Crisis on Infinite Mikes - JLA/JSA & Prez

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What’s this now?

As part of Critical Blast’s journey through the DC Multiverse, Open Mike Night will be expanding to showcase some of the comics that helped shape DC’s many, many worlds. We have some pretty cool features planned here, so keep coming back.

As Marvel keeps rolling out their Secret Wars plans, we will probably be expanding to include some of those worlds too.  More on that in the coming weeks!

Justice League of America (1960) 29+30

Featured: Earth 0, Earth 2, Earth 3

Written by: Gardner Fox
Pencilled by: Mike Sekowsky
Inked by: Bernard Sachs
Lettered by: Gaspar Saladino
Cover by:  Mike Sekowsky

Published by: DC


Weaver: To start out, we have basically the DC multiverse gateway drug: a JLA/JSA crossover.  DC did these every summer before Crisis, and it was always something I looked forward to, although I wasn’t born yet when this came out.

This was the first time that they expanded in the crossover past the typical JLA and JSA earths, and I like the Crime Syndicate a lot in theory as a “world where superbeings are pretty much all evil.”  I think they went a bit overboard in setting up the universe, though.

Maillaro: Yeah, they definitely weren’t going for subtle, but I thought that was a necessary evil to help get the ball rolling quickly.  I thought there was a ton of interesting things going on in these two issues.   It probably could have benefited from being a little lighter on action. So much of the issue were one on one fights between the members of the JLA and the Crime Syndicate, and then later the JSA Vs the Crime Syndicate.

Actually, when I think about it, the only real problem I had with this issue was that it didn’t make sense to include the JSA at all.  The Crime Syndicate fights the JLA...and gets their butts handed to them in Earth-1.  The rematch is held in Earth-3, where the Crime Syndicate wins.  Instead of finishing the heroes off, the Crime Syndicate decide to hold the rubber match in neutral ground, which is Earth-2.  BUT, before they can do that, they need to get rid of the heroes already there, so they go after the JSA.

Weaver: Yeah, the JSA was pretty parenthetical to this story.  We got to see them in action for a little bit, but if Ultraman can see into any reality, why not use Earth Prime or something if you absolutely must have a rubber match.

I miss the silver age speak of having a billion different ways to refer to any given character.  The Duke of Detectives!  Fox is in rare form with that here.  I have one minor quibble with the JLA/Crime Syndicate fight in the first issue, which is that the Crime Syndicate switches up so they’re not fighting their “duplicates”...except Superwoman, who decides fighting Wonder Woman is fine.  I wonder if it was a desire not to have a male JLA member beat up the female Crime Syndicate member.  You’ll note that Black Canary takes her on when they fight the JSA too.  Man, back when Black Canary was an Earth-2 character...which resulted in a lot of complicated retcons later.

Maillaro: I noticed the exact same thing, and I suspect it was a comic code thing that you could not have male characters physically engage female characters in combat.  I did like that Black Canary handily beat the snot out of Super-Woman.  Every other JSA member was being real careful not to touch their opponent so their opponent could not say the magic word to defeat them like the did the JLA.  Canary takes a slightly different approach.  She shoves a freeze pill down Superwoman’s throat so she can’t speak, and then just goes to town.  To me, it was clear that Gardener Fox didn’t see females as the weaker sex...but his hands were still tied by the comic code (and conventional wisdom).

And I will also add that Starman’s starrod makes me very uncomfortable when I was reading this book.  THAT THING SHOULD BE AGAINST THE COMIC CODE!!!

Weaver:  What’s your problem with Ultraman holding Starman’s rod?  It’s funny, they have a billion different ways to describe everyone...but Starman’s power item must be a rod.

Gardner Fox definitely showcased strong women here...Wonder Woman, Superwoman, and Black Canary were all pretty strong.  Originally in JSA, Wonder Woman was their secretary, which meant an Amazon princess...taking notes...for like Dr. Midnite and crap.  I’m glad to see that by this point, the heroes of both worlds (plus Earth-3) were willing to have women actually engage in combat convincingly.

So, I have some slight issues with this story.  I feel like it took too long and went too far with “Everything is opposite on Earth-3!”  I was waiting for gravity to pull people up.  As strong as Superwoman was shown to be against Black Canary and Wonder Woman, I wanted to see her take on Superman or something, but Fox probably couldn’t do that, so I’m giving it a pass.  The JSA being completely superfluous to the overall plot.  And the ending, where they’re trying to decide where to put the villains based on how panicked they look was really strange.

But there’s a lot to like here, too.  I think that despite the JSA being such an asterisk, the Black Canary and Superwoman fight was great.  Canary walking the reader through the principles of judo was a great touch there and made it completely believable.  Also, even though several times there are “half pages” where they once had ads on the bottom half, these comics felt pretty long to me, in a good way.  I kept being surprised there was more story.

Maillaro: Yeah, we often talk about padded stories, but I definitely thought this one needed to be two issues...and it might have been able to manage an even longer story. I probably would have liked to see a little bit more meat.  The battles were all great, but I think it would have been cooler to see more about what makes this Crime Syndicate tick.  I know you didn’t like how they were determined to show that “this world is so different from the ones you know”, but I always find stuff real fascinating.  I always loved when they did that in Exiles, too.  

Weaver: I like that, but I think it was a little silly here.  Actor Abraham Lincoln shot President John Wilkes Booth!

I’m going to give Fox a 4 on the story.  It gets docked for JSA futility and a couple of minor things like that.

Maillaro: I wonder if JSA being included was editorially mandated just to keep the annual JLA/JSA crossover tradition going.  I did like how they were used, but it did seem strange to include them only for them to win their fights and get beaten by their own hubris.  I think a 4 is a real fair score for the writing.  I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t quite perfect.  

Artwise, nothing really stood out for me...The Crime Syndicate costumes are okay, but nothing particularly mindblowing.  Owlman does not at all look like an Owl to me.  

Weaver: Apparently Nest On His Head Man was taken.  

Maillaro: Apparently!  I’ll go a 3 for the art.

Weaver: I’m actually going to go higher, and I’ll tell you why.  I like that in the Silver Age, you can actually tell heroes apart from their body type.  Starman, for instance, looks a little doughy, as you might expect for someone who’s mainly an astronomer who dabbles in superheroics.  Nowadays, unless a character’s body type is particularly different (Wolverine is short, Hulk is really big), everyone kind of feels the same with different faces.  I’ll go a 4 on the art.

Maillaro: You make a fair point in that, but I’m sticking to my guns on this one.  I am a child of the 90’s, and I do have certain preferences in art styles.  I won’t typically lower a books grade just because of the art, but in Open Mike Night, we always grade them separate, so I have to go with the 3.

Hey!  Quick trivia question to lead into our next review?  Which was the first member of the Endless to appear in a DC comic?

Weaver: I’m going to guess Death, because Dream is too easy.

Maillaro: Oddly enough, it’s Destiny.  He first appeared in 1972, the first issue of Weird Mystery Tales.  Neil Gaiman kind of drafted him into the Endless later on.

Sandman #54

Featured: Dream, Earth 47

Written by: Neil Gaiman
Art by: Mike Allred
Framing Sequence Pencilled by: Bryon Talbot
Framing Sequence Inked by: Mark Buckingham
Colored by: Daniel Vozzo
Lettered by: Todd Klein

Published by: DC


Maillaro: I actually had just finished a re-read of Sandman a few months ago.  It was the third time I have read it, but it had probably been at least 10 years since the last time I read it.  I always forget how great Sandman is between readings.  

I don’t think I have ever read another comic about Prez, but this particular Sandman story always stuck with me.  Prez was actually created by Joe Simon (co-creator of Captain America) in the early 70’s.  I actually had no idea Joe Simon was still working on comics in the 70’s  Prez’s series was cancelled after 4 issues, and he basically only made one or two appearances after that.  But, clearly the character had enough potential to inspire Gaiman to tell this brilliant story in Sandman.  And someone at DC decided to create a whole universe around him as part of their multiverse.  

Weaver: Much the same, I wasn’t aware of Prez as a character outside of this book previous to reading this.  Prez isn’t usually one of the titles associated with the DC Explosion/Implosion of the 70’s (basically, they thought they could recapture market share from Marvel by launching a lot of titles, and they quickly reversed course on that idea), but it was of that era.  At its root, it was supposed to be some mix of the triumph of youth ascending to leadership and a bit of a cautionary tale against it.  But there’s no cautionary tale elements here.  Gaiman does a great job in not just making you buy into the idea of a teenage president, but make you wish that he actually were the president.

Maillaro: What really bums me out about this story is that Prez is so optimistic and noble...and the entire universe seems to conspire against him.  In the end of the issue, when you find out that Boss Smiley is basically the god of the universe, I actually felt a huge sense of hopelessness for a few seconds.

Understand, I have always been a bit of a social justice warrior.  Anti-nukes, anti-war, pro-union, pro-ALL HUMAN RIGHTS, etc, etc, etc.  I vote third party often, and constantly try to explain to people that a two party system is not the answer.  So, for a second, this issue seems to suggest, “Nothing you do matters, it’s a rigged system.” I just felt a huge punch in the gut.

Though Gaiman does manage to swing it into basically a more hopeful ending suggesting that the human spirit will always live on.  Corny?  Maybe...but I still really loved it.

Weaver: I wouldn’t say that the entire universe conspires against him...after all, he gets elected in a landslide.  In the end, Dream rescues Prez from the clutches of Boss Smiley, which I think suggests that even in a rigged system, there’s a way out.  That’s kind of a classic mortal confronting the gods story, and Prez wins by intervention of another god.

Which makes the Multiversity part of this very interesting.  At the end of the story, Prez’ spirit is freed to wander to other Americas that may need him, and it seems like he found one to stay in.

earth 47.pngMaillaro: One that features Superman with a giant Afro.  BEST REALITY EVER!

The election landslides just kind of added to my annoyance though.  The will of the people being subverted by puppet masters behind the system.  But like I said, it all worked out in the end...more or I was happy with the twists and turns that got us there, even if some of them made me feel bad as I was reading it.  That’s the sign of a great writer to me.  I was very invested in this story and character, even though we didn’t get to spend all that much time with him.

I also liked the strange, almost random, use of Wildcat.  It tied it nicely into the main DC universe, while still keeping the story grounded in an entirely new world.

Weaver: Speaking of strange and almost random...I know that Tricky Dick was the actual President at the time the original series was set, but the conversation between Nixon and Prez was strange, random, and pretty haunting.  And again, Prez overcomes it with pure unbridled optimism and nobility.

What I keep coming back to is that there are so many totally unbelievable moments in this story, and yet I felt that they were meshed together in a way to make it feel real.  The town of Steadfast being famous for having a bunch of clocks that no two agree with each other, and Prez fixing them all.  And being allowed to fix them’s the city’s claim to fame.  The woman naming her child Prez, and him being the teenager who becomes President.  Hell, teenage president in general.  It takes a goofy 70’s story and makes it into something great.  I can’t say enough good things about the writing.

I love the art too, especially the panel of Prez and his entourage on election day, with the subtle smiley face pin hitting the hood of the car.

Maillaro: You know, I had no idea this was done by Mike Allred until I was putting together the credits for this column.  I had read the story before, and I am a huge Allred fan.  It really is not his usual style here, but it still works so well.

There was definitely a lot of unbelievable moments in this story, but I took it like the narrator was basically telling a fairy tale, so I had no real issue with that.  

Weaver: Agreed, but what I’m saying is that despite it being a fairy tale, it delivered all that to a level that I didn’t even consider any of it as being unbelievable while reading it.  

This is a huge departure from Allred’s usual style.  It fits the story perfectly, and I can’t imagine this working as well with his typical style.  Look, I’m just going to give this 5’s.  It’s great, maybe one of the best comics we’ve reviewed.

Maillaro: Yeah, I would be hard pressed to disagree with those scores.  This issue of Sandman doesn’t get discussed much, which surprises me and it doesn’t surprise me.  It’s definitely one of the more political stories Gaiman did...but it’s sort of buried in a trade of random disconnected stories.  

I want to thank you for picking this issue.  It’s one that I often forget about, and it was great to read it and review it.  

Weaver: If only my first pick was as good.  But yeah, glad you enjoyed it.  World’s End in general is disconnected from the main Sandman plots, so it’s not what you think of when you think Sandman, so it’s easy to overlook, but a really great issue.  Generations in the next installment of this?

Maillaro: Generations works for me.  You want to do just the first volume?  It’s kind of meaty in itself.  

Weaver: Yeah, I was torn between doing the first volume and doing just one typical issue, but I think the first volume is probably the better way to do it.  I think it’s dense enough that it needs to stand alone and not get a two-fer.

Final Scores


Maillaro – Story

Weaver – Story

Maillaro – Art

Weaver – Art

Justice League of America (1960) 29+30





Sandman #54