I believe this issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA turned up in my mailbox on the same day as yesterday’s issue of FLASH, right at the end of my fourth grade term. It was the beginning of the annual crossover with the Justice Society, a concept that I loved (at least in theory–most of the modern team-ups that I had read up till this point had been a bit underwhelming.) And because too much was never enough, for the past several years a third group of heroes was also thrown into the mix, thus almost insuring that nobody could get much screen time. This year, it was an obvious candidate, the Legion of Super-Heroes from the 30th Century.
The one advantage that this particular meet-up had over its predecessors is that, at this moment, JUSTICE LEAGUE was being published as a regular oversized monthly book, each issue containing twice the number of story pages as a regular issue. It is still rather amazing that artist Dick Dillin could turn out this much work this reliably, while also taking on the occasional short story or one-shot elsewhere in the DC line.
The story opens up in the JLA’s satellite headquarters, immediately following up on he conclusion to ALL-STAR COMICS #68 a week or so earlier. Wildcat is anxious to get the captured Psycho-Pirate back to Earth-2 and into lock-up, but Green Arrow is enjoying the socializing, enough so that he keeps Wildcat from making the transport with his prisoner and almost getting into a fight. Elsewhere, in a scene that’s slightly too creepy, Power Girl clearly has the hots for Earth-1′s younger version of her cousin, Superman, and pursues him aggressively. But before anybody can violate the tenets of the comics Code, a pair of disembodied hands appear and snatch up a bevy of the crime-fighters present, whisking them away.
The hands belong to Mordru, the Legion’s great nemesis, who isn’t interested in super-heroes. He was fishing back in time for the mystic bell, jar and wheel that can be used to release three demonic entities the League has contended with before from their eternal imprisonment. Disgusted with his catch, Mordru immediately imprisons the League and Society members, but they break free, attacking him. But only momentarily–Mordru is able to once again gain the upper hand. But not before Dr. Fate has succeeded in planting a suggestion within the enemy sorcerer’s mind.
Mordru reveals that he was deposed as the ruler of the sorcerer’s world of Zerox, with half his power stripped from him. In order to regain his position, he needs the bell, the jar and the wheel–and he had previously ambushed the Legion of Super-heroes and forced them to go in search of the objects for him. But when they did not return, Mordru instead attempted to take them from the past. But now he proposes that the League and the Society carry out his retrieval for him–and he imprisons Green Arrow and Black Canary in a giant hourglass as hostages to insure the heroes’ cooperation. The rest of the Legion is held captive in a similar hourglass nearby.
So the League and Society members are split up, retracing the steps of the lost Legionnaires before them. On Antares II, Superman, Dr. Fate and Hawkman locate Sun Boy and Wildfire and are able to liberate the wheel, which the locals worship as a god after it fell from the sky. And on the planet Vaxon, Green Lanterns Hal Jordan and Alan Scott as well as Batman join Brainiac 5 and Princess Projectra in the search for the bell. It’s being used by the people of Vaxon to ward off hungry space-dragons, so Batman suggests they use a scarecrow approach instead, and the twin Lanterns carve the surface of the planet into the image of the dragons’ natural predator.
Meanwhile, the Flash and Power Girl go to retrieve the jar, which has been placed in another dimension by the Legion for safe keeping. But the entities who reside in this dimension think the container holding the jar is one of their eggs, and they move to protect it. Ultimately, Power Girl is able to locate a suitable substitute, and the JSA pair get the jar. But rather than handing it over to Mordru, Flash uses it as a bargaining chip to get his fellow heroes released. Mordru complies–but he cheats, shrinking Green Arrow and Black Canary’s hourglass out of sight, and stymieing the heroes when they move to jump him.
So now Mordru has all three objects, and he proceeds to perform the incantation that will release Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast from their eternal prisons. But if course, the freed demons immediately turn on Mordru, striking him down and also seemingly dispatching the imprisoned Leaguers, their old enemies. The three demons now intend to destroy the enchanted objects that had bound them–and only the still-shrunken Green Arrow and Black Canary seem to be around to maybe be able to stop them. To Be Continued!
The 100 Issues Later feature covered JUSTICE LEAGUE #47 from 1966, itself a League/Society pairing from the height of Batmania in 1966–as witnessed by the Caped Crusader’s exaggerated presence on its cover. These glimpses of earlier issues fascinated me as a child–all of the myriad references to stories past were like clues in a huge mystery that I was desperate to solve. I had at one point sent away for a Robert Bell mail order back issue catalog, but I could never bring myself to send funds through the mail for a comic book that I couldn’t see. I’d eventually order stuff from Superhero Merchandise (whose ads were running in these books, and had been for a while) but that seemed more legitimate somehow, more like an actual business.