Justice League of America #87 (February, 1971)

Some fifteen months ago, I blogged about Avengers #70, which featured the first full appearance of the Squadron Sinister.  Regular readers may recall my sheepish confession in that post that, despite how blindingly obvious it is to me now that these four characters were homages to/parodies of (take your pick) DC Comics’ Superman, Batman, Flash, and Green Lantern, in September, 1969 my then twelve-year-old self didn’t pick up on the joke at all.

Nor was I aware that this comic book was one half of a “stealth crossover” of sorts between Marvel Comics’ Avengers and its counterpart title over at DC, Justice League of AmericaSaid crossover apparently had its origins at a party at which comics writer Mike Friedrich suggested to a couple of his cohorts, Roy Thomas (the writer of Avengers) and Denny O’Neil (then the writer of JLA), that they each present a “tip of the hat” of some sort from the super-team book they were writing to its rival, in issues coming out in the same month.  Thomas and O’Neil both agreed, and Avengers #70 and JLA #75 were the results.  But while the inspiration for Thomas’ Squadron Sinister was all but self-evident (though of course not to me, or to the other fans who chimed in after my September, 2019 blog post that they hadn’t caught on either), the relationship of the supposed Avengers analogues in O’Neil’s story — evil doppelgängers of the Justice League called “the Destructors” — to their Marvel models was obscure to the point of opacity, with the parallels being limited to such bits as having Superman’s dark twin refer to himself as being as powerful as Thor.  (Um, sure.)  I didn’t actually buy JLA #75 when it came out, but I’m all but 100% certain I wouldn’t have realized what O’Neil was up to with such subtle shenanigans, even if I had. 

Despite the rather half-hearted execution of the idea on DC’s side, Thomas gave it another go a little more than a year later; this time, however, his partner was Mike Friedrich himself.  Friedrich had taken over as regular writer on Justice League of America with the previous issue, #86, and one may assume he was naturally more invested in the JLA-Avengers tie-in concept than O’Neil had ever been, being the guy who’d come up with it in the first place.  Friedrich was also younger and more “fannish” than O’Neil, which may further help explain his enthusiasm for the project.

As for your humble blogger, this time I was there for DC’s half of the crossover — but not for Marvel’s.  Although I had recently started buying Avengers again after a year’s hiatus, after picking up both issues #83 and #84 I unaccountably skipped the following three.  So I missed not only Avengers #85, which was published concurrently with JLA #87, but also #86, which wrapped up the storyline introducing Marvel’s Squadron Supreme.  And by the time I acquired these issues years later, I’d forgotten they came out at the same time as the JLA story.

Oh, well.  At least with JLA #87 I recognized the “other guys” when they finally turned up.  And I do mean “finally”, because Friedrich’s Avengers knock-offs don’t show up until the 17th page of this 22-page tale.  Before we can get to them, therefore, we’ve got 16 pages of “Batman — King of the World” to make our way through — and as we’ll see, this would have been a pretty wild story even if Angor’s Mightiest Heroes had never shown up at all.

The story begins with a cold open, as we’re immediately thrown into a scene where Batman and Hawkman are under attack from a “colossal monster” (not initially shown), with no preamble or explanation to provide context for readers.  In 1970, this was a highly unorthodox way to start off a superhero comics story.

Also somewhat unusual for the era — at least for DC comic books edited by Julius Schwartz — was the lack of any creator credits in the story’s opening pages.  As we’ll see further on, there would eventually be credits, but just so you know going in, the art for Friedrich’s tale was provided by the regular JLA penciller-inker team at the time, Dick Dillin and Joe Giella.

Friedrich devotes an entire page to Superman’s characterization here, which is notable in and of itself; it’s difficult to imagine such a scene appearing in any story ever written by Denny O’Neil’s predecessor as JLA scripter, Gardner Fox, and was still a relatively rare thing to find in any DC comic even in late 1970.  What’s even more interesting, however, is that the Man of Steel’s ruminations on this page track closely with similar sentiments of alienation he’d already expressed in two other comics published this month — Forever People #1 and Flash #203 (though not, to the best of my knowledge in any of DC’s “Superman family” titles).  As I opined in my Flash #203 post a couple of weeks ago,  for this to have occurred “on purpose” suggests a level of coordination between different writers and editors unusual for DC in this era; on the other hand, for it to have come about by mere coincidence seems even more unlikely.

In any event, I seem to recall my thirteen-year-old self being gratified by Superman’s decision here to seek the companionship of the Justice League, since his failure to consider his super friends as a possible source of solace in the Forever People story was just about the only thing that hadn’t rung completely true to me in that instant classic.

Superman certainly does seem to feel “at ease” around Zatanna — maybe a little too much so.  Ever hear of a little thing called “personal space”, Clark?

In actuality, Superman and Zatanna had never appeared together in a story before this — Big Blue hadn’t been around for the Justice League adventure that the Mistress of Magic references in the next to last panel above — so we readers had to assume that said meeting had occurred on some unchronicled occasion the characters remembered, but we knew nothing about.

As we’ll see, Zatanna will turn out to be critical to the resolution of our current tale, though her role will have little to do with her magical abilities, and much more to do with her being “the bearer of peace”, in Friedrich’s phrase.  It must be said that the authorial voice in this story seems quite smitten with “the girl with the enigmatic smile and dancing eyes.”  Would it be indecorous of me to note that the author himself would only have been 15 years old when Zatanna made her debut in Hawkman #4 (Oct.-Nov., 1964)?  It’s not hard to imagine how the fishnets-favoring enchantress could have made quite the impression on a young comics fan from Castro Valley, CA.*

The Atom reasonably explains that they’ve come all the way to Peru because they all received Hawkman’s emergency signal — and by the way, Batman, what’s the deal with the big robot blasting away over there?  The Caped Crusader vehemently denies that either he or Hawkman sent any signal, and what’s more…

Good catch with those “super-senses”, Supes!  Of course, those “gluggs” and “ungnns” that have suddenly begun peppering your Bat-buddy’s speech should probably have tipped you off that something’s gone very wrong here, regardless.

Friedrich’s caption states that Green Lantern’s fellow Justice Leaguers haven’t seen him “for many an adventure.”  While it’s true that GL had sat out several League cases earlier in the year, during the time he and Green Arrow were doing their “hard traveling heroes” bit in the Emerald Crusader’s own series, he had in fact participated in the annual Justice League-Justice Society team-up that ran in issues #82 and #83; and there’d been only two new JLA stories since then, #85 being a reprint.

Anyway, Superman doesn’t even get to finish saying hello to GL before Batman rudely breaks in, saying he’s “the official welcoming committee for Green Lantern!”  But when the Lantern echoes the others in asking what’s the emergency, Bats becomes enraged at him as well, and orders everybody to leave.  When they don’t immediately comply, he shouts an order to the giant robot: “Squash these puny characters!”

Zatanna, Flash, and Atom are all down for the count, as they say — and when I say down, I mean down.  (You’ll see what I mean in just a bit.)  Still, Superman and Green Lantern are still in the fight, and they’re arguably the League’s most powerful members, so we should be good, don’t you think?

Unfortunately, not only does their robot foe have the ability to fire concentrated blasts of solar radiation from a red sun (which is bad news for Supes), but he can turn his form yellow, as well (which is equally bad news for GL).  You gotta love those Silver Age DC superheroes and their oh-so-convenient (from a writer’s standpoint) Achilles’ heels…

Now that all of the Justice Leaguers are dead — that’s right, dead — with the obvious exceptions of Batman, who’s a raving loony, and Hawkman, who by contrast is a practically cataonic loony — the victorious robot, being pretty psychologically astute for a mechanical contraption, realizes that his going along with Batman’s delusions will serve to reinforce them.  So he opts to play-act as the Batman’s servant, allowing for a near-exact replication of the tableau depicted on Neal Adams’ cover for the issue:

I mean, sure, Zatanna didn’t make it onto the cover, and the Dillin-Giella version of the booster-seat “throne” (um, where did that come from?) is missing that nifty Bat-logo on the back, but otherwise the next-to-last panel is a ringer for Adams’ illustration, down to the Batman’s crown and scepter (seriously, where did those come from?).  Even the word-balloon copy in the scene is the same — well, with the one exception that the cover’s version of Bats’ laugh — “Eeeya — hahaha!” — has been replaced in the last panel with the slightly less over-the-top “Ha ha ha hee hee ha he he”.

Anyway, as I was saying, the Justice Leaguers are now, for the most part, dead.  But if you had been reading JLA for a while — as I had, in December, 1970 — you’d seen this kind of thing before.  Take this scene from  issue #65, for example, in which energy duplicates of five Leaguers’ significant others plant the “kiss of death” on their unsuspecting victims (words by Garner Fox, art by Dick Dillin and Sid Greene):

Prior to this event, the villain responsible for these heroes’ untimely demise, T.O. Morrow, has similarly taken out the JLA’s friends and colleagues in the Justice Society on Earth-Two.  And after this scene, Morrow manages to snuff out the lives of the remaining Justice League members as well.  By the end of the story, however, all of those deaths have been reversed as though they’d never happened — because, of course, they really hadn’t.

Which was one good reason why my younger self was inclined to take the pronouncement of the JLAers’ deaths in #87, whether made by the robot or by the story’s seemingly omniscient narrator, with a heaping helping of salt.  And also why the developments on the very next page didn’t come as much of a surprise:

Despite the insinuation in the final caption above that the Atom has his work cut out for him in trying to shut down a supercomputer designed by an unknown, advanced alien race — a quite reasonable notion, frankly — the job apparently goes remarkably quickly, as within the first three panels of the following page, the giant robot has been completely deactivated.  Crisis averted!

Erm… OK, I guess?  Still — if the Green Lantern shown lying at Batman’s feet in the first panel above is just an android duplicate, why did we see the real GL sprawled out in the exact same pose on the previous page?  And when exactly did GL have the time and opportunity to whip up these amazingly lifelike (and super-powered!) androids and swap them out for the real heroes, right under Batman, Hawkman, and the robot’s respective noses?  Personally, I haven’t a clue, so if you have any ideas, let me know, OK?

Moving right along… but first, let’s take a moment here to say “goodbye” to Superman, Batman, and Hawkman, because despite the Caped Crusader’s monarchical mania having served as the story’s main hook so far, the final panel of page 15 is the last time we’ll see these three Leaguers.  Presumably, whatever hospital the Man of Tomorrow flies his comrades to has great mental health services, since we’ll never read about Batman or Hawkman’s “madness” again.

Using Green Lantern’s power ring as both homing device and mode of transport, the three remaining heroes instantaneously traverse the galaxy to meet up with the Atom.  GL compliments the Tiny Titan on his great work tearing apart the alien computer; p’shaw, says Atom, t’was a piece of cake…

And now, it’s finally time to bring Mike Friedrich’s faux Avengers on stage.  (We appreciate your patience up to this point.)

The correspondences between these characters and their Marvel originals will be obvious to the majority of this blog’s readers, I’m sure, but just for the record:

  • Jack B. Quick = Quicksilver
  • Blue Jay = Yellowjacket (aka Dr, Henry Pym, aka Ant-Man, aka Giant-Man, etc., etc.)
  • Silver Sorceress = Scarlet Witch (why a Silver Sorceress’ costume should be colored in earth tones is beyond me, but as best as I’ve been able to determine, DC has maintained this basic color scheme throughout the character’s later appearances)
  • Wandjina = Thor (and if you think it’s unfortunate that even an alien super-person named for an Australian Aboriginal deity should be so pale-skinned, Grant Morrison has your back)

OK, so now we know these folks’ names, and what they can do.  But why are they here?

By naming the nuclear war-ravaged planet “Cam-Nam-Lao“, Friedrich seems to be following in the footsteps of his predecessor on JLA, Denny O’Neil, who had demonstrated a penchant for giving his fictional alien worlds names that reflected the themes of the stories they appeared in.  (Prime examples include “Monsan” in JLA #79 and “Maltus” in Green Lantern #81.)  In this case, Cam-Nam-Lao is obviously derived from the names of the three Southeast Asian countries — Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos — where what we usually call the Vietnam War was fought.  Its use here may reflect growing American awareness of the expansion of the war beyond Vietnam to its neighbors (as a reference to Laos in a Flash story published this same month may have done as well); but it also seems a little off the mark, considering that Cam-Nam-Lao is said to have been “dominated by highly competitive business corporations”, which hardly describes its three Southeast Asian antecedents in 1970.  Perhaps Friedrich was meaning to make a point about the role of U.S. defense contractors and other corporate interests in shaping public policy about the war; if so, however, another construction might have been more appropriate.  “LockBoeGrum“, perhaps?

These ersatz Avengers would be referred to as the “Champions of Angor” in later appearances, but that phrase never appears in JLA #87.  Rather, because they come from the planet Angor, they’re simply called… the Angors.  Get it?

After fifteen or so pages where this story’s main concern has been “why is Batman acting so nutty?”, in its final third we see it suddenly turn into a fable about the follies of war.  Not that that’s not a worthwhile theme, but arriving as late as it does, it feels a little tacked-on.

Sure makes for a nice double-page spread of the JLA versus the Aven — er, the Angors, though.

AMP logo design by Lorraine Schneider, 1967.

“It has been said, war is unhealthy for people and other living things.”  If you’re too young to remember when that particular slogan was ubiquitous on posters, cards, and the like — or, like me, remember it well, but have never been sure of its source — it originated with the logo of Another Mother for Peace, an advocacy group that was founded in 1967 to oppose the Vietnam War — and which, after lying dormant for many years, was re-established in 2003 as America prepared to enter yet another war.  Now you know.

Y’know, I don’t recall reading anything about the healing properties of Zatanna’s “calm” demeanor, or even her “dancing eyes,” in Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe — but it has been a while, so…

Um… remember what I was saying earlier about personal space?  I don’t think that the Atom, Flash, and Green Lantern got the memo.  Not that Zatanna seems to mind, exactly.

I’m sure that the intention here was merely to depict the warm, brotherly affection the guys feel towards Zatanna, and their gratitude for her role in making peace with the Angors, and nothing more.  Still, there’s something about that final image that seems just a little bit… weird, at least to me.  What say you, faithful readers?  Am I simply being a dirty old man who needs to get his mind out of the gutter?

While I await your responses, I’ll do as my thirteen-year-old Southern Baptist self almost certainly did, and focus resolutely on the Bible quote (from Matthew 5:9) which, along with the answering “Amen!” from Mike and the rest of the gang (credited, at last), closes out the story.  That ought to keep me out of trouble, at least for a while.

We’ve now reached the end of our discussion of Justice League of America #87; but, in keeping with the tradition established with last year’s post on Avengers #70 (where I wrote a wee bit about JLA #75 as well), I’m going to take a look at the Marvel side of this sorta-kinda inter-company crossover, even though I didn’t buy these comics when they came out.  Because, why not?

As already noted, Roy Thomas was again responsible for scripting the Avengers tale, which began in issue #85 and concluded in #86.  Interestingly, neither cover featured Marvel’s JLAnalogues, at least not visually — the closest either came was a blurb at the bottom heralding “the sensational return of the Squadron Sinister!” (which was a bit misleading, as the characters featured in the story weren’t actually the supervillains who’d taken on the Assemblers in issue #70, but rather their heroic counterparts on an alternate Earth**)  Art for the opening installment was provided by John Buscema and Frank Giacoia, with Sal Buscema and Jim Mooney taking over for the finale.  (This was an era when the Buscema brothers seemed to pass the Avengers pencilling assignment back and forth between themselves every ten issues or so — a state of affairs that didn’t come to an end until the advent of Neal Adams in #93).

The non-appearance of any of the Squadron Supreme’s members on either of the Avengers covers is consistent with the non-appearance of any Angors on the cover of JLA #87 (or of any “Destructors” on the cover of JLA #75, for that matter); it’s still rather curious, however, considering that all four members of the original, Sinister iteration of the team were depicted in all their fightin’ fury on the cover of Avengers #70.  Perhaps Thomas, having gotten away with the gag the first time, didn’t want to press his luck with a second — as, apparently, neither he nor Friedrich asked permission from their respective bosses before embarking on their joint venture.

In the letters column of the 130th issue of Alter Ego (the venerable comics fanzine edited by Thomas), Friedrich confessed:

…I followed in Denny’s footsteps and didn’t inform Julie Schwartz what I was up to, only this time he found out after publication from a fan letter and dressed me down fairly thoroughly. I guess I was always one to ask forgiveness rather than to ask permission.

To which Thomas replied:

I, too, would’ve been begging for mercy if [Marvel editor-in-chief] Stan [Lee] had ever noticed that the Squadrons Sinister and Supreme were takeoffs on/parodies of/homages to DC’s JLA, Mike… leading me to wonder how I ever dared do it!

Avengers #85 picks up immediately following the previous issue’s adventure, in which Earth’s Mightiest Heroes visited the Dark Dimension of Arkon the Magnificent.  While attempting to teleport home, four Avengers — Goliath, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, and the Vision — take an unintended detour to what appears to be Earth’s near future; there, some sort of calamity has overtaken the sun, causing it to burn so hot it will soon destroy all life on Earth.  The Scarlet Witch manages to zap our heroes back to present day New York City with one of her handy hex spheres, but when the Avengers return to what they believe to be their own mansion, they’re greeted by an unwelcome surprise — several of them, actually:

According to the Alter Ego letters column cited previously, as well as other sources, the four Squadron Supreme members making their debut appearances in the panel above were all created, either in whole or in part, by Len Wein, a young writer just beginning to break in at Marvel who, although uncredited at the time, assisted Roy Thomas with this story’s plotting.  They’re an interesting group, I think, in that while it’s ultimately pretty easy to work out which Justice Leaguers they’re supposed to evoke, they don’t track quite as closely with their DC antecedents as their predecessors in the Squadron Sinister did in Avengers #70 — or, for that matter, as the Angors do with their Avenging inspirations in JLA #87.

And speaking of the Angors — just as we provided earlier for that quartet, here’s a roll call of the four new “Squaddies”, matched up with their JLA originals:

  • Lady Lark = Black Canary
  • Hawkeye = Green Arrow
  • Tom Thumb = Atom
  • American Eagle = Hawkman

Lady Lark is a straightforward knockoff of the DC character she’s modeled on, up to and including her sonic powers.  The same can be said for Hawkeye, although Wein had originally called him Golden Archer (playing off McDonald’s “golden arches”) prior to Thomas re-naming him Hawkeye (thus allowing for a joke at the expense of Clint Barton, who was the Avengers’ archer, Hawkeye, before becoming Goliath).  In later appearances, the Squadron’s bowman would in fact use the Golden Archer name, as well as gaining a new costume that looked more like Green Arrow’s.

Tom Thumb, on the other hand, doesn’t really have much in common with the Atom save his short stature, and the fact that both heroes are scientific geniuses; Tom doesn’t change his size, or have any other real superpowers to speak of, relying on the weapons and other gadgets he’s designed to get the job done.  American Eagle, meanwhile, has wings (and their attendant power of flight) and raptor-themed headgear, making him obviously similar to Hawkman’s, but his stridently anti-communist, belligerently right-wing persona has no precedent in DC’s Thanagarian police officer.  (One might be tempted to assume that Thomas was playing off the characterization of Hawkman as a conservative law-and-order type who frequently butts heads with the liberal Green Arrow, but that take on the Winged Wonder didn’t really emerge until a couple of years later — coincidentally enough, during Len Wein’s stint writing JLA.)

Anyway — these are the new guys.  And as absolutely no one reading this will be surprised to hear, they almost immediately come to blows with our comic’s titular stars — a conflict that doesn’t end until the Avengers have thoroughly trounced their opponents (no “peacemakers” here, folks!).  After that, they team up with the one other Squadron member currently in residence at the Mansion — the Batman-analogue Nighthawk — and take off in the SS’s equivalent of an Avengers quinjet towards the desert location of “Atomic City”, where Nighthawk’s three remaining teammates (who, like him, are “good twins” of the original Squadron Sinister members) are assisting with a solar rocket launch — a launch the Avengers are certain will result in the disaster they witnessed in this Earth’s future.

At this point, we move into the story’s second and concluding chapter in Avengers #86, where we learn that the solar rocket is the brainchild of, um, Brain-Child — a 10-year-old mutant super-genius who, under the guise of inventing a solar probe, has actually created a device that will make the sun go supernova, destroying everyone who’s ever laughed at or rejected him, as well as himself.

After meeting Nighthawk’s comrades Hyperion (Superman), Doctor Spectrum (Green Lantern), and Whizzer (Flash), the Avengers join them in confronting Brain-Child, aka Arnold Sutton, about his true intentions:

As you’d expect, the talk-it-out approach doesn’t go so well, and the Avengers and Squadron Supremers must eventually combine their might to try to take down Brain-Child, who in addition to his great intellect has formidable psychic powers.  Ultimately, the heroes triumph over their young foe, and the resulting trauma causes Arnold’s powers to shut down.  Dr. Spectrum takes the opportunity to render this process permanent, using his Power Prism to transform Master Sutton into “a normal boy” (he gives him a super-lobotomy, basically).  Moments later, with nigh-impeccable timing, the Avengers suddenly find themselves fading from their new friends’ view:

And with that homecoming, it’s a wrap for the 1970 edition of the JLA/Avengers “stealth crossover”.

As longtime DC and Marvel readers know, both the Champions of Angor and the Squadrons Supreme/Sinister would go on to make numerous further appearances in their respective comics universes.  Or maybe that should be multiverses, since the embrace of that concept at both publishers — along with their penchant for retcons (and at DC at least, full-on reboots) — has allowed for so many different permutations of the characters that you need a scorecard (or better yet, a wiki or two, or even three) to keep up with ’em all.

Hyperion (Earth-31916) meets Hyperion (Earth-712), in Ultimate Power #8 (Dec., 2007). Text by Jeph Loeb, art by Greg Land and Jay Leisten.

Take Marvel’s imitation Superman, Hyperion, for example.  Besides the Sinister original introduced in Avengers #70 –a native of the primary Marvel universe (often referred to as the “Earth-616” reality) — and his Supreme counterpart, first seen in Avengers #85 (Earth-712), there’s also the guy from the ’00s Supreme Power series (Earth-31916), which re-imagined the SS characters in a more contemporary and “realistic” setting (a la Marvel’s concurrent Ultimate Universe).

Cover by Emanuela Lupacchino to Hyperion #1 (May, 2016), featuring Hype of Earth-13034.

More recently, we’ve seen yet another heroic iteration, introduced in Avengers (2013 series) #1, who was the only survivor of his destroyed reality (Earth-13034).  That Hype eventually joined the Earth-616 Avengers, then died in the lead-up to Marvel’s 2015-16 Secret Wars — only to be resurrected, after which he’d join a brand-new Squadron Supreme composed of versions of the characters who, like him, were the sole survivors of their respective realities.  Most (?) recently, we’ve met the not-so-heroic Hyperion of the Squadron Supreme of America, who debuted in Avengers (2018 series) #10; this iteration is a construct of the demon Mephisto, and with the rest of the SSA operates on good ol’ Earth-616.  As do, still, the Squadron Supreme to which the Earth-13034 Hyperion belongs — I think.  Confused?  Friends, I hate to have to tell you this, but these are just the main Marvel Hyperions.  If I try to document all the one-off alternate-Earth Hypes who’ve shown up for an issue or two of Exiles or whatever, we’ll be here all day.

Instead, let’s move on over on the DC side of things, where we’ll take as our example the Thor-ish Wandjina of Angor.  Neither Wandjina nor any of his teammates would make another appearance prior to 1985-86’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, but the practically identical post-Crisis versions of the Champions of Angor turned up in Justice League (1987 series) #2, which revealed that Angor itself had gone the way of Cam-Nam-Lao and succumbed to nuclear holocaust.  Jack B. Quick (renamed Captain Speed) had himself died from radiation poisoning, but the remaining Angor heroes dedicated the rest of their lives to preventing the same thing happening on other worlds — a project they decided to begin with Earth.  That effort brought them into conflict with the Justice League, and ultimately ended badly, with Wandjina meeting a heroic end as he scarified himself to prevent the meltdown of a nuclear reactor. (Blue Jay and the Silver Sorceress, on the other hand, would eventually go on to serve with Justice League Europe for a time.)

Wandjina of Earth-8, from Countdown Presents: Lord Havok and the Extremists #1 (Dec., 2007). Text by Frank Tieri, art by Liam Sharp and Rob Hunter.

Following the revisions to DC’s fictional multiverse implemented in the wake of 2005-06’s Infinite Crisis, another Wandjina turned up in the 2007-08 miniseries Countdown Presents: Lord Havok and the Extremists.  This version lived on an Angor also known as Earth-8, where he was a member of a hero team called the Meta Militia; like his predecessor, he died in action, being eaten by one of the miniseries’ titular stars (the villainous Extremists) in the sixth and final issue.

But wait, there’s more!  Following yet another cosmos-reshuffling event (2011’s Flashpoint/”New 52″), writer Grant Morrison’s The Multiversity (2014-15) brought us not only a new Earth-8, a new Wandjina (renamed Wundajin), and a new name for DC’s Avengers-ish team — the Retaliators*** — but also still another, separate iteration of DC’s Thor analogue, this one named Thunderer.  As alluded to earlier, Thunderer is the most authentic representation of an Australian aboriginal weather god DC’s yet given us; he also hails from Earth-7, which is to Earth-8 what “Ultimate Marvel” was to “classic Marvel” (and on another, even more meta level, what DC’s pre-Crisis Earth-One was to its Earth-Two).

Thunderer (Earth-7) meets Wundajin (Earth-8) in The Multiversity #1 (Oct., 2014). Text by Grant Morrison, art by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado.

Detail of panel from Flash Forward #2 (Dec., 2019), featuring Thunderider with Windrider of the Zen Men. Text by Scott Lobdell, art by Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund.

Is that it?  Well, not quite.  Not too long after DC’s next continuity reset (2016’s relatively “soft” reboot, aka “Rebirth”), a couple of storylines in Justice League of America (2017 series) not only revealed that the people of Earth-8 call their world “Angor”, clearing up any confusion remaining on that score, but also let us know that some time after The Multiversity, Wundajin (like the two Wandjinas before him) had perished in action, having been killed by Lord Havok (which sucks, but at least he wasn’t, y’know, eaten).  That’s still not quite all, however, for when we next saw the Retaliators, they’d picked up a new thunder god.  Flash Forward #2 (Dec., 2019) introduced “Thunderider”, a character who looks like Wandjina/Wundajin (though perhaps with darker skin than we’ve seen before), but speaks with a strong (and somewhat archaic) German accent, suggesting mythological associations more in line with Marvel’s Thor than the previous iterations of this character have had; what’s up with that is anybody’s guess.

I guess that really is it… except I can’t resist mentioning Wandjina’s cameo appearance in a Marvel comic, of all things; this happened back in 1999, when Carlos Pacheco drew him into a double-page splash depicting an all-out battle between two armies of “good” and “evil” Avengers from alternate realities throughout the multiverse.

Detail of panel from Avengers Forever #12 (Dec., 1999). Art by Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino. That Wandjina gets hit in the face a lot, doesn’t he?

Talk about your stealth crossovers, amirite?

But if I’m going to bring up Marvel’s version of Wandjina, I can hardly neglect to do the same with DC’s version of Hyperion.

Hyperius, as depicted in The Multiversity Guidebook (2015). Art by Bryan Hitch.

“Hyperius” was introduced by Grant Morrison (who else?) in the 2008-09 Final Crisis miniseries as one of the “Supermen of the Multiverse”.  He resurfaced in The Multiversity, identified as a member of the Retaliators — which tracks pretty well with the Hyperion of Earth-13034 joining the Avengers around the same time.  As of this writing, Hyperius has only appeared in group shots, and has yet to utter a single word of dialogue, so there’s no way to know if his origin story parallels that of his model.  If it does, then that would mean that the current DC Universe could have its own version of the Squadron Supreme — or, to put it another way, its very own parody of Marvel’s parody of DC’s premiere super-team.

Okay, I think I need to go lie down now…



*Actually, we don’t even have to imagine it!  Here’s an excerpt from Mr. Friedrich’s own letter of comment on Hawkman #4, as printed by editor Julius Schwartz in the “Hawkman’s Roost” column of issue #6:

Young Mike might never have gotten his wish for a Joe Kubert-drawn Zatanna-Zatara team-up feature, but at least his older self got to write one of the more unusual Justice League of America stories ever to feature the Mistress of Magic.

**Someone at Marvel in the early ’70s must have been convinced that the Squadron Supreme just wouldn’t sell as many copies as the Squadron Sinister, as this cover-only mis-identification would be repeated the next time the good-guy Squadron showed up in Avengers, almost five years later (#141, Nov., 1975).

***Somehow, DC has never been able to settle on a permanent name for their equivalent to Marvel-Earth’s Mightiest Heroes; in addition to Angors, Champions of Angor, Meta Militia and Retaliators, there have also been versions of the team called the Assemblers and the Justifiers.  Perhaps this indecisiveness is at least partly to blame for the fact that while there have been multiple Marvel titles devoted to the different flavors of the Squadron Supreme and its members, the closest the Angor heroes have ever gotten is Countdown Presents: Lord Havok and the Extremists, in which their villains were the actual headliners.


  1. Don · December 16, 2020

    Good Lord! While I always thought the various Squadrons were a fun send-up of the JLA and that Hyperion actually turned into a decent fourth or fifth-tier character for Marvel, I have no memory of the Angors or the Retaliators (my favorite name is the Assemblers-that’s perfect). I was certainly reading both JLA and the Avengers at this point, but nothing about Friedrich’s story sticks in my memory. I get the impression he pitched this story to Julie about a robot making Batman go crazy (a Batman-Who-Laughs, perhaps) and didn’t tell him about the Angors coming in at the end. Regardless, the plotting here is a mess and even worse, many of the characterizations are too. While I can certainly understand young Mr. Friedrich’s fascination with Zatanna (I had a similar response to the character, played by Serinda Swan in the Smallville TV show, though that might have been more about the actress than the character), his fawning depiction of her as this paragon of grace and beauty was totally different from how she’d ever been in any other adventure, Plus, the way the other heroes kept hugging up on her and invading her personal space were a Me-Too moment just waiting to happen, but of course, in the seventies, it was just business as usual. Also, the depiction of Superman here (and in Forever People) as some sort of lonely god-like figure didn’t ring true. I mean, I like the idea of Supes seeming to be more human and less perfect, but the speeches here and in FP feel so formal and arrogant that they don’t feel like Superman at all. Thank god, Friedrich decided to bring back the Avengers parody in this issue because otherwise it would be completely forgettable and not worth the time to discuss.

    In a related issue, I do hope you’re coming back in a month or two to discuss JLA #89, which featured the notable character of Harlequin Ellis, a character introduced as an homage to Harlan Ellison. As both JLA story and a time capsule of the 70’s, that story is a must!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alan Stewart · December 16, 2020

      Don, I’m afraid I have to disagree with you regarding the characterization of Superman, both here and in Forever People #1 (and Flash #203, for that matter). Friedrich’s handling of the theme of the Man of Steel’s alienation may be somewhat inelegant (the use of the word “Earthlings” strikes a particularly bum note), but it was this stuff, at least as much as what O’Neil and Swanderson were doing over in the Superman title, that revitalized my interest in Big Blue during this era. But that’s what makes a horse race, as the saying goes.

      As for “Harlequin Ellis” — never fear, JLA #89 is on tap for March — as are Avengers #88 and Hulk #142, the two-part crossover the real-life that Harlan Ellison plotted for Roy Thomas, and which came out the same month, believe it or nuts!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Stu Fischer · December 16, 2020

    I don’t remember reading this JLA story either, although I know that I did. I really hate it and I think that by late 1970 I was at the point where I just wrote off stories I did not like and only remembered them if I thought they were heinous, which this one is not. I do have a few comments not about the story.

    First off, as I wrote before, I’m with you about liking Superman’s brooding about his place in the world. It’s nice that D.C. allowed Superman to have Marvel-type characterization if not a Jack Kirby drawn face. However, Friedrich apparently did not read all of the memo. As you noted in your post on Superman # 233, D.C. was trying to dial back Superman’s powers closer to his original factory settings when he wasn’t omnipotently powerful. However, on page 3, Friedrich describes Superman is being “faster than a beam of light, more powerful than an atomic engine, able to leap between worlds in a single bound.” I’m assuming that D.C. wanted to get back closer to the classic descriptions of these things. 🙂

    One thing that this post reminded me after over 40 years is how strongly I have always felt against Zatanna or at least her costume. She looks like a cheap Vegas magician act. The fishnets just make it worse. As much as I could not get enough of looking at Black Widow, I truly hated looking at Zatanna. The worst of the worst was the top hat. How the Hell does she keep that from falling off (it does in this issue though when she is knocked out). And don’t you dare respond with “Magic!” The fawning descriptions of Zatanna in this issue by Friedrich practically made me feel ill (now, I don’t remember how I felt in 1970) as well as the closing page. I mean, I’m sure Zatanna is a nice person but I can’t get past her costume. By the way, regarding the descriptions of Zatanna’s qualities here, it reminded me of how Marvel wrote “The Dazzler” when she first came out in 1979-80 and I hated the fawning descriptions there as well.

    Regarding Angors, while I’m sure Friedrich meant the name to sound like Avengers, I must point out that the most famous temple in Cambodia is called Angor Wat. So it is possible that the name either came from the temple or the puzzling Cam-Nam-Lao name was established as a lampshade for Friedrich’s calling the group the Angors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alan Stewart · December 16, 2020

      You’re right about Friedrich’s description of Superman’s might not really fitting in with the power-reducing program Julius Schwartz and Denny O’Neil were up to over in Superman. In the other hand, that had just gotten started, less than a month prior… so not only might Friedrich not have been aware of the changes, they also really hadn’t even begun to take effect yet, even within the stories themselves.

      Regarding the appeal of Zatanna in top hat and fishnets — well, that’s another one of those things we’ll have to agree to disagree about, Stu. 🙂

      Angor from Angor Wat, eh? It certainly seems possible.


  3. Commander Benson · December 19, 2020

    “Regarding the appeal of Zatanna in top hat and fishnets — well, that’s another one of those things we’ll have to agree to disagree about, Stu.”

    I have to side with Mr. Stewart on this, too. And not just because I’m on the spear-side of things (though that would be enough). But because her outfit is logical.

    You see, during the Silver Age through, at least, to this story, Zatanna was not a crime-fighter. She was a stage magician (keeping secret the fact that she could perform real magic) who got dragged into fighting mystical threats while searching for her father. As a commercial performer, she had to sell herself, and let’s face it, if you’re an attractive girl who wants to build an audience, you do it faster if you display a little sex appeal. That draws in some guys who, otherwise, might not have an interest in seeing a magician perform.

    Zatanna fulfilled that tastefully. Her top hat and tails was an homage to her father’s performing attire, while the fishnets provided the sex appeal. I’m not really into seeing a magic show, but if I had to choose between Penn Jillette or Zatanna, there’s no question whom I’d go to see.

    The Maid of Magic became an honest-to-gosh super-heroine when she joined the Justice League, and her costume was changed to something less enticing and more appropriate. Presumably, she kept the white-tie-and-fishnets for her performances as a magician, but used the unenticing costume for her super-heroing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alan Stewart · December 19, 2020

      Commander, somehow I have lived 63 1/2 years without ever encountering the phrase “spear-side”. (Either that, or my advancing age has caused such deterioration in my cognitive faculties that I’ve forgotten doing so.) Just goes to show you’re never too old to learn something new!


    • Stu Fischer · December 21, 2020

      Did Zatanna keep the top hat when she became a JLA member? I don’t recall. That bothered me more than anything.
      In any event, Commander Benson, I don’t think that we are too far apart on the issue of Zatanna’s costume (except perhaps in terms of our tastes). My problem was wearing the outfit she was wearing in this issue because she looked like a stage magician. However, as you note at that point she pretty much exclusively was a stage magician and not a formal super hero, something I did not realize. I’d need to see her costume when she joined the JLA to make a revised judgment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Zatanna officially joined the Justice League in issue #161, at which point she was wearing a different outfit…


        A few years later she then adopted another superhero costume that she wore when she was with the JLA…


        Neither of these costumes had fishnet stockings and a top hat. Stu Fisher is correct, in the Bronze Age when Zatanna appeared in JLA stories as an official member had had a superhero costume, and in stories where she was working as a magician she had the other outfit on.There is a story in World’s Finest #274 which opens with Zatanna performing on stage, and she’s in the tux, fishnets and top hat. A few pages later she has to fight a supernatural menace, so she changes into her super-hero outfit.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Alan Stewart · December 30, 2020

          Thanks for the additional info, Ben!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Stu Fischer · December 31, 2020

            Thanks Ben. I actually don’t remember Zatanna’s JLA costumes (probably because they don’t seem too visually interesting to me), but they definitely are more utilitarian and traditional than what she wore as a magician.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Superman #240 (July, 1971) | Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books
  5. Pingback: Amazing Adventures #16 (January, 1973) | Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books

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