Justice League of America #220 (1983)

Justice League of America #220 (November, 1983)
“The Doppelganger Gambit”
Writer – Roy Thomas
Pencils – Chuck Patton
Inks – Romeo Tanghal & Pablo Marcos
Colors – Gene D’Angelo
Letters – David Cody Weiss
Special Thanks – Marv Wolfman
Editor – Len Wein
Cover Price: $0.60

Okay, we set the table yesterday… and now, it’s time to reveal the secret of the Black Canary doppelganger!  So… who’s ready to have their mind boggled?!

We open on Earth-1, where the members of the Justice Society (and Red Tornado) are scattering to the winds in order to take care of those super-baddie team-ups we learned about last issue.  On their way out, they run into Sargon the Sorcerer.  After fighting with him for a bit, they decide to work together.  Also, Sargon has brought a guest… the unconscious (and un-Spectre-y) Earth-1 Jim Corrigan!  There’s a footnote to an upcoming JSA miniseries to explain this… not sure what that mini might’ve been.

After a brief refresher on the happenings of the last issue, we pop back over to the Thunderbolt Dimension, where Black Canary and Starman are still bewildered by the appearance of Dinah’s doppelganger.  We learn that this evil Johnny Thunder is from Earth-1… and the “real” version is still lingering.

Dinah asks how T-Bolt can follow the commands of someone as twisted as (the Earth-1) Johnny Thunder.  Naturally, T-Bolt really doesn’t have much choice in the matter.  Earth-1 Johnny lets him share his tale of woe… because hearing it tickles him greatly.  It’s also necessary exposition to move the story forward, so there’s that too.  Anyhoo, he begins by talking about his former master, the Earth-2 Johnny Thunder… who, back in the long ago, began working alongside Black Canary.  Oh, also… Cei-U is pronounced “Say You”… so, gotta watch out around Lionel Richie!

Johnny began having feelings for Dinah, as one might imagine.  Shortly into their partnership, Johnny began having trouble summoning T-Bolt.  This was due to a Badhnesian Hex, however, Johnny T. assumed T-Bolt was ignoring him three out of four times.  He tells T-Bolt to beat it, and decides to quit the Justice Society.  Black Canary winds up taking the open spot on the roster.

Some time passes, and Dinah meets a man named Larry Lance… and they hit it off.  It isn’t long before they’re an item, which really burns ol’ Mr. Thunder.  Dinah even gives him the “love you like a brother” spiel, which… I mean, c’mon… hasn’t he suffered enough?

More time passes… After refusing to unmask, the Justice Society dissolves.  Dinah and Larry wed (Johnny is invited to the ceremony, but cannot bring himself to enter the church)… and shortly after that, the Lances welcome their daughter… also named Dinah (see where this might be headed?).

When little Dinah is probably around a year old, the Lances are visited by… the evil Wizard!  Before big Dinah can unleash some maternal kung-fu on him… he puts a spell on the baby!  Every time she opens her mouth… she lets loose a senses-shattering cry!  Surely, you know where this is headed now.  At this point, Mama-Dinah decides to enlist the aid of Johnny Thunder and his pink genie.

T-Bolt reveals that, while the baby is bellowing like there’s no tomorrow… she isn’t in any pain.  He offers to take her to the Thunderbolt Dimension, where she will be placed in a stasis of sorts.  The Lances, fearing they have no other choice, agree.  T-Bolt takes an extra step, and places a suggestion in the heads of the Lances (and Johnny) so that they think the baby has died.  He figures this would be easier for everyone.

Back in the present, Johnny-1 has T-Bolt check in on Flash and Hourman as they take on Chronos and the Fiddler in Mexico.  They arrive to find all of the civilians (and their pets) frozen in time.  After going on the attack, the Fiddler gets down, forcing the heroes to dance madly.

Johnny-1 grows bored of this, and has T-Bolt shift his focus to Egypt, where Huntress and Red Tornado are fighting Icicle and Dr. Alchemy.  In a scene just as boring as the one in Mexico, the villains are triumphant.

Next stop Stonehenge, where Power Girl and Sargon the Sorcerer are taking on Felix Faust and the Wizard.  The baddies make it so the heroes see each other as villains, and let them fight it out.  These “present” scenes might be necessary, but they sure do feel outta place with all of the retconny exposition getting dumped in our lap!

Back in the Thunderbolt Dimension, Johnny-1 decides Black Canary and Starman have heard enough… and commands T-Bolt to kill them.  He struggles with the decision, but ultimately… he is a genie who answers to any Johnny Thunder, so he doesn’t have much choice in the matter.  Thankfully, “light creatures” manage to remove Johnny-2’s gag… and so, he’s able to override the command of his Earth-1 counterpart!  Well, that sorta came outta nowhere, dinnit?

Johnny-2 socks Johnny-1, and sends T-Bolt back to Earth-1 to help the Justice Society deal with the villains.

He does so by… waking up all of the kayoed and comatose Justice Leaguers!  Together, the two teams make short work of the “Crime Champions”.

And so, all that’s left is… explaining who and what the Dinah Doppelganger is!

Dinah suggests that the doppelganger might be her daughter.  Just then, Superman and the Spectre show up to shed some light on the subject.  Superman explains that, during the battle with Aquarius (which we touched on last issue), Larry Lance did in fact die.  But also, Black Canary was bombarded with enough radiation to kill her as well… only, not immediately.  She asks Superman to take her to the grave of her daughter before she dies… only, T-Bolt brings them into the Thunderbolt Dimension where she can see that her daughter is still among the living… though, in suspended animation.  Mama-Dinah suggests that Young-Dinah take her place.

And so, Superman asks T-Bolt to take care of bidness.  They exchange mind and memory… leaving nu-Dinah with the same feelings of loss over “her” husband, Larry Lance, though removing any memory of ever having a child.

It doesn’t take all that long for Dinah to come to grips with all of this reality crashing down on her… and we wrap up with her asking Superman for a single favor… to let her explain the craziness to Ollie!

So… you get all that?  Pretty simple when you come right down to it, right?  Right?  Is this thing on?

I received a few comments on social media when I shared the first part of this story yesterday… the consensus was that this was a “retcon done right”.  I can’t help but agree with that sentiment… this was very well done.  It’s just too bad it was only in continuity for a couple of years!

Post-Crisis would keep it so Dinah was a second-generation hero… only remove all of the mind-wipiness and Thunderbolt Dimensionness of it.  Similar to what they did with Wonder Woman, her mother served with the Justice Society… while the younger (more relatable?) Dinah was active in the present.

Now, let’s try and break this down.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again now… what I wouldn’t give just to watch Roy Thomas at work!  Just to watch him crack into his reference materials to pinpoint exactly how and when a revision would fit… and actually make sense (in a comicbooky way)!

We jump back to Golden Age adventures of Black Canary and Johnny Thunder (with footnotes), to her replacing Johnny on the Justice Society (with footnotes), to her relationship and marriage to Larry Lance… to Larry’s death and Dinah’s move from Earth-2 to Earth-1 (again, with footnotes).  That’s what we knew going in.  Well, that plus the fact that when Dinah “landed” in Earth-1, she was able to perform her Canary Cry.

The addition of the baby makes sense when you take into account T-Bolt’s power of suggestion/memory-suppression.  The hex from the Wizard even explains why nu-Dinah has a Canary Cry!  The memory-merge explains why nu-Dinah believes she had a husband… who she had lost in the battle with Aquarius.  If we squint… hell, even if we don’t… we can make this “work” in our heads.

I mean, these days I doubt a month goes by where Marvel or DC isn’t putting out solicits that promise us that “everything we thought we knew… was wrong!”… and usually, the result is underwhelming, unsatisfying, and really… doesn’t make a quarter of the sense that this (arguably, overly complicated in and of itself) story does.  There was far more care put into this story than “Ooga booga, they were a Skrull all along!”.  Roy Thomas and Company didn’t only give the readers a story that took actual effort to tell… they gave the readers enough respect to put that effort in.  You can tell that this mattered to the people putting it together.  This was also from a time before there was an Internet to “tear in half”… so, there’s a measure of sincerity to take into account as well.

Overall… a fun little info dump, with nods to DC history.  The action portions were a bit dull… but ultimately (and unfortunately) necessary.  I’d say this arc is well worth checking out… if only to see how much care Roy Thomas and company put into introducing new concepts without telling long-time readers that the stories they’re familiar with no longer matter.  This issue is available digitally.  This arc will be added to our “Collected Editions” Page.

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0 thoughts on “Justice League of America #220 (1983)

  • Unknown

    "the consensus was that this was a 'retcon done right.'"

    I could not disagree more. This is what I hate about corporate super-hero comics, particularly those written by Roy Thomas or Geoff Johns. They're just continuity porn. They're not stories. They're checklists. Nothing is organic. It's OCD in overdrive. There's nothing dramatically compelling about this.


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