Volthoom!

This afternoon’s post concerns Justice League of America no. 114 from December 1974. This issue was another mail order purchase for me, some time in the early autumn of 1980. I associate this issue (and SLOSH 208) with “Army Dreamers” by Kate Bush ;  I can remember talking about them with my friend Graham Sim at Hamilton Grammar School.

The Return of Anakronus: A high-tech Roman Legionary holds Snapper Carr and his family hostage in order to extort ten million dollars from a JLA telethon ( in case you’re wondering, think Comic Relief). Anakronus claims he was an ally of the Lord of Time in JLA 10. This is obviously a delusion but Snapper phones for help. Atom turns up with Wein’s pet characters, Elongated Man and Red Tornado to save the day.

Reddy’s costume is an eyesore; he will be written out in just over a year’s time. The telethon gimmick story gives Wein the opportunity to throw in some humorous patter for Green Arrow. There’s a melancholy note, however, given Snapper’s betrayal of the League  back in 1969. The story ends with a dedication to Gardner Fox.

Just a Story : this evocative, charcterful short is a distillation of every Cagney movie ever made. I still find the blinding of the phony beggar a chilling scene. I knew Howard Purcell from a sword and sorcery one-shot from 1967 ( actually,  its reprint in the UK Super Heroes weekly.)

Imagery from that story crops up on  one of these Marvelmania posters from 1971.

I’m curious regarding ENB’s choice of “Just a Story”.  The origin of Dr. Fate from 1940’s More Fun Comics no. 55, for example,  is six pages long and would probably have been of more  interest to  JLA readers…

JLA Heroes of the Past: A text and paste-up feature on former Leaguers and allies Snapper Carr, J’Onn J’Onzz, Wonder Woman, Metamorpho and Zatanna.  It’s strange to think of most of these characters as “old-timers” but to the 1974 audience, that’s what they were!

Other DC luminaries mentioned are : E-1 Robin, Adam Strange, Batgirl, Phantom Stranger, Hawkgirl, Deadman and Sargon the Sorceror. Readers are asked if they’d like to see more of these heroes. Yes, please! Babs, Boston and the Stranger would be ideal guest stars while the horror/mystery and martial art fads remained popular. In reality, only Silver Age stalwarts Martian Manhunter and Adam Strange would appear in the next year’s issues.

Crisis on Earth-3/ The Most Dangerous Earth of All:  This is a slightly abridged reprint of the second summer team-up with the Justice Society from 1964.  It’s also the reason I bought the comic. It’s an action-packed classic from Fox (whom I’ve maligned this month) and Mike Sekowsky.

A criminal version of the JLA  feel themselves getting rusty and decide to take on our boys for practice. The Crime Syndicate – Johnny Quick, Superwoman ( a rogue Amazon), Owlman, Power Ring and Ultraman (who gains his powers from Kryptonite) come from a mirror-Earth where things are reversed: American Columbus discovered Europe, etc.

The Crime Syndicate use trickery to defeat the JLA, dragging them to Earth-3 with a magic word- “Volthoom”, the Lovecraftian name of the Buddhist monk who gave Power Ring his, er , power ring. The JSA are called in to assist. This story sees the 60s  revival of  Dr. Mid-Nite and Starman, who now has a cosmic rod, a souped-up gravity rod. Hawkman is on hand- his Thanagarian counterpart wouldn’t join the JLA until the next story.  Black Canary and the imposing Dr. Fate are obviously the stars of the team, however.

The JLA defeat the Syndicate in round two and the crooks are banished to the limbo between the Earths. There they remain until Gerry Conway and Mike Vosburg  pit them against Captain Comet  in Secret Society of Super-Villains– which is where I “met” them in the spring of ’78 .

They returned in 1982’s summer team -up of the JLA, JSA and All-Star Squadron: a “Crisis on Earth-Prime” (the second chapter of which is entitled “The Mystery Men of October” – catchy title!). The CSA were among the first victims of the Crisis on Infinite Earths.  In 2000, a  Crime Syndicate of Amerika hailing  from an anti-matter universe  made their debut in a graphic novel. It does beg the question: when did Grant Morrison last have an original idea?

 

 

This issue would certainly figure in my all-time top five of Super-Specs, purely for sentimental reasons. Wein’s last story of the Seventies is a downbeat and mundane thing and rather backward-looking. The nostalgic sci-fi of the League feels like an antique, compared to Marvel in ’74. But consider the JLA in the autumn of 1980; Dick Dillin’s final issue with Conway mining Kirby Koncepts from the previous decade:

Plus ca change, 1974.

Coming soon: The Man with a Million Molecules

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners

 

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