Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 4
First Published: July 2009
Contents: Justice League of America #61 (March 1968) to #83 (September 1970)
Key Creator Credits: Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, Dick Dillin, Denny O’Neil, and others
Key First Appearances: Red Tornado (II), Black Canary (II) (see I Hope I Die Before I Get Old)
Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 3
Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 5
Overview: Meet the new Justice League — same as the old Justice League. With this volume, we finally see a change in leadership on the team. Not from heroes assembled but in the creative team. Longtime writer Gardner Fox and artist Mike Sekowsky bring their run on the title (which actually started in The Brave and the Bold #28) to an end, handing off the duties to young writer Denny O’Neil and veteran artist Dick Dillin. As a result, the type of stories that were told in Justice League of America shifted to match the changing world in which it was published in.
Lets get the givens out of the way. We get three JLA-JSA team-ups in this collection. We do have some changes to the line-up, as Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter take leaves from the team, and Black Canary joins the team. Green Arrow takes on a new costume, and the stories tend to start using a smaller set of characters instead of all ten members per issue.
In a surprise twist, we see the Justice Society admit a new member, in what would be Fox’s final issue of this run. The Red Tornado was created by T.O. Morrow, with the intention of inserting him into the team and then destroying them. Despite stopping the JSA, the combined might of the JLA proves too much for the Red Tornado to overcome. Realizing that their foe has been manipulated, the Justice Society nominates Red Tornado for membership. As we will see in the next collection, Red Tornado’s time as a JSA member is short-lived, as he soon relocates to Earth-1 and is eventually offered membership with the Justice League.
The JLA does have some minor changes to the membership in this volume. Founding member Martian Manhunter takes an official leave from the team to return with his people to the New Mars colony. Truth be told, he hadn’t been used much in the last several years as Superman and Batman became more featured members in the League. The Martian Manhunter would make the occasional appearance during the Bronze Age, but would not return to the League full-time until the JLA-Detroit era. Around that same time, Diana was stripped of her Wonder Woman title, abilities, and costume, leading to her white jumpsuit era. The League put her on leave, and eventually allowed her to re-join once she had proven her capabilities. (Seriously, she was a founding member; she served as their secretary and house-keeper; the only female willing to hang out in a cave with these guys; and they want her to “re-apply” for membership?)
One of the most important changes in the history of the Justice League came with issues #77 and #78. Batman’s long-time foe, the Joker, tricks long-time friend Snapper Carr into revealing the secret location of the JLA’s Secret Sanctuary, otherwise known as the cave. Faced with trying to find a new place to meet and store their trophies, the League looks to the skies – specifically 22,300 miles above the Earth. The JLA Satellite is introduced as the new, more secure headquarters for the team. Members can access the satellite via transportation tubes set up in major cities around the world, or via a trip through space to reach the satellite. The satellite would serve as the Bronze Age headquarters for the JLA, until being destroyed during the events of the Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Why should these stories be Showcased?: This book marks the first major transition in the JLA’s history. To date, the adventures of the JLA had all been done by Fox and Sekowsky. But early in this volume, we see Dillin take over the art duties, followed by O’Neil taking over the writing duties. While Fox wrote stories following the traditional comic book story-methods that had worked well for 30 years, O’Neil brought a new approach to the story-telling. He was also writing Wonder Woman at this same time. O’Neil took Wonder Woman out of the League (and the book), and quickly replaced her with Black Canary. Following that, he quickly developed a relationship between Black Canary and Green Arrow, one which has lasted for decades (on and off). He took the Justice League from the cave in Happy Harbor to a satellite circling the Earth; they also lost their mascot, Snapper Carr, at the same time. And his stories started dealing with world issues such as food shortages and pollution, and not just the villain-of-the-month. I think more credit needs to be given to O’Neil for forcing the Justice League title to make the jump from the Silver Age into the Bronze Age.
I Hope I Die Before I Get Old: At the end of Justice League of America #74 (September 1969), Black Canary decides to relocate from Earth-2 to Earth-1, following the death of her husband Larry Lance. She was quickly accepted into the JLA as a member. However, flash forward to 1983, in issues #219 and #220 during the 20th team-up of the JLA-JSA, it was revealed that the Black Canary that came from Earth-2 to Earth-1 (Dinah Laurel Lance) is actually the daughter of the original Black Canary (Dinah Drake-Lance). This was done as a retcon to explain how the Black Canary could have been active in both World War II with the Justice Society and in the 1980s with the Justice League. As a result, many sources now cite Justice League of America #75 as the first appearance of the second Black Canary. (Issue #75 is also the first JLA issue where Green Arrow is sporting his new costume and goatee, perhaps another indication that the title has moved into the Bronze Age.)
Footnotes: Justice League of America #67 and #76 are 80-Page Giant reprint issues. collecting three previously published stories. The covers for these two issues are in this volume.
Justice League of America #64 did not feature any members of the Justice League. While this was the first of a two-part JLA-JSA team-up, the story focused on just the Justice Society portion of the story.
Beginning with issue #68 (August 1968), artist Dick Dillin drew part of or all of every non-reprint issue of Justice League of America, with one exception (#153), until his death following issue #183 (October 1980).
If you like this volume, try: JLA by Morrison and Porter from 1997. Following Legends in the mid-1980s, a new Justice League was introduced, affectionately known as the “Bwah-ha-ha-ha” era. In the earlier years, it was a great run on the series. As it developed, it spun out into many other titles such as Justice League Europe, Justice League Task Force, and Extreme Justice. Truth be told, they became a lot of mediocre titles, so DC made the move to re-invigorate the franchise. Superstar writer Grant Morrison and upcoming artist Porter were given the keys to the castle, and begun what is an epic run on the title. The threats were greater, more global in nature. The heroes were stronger and smarter, much bigger than their counterparts. The team once again took their headquarters into space, establishing the Watchtower on the moon. This book was highly influential within the comic book community. While others might not agree with me, I can see the threads and concepts and larger-than-life approach of JLA taking us to The Authority, which that led us to The Ultimates, and so on. DC has been collecting these of late in hardcover collections, and numerous trades have been released over the years, keeping these stories easily accessible.