Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Silver Age JLA - Green Arrow!


The fourth issue of Justice League of America marks the beginning of a grand tradition with the team, inducting new members. This has been a key feature of the comic, making sure it reflected the current state of DC affairs. While the original team would nearly always be at the core of the group, there have been over the decades proper additions which have made the team at once more relevant to the times in which it occurs and more reflective in some ways of the broader audience it wishes to attract. This issue like all others before it was written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Mike Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs. Murphy Anderson as always supplies a properly dramatic cover.


"Doom of the Star Diamond" begins as do many Fox epics, in outer space. A dictator named Xandar tries repeatedly to kill a noble warrior named Carthan who has gained invulnerability through a weird set of circumstances. Unable to kill him Xandar then plans to exile him to Earth where he will be held hostage by dint of three doomsday devices which will trigger if he attempts to leave. Depending on Carthan's good nature Xandar is certain this will work. But Carthan figures that the Justice League can save him and the world if he triggers the devices. Meanwhile the League is meeting to elect a new member. They consider Adam Strange and Hawkman, but agree on Green Arrow. But before they can go further a strange arrow arrives announcing Carthan's plans and the news that he has kidnapped Green Arrow. The team divides into three teams to confront the deadly devices. Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter face off against a device which causes animals and insects to grow to mammoth proportions. Eventually after battling giant bees, cats, and other such beasts they locate the off switch which has been shunted into another dimension. Next Flash and Aquaman race the waters off Australia and find the continent sinking. Flash uses his speed to race around the continent creating a constant wave to keep it suspended. Meanwhile Aquaman finds the device and tries to stop it, eventually realizing only Flash's vibrations can do so. The threat ended they head off to find the others. Green Lantern finds the third device gives animation to nonliving things, not least among them giant props for a science fiction movie. Despite the fact most of the props are yellow Green Lantern is able to use his wits and his will to end the threat. Superman and Batman have gone to find Carthan and rescue Green Arrow and do so, but before they can confront their enemy Carthan traps the returning Leaguers inside a giant diamond. Eventually he is deprived of his invulnerability and helps Green Arrow find the weak spot in the diamond so he can fire an arrow to free his new comrades. The threat over Carthan is returned to his home to help depose the dictator Xandar.



I love the way this one starts with the mystery of Carthan and his dilemma, but I must say he's hard to root for after he puts the whole of planet Earth under threat to save himself and possibly his own world. His confidence in the League is commendable but hardly heroic. His invulnerability is a convenient plot device but thematically makes less sense when he loses it. I did appreciate that it was Batman, nominally the weakest of the League members aside from Snapper Carr who did the deed. And that was a bonus here, both Batman and Superman play significant roles in this adventure and are not scuttled off to wings for the duration of the drama.

The League really seems to have a sense of themselves and the teams work well together. Continuity is alluded to in a few ways, not least of which is the mention of Adam Strange and Wonder Woman's reference to her first time partnership with Martian Manhunter when they face Starro.

Fourth issues of team books have been an interesting affair over the years. This fourth issue inducts Green Arrow.


The Fantastic Four found Sub-Mariner in their fourth issue, even if his heroism would take a while to shine.



The Avengers famously added Captain America to their ranks in their fourth issue.


And most similar to the League issue, and likely intentional was the addition of Green Arrow's sidekick Speedy to the Teen Titans in their fourth issue. 


More Green Arrow tomorrow. And next time the League faces a strange world where gravity loses its grip.

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5 comments:

  1. The idea of adding new members had the excitement of novelty. Plus it could be argued that characters like GA and the Atom had a certain amount of status built into their histories. Green Arrow was pretty much in the same position as Aquaman and Martian Manhunter, institutions as long running backups. Atom and Hawkman were Schwartz revivals and so that made some kind of sense. I think at some point it just got too cluttered and chaotic to make for concise stories.

    Stan Lee had a brainstorm of an idea when he turned the Avengers from a team of major stars into a less-powerful group of mostly ex-villains, but that seemed to start an unfortunate trend where membership lineups were so fluid that at one point the Justice League was full of made-up characters that made it look like the Legion of Substitute Heroes.

    I'm all for creativity and injecting new excitement into long-running books, but for me as a kid the appeal of the JLA and Avengers was that they were the major heroes in an elite group, like the Knights of the Round Table or Seal Team 6 (pick your own all star mashup). After a while there was so much shifting and bloating of memberships that all of the various teams blurred together and lost that feeling of exclusivity and primacy. Any hero could be part of any team and any team could have an unlimited number of members.

    Those first half dozen JLA covers just seemed more precious, more magic, more unusual. And at the time, that's what they were.

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    1. I concur about the "Kooky Quarter", they were a genius move and transformed how we think about the Avengers. Both the Avengers and the JLA have become so large as to lose cohesion as teams, they mostly labels now, but back in the Silver and Bronze Ages not so much.

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  2. These posts are facinating because I've never read these early JLA tales. Do you have any plans to do the same thing for the early Legion of Superheroes stories? I read all of those :)

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    1. The only Legion stories I feel strongly enough to feature individually would be the early Dave Cockrum material. I adore what he did for a moribund team.

      Glad you're enjoying these. I'm learning a lot myself putting them together.

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  3. I love all the silly/kooky early Silver Age Legion comics up through all the great Jim Shooter ones. I think I have some write ups I hand wrote into a notebook. If I can find it I'll post it on my blog.

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