A crazed arrogant fascist hell-bent on controlling the world. It’s a theme that many of us are happy is left to the past, and in our fictional stories. Not something at all that we are facing in our lives today. Ummm... and... well... why is any of this relevant today? Because DC in the 80s is reviewing the 1982 five issue storyline that happened as part of the annual Justice League of America and Justice Society of America cross-over, and they fight a time traveling would be fascist! That’s why it’s relevant. No other reason.
The Justice League of America (Earth 1) and Justice Society of America (Earth 2) cross-overs began in the summer of 1963, in Justice League of America #21 and #22, and continued until the summer of 1984, when Crisis on Infinite Earths ended every multiverse crossover... FOREVER.
|Until Zero Hour? Maybe? I honestly don’t remember what happened in Zero Hour. That’s where Hal Jordan kills people, right?|
I spent 2015 collecting every JLA-JSA cross over, and have every issue except Justice League of America #21 (1963). That one has been tricky to come across in decent condition AND not have someone charging way too much for it. You just know how much you would pay for a certain issue, even if you really, really want it. It’s the principle of the thing.
The 1982 cross over was extra special because it featured the Earth-3 Crime Syndicate of America who were the evil version of the Justice League of America. The group consists of an evil version of the 5 most popular Justice Leaguers. I think you can figure out the Who’s Who of which evil doppelganger is which:
|No love for Barracuda, White Martian, or mustaches?|
This was the first time the complete 5 person Crime Syndicate had appeared since they were defeated in Justice League of America #22, which came out in the summer of 1963. DC sat on the complete Crime Syndicate fighting the Justice League for 19 years, not using them again until 1982. Really? Maybe somewhere between Starro attack #7 and gorillas on every cover they’d find some time for this amazing plot device of an evil mirror image of the JLA, but I guess not.
The 1982 cross over was also special in that it included not only “1982 Earth-1”, but also “1982 Earth-2”, and an additional “1942 Earth-2”, and then the return of “Earth-3”, and, AND, it even included Earth-Prime. That’s our Earth! The Earth you’re in now! Where no one has superpowers, people read comic books, and ice cream sandwiches melt super-quick. Except this Earth-Prime had Superboy. And in the first issue of the crossover Earth-Prime is nuclear devastated by a comic book villain. Other than that, it’s our Earth. Speaking of comic book villains, imagine giving a guy the nuclear codes who’s kind of nutty, hates a lot of people, and is a complete megalomaniac. Hard to imagine you say? Well that’s what this cross-over was all about. Let’s begin.
|Check out everyone on the left reacting at themselves get hit in the middle. Superman and Firestorm are shocked, Hawkman is all “I remember this.”|
Look at that George Perez cover on 1982's Justice League of America #207. Stare at its perfectness. You can’t look at any George Perez cover from the 80’s and not want to instantly give the comic book person all your money. He didn’t illustrate the inside, which is always heartbreaking. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the “different comic book cover and inside illustrator” thing. It’s like someone singing on the single, and the rest of the album being a different singer. You always feel a bit cheated.
The story is written by Gerry Conway (Firestorm and Spider-Man fame), and illustrated by Don Heck and Romeo Tanghal. Don definitely had a Sal Buscema feel to him. Don’t know who came first and Google™ seems so far away right now. The story tries to weave in 7 different time periods on 4 different Earths. Keep up because “comic book time traveling huh?” is about to begin. This will be the part some people stop reading because it gets confusing. That’s cool.
So 1982 Earth-1 Justice League (JLA) is teleporting over to 1982 Earth-2 Justice Society (JSA) for their yearly party. At these parties Superman shows off how alpha but super-nice he is, Firestorm hits on a female JSA member, and Red Tornado struggles with "not being a real boy". Instead of the 1982 Earth 2 JSA appearing, 1982 Earth 3 Crime Syndicate appear instead! Battle ensues and Crime Syndicate wins. Meanwhile 1982 Earth-2 JSA get sent to 1982 Earth-Prime and find that it’s been destroyed by nuclear bombs! And Green Lantern’s ring tells him that it was destroyed by Per Degaton. Who’s Per Degaton?
He’s a real estate mogul who’s failed at a lot of businesses and bullies... oh wait, sorry, I mean he’s a lab assistant to a professor Zee, who along with a bunch of other scientists created a time machine in the 40’s. Per Degaton steals the time machine and travels through time, changing events, so that he can eventually take over the world. To build a wall so they can’t take errr jubbbs. Or just take over the world.
So 1982 Earth-1 JLA get sent to 1982 Earth-2 and find out the world has been taken over by Per Degaton. They travel back in time to 1942 Earth-2, but the JSA isn’t there, instead they find the "1980’s throwback to the 1940’s DC group": the All-Star Squadron. Yay! The All-Star Squadron was the idea of the all-star Roy Thomas when he started working for DC in the early 80’s. Instead of just re-hashing the JSA, he decided to use EVERY 40’s character DC owned in a new team book. He literally used ALL THE HEROES in the group.
|Sarge Steel is like “I totally don’t remember being in an hour glass”|
All-Star Squadron #14 had a cover by Joe Kubert, who is a legend, and interiors by Adrian Gonzalez and Jerry Ordway. Ordway is one of my top ten favorite artists, and his style shines through. The issue starts off with the 1942 Earth-2 All Star Squadron (ASS?) saluting a ruling Per Degaton right before they fight each other 'Roman Coliseum' style. It’s revealed to be a dream of Degaton, who is super whiney about remembering lost memories of his last fight with super heroes. He shoots his boss Professor Zee, steals his time machine, gets caught in a time storm and ends up in 1982 Earth-Prime. Reagan is President! Beat It is a hit song! Breakin’ 2: Electric Bugaloo has yet to come out! So Degaton goes back in time (backwards from 1982) and runs into the Crime Syndicate in limbo. Some Squad Goal meetings later, Degaton decides to go to the Bay of Pigs crisis in 1962, steal some Russian nuclear warheads, and use them to take over the world, while checking people’s religions before they enter the US to keep out a particular one. Or just take over the world.
|Here Per Degaton is adding a word to everyone’s name to make fun of them. Illegal Superman, Little Power Girl, No Firebrand|
The story sort of confused me from here (JLA #208). I’m pretty sure that 1982 Earth-1 JLA and 1942 Earth-2 All-Star Squadron meeting Earth-2 Franklin Roosevelt in the White House, but in future issues they made it seem like he was Earth-Prime FDR. Superman and Zatanna really sweat FDR in this one. “No wonder he was re-elected 3 times, the man is electric!” – Zatanna. I’ve seen Youtube™ FDR speeches, I liked him and all, but 'electric'? The important part of this issue is that the Russians and Castro thought Kennedy stole the nuclear warheads, and JFK thinks they hid them for a surprise attack. So JFK TOTALLY PUSHES THE RED BUTTON TO NUKE RUSSIA AND IT KILLS HALF THE EARTH’s POPULATION. Just going by what I know, I really don’t think JFK would have done that. It would take someone who is super macho about everything, with very little intellectual curiosity about the consequences. Someone who has a history of constant failures, a very thin skin, yet the bravado to do anything he wants, without much thought of the future.
In part 4, All-Star Squadron #15, the All-Stars, JSA and JLA all team up to fight the Crime Syndicate. So the math goes like this, one All-Star person, one JSAer, and one JLAer team up to fight one Crime Syndicator, each of which has a certain amount of warheads they are protecting. You’ve read comics right? 3 heroes versus 1 villain, protecting the weapon. Who wins?
In the conclusion to Justice League #209, FDR in 1942 questions whether inventing a nuclear bomb is worth it. Here’s the cover:
|"Who’s world is this, the world is yours, its mine its mine its mine."|
Everyone’s mouths are super open on this cover. I mean come on, it’s just one guy. He can’t mess things up that much? It’s not like Per Degaton retweets white supremacist factually incorrect memes about minorities, amiright? This issue continues the 3-on-1 drubbings, with Huntress kicking Owlman’s butt and Zatanna beating Per Degaton with the spell “Ria traped” spell. So they wipe Per’s memories and send Degaton back to 1947 and back to being a frustrated assistant. Because he won’t regain his memories or anything like that. And they put the Crime Syndicate back in time storm limbo, where they won’t escape or anything like that. And then 1982 JSA and 1982 JLA party it up. The highlight being Power Girl telling Firestorm “Put your arms around me, I need some holding. Now what was this about wanting to get me alone-?” This 5-part story ends with Power Girl totally macking Firestorm. No wonder Killer Frost is so angry.
Overall it’s a decent read. Go out and buy all 5 issues. It’s easy, got some weird moments, and has tons of characters. And I think the villain has red hair and almost takes over the world, but in the end didn’t get it done. Loser!
Join me next time when I review the story where Earth-1 Wonder Woman and Earth-2 Green Lantern face off for leadership, and even though they’re from the same set of super heroes, people refuse to back Wonder Woman if she were to win. Sure Wonder Woman is down with the Justice League and made some questionable decisions, while Green Lantern is Justice Society, and has been pretty clean in his time as a hero. But when they fought the Injustice Society of America, they did the same moves 93% of the time. Wonder Woman pretty much won, but Green Lantern is still popular with a lot of people, but they should probably start getting along because Per Degaton is time traveling and stealing nuclear warheads and stuff. I personally think Green Lantern would make a good second-in-command Captain. But that’s me.
Mark Belkin is a freelance writer and one helluva guy. Look for more articles from Mark in the future!