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Friday, 7 July 2017

DC Special 29 - DC Special ends with the origin of the Justice Society of America

DC Special comes to an end with issue 29 (Aug/Sept 77), a full length story which, for the first time, reveals the origin of the Justice Society of America. When that team debuted, in All-Star Comics 3, it was clear they had already become a team. Superman and Batman, who did not appear in the story, were referred to as honourary members. It's kind of surprising that it took this long for someone to actually delve into what brought the Earth-2 heroes together in the first place. Paul Levitz, Joe Staton and Bob Layton do a commendable job crafting a World War 2 epic in which the group gets forged.

The splash page of the issue features an illustration that includes every member of he Justice Society up to that point, including the newest members Power Girl and the Star-Spangled Kid. Although you have to look for them, the two Red Tornados are hiding at the back as well.

The story begins with an agent of Intrepid, the Canadian William Stephenson, coming to visit Franklin Roosevelt with information about advanced Nazi plans. They discuss using the new heroes that have been popping up around the US in a concerted war effort.

Intrepid's agent brings together Batman, Flash and Green Lantern, and they head to Europe to destroy a Murder Machine robot that the Nazis have been building, but wind up getting captured. One thing that makes this story work well is that it keeps bringing more and more heroes into the tale as it goes on. Starting with the small group and then expanding out ensures that everyone gets a chance to show their stuff.

Dr. Fate learns of the capture of the heroes, and brings Hourman with him as he heads to Europe to rescue them. Hitler is shown with the Spear of Destiny for the first time in a DC comic, and uses it to call forth the Valkyries. Whether or not Levitz intended these to be the same ones Wonder Woman had fought (or would fight a few years down the road) is unclear. Later continuity would give their leader the name Gudra. Also involved in the scene is Helmut Striecher, who would also later become a Wonder Woman foe, the Red Panzer.

Dr. Fate decides the heroes need more help to fend off the Valkyries aerial invasion of England, which is matched by Nazi ships and planes. He sends some magic tendrils which bring Hawkman, the Atom and Sandman to join the fight.

But things really start to turn when the Spectre joins the fray. How the Nazis simply didn't give up, jump ship and swim away as fast as they could is beyond me.

And then, you know, Superman shows up. Time to surrender.

But Gudra is not the surrendering type. She manages to make it all the way into the White House. The Atom shows himself willing to sacrifice his life to save Roosevelt, although other heroes show up and pull Gudra back. It's actually kind of weird that the Atom barely seems injured by Gudra in this sequence, but it seems to all be a set up for the joke, you can't split an atom. Yeah, not really a funny joke either.

But that is the only sort of weak part to the story, and having the Atom dive in front of FDR is good enough to carry the scene. The story ends as the president requests that these heroes form a team, and it is Superman who names them the Justice Society. The concluding page makes an effective counterpoint to the opening page, showing the original line up for the team. 

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