Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Not Brand Echh #5 - The Forbush Issue!


 Dear Marble Gang,

    Now that it's officially Not Brand Echh the book has improved tremendously with the fifth issue. While I was let down a bit by the previous "Bad Guys Win" book, I was much smitten with the events of this particular issue. 

    Easily the winner in a trio of real contenders was "The Origin of Forbush Man" by Stan "The Man" Lee and Jack "King" Kirby. I notice that the King was helped out this time by Tom Sutton who has made a bit impression since his debut on the comic. Forbush Man is a hit with this reader, a real addition to the burgeoning Marble Universe. Loved the fact that we never see the actual face of this newest mystery man and it's very nifty to see that despite his inherent lack of skill or talent that he succeeded in his quest to become a renowned and celebrated superhero. It gives hope to all us nebishes that we too might achieve greatness despite our shortcomings. 

    My second favorite of the three yarns was "The Revengers vs. Charlie America" by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan. This is Mr. Colan's second out in the NBE venue and it's a marked improvement with his characterizations being a bit broader than with the Scaredevil story. Liked that much like the Marvel Universe the heroes of the Marble Universe get to fighting one another for little or no reason and as for the ending, sometimes I think Charlie might be getting right when it comes to the modern world. 

    Finally is the Stan Lee and Marie Severin effort "The Bulk vs. The Thung" which reminded me for all the world of a vintage Popeye cartoon in which two rambunctious and  suitors with violent tendencies battle it out in outrageous fashion for the attentions of a single dame. It was a funny and the send up at the end was pretty nifty. 

    All three stories were well paced and the art as usual was spectacular. Looking very much forward to the next issue which promises marriage if not romance, and I hope to see more Forbush Man before too much longer. 

                                                                                                                            Sincerely (Not)
                                                                                                                            Rip Jagger


Notes and Comments: The arrival of Forbush Man (again...he was on the debut cover but without any story context) signals the beginning of a mature Not Brand Echh. The faceless stalwart takes the book into fresh spaces and not just parodies of particular issues of comics but of the notion of superheroing in general. Really liked Gene Colan's art this time out, it's broad and inviting, and more in keeping with the level of absurdity that both Marie Severin and Tom Sutton were achieving. The battle story between the Marble versions of the Hulk and the Thing lacks much motivation but does capture the singular characteristic of Marvel Comics, that their heroes would tee off against each other on a whim. 

Here are the covers of the comics which inspired some of this issues fun. 



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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Classic Crisis #20 - The Rage Of Aquarius!


We come at last in 1969 to the first Justice League-Justice Society crossover not written by Gardner Fox. Denny O'Neil steps in to take the reins of the summer classic as Sid Greene will complete his final Earth-2 story, and this one will have some significant consequences for the DC universe.


"Star Light, Star Bright--Death Star I See Tonight" scripted by Denny O'Neil features again the artwork of Dick Dillin and Sid Greene. The peculiar cover is by Joe Kubert. The story begins in space a long time ago when the Council of Living Stars ejects one of its own, a star named Aquarius for his crimes against the universe. His vast energy is drained save for that necessary to keep him barely alive and he is set to wander the universe forever. The last issue of JLofA had Red Tornado show up with news of Earth-2 but the League only gets around to hearing his story now and he tells of Starman encountering an anomaly which turns out to be the depleted Aquarius. Getting control of Starman's Cosmic Rod, Aquarius is able to recoup his power. Then Starman's body falls out of the sky into the greenhouse of Larry Lance and his wife Dinah Drake Lance, also known as Black Canary. She investigates but is set upon by a mysterious attacker who turns out to be her husband. He comes to his senses after she defeats him and she summons more Justice Society members. Dr.Fate, Dr.Mid-Nite, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and Superman answer the call. Lantern faces animated neon light warriors and subdues them. Dr.Mid-Nite encounters a four-year old brat who goes on a super-strength tantrum, and Dr.Fate is knocked out the sky by a mysterious power. The Society gathers and find themselves face to face with a now gigantic but humanoid Aquarius. They quickly determine he is a schizophrenic manic-depressive and one with vast power thanks to the Cosmic Rod. The battle to little effect, then he vanishes the whole of Earth-2 to nothingness, the only survivors are the Society members saved by Fate in a magic bubble. Only their memories now preserve Earth-2. Trapped, Aquarius waits for his power to accumulate again then he will destroy them. Red Tornado who had been ordered to sit on the sidelines then makes a beeline for Earth-1 and that brings the tale full circle as the League kick themselves for making him wait, but decide of course to act. But that will the next issue.


"Where Death Fears To Tread!" is again by the O'Neil, Dillin, and Greene team, with a dynamic Neal Adams cover up front. The story picks up with the League making the crossing to Earth-2 where Green Lantern notes a dangerous place in the Borderland, an access to a zone of negative matter. The League confronts Aquarius, and as it's been two weeks Fate's powers fade and his bubble collapses. The Society immediately comes under the control of Aquarius who orders them to battle the League members. Superman battles Superman, Batman battles Dr.Mid-Nite, Dr.Fate takes on Flash and the Atom, Wonder Woman fights Hawkman, and the Green Lanterns take each other on. The League wins pretty quickly save for the Supermen who both collapse. Green Arrow traps the Black Canary with his new "stickum arrow" but is himself knocked unconscious by her husband Larry Lance who has all this time been fighting alongside the JSofA. Aquarius launches an attack that threatens to kill the trapped Canary but Lance throws his body in harm's way saving her, but sacrificing his own life. The League and Society are both stunned, and at that same time Earth-2 reappears complete. Both the JSofA and JLofA take time to bury Larry Lance and then Aquarius reappears minus the Cosmic Rod which presumably had been lost in the last encounter. The combined might of the heroes launch against him,but it is for the two Green Lanterns to plot to lure the mad star into the dangerous zone of negative matter. They goad him into following them there, where he is destroyed utterly. After the battle, the Black Canary requests that she be able to accompany the League back to Earth-1, which they gladly agree to.


There is a pretty rich emotional quality to this particular crossover. The death of Larry Lance hits the heroes pretty hard, actually harder than the utter oblivion of all of Earth-2. That's because the latter is old hat comic book storytelling and we all know that the status quo will be returned. With the death of a guy like Lance, there is a sense of finality. This is one character we won't see again, and it stings a bit. I'm not at all sure that O'Neil had any notion of the ultimate romance between Canary and Green Arrow when he made Arrow a critical part of her husband's death, but it does add texture to their relationship. In fact I think it was O'Neil's plan to have Canary attracted to Batman, but that didn't gel for whatever reason. 


The loss of veteran Sid Greene will impact these stories. Worthy inkers will take on the stories, but Greene's crisp style will be missed. I haven't actually counted, but it's entirely possible that Greene worked on more of the Earth-2 stories than did anyone else, including Gardner Fox. If not, it's very close. Dick Dillin will remain with the series for a good long time, so while changes will come again and again, a strong reliable thread is still evident. 

Note: The "Classic Crisis" series will suspend for the month to make room for other posts. It should pick up again in May. 

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Monday, April 12, 2021

Not Brand Echh #4 - The Bad Issue!


Dear Marble Gang,

    Sadly despite a hectic and action-filled cover the fourth issue of Brand Echh fell short of it predecessors in terms of laughs. It's a great notion to flip the scripts and have the bad guys win, but it seems to have made for some too-long and not very fun-filled yarns. 

    The strongest of the three tales was "If Magneat-O Should Clobber Us" by reliable Roy Thomas and new-find Tom Sutton which is confused but succeeds ultimately by the sheer volume of attempted gags and crammed in jokes. The "chicken fat" in this one would make the Elder proud and the final gag is a winner for sure. 

    "Kayoed by Krank!" by Gary Friedrich and Marie Severin comes in next on the list and it succeeds mostly on the strength of Marie's always entertaining artwork. Having "Prince No-More" displaced is a good joke and plays well on what actually happens in the pages of Tales to Astonish, but beyond cramming in every soggy star from TV and comics we've heard of, there was little going on. 

    ""Defeated by the Evil Electrico" sadly was a disappointment. I love Gene Colan's take on Daredevil and he brings some of that magic here too, but the story was addled and beyond the premise seemed to offer nothing much, and the closing gag was a major dud. 

    What I think was the matter is that the stories were too long. In the previous issue the seven to eight page length was right for spoofing the origins, but here the simple twist of having the villains prevail would've worked better in a taut four or five pages. Hopefully the next issue will be a return to glory. 

                                                                                                                       Sincerely (Not)
                                                                                                                        Rip Jagger



Notes and Comments: This is the final issue of Brand Echh. After this issue it will be known officially as Not Brand Echh as the cover has suggested since the beginning. The problem with the stories in this issue is simply that they are just one joke each and that joke keeps getting reiterated over and over again as the stories struggle on. Cutting the length of these to four pages (with the possible exception of the X-Men parody) would have done much to make them snappier and more effective. There then would have been room for a whole new story. But artistically this is still a strong issue with three dandy talents making it look good at least.  The sad fact is that most of this issue just ain't all that funny. Things will get better I know. 

Below are the covers of the comics which most likely inspired the stories in this comics. 





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Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Sunday Funnies - Me Li'l Sweepea!


The sixth and final volume of the Fantagraphics collection of the classic E.C. Segar Popeye comic strips has some real surprises in it. Tragically Segar feel victim to leukemia as a relatively young man and so lost the chance to really demonstrate his talent for decades unlike some of his peers. He died when Popeye was at the height of its newspaper popularity and was restructuring the way in which the newspaper syndicates were going about getting revenues from their Sunday page draws. 


As you'd suspect from the title more than a few stories involve the mysterious tyke Popeye takes and raises as his own, the bizarre baby named only "Swee'Pea". But first there is the saga of the "Mystery Melody" in which an unknown female plays haunting music to lure Poopdeck Pappy. It turns out it's the Sea Hag and she turns her attentions on Wimpy for some reason. Afterwards Popeye becomes invested in saving a starving young woman named "Susan". He becomes rather obsessed with seeing to her welfare and ultimately finds her home and makes sure that she is no longer being swindled. It's a touching sequence at times and alas a creepy one at times as well. Then Poopdeck Pappy gets involved with the court system when he tries to sow some wild oats. Then the secret of Swee'Pea is revealed when a man shows up and says the little kid is royalty, the king of "Demonia". Popeye and the gang tag along and help this new monarch deal with arranged marriages and mysterious demons under the ground. It's this storyline that Segar was unable to finish and it's where we leave to visit the Sunday pages. 


As usual the Sunday page cannot seem to pass up yet one more gag about Wimpy the mooch trying to finagle a free hamburger at Rough-House's diner. Interspersed with those are some tales of Toar, the fantastically strong caveman and loyal friend of Popeye, a long sequence where Popeye must battle against a boxer named "Kid Mustard" who alas also eats spinach to enhance his strength. In this color arena Swee'Pea gets the spotlight again as this time his mother returns to take him back but he runs aways and we follow him on his journey back to the swollen arms of his beloved Popeye. Poopdecak Pappy is a little spry and shaves off his beard to pitch woo to Olive who is convinced that Popeye has finally popped the question. And that's about where we leave it when Segar passed away. 

"Sappo" is back to its old basics after many months as a mere visual gag, with Sappo, his wife, and Professor Wottasnozzle heading into deep space and visiting a range of oddball planets in our solar system. Wottasnozzle always dreams up a device that will not only capture but freeze actual dreams and that causes a bit of ruckus in the Sappo home when it turns out they dont' dream about each other. All in all a very nifty batch of misadventures. 


Because Segar tragically died, there is little evidence of any drop off in quality, it was good right up to the end, at least for him. As we well known Popeye thrived long after his creator's demise and while the comic strip had many a high and low over the decades, it would offer some surprises. Among those was a very topical and evocative run by Bobby London in the late 1980's. Next time the Dojo focuses on those. 

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Saturday, April 10, 2021

Alter-Ego - The Legendary Fanzine!


We live in interesting times when it comes to being a fan of anything. If you fancy a particular style of storytelling or a particular kind of music or a particular brand of films it's not only easy to get access to avalanches of information about your chosen interest, but it is in fact difficult to get out of the way of tsunamis of data that wash over you before you know it. Getting spoiled about some upcoming project is so easy it requires real dedication and focused effort to keep from it. It's a far different world than existed in the early 1960's when comic books and in particular superhero comic books began to regain some of the footing and success of a few decades past during WWII. It was a time when comic books were seen as much as plague as an investment and few and far between were the dedicated fans who harbored an abiding affection for the masked marvels of an earlier age. It was a time ripe for a fanzine called Alter Ego


Alter Ego was the invention of  Dr. Jerry Bails, a professor of science and a comics fan from Missouri with a passion for collecting and collating data, especially data about his favorite superhero team the Justice Society of America. He exchanged letters with Julius Schwartz, editor at DC Comics who was in the process of reviving the old Golden Age masked men and reshaping them for a modern post-nuclear American audience of kids and others eager to read about heroes again. These letters both informed and provoked both men and they became friends of a sort and eventually it occurred to Bails that he might like to discover and communicate with likeminded fans and how best to do that but get some addresses of same and begin a little newsletter about the subject. That turned into Alter Ego, a humble mimeographed publication which used both erudite understanding and humor to find a ready audience. The humor came from an unsettled Missouri teacher of English named Roy Thomas who had in his spare time concocted a zany parody of the shiny new Justice League of America called "The Bestest League of America". They graced the cover of the first issue of Alter Ego and were included in the first three issues in a continuing story. 




The first three Alter Ego issues, the one produced on spirit duplicating machines all appear in 1961 and their make up was pretty standard for fanzines that wanted to motivate fan interaction and also advertise and promote new publications from the likes of DC mostly but eventually Marvel as well. The Golden Age focus of Jerry Bails is evident in these seminal issues as he writes about a vintage JSA villain the Wizard as well as the Golden Age Green Lantern. Roy Thomas offers up his trio of "Bestest League of America" spoofs which rip on the burgeoning Silver Age revival at DC as well as writing new fiction starring The Spectre. Creating buzz for heroes they wanted to see revived such as the Spectre and the Atom feels a mainstay focus of the early Alter Egos. There are letters from the likes of Steve Gerber, Ted White, Don Thomposon and others. To read the "Bestest League of America" trilogy check out this odd link


It is almost a year later in 1962 when the fourth and final Jerry Bails issue of Alter Ego, this done on photo-offset, hits the grubby hands of the subscribers. And in it Bails announces his departure and that a team called "The Triad" will be taking over. (More on them in a moment.) This issue also features the first Alley Awards, a selection of the best that comic books had to offer the superhero fans and as one might expect in this early era, DC mopped up the competition. Bails offers up a detailed look at the MLJ heroes and Roy Thomas describes the elaborate electoral process for the Alleys (which were actual fragile figurines of the famous comic strip cave man no less). Paul Reinman contributes a piece talking about his process and his studio and there's art from Jack "King" Kirby. The fanzines have been noticed and some pros see value in helping this fledgling group along their way. 



The fifth and sixth issues of Alter Ego take a tremendous leap forward in their visual quality when they finally arrive in 1963 and 1964 respectively. "The Triad" had been fan artist Ronn Foss, his wife Myra and artist Richard "Grass' Green. Sadly the latter two fell away after great hopes and Foss fended pretty much alone as publisher but with much help from Green as an artist and Biljo White another fine fan artist. Foss brought his creation "The Eclipse" to the pages of Alter Ego and these are delightful superhero yarns in a slick style which was almost professional about a hero who was an updated Dr.Mid-Nite (Foss couldn't get DC to let actually do Mid-Nite) who can walk through walls in shadow. There are professional contributions in theses issues by Carmine Infantino, Curt Swan, Russ Manning, and Steve Ditko as well as an interview with artwork with Joe Kubert. Articles range from how to build a worthwhile collection (of mostly Golden Age stuff) and about the movie serials by Ron Haydock (a rockabilly singer and partime actor as well -- Rat Pfink anyone?). More Alley Award results finally come in and the Fantastic Four are starting to point the way to the future. The Bestest League returns but this time drawn by "Grass" Green and the team meets the "Frantic Four". 




Roy Thomas takes up the reins after Foss has to move on and Roy gets together three issues in late 1964 and through 1965. These are mature fanzines with good artwork and even a titular superhero yarn titled "Alter and Captain Ego" by Biljo White. This is a Captain Marvel variant and the first issue of the three focuses like a laser on the Fawcett Marvel Family with articles by Roy and some tremendous contributions from Captain Marvel writer Otto Binder. The next issue takes a gander at the Blackhawks as well as a long two-part article on Mexican comics and some of the original superheroes from below the border. Ron Foss is back with more Eclipse and there is even some promise of an adaptation of Gardner Fox's Warrior of Llarn, though that doesn't actually make print until Bill Schelly rescued it decades later. some of the gems are actual pages from Otto Binder about unpublished Captain Marvel stories and some comic strips by him and C.C. Beck starring the talking tiger "Mr.Tawny". More pro contributions by Steve Ditko help make these remarkable zines of the time. After these three issues though Alter Ego goes dark for some time and for a simple reason. Roy Thomas becomes a professional writer, first at Charlton and then briefly at DC before landing at Marvel where he becomes a major architect alongside Stan and the rest of the Bullpen. He wants to do more Alter Ego issues but it doesn't happen until 1969 and by then its a prozine through and through. 


Alter Ego ten is an issue I remember being advertised in the comics of the day. With support from professionals like Roy Thomas, Sol Brodsky, and Marie Severin (she did the portrait), it 's no wonder this is a fondly remembered magazine. It features perhaps the finest piece Alter Ego ever produced in its nascent incarnation, and that's an amazing interview with sometimes maverick artist Gil "Sugar Lips" Kane. Kane was a mainstay at DC and then he turns up at Marvel and was making an impression there, but like Jack Kirby and others wanted to take comics into new formats. He was in the process of making his magazine Kane...His Name is Savage when he did the interview that both enlightens fans and fired up a few pros. It's insightful and provocative and if you haven't been convinced you need this reprint collection before now, then this interview is almost worth the price alone. There is also material from Joe Kubert, unseen Tor pages and Tor even makes the back cover. One of the funniest articles in the issue (or any) is delightful piece by Roy Thomas in which he attempts to explain the Trina Robbins theory that Jim Steranko died after SHIELD #3 and that a doppleganger was responsible for the work thereafter, a doppleganger by the name of Paul McCartney. 


And that's it for Alter Ego until almost a decade later in 1978 when finally Mike Friedrich, at the time publisher of Star*Reach, a groundbreaking independent comic, sought and got permission to publish the elements that were to have been the eleventh issue which focused on artist Bill Everett and had a lengthy interview done by Roy Thomas as well as a remembrance of the artist who died too young in the early 70's. This issue also features an interview the Moebius and at that time he was among the most avant garde of artists in the field. 


And that's that for Alter Ego until decades later in the later 1990's still Roy Thomas dusts off the title and brings it to Twomorrows Publications where it finds a home it has enjoyed ever since. I've rarely missed an issue and never because I wanted to. I don't get through all of them but I enjoy almost all that I do get around to. The magazine has done a fine job of documenting a generation of talents who have all but left this world and left comics and comics history to younger hands.  For an amazing issue by issue breakdown of the contents of the Alter Ego issues check out this link

Next week --more Alter Ego

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Friday, April 9, 2021

Not Brand Echh #3 - The Origins Issue!


 Dear Marble Gang,

    This is the third issue th best issue of Brand Echh yet! I found the quality of every story supremely entertaining and the range of talent was typically strong. With art by the likes of Jack "King" Kirby and "Mirthul" Marie Severin the book looks great, but add in a new find like Tom Sutton and you have a real winner on your hands. 

    My favorite story was "The Incredible Bulk -The Origin of Brucie Banter" by Gary Friedrich and Marie Severin. The spin on the classic story we are all familiar with was a real hoot and not merely an inversion of the actual events. Switching the setting to a garbage dump and making it all about getting rid of trash put the right note on this offbeat kooky yarn. "Slick Jones" was a real hoot and much more like teenagers I've come across.  The "Inedible Bulk's" musings were a riot and the ending was worth waiting for. Ho ho ho! 

    Coming a very close second was "The Honest-to-Irving True-Blue Top-Secret Original Origin of Charlie America". Roy Thomas and Tom Sutton crafted a real winner here filled top to bottom with chicken fat of the most exquisitely inane. The story itself was a nifty send up the classic and making our hero a coward and draft dodger was a neat twist as was the the surprise twist ending which I won't spoil for those who might not have read it yet. (What are you waiting for?)

    It's amazing to me that a story like "The Mighty Sore! The Origin of Sore, Son of Shmodin!" by such stalwarts as Stan "The Man" Lee and Jack "King" Kirby would be the third of three in this great book but such is the high quality of the storytelling in Brand Echh at this moment. Kirby's work is so antic and filled with energy even when he's giving us a "Jazzgard" filled with all sorts of famous people (including one Alfred E. Newman too you scamps). Love the ending and Shmodin made more sense to me in this story than his Marvel Universe template ever did.

    All in all a dandy issue and I'm already looking forward to the bad guys taking over. 

                                                                                                                          Sincerly (Not).
                                                                                                                          Rip Jagger 


Notes and Comments: The addition of the painfully underrated Tom Sutton was a major boon to the ongoing critical success of Brand Echh (soon to become Not Brand Echh). His wacky off-kilter artwork was a nifity contrast to Marie Severin's polished parodies. Both of these artists excelled at this kind of material and they even rate over the epic talent of Jack Kirby. With this issue I got a real sense of an ongoing "Marbel Universe", similar to the Marvel Universe but not just a rabid parody, though it was that too. The world of Not Brand Echh would be dubbed some years later as having taken place on Earth-616 in the expansive Marvel Multiverse and it's in this third issue that it comes alive for me. Also this time Stan Lee did write the funniest story, with both Roy Thomas and Gary Friedrich striking gold.  This is a dynamite issue of a series loaded with plenty of kick. 

Here those original "Silver Age" origin stories.




Next time the villains take the center stage and some new talent enters the fray. 



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Thursday, April 8, 2021

Classic Crisis #19 - The Stormy Return Of Red Tornado!


1968 was the year I began my first hand experience with the classic Justice League-Justice Society crossovers. I tumbled into comics gathering from all sources before becoming a Marvel Zombie for a few years. My very first Justice League comic was JLofA #64 featuring the debut of the Red Tornado and signaling the end of an era in the League. This was Gardner Fox's last crossover script, the guy who started it all was done with Earth-2...almost. More on that later.


"The Stormy Return of the Red Tornado!" by Gardner Fox features the artwork of new Justice League artist Dick Dillin, moving over from DC's long-running Blackhawk title. Sid Greene remains on the inks. Outgoing JLofA artist Mike Sekowsky and Joe Giella are credited with the cover artwork. This story begins on Earth-2 with the JSofA being bored by a lack of crime. Hourman unveils his Crime-Caster, a computer to predict crime, when suddenly the Red Tornado appears announcing his return to the team. The Society is non-plussed since the Red Tornado they knew was a large woman in a homemade costume who bumbled through only one JSofA adventure. Tornado insists he's the real McCoy nonetheless despite revealing he has no face at all. He does however have detailed information on the Society's secret identities. They are debating the situation when the Crime-Caster predicts a robbery at the 20th Century Museum. Dr.Fate, Black Canary, Hourman, Starman, Flash and the Red Tornado race to the crime to find faceless villains doing the deed. The battle is rough and tumble with the Tornado attempting to help but invariably his actions result in the seeming deaths of each of the JSofA members. Only Dr.Fate survives along with the Tornado. The villain of the piece is revealed as T.O.Morrow an Earth-1 villain who has used future weapons and a prophetic computer to commit his crimes. It is revealed that he created the Tornado to infiltrate and defeat the Society despite the Tornado's lack of complicity. The Tornado chases Morrow down, but is defeated himself. Meanwhile Dr.Fate gathers more Society members (Mr.Terrific, Sandman, Atom, Green Lantern, Dr.Mid-Nite, and Hawkman) to stall a further attack by Morrow on the Island of Atlantis. Red Tornado seems already to be on site and fighting the villains, and defeating Morrow. But when the JSofA arrives Tornado mishandles a weapon discharging radiation which again seemingly "kills" the remaining members of the Society along with the Tornado himself. The comic ends with T.O. Morrow vowing to go to Earth-1 to continue his crime spree knowing from his prophetic computer that he can only be defeated if the Tornado appears, but since Red Tornado is "dead" he's supremely confident.
 

"T.O.Morrow Kills The Justice League--Today!" again features the talents of Fox, Dillin and Greene, with Dillin delivering his first cover. The League is assembled when five of the members' romantic interests arrive to give them lethal kisses before vanishing. The members who are "killed" are Snapper Carr, Wonder Woman, Atom, Hawkman, and Aquaman. The remaining Leaguers are warned of the attack of three mythical monsters, an orange dragon, a yellow griffin, and a purple harpy. Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Green Arrow face off against this threat and win but then have to face in the Secret Santuary itself former villains. Amazo, a Diamond Creature, Doctor Light, Super-Duper, and Starro all battle the remaining Leaguers and "kill" them. The defeated and presumably deceased Justice League is then arranged in alcoves so that Morrow can gloat over his victory. Meanwhile on Earth-2 the Red Tornado recovers, heads to Earth-1 and uncovers Morrow's plot. He then arranges for the real loves of the five originally stricken League members to come and give each a "Kiss of Life" to undo the "Kisses of Death". The Leaguers revive and attack Morrow's forces again as he plots to pit the twin Earths into a war with each other. Morrow is defeated, the remianing League members are revived and Red Tornado returns to Earth-2 to revive all of the seemingly dead Justice Society members who then induct the Tornado officially into their ranks. The story ends with Tornado wondering about what this new life will mean for him.

Original Red Tornado by Sheldon Mayer

So this is the story that introduced me to the Justice League. Did you notice what was missing from the first half of this story. Yep, there is no Justice League. The JLofA is absolutely missing from their own comic book completely. Not a single panel depicts the League in any way. The second half is all about the League of course with only Red Tornado making the trip between Earths. So this is a crossover of a very different kind. It's not much about the nature of Earths One and Two at all, since those concepts seem completely settled now, but it's purely about developing a single character, reviving yet another classic name from DC's Golden Age. It's also a whopping good action tale with tons of battle by all concerned. There is a wild and fanciful quality to the story, but it doesn't reach the near-absurdist qualities of the past two crossovers. This is a straight forward superhero action tale, albeit with loads of characters and concepts. And guess what, as a novice DC and Justice League reader I wasn't confused, not even a little bit. Gardner Fox was a master of explaining everything, and even in this densely plotted two-parter with twenty-one heroes, I never got lost. I bring that up because the confusion of readers was one of the canards that DC editorial always threw out to justify the revisionist Crisis on Infinite Earths. They would say that readers needed a clearer platform to build on. That's rubbish. Each story succeeds or fails on its own, and the complexity of the world it operates in has nothing to do with it. It's a creator's job to explain things so a reader won't get lost. Gardner Fox did that better than anyone. His supple hand on these stories will be missed. But as I said, we are not quite done with Mr.Fox quite yet. 


More next time. 

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