Justice League of America #161 (1978)

Justice League of America #161 (December, 1978)
“The Reverse Spells of Zatanna’s Magic-cigaM”
Writer – Gerry Conway
Penciller – Dick Dillon
Inker – Frank McLaughlin
Letterer – Ben Oda
Colorist – Adrienne Roy
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.40

Took a look at the pre-Flashpoint Zatanna #1 yesterday, and I’m still in a Zee mood.  Figure why not check out a late-70’s Zatanna-centric issue of Justice League of America… in which Zatanna may just be wearing her strangest costume ever!

We open up with the Leaguers all voting on whether or not to induct a new member… Zatanna!  I love this… the heroes are literally dropping little folded pieces of paper into a bowl.  Of particular note… the Atom is turning in his ballot in his diminutive size.  They all vote yea of Ms. Zee, and are shocked when the lady herself shows up (in an odd new costume) to not-so-politely decline the invite… even going as far as saying she will never work with any of them individually either!

The League tries to reason with her.  Batman reminds her of the time when together they searched for her father, Zatara (over a hundred issues ago!).  She claims to no longer be a magician… now, she is a sorceress!  She states that everything that had gone on before was due to her own delusions and naivete.  She continues to tell everybody where they can shove it, before making some pointed statements in the direction of Green Lantern.  She says some magic words (but curiously, not words spoken in reverse) and leaves the League scratchin’ their heads.

Green Arrow, the acting chairperson of this juncture thinks the whole thing stinks, and adjourns the meeting.  The League all hits the bricks, sans the Atom… who is stuck at monitor duty.

While all by his lonesome, Ray thinks back to the times the League had worked with Zatanna… and can’t quite wrap his head around her rash behavior this day.  He makes note of Zatanna not speaking backwards when doing her magics… and becomes suspicious.  He decides to call Batman to bounce some ideas off of him, when…

A Green mist enters the satellite… and becomes the form of Hal Jordan.  Before Atom can tell Batman his suspicions Hal zaps him with… blue fire.

Hal, who seems just a bit off, logs into the League computer (while typing on its ‘alphabet board’) to… read his own file… He learns that he must charge his ring every 24-hours, and so he takes off.  As he approaches the Earth he thinks to himself that he has “neutralized” his old foe, Zatanna.

Speaking of Zatanna, we join her as she enters the dimension of Ys.  Upon arrival, she is greeted by an army of man-beasts, who she is able to escape.  Her destination is a castle, which she approaches until she is struck in the shoulder by crossbow sniper’s arrow.  We can see that inside the castle stands an immobile and cobweb covered Hal Jordan.

Back in Gotham, Batman is visiting with his old friend Zatara to see what’s gotten into his daughter’s head.  Zatara claims that Zatanna would never turn down an invitation to join the League.  At this point Batman’s become wise that there must have been something more to Zee’s behavior.  He takes off to call an emergency JLA meeting.

… which only three other members respond to.  The colorful trio of Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Red Tornado are at Batman’s service.  The recovering Atom reveals that he was attacked by Green Lantern.  Luckily, “Hal” didn’t clear his browser history on the JLA think-box, so he’s easily trailed to Angkor Wat.

The team arrives at a temple in the Mystery City… and finds the man they were seeking, Green Lantern.  Despite their best efforts, they are unable to take the ring-wielder down.

Back in Ys, Zee is bound and gagged by her assailants.  Suddenly, a strange ramshackle group of warriors storm the area… we’ve got knights, pirates, pilgrims, Mongolian warriors… it’s quite the scene.  They fight off and chase off Zatanna’s captors.  We learn that Zatanna performed a spell-summon to bring them in.

Once free, Zatanna turns her attention to the castle.  She uses a magic spell to crumble it to the ground, revealing the floating form of Hal Jordan in its wake.  Hal is groggy and confused… as am I!

Back in Angkor Wat, it is revealed that Hal Jordan is, in reality the Warlock of Ys!  He tosses his useless Green Lantern ring to the floor as he brags about how he dunnit.  Back in Green Lantern #42 (from 1966!!!) the Warlock battled Hal and Zatanna.  During the conflict, he placed a curse on Hal where they would trade life energies over a long period of time.  It was the Warlock who was really once paralyzed in the Ys castle!

Unfortunately for the Warlock… he talks to damn much.  Hal and Zee arrive on the scene and… well, Hal punches him in the face.  Really, that’s the whole fight.

Back at the satellite, Zatanna proudly accepts her membership among the World’s Greatest Superheroes!

I always forget how fun these satellite era stories can be.  I also forget just how large the team is!  Fourteen members?  Seems like too many when you think about it… but, actually works in practice.  I like this so much better than having a half-dozen books featuring different (or sometimes the same) versions of the League.

I thought it was really cool that they did a callback to a story that must have occurred almost a decade before this one to establish the baddie.  Don’t know if there was all that much of a back-issue market back in ’78… but I still think it’s neat having footnotes to issues like Green Lantern #42 (the current issue was #111) and Justice League of America #51… over a hundred issues ago!

The story was kinda silly, but a fun way to induct Zatanna into the ranks.  This is not an issue you can breeze through… trust me.  The first time I got through it, I was still scratching my head over the Warlock and Hal trading places.  This one definitely demands your (or maybe just my) full attention.  Thankfully, it’s worth it!

Speaking of Zee… howsabout that costume, eh?  When I first looked at the cover, I hadn’t the foggiest idea who I was looking at… I thought for a moment it was Superwoman from the Crime Syndicate!  The weird leotard, collared cape, Iron Sheik boots, and gravity-defying ponytail combo is certainly a sight to behold!  This is gotta be the wackiest Zatanna costume… and keep in mind, for awhile it looked as though she wore a lobster on her head!

Ray asking the tough questions

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One thought on “Justice League of America #161 (1978)

  • Chris U

    If I remember correctly this costume was a replica of the costume worn by her mother Sindella, a member of the offshoot race the Homo Magi. She first adopted it in JLA #163, which was also the first appearance of her mother.
    So she went from wearing a version of her father's outfit to a version of her mother's outfit. Then the classic George Perez designed costume. The lobster one.


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