Premiere League

I may have got the order of these posts on Treasuries and Tabloids slightly wrong. I understand that this Justice League issue was supposedly on sale during the late summer of 1976; perhaps my upcoming post on Thor should precede it. In any case, I never saw a single DC tabloid in newsagents in South Lanarkshire, Ayrshire, Glasgow or Galloway: my environs in those halcyon days.

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Collected here are two Fox-Sekowsky-Sachs JLA cases from the early 1960s. This is the kind of material I raved about to the London sci-fi club members I met at Longleat thirty years ago.

Decoy Missions of the Justice League: the JLA are tricked by bug-eyed alien Kanjar Ro into battling non-existent menaces while the villain steals the Earth and moves it to orbit Arcturus. This is a sequel to “The Planet that Came to a Standstill”- the first team-up of the JLA with spaceman Adam Strange- and also to a second Zeta-Beam tale: “The Super-Brain of Adam Strange”, reprinted in Action Comics 443 (1975) which we’ve revisited here previously. And, as we saw,  that story also spawned a sequel, “Amazing Thefts of the IQ Gang”.

Fox was a hugely prolific scripter and this story spotlights his pulp fiction roots: aural duplicates; a Dawn Age atomic world; the menace of alien trees in the famine-struck Ninety-Second century and an invasion by the figureheads of sunken ships. However, the multiple scenarios are quite complex and the heroes have identikit personalities. This genteel sci-fi seems rather juvenile compared to Englehart’s kozmic history of the Kree and the Cotati in Avengers circa 1975.

The Deadly Dreams of Dr. Destiny: the villain of this 1965 case reminds me of the JSA’s foes in the Forties, like the original Psycho Pirate. The genial-looking convict has created a “Dream Materioptikon” (ker-azy name!) which he hopes will enable him to defeat the JLA-ers in their dreams and in reality.

Despite guest appearances by the Joker and the one-off Katar Hol villain Chac ( a Mayan priest), this is a dull tale which even recent inductee Hawkman can’t rescue. To my knowledge, Dr. Destiny was never seen again until 1978 and the Giant-Size era of the JLA. If Len Wein had stayed on as JLA scripter instead of moving to Marvel, perhaps he would have revived the villain.  In any case,when Destiny reappeared, it was as a hooded, skeletal madman who had power over the realm of dreams, not unlike Dr. Strange’s foe, Nightmare.

The extra features are charming, however. Terry Austin’s centre-spread poster of the League and its major allies in the mid-70s includes Metamorpho, Zatanna and Phantom Stranger- but neglects other significant guests, chiefly Hawkgirl and  Sargon the Sorceror.

Alex Toth’s model sheets from the Super Friends tv series present Superbaby, Jay Garrick and Plastic Man- a character who obviously had a following at DC but one who has never broken through to maintain a comic for any length of time. These pages are an intriguing look at a tv show that was never broadcast in this country ( although I enjoyed the Bridwell/Fradon comic.)

The back cover features annual favourites, the Justice Society of America. Forties stalwarts Atom, Starman and Johnny Thunder are absent. Surprisingly, so are Power Girl, Robin, Wildcat, Hourman and the Star-Spangled Kid: all featured in the revival of All-Star Comics at the beginning of ’76.

It seems strange (no pun intended) not to include the Mystery in Space story unless it was because it had been previously reprinted four years earlier. Equally oddly, given the JSA on the back cover, why not just reprint  the 1965 “Crisis on Earth-A”, with the first revival of the original Mr. Terrific, the criminal Johnny Thunder and his Lawless League? 

In 1976, JLA was still strip-mining Fox’s legacy with space opera tales of Despero and the Queen Bee while a floundering Supergirl (who should have been inducted there and then) guest-starred. What the JLA needed  was a grittier revamp after Wein departed but this tabloid was an opportunity to capitalise on the patriotic summer and the revival of the Justice Society. They blew it.

Next: Thunder in the Mountains

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners

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