Justice League America #52 (1991)

Justice League America #52 (July, 1991)
“The Battle of the Century!  Decade!  Year!  Month?”
Plot & Breakdowns – Keith Giffen
Script – J.M. DeMatteis
Pencils – Trevor Von Eeden
Inks – Randy Elliott
Letterer – Bob Lappan
Colorist – Gene D’Angelo
Editors – Kevin Dooley & Andy Helfer
Cover Price: $1.00

Welcome everyone to Super Blog Team-Up #8 VERSUS.

It is with a great sense of pride (and perhaps a twinge of trepidation) that I come to you today as part of a great collaboration of wonderful comic book bloggers.  I hope I can keep up with the great folks of the Super Blog Team-Up, and entertain any and all readers that may come my way.

This project has been a lot of fun, and I certainly appreciate the opportunity this endeavor has provided me.

This time around the topic is VERSUS where each Super Blogger will be tackling one of the greatest, most memorable, or just plain silly Hero vs. Hero clashes in comic book history.  We are certainly shoulder-deep in Hero vs. Hero as it pertains to the popular culture.  Within only a several week span, both of the major western publishers have feature films utilizing the concept.  Earlier this year, DC Comics released Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and in a scant handful of hours Marvel will be releasing Captain America: Civil War.

Today I’ll be discussing a fun fight between two members of the Justice League… one of whom is a certain bowl-haired Green Lantern.  No, no, no… we’re not talking ONE PUNCH… if the cover is any indication, we’re about to go a whole twelve rounds with Guy Gardner and Blue Beetle.

Thanks again to the folks at SBTU for letting me play along.  I look forward to any future collaborations!

We open on a shocked and dismayed Ted Kord who stands before the mirror wondering just how be became so soft in the middle (now)… why is he so soft in the middle now?  With his Blue Beetle costume failing to cover his protruding belly he reminisces back to his childhood, back when he was the neighborhood “fat kid”, Lardo Kord (who was more physically fat than fit, apparently) is what they called him.

Across the JLI Embassy, team leader Martian Manhunter enters the kitchen to find Fire pouring herself a cup of morning coffee before she goes to bed for the… er, day… and League mechanic Kilowog fretting over his Extraterrestrial Immigration paperwork.  He reminds J’onn that he too will have to fill them out, that is unless Mars was declared the 51st US state.

Elsewhere in the Embassy, Guy Gardner is going about his morning calisthenics.  He is in the midst of two-hours worth of push-ups all done with Captain America stand-in General Glory… I swear, at first blush I though Glory was literally riding his back.  Just as Guy’s about to call it quits Ted Kord enters the scene asking if he could join them for a bit of exercise.

Glory is more than happy to add Beetle to their gym rat tandem… Guy, on the other hand, uses Ted’s request as a way to zero in on some of his “problem areas”, namely his “lard belly”.  Ted goes ahead and does an overhead press with a loaded barbell… as he struggles to get full extension, ol’ Guy gives him a little tug on his love-handles.

They are overheard by a Martian passer-by who enters the gym to employ a bit of conflict resolution.  He arrives to find General Glory holding the two Leaguers at bay.  He tries to talk the fellas down, but soon comes to the conclusion that there’s just no hope in talking things out.  Glory decides, with J’onn’s blessing that the only way to resolve this… is in the ring!

Meanwhile, Ice is sulking in front of her vanity mirror (as she is wont to do).  She laments her inability to keep up with Fire’s wild night life.  Her… I would say “inner” monologue had she been thinking all these things, but she was actually saying it out loud, gets interrupted when  Bea bursts into the room all giddy for the pending boxing match.  She’s hopeful that Beetle will knock Guy’s block off and doesn’t care who knows it.

Shortly, the only Trinity member who would dare run in JLI circles, Batman arrives.  Cute little helper robot L-Ron informs him of the upcoming bout.  Batman takes the news as well as one would imagine.  He grows ever more bemused as he runs into Fire, Ice and Kilowog as he makes his way to the gym.


The match is about to begin…
In the corner to our right, wearing the red trunks… Guy “Grinder” Gardner
In the corner to our left, wearing the blue trunks… Blue “Battling” Beetle

The two bring the trash talk before the bell while Batman and Martian Manhunter look on not knowing what to make of the situation.  J’onn swears there’s a lesson to be learned here, but damned if he can figure out just what it is.

After the bell rings, the two gladiators circle one another as Guy continuously runs his mouth.  Guy moves in to mock Beetle some more only to get Kronk’ed in the face with a powerful (though pudgy) right fist.  Gardner’s down!  Gardner’s down!  Gardner’s down!  As the referL-Ron makes his count, Fire is positively jubilant and Ice is… stop me if you heard this one… moping.

Guy gets back to his feet by the count of four (though L-Ron counts to seven anyway) and he is ticked!  The Grinder swings wildly hoping that any of his punches will connect, however none of them do.  As the seconds tick down in the first round Beetle is able to SMONKK Guy in the mush again.  Guy hits the mat just as the bell rings ending the round.

Guy notices that the Blue “Buttface” (his words, not mine) gave him a bloody nose.  This brings Guy to the brink.  In the period between rounds, Beetle is leaning over the ropes to chat up Bea.  This provides Guy the perfect opportunity to sneak up behind him and lay in with a brutal kidney punch.

Beetle hits the mat… hard.  Guy follows up with a horrible series of kicks to the gut… good thing this is between rounds, otherwise he’d be disqualified!  General Glory has seen enough.  He enters the ring and chicken-wings Guy until he stops.

As the commotion settles, J’onn informs Guy that his services are no longer required, and he is hereby FIRED from the Justice League.  Guy comments that only Max Lord can kick him out and storms out of the ring.  Fire berates him for his behavior… but, c’mon… Guy doesn’t sweat Fire.  There’s only one gal that Guy sweats… and that’s Ice.

She follows him out the gym and up the stairs.  She begs him to just apologize and put all the ugliness behind them.  Guy ain’t having any of it… he snaps back at her and tells her to beat it.  Bea enters the foyer and finds Ice sobbing.

Later J’onn is checking on Ted’s injured ribs.  Beetle is upset and blames his poor conditioning on Guy’s ability to take him out the way he did.  J’onn reminds him that during the fair portion of the fight, Ted was winning.

Meanwhile, Fire bashes her way into Guy’s room.  She tells him he’s absolutely crossed a line, and she’d better not catch him sniffin’ round Tora anymore.  Guy strikes back with a few half-hearted lines, as Bea exits.  We are left with a slump-shouldered Guy sitting all alone in a darkened room.

… and now for something completely different.  Our issue closes out with Maxwell Lord returning to the JLI Embassy with Wanda, his date for the evening.  As he attempts to get her ready to meet all sorts’a superheroic types he is shot in the stomach.  We conclude with Wanda crying over a bloody Max laid out on the sidewalk.

This is “the” issue of Justice League America that fits between two story lines that simply do not interest me at all.  When doing my semi-regular re-read of the JLI run, I usually miss this one.  I do not enjoy the General Glory story line that proceeds it… and I really didn’t dig the Breakdowns crossover that followed… perhaps because it felt as though the Sun was truly setting on an incredible run.  With all that said, this was a really fun issue, that pretty much personifies this incarnation of the Justice League.

This era is often referred to as a “sitcom” or “soap opera”… and there is certainly a reason for that.  In what other books are we going to watch a superhero try and pull his costume over his big belly?  That just doesn’t happen.  Ted’s weight issues would become something he’d struggle with in the years that followed, up to and including when he would appear much later in Birds of Prey.

Martian Manhunter is the perfect Bob Newhart-as-Dick Loudon in Newhart.  He appears to be the only sane person present… yet, you get the feeling if J’onn’s cool hanging around (and leading) these oddballs, he may be the craziest of them all.  Exhausted and dry-witted Martian Manhunter is most definitely my favorite Martian Manhunter.

The big-sis little-sis dynamic between Fire and Ice has always been what I enjoyed most about them.  While Ice’s constant state of malaise is a bit tiresome, it is a treat to watch Fire be all protective of her.  You get the feeling that there is a burning (no pun in… eh, okay, pun intended) hatred from Bea to Guy.  She sees him as the only person who can truly hurt her best friend… and since Ice is either too nice or too naive, Guy keeps getting away with his antics.

Batman as the dismissive “what in the world am I doing here” observer, is always a hoot as well.  You couldn’t imagine Batman acting this way now… everything about him is just too serious.  Taking Batman out of the night, if only for his visits to the Embassy, provides the reader with a great opportunity to look at him in a different (pun) light.  You get the feeling that perhaps under the cowl, Batman is actually quite amused or entertained by his fellow Leaguers.  His reaction to Guy referring to General Glory as “Sir” makes this issue for me.

Then we have Guy.  At this point in Guy’s JLA career, I have the impression that he is trying to act up to his reputation.  I think he has a genuine affinity for his teammates, and really wants to be accepted by them, as a friend.  He acts out perhaps as a way to protect himself from their potential rejection.  If he’s a jerk, he gets to use that as his excuse why nobody wants him around… whereas if he were nice, and nobody wanted him around… then what?

Definitely a great issue that is well worth tracking down.  To my knowledge, this issue has not yet been collected or made available digitally.  This one shouldn’t be too terribly difficult to find in the cheap-o’s, and features a great late-Giffen//DeMatteis era JLI tale.

I want to close out by once again thanking the fine folks of the Super Blog Team-Up for having me.  Definitely do yourself a favor and check out the other wonderful Super Bloggers!  Links will follow below our “Ad Break”.  Enjoy!

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8 thoughts on “Justice League America #52 (1991)

  • SonOfCthulhu

    The entire General Glory thing was a miss for me as well. It was a further indication of how far from greatness the story had slid. I did enjoy moments of the book at this point, but they were rare and fleeting. The magic had gone. Great Review, Chris!

    • Mike! Thanks for the comment… and a most sincere thank you for helping me get involved with this amazingly fun project!

      I never understood why the League thought they needed a Captain America stand-in… it came out of nowhere, and really didn't bear fruit as a concept. Gotta wonder what they were thinking!

  • Not familiar with this era in JLA history, although I did enjoy the early Giffen League stories. Will have to check this out; thanks for the fine review…

    • Thank you for stopping by! This is definitely from the nebulous interim period between full-on bwa-ha-ha and the Jurgens League. Definitely still worth checking out! Thanks again!

  • Love the art here — lots of funny panels.

    Nice review!


    • Thanks for taking the time to stop by, Doug. Yeah, the art in this one took me by surprise… it's a fill-in artist, and is perhaps a bit uneven in places, but overall really really good!

      Thanks again for reading!

  • Loved this issue. They got Guy's character just right here.

    I'm not a huge fan of General Glory either, that was kind of a throwaway few issues. As for Breakdowns, I liked it, because of the aspect you mentioned: how often does a crossover "event" feel like nothing special? With Breakdowns, you could feel the end of something happening. It meant something.

    • This was a great issue… it's funny looking at this piece and seeing just how much my blog "style" has changed over the past four-plus years! Wow!

      I felt like General Glory might've been a little *too* on the nose as a trope/cliche character for DC to make an actual "go" with. Mentally, I associate his introduction with the quality of this book beginning to slip


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