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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Justice League of America #200 - March 1982

Comics Weekend: "A League Divided" by Gerry Conway, George Perez, Brett Breeding, Pat Broderick, Terry Austin, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano, Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, Frank Giacoia, Brian Bolland, and Joe Kubert.

Fans of my late, lamented JLA Satellite blog will be wondering why they're seeing a post from that blog here today. Its for several reasons: one, I've been horribly busy with non-Aquaman centric projects (heresy!) and I've been fighting my way through them all, each with their own unique deadline.

Two, the books I had planned to look at today have still not arrived in the mail, and all the other Aqua-books I have on my shelf are parts of ongoing storylines, and I don't want to get into any of those since the Shrine will be getting back to Golden Age Aquaman stories on January 2.

Three, since we are just a few weeks away from the anniversary of when this book--my all-time favorite single issue comic--hit the stands on December 3, 1981, I figured it would be okay to dust off an old post and run it again here. As many of you know, I never tire of talking about Justice League of America #200.

So take it away, me of the past!

Welcome to the 200th issue of Justice League of America!

This mammoth, 72-page anniversary issue opens, after the wonderful three-page origin prologue, with Firestorm, bored out of his mind while on Monitor Duty.

Suddenly, founding member The Martian Manhunter comes smashing through the hull of the satellite!:

Firestorm, not having boned up on JLA history, has no idea who this guy is. At the same time, Manhunter is acting very strangely, even without all the satellite-smashing. He doesn't seem to know that this is the JLA satellite, even though he has been here before.

Firestorm manages to fend off Manhunter for a while, until his inexperience gives Manhunter the chance to knock him out and grab what he's there for--a small green meterorite residing in the JLA Trophy Room.

Minutes later, Firestorm wakes up amid the wreckage, and, not knowing what is going on, sends out a Triple Priority Signal to all members, past and present!

Soon the satellite is filled with JLAers Atom, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, Black Canary, Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Zatanna, and Green Arrow. They inform Firestorm who it was he faced, and alone among them its Green Arrow that seems to know what's going on, and why none of the original members--Superman, Batman, etc.--have answered the distress call!

They quickly figure out that all the original JLAers must be after the Appellax Meteors, relics of the JLA's first case.

Then another face from the past shows up--Snapper Carr! Green Arrow takes charge, breaks up the heroes into teams, ordering Firestorm to stay behind with Snapper. Pwned!

Next we find ourselves at the Indian Ocean:

Aquaman doesn't know why he "needs" to get the Appellax Meteor, but he does it anyway. He is attacked by Red Tornado in the process, and Aquaman gets a good shot in, plunging Reddy into the water.

As Aquaman's back is turned, Reddy is about to try again, but he is hit by a force of energy from The Phantom Stranger, who, as usual, is seeing The Big Picture, as is only fulfilling his "destiny." Aquaman then takes off, and its up to the Stranger to tend to Reddy.

Cut back to the satellite, where Reddy, unconscious, mysteriously appears from out of nowhere! Firestorm wonders aloud, "How did Reddy get up here, anyway?"

As the book says, "somewhere, a Stranger is smiling. His job is done."

Next we go to Paradise Island, where Zatanna is hoping to stop Wonder Woman before she performs her task:
Unfortunately, the Amazing Amazon beat her there, and Zatanna proves to be no match for her. She gets knocked out by Diana using one of Zee's own spells against her, and she wakes up, hours later, with the Amazons using their curative Purple Ray on her.

Next, in Zimbabwie, a local General receives a phone call, and is a little shocked to see who made the call:

The Atom finds Green Lantern, digging up one of the Appellax meteors. He momentarily knocks GL on his butt, and tries to reason with him, trying to make him remember who he really is.

It seems to be working, except that GL has just been sneaking up on Atom, and traps him with his ring. He grabs the meteor and takes off.

The Atom shrinks beneath the atoms of the ground, and slips out of the bubble, and heads back to the satellite. The Atom chalks up all their defeats to the "edge of experience" the others have, but Red Tornado theorizes that its because the original members are facing unknown opponents, while they are fighting friends.

Over in Italy, The Elongated Man lays in wait for The Flash:
He gets the drop on The Flash, and feels sick about attacking his friend, but like Reddy guessed, the Scarlet Speedster has no such compunctions. One good super-speed punch, and The Flash has accomplished his mission.

Down at the original JLA Sanctuary, the original members start to talk, and can't figure out when all these changes--Wonder Woman's new uniform, the sancutary in ruins, Mars II--occurred.

On the North Carolina coast, Green Arrow joins Black Canary in searching for Batman:
The Batman, of course, gets the drop on both of them, and uses the tight, confined space to his advantage. Green Arrow fires off an arrow, which misses, bounces off a tree, and knocks out Black Canary!

As Green Arrow finds himself handcuffed, he yells at a departing Batman: "You can't do this to me!" To which a smart-ass Batman replies: "I already have."

Canary then wakes up, and Brian Bolland shows off his mastery of distinct facial expressions:
...I love Canary's annoyed, pursed face in panel four. They move on, thinking they've found Batman, but it turns out to be a decoy--Batman, and the Appellax meteor, are gone.

Last is what can only be the result of Hawkman drawing the short straw: he has to take on Superman!:
Hawkman figures Superman can't retrieve the Kryptonite-laden meteor himself, so he isn't surprised when he encounters several Superman robot duplicates instead. But the third one looks a little different--its actually Superman!

One punch, and its all over, ending with Hawkman being hit so hard he drifts into outer space. Superman, using a paper-thin lead alloy suit to cover himself, finds the meteor and heads off.

Hawkman wanders so far into space he hits an oncoming Zeta Beam, and disappears! He is then found by old JLA friend Adam Strange, who calls the JLA and tells them they plan to beam Hawkman back. The Elongated Man, stretching himself farther than he ever has, shoots himself out of an airlock, and retrieves The Winged Wonder.

Meanwhile, at the Secret Sanctuary, the JLAers notice that all the Appellax meteors are glowing, and they eventually explode open, releasing the seven Appellax warriors!

This obliterates the JLAers' amnesia, and they are told, years ago, the Appellax meteors put a post-hypnotic suggestion in them, triggered to go off, just as it did.

The JLAers attack the Apellax warriors, but they find themselves overwhelmed, one by one, until finally there is only Wonder Woman:
...that panel always felt so harsh to me. Yeah, I know Diana is nearly invulnerable, but taking a bunch of crystals to the face like that? Ow.

The Appellax warriors decide to pick up where they left off--that is, to fight one another, to see who will be the leader of their home planet!

Next, we see Batman and his fellow JLAers slowly waking up, but surrounded by their fellow heroes. Apologies are made, the heroes collect themselves, and head out to stop the aliens:

(click to JLAify!)

The massive group of heroes split up into teams, classic Gardner Fox style, and Batman, Black Canary, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Zatanna head to Vermont to battle the Wood King, Crystal Creature, and Mercury Monster.

Unlike what defeated them before, the JLAer use teamwork, and after a well-placed Batarang shatters the Crystal Creature, its over.

Next, we go to the Irish Coast, where Aquaman, Elongated Man, Flash, and Red Tornado find the Glass Creature and the Fire Monster. The Flash tries a frontal assault, giving Aquaman the chance to sneak up from behind:
...this is one of my favorite Aquaman sequences of all time. I love the examination of Aquaman's ability to survive in depths that would kill almost anyone else, but holding the Glass Creature by the throat until he shatters into little bits is just hardcore.

In the meantime, Flash, Elongated Man, and Red Tornado take out the Fire Monster--mission accomplished.

Last, in the heart of New York City, The Atom, Firestorm, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter take on The Golden Roc and The Stone Creature.

Lantern pummels the latter into chunks of rock, and The Atom is fired directly into the head of the Golden Roc, giving Manhunter the chance to shatter it with a well-aimed punch. It's all over!

Back at the satellite, Green Lantern and Red Tornado shoot the aliens' remains into the sun, destroying them forever.

Then the three old JLA friends, Green Arrow, Martian Manhunter, and Snapper Carr take their leave...well, two of them do:

What to say about this issue? Its one of my all-time favorite comic books ever, and certainly my all-time favorite superhero comic, ever.

I love the scope of it, and the fact that Conway took the time to work in as many people from the JLA's past as he could--The Martian Manhunter, Green Arrow, Snapper Carr, Adam Strange, The Phantom Stranger...

Of course, the one glaring exception is Hawkgirl. Apparently over in the solo Hawkman feature in World's Finest running at the time, Hawkgirl was missing or something, hence her not being here.

As as kid, I loved internal continuity, and having all the characters work in a definable time line. But--in this instance, I wish Conway and whatever other editors would've made the call had forgotten that for a moment, and put Hawkgirl in here. This is the big JLA story, and Shayera definitely should've been included.

The art is of course fantastic--Aparo, Perez, Kubert, Bolland, and lots more, many of them working on their signature characters (Aparo even gets a two-fer). Having Perez do all the linking chapters gives the book a cohesiveness that improbably works, considering all the people involved.

(Fun Fact: The Superman/Hawkman chapter was lettered by The Joe Kubert School, the first time I can remember hearing of such a place. Little did I know I would be a student there, a little less than eight years later.)

As if all this wasn't enough, Gerry Conway gives us a two-page text piece on the history of the team, which is enormous fun. Click
here to read it.

I remember buying this comic at the now forgotten-but-not-gone Voorhees Tobacco and News Shop, which had a huge selection of comics, many more than my local 7-11. To that end, I used to beg my Dad as much as I could to take me there.

Like I said, the place is still there:

The copy I have is the same one I bought in Dec. 1981--its beaten up, has brown pages, the binding is held together with high hopes and a lot of scotch tape. Yet if there was ever a fire in the house and I could only save one comic, this would be it.

To me, this book sums up everything that is fun about the world of superhero comics, and what drew me to the Justice League so passionately at such a young age--camaraderie, action, humor, plus a sense of enormous history. Not too long after this, the Crisis would take place, forever putting the DCU I knew and loved into the Past Tense. This book is one glorious 72-page tribute to what made DC so great for so long.

In regards to Aquaman, there was some debate on my JLA blog at the time about how it was disappointing that The Phantom Stranger had to "save" Aquaman from being defeated by Red Tornado, since of course us Aqua-Fans didn't believe Aquaman needed any such help.

And while I can see that point of view, I've always thought that it was worth it to have Jim Aparo draw both Aquaman and The Phantom Stranger again, after distinguished runs on both characters.

Also, Aquaman has, to me, one of his all-time best moments in later in the book, when he grabs the Crystal Apellax alien and crushes him to bits which, thanks to a random series of events, showed up as an example of Aquaman's amazing powers in the book The Physics of Superheroes:
So, in the end, I thought it was a good trade-off. I would never trade the above moment for anything--in a book full of great moments, Gerry Conway makes this scene unforgettable.

Even after all these years--decades(!)--
Justice League of America #200 remains a classic to me, and worthy of talking about again. Maybe I'll post this ever year...

Post Script: If you'd like to read an interview I did with Gerry Conway, where we discuss (among other things) JLA #200, click here and be amazed how much I geeked out over one single comic book!


Stephen said...

I was 13 years old when this book came out, and I agree it is one of the most perfectly written and drawn comic books, that wonderfully sums up not only what made the Justice League of America great, but what made DC Comics great. The scope and scale of the story, the dazzling array of artists, that gorgeous Perez panoramic cover.

John said...

Also one of my top favorites. Great post! Do you ever go back to Vorhees for the occasional nostalgia visit?

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

A thoughtful and thorough look at a defining comic for me as well. In fact, one of the few from my youth that I saved when I ebayed a hoard of comics a few summers ago. Were they all this good back then? Why aren't they now?

Joe Slab said...

Awesome post rob!

I too was a young teenager when JLA #200 came out and I remember the thrill of seeing it on the spinner rack at 7-11...

Although I thought it was a bit lame, even then, that Aquaman was written needing assistance from the Stranger to defeat his JLA comrade.

rob! said...

Thanks guys! Felt a little bad about re-posting something but this is one of my favorites so I figured it'd be okay.

John--Yes, I do go back to that store when I'm in the neighborhood. They still sell comics, but only a tiny little shelf of them--I always buy a couple just to support them still carrying them in the first place.

IADW said...

Wow - all those artists and characters in one issue. If I find one in the back issue rack it will be as good a s got!

Brent said...

Rob, also my favorite comic of all time. I was in 8th grade when it came out and still have my original copy as well. I of course loved the Aparo/Aquaman section, but REALLY loved Bolland's work. Loved the origin stories, the team-ups, the opening of J'onn busting through the satellite, GA coming back to the League... Okay, gotta go dig it out and read it again!!! :)

Matthew Turnage said...

I was only 5 when this issue came out, and it is the earliest issue of JLA I remember owning. My copy ended up beaten and battered and lost to the mists of time, but I came across a nice copy a few years ago and had to add it to my collection. It was every bit as good as I remembered it being - I need to pull it out and read it again! Thanks for the reminder of how good this issue is.