Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Forget Santa Claus

sg Glenn Walker - You want to see a little kid's head explode? Forget telling him there's no Santa Claus--just tell him about the Crime Syndicate.

There’s a saying that goes "The real Golden Age is ten." This goes back to second grade, so I guess for me, it's seven. I was on the swings at the old Waterford Elementary School. This was old school old school. Six classrooms, two floors, restrooms and a cafeteria. The building is still there but I kinda doubt it's still a school.

Me, Mark S. and Joey K. were on the swings, talkin' comics. Specifically we were talking about one of the classic quandaries of comic book lore--who's faster, Superman or the Flash? Even at that age, back in the early 1970s, we knew the answer--even though DC Comics wouldn't officially acknowledge it for another decade or so.

For the record, Superman is faster for longer distances and flying, the Flash for shorter distances and running. Duh. Easy-peasy. Now get thee to a comic book bar and start making bets. ;-)

The conversation took an odd turn when mark started telling us about a "backwards Superman," Bizarro, he had seen in one of his older brother's comics. Another fun "fact" of the comics industry holds that the audience turns over every ten years. It's the reason some folks grew up with Wally West as their Flash instead of Barry Allen or Jay Garrick--the next generation turnover. In this case it was true. With Challenge of the Superfriends still a few years away, and "Tales of the Bizarro World" gone while we were in diapers, neither Joey nor I had ever seen or heard of Bizarro.

Joey then countered that he had seen an ad in an old comic that featured a renegade Green Lantern...who had a yellow ring! As we all knew by heart, even at the age of seven: "Editor’s note: Green Lantern’s Power Ring is powerless against anything colored yellow, due to a necessary impurity in the ring." Mark and I stopped swinging and shuddered. We would soon learn this villain’s name was Sinestro. An evil Green Lantern? Wow.

Playing the generation card myself, I brought up a character of equal awe that I had seen in one of my big brother's Flash comics, the Reverse-Flash! He was just as fast as the Flash, came from the future, and wore a yellow costume with red lightning bolts--opposite colors to the Flash's uniform. Arrogant little punk that I was, I thought I had trumped Joey's Sinestro. There was a moment or two of appropriate awe and silence.

And then Joey, very quietly, said something that made our jaws drop.

"There’s an evil Justice League from Earth-Three."

The very concept boggled the mind. Could it be true? We all knew Earth-Two (something I might add, we never had trouble understanding as little kids even though it proved too difficult for grown-up editors and writers to comprehend in the mid-1980s) and the Justice Society, and knew there were two Supermen, two Flashes, two Green Lanterns, even two Robins--but a third Earth? Our wide eyes and dropped jaws spurred Joey to continue, "My big brother says there’s a evil Justice League from Earth-Three. They took over their entire planet and then tried to do the same to Earths One and Two."

We were spellbound. "An evil Superman who gets a new power every time he gets near kryptonite, an evil Flash, an evil Green Lantern, an evil Batman, even an evil Wonder Woman. It took both the Justice League and the Justice Society to beat them. They put them in a prison between the Earths with warnings in every language to never let them out." He said it all almost in one breath. "They’re still there."

Wow. "They’re still there." Brrrr...I still remember that day on the playground in recess when Joey K. blew our minds. When I found out years later that there was no Santa Claus, it wasn't as much as a blow...nor even as scary as finding out there was an evil Justice League from Earth-Three.


Richard said...

Great post! I had much the same reaction when I saw the splash page -- and only the splash page -- of JLA #29 reprinted in a book called All In Color For A Dime. How could they have kept news of yet another parallel Earth from me? I had to wait a few years before DC reprinted the story, but I sure spent a lot of time thinking about it until then...

Unknown said...

Thanks, RAB. Sounds like you were tortured just like me.

I remember just the idea of the Crime Syndicate was at once scary and indignant. How dare you not tell me about Earth-Three? ;-)

Jay Watson said...

Let me just echo RAB and Glenn.. this has got to be one of the best, most nostalgic, and fun posts about the great silver age (or yes, Golden, as I too remember encountering the Crime Syndicate when I was about 10 year old, me and my buddies, Alex, Gary, and Tommy) I have ever read. My hat (and cape) are off to you Rob. Mega kudos