Wednesday, October 21, 2009

JLA #102 Has Bugged Me For 35 Years

As you may have been able to tell from my recent run of posts, I stumbled upon a quarter bin treasure trove of Silver Age DC last week. And amongst the things I found was this:

Justice League Of America #102 (1972) was one of the first comics I ever read. It wasn't belonged to my neighbor. This was before I was into buying new comics...we would just go over to each others' crib and read the others comics obtained from Grandma, garage sales, or who knows where. (Note: this usually took place at his house, because his family had cable, whereas mine did not)

And for some reason, his copy of JLA #102 was one I re-read every single time. Something about it just fascinated the heck out of young snell. And something about the story bugged the living heck out of me.

It probably wasn't the ideal starting place for someone unversed in DC Silver Age. It was the third part of a three-parter; it starred the Justice League (them I knew from the cartoon!), the Justice Society (who dat?), AND the Seven Soldiers Of Victory (tawubba who?). It involved dozens of characters I'd never heard of, had a mostly incomprehensible plot if you hadn't read the previous 2 issues (and probably still would have been incomprehensible, even if I had read them), multiple earths, time travel, the lamest villain ever, the resolution of the story taking place entirely off-screen, two heroes dying (although one of them got better 3 issues later...)...People who say modern comics are too complex to be welcoming to new readers should go back and read this issue...

The background of the story was all told (in the other issues) in flashback: Evil villain Iron Hand, arch-enemy of the Seven Soldiers, created the Nebula Man to attack them. They managed to defeat him, but at the costs of one of their lives, and the rest were scattered through space and time (The preceding has been wiped out/altered both by Crisis I and Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers) .

Meanwhile, Iron Hand managed to use some of the leftover "nebuloid energy" to create a...well, a giant hand that was going to crush Earth-2:

So the JLA and the JLA had to break up into smaller teams and go cavorting through time to find the Seven Six Soldiers, so they can rebuild the weapon that destroyed the Nebula Man, and use it to take out the giant hand.

I told you it was complicated. But that's not what bugged me for 35 years.

When Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Johnny Thunder go back to the Old West to rescue Vigilante, I received my first exposure snell's Third Law Of Comic Writing:

The more powerful your character, the STUPIDER the obstacles you have to create to keep him from being solving the dilemma in one panel. See any season of Heroes for further details.

Seriously, the hiccups?? That prevent him from saying two syllables--when he clearly CAN say that much already?? Because a dude with a magic genie who can do anything should have had everything wrapped up in the first issue, so how do you prevent that? Give him the hiccups. Sheesh...Still, that's not the thing that's been bugging me for 35 years.

The second example of snell's Third Law is when Aquaman, Green Lantern and Wildcat go to caveman times to rescue The Star-Spangled Kid:

Ah, of course, yellow fog. The greatest of the Green Lanterns, wielder of the "most powerful weapon in the universe," and he's beaten by moisture in the air. Still, that's not the thing that's been bugging me for 35 years.

Bonus: Wildcat beating the crap out of a 10-foot tall caveman:

No wonder I thought this was a cool story...

When Flash, Zatanna and Red Tornado end up in ancient Greece hunting for Speedy, Circe the sorceress puts a crimp in their plans:

OK, that's really cool, too--especially when Circe commands them to battle to the death:

Man, a half-snail guy and a half-mole dude having a super-speed slap wonder I love comics.

OK, enough dilly-dallying. It's time to get to the thing that's bothered me for 35 years. After all of the Seven Soldiers are all rescued (it was Crimson Avenger's sidekick Wing who died; as we was not an "official" member of the Seven, and a minority character to boot, he was expendable, I guess...), it's time to build our super-weapon and imbue it "with the awesome energies of the universe!"

But, there's one little hitch:

Upon which announcement, our heroes squabble over who can make the run, with rebuttals on why they wouldn't survive.

Hmmm, OK, I suppose "the awesome energies of the universe" might include some magic in there, so Superman would be vulnerable. It's kind of silly, but hey, snell's Third Law and all. Who else we got?!?

The Green Lanterns both volunteer:

And now here's the part that has bothered me for 35 years:

Green Arrow, what the HELL are you talking about?? Are you threatening to shoot Hal and Alan if they go?

(By the way, it's nice to see that Ollie was 30 years ahead of Batman in the "developing weapons to take down my fellow heroes" planning...)

The Nebula-Rod isn't yellow, and it isn't made of wood...neither is the giant hand that's but moments away from squishing how is your little observation at all relevant, unless you're planning to shoot them. Why? WTF?!?!

I tried...and tried...and tried to wrap my little 8-year old mind around that panel. It looks like the GLs could survive...why prevent them?? Why???

I know Ollie's "characterization" is those days of JLA was just to have him reflexively oppose anything anyone ever said (which, to me, made him intensely unlikeable) was that the deal, that to anybody who volunteered, he'd say "I have an arrow made of kryptonite and hiccup powder--a combination of both your weaknesses!"???

Was he (irrationally) determined to keep them from risking their lives? Why? Was he willing to let Earth-2 die just to keep them from dying??!? I don't get it!!!!

Seriously, that one panel has been stuck in my craw for decades now. Damn you, Len Wein, damn you!!!!! Why is Green Arrow threatening the Lanterns?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Oh, yeah, the plot...while the heroes were busy disqualifying each other from being heroic, Red Tornado took the Nebula-Rod and sacrificed himself to save everybody. Off-screen. The End. (Except, of course, he would be back in three issues. And destroyed again. And again. And again...)

So no lesson or moral here. Just an off-hand odd comic book bit that still hurts my brain three and a half decades later.

Oh, there is one lesson, I guess: never turn your back on Green Arrow!!


Kid Kyoto said...

Huh. I was much more bothered by the question of why everyone in the ancient past spoke English.

I just assume that Green Arrow is ready to kill anyone at any time.

Anonymous said...

is he just maybe saying "you ain't invulnerable neither so no guarantees you'd survive"? and making the double-point because there wasn't enough space to make two separate points?

googum said...

I had the digest for this one, and thought Superman should wear Shining Knight's armor, both power rings, Starman's cosmic rod, and Batman's utility belt; then take it in. If that doesn't save you, well, I guess it's your

And Ollie's about three seconds away from two separate ring-impressions on his face...

snell said...

Adam--that's certainly a possibility, but it's a particularly clumsy, ham-handed and nonsensical way to do it.

Scott said...

Clearly, Ollie was making the point that *he* should be the one to deliver the Nebula-Rod. Only his raging assholery could survive the terrible cosmic energies!

Saranga said...

ha! ha hahahahahahahahahaha! I love comics :)

Anonymous said...

well, clumsy, ham-handed and nonsensical was the "grim and gritty" of the time, no?

Kid Kyoto said...

Anyone remember Alan Davis' The Nail 2? No? Well yeah it's kind of not worth remembering... except for the bit where Green Arrow does save the universe by building a giant bow to shoot the anti-evil bomb into the plot device.

I wonder if he was thinking of this scene.