Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis JLA Comics

Justice League of America #22 Justice League of America #21

Justice League of America #21 & #22

Cover date: August/September 1963

"Crisis on Earth-One!" and "Crisis on Earth-Two!"

Writer: Gardner Fox
Penciller: Mike Sekowsky
Inker: Bernard Sachs

Cover: Mike Sekowsky & Murphy Anderson

Reviewed by: Tom-EL

Click to enlarge



"Acrisis in theDC universeis an event with potentially great consequences, often involving multiple universes and sometimes even threatening their existence."- Quoted from Wikipedia.org

"Crisis on Earth-One!"

The members of the Justice League of Americahave come together at their HQ for a special meeting because they have been challenged by a group of three super-villains calling themselves the Crime Champions. The group comprised of Chronos, Felix Faust, and Dr. Alchemy, boast that they are going to commit three robberies and the JLA will be powerless to stop them. As acting chairman, Batman divides the League into three teams that go into action to stop the Crime Champions.

At the very same moment on Earth-2, the members of the Justice Society of America came together in response to a similarchallenge from three of their long-time foes, the Fiddler, the Wizard, and the Icicle. Many of the JSA members are returning to service afterseveral years of retirement. After a few moments of remembering "the good old days", the Society members also divide into three groups, remembering past alliances, and are off todeal withtheir ownCrime Champions.

Back on Earth-1, the team of Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, and the Atom take on FelixFaust, who intends to rob the treasures of a sunken ocean liner that hemagically raised from the depths. After collecting the ship's safe, Faust intended to get away on a giant flying clam-shell, the three Leaguers gave chase, but he magically eludes them. Meanwhile, Superman and Green Arrowwent after Dr. Alchemy who was attempting to make off with an armored car. Using his matter-transformer, Alchemy gave jetwings to the vehicle and flew away in it. Superman and GA intended to apprehend him, but he uses his weapon again toturn a telephone pole into Kryptonite and GA's arrows into harmless weeds. Superman and Green Arrow attempted to pursue, but as they got closer Dr. Alchemy and his flying armored car disappeared right in front of them. At the same time, Green Lantern, Batman, andWoman failed to apprehend Chronos, who escaped with money from a bank, then vanishes right before their eyes.

The question of the where the three Earth-1 villains disappeared to is answered. They escaped to a hideout that exists between the two Earths. They are joined by the three Earth-2 villains that were equally victorious in their challenge to the JSA. It is the Fiddler who reveals that using a special violin string he made while in prison, he stuck a vibratory note that allowedhim and his two cohorts to escape and find their way to this inter-dimensional hideaway. The two teams decided they could go to each other'sEarth's to safelyspend their loot, knowing that they would not be recognized by the police or heroes of those worlds. The only two people that might recognize them would be the Flash's of both worlds, given that each has visited the other's Earth. (See Flash, issues #123 & #129, original series). As a result, the Fiddler was able to capture both speedsters and trap them in twotransparent spheres thatwere constructed to keep them from vibrating out. The two teams of villains then go to the other Earths to spend the money from their crimes.

On Earth-1, Fiddler, Wizard, and Icicle in civilianclothes frequent the vacation and casinoresorts of Earth-1, secure in the knowledge they will not be recognized by theauthorities. Over time, the Earth-2 Crime Champions decided that they did not want to be limited to the stolen wealth they brought with them. Theystarted planning a new crime spree on this world, believing that since they had beaten the Justice Society, the Justice Leaguedid not represent a threat to their plans. To protect their true identities, they used their powers to masquerade as the three villains of Earth-1. The Wizard became Dr. Alchemy, Icicle became Chronos, and the Fiddler turned into Felix Faust, and the three challenged the JLA to a secondmeeting through a crystal ball at League HQ. The heroes responded to the call, meeting the three at a place called Casino Town. Batman, Wonder Woman, and GreenLantern went after the fake Chronos, Superman and Green Arrow again tried to take downDr. Alchemy (Wizard),with Aquaman, Atom, and J'onn J'onzz going after the phony Faust. When the three groups separate attempts failed, the entire League regrouped andwent after the villains whowere backtogether in one place. Just as the Leaguerswere about to strike, they all disappeared, and reappearedback in their secret sanctuary in the cave. They discovered that there was a magical barrier around the sanctuary that none of them, not even Superman could break through.

After each of the members attempted unsuccessfully to break through the barrier, it wasBatman who suggested they fight magic with magic and use the crystal ball given to them by Merlin (JLA #2). Sitting around the meeting table, they performed a seance to contact the Flash,in the belief that hisabsencewas somehowconnected to the situation. They made contact withFlash, who told them he was also trapped, but they could summon up the Justice Society whose members wouldnot be bound by the magical limitations put on the League. Doing that, theJustice Society of America appears inside the JLA sanctuary. For a few moments, a very historic meeting takes place as League members and Society members meet andshake hands for the very first time.With the help of Dr. Fate, the JLA is sent to Earth-2 to track down the real Earth-1 Crime Champions, while the JSA breaks out of League HQ to go after the Earth-2 Crime Champions. The Green Lanterns of both Earthsbegintheir quest in search of the two Flashes.

"Crisis on Earth-Two!"

On Earth-1, the members of the JSA break into three groups to go after their respective foes. The Atom and Hourman go after the Fiddler in a museum, Dr. Fatefights the Icicle in an art gallery, while Hawkman and Black Canary chase after the Wizard, who just robbed a jewelry store. After brief battles, the JSA members triumph over the villains. Meanwhile, over on Earth-2, the JLAsets out one more time to take down their adversaries. Manhunter, Atom, and Green Arrowfind Felix Faust at a carnival, Batman and Wonder Woman use their jets to go after Dr. Alchemy in the mountains, Superman and Aquamanbattle withChronos at a lighthouse. The League members also seem to be victorious in their encounters with the Earth-1 Crime Champions.

During this time, the two Green Lanterns were able to discover the trail to the inter-dimensional hideout where the two Flashes have beenheld in indestructibletransparent bubbles. The two GL's use all the force of their power rings to free the two speedsters, but nothing they tryseems to work. They both realize that since they can see through the bubbles, light must be able to pass through the spheres, so they use their rings to turn the twoFlash's into light protons, allowing them to escape. At the precise moment that happens, the two GL's, the two Flash's, and all the rest of the JLA and JSA members shimmer and fade away, allowing both Crime Champion teams to escape justice. This was all part of a trap set up by the magic of the Wizard and Felix Faust. When the Flash's were freed, the power used set their incantations in motion. Their plan not only helped the two crime teamsescape, it placed the JusticeLeague and JusticeSociety members in cages in outer space.

The eight two-man space cages were created to be invulnerable to the special abilities of each cage's occupants. The cage with two GL's is resistant to power ring energy, the cage with the two Flashes cannot be vibrated through at super-speed, the cage with Superman isn't damaged by his hardest blows, and the cage with the two Atoms is too densely made to allow the Earth-1 Atom to shrink to microscopic size and escape. The cages do allow for communications with each other, so the Atom suggests the two Green Lanterns try to escape by shrinking to sub-atomic size. The plan works as the two escape and set to work freeing all the others from their two-man space prisons. After all the cages have been broken out of, the two GL's use combined power ring energy to form a bullet-shaped ship to carry the entire group back to Earth-2 where the two crime teams have joined forces.

Sensing that the JLA and JSA have escaped, the Fiddler suggests that there must logically be an Earth-3, and if they can find the doorway to it, they allcan escape capture. The Wizard and Felix Faust use magic tosearch for it, the Fiddler looks for another sonic vibration the same way he discovered Earth-1, while Chronos suggested that time might hold the answer. Unfortunately for the six criminals, time runs out as the members of both League and Society return to take on the two Crime Champion teams in a battle that woulddetermine how this "Crisis"ultimately wouldend.

I will quote the narrative from page 24 of this story:

    "The sounds of battle rage as Justice League and Justice Society members fight side by side against their bitter foes! Their every deed and every thought is concentrated on defeating these men who have tricked and trapped them at every turn. No longer are the Justice Society members rusty! They have passed through the baptism of fire and are only too eager to demonstrate the powers that made them famous in the "Good Old Days!"

When the battle is over, six villains lay defeated as theheroes oftwoEarthsstand victorious. After the criminals are incarcerated, the two teams agree to keep in touch in the event they may need to join forces again. Aquaman comments to Wonder Woman that it was unfortunate that Snapper Carr couldn't be there for this adventuredue to hiscollege exams. He says "I hope he passed his tests as well as we did ours!"

5Story - 5: Across the years, the majority of DC's story arcs that used all or nearly all of their characters in multiple Earth stories have used the term "Crisis". Crisis on Infinite Earths, Infinite Crisis,and Final Crisisare key examples. This two-part Justice League story-arc is ground-zerofor where that tradition originallybegan. It was the first oftwo decades of two-part annual team-up stories between the JLA and JSA that later went on toinclude a third group each year, including the Freedom Fighters, the Legion of Super-Heroes, the Seven Soldiers of Victory, and others. I loved summertime as a kid, andsummers got even better in 1963 with this regularJLA summer tradition. This July marks the forty-sixth anniversary of this ground-breaking story.

When it came to writing JLA stories, Gardner Fox was equally talented be it an outer-space story or an Earthbound story fighting super-criminals. This story gives us the best of both worlds (no pun intended) as not one, but two super groups work together both on Earth and in space. For comic book readers at that time who were old enough to remember the Justice Society, it must have been a treat to see them back in action. For younger readers (I turned 10 in August that year) it was equally great to see somenew fresh faces,some of them being the original versions of modern DC characters. Fox delivered a well crafted story that was interesting in it's use of thethree older and three newervillains. Felix Faust was anoriginal JLA villain, going back to issue #10 (3/62), Dr Alchemy was part of the silver-ageFlash's "Rogue's Gallery", and Chronos had, up to that point in time primarily been a nemesis of the silver-ageAtom. The Earth-2 Crime Champions wereoriginal JSA villains, having been around since the mid-1940's. The Fiddler first appeared in 1947 and was an enemy of the Jay Garrick Flash.In prison he met an Indian fakir, who taught him the ability to use his violin to play sounds that could either hypnotize others, shatter objects, or create barriers. The Wizard was an early JSA villain who was proficient in the use of magic and the mystic arts. The Icicle was another villain first seem in 1947 and was an enemy of the Alan Scott Green Lantern. He was using a freeze gun for the purpose of crime long before either Captain Cold or Mr. Freeze. Fox was, in my opinion, very creative in the way he used these six to bedevil the two super-teams before they were finally defeated.

Whether or not this storyillustrates a "Crisis" in the way that DC defines the termmight be debated by some. It is a story of super-heroes stopping super-criminals from committing crimes, not unlike many other JLA stories of that time. There isno massive loss of life of a particular Earth's population,nor are any planets destroyed. No heroes get killed and no "multi-verses" are at risk of extinction in this two-part story. What makes it Crisis story is that it is the first in a tradition of stories from DC that deals with cooperation between the super-teams of different Earth's, working together to solve a dilemma that affects both theirworlds. The "Crisis" stories from DC across the years have involved many heroes and teams from multiple Earths, threats and dangers of all shapes and sizes, but at the heart of the story was that for the "good guys" to win, they had to join forces andwork together.For that matter, I have held that 2003's DC/Marvel4-part crossover JLA vs. the Avengers isthe ultimate example of a Crisis story.Crisis on Earth-One and Crisis on Earth-Two were, again my opinion, as good atale as you could ask to get that story tradition off to a good start.

5Art - 5: I've made no secret in previous JLAreviews of myhigh regardfor the art of Mike Sekowsky, especially when hewas inked by Bernard Sachs, andthis story is no exception. Mike did his usual great job on the JLA'ers,and he did equally well interpreting the Justice Society. With the exception ofa brief appearance in the Flash's book about a year before, the JSA had not been seen in comics since 1951 when the style of comic art, though not bad, was certainly less detailed than silver-age standards. There's a place in each of the twobooks that every JLA/JSA fan should see. In issue #21, it's on page 24, where the two groups first meet. The center is dominated bySuperman and Dr. Fate (2 DC icons)meeting. It has the other various members greeting each other, two GL's comparing power rings, Green Arrow shaking hands with Hourman as Aquaman and Wonder Woman say hello to Black Canary.Even Al Pratt, the Atom of Earth-2, bending way over to shake the tiny hand of the Earth-1 Atom.It's a wonderful picture. Then, there's a two-page layout in #22, pages 24-25, that illustrates Mike Sekowsky at his best. It features all the League and Society members in the their final battle with the six Crime Champions.

JLA #21 Spread JLA #22 Spread

I have always been a Sekowsky fan, but his JLA/JSA crossover stories, inked by Bernard Sachs, were by far, top-notch stuff.

5Cover Art - 5: These two covers told a lot about the story, in fact, the cover of issue #21 just about says it all. First it announces "Back after 12 years! The legendary super-stars of the Justice Society of America". Then Sekowsky manages to get every hero in the story on the cover in an even handed way, but also conveys a key moment in the story, when the JSA was summoned up by a crystal ball. The JSA members appear in a cloud above. A variation of this coverwas used 12 years later for another JLA/JSA team-up in issue #124 (10/75). I even thought that the purple background seemed to make the whole picture stand out a little more.

The cover of issue #22 was both penciled and inked by Murphy Anderson, who also did a fine job in illustrating a key moment in that issue.


Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews

1938-1949

1950-1959

  • Superman #76 (May/June 1952) - “The Mightiest Team in the World”
  • Superman #80 (January/February 1953) - “Superman's Lost Brother”
  • Superman 3D (1953) - “The Man Who Stole the Sun”, “Origin of Superman” and “The Man Who Bossed Superman”
  • Superman #87 (February 1954) - “The Prankster's Greatest Role”
  • Superman #88 (March 1954) - “The Terrible Trio”
  • Superman #89 (May 1954) - “Captain Kent the Terrible”, “Superman of Skid Row”, and “One Hour to Doom!”
  • Superman #91 (August 1954) - “The Superman Stamp” and “Great Caesar's Ghost”
  • World's Finest #88 (May/June 1957) - “Superman and Batman's Greatest Foes”
  • Superman #115 (August 1957) - “The Midget Superman!”
  • Superboy #65 (May/June 1958) - “The Amazing Adventures of Krypto Mouse”
  • Action Comics #242 (July 1958) - “The Super-Duel in Space”
  • Superman #123 (August 1958) - “The Girl of Steel”
  • Superman #127 (February 1959) - “Titano the Super Ape”
  • Action Comics #252 (May 1959) - “The Menace of Metallo” and “The Supergirl From Krypton”
  • Superman #129 (May 1959) - “The Girl in Superman's Past”
  • Superman #130 (July 1959) - “The Curse of Kryptonite!”, “The Super-Servant of Crime!”, and “The Town that Hated Superman!”
  • Jimmy Olsen #40 (October 1959) - “Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl's Pal”

1960-1969

1970-1979

1980-1986

Compilation Volumes

Miscellaneous

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