While all the annual Justice League/Justice Society team-ups were all events, not all were epics.
One went even to the dogs – well, a dog.
But the 1971 team-up, while fun and light, had unexpected consequences for this reader.
First the crisis, then a confession:
In “Justice League of America” No. 91, “Earth – the Monster-Maker!,” cover date August 1971, the combined heroes of two worlds reunite a boy and his puppy.
No, really, that’s pretty much the story. OK, you are treated to the bonus rampage of Earth 2 monster extraordinaire Solomon Grundy, a generation gap subplot that was hackneyed as soon as the ink dried and Earth 1 Robin in a spiffy Neal Adams costume with big-boy pants and all.
Let’s dive in:
Aliens are joy-riding through the galaxy when one of their own, A-Rym and his cosmic Chihuahua Teppy, tumble out an airlock of their spaceship and are tossed across dimensions.
Because of the unique symbiotic (who says comics don’t teach kids vocabulary?) relationship the two share, if they aren’t reunited in 37.5 Earth hours, both will die horribly.
Reading this story, it’s hard not to root for the clock to run out.
As the hours pass, the two experience monstrous mood swings and run amok while marooned on Earth 1 and Earth 2.
Scribe Mike Friedrich is all about symmetry for this two-parter. For the first and only time in JLA/JSA history, each hero (however improbably) is matched with his own counterpart. The Superman, Atom, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman and “special guest star” Robin of each world join forces to subdue the alien castaways.
Teppy, despite being the size of a Monster Island escapee, proves relatively easy to corral: Flash and the Supermen dig a trench around him, penning him in.
In “Justice League of America” No. 92, “Solomon Grundy – The One and Only,” cover date September 1971, A-Rym challenges them thanks to his newfound swamp pal, Solomon Grundy. Grundy hates Green Lanterns, so the teams have to defeat the swamp behemoth before they even get close to Little Space Boy Lost.
Here’s that cool Neal Adams outfit. DC was floating the idea of letting college student Dick Grayson drop the dated swimsuit trunks. The coda at the end of the issue invites readers to weigh in – but it would take years before someone would figure out how to let Dick Grayson grow up.
Earth 2 Robin would actually assume a modified version of the Adams outfit in a few years when the JSA was re-launched as the Super Squad (and drop his Superman physique for a leaner look), which is a shame because his original uniform just screamed Earth 2 cool.
A couple of niggling problems – having perfectly matched squads actually makes for a kind of dull team-up. And while Hawkman of Earth 1 is perfectly in character when he acts condescendingly toward Robin, the generation gap swerve makes no sense on Earth 2.
Robin of Earth 2 is a member of the Justice Society, and no one knows that better than that world’s Hawkman, since he welcomed Robin and introduced him to the veteran members back in “Justice League of America” No. 55.
And despite the roll calls on each cover, Robin of Earth 2 is not a special guest star. I’m guessing everyone was caught up in that symmetry thing.
This was not my first JLA/JSA team-up – that honor belongs to this 1970 mind-blower one year earlier.
I would be denying the truth if I said I didn’t spend the next year wondering and waiting for another glimpse of the Justice Society.
Would the company really fulfill its yearly promise to readers? What if some writer decided the heroes were unnecessary? What if DC decided it didn’t need to bring back the JSA? What if everyone simply forgot?
I must have read No. 91 a dozen times over that first week. I couldn’t stop handling it. I had never read anything so perfect. The issue was my new favorite possession.
I was so excited by the story, I actually shared my enthusiasm with my father. And then I got my first shock. While he knew nothing of the Justice League, he was well familiar with the Justice Society: He had read their adventures in “All-Star Comics” when he was a boy.
Whoa! There was fact in this fantastic fiction – the Justice Society really did exist 20 years before the Justice League, just as the comics said. They had their own adventures, their own title – one my own father had read!
This would not be anything that would bring us together.
He caught me sharing my comic and my enthusiasm with my aunt, and he lost his temper: I needed to shut up about the issue and comic books and the Justice Society because they were stupid and worthless and I was acting like a pain in the rear and just shut up shut up shut up already.
I can still feel that sting of that humiliation.
From that moment, I knew that if I had something I loved, never to share it with family. It wasn’t safe.
I still collected comics. I still looked forward to the annual JLA/JSA summer team-ups. But it was my secret. It was just the way it had to be.
The grumpy drunk lived another dozen years or so, and we never talked about comics or the Justice Society or anything meaningful, honestly.
It’s funny how sometimes you spend your life unlearning the lessons you were taught as a child.