Now this is one of my favorite Justice League stories of all time. The fact that I read it as a reprint at a very young and impressionable age probably has something to do with that. But also, it played upon one of my personal fears as a child. Having watched an especially terrifying episode of the TWILIGHT ZONE, I had an abiding fear that some twin Tom Brevoort was coming to replace me. As this story plays upon that same theme for the Justice leaguers, I found it to be a potent reading experience. And just so that we’re on the same page, here’s what I wrote about that reprinted appearance almost seven years ago:
“The Super-Exiles of Earth” was the work of writer Gardner Fox and artist Mike Sekowsky, a pair who would produce the first 63 issues of the series together, as well as the League’s previous try-out appearances in BRAVE AND THE BOLD. Sekowsky’s work wasn’t really to the hardcore fandom’s liking in these days–it was too blocky, too stiff. They much preferred the work of Murphy Anderson, who often did the covers (as he did on this issue.) But Sekowsky had a few things going for him. Number one, he was fast! Number two, he didn’t mind drawing a series that was jammed full of super heroes that had to be drawn. It was much faster, I’d guess, to draw a page of THE FLASH or WONDER WOMAN or whatever than the average JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA page.
The story opens up as, one by one, the members of the Justice League of America are singularly confronted by duplicates of themselves–duplicates who don’t possess their weaknesses, and who demonstrate their greater power and ability. Thereafter, these duplicate Leaguers set off on a massive nationwide crime spree–a spree that the true League is blamed for. Before the JLA can even move to intercede to to work out what’s going on, they’re confronted by law enforcement officers and ordered to turn themselves in. As the League always obeys the law, they go without a fight.
A quick pause here between chapters one and two for this full page house ad celebrating the launch of the Metal Men in their own series. METAL MEN was an enormous success for DC when it first launched–it’s a fact that’s mostly been lost to history now, but their SHOWCASE appearances and the earliest issues of their self-titled comic sold in droves, to the point where DC thought they had a huge mega-hit. Unfortunately, enthusiasm for the series died down after a couple of issues, and it became simply a solid seller in the DC line, not a runaway breakout success as it had been.
In short order, the full Justice League is put on trial for their supposed crimes. Their defense attorney is Jean Loring, the Atom’s girlfriend, but she’s unable to disprove the prosecution’s case that only the true Justice League could have committed those particular crimes. With few options left to them, the League offers up a plea deal to the judge. The will agree to be exiled from Earth, as they have no way of proving their innocence. Aware that no conventional prison could hold the League should they choose to escape, the Judge goes along with this idea. So it is that crowds gather at the launch site of a massive spaceship that will carry the League away from the Earth forever.
Among the crowds are the members of the Super-League, attired in their civilian identities. They celebrate their triumph over their counterparts and plan for their next move. Also planning is the incarcerated Doctor Destiny, an old foe of the League. He’s the one responsible for the creation of these evil Super-Leaguers, making them out of the stuff of dreams with his Materioptikon. In space, the League is hardly finished: they’ve worked out a loophole in their exile. Their costumed identities are not permitted on Earth, but nobody said anything about their civilian guises. So it is that the League all reveal their identities to one another and race back to Earth to confront their foes in their civilian garb. This seems a bit shaky as a loophole, but let’s go with it. Unfortunately for the League, even with the advantage of surprise on their side, they’re still no match for their counterparts, and are swiftly overpowered.
The JLA MAIL ROOM letters page in this issue includes a letter from Dr. Jerry Bails, the godfather of silver age comic book fandom. He’s writing in response to an earlier issue in which he and his partner in publishing the fanzine ALTER EGO, Roy Thomas, had been combined into a character, Jerry Thomas.
Having defeated the League for the second time, the Super-League moves in to finish off their captives–but Ray Palmer points out to them that, as they are derived from the true League’s subconsciouses, if they do so they will destroy themselves at the same time. Instead, the Super-Green Lantern imprisons the entire League membership in an unbreakable vault buried deep beneath the Earth. Even the real Lantern’s will power isn’t enough to dislodge them from the trap. But Green Arrow suggests that Green Lantern expand the size of his power ring so that the entire team can use it at once, hoping that their combined will power will prove to be greater than the Evil Lantern’s. And it does! The team is free to strike back once more.
and strike back they do–in the most unorthodox way imaginable. Taking a cue from a recent adventure in which Wonder Woman was unable to control her body’s movements, the Atom sneaks into the evil League’s headquarters at microscopic size and rewires their brains through subatomic brain surgery, rendering them helpless. This is a horrifying way for the League to achieve victory until you remember that this evil League isn’t real at all, but only made of dreamstuff. Turning the faux League over to the authorities and proving themselves innocent of the accusations, the real League is permitted to return to Earth again. What’s more, they’ve worked out that Doctor Destiny is the ne responsible for their plight, and they confront him in prison with his failure. Finally, in an off-handed move that creates as many problems as it clears up, Superman tells the League that he’ll use some Amnesium, a rare mineral he keeps in his Fortress of Solitude, to remove the world’s knowledge of their true identities. The League will also forget one another’s real names, a precaution that seems to be without real merit. But this was the way things were done in this era.
Lastly, we get another full page house ad, this one for a passion project of editor Julie Schwartz. STRANGE SPORTS STORIES ran in BRAVE AND THE BOLD for three tryout issues, but its science fiction tales built around assorted types of sports such as boxing or baseball didn’t catch on, at least not at this moment. A decade later, Schwartz would try it again in a short-lived series that even used some of the same story concepts, albeit redrawn and modernized for the 1970s.
4 thoughts on “WC: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #19”
I first met Destiny in “Deadly Dreams of Dr. Destiny” which both impressed me with the scheme and with the footnote references to past clashes. I was delighted when I finally acquired this one.
I can’t be critical of Sekowsky because despite his flaws, he’s the JLA artist of my youth.
Did not know that about the Metal Men. That cover with the endless robots raining down on the obviously doomed team is a favorite of mine.
When I first read this one I really loved the scene of the JLA telling each other their secret identities. I thought it was a historic moment in DC history, so I was annoyed when it ended with them just wiping their memories again. Apart from that, it’s a really great story – classic silver age adventure and a perfect example of what makes these old comics so good!
One of my favorite JLA issues as well. Like you I first read it as a reprint and later was able to buy a back issue at a reasonable enough price.
This cover recycled the the layout of MYSTERY IN SPACE #17, the sort of thing DC did quite a bit back then (see also GREEN LANTERN #13/STRANGE ADVENTURES #106, while JIMMY OLSEN #53 homages/rips off the cover of SF mag THRILLING WONDER STORIES for July 1940).