hawkman strikes the lawman, who promptly leaps from the aircraft.  Hawkman notes that part of the chief's coat was torn off, revealing pieces of straw.  Soon the planes land and the Feds and Hawkman plow into the criminals, but suddenly Hawkman finds himself imprisoned by a cage.  He then spots Vandal Savage, who gloats that he's using a metal projector created by Brain Wave and that Hawkman's previous encounter was with a projected image of Savage.  Chapter Two then closes.

Chapter Three begins in Plateau City, capital of the unnamed Midwest state and gateway to the West.  A bedraggled looking man is wielding a pistol and is about to shoot the Governor when he's apprehended by the police.  The man claims that he is actually the Governor and the man in the Governor's car is an imposter.  The scene is witnessed by the Flash, who notes that the man taken into custody does resemble Governor Curtis, but he doesn't have time to ponder matters now.  The Fastest Man Alive is more interested in making certain that Plateau City is kept out of the hands of the Injustice Society.  He does a high speed reconnaissance, making certain all defenses are in order when he hears the telltale rattle of Tommy-guns firing.  The Scarlet Speedster blasts right into this fifth column on a nearby rooftop to break them up when he suddenly finds himself in the sights of the Thinker, who is bathing the Flash in the rays from a strange device.  It's a heavy ray machine and it is increasing Flash's weight to some sixty fold until he falls right through the roof.  A little later, the Crimson Comet recovers and rushes to the Governor's mansion to warn Governor Curtis.  A stunned Flash then witnesses the Governor speaking into a radio microphone, ordering all forces of law and order to surrender at once.  When the Flash bursts into the office, the Governor throws an object at him.  The Fastest Man Alive grabs the Governor and discovers he's merely a dummy, animated by a mechanical force of some kind.  He scoops up the microphone to try and countermand the orders when he realizes he is not alone.  The Thinker tells the Flash that he's speaking into a dead mic and that he's too late.  The city has surrendered.  When the Scarlet Speedster tries to apprehend the Thinker, he finds himself caught in some invisible wires, closing the curtain on Chapter three. 

Chapter Four takes us to the Northern sector of the country and Uthorium town, where Green Lantern and a series of Army tanks are rolling along a mountain road.  In the next amazing moment, the town disappears before their eyes and a voice crackles over the radio of the Colonel's vehicle.  It's Brain Wave, announcing that they've just witnessed a demonstration of the Injustice Society's power and they'd be well advised to surrender.  GL muses over the fact that the city not only disappeared, but even the chimney smoke vanished.  He tells the Colonel he's going to search for the criminal army and takes flight.  A few miles away he discovers a duplicate of Uthorium town.  He soon notes men in protective gear removing the Uthorium canisters from the "pile house."  When they spot Green Lantern they draw weapons, but the beam from the power ring is brought into play to remove the pistols and send some of the henchmen flying.  One, however, removes his helmet and GL recognizes Brain Wave.  The criminal master mind opens a canister as a distraction while Green Lantern, momentarily blinded, puts up an emerald shield.  The crooks escape with their Uthorium and awhile later, his sight restored, GL grabs a Geiger counter to try and track Brain Wave and his gang.  He soon comes across part of the gang with their mirage thrower, a large device they'd used to create a false image of Uthorium town, giving them time to loot it and now they're using the device to create a mirage of a road over a half frozen lake for the real Army to follow.  The Emerald Warrior swiftly catches up with the convoy and creates a power beam road to keep the tactical vehicles from being lost. 

Soon he's again using the Geiger counter to locate the Uthorium when he finds Brain Wave himself toward the top of the mountain in a glass box.  Using his power ring again, our hero soon finds that this innocuous looking box is actually another trap.  When the beam strikes, the box doubles the strength of the beam and reflects it right back at GL, who tumbles helplessly down the mountainside. 

Chapter Five opens in the office of General "Stubby" Klemper, Army Commander of the Eastern Seaboard.  The Atom is addressing the General and tells him about the experiences other members of the JSA have been having with lifelike automatons.  The Army officer replies that it's absurd and the Atom notes that when he accidentally backs into a nearby bayonet point on a wall display, he fails to notice.  The General orders the guards to arrest the Atom, who leaps into action, knocking them back through the doorway.  The Mighty Mite locks them out and then takes on the faux soldier, tearing him false limb from false limb and finding more of that telltale straw padding under the uniform.  The Atom also discovers a control box that still seems to be functioning and guiding him somewhere.  Thinking quickly, he puts the false General's face and a spare uniform on and impersonates "Stubby" to try and get to the bottom of things. 

The disguised Atom soon arrives at an abandoned power house and finds the real General Kemper in a cell in the basement with a lone armed guard on duty.  He makes short work of the guard, frees the General and continues to follow the urgings of the control box until he discovers the secret headquarters of the Injustice Society.  The Gambler, noting his arrival, announces that automaton 223 has arrived in answer to their summons.  Shedding the disguise, the brave hero attacks, managing to knock Savage, The Thinker and the Wizard for a loop, but before he can do any further damage, The Gambler manages to pin him to the wall with some carefully thrown knives.

Chapter Six takes us to Capitol City, where Dr. Mid-Nite stands guard with some soldiers.  It's a clear and moonlit night, but soon smoke is descending and with it a safe-cracker brigade of parachuting criminals.  Then, across the bridge speeds a group of bullet-proof cars and a company of second-story men climbs a barricade.  The Man of Night, Dr. Mid-Nite discovers the source of the concealing smoke, coming directly from the Washington Monument and in the process notes a squad of bomb throwers wearing special night goggles.  They're about to attack the defensive position of some soldiers when Mid-Nite springs into action, catching the bombs in mid-toss and throwing them back to their point of origin.  He then dashes up the stairs of the monument and upon reaching the top discovers a smoke machine and Degaton.  The Injustice Society member pulls a .45, but the Midnight Crusader swings the smoke machine into Degaton's face to blind and disorient him.  Degaton slips away, but after Mid-Nite destroys the smoke machine he discovers a wire leading to the Capitol Dome.  He decides to use it as a zip line and is soon atop the dome and observes a criminal cavalry attacking more soldiers who are guarding an emergency meeting of Congress taking place inside.  Mid-Nite again leaps into action, taking the crooks off the horses and knocking them silly.  When he pauses, however, a strong arm belonging to Degaton emerges from behind the column he's leaning against and chokes the Man of Night into unconsciousness.  Soon Degaton's superior forces overcome the defenders and he claims Capitol City for the Injustice Society. 

Chapter Seven, the final in this epic, opens with the Justice Society of America assembled around a large metal ball.  Each member is securely connected to it by chains to their wrists.  Even Wonder Woman and Johnny Thunder are there, having come to try and help but succumbing to some sort of ray.  Hawkman notes that the ray is there above them and it seems to have the ability to paralyze their will, sapping any desire to escape.  The freshly captured Dr. Mid-Nite asks where Green Lantern is and the Flash responds that he died a hero's death in battle.  The Man of Night says that he hasn't been under the influence of the ray long enough to have completely lost his will and suggests to the rest of the JSA that together they can smash the ray with the very ball that holds them.  Together they lift and throw it, succeeding in destroying the device.  The downward force snaps Wonder Woman's bonds and she in turn frees her fellow members. 

The Justice Society breaks down the stone door and rushes through a long corridor only to find themselves in a strange scene.  It's a courtroom, with the Injustice Society in attendance and a disintegration beam aimed at the Justice Society.  Soon a mockery of a trial is held.  The JSA is accused by the prosecutor, The Wizard, of violating the new laws of the land enacted by the Injustice Society, working against evil.  The "judge" is the Thinker with the rest of the Injustice Society serving on the jury.  When the Wizard asks for a verdict, the judge announces he's not satisfied with the jury and will render his own verdict.  He proclaims the JSA innocent, and then sheds his false face and robes to reveal Green Lantern.  He announces his ring saved him at the last minute, allowing him to capture the Thinker and take his place.  Time now to clean house.

Green Lantern uses his power beam to reform part of the disintegrator ray into handcuffs for the Gambler.  Wonder Woman picks up the jury box, housing Degaton, Vandal Savage, the Brain Wave and others and sends it flying.  The Wizard hurries outside the courtroom to marshal the criminal army outside.  Some of them charge the JSA in their bullet-proof cars; only to meet an immovable object in the form of a green brick wall conjured by the power ring.  The melee continues with the Atom, Hawkman and Dr. Mid-Nite cleaning house.  The Flash pursues the fleeing Wizard, only to find him being taken down by a group of young boys flying the banner of the Junior Justice Society of America.  The group of JSA admirers escorts the Wizard to jail and the story comes to a close, with justice once again having won the day.      

And there you have it; one of the first major team-up efforts in the Golden Age from the fertile imagination of Gardner Fox.  Stories like this laid the groundwork and template for some of the marvelous work that followed, particularly in the Silver Age, when the successor to the JSA, the Justice League of America was formed and the exploits they enjoyed, which inevitably involved splitting up (though usually by pairs rather than individually) and going to disparate geographic locations to battle the forces of evil which threatened the country, the world, or even the realms of outer space.  Leave us not forget the team-ups between the JSA and the JLA that spanned Earths One and Two, also under the watchful eye of Gardner Fox.  Classic and important stuff that led the way into our favorite era, the mighty Silver Age.  For what it's worth, I did notice a couple of minor oddities, one of which may have occurred to you, too.  Seven chapters?  Granted, the story was 38 pages long, but seven chapters?  Also, the "numbering" in chapter seven was, oddly enough, alpha characters, beginning with the letter "U" and ending with "Z."  I'm not sure what that was all about.

If you'd like to read this historic yarn for yourself but don't want to part with the several hundred dollars it would take to acquire an original copy, here are some comparatively inexpensive alternatives: In addition to the Golden Age Stories collection mentioned above, I also recommend 100 Page Super Spectacular #DC-17, dated June, 1973 and All-Star Comics Archives Volume #8 published in 2002.

I'll leave you now with my usual invitation to send me a message with any thoughts, comments or requests to: professor_the@hotmail.com.  As I've mentioned before, each new milestone merely strengthens our resolve to continue on in fine fashion, bringing you the samplings of the finest era in comics.  Five years so far, with many more yet to come.  We look forward to sharing it with you.  Until next time…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2005 by B.D.S.

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