Monday, August 18, 2008

Justice League of America 114

Justice League of America 114 November 1974

The issue begins with an attack on Snapper Carr (most useless character ever?) by the villain , a guy with a freaky ray gun and a Trojan helmet called Anakronus. He flaps his jaws on and on about how many times he’s kicked the Justice League’s asses, how his dastardly plots are the most utterly ruthless ever masterminded, and how he is generally the baddest of the bad guys ever to plan a criminal act. Obviously this Anakronus is a genius because he begins his subjugation of the free world by pistol-whipping JLA mscot Snapper Carr. Sheer genius. Eventually Snapper gets through to the charity telethon the League are pitching in on and it’s the Atom, Red Tornado and the Elongated Man to the rescue. Turns out Anakronus was just a whackjob with a .45 with stuff glued to it.

I remember as a kid being confused by this story. First off the cover says “Here Come TV’s Super Friends!!!” but this story had some kid named Snapper Carr in most of it. Who the hell is that supposed to be? I thought. The biggest star in the lead story is the Green Arrow, not exactly a DC A-lister, and possibly the lamest villain ever, Anakronus; a bully with a Trojan helmet. I worked hard earning that comic book helping my grandmother carry groceries, and I get a story about Snapper Carr? Even as an eight-year-old I felt cheated.

You see, my grandmother Junita would pay me exactly one comic book for loading and unloading her groceries each time she would go to the store. Naturally, being a value-minded lad even then, I would always choose a team book. Why buy a comic featuring only one superhero when you could get one that featured a dozen? And a 100 page SuperSpectacular? My fee was one comic, the page count was immaterial, bonus for me. Kid logic rules.

After the first and only original story is a JLA Crossword puzzle. One of the clues is” 2 Down:Johnny Thunder’s pink companion”. You can write your own joke here. This was weirdly instrumental in forming my limitless well of comic trivia as I wondered who these people were and what the hell is an Earth-2 and a JSA?

The next story in the comic is a Howard Purcell Dead End Kids riff; a slice of street life that is kind of reminiscent of Will Eisner. Had nothing to do with superheroes so I never read it as a kid but now I see it as a reprint from one of DCs old crime comics.

Before the “novel-length” reprint that makes up a majority of the book are a super-hero boots quiz, a JLA Trivia quiz featuring Metamorpho and The Creeper and a page called JLA Heroes of the Past which shows clip art of Zatanna and the Martian Manhunter among others with a little expository balloon explaining who each character is. The wheels started to turn in my eight year old mind: these characters all lived in the same world.

The big story is “Crisis on Earth-Three!”, in which the JLA from Earth 1 and the JSA of Earth-2 go up against evil analogs of Superman (Ultraman), Batman(Owl Man), Wonder Woman (Superwoman), The Flash (Johnny Quick) and Power Ring (Green Lantern) from, of course, Earth 3, in the most gimmicky Silver Age way possible. The Earth-3 Injustice Gang comes to Earth-1 to do battle with the JLA,pretty much just for the hell of it. The JLA kick their collective butts but they utter a magic word”Volthoom!”
And the JLA are somehow transported to Earth-3 where they have their butts handed to them. Then the Injustice Gang goes to Earth-2, where they get their butt kicked by the JSA, but by losing to them somehow win and the JSA is transported to Earth-3 as well. Its all very hokey up until the point where the JLA and JSA both someow get free and kick everybody’s ass, and then imprison the Earth-3 Gang in a bubble out in space. With a note on it. Like I said, all very Silver Agey, but the part that makes it seminal for me is the whole alternate earths thing. This was my first exposure to all of the Golden Age characters of DC and I was wondering as a kid what their deal was. It made me want to seek out more stories with them , why are there two Flashes? Why can’t the other Atom shrink? Why is Robin a grown-up? This was also my first exposure to the concept of alternate realities, a device I’ve seen used in countless science fiction books, movies and television since. When I sat with my father and watched that original Star Trek and they went to the future Roman world, I sat there and said, “oooh, like Earth-2…”

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