Sunday, April 6, 2014

I Reads You Review: CRISIS ON MULTIPLE EARTHS Volume 2


WRITERS: Gardner Fox, Dennis O’Neil
PENCILS: Mike Sekowsky, Dick Dillin
INKS: Sid Greene, Joe Giella
LETTERS: Gaspar Saladino, Joe Letterese, Milton Snapinn, Ira Schnapp
ORIGINAL COVER ARTISTS:  Mike Sekowsky and Murphy Anderson; Mike Sekowsky and Joe Giella; Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson; Dick Dillin and George Roussos; Joe Kubert; Neal Adams
COVER: Jerry Ordway
208pp, Color, $14.95 U.S., $22.95 CAN (2003)

Several years ago, I was one of the winners of a raffle at a local comic book shop (well, at least my version of a local comic shop).  The prizes had mostly been picked through by the time I visited the store again, but I ended up being lucky anyway.  Sitting on the prize table, almost alone, was a copy of Crisis on Multiple Earths Volume 2.

I am a fan of DC Comics’ Silver and Bronze Ages, and here was a book full of Justice League of America reprints from the late Silver Age and at the precipice of the Bronze Age.  As far as I was concerned, I won the raffle.

Crisis on Multiple Earths Volume 2 reprints the following Justice League of America issues with August to September cover dates:  #55-56 (1967), 64-65 (1968), 73-74 (1969), and 82-83 (1970).  The book also reprints three pin-ups that were originally published in Justice League #76 (cover dated: October 1969) and Limited Collector’s Edition C-46 (cover dated: August-September 1976).  Why did DC Comics pair two issues of Justice League of America?

Well, it starts with Flash #123 (cover dated: September 1961).  In a story entitled, “The Flash of Two Worlds,” the Silver Age Flash (Barry Allen) meets his Golden Age counterpart, Jay Garrick.  It turns out Garrick, along with the rest of the original Justice Society of America of the Golden Age of comics, inhabit an alternate universe.  This meeting of the Flash characters from two different comic book eras turned out to be a historic meeting.  Apparently fans liked it, and there were more such issues of Flash.

This set the stage for the first crossover between the Silver Age Justice League of America and the Golden Age Justice Society of America:  “Crisis on Earth-One” (Justice League of America #21, cover dated: August 1963) and “Crisis on Earth-Two” (Justice League of America #22, September 1963).  In this two-part tale, the Justice Society teams up with the Justice League to combat a team of villains from both worlds.  These evil-doers travel between the worlds using vibratory devices made by the Fiddler (a Flash villain).  After kidnapping both Flashes, they plan on committing crimes, and then, each villain will spend the money on the version of Earth where nobody knows him.

From that point on in 1967 until 1985, the JLA/JSA crossover became an annual event in Justice League of America comic book series.  I know that these JLA/JSA team-ups are essential stories that led the way to DC Comics’ universe-changing event series, Crisis on Infinite Earths.  However, I’m reading them because they are a kind of comic book that I like the most.  If you, dear reader, do need some historical perspective, Martin Pasko’s introduction to this trade paperback, “Crisis Behind the Scenes,” is excellent.

The stories in this book also reflect the changes going on in the comic book industry in the late 1960s.  Golden Age Justice Society of America and longtime Justice League of America writer, Gardner Fox (who had written 65 consecutive issues of the JLA series), gave way to then emerging new talent Dennis O’Neil.  Artist Dick Dillin became Justice League of America’s penciller.  He replaced regular JLA artist Mike Sekowsky, who began his comic book career when the industry was in its infancy (in 1941 with Timely Comics).  Even Sekowsky’s inker, Murphy Anderson (who also began working in the 1940s), gave way to Sid Greene and Joe Giella as Dillin’s inkers.

As I am largely unfamiliar with that era of comics, I didn’t notice much of a change in the creative staff, except in the kind of stories Gardner Fox and Dennis O’Neil wrote.  Fox’s JLA-JSA stories are fanciful, like children’s fantasy stories (Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz).  O’Neil’s stories are more cosmic, and the threats to the heroes are more immediate and dangerous.  Change and death are prominent themes, especially in the 1969 crossover.

I enjoyed reading this trade paperback, and I would recommend it to JLA fans.  Crisis on Multiple Earths Volume 2 makes me look forward to finding the other volumes in the Crisis on Multiple Earths trade paperback series, although I do wonder how many are currently out of print.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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