Mild Mannered Reviews - Classic Pre-Crisis JLA Comics
Justice League of America #29 & #30Cover date: August/September 1964
"Crisis on Earth-Three!" and "The Most Dangerous Earth of All!"
Writer: Gardner Fox
Penciller: Mike Sekowsky
Inker: Bernard Sachs
Cover: Mike Sekowsky & Murphy Anderson
Reviewed by: Tom-EL
"Crisis on Earth- Three!"
One day in Central City on Earth-One, the Flash (Barry Allen) stops two crooks from robbing a store and nearly shooting a rookie cop. Meanwhile, in Keystone City on Earth-Two, the Flash (Jay Garrick) stops two crooks from committing a robbery in his city. In a city on a third Earth, a scarlet super-speedster streaks down a street, but in this case, he was not stopping a robbery, he had just committed one. The local police almost caught him in a net, but he eluded them. On that same Earth, two other super-beings, Power Ring and Superwoman, escaped nearly being caught as they committed crimes. The narration reveals that this is Earth-Three, and things are different on this Earth than they are on both Earth's One and Two. On this Earth there exists a "reverse" natural order from the two other worlds. On Earth-Three, Columbus was an American who discovered Europe. It was in the Revolutionary War that Colonial England won it's independence from the United States, and in 1865, it was actor Abe Lincoln that shot and killed President John Wilkes Booth. It is also due to the reverse nature of this universe that on Earth-Three, there are no super-heroes on this world. There are only five people on Earth-Three with super powers and all five are villains. They have banded together to form a group called the Crime Syndicate of America. These super-villains greatly resemble in costumes and powers, five members of the Justice League of America. They are Ultraman (Superman), Owlman (Batman), Superwoman (Wonder Woman), Johnny Quick (the Flash), and Power Ring (Green Lantern).
The members of the CSA gathered together in their secret headquarters and began discussing the fact that lately they seemed to be losing their edge in committing crimes because their powers made it so easy. Local police forces did not seem to pose any real threat to the success of their crimes, but even in that regard they had noticed they were getting a little rusty in using their super-powers. At that moment, Ultraman came in and joined the other four with a surprise announcement. They all knew that Ultraman receives a new super-power every time he is exposed to green Kryptonite. Today he robbed a piece from a local museum, and the power he got from it was an extra-dimensional vision that allowed him to see into parallel universes. In this case, he was seeing into Earth-One, and marveled at the fact that he witnessed super-beings who were actually using their powers to stop crimes rather than committing them. At Ultraman's suggestion, Power Ring used his ring to open a portal so that all five members could see into this Earth and verify Ultraman's report. The five agreed that this was certainly the answer to the problem of their rustiness. Suitable competition would allow them to hone the use of their powers, so they decided to go into Earth-One and challenge those super-heroes head on. Four of them were supremely confident that with their powers, they could beat these "do-gooders" called the Justice League of America." As a caution, Owlman speaks up saying "On the slight chance we don't win, I have a suggestion." The other four members listen as he explains his plan.
The five members of the Crime Syndicate traveled into Earth-One and came on like gangbusters, committing robberies across the country. Radio reports of the crimes reached the ears of the Justice League as they were meeting at the secret sanctuary. Green Lantern decides to go after Power Ring, the Flash wants to take on Johnny Quick, Superman decides to test Ultraman, Wonder Woman thinks Superwoman is the gal for her, while Batman decides to go after Owlman. Each JLA member went where the radio reports said the various super-villains were, but instead, the Flash runs into Ultraman in Central City, Green Lantern finds the Owlman in Gotham City, Superman catches up with Power Ring, and Batman finds Johnny Quick also in Gotham City. Only Wonder Woman finds the Crime Syndicate member she was after, Superwoman. The JLA members and the CSA members battled each other furiously, with the tide of battle going back and forth between each hero and villain. Ultimately, the Justice League members won their contests, but then we find out what Owlman's secret last minute suggestion was. In case they lost, each CSA member, before they collapsed or gave up, uttered a single word, "Volthoom!" The word was a mystical magic word that created a spell that by saying it automatically transported the Crime Syndicate and the dazed members of the JLA into Earth-Three.
Owlman reasoned that the League members might win, having the home-field advantage on Earth-One. Were that to be the case, bringing the Leaguers to Earth-Three would then shift the advantage to the Crime Syndicate. The plan was to bring the JLA members to this Earth where the Crime Syndicate members have never been defeated in battle. This proved to be the case as the JLA and the CSA fought round-two, with the Crime Syndicate winning hands down. The CSA then presented the JLA with an ultimatum. Since it was clear that each team was undefeatable on it's home planet, it became necessary to find a neutral ground to finally prove which team was more powerful in one final showdown. Using his Ultra-vision again, Ultraman spots Earth-Two and Power Ring sends the Leaguer's back to their Earth-One sanctuary under a spell that kept them fastened in their chairs around the meeting table. The Crime Syndicate then plans to go to Earth-Two to eliminate the Justice Society so the stage would be set for the final battle between the Crime Syndicate and the Justice League. Owlman once again had a suggestion before they left.
Sensing that they were being watched from a parallel world, the JSA gets Dr. Fate to open a dimensional portal to Earth-One to see what the Justice League might know about this. Seeing the JLA in a trance around their table, Fate sends a magical bolt of lightning, splitting the table and bringing them out of the trance. They told the JSA the story of what has transpired, warning them that the Crime Syndicate is coming to Earth-Two to take care of them. They also warn the Society members not to let them speak the word "Volthoom" while in contact with them, so that they are not likewise transported into Earth-Three. The JLA and JSA conclude their inter-dimensional conversation with the Justice Society assuring them they will be prepared for when the Crime Syndicate attacks, and they won't permit the CSA to vibrate them away from Earth-Two.
"The Most Dangerous Earth of All!"
The last thing the Justice League was able to say to the JSA was that as soon as Dr. Fate's magic wore off, they would be forced to return to the trance they were in, and could offer no help to the Justice Society in their upcoming battle with the Crime Syndicate. Knowing that, the JSA prepared for attack, and very shortly, the Crime Syndicate appeared in the JSA secret sanctuary and the battle began. This time, the members of the Justice Society go into the struggle knowing that at all costs, they must not allow physical contact with them, while allowing them to say Volthoom. The individual contests start as the two teams pair off, with Hawkman going up against Johnny Quick, Starman taking on Ultraman, The magic of Dr. Fate against Power Ring's magic ring, Dr. Midnight against Owlman, and Black Canary using her martial arts skills against Superwoman.
Once again, just as happened the first time on Earth-One, the JSA and the CSA go at it head to head in a back and forth battle. Johnny Quick's super-speed gives Hawkman a tussle, but Hawkman finally belts him and wins. Dr. Fate magically forms a wheel with Zodiac signs that come to life, defeating Power Ring, while Owlman falls into a pit fighting Dr. Midnight. Black Canary uses Powerwoman's strength against her with a judo hold, while Starman tricks Ultraman with a fake Cosmic Rod composed of anti-matter. All five JSA members comment that they've won at the end of their fights, and once again all ten of them are transported back to Earth-Three. Figuring that the Justice League might somehow warn the Justice Society about the Crime Syndicate's magic word, Owlman had Power Ring fix it so that for the transference to occur, all that had to happen was for each of the JSA members in some way to verbally say he (or she) had won. Now with the JSA members in a specially made holding cell, Power Ring uses his ring to beam the JLA members back over to Earth-Two.
The battle begins between the Justice League of Earth-One and the Crime Syndicate of Earth-Three. Starting off, members of the JLA saw their fellow members in danger from attacks and used teamwork to help each other. Eventually, the ten combatants paired off into five separate contests. Superman and Ultraman flew off into outer space, both spying a giant Kryptonite meteor. Superman stayed far from it, but Ultraman flew toward it, expecting another super-power. Just as Superman suspected, the meteor was so huge it gave Ultraman far more power than he could handle, causing him to have a super-power overload. Miles away, Green Lantern and Power Ring were having a power ring duel, Wonder Woman and Superwoman were having a magic lasso contest, two scarlet speedsters fought at near the speed of light, while Batman and Owlman battled with fisticuffs. In all the cases, the JLA members realized that with their powers so evenly matched with the Crime Syndicate, the only way for the Leaguers to win was to artificially give the CSA'ers more power than they knew how to handle. In doing so, they overloaded the villains and won their contests. As the CSA members regained consciousness, the JLA considered what was best to do with them.
The Justice League discussed what their options were about what to do with the Crime Syndicate. It was suggested leaving them imprisoned on Earth-Two, but the CSAer's expressions didn't seem to like that. Superman suggested putting them on Earth-One, but the Syndicate members frowned on that idea too. Green Lantern offered the idea of putting them in a vibrational barrier between Earths and that seemed to meet with their approval by their smiling faces. GL used his ring to command Power Ring's magic gem to reveal the reason. The ring revealed that the Crime Syndicate had the Justice Society in a special prison on Earth-Three, such that if the JSA were ever freed, it would automatically cause Earths One and Two to blow up. The CSA would not have been safe on either planet, but they would have been protected in the vibrational barrier in space. The Flash commented, "That just about makes Earth-Three the most dangerous Earth of all!" After defusing the prison, the JLA releases the JSA from their special jail and fills them in on what has happened. The Crime Syndicate was placed in the dimensional barrier jail with warning posters in multi-planet languages indicating how dangerous the group were and that they were to be left alone. With that, the two super-groups leave Earth-Three headed back for their home Earths.
Story - 4: This story would probably have been easier for me to grade when I read it the first time at the age of 11. I still think it's a classic JLA story, but I just have a couple of nit-picks with it. My first issue is with that "reverse nature" angle this story takes. When I read this story in 1964 as a kid, I seem to remember my attitude with that was "Okay, it's sort of like the Bizarro world - 'Us hate beauty, us love ugliness' type rule", and I read on from there with no problem. Reading it now, I can live with the reverse world history, even though that part does raise several questions I have, such as - If North Americans settled England, does that mean South Americans settled Spain? Does this mean the South won the Civil War, or does it mean that the North failed in breaking off from the South? Who won WWII, was it the Axis powers, and does this mean the Japanese dropped an A-bomb on America to end the war? Did the Russians land on the moon in 1969 instead of the U.S.? And the really BIG question in my mind, if Lincoln killed President Booth, should we infer from that it was in 1963 that lone gunman John F Kennedy killed President Lee Harvey Oswald? I would dearly love to read the World History textbooks for Earth-Three. But my bigger complaint on the "reverse nature" issue is that it doesn't logically follow that Earth-Three would have no super-heroes at all. They should have been there, but in this case they would be "good-guy" versions of Earth-One villains like Lex Luthor, the Joker, Sinestro, Captain Cold, and all the others. It's not as if Earth's One and Two only had super-heroes, so logically Earth-Three should have had both heroes and villains as well. Also, it can't be because law & order is somehow not a virtue, but crime is, that there are no super-heroes because we know from the story that the third Earth does have police departments, so obviously law and order meant something. Incidentally, a heroic version of Earth Three's Lex Luthor did show up 18 years later in the pages of DC Comics Presents Annual #1 (1982). In that story, The Luthors of Earth-One and Two go to Earth-Three to recruit Ultraman's help in an attempt to destroy their respective Supermen. Earth-Three scientist Alexander Luthor invented a suit giving himself super-powers and joined with the two Supermen and became the first super-hero of his world. It's a good sequel to this story, and in my opinion, would seem to be the original inspiration for the good Luthor in the upcoming Justice League DVD.
My other nit-pick with the story ( and it's a small one, I do grant ) was that when the Crime Syndicate went to Earth-Two, I would have preferred to see Johnny Quick and Power Ring do battle with the Earth-Two Flash and Green Lantern, rather than Hawkman and Dr. Fate. Maybe Gardner Fox thought that it might be over-doing it with the similarity of powers angle, but I thought it would have been more interesting seeing how Jay Garrick and Alan Scott would have handled their Earth-Three counterparts. With the introduction of a third parallel Earth, Fox opened the door to many more JLA/JSA crossover stories that would take the two teams to even more Earths in future stories. The silver-age Earth-Three came to an end when the planet and it's entire population including the Crime Syndicate perished in the plague that was wiping out multi-verses, as seen in the first issue of 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths. The Crime Syndicate spent their final moments acting like heroes, trying to rescue people and stop the plague. It was a fitting end to their story. In 2000, an up-dated version of the Justice League vs.Crime Syndicate story was retold in Grant Morrison's book JLA: Earth2.
Art - 5: Anyone that has read any of my previous reviews of early Justice League stories knows my opinion of the art of Mike Sekowsky, particularly when he was inked by Bernard Sachs, so I won't be breaking any new ground by giving this story a 5 for the art. Sekowsky was a comic book artist at Marvel and DC for more than 30 years, but his 63-issue run on the Justice League of America is arguably his best work and chief claim to fame, with this two-part story being no exception. He won an Alley Award for the previous year's "Crisis on Earth-One" and "Crisis on Earth-Two" JLA/JSA crossover story, and this one kept the tradition of artistic quality intact for another year.
Cover Art - 4: Actually, call it a 4.5, with a 5 for issue 29 and 4 for issue 30. Both covers offer the fine work of Sekowsky as inked by Murphy Anderson. Nothing wrong with the artwork of either, with issue 29 giving a fine depiction of a key story moment when Dr. Fate tossed a magical lightning bolt into the JLA's sanctuary to wake them out of a trance. Issue 30 rated a 4 based entirely on my personal bias, as only three of the five super-contests were illustrated on the cover, and the Superman-Ultraman competition was not one of them.
Pre-Crisis Superman Comic Book Reviews
- Action Comics #1 (June 1938)
- Action Comics #2 (July 1938)
- Action Comics #3 (August 1938)
- Action Comics #4 (September 1938)
- Action Comics #5 (October 1938)
- Action Comics #6 (November 1938)
- Action Comics #7 (December 1938)
- Superman Archives: Volume 1 (1939)
- Superman #1 (Summer 1939)
- Action Comics #8 (January 1939)
- Action Comics #9 (February 1939)
- Action Comics #10 (March 1939)
- Superman #13 (November/December 1941) - The Archer
- Superman #19 (November/December 1942) - Case of the Funny Paper Crimes
- Action Comics #60 (May 1943) - Lois Lane - Superwoman
- Superman #30 (September/October 1944) - The Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk
- Action Comics #80 (January 1945) - Mr. Mxyztplk Returns
- Superman #38 (January/February 1946) - The Battle of the Atoms
- Superman #42 (September/October 1946) - The Death of Clark Kent
- Superman #45 (March/April 1947) - Lois Lane, Superwoman
- Superman #53 (July 1948) - The Origin of Superman
- Action Comics #124 (September 1948) - A Superman of Doom
- Superman #60 (December 1949/January 1950) - The Two Identities of Superman & Superman Fights the Super-Brain
- 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
- Superman #134 (January 1960) - The Super-Menace of Metropolis
- Jimmy Olsen #42 (January 1960) - The Big Superman Movie!, Perry White, Cub Reporter!, and Jimmy the Genie!
- Jimmy Olsen #44 (April 1960) - The Wolf-Man of Metropolis
- Adventure Comics #271 (April 1960) - How Luthor Met Superboy
- Jimmy Olsen #46 (July 1960) - Jimmy Olsen, Orphan
- Superman #141 (November 1960) - Superman's Return To Krypton
- Superboy #85 (December 1960) - The Impossible Mission
- Jimmy Olsen #51 (March 1961) - The Girl with Green Hair
- Jimmy Olsen #52 (April 1961) - Jimmy Olsen, Wolf-Man
- Superboy #89 (June 1961) - Superboy's Big Brother!
- Action Comics #279 (August 1961) - The Super-Rivals
- Superman #147 (August 1961) - The Legion of Super Villains
- Superman #149 (November 1961) - The Death of Superman!
- Jimmy Olsen #57 (December 1961) - Jimmy Olsen Marries Supergirl
- Superman #155 (August 1962) - Superman Under the Green Sun and The Downfall of Superman
- Justice League of America #13 (August 1962) - Riddle of the Robot Justice League
- World's Finest #129 (November 1962) - Joker-Luthor, Incorporated
- Superman #158 (January 1963) - Superman in Kandor
- Superman #160 (April 1963) - The Mortal Superman
- Superman #161 (May 1963) - The Last Days of Ma and Pa Kent
- Superman #162 (July 1963) - The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue
- Superman #163 (August 1963) - Wonder-Man, the New Hero of Metropolis and The Goofy Superman
- Justice League of America #21 & #22 (August/September 1963) - Crisis on Earth-One! and Crisis on Earth-Two!
- Superman #164 (October 1963) - The Showdown Between Luthor and Superman
- Superman #165 (November 1963) - The Sweetheart Superman Forgot
- Superman #166 (January 1964) - The Fantastic Story of Superman's Sons
- Superman #167 (February 1964) - The Team of Luthor and Brainiac
- Superman #168 (April 1964) - Luthor - Super Hero and Lex Luthor, Daily Planet Editor
- Superman #169 (May 1964) - The Man Who Stole Superman's Secret Life
- Action Comics #314 (July 1964) - The Day Superman Became The Flash
- Justice League of America #29 & #30 (August/September 1964) - Crisis on Earth-Three! and The Most Dangerous Earth of All!
- Superman #173 (November 1964) - The Triumph of Luthor and Brainiac
- Action Comics #318 (November 1964) - The Death of Luthor
- Action Comics #319 (December 1964) - The Condemned Superman
- Superman #175 (February 1965) - Clark Kent's Brother
- Superman #181 (November 1965) - The Superman of 2965
- The Legion of Super-Heroes - Archives Volume 4 (1965)
- Superman #184 (February 1966) - The Demon Under the Red Sun
- Action Comics #338 (June 1966) - Muto - Monarch of Menace
- Action Comics #339 (July 1966) - Muto versus The Man of Tomorrow
- Superman #189 (August 1966) - Krypton Lives Again
- Action Comics #346 (February 1967) - The Man Who Sold Insurance to Superman and The Case of the Superman Imposter
- Superman #194 (February 1967) - The Death of Lois Lane
- Superman #196 (May 1967) - The Star of Steel
- Superman #199 (January 1967) - Superman's Race With The Flash
- Superman #200 (October 1967) - Super-Brother Against Super-Brother
- The Flash #175 (December 1967) - Race to the End of the Universe
- Justice League of America #63 (June 1968) - Time Signs a Death Warrant for the Justice League
- Superman #211 (November 1968) - The Name of the Game is Superman!
- Superman #215 (April 1969) - Lois LaneŠ DeadŠ Yet Alive
- Superman #224 (February 1970) - Beware the Super-Genius Baby
- Action Comics #393 (October 1970) - Superman Meets Super-Houdini! and The Day Superboy Became Superman!
- Jimmy Olsen #133 (October 1970) - The Newsboy Legion
- Action Comics #394 (November 1970) - Midas of Metropolis and Requiem for a Hot Rod!
- World's Finest #198 (November 1970) - Race to Save the Universe!
- Action Comics #395 (December 1970) - The Secrets of Superman's Fortress and The Credit Card of Catastrophe
- Jimmy Olsen #134 (December 1970) - The Mountain of Judgement!
- World's Finest #199 (December 1970) - A Race to Save Time!
- Superman #233 (January 1971) - Superman Breaks Loose!
- Jimmy Olsen #135 (January 1971) - The Evil Factory!
- Superman #234 (February 1971) - How to Tame a Wild Volcano
- Jimmy Olsen #136 (February 1971) - The Saga of the D.N.Aliens
- Superman #235 (March 1971) - The Sinister Scream of the Devil's Harp
- Superman #236 (April 1971) - Planet of the Angels and The Doomsayer
- Jimmy Olsen #137 (April 1971) - The Four-Armed Terror!
- Superman #237 (May 1971) - The Enemy of Earth
- Superman #238 (June 1971) - Menace at 1000 Degrees
- Jimmy Olsen #138 (June 1971) - The Big Boom!!
- Superman #240 (July 1971) - To Save a Superman
- Jimmy Olsen #139 (July 1971) - The Guardian Fights Again!!!
- Superman #241 (August 1971) - The Shape of Fear
- Superman #242 (September 1971) - The Ultimate Battle
- Jimmy Olsen #141 (September 1971) - Will the Real Don Rickles Panic?!?
- Jimmy Olsen #142 (October 1971) - The Man from Transilvane!
- Jimmy Olsen #143 (November 1971) - Genocide Spray
- Jimmy Olsen #144 (December 1971) - A Big Thing in a Deep Scottish Lake!
- Superman #247 (January 1972) - Must There Be A Superman
- Jimmy Olsen #145 (January 1972) - Brigadoom!
- Jimmy Olsen #146 (February 1972) - Homo-Disastrous!
- Jimmy Olsen #147 (March 1972) - A Superman in Super-Town!
- Jimmy Olsen #148 (April 1972) - Monarch of All He Subdues!
- Superman #292 (October 1975) - The Luthor Nobody Knows!
- Action Comics #458 (April 1976) - Make Me a Super-Hero! and Masquerade of the Nutty Kid!
- Superman vs. Muhammad Ali (Spring 1978)
- Action Comics #484 (June 1978) - Superman Takes a Wife!
- Superman #328 (October 1978) - Attack of the Kryptonoid
- Action Comics #489 (November 1978) - Krypton Dies Again and Where There's a Will... There's a Fray
- Superman #329 (November 1978) - I Have Met The Enemy... And He Is Me! and The Secret of the Talking Car
- Superman #330 (December 1978) - The Master Mesmerizer of Metropolis!
- Action Comics #490 (December 1978) - No Tomorrow For Superman
- Action Comics #491 (January 1979) - A Matter of Light and Death
- Superman #331 (January 1979) - Lockup at 20,000 Feet
- Action Comics #492 (February 1979) - Superman's Secret Afterlife
- Superman #332 (February 1979) - The Eternity Cage
- Action Comics #493 (March 1979) - The Metropolis UFO Connection
- Action Comics #494 (April 1979) - The Secret of the Super S
- Action Comics #495 (May 1979) - Attack of the Ultimate Warrior
- DC Comics Presents #14 (October 1979) - Judge, Jury... and No Justice!
- The Superman Story (1979) - The Life Story of Superman
- DC Comics Presents #57 (May 1983) - Days of Future Past
- DC Comics Presents #67 (March 1984) - 'Twas the Fright Before Christmas
- DC Comics Presents Annual #3 (1984) - With One Magic Word
- Superman: The Secret Years #1 (February 1985) - Dreams and Schemes and Feeling Proud!
- Superman: The Secret Years #2 (March 1985) - Reach Out and Touch
- Superman: The Secret Years #3 (April 1985) - Terminus
- DC Comics Presents #80 (April 1985) - A World Full of Supermen!
- Superman: The Secret Years #4 (May 1985) - Beyond Terminus
- DC Comics Presents #85 (September 1985) - The Jungle Line
- Superman Annual #11 (1985) - For The Man Who Has Everything
- World's Finest #323 (January 1986) - Afraid of the Dark
- DC Comics Presents #97 (September 1986) - Phantom Zone: The Final Chapter
- Superman #423 & Action Comics #583 (September 1986) - Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?
- Showcase Presents: Superman Family - Volume 1 (October 2005)
- Superman/Batman: Saga of the Super Sons (December 2007)
- Not Brand ECHH #7 (April 1967) - The Origin of Stuporman
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