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Remembering the Justice League’s 100-Page Era

by  in Comics Comment
Remembering the Justice League’s 100-Page Era

We have embarked on a serious de-cluttering campaign around here recently. I mentioned a few weeks ago that we are trying to get our storage unit emptied out, and in a show of solidarity with my bride bravely disposing of a bunch of her cherished family heirlooms, I have in turn been getting rid of a lot of comics. Mostly longboxes of series runs that I now have on the shelf in trade paperback collections, making the single issues redundant. The idea is to get it down eventually to just a couple of short boxes of single issues that I’m really sentimental about.

Here’s one of those. I came across it while I was packing up the latest load to take to the used-book emporium, and it instantly went into the never-sell pile.

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As I’ve said many times, I’m completely in the tank for the DC 100-pagers from the 1970s. One of my favorites is “Justice League of America” #112.

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The lead story is “War With the One-Man Justice League!” Script by Len Wein, with art by stalwarts Dick Dillin and Dick Giordano.

Now, I can’t be completely objective about this. The satellite-era League from Wein and Dillin is my League. I am always transported back to the days when I was 12 years old and it was my favorite thing ever. So I tend to forgive a lot of stuff that modern readers would probably pull up short and say, “wha-HUH? The hell?” But I don’t care.

It opens with the League in a sorry state, with each member’s powers halved by the previous issue’s battle with Libra. The explanation for this is pretty loony even by comic-book standards, something to do with Libra taking their molecules and then dissipating them into space or… something. In fairness to Mr. Wein, I will not embarrass him by dwelling on this frankly deranged bit of comic-book science because — well, it was the seventies and we were willing to buy into all kinds of crazy shit back then. Including Black Canary serving snacks and sewing new costumes for anyone who needed one because, well, she was a girl. Anyway, the rationale doesn’t matter. The point is, the League figures out that the only way they can get re-powered is to reboot Amazo, who happens to be lying dormant in the satellite’s trophy room. Since he absorbs the powers of Justice Leaguers, they can use him to gather up their dissipated molecules and then transfer them back into their own bodies again. Because, y’know, comic-book science.

But never mind all that. The reason I loved this back in the day and still smile over it now is because Batman had been de-powered, too. But what’s that I hear? You say Batman doesn’t HAVE any powers, that’s the whole point of Batman? Well, guess again, because Batman’s superpower—this is in the story specifically—is that he’s smart. The dilemma is that Batman is functioning with only half of his brainpower.

And he’s still the guy that pulls it out.

When I was 12, being smart usually got your ass kicked. Jocks were the heroes at my school. But in the Justice League, the thing that won against the superpowered killer android is thinking. Plus, check out this final battle.

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All that smack talk and then pulling out the win with steel gloves and rubber-soled boots. And we end with Superman shaking his head at his friend’s sheer awesomeness. I love that so much. It’s a great example of what our friend Pol Rua has defined as Batman’s actual superpower — BEING FUCKING AWESOME. Those final pages are what I can’t get over. The payoff is so worth it that I don’t care how silly the rationale for it is. Not when I was 12, and really, not today, either. Seriously, Batman outthinks everyone with only half his brain molecules present and then punches a robot in the face so hard he knocks its goddam head off. No wonder Superman can only smile bemusedly and say Whoa. Respect, dude.

The rest of the book is pretty cool too. There’s a two-page feature on the history of the android Amazo, and a Silver Age JLA reprint, “The Super-Exiles of Earth!” It’s OK, a typical Gardner Fox/Mike Sekowsky entry.

The real prizes in the 100-pagers, though, were the Golden Age reprints. This time we got the Ted Knight Starman in “Starman’s Lucky Star!” by Gardner Fox and Mort Meskin, and there was also a bonus text piece on the origin of Starman, as well; not credited, but I’m thinking it probably was written by E. Nelson Bridwell. (This was back when there was only one Starman, so you could do it in a page. We hadn’t even seen Mikaal Tomas yet. Today, you’d need a book.)

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The showpiece, though, is a Seven Soldiers of Victory story, “Beware! The Black Star Shines!” It’s almost impossible to summarize, so I won’t try—there’s gangsters, monster spiders, radiation, giants, and rattlesnakes, all part of Black Star’s scheme to destroy our heroes. It’s just a rollicking good time.

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For that matter, so’s the whole book. I’m torn between this one and #110 (“The Murder of Santa Claus!”) as to which is my favorite from the 100-page era of the Justice League, but you really couldn’t lose with any of them.

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That’s all this time out. First we de-clutter, then, invariably, we re-clutter. Which is to say, we are off to central Oregon tomorrow to visit old friends and do a little backroads bookscouting, so I should have a report on that next week. See you then.

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