BHOC: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #153

The year 1977 had given way to 1978, and in the first days of the new month, the mailman arrived with another subscription copy of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA for me. I would end up with two copies of this issue–a few weeks later I’d be having a birthday, and as a gift my friend Don Sims bought me a stack of new comics, including this one. And if you want to read it but have never gotten a chance, DC just reprinted it this past week in a new JLA collection devoted to the wedding of Jean Loring and the Atom. It’s got another cover that’s a little bit rough–Rich Buckler was a good, contemporary choice for a cover artist during these days, but here inker Jack Abel does him no great favors. In particular, Batman’s face seems oddly pinched. This was a recurring situation with JLA (and many of the other DC super hero titles) at this time.

This was a rare issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE that wasn’t illustrated by regular penciler Dick Dillin. Dillin headlined the series starting with issue #64 and running all the way through to #183, missing only a handful of issues during that time. In his stead, veteran George Tuska was tapped, and he does his typical reliable job on the visuals. Not long after this, he would be tapped to illustrate the WORLD’S GREATEST SUPER HEROES newspaper strip which likewise featured the JLA, predominantly Superman.

The story was another step down a rabbit hole that was first opened with the publication of FLASH #123, in which Barry Allen crossed the dimensional divide to team up with his literary predecessor, Jay Garrick, the original Flash, now said to dwell on Earth-2. As DC’s multiverse continued to expand, people began to wonder how our non-super-powered Earth fit into it, leading to stories in which the fictional DC heroes found themselves on what they termed Earth-Prime, meeting and teaming up with their editors, writers and artists. And in this story, writer Gerry Conway decided to use this conceit again–introducing the first and only super hero indigenous to our world. Unfortunately, Ultraa is kind of a chump.

The story opens with the League in session, and arguing (at Green Arrow’s instigation) over how they should best be using their awesome powers to benefit mankind. Suddenly, five of the Leaguers begin vibrating uncontrollably, and they find themselves crossing the dimensional divide, winding up in outer space above the Earth (well, an Earth) . Green Lantern’s power ring is able to protect them from the void of space, but they’re not certain what’s just happened. Meanwhile, in the Australian outback, a superhuman figure calling himself Ultraa comes to the aid of some kangaroos being hunted by poachers. Ultraa’s got the sort of ill-considered costume design that a lot of the random DC villains and anti-heroes sported–it’s not a good look at all, open-purple shirt with thigh-high boots and shorts. Also, in Antarctica, a survey team unearths a strange otherworldly object which proceeds to zap them.

Meanwhile, the League heads earthward, alighting in New York City where their arrival causes quite a stir. They wind up stopping one of those daylight robberies that are so common in super hero comics, and everybody involved is amazed at bot their powers and their outlandish attire. Everyone except one girl, that is, who brings the Leaguers a recent copy of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA to autograph. With this clue, Flash dopes out that they must be on Earth-Prime, and the team makes its way to the DC Comics office of JLA editor Julie Schwartz, in whose care Flash once previously left a copy of his cosmic treadmill. Julie tells them that he’s been running a League popularity contest on his letters page, and that the five of them were the winners–it must have been all those fans concentrating on these heroes at once which drew them suddenly to Earth-Prime, as implausible as that sounds. But even using the treadmill, something prevents the Justice League members from leaving Earth-Prime. They’re stuck here.

Elsewhere, the researcher zapped by the alien pyramid device has been transformed into Maxitron, and we learn te origin of both he and Ultraa. They were the survivors of a doomed planet entrusted to a cosmic ark to take them to a new world. But the Ark was damaged in flight, and Ultraa was jettisoned to Earth for safety, along with the pyramid gizmo to serve as his teacher and protector. But the pyramid was deflected to Antarctica due to a collision with an Earth satellite, and so Ultraa ended up raised by aborigines in Australia. Trapped in Antarctica and unable to fulfill its purpose without mobility, the Maxitron pyramid slowly went insane–and now it seeks to destroy Ultraa as well as the other superhumans it detects on Earth, the Justice League.

Meanwhile, the League has used Green Lantern’s power ring to track down the source of what is keeping them on Earth-Prime–Ultraa himself. Superman and Green lantern take off to investigate, leaving Batman, Flash and Green Arrow behind for no good reason. Well, there is one good reason–it’s time for a fight scene! And so Maxitron attacks the three lesser-powered Leaguers, and they fight for a half-dozen pages, with the people of Manhattan more panic-stricken than usual as the denizens of Earth-Prime aren’t used to being front and center in the midst of these superhuman battles. Ultimately, Maxitron winds up clobbering the three Leaguers, then turning is attention to Superman and Green Lantern, as well as Ultraa.

Elsewhere, Ultraa is running across the ocean for some reason when he’s attacked by incredulous American fighter pilots. He retaliates in kind just as Superman and Green Lantern arrive, thus making himself look like a bad guy long enough for them all to have a fight. Eventually, sanity prevails, but Ultraa has the outlook that superhumans like himself don’t belong on tis world–which is good news for the JLA, as they need Ultraa to leave with them if they’re going to get back to Earth-One. They theorize that Ultraa, like Superman, will eventually draw out other super heroes and villains–and it’s this attraction that’s keeping the League stuck on Earth-Prime. But before everybody can leave, Maxitron shows up in a huge Pyramid ship and demands Ultraa and the rest of the League surrender to him.

Because they’er so much more powerful than their fellows, Maxitron intends to divide and conquer–he instructs each of te remaining heroes to enter his pyramid-ship through a specific door, in which awaits a trap calibrated specifically for them. But Green lantern is able to fight off the yellow tiger-creature in his trap, and Superman and Ultraa have fooled Maxitron by switching costumes, so that each entered a trap which was unable to fell them. (Ultraa’s people are vulnerable to ultra-sonics, it turns out.) Defeated, Maxitron and his ship both blow up–and in a hasty wrap-up, Ultraa agrees to relocate to Earth-One along with his newfound friends.

And since it played a direct role in the preceding story, here are the results of Julie Schwartz’s JLA popularity poll, from the second page of the JLA Mail Room feature in this issue. Seems like nobody loves Hawkgirl.

One thought on “BHOC: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #153

  1. I had the original art for this cover. When I posted it for sale on eBay there was a bidding war and it went for over $7000 (way more than it is worth in my opinion)

    Like

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