Another installment of my holiday reading was the July issue of the splendid Back Issue.
As you’re aware, this time of year always reminds me of Marvel’s b/w magazines and Dc’s 100-page Super-Spectaculars: publications that exemplify the diverse formats of the mid-70s.
Titles like Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes and Justice League of America attained Super-Spec size between 1974 and 1975. They were great value for money and like their 72-73 predecessors, were primers for Golden and Silver Age heroes and villains. However, the economic pressures of the times led to the abandonment of the format. It’s hard to believe, working where I do, that there could ever have been a paper shortage.
In the era of DC One Million and The Kingdom, however, DC released facsimile editions of the Super-Specs: “lost” issues that mimicked the format, in a playful attempt to revisit their charms. Today’s post looks at the March 1999 Justice League Super-Spectacular.
In that it was an all-reprint comic, with a glossy, card cover, it already deviated from the 1975 model.
Planet That Came to a Standstill: is a 1962 Adam Strange adventure although it guest-stars the JLA and their alien adversary, Kanjar Ro. Kanjar escapes impisonment and travels to Rann where he allies himself with the Birdmen of Zoora. The bug-eyed monster also employs gravity chairs, a devolving ray and his Gamma Gong agaist Adam and the JLAers. Flash is impressed by the spaceman and makes note to self to propose him for JLA membership.
This airy, gorgeous tale depicts DC’s Jet-Pack John Carter as a thinker first and adventurer second but his teleportation issues made him an impractical Leaguer. I wasn’t really convinced further by the New 52 Adam’s stint in Justice League Canada this past year.
I was surprised that this issue didn’t reprint the sequel. Decoy Missions of the Justice League from December 1963. This is a fiendishly complex tale in which Kanjar Ro turns the aural duplicates of the JLA against them while hiding the Earth near Arcturus (!) Although this story was reprinted in the JLA Tabloid of 1976, it wasn’t seen in a 100-pager unlike the following:
The Case of the Patriotic Crimes: The Liberty Train is stolen by the new Imjustice Society. The JSAers split into duos or go solo to rescue priceless American treasures from the vilains. Black Canary and the Harlequin save the day and the Girl Gladiator, who inspired the JSAers to overcome the effects of the villains’ Mind Eraser, is elected to membership. It’s fascinating to see ” mere females” as the protagonists in a Golden Age story and the overweening rivalry between the Injustice Socialites is amusing. The message that the crooks can’t work together because of egotism is succinct and subtly outlines the strengths of the US Constitution.
This 1948 adventure is great fun but was previously printed in the 100-page JLA 113 in 1974. For the sake of verisimilitude, The Man Who Hated Science or The Secret of the Golden Universe from All-Star would have been better, in that they inspired early JLA stories.
Suddenly…the Witness Vanished! A gorgeous Atom short (ahem) from 1973. This Detective Comics back-up by Maggin and Anderson was really far too “recent” to have been included, however. It’s a time-wimey adventure for the World’s Smallest Sleuth as he travels back to the Great Chicago Fire, a century earlier.
Starro the Conquerer: another unlikely choice. I can still remember glimpsing Starro and being fascinated by “him” in this tiny cover image, in an ad in one of my cousin’s “ancient” DCs. This is of course the JLA’s debut: we visit their “modernistically outfitted cavern” and meet Snapper Carr, the Beat Generation’s Johnny Thunder. Interestingly, Aquaman wears his Golden Age or E-2 costume with yellow gloves.
True to the anxieties of the time, monster movie escapee Starro endangers the Earth with stolen atomic weaponry. Batman therefore has no input in the adventure but I often wish, for gender balance, that Batwoman had been one of the Big Seven. Her career was already four years old at that time.
The format of 1975’s Super Specs lends itself to further speculation. What would the original material have been like? Len Wein was gone from the title by the December 1974 issue, taking up the editor- in- chief role at Marvel. But what if he had written a couple of extra scripts? I’m sure we’d have seen Ralph Dibny become JLA chair. Wein might have revived old foes Despero or Amos Fortune and inducted Zatanna, the Maid of Magic, some three years early. My fantasy pick for the third team in the summer JLA/JSA team-up of 1975 would be the Teen Titans, last seen, I think in 1972. (But only if Bob Haney agreed to it!)
This is a very good-looking comic but the contents don’t really resemble a genuine mid-70s 100-pager. In a future post, we’ll look at a more successful tribute, the 100-page JSA Super-Spec. Next time, however, is our 250th post, where we’ll celebrate 40 years of the All-New, All-Different X-Men!
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