A Life of Matter and Death

This morning’s post concerns the final Bronze Age 100-page Super-Spectacular in my collection: Justice League of America no. 116. The cover date is March 1975.

The Kid Who Won Hawkman’s Wings: campy Silver Age Hawkman foe the Matter Master subconsciously  transforms 16-year-old orphan Charley Parker into the Golden Eagle. This is a bizarre and pretty goofy adventure in which the JLAers are given non-human heads and hunted by giant predators. I’d like to see Grant  ( Every Batman story counts) Morrison rationalise a rodent-headed Dark Knight snatched away by a giant owl.  Matter Master (aka Mark Mandrill!) is essentially an evil  sorcerer, despite his sci-fi trappings.

Again, the script’s tone is arch and tongue-in-cheek: Green Arrow encounters three crooks dressed as the Marx Brothers. Were they part of the nostalgia craze of the early 70s or was Dillin or Bates a fan?

The story  paves the way for Hawkman to rejoin the League. Personally, I see him as the linchpin of the Justice Society and prefer the Thangarian Hawkgirl in the JLA. Presumably named after jazz saxophonist Charlie ” Bird” Parker, Charley seems to have been created as a 70s version of JLA mascot Snapper Carr. In any case, he promptly vanished from the series.  Golden Eagle subsequently became a member of the Titans West and was killed off for a while in the 90s.

Mastermind of Menaces: the first of two 1965 Brave and Bold tryouts for the Black Canary/Starman team. It’s exquisitely pencilled by Murphy Anderson but Fox’s plot is rather silly. Forties villain the Mist uses flowers to mind-control people into committing crimes, which seems an odd gimmick for the gaseous ghoul.

There’s a warm friendship between The Astral Avenger, the Girl Gladiator and her husband, gumshoe Larry Lance.  Overrated nostalgist James Robinson cynically uncovered an extra-marital affair between Ted and Dinah, however,  in his popular hipster Starman series.  Presumably in the tiresome US quest for realism, it’s gritty and mature to depict the marital infidelity of super-heroes. I find it tawdry and sensationalist.

Challenge of the Untouchable Aliens: Stone giants from a parallel Earth plan to destroy cities on our world in order to save their own. It’s a bonkers, pulp sci-fi plot from Fox but the tactic of splitting into sub-teams still seems fresh.  I enjoy the Atom’s participation in early JLA stories, like this one from 1962, even though I find the Mighty Mite quite dull in his own series.

Just a Story: A second Howard Purcell reprint, from 1947. This story of an orphaned moppet is  more  simplistic and certainly more  saccharine than the filmic melodrama of its predecessor. Johnny Peril is a name worth reviving in the New 52. I’ve never read any of his late-60s revival stories in The Unexpected.

JLA Mail Room:  What do I know? Four rave reviews of no. 114’s Just a Story reprint; future LSH scripter Tom Bierbaum praises Len Wein’s characterisation skills; two LOCs enthuse about new(ish) Leaguers Elongated Man and Red Tornado.

Great logo, by Crom.

An ad for Claw the Unconquered is a bit jarring, since he’s such a blatant Buscema Conan rip-off.  Also, Marvel’s barbarians seem more sophisticated than DC’s Silver Age nostalgia for the Super Friends.

It’s a little depressing to compare this JLA issue with the O’Neil/Adams and Fourth World output at the beginning of the 70s.  Looking again at what the House of Ideas was publishing in March 1975, JLA appears somewhat juvenile by comparison:

Martians eat babies; humans commune with trees; the Red Skull crucifies a Cap stand-in; and Rick Jones gets high.

JLA 116 is a pleasant read, nonetheless and it might make the lower reaches of my Top Ten 100-page comics.

Coming soon: Super-Specs in the Twenty-First Century!

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners


One comment on “A Life of Matter and Death

  1. Richard says:

    “Overrated nostalgist James Robinson cynically uncovered an extra-marital affair between Ted and Dinah, however, in his popular hipster Starman series. Presumably in the tiresome US quest for realism, it’s gritty and mature to depict the marital infidelity of super-heroes. I find it tawdry and sensationalist.”

    Thank you for saying that — couldn’t agree more! How I loathed what Robinson did there. The idea that a woman can’t have a male friend without marital infidelity isn’t just tawdry, it’s utterly sexist and regressive and could fit right into a fundamentalist religious view of gender roles. (Honestly, to say that men can be friends with men, women can be friends with women, but men and women can never be friends because of unbridled lust is the same kind of thinking that ultimately leads to burqas, or dividing walls in temples because the genders mustn’t be allowed to see each other during prayer.) The friendship between Dinah and Larry and Ted was always a rare example of actual adult behavior among the superhero crowd, and I was offended by its transformation into cheap soap opera.

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