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Five Goofiest Moments in Justice League of America #43-47

Every day this month will have the five goofiest moment from a five-issue stretch of a particular comic book run. Once a week it will be the ten goofiest moments of a ten-issue stretch. Here is a list of the moments featured so far.

Today we’re looking at Justice League of America #43-47, written by Gardner Fox, penciled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by Bernard Sachs (#43), Frank Giacoia (#44 and part of #45), Joe Giella (part of #45) and Sid Greene (#46-47).

As always, this is all in good fun. I don’t mean any of this as a serious criticism of the comics in question. Great comics often have goofy moments (Kirby/Lee’s Fantastic Four is one of the best comic book runs of all-time and there were TONS of goofy stuff in those 100 plus issues!).

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Hanging a green lantern on it…

I mention this bit from #44 more because I thought it was kind of neat – Gardner Fox actually addressing the odd coincidences that always affected Green Lantern, vis a vis bad guys always somehow having yellow to counteract him…

I’ll keep you from dealing with these…

In #43, the Justice League fights the Royal Flush Gang for the first time, and Fox peppers the issue with card puns…

There’s way too many for me to feature, but I figured it would be worth at least giving it lip service.

Oh, Gardner Fox and his articles…

Gardner Fox was a very well-read man, and he would use the stuff he read about to come up with plots for his stories. In #46, he decided to give Doctor Mid-Nite a new weapon. I presume he was reading up on cryosurgery (the usage of extreme cold to destroy abnormal or diseased tissue), which had only recently (at the time) become much more common with the development of apparatuses designed to spray liquid nitrogen. So, since Doctor Mid-Nite WAS a doctor, Fox used that as a jumping on point to giving him a crazy gun that could do all sorts of stuff (spelling it cyro instead of cryo).

Just like a werewoman…

In #44, a space doctor (secretly a bad guy hiding out in the body of a space doctor) notes that he was spacenapped.

While it certainly sounds good, it really doesn’t make any sense as a word.

Strange connection…

In #43, the Flash’s vision is affected by the Royal Flush Gang. Somehow, they decide to make his vision see everything as cubist…

What an odd idea.

5. Chill out, Batman!

In #43, the Royal Flush Gang took care of Hawkman, Wonder Woman and the Flash. First off, Superman is a bit of a jerk explaining how they must not have kryptonite or magic, since they knew better than to mess with him. Batman’s reaction, though, is much odder…

Self-esteem issues, eh, Batman?

4. Stellaration…yeah, that’s the ticket!

In an age known for some pretty stupid origins, the Royal Flush Gang have a particularly silly one…

Yes, the power of…cards. Suuuure.

3. Of course, an unbreakable mirror!

In #45, Flash, Green Arrow and Hawkman are facing off against the Shaggy Man. And somehow, a comment by Green Arrow gives Flash an idea…

You have to love the nonchalance of it all. “Of course, an unbreakable mirror!”

2. I’d like to teach the world to fight in peaceful harmony…

At the end of #47, while the League (and the Justice Society) fight Solomon Grundy and Blockbuster, Green Lantern comes up with a solution and it has an interesting climax…

Besides the absurdity of “if only we could get people to knock the hate out of each other,” you have to love the Atom’s hippy attitude – “Like peace, man!”

1. What else could it be?

But #44’s classic opening page…

You might have seen that first page, but here’s the context. Batman, Flash, Green Lantern and the Atom caught an alien virus, and as the space doctor from before notes…

Obviously, Fox just meant anyone they had come into close contact with, which would of course be Batman’s partner. But still, it sure does read funny.

33 Comments

You know, by Silver Age DC standards, I’m really surprised by how UN-goofy most of those examples are. The science used is actually kind of plausible. The knocking the peace out of each other scene and the royal flush gang origin are goofy but the other ones not so much. In fact, some of the other examples are just plain awesome, including the card puns and Batman’s self-esteem issues (which I like better than the modern, totally arrogant asshole Batman). I wish they’d humanize Batman and make him more relatable like that sometimes.

The cubist vision is also a really cool idea, I thought. So cool I would like it even if done today. I’d love to see a modern take on it done by Morrison and an artist who could pull it off.

In general I think Gardner Fox was a much better sci-fi writer than anyone else in Weisinger’s and Schwartz’s camp, and his stuff ages much better than John Broome’s.

You know? Now i really want to read this issues. Looks really interesting and while goofy they that much

Oh, man. I grew up on these. One thing I always liked about Silver Age DC is that no matter how goofy the results and extrapolations might be, they started from the desire to drop some real nuggets of knowledge on the kids.

To this day, I remember that The Battle of Hasting was in 1066, because it was an important Riddler clue in a comic I read when I was a child.

always thought the royal flush came belonged as one of the most goofest concepts of the jla book. plus also love solmon grundy and blockbuster beating their hatred out each other something in real life impossible

Oh, man. I grew up on these. One thing I always liked about Silver Age DC is that no matter how goofy the results and extrapolations might be, they started from the desire to drop some real nuggets of knowledge on the kids.

I always thought that’s what made DC worse, at least when it came to science. I could see it being good for historical dates and figures. As a kid, when Marvel made up stuff like Vita-rays, unstable molecules and other made up concepts, they were so blatantly false that I never took them seriously, and in a strange way they maintained an internal consistency. DC on the other hand would start with a solid nugget of scientific knowledge that you could research, then extrapolate it into a scientifically ridiculous result, yet I would think the whole sequence was good science because it started off from a real science concept. As a result, I had a lot of bad science to unlearn. It led to some embarrassing moments for me in my grammar school science classes.

I hope I’m not spoiling anything for anyone when I point out that the RFG’s original leader was Amos “Pudge” Fortune. Pretty much every Amos Fortune story is built on sheer goofiness; anyone remember how his first appearance “revealed” that all human beings have two “luck glands,” one for bad luck, one for good? Or the Batman story where he has a gadget that makes people into gambling addicts?

I wonder if Dr. Bendorion is supposed to look a little like the first Israeli prime minister, David Ben-Gurion.

Given that the Guardians of the Universe were physically based on Ben-Gurion, I’m thinking probably so.

And maybe people wouldn’t have used yellow against GL all the time if he didn’t keep yelling out, “My ring is useless against anything yellow!” in the middle of battles, which he did all the freaking time back then.

I like the Royal Flush gang, both their origin as reunited former gang buddies and their player card motifs (come on, that’s more common than many other superhero motifs eg. a Green Lantern) Not to mention that the whole cards-of-power thing is a hit today (ever heard of Yugioh?) (Btw, one JLA story had Fortune animate Tarot cards, preceding the Yugioh show by decades.)

Err, it was Hawkman’s comment that inspired Flash, not Green Arrow’s.

Ehh, the JLA loved ones thing never bothered me when I read it the first time. It wasn’t like it was stated to be INTIMATE touching needed. We’re too damn cynical these days. Admittedly, the writer could have picked some more non-love interest possible victims for the others eg. Tom Kalmaku for Green Lantern.

I love how, int he second panel you have posted, the rest of the League is diving for cover while Superman just stands there and makes bad puns. I know it’s Superman circa the late 1960s, so he’s impervious to anything that’s not magic or kryptonite (both readily available at any neighborhood corner store), but the visual still amuses me.

“I know I’m about to get shot in the chest, but this joke I just thought of is way more important than the concept of self-preservation.”

@ T:

I always thought that’s what made DC worse, at least when it came to science. I could see it being good for historical dates and figures. As a kid, when Marvel made up stuff like Vita-rays, unstable molecules and other made up concepts, they were so blatantly false that I never took them seriously, and in a strange way they maintained an internal consistency. DC on the other hand would start with a solid nugget of scientific knowledge that you could research, then extrapolate it into a scientifically ridiculous result, yet I would think the whole sequence was good science because it started off from a real science concept. As a result, I had a lot of bad science to unlearn. It led to some embarrassing moments for me in my grammar school science classes.

It is funny, but I had exactly the opposite experience.

Now, admittedly the DC Comics of my childhood were Bronze Age comics that referenced the Fox and Broome stuff. The science stuff was just enough to provoke further reading and discussion. In that sideways manner, I learned a lot from DC.

It took me forever to get it through my head that radiation mostly caused cancer and that the vast majority of mutations are harmful.

What happened to Batman’s mask in that last image?

Dean – Bronze Age DC is whole different beast! Those had much more plausible science (by comic standards) I however read a lot of Silver Age DC however because my dad used to find reprint books and old back issues cheap from garage sales and flea markets.

Marvel Comics on the other hand, as you say, screwed up my concept of what radiation actually could and couldn’t do.

I also want to know what happened to Batman’s cowl.

The tundra country of Northern Chile???

I’m not sure if even Southern Chile qualifies as tundra, but it does get very cold. Maybe he meant the High Andes, which would contain some glaciers, even in Northern Chile, but that’s not what I think of when I hear ‘tundra’.

@ T.

I suppose that you are right. My exposure to Silver Age Marvel came probably a good decade before my exposure to actual Silver Age DC. My friends and I used to read the old price guides and I would be tasked with making up stories based on the little blurbs. My versions of those stories were far more influenced by the books I was reading at the time (e.g. Edgar Rice Burroughs, TH White, Stephen King, Piers Anthony) than anything Gardner Fox, or John Broome, actually wrote. I guess that is why retcons have never bothered me very much.

Honestly, I have read vastly more Silver Age DC (via their Showcase editions) in the last two years than I ever have.

Marvel, on the other hand, did a much better job keeping their Silver Age material in print. I read ton of Stan Lee from very early on. I wore out those early TPBs (i.e. Origins, Sons of Origins, Bring On The Bad Guys). I bought every digest that I could find. I read the reprinted Lee-Kirby X-MEN concurrently with the Claremont-Byrne version.

That was back when Chile was in Canada.

Joe S. Walker

May 17, 2011 at 1:11 pm

“What happened to Batman’s mask in that last image?”

He, Green Lantern, Flash and Atom have all grown to twice their normal size. GL has fixed his outfit with the power ring. Atom’s suit grows and enlarges with him. Flash has made a double-sized suit out of a couple of spares he happens to have handy. So they’re all okay, but Batman is left in split torn rags until he gets to JLA HQ and Wonder Woman sews him a big bat-costume.

Man, I nearly fell out of my chair I was laughing so hard about that last splash page. Has the ambiguously gay duo ever done a riff on that?

Hold the phone there….. if The Flash saw normal things as cubist … doesn’t it stand to reason that he would see cubist as normal? So that would mean the picture should have been a painting of a normal guy …

It does seem odd that King would bring an entire painting along for no other reason than prop device for … no one.

Billy Bissette

May 17, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Blockbuster and Solomon Grundy knocking the hate out of each other is better than some of the other variations of “victory through the power of friendship/love/whatever” that writers have come up with. It fits with the idea of two guys fighting until they get it out of their system (which can actually happen) or until they impress each other with their respective ability (which I bet happens much more often in fiction than in reality).

The stellaration part of the RFG origin is… It isn’t that far out there by comic book ideas. It just seems weird how it jumps from a deck of playing cards to the power of the stars. There seems to be a bits of jumps in the guy’s logic, even as comic book logic.

The only thing i have to contribute to this conversation is that the artwork from JLA is totally terrible! i have read & own lots of the JLA, as i love the characters & concept, but the artwork is terrible! Boring, static, just crap.
DFTBA

Hold the phone there….. if The Flash saw normal things as cubist … doesn’t it stand to reason that he would see cubist as normal? So that would mean the picture should have been a painting of a normal guy …

It does seem odd that King would bring an entire painting along for no other reason than prop device for … no one.

I may be giving the comic entirely too much credit, but the way I read it was that the diamonds King threw at Flash hypnotized him, and King then used the prop and the sentence about everything now resembling the painting as post-hypnotic suggestion. Without the painting as a prop, the King would have had to verbally describe what he desired the Flash to see, which would have taken too long. Using a visual aid sped the hypnosis along.

Sorry, Sijo. You don’t need to be particularly cynical. That panel is so like the punchline of a joke, that it’s hard to believe it was unintentional. And they even have Batman as the last one you read the thought balloon.

Pete Woodhouse

May 18, 2011 at 5:44 am

@ Danjack: judging from reprints plus back issues bought in the 90s I never warmed to Sekowsky’s JLA stuff either. I found the art far too stiff; and long-shot perspective was frequently wonky – look at that 1st Shaggy Man panel.
Also Sekowsky sometimes had problems whenever people were lying down/ knocked out. There’s another panel in that #43 Royal Flush Gang story where Flash is on the floor & it looks like he’s suspended in mid-air!! I had to double-take on reading that: “WTF is going on?”
I’ve read a bit of his ‘Emma Peel’ Wonder Woman & it came across better.

JLA must’ve been one of DC’s flagship books then. I always wonder why they put Sekowsky on it. Murphy Anderson a wiser choice instead? The covers and interiors always looked better when Anderson pencilled or inked them. Anyone else with thoughts?

This era also marked when DC first consciously tried to ape or compete with Marvel. It coincided with the ‘Go Go Checks’ & Batman TV craze. Look at the #43-47 covers and Batman begins to dominate ridiculously. Plus ‘punchy’ covers with Kirbyesque fists: see Blockbuster/Solomon Grundy, later JSA team-ups.

In the Royal Flush Gang story IMHO Fox tried to amp up the banter. Panels got bigger – also see that Flash Goofiest Moments ‘Big Head’ #177 issue. That’s probably the best example I’ve read of DC’s flailing and panicking: “Shit, Marvel’s catching up? Whadda we do? I know: crass puns and bigger, odd-shaped panels!”

Sekowsky’s art was always very hit or miss for me. He wasn’t a bad artist by any means, but he was very much an inconsistent one. He was definitely imaginative and there are moments in his run on JLA where I’d rank him up with some of the Silver Age’s best artists, but there are also moments (and I’m thinking in particular of the first appearance of the Crime Syndicate of Amerika here) where his characters have terrible approximations of human anatomy and incredibly ugly faces. Some of it may be down to the inkers, but I’ve always felt that the JLA book didn’t hit its stride visually until the unfairly forgotten Dick Dillin took over.

When I see that cubist painting I really get impressed with what Mike Sekowsky could do. But when I see costume designs like the Crime Syndicate….ugh! Costume designs were just not his thing.

I’ve seen people comment that Sekowsky always made an effort to draw super-heroes the way they would look in real life, i.e., he drew people wearing costumes where most artists drew people wearing trunks and body paint.
How his finished art came out often depended on who his inker was. The “Dr. Bendorian” pages above are inked by Frank Giacoia, who generally didn’t leave a huge mark on the look of the finished art (in fact, without the credit box on that one splash page, I would have thought it was the work of longtime JLA inker Bernard Sachs). The Solomon Grundy/Blockbuster pages, though, are inked by Sid Greene, who added his own distinctive look to pretty much anything he inked. He worked on a lot of Julie Schwartz-edited books and his work can be found on books pencilled by Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Dick Dillin and some of the other “Bob Kane” ghosts.
For my money, the best Sekowsky artwork of the ’60s and ’70s can be found in his Wonder Woman run, with his Supergirl run in Adventure coming in a close second.

Just realized I skipped over the part of the article with the full credits in it.

I’m just confused on why he couldn’t pick out the guy once his vision became Cubist.

The first Green Lantern panels…early meta?

With the flaming spade pips…love how Flash, Wonder Woman, and Batman are all ducking, while Supes is just standing there calmly and smiling. Maybe they should always let him enter a room first? ;)

How nice of the King to bring along a picture aid. Though, I like T.’s theory that he needed the picture to affect Flash in that way.

Yeah, this stuff is goofy, but nowhere near as goofy as the Legion stories of that era. I think those stories had the most goofy content per page.

Len Strazewski picked up on that whole Medical Satchel full of super weapons think in the JSA series from the early ’90s.

When I read that Royal Flush Gang story as a kid I thought the pseudo-science explanation made perfect sense to me, and I went around for months pretending I had a deck of playing cards that could make people see the world like a Cubist painting (among other things). I figured a the other super powers I read about couldn’t really happen, but this was REAL SCIENCE.

Goofy moment that didn’t get mentioned… When Fortune says, “Even Astrologers maintain that something about the stars ‘impels’ people to act as foretold in their horoscopes”.

Isn’t maintaining that what defines one as an Astrologer? So where does the “even” come in?

The Solomon Grundy/Blockbuster fight reminds me of the John Wayne/Victor McLaglen fight that took up the last half hour or so of John Ford’s The Quiet Man.

“Neat ways to steal” is the royal road to a woman’s heart. Even if your name is Pudge. And you aren’t all that bright, as evidenced by his use of what is basically the Purple Man’s powers to…form a troupe of card-themed bank robbers. I guess he’s in to impress the girl more than for the money.

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