A Tribute to the of

Sometimes I think I'm a bit too lazy for my own good.  I was looking through some new goodies the webmaster had sent to me for future review candidates and spotted an ad for a Giant Justice League of America that I'd not seen before.  The thing that caught my eye was actually the little banner at the bottom of the cover (penciled and inked by Murphy Anderson) that said:  "Plus who are the 7 Soldiers of Victory?"  I thought, Hmmm.  That might be a good story to pursue as a future review, too.  I haven't done any of their stuff.  So, I cruised over to eBay, found a very reasonably priced copy of JLA #76, the November/December 1969 edition, and scored it.  It didn't once occur to me to look it up to see what was in the issue.  If I had, I'd have learned that the banner referred not to a story, but to a full page depiction of this classic team of heroes, along with a page of text explaining about them.  On the two prior pages there is also a wonderful depiction of the Justice Society of America and the text page also tells you all about them.  While I was glad to get those, I was a bit disappointed that there wasn't a story about the 7 Soldiers.  Ah, well, there are two reprinted Justice League stories from earlier in the Silver Age, neither of which I've read, so it's not a total loss.  Well, 'lo and behold the second story just so happens to be a reprint of Justice League of America #12 from June of 1962.  As was the case with all the early JLA stories, editor Julius Schwartz collaborated with the incredibly talented writer Gardner Fox and artists Mike Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs.  The story is entitled "The Last Case of the Justice League!"  Best of all, it's the first Silver Age appearance of Doctor Light.  A very fortuitous accident.  Maybe I'll continue my lazy streak.  ;-)  Meanwhile, let's explore this story.

The splash page sets the stage nicely:  "A ray of sunlight—a flashlight beam—a rainbow—an aurora borealis!  All these are everyday manifestations of—light!  They are harmless—except when used by that luminous wizard, Doctor Light!  Master of brilliance and color, imbued with strange, scientific wisdom, he presents a terrible threat as he sets out to write…The Last Case of the Justice League!"  The roll call for this issue includes Snapper Carr, Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, J'onn J'onzz, Flash and Green Arrow.

The story begins in a somewhat unlikely place.  We see Snapper Carr, the honorary JLA member at a fishing competition in Happy Harbor when he abruptly receives an emergency signal.  He quickly departs in his hot rod to a secluded location where a special device has been installed.  After depressing a hidden button, he is whisked to the secret HQ, but upon entry he finds a lone occupant who is not a member of the League.  The strangely garbed man announces to the stunned youth that the Justice League of America is no more and that he, Doctor Light, is the cause of their demise.  He instructs Snapper (and addresses him by name) to record for posterity "The Last Case of the Justice League." 

Doctor Light begins by explaining about himself.  He has mastered all the secrets of light and his scientific knowledge has enabled him to harness the power thereof.  He gives a brief lesson, explaining that when the electrons of an atom are stimulated they emit radiations.  Electrons on the outer orbits of an atom emit visible radiation or light while the inner electrons emit invisible X-rays.  The nucleus emits gamma rays.  He has created unique instruments that harness the power of light and, like so many before him; the idea is to exploit the technology to take over the world. (The true origin of his devices is revealed in DC Super-Stars #14, the May-June 1977 issue.)  First, though, there is the pesky problem of the JLA.  Utilizing a divide and conquer strategy, the fiend seeks out the one member of the League who doesn't have a dual identity – Aquaman.  Once he captures the King of the Sea, he uses special lamps to get him to reveal the method used to summon his fellow teammates (no sign of a rubber hose, though).  With the knowledge obtained, Light sets his trap.  He goes to a location in the countryside and sets things up.  The weapon looks like, of all things, one of those globe light projectors you see in discos, mounted on a platform, with multiple lenses on the surface.  It's sort of an electronic moonscape, if you will.  He then activates the summons and Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter, Flash and Green Arrow arrive almost simultaneously.  The device is manipulated and the beams incapacitate our heroes.  A little later, Superman and Batman also arrive and succumb to the light weapon.  With the JLA frozen, Doctor Light reveals another device.  "Ordinary light travels at 186,000 miles per second!  I have developed a type of light which goes much faster—and so opens a doorway between sidereal worlds!  One by one I hurled the Justice Leaguers through space and time into those other worlds—specially selected to seal their doom!"  The villain then explains that he sent Aquaman to a desert world and J'onn J'onzz to a world of fire and each of the other heroes to equally dismal places that will destroy them and allow utterly no chance of escape.

Snapper continues to record the account, broken-hearted at the knowledge of what has happened to the Justice League of America.  Doctor Light then uses the same paralyzing beam on him when he finishes his task and announces that with this triumph complete and recorded, he will now gather certain mementos of light from the ancient, medieval and modern world to continue with his plans of conquest.  Chapter one closes with a lone and immobilized Snapper Carr in the light-induced prison.

Chapter Two opens, as you might guess, with a change of scenes to the locations of our heroes.  First we see Aquaman on the desert world with an unrelenting sun speeding his demise.  Then it is the Flash on a strange planet with emerald crystal formations where he cannot gain his balance.  He wonders to himself if the semi-circular canal in his ears, the organ of balance in humans, does not function in this environment.  The Manhunter from Mars can barely gain the strength to move in the wasteland of fires emerging from the surface.  Wonder Woman finds herself in a rocky cavern and to her dismay her nervous system seems to be on the fritz.  Every command she gives her body is answered with a different action than she'd intended.  Green Arrow is apparently being held to the ground on his world, when he realizes it's his bow being held fast.  He wriggles free, but his weapon and arrows are held fast.  Green Lantern, naturally, is on an all yellow planet, the one thing his power ring cannot affect.  Superman is on a planet with a red sun, negating his powers and Batman is on a backward world where his scientific devices refuse to function, where trees grow upside down and rocks are made of water.  In the next moment, however, the Dark Knight removes his cowl to reveal the visage of…Superman! 

As it turns out, the Word's Finest team was working together against the air island pirates.  Superman had been using his telescopic vision to keep track of the JLA and realized they were being overcome by Doctor Light and his strange projector.  Before answering the emergency call, Superman explained to Batman what he's observed and suggests the costume switch, along with Batman's expertise in disguise to use as a potential insurance policy against this new foe.

Superman wastes no time in going to the aid of his fellow members.  Using his telescopic vision yet again, he assesses matters and taking a triage approach, first heads for the flame world to rescue J'onn J'onzz.  The two heroes then retrieve Aquaman from the desert world and take him to a watery world to revive.  Superman then instructs the Martian Manhunter to retrieve Batman as he won't be able to function under the red sun.  J'onn agrees and also says he'll pick up Wonder Woman and Flash along the way. 

Keeping a respectful distance on the world where the amazing Amazon is held helpless, the Manhunter from Mars uses (go figure) his super breath to suck her out of the canyon.  Using a similar technique, the duo arrives on the doom world where the Flash is located.  She uses her magic lasso to rescue the Fastest Man Alive.  The final stop is the world where "Superman" has been waiting. 

The real Superman, meanwhile, has wasted no time in picking up Green Lantern, who in turn extracts Green Arrow from his sidereal world, closing out Chapter Two.

Chapter Three opens with the triumphal return to Earth of its mightiest heroes.  They soon discover Snapper and Superman, using his invulnerability, releases their honorary member from his frozen prison.  The Man of Might explains that he never was affected by it, but allowed Light to believe so in order to be sent away with his fellow members and free them.

The JLA now ponders how to tackle Doctor Light.  The first order of business is to locate him.  Snapper tells of Light's comments about collecting three famous objects for himself from the ancient, medieval and modern world, all light related.  Wonder Woman deduces that the memento from the ancient world must be the Colossus of Rhodes, which served as a lighthouse, but it has long since been destroyed.  Aquaman interjects that it still exists on the bottom of the sea:  "Built more than 2,000 years ago by the sculptor Chares, the Colossus of Rhodes was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world!  It was in the form of a man holding a torch!  Alarmed by the invasion of an enemy, the Rhodians hid it in the sea—and substituted a false one in its place!  It was the false one that was destroyed by an earthquake in 224 B.C.—so the real one still exists!"

Batman states that the medieval memento must be the famous heart-shaped diamond, heart of light, which is so perfectly cut that it glows with a dazzling light. 

The Flash completes the list with the first electric light bulb made by Thomas Edison

Now that their destinations are known, the Justice League forms up into teams to speed to each location.  The team of Green Lantern, Aquaman and Green Arrow are bound for the sea bottom just off the island of Rhodes in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.  The Flash, Martian Manhunter and Batman head for Khandara, India, where a Maharaja keeps the Heart of light in his palace, while Superman and Wonder Woman depart for the museum where Edison's light bulb is on display. 

Soon, above the waters of the Mediterranean, a ship is spotted with a statue held by ropes and grapples.  Doctor Light is hard at work when the heroes arrive.  Using a new device, the Master of Light deploys a spray of lightning toward them.  "Just as light—by striking potassium or sodium—will emit an electric charge—so I, with my great knowledge, can cause deadly thunderbolts to form!"  GL goes into immediate evasive maneuvers, painfully aware that his ring has no power over the yellow bolts.  He fires upon Doctor Light and is stunned when his beam has no affect.  Light gloats that as master of all light, the beam doesn't bother him and he fires again, scoring a direct hit that seems to dissolve Green Lantern.  Green Arrow, piloting the Arrow Plane, fires a lightning rod arrow to draw the blasts away, but he appears to be too late to help his comrade.  Below the surface, Aquaman is directing several swordfish, attacking the hull of the villain's vessel.  Meanwhile, a series of rainbow colored rings emanate from another light weapon, solidifying around the Arrow plane and leaving Green Arrow trapped and helpless.  Redirecting his attention below, the wicked scientist uses a special flashlight to see the Sea King and to fire a heat ray.  Suddenly, Light hears the voice of Aquaman behind him, but sees only a dolphin.  He is distracted long enough for a frontal assault by Aquaman who explains that he taught the dolphin to imitate his voice as a diversion.  He then turns off the light weapons and he and Green Arrow fly off, distraught at the loss of Green Lantern.

Segue now to India and a palace that looks more than a little like the Taj Mahal.  Batman, J'onn J'onzz and the Flash speed inside and encounter…Doctor Light!  Our storyteller indulges us with the following:  "But wait!  Hasn't Doctor Light already been captured by Aquaman and Green Arrow?"  Speaking of the good Doctor, he immediately goes on the offensive, firing a series of blindingly bright orbs.  Fortunately, J'onn's Martian vision is unaffected and he guides his teammates toward their foe, pulling them along with Batman's bat-rope.  Drawing another weapon, Light fires a blast directly at the Martian Manhunter.  "Light has mass!  I merely added to it with my special knowledge—so that this beam has the battering power of a sledge hammer!"  With the Manhunter from Mars lying on the deck and the other two heroes blinded, Doctor Light is confident in his victory, but then a rope materializes seemingly from nowhere, binding him.  Moments before, Flash had whispered to the Dark Knight that if he grasped the end of the bat-rope while Batman held the other end and raced around the room, he'd soon locate Light and tie him up at super speed. 

Yet another scene switch finds us at the museum where the original Edison bulb is located.  Superman and Wonder Woman see Doctor Light dashing away with this historical treasure.  The text confirms our confusion:  "Here we go again!  We've already seen Doctor Light captured by two other JLA teams!  But let's hold off on this puzzler and go on with the story…"  Light wastes no time in attacking the mighty Superman with a Green Kryptonite beam.  He rapidly follows that up with a curtain of light similar to the Aurora Borealis that encircles and overcomes Wonder Woman with a radiation bath, knocking her as unconscious as her fellow Justice League member.  Doctor Light dashes off and moments later, Superman revives, the Kryptonite light suddenly dissipating.  He scoops Wonder Woman out of her light prison and then learns what happened.  She had directed her robot plane to land and cut off the rays that affected Krypton's last son.  The duo soon captures Doctor Light and returns the bulb back to its rightful station. 

Soon they arrive at JLA HQ only to find their other teammates with two other Doctor Lights in custody.  One of the figures then laughs and states that they are all three mirages, just like the Doctor Light who appeared to Snapper Carr in the first place.  "The real Doctor Light at this very moment—is about to pull a switch which will make you and everyone else on Earth—his slaves!  When you returned to Earth from the doom worlds, you tripped an alarm signal which let him know what had happened!  Instead of going himself to rob the mementos—he created us light-mirages to do it for him!"  Indeed, we then see the genuine malefactor at his laboratory, gloating that with the throwing of a master switch, he'll activate vibrating light-pulses that will overcome everyone on Earth.  The pulses will originate at Khandara, on the island of Rhodes and near the museum, right where his mirage duplicates hid the devices. 

Aghast, the League watches the mirages fade away, but in the next amazing moment, Green Lantern arrives with Doctor Light in tow.  The Emerald Warrior then explains what has transpired.  When his power beam failed to affect Doctor Light, GL suspected the truth that "Doctor Light" might not be all he appeared to be.  Turning the tables, he used his fabulous power ring to make himself invisible, while simultaneously creating a mirage of himself to be destroyed by the lightning bolt.  He then used the ring to follow the emanations with which the real Doctor Light was controlling the mirage image.  Our hero arrived just in time to stop Doctor Light in his tracks and save the day.  Green Lantern also shut off the machine and destroyed the switch for a triple play. 

Gleefully, Snapper Carr picks up the paper where he'd recorded the events according to Doctor Light's instructions.  He says he's going to revise it from the Last case of the Justice League to the best case of the Justice League and comments that he had a feeling the joke would be on the criminal.  When asked why by Wonder Woman, Snapper points out the date at the top of the sheet of paper:  April 1, 1962, April Fool's Day.  The story then ends.     

Doctor Light first appeared in the waning years of the Golden Age as a foe of Dr. Mid-Nite in All-American Comics. A fairly extensive overview of the dueling Doctors' encounters can be read HERE. Since then, the character has undergone an interesting evolution.  From the new beginning you just read he took some interesting turns, according to my handy-dandy DC Comics Encyclopedia.  Apparently at one point he died in battle on Apokolips but later returned, only to be trapped inside Green Lantern's power battery.  When he emerged from that condition his body was made entirely of light.  There is also a Doctor Light II, in the form of a Japanese woman.  She showed up in Crisis on Infinite Earths #4 and gained her abilities due to a zap from the Monitor.  She is a hero, however and has even been spotted in action on the Justice League Unlimited Series.

I've got to admit that I initially wondered how truly menacing someone could be who was the "Master of Light," but this story was another great showcase for Gardner Fox's abilities.  As usual, the reader learned some science along the way, making this character not only a threat, but a credible one, with a pretty impressive arsenal to back up his maniacal ambitions.  Another master stroke by the master and I rate this classic tale a maximum 10 on the 10-point scale.  The Silver Age JLA offerings are consistently excellent fare.

You are cordially invited, between now and the next installment of this feature, in approximately two weeks, to write me at professor_the@hotmail.com.  I'm always interested in your comments, thoughts and general feedback.  See you next time and…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2005 by B.D.S.

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