Sunday, February 1, 2009
Justice League of America #1 (10-11/1960)
“I’ve got this game rigged so that every time Flash makes a move, a member of the Justice League disappears from the face of the Earth!” Right there on the first cover of the first issue of “Justice League of America,” Despero announced his wicked ways. Not enough to just defeat a league devoted to a cause as unobjectionable as justice, but he was perfectly willing to lord it over them through underhanded means, to boot! What an awful creature!
So too thought Jasonar and his daughter Saranna, who came to Earth to develop means to counter the tyrant’s energy weapons, which he’d employed to conquer their home world Kalanor. “When my weapon is completed, it will absorb energy as a sponge does water!” Tests of the device caught Flash’s attention, who in turn alerted the Justice League.
“In the asphalt jungles of a metropolis,” Detective John Jones burst through the door of a slum, a pair of unkempt perps firing on the armed police officer with a desperation that didn’t phase their manhunter. “My Martian super-hearing is picking up a Justice League call. As soon as I snap the cuffs on these hoods, I’m off to answer it... as J’onn J’onzz, Manhunter from Mars!”
J’onzz answered a call all right, to become a thrall to Despero! Flash arrived at the Secret Sanctuary to find all his teammates set around their meeting table in a vegetative state, himself only immune thanks to radiation he was exposed to from Jasonar’s lab. Flash agreed to a game of chance against Despero, which was of course rigged, and led to the whole team being sent to different worlds of doom.
Could someone please explain why Flash didn’t scoop up each Leaguer, and expose them to Jasonar’s radiation to hopefully release them from Despero’s power? At least after he’d already lost a couple friends to unknown peril and knew Despero had to be cheating? It’s not like he had any way of knowing they wouldn’t remain defenseless zombies once off-world!
Thankfully, Despero only had three worlds handy, so the two Leaguers per planet were able to find one another and work together toward escape. Such was the case with Batman and J’onn J’onzz on Narx, whose inhabitants were counting down the seconds until Despero used a missile to detonate their sun. Narx had disarmed and given up on war, so their only defense were spaceships grounded by Despero’s super-energy gun turrets. J’onzz proclaimed, “We’ve got to save these innocent people--as well as ourselves!”
“I’ll tackle that metal tower and its ray-gun, Batman...” while the Caped Crusader would pilot a spaceship during the distraction. J’onzz first guided the weapon’s sights away through flight, before hurling hurricane force winds and makeshift cannonballs at the structure. The Manhunter then hollowed out the ground beneath the tower, causing it to sink. “As J’onn J’onzz’s signal comes, Batman hits the firing stud and rises spaceward!”
Manhunter continued on the tower, tearing through its metal plating as though it were paper. Unfortunately, Despero had a sentient flame being running the tower, which felled the Martian, who was rescued by winds created by the Flash. In a painful deus ex machina, the Scarlet Speedster had teleported to Narx once his protective radiation wore off. Uh-huh.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, “You’re a real ‘bad dad’, Despero! I’m gonna queer your game!” Snapper Carr, protected by Jasonar’s radiation and taking a more pro-active stance than Flash, defeated Despero with the anti-energy weapon. I hereby dub Despero's seminal outing ignominious.
In their first meeting, Manhunter and Despero didn’t so much as exchange words, much less blows. However, sooner rather than later, there would be a next time...
“The World of No Return!” by Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, and Bernard Sachs. Garish “pop art” coloring by Frank Lee Delano, without any reference, so grain of salt.