Justice League of America #124 (November, 1975)
“Avenging Ghosts of the Justice Society!”
Writers – Elliot S! Maggin & Cary Bates
Penciller – Dick Dillin
Inker – Frank McLaughlin
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.25
Now here’s a strange little ditty from the mid-70’s. It’s not every issue where we see the Justice League standing on the mass grave of the Justice Society… who they just killed.
Let’s jump right in to my beat-ta-hell copy of Justice League of America #124.
We open on a scene not unlike our cover. The League, who consists of Batman, Black Canary, Aquaman, Hawkman, Green Arrow and the Flash are paying their respects at the mass-grave of the fallen Justice Society… who are, er… were, Robin, Wildcat, Wonder Woman, Johnny Thunder, Hourman and Dr. Mid-Nite. Isn’t that nice of them? Well, yes and no… it’s always a nice thing to show respect to the deceased, but you may think it’s a bit less touching when you learn that the League is responsible for the deaths of the Society! Use of illusions made it so the members of the Justice Society appeared to the League as members of the Injustice Society! All this tells me is… the League was willing to use lethal force on the Injustice Society.
So let’s set the table, we’ve got Earth-One heroes in the Justice League on Earth-Two of the Justice Society. Alongside the heroes is a mysterious individual, from neither Earth! He is actually from Earth-Prime (hey, we live there!). This is the Earth where the exploits of the superheroes exist only in comic books. From here we pop in on DC Comics Editor Julius Schwartz, who is hard at work crafting a story about two of his writer pals… Cary Bates and Elliot S! Maggin. The jist is, Maggin has found the real-deal Cosmic Treadmill… which Bates used to send himself to an Alternate Earth. Maggin follows.
At this point, Schwartz considers tossing the story he’s got into the fire… and, that might not be the worst idea in the world. Despite his reservations, he continues. We rejoin Cary Bates who is dressed quite garishly. He is in the middle of a gold heist, and when the citizens of Earth-Two see him, he is referred to as an “archfiend”.
He returns to his masters… the Injustice Society! They consist of the Wizard, the Huntress (not that one), the Shade, the Gambler, the Sportsmaster, and the Icicle… so many “The’s”. They are quite pleased with Cary’s haul. These geeks aren’t alone, however… a wispy entity is also present, and it swears that the Injustice Society will not go unpublished.
We shift to the guilt-ridden Justice League… who are still on Earth-Two. They’re lingering on this parallel Earth to make sure the pick up the slack for the Justice Society, who they… ya know, killed. Green Arrow and Hawkman are doing their bickering thang.
As they wrap up the gig, Aquaman notices that Earth-Prime’s Maggin has gone missing. Black Canary suggests he just spirited himself away amid the confusion. At that very moment, the Injustice Society and the most evil Cary Bates are tracking Maggin’s every move, hopeful they might use him to lure the League… so they might join their pals, six feet under!
Bates approaches Maggin, and after some contentious tete-a-tete, Bates uses Maggin’s own bubble gum to trap him inside the sticky stuff. As he flies away, we again see the wisp… who is struggling with how (and if) they should intervene.
Back with the League, Green Arrow and Hawkman are still bickering. They are interrupted by the arrival of a black disc, which speaks with Maggin’s voice. They decide to follow him, er, it. Meanwhile at the mass-grave, that wisp materializes into… the Spectre!
The League is still following the disc… until it stops, and changes into the bubble gum ball from earlier. At this point, the League is in position for an ambush by the dread Cary Bates and the Injustice Society! The League is overcome by feelings of guilt over killing the Justice Society, making them easy pickins for the baddies.
Elsewhere, the Spectre is speaking to… I think we’re supposed to think it’s God… or maybe he’s talking to Julie Schwartz… I guess, at this juncture, it’s just about the same thing. He, with almost painfully purple dialogue, asks that the Society be brought back to life. I think the neatest bit about this scene is a footnote dating back to More Fun Comics #75 from January, 1942!
The Injustice Society continues to pummel the (literally) haunted members of the Justice League. The trapped Maggin realizes that the appearing apparitions are the result of the dire Cary Bates. He decides to attempt to get under his skin to make him lose his concentration… and wouldn’tcha know it, it works!
At this point, not only do the apparitions disappear… the members of the Justice Society reappear! From here, it’s pretty academic… the combined forces of the Justice League of America and Justice Society of America make short work of the baddies.
When the dust settles, the mind control over Cary Bates is broken by Johnny Thunder’s Thunderbolt, and he returns to being one heckuva guy. The two writers are then sent back to Earth-Prime so they can complete a “story” for “Julie”. Back in the “real world”, Bates and Maggin are seen pitching endings to Schwartz, who appears to be more interested in slurping his pea soup. Gotta mention, we get a blurb here announcing the all-new Super Squad book… which, is pretty interesting!
Well, that’s not anything like I was expecting. Such crazy fun.
I’m about to speak out of both sides of my mouth here… this is a gimmick, the creative-team-insert, that would make my skin crawl if I were to see it in a contemporary release… however, here I find it endearing. There’s a sort of innocence here… just fun. It’s not trying to make a statement or show us how clever it is. I can’t help shake that if this came out in 2017, it would be an exercise in “inside baseball”, “biting” meta-commentary, and winks-and-nudges.
For the story itself… well, there really isn’t much of one. It’s a few action scenes, wonderfully crafted by Dick Dillin, which only serve to move things along. It was so weird seeing a mass-grave in this story… and on the cover! Not something you see every day… probably not something we’d ever see today.
I do wanna expand on something I mentioned during the synopsis. We’ve got the League, right? They’re fighting the members of the Justice Society… who appeared to them as being members of the Injustice Society thanks to a spell from the Wizard, right? And… they killed them?! I mean, I get that the Injustice Society are bad folks… it’s kinda in their name, but… I just don’t see the League using lethal force for any reason. Perhaps I missed something, but the impression I get here is the League kills the bad guys… who, post-death return to their original heroic forms. So weird.
I guess anytime Earth-Prime gets involved, we gotta question whether or not a story actually happened. Maybe this is just a case of that. I guess maybe I don’t have enough experience with some aspects of the pre-Crisis to say one way or another.
Overall… a weird and wacky story that I gotta recommend for the sheer novelty of the thing. Rather surprisingly, at least to me, this bugger is available digitally. For a strange Earth-Two romp, this is well worth your time checking out.