If I Could Turn Back Time

As I said the other day, I’ve now reviewed every Bronze Age 100-page DC Super-Spectacular in my collection. There are still about a half-dozen Batman and Detective issues I hope to get on ebay and I’ll add them if I do. Today’s post, however,  looks at a facsimile Super-Spec  from 1999.

After the speculator boom of the early part of the decade -the era of McFarlane’s Spidey and Liefeld’s X-Force and the subsequent bankruptcy of Marvel- DC appeared to retreat into Silver Age nostalgia. Revamps included  Supergirl, the Teen Titans, Morrison’s Justice League and Flash, John Byrne’s Wonder Woman and Fourth World series. Bronze and Silver Age formats reappeared, specifically Alex Ross’s treasury sized books and a number of faux 80 page Giants.

The editorial  in JLA Super- Spectacular Number 1, 1975 issue posited the question: “But what if there had existed one last…Super Spectacular  from (the 70s) – a “lost” issue that had never seen print?”  Well, I wish it had been somewhat more authentic than what we find between the glossy covers of this issue.

It’s not that the comic is bad, per se. Naturally, there can be  no “new” 1975 material from Cary Bates, Maggin or even Gerry Conway and Dick Dillin. There is, however, The Planet That Came to a Standstill, an Adam Strange story from  Mystery in Space. Although not strictly a JLA adventure, it does feature the League as guest stars  and their old foe Kanjar Ro, with elegant, classy Infantino/ Anderson artwork.

I was more disappointed by the baffling inclusion of  The Case of the Patriotic Crimes, already previously  reprinted in JLA 113, a genuine JLA Super-Spec from the summer of 1974. While I enjoy this second duel with the Injustice Society starring my Golden Age favourite the Harlequin, this goof  is all the more frustrating since it squanders a rare opportunity to showcase the Forties JSA.

Suddenly…the Witness Vanished:  an Atom/Time Pool short from 1973, which would never have been reprinted a mere two years later. Surprisingly Elliot S! Maggin doesn’t irritate me, showing off his knowledge of Carl Sandburg but he does depict an unheroic  Atom leaving a time-travelling thief to die in the Great Fire of Chicago.  However, it’s elegantly drawn and designed by Murphy Anderson; I’m envious of Ray Palmer’s luxuriant sideburns.

The final selection is Starro the Conqueror, the first-ever JLA adventure and one  featuring the iconic mind-controlling starfish, a refugee B-movie monster, who would be welcome in Marvel’s Tales to Astonish . Not only are we introduced to an audience-identification character the kooky Snapper Carr, Fox and Sekowsky modify  old JSA tactics  by teaming up Wonder Woman and J’Onn J’Onzz.   The verisimilitude is strained again however  since  this story  had  also already been  reprinted in the first-ever JLA Giant back in 1965. I think it unlikely that editor Schwartz or ENB would have included it again in 1975.

There’s a cutsey, mock-up JLA Mail Room which has the wrong masthead- Hawman’s still there but there’s no Elongated Man or Red Tornado. The LOCs are fictional tributes to real-life correspondents like Bob Rodi and Guy H Lillian III. The stately JSA double-page pin-up by Murphy Anderson (previously seen in issues 76 and 110) gets  an anachronistic third printing.

I’d previously noted that genuine Bronze Age Super-Specs tended to reprint strips from no later than the early spring of 1969. So, one way to make this facsimile seem more like a genuine 70s issue, while still appealing to a 1999 comic shop browser, would be to feature a JLA-JSA crossover. In 1975, the third such “Crisis” had not yet been reprinted (to my knowledge).

So, submitted for your consideration, as Rod Serling might have put it, here are my alternate takes on contents for this issue:

It’s even got Super-Spectacular on the cover,  daddy-o.

Here we have the whimsical story of the Thunderbolt under the sway of the villainous Johnny Thunder of Earth-1. Among the JSAers pitted against The  Lawless League of Earth-Alternate  is a revived Mr. Terrific. His Fair Play slogan is a bit rich since he was born with all his advantages. Er, moving on…

Keeping the gorgeous Atom tale, I’d round out this issue with the  Zobar Zodiak story,since the cover recalls Amos Fortune’s Wheel of Misfortune.

My second alternative line-up keeps the Adam Strange tale and features a done-in- one story that hadn’t been reprinted in the Bronze Age,  1964’s  “Four Worlds to Conquer”. So, we’re bookending the comic with another iconic  early JLA villain, the fin-headed, three-eyed despot and games master Despero.

To represent the JSA,  perhaps the first  Per Degaton clash?

To round out an all-hourglass issue, how about this Hourman strip?

From  Adventure Comics (81 December 1942)- previously tapped for “A Drama in Dreams” and “Starman’s Lucky Star” and just  for the title alone: “Time Out for Hitler”!)

Maybe I should have been an associate editor at DC!

Next time, we’ll review a second facsimile Super-Spec featuring the All-Stars themselves.

All images presumed copyright of their respective owners


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