First Published: February 2011
Contents: Justice League of America #84 (November 1970) to #106 (July/August 1973)
Key Creator Credits: Mike Friedrich, Dick Dillin, Len Wein, Neal Adams, and others
Key First Appearances: Assemblers (Blue Jay, Silver Sorceress, Wandjina, Jack B. Quick), Merlyn, Starbreaker, Nebula Man, Kathy Sutton
Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 4
Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 6
Overview: With apologies to Hanna-Barbera, “In the great hall of the Justice League, there are assembled the world’s greatest heroes, created from the cosmic legends of the universe — Superman! Batman! Wonder Woman! Aquaman! Flash! Green Arrow! Green Lantern! Hawkman! Black Canary! Atom! To fight injustice, to right that which is wrong, and to serve all mankind!”
This volume can be broken down into two sections, based on the two writers (Mike Friedrich and Len Wein) who script all but one of the stories in this collection. We saw in the last volume that Dick Dillin took over the art duties, which began one of the longest runs of any artist on a Justice League title. Artist Neal Adams does most of the cover work in this collection, helping to set the tone for each issue before the book is even opened.
Mike Friedrich was a fresh face in the industry in the 1970s. He was a long-time letter page writer who leveraged his ongoing correspondence with editor Julie Schwartz to start selling short stories and fill-in stories. Justice League of America was Friedrich’s first ongoing assignment for DC. His stories tended to stay in the formula long-established by Gardner Fox and then Denny O’Neil and utilized the roster put in place by O’Neil. Friedrich did make some addition to the cast of characters in the DC Universe. In his second JLA issue, he introduced the Assemblers, a group of heroes that seemed to resemble Marvel’s Avengers. (Call it an homage, seeing that Marvel had already introduced in the pages of the Avengers the Squadron Sinister/Supreme, which those characters were an homage back to the Justice League.) He also introduced the villain archer Merlyn, who would be a minor character for many years until being brought to the forefront with the Arrow TV show in the last few years.
The addition of Wein takes the title to new heights. Beginning with issue #100, he starts a three-part JLA-JSA team-up that also brings back the legendary Seven Soldiers of Victory, who have been trapped in limbo for years. The heroes are revived, but not before a hero makes a final sacrifice. How do you follow that epic? Easily, you send the Justice League to Rutland, Vermont, for the annual Halloween parade. For good measure, Len Wein writes himself, along with his wife Glynis and future JLA writers Gerry Conway and Steve Englehart, into the story. If Rutland sounds familiar, it became a nexus between comic book companies in the 1970s. (Check out my write-up for Essential Avengers Vol. 4 for more details.)
As with previous volumes, one of the highlights is seeing the new members elected into the JLA. Towards the end of this volume, we see the Elongated Man, a long-time friend of the Flash, and the Red Tornado, re-assembled and now living on Earth-1, join the league. There was one other vote in this collection, as the heroes debated and finally agreed to offer a spot to the Phantom Stranger, who makes his first appearance in this title. Only the Phantom Stranger didn’t stick around to hear the results of the vote. The Phantom Stranger would make numerous appearances in the title in the years to come, helping the League out of a tough situation or by just providing ominous warnings.
Why should these stories be Showcased?: This is a hodge-podge collection of issues, but it really does work. I think it is in this era, particularly when writer Len Wein takes over, that the full potential of this title takes hold, and this truly does feel like a book worthy of the plug, “World’s Greatest Super-Heroes!” Everything that you want to see in a JLA collection is here – new members joining the team, new villains being introduced, and multiple JLA-JSA team-ups. We also get to the point in the series where it stops being a collection of one-and-done stories, and there is more of an ongoing narrative that continues from issue to issue.
Footnotes: Justice League of America #85 and #93 are Giant-size reprint issues. collecting previously published stories. The covers for these two issues are in this volume.
Justice League of America #91 and #92 are also reprinted in Showcase Presents Robin Vol. 1.
Justice League of America #103 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger Vol. 2.
If you like this volume, try: JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice original graphic novel from 2002. Released in late 2002, writers David Goyer and Geoff Johns (who were then writing the monthly JSA book) craft a fresh story bringing the two legendary teams together for the first time in the modern age. (Remember, the JLA-JSA team-up tradition came to an end with Crisis!). Artists Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino make the characters jump out from the page, truly capturing the individual personalities of each of the characters. The two teams have gathered together for a Thanksgiving dinner, but suddenly find many of their teammates possessed by the embodiments of the Seven Deadly Sins. The unaffected members of the two teams must work together to free their friends as well as figure out who is the true foe they are going up against. This was originally released as a hardcover book, and the softcover edition came out the following year. The complete story was recently included in JSA Omnibus Vol. 1, which came out in 2014.