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DC Comics Presents: Justice League of America #1

DC Comics Presents: Justice League of America #1

Scheduled to arrive in stores: August 25, 2004

Cover date: October 2004

Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Story #1: "Secret Behind the Stolen Super-Weapons"

Written by: Harlan Ellison and Peter David
Art by: Joe Giella

The era: February 1967

The place: 575 Lexington Avenue, New York City.

The time: 2:15am.

From his office Schwartz talks to his wife, Jean, on the phone. Jean asks him to come home since his granddaughter is running a fever. Julie asks where Jeannie and Andy, the baby's parents, are and his wife replies that they are at an N.E.A. conference somewhere. Despite the problems he is having with the comic book he is editing Julie relents and tells her he will be home soon.

After he hangs up the phone Julie begins to muse about the two families he has; one with his wife, children, in-laws and grandchildren and the other with red capes, super-speed and green lanterns. He thinks of how the second family are like demanding babies and that he would sometimes like to slap them down in an inkpot and stopper the bottle.

Suddenly the Justice League appears before him. The Leaguers admonish Julie for his feelings, but the cantankerous editor tells them to leave so he can get back to saving them from looking stupid in their next issue. Batman asks him what if they decide not to leave. Julie becomes angry and becomes a giant before their eyes, announcing that he is going to teach them a lesson. The Flash becomes bold and informs the now giant editor that he works for them. Julie responds by sending him flying out the window. The Flash bounces like a pinball around the city before Wonder Woman goes to help him. Julie manipulates her magic lasso and instead of helping the Flash he turns the Amazon into a human yo-yo. The Atom tries to save his teammate, but Julie uses the Atom's powers against him and sends the tiny hero to Omaha via the telephone. In his civilian clothes the Atom lands in a bath tub with a mother who was calling Julie to complain that his comics were ruining her kid.

Batman tells Julie to cut it out, but the editor uses Batman's own utility belt against him. Superman comes to the aid of his friend, but Julie retaliates by turning his blood into liquid Kryptonite. Green Lantern begins to give the Man of Steel a transfusion of sorts, but Julie turns the Emerald Gladiator's clothes yellow, which negates his power. Green Arrow also comes under attack from his own rubber duckie arrow.

Green Lantern's costume tears away as the hero finds himself flying out the window. He lands on the streets below, where passersby gawk at his barely dressed form. As GL makes a run for it Batman manages to free himself and a comment he makes about being asleep at the switch, which reminds Julie how tired he really is. The heroes help their editor put on his coat and wish him well as he begins his journey home. As he walks down the stairs to the subway the League talk of what a great man Julie Schwartz is and how much they appreciate him giving them life.


Story #2: "Mayhem of the Mysterious Marauders!"

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Penciller: Dustin Nguyen
Inker: Richard Friend

In their secret mountain lair the Justice League prepares for an awards ceremony that Happy Harbor is throwing for the League in honor of their service to the city. Batman is curious why they have to wear tuxedos but the League's mascot, Snapper Carr, replies that it is good public relations. Meanwhile the Flash is having trouble tying his bow tie, but Wonder Woman's entrance stuns the group. As she helps Flash tie his tie the security alarm goes off. The team separates to investigate but one by one each member is taken down by their own weapon or ability. After each Leaguer is taken down their attackers reveal themselves as the future versions of the Justice League. The Flash, Wally West, is upset at having to fight his mentor, Barry Allen. The Batman understands this, but reminds them that they have a job to do. Superman agrees and tells them that they should just get their mission over with.

At the Awards Presentation the Mayor of Happy Harbor presents the future Superman with a diamond shaped award. Superman accepts the award, but Batman alerts the group that their reason for being in the past has arrived. The Time Lord and his cronies materialize from the 38th Century. The future League takes on the Time Lord's minions. The team banters back and forth before Superman tells them to stop since they still have the Time Lord to worry about. The Time Lord is surprised that they know of him since he decided to come back to a time when the League was young and before they had faced him for the first time. Batman rallies the team and with a coordinated attack they take the Time Lord down. The villain is surprised, but Superman informs him that it is never a good idea to take on the League in the past, present or the future.

After the Time Lord is returned to his century the heroes gather back at the Secret Sanctuary. The future Green Arrow is convinced that the past League could never have won, but Batman disagrees. Wonder Woman is confused at how they are meeting their younger selves, but Wally informs her that now that he has learned how to control the Speed Force, the source of his and Barry's amazing speed, all manners of time paradoxes are allowed. Before leaving Wally informs his unconscious mentor how much he appreciates and respects him.

Hours later the past League wakes up unaware of what happened. Superman points out that nothing is missing, but he still feels like something important happened. The Flash agrees and goes on to say that he feels good, like somebody gave them a blessing. He thanks them, wherever they are.


5Story - 5: This was an odd comic book to review. Most of the books that I and the other reviewers on this site pick apart are either one shots, mini-series or ongoing series that are, for the most part, meant to entertain and entice. We judge them based on their art, the writing, how they fit into continuity or not and how they treat the individual characters involved. As reviewers we bring in our own emotional baggage, pre-conceived notions, problems and opinions and they all have an impact on how we react to what we are reading.

This comic and the other issues of DC Comics Presents that have come out in the past two months are tribute issues all designed to honor the memory of one of the few legends that the comic community ever had. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman (which in turn helped jump start the comics industry), Bob Kane and Bill Finger created Batman. Thousands of writers and artists have come along and created lasting impressions on the medium, but few, with the possible exception of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, have touched so many characters and helped usher in legitimate, enduring legacies than Julius Schwartz.

I never met the man. Back in 2001 I had the chance at DragonCon (a science fiction/fantasy/comic book convention that usually takes place on Labor Day weekend in Atlanta, Georgia) but the panel he was speaking at was packed and I seem to remember some kind of announcement that there would be no signings afterwards, but that could be my bad memory. I wanted to get him to sign my copy of his autobiography Man of Two Worlds, but he looked tired and I didn't want to push the point. Now, as selfish as it sounds, I will never get that chance or the chance to tell him how much of an impact the books he edited have had on my life.

Now I am not one to usually put creators and editors on pedestals. For whatever reason I look at those people as just that; people. People, who write, draw and edit comic books that I happen to enjoy. They are no better or worse (in most cases) than me and had the drive, determination or sheer dumb luck to break into the pros, though I tend to err on the side of drive and determination. There are a few that transcend that and Julius Schwartz was certainly in that group. Some of the first comics that I ever read were under his watch. The characters he originally edited (the new versions of Green Lantern, the Flash, Hawkman and the Atom in addition to Adam Strange) and the books he completely revamped (the aforementioned Green Lantern, Batman, Superman and, with limited success, Wonder Woman) have become some of my favorites.

So if anyone deserves a tribute comic (or nine if you count the eight DC Comics Presents issues and Superman #411 from back in 1985) it is Julius Schwartz.

"Secret Behind the Stolen Super-Weapons" was definitely the more touching of the two tales presented in this issue. This makes sense considering that both writers, Peter David and Harlan Ellison, personally knew Schwartz. It was on Ellison's commentary portion of the old Sci-Fi Channel hype program "Sci-Buzz" that I saw Schwartz for the first time. In his own enthusiastic way Julie related how he helped usher in the Silver Age of comics. So it is safe to say that they at least knew each other. Ellison and David decided to go a somewhat different route than the other stories by actually going into Schwartz's personal life and paint him as a family man that was torn between his real family and the "family" of comic book characters.

Some of the other tribute comics portrayed Schwartz as a character within the stories or used him as a character in an "Earth Prime" sense where the hero of the story was transported to the real world. This issue was different as it tried to show how hard it was on Schwartz and his family to edit the comics that meant so much to readers in the fifties and sixties. The credits state that the story was by Harlan with Peter David providing the adaptation, which means to me that Peter took the story and probably followed it as closely as possible while throwing in his own unique sense of humor. The Green Lantern bit was amusing and pure David. I wonder who came up with the throwing the Atom into the bathtub with the mother who was calling to complain that Schwartz's comics were ruining her son, which makes me wonder if this type of thing actually happened (the irate mothers calling Schwartz, not the Schwartz sending one of the characters he edits through a phone line thing).

The story was amusing, touching and obviously came from two men who cared about the man behind the comics.

Marv Wolfman took a different route, but managed to honor the man just the same. While Schwartz doesn't appear as a character in "Mayhem of the Mysterious Marauders!" Wolfman manages to pay homage to Schwartz by telling a tale in the same style as the ones that were produced in the sixties. While the story has modern sensibilities, it does manage to hold up in the Silver Age sense.

The other thing that separates this story from the other tribute comics is that it actually tells a fairly straight forward story. Some of the other tribute stories had a somewhat whimsical side to them, which fits with the characters used. The Justice League was mainly an action book and Wolfman captured that well. The story has a real science fiction feel, which was one of Julie's strong points. Also, having Wally West telling Barry how he felt could just as easily have been Wolfman telling Schwartz how much his work meant to him.

Of course, Marv Wolfman did write the issue where Barry died, so maybe he was apologizing.

At any rate this was a top notch issue. The writers involved obviously had a lot of love and respect for Julius Schwartz and it shows. The stories were entertaining and touching and I can't think of a better way to honor the memory of the man than by producing some damn fine comics.

Rest in peace, Julius Schwartz and thank you for everything.

4Art - 4: Joe Giella's art was fitting for the story. He managed to capture the Silver Age feel rather well and I think he did a very solid job of drawing the characters as they looked in the time the story took place. The page layouts were fun and overall I really enjoyed the man's art.

Dustin Nguyen did a similarly good job. I am not the biggest fan of the man's work, but he did do a fantastic job of drawing the past version of the League as they looked in the Silver Age and the current version as they would currently look. My only problem with his art work is that it can get really cluttered, which is distracting. Most of the battle with the Time Lord was muddled and confusing. Overall, though I have no complaints and thought the art was fun and exciting.

4Cover - 4: I'm kind of torn on this issue. Jose Luis Garcia Lopez is a freaking legend in my opinion. If you grew up in the seventies and eighties and had any kind of Superman paraphernalia chances are it was a Lopez. His Superman is one of the best ever and was responsible for some of the best covers of the Pre-Crisis Superman.

The problem is that he did too good of a job capturing the feel of the original cover. The background characters are blocky and unattractive, Batman looks good, as does Green Arrow but the other characters are not up to the man's usual level of excellence.

So it wasn't a bad cover, but it wasn't the best either.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2004

February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004

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