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Justice League of America 9
"The Origin of the Justice League!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND Feb. 1962; "The Origin of the Justice League!"; DC Comics; Julius Schwartz, editor; Gardner Fox, script; Mike Sekowsky, pencils; Bernard Sachs, inking.

When the JLA made their debut in 1960 bravely and boldly battling Starro the Conqueror, they were already a going concern as an organization. It wasn't until three years later that Schwartz and Fox got around to telling the story

of how the gang got together, or, as the opening caption inquires, "How did the Justice League of America come into being? What was the strange menace which united them? Where did this menace come from. When did the champions of justice discover that the one weapon which would help them triumph over the menace was-- teamwork?" I don't recall this pivotal story being reviewed

on the list before, so I'll take a shot at it.

The cover depicts Flash, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Green Lantern standing on a hilltop, paralyzed by a glowing meteor, as their feet turn into tree roots and their hands into branches. The splash panel depicts

the "tree-ization" process at a later stage, as the five heroes shamble along

completely converted into wooden scarecrow-like figures.

As the tale begins, Snapper Carr puts the pedal of his hot rod to the metal to make the JLA meeting, for it is a special occasion-- a birthday! But *whose* birthday? There is no clue at first, as Wonder Woman, wearing an apron over her star-spangled shorts, sets Snapper to work helping clean up the Secret Sanctuary for the party. But then Snapper notices an odd display in the JLA trophy room-- a case of wooden splinters and shavings. What is it? "Why, that's the very first souvenir we put in this room!" Wonder Woman tells Snapper. "You mean it ws the first case the Justice League ever worked

on?" "It goes back further than that!", Aquaman chimes in. "Because of that

wood, the Justice League was born!" Snapper begs to hear the story of how the JLA began, and Green Arrow (still, of course, at this point a clean-cut fellow sans beard and attitude) adds his voice; "I'd like to hear that story myself! I'm not an original League member either!" Wonder Woman insists on finishing the cleanup job first, however, and according to Aquaman (who also doesn't have a beard or an attitude yet), "While we don't have a permanent chairman-- when it come to cleaning time, we all agree Wonder Woman is boss!"

(Gee, in the old JSA she at least got to be secretary-- now she's demoted to charwoman!) With the place spic and span at last, a cake with three candles is brought out, and we learn that the party is for the birthday of the Justice League itself. "It was just three years ago today-- that the Justice

League began..." "Make it good, J'onn J'onzz! I'm all tuned in and blowing my jets!"

The Martian Manhunter explains that he is starting the story because he was the first to encounter the menace that would bring the League together. As police detective John Jones, he hears a report that people are being turned to stone! Arriving on the scene as the Manhunter, he discovers a stone giant

turning people to stone with blue rays from his eyes. A frontal attack has no effect, but MM does telepathically learn where the giant came from and why. it seems that a variety of strange life forms-- the stone giant, a big yellow bird, a glass-being, a diamond-being, a wooden tree-creature and a blob of living mercury-- are all competing for the post of Kalar (emperor) of

the planet Appellax. They have been sent to Earth in meteors, with instructions to turn Earth people into duplicates of themselves and then lead

them in battle against each other, until the last creature standing qualifies

for the Appellaxian throne. Unfortunately, while J'onn J'onzz's telepathy clues him to all this backstory, the stone man is also clued to J'onn's weakness -- fire! The giant ignites a blaze, but J'onn survives it by opening a hydrant with the blast of his Martian super-breath, and uses his telepathic knowledge of the giant's weak spot located on his temple. With the giant struck down, the "stoned" Earthlings return to normal, and J'onn turns the alien giant over to the cops, who promise that if the giant stirs "we'll use SLEDGE HAMMERS on him!" The Manhunter then flies to the Carolina coast near Cape Hatteras where the last of the alien meteors has fallen, hoping to stop the creature inside from emerging. But as he approaches the meteor, "Before I could use my Martian powers to fight it, I felt myself turning into WOOD..." (What does turning into wood feel like, I wonder?)

Aquaman is the next to tell the tale of how red rays from the eyes of the glass-creature turned him into a glass statue (which, however, somehow floats). Unable to move, Aquaman finds nonetheless that he can still think and use his telepathic fish-commanding powers. The hard-shelled Trunkfish are glazed before they can reach the glass-creature to smash him, but Aquaman

commands the Indian Triggerfish, the Australian Ceratodus, the Coffer and the

Gurnard-- "the noisemakers of the fish family!" to make their unique sounds, hoping that one of the sounds will shatter the glass creature as the sound of

a violin string can shatter glass. And, indeed, though the other noisemakers fail, the Drumfish succeed, restoring Aquaman to normal. He learns of the Carolina meteor and hurries to the site, arriving just after J'onn J'onzz and

likewise falling victim to the vegetable menace.

Next, Wonder Woman tells how she visited Paradise Island only to find no sign

of her fellow Amazons, but only blobs of mercury on the ground. A "tape-viewer" in the Amazon laboratory reveals how a meteor landed on the island and gave off "queer radiation" which liquefied Queen Hyppolyta and the

other Amazons into mercury. Reaching the head blob, WW somehow manages to lasso it and start whirling it around, but finds herself turning to mercury as well. Fortunately, before she has to move permanently into a thermometer (or become the girlfriend of one of the Metal Men), she manages to whirl the mercury-alien so fast that it reaches the boiling point of mercury, 356.9 Centigrade, and it vaporizes, freeing the Amazons. But then (do you note a pattern here?) WW heads to Carolina and is also caught and "treed".

Green Lantern is in space himself when he spots one of the meteors emerging from hyperspace towards Earth. Tracking it to Southern Rhodesia in Africa, he finds that the yellow bird creature that emerges is turning animals and people into yellow winged beings. Unable to attack the yellow bird directly,

GL tries to focus sunrays through a burning glass to burn it, but Big Bird attacks and cuts off his beam, seizing GL in his talons and starting to turn him yellow and feathery. But GL lures the bird into the waters of Victoria Falls and then uses his power ring to freeze the waterfall-- and the bird-- solid. He too rushes to Carolina and, neglecting to do a little advance reconnaissance, arrives in time to develop a "wooden" personality.

While attending an Interpol meeting in Italy, the Flash learns of a meteor landing there and finds the fire-creature turning people into Human Torch wannabes. He tries to blow out the fire-creature by whirling his arms to create tornado winds, but instead the winds make the creature bigger-- and meanwhile he is starting to turn fiery himself. Flash tries to smother the fire-creature with water and sand, but the water turns to steam and the sand to glass. Then he realizes *nothing* can stop the fire-monster-- literally. Speeding around the creature, he creates a vacuum around it which causes the fire to go out for lack of oxygen. But despite this clever ploy, the Flash too is not "swift" enough to avoid being caught by the tree-making radiations

in Carolina.

With a "mighty surge of power," the meteor turns the five heroes completely into tree-beings, and then the tree-creature emerges and mentally compels them to uproot themselves and march as the start of its tree army. (Little does it know that the heroes have already eliminated all its competition.) But as Aquaman and Green Lantern lurch along side by side, Aquaman works up the will power to brush his hand against GL's hand repeatedly, until the tree-bark is worn off enough to expose a "tiny section" of GL's power ring. With his will power weakened, GL can't produce much of a beam, but he manages

to return the head of the Martian Manhunter to normal. J'onn J'onzz, in turn, uses his Martian super-breath to knock Flash against Wonder Woman, who falls into the line of GL's beam, enough for her left side and magic lasso to

be restored to normal. As the tree creature becomes aware of what is going on, Wonder Woman loops her lasso around it and twirls it up and down at super-speed, planing bits of wood off the creature until it disintegrates. This restores all the heroes to normal.

There is one more meteor, which has landed in Greenland, but when the five heroes arrive there they discover that Superman and Batman have already joined forces to battle it. "They often do that, I understand!", J'onn J'onzz comments (apparently he reads WORLD'S FINEST COMICS). Superman is disabled by the Kryptonite exterior of the meteor, while Batman in his Batplane finds himself turning to diamond. Nonetheless, Batman retains enough control of his plane to grab the Kryptonite meteor with a grappling hook, freeing Superman from its effects. Supes then ends the menace of the diamond creature by turning it into coal. At this point in the story, Snapper Carr raises an objection; "I know you can change coal into diamond-- but how could you change diamond into coal?" "Quite simply, Snapper... I simply rubbed the diamond being--- THE WRONG WAY!" Snapper's reaction is "I don't read you-- but you have such hi-fi thoughts, I'll just cool my engine until I'm on your wavelength!" Mine is "Groan...."

The seven heroes hold an "impromptu get-together" on the Greenland ice field,

and-- in defiance of his current-day image as an anti-social loner-- it is Batman who proposes, "We ought to form a club or society..." "A LEAGUE against evil!" Flash chimes in. "Our purpose will be to uphold justice against whatever danger threatens it!" Back in the present, Snapper asks how

the Secret Sanctuary was created, but with the cake eaten and the party over,

social director Wonder Woman says "that's another story" (I vaguely recall it

being told in a 1970's story, but it must not have been very memorable, as I don't remember anything about it) and it's time for everyone to get back to "our regular duties". But first, the two non-charter members, Snapper and Green Arrow, sing, "Happy birthday, dear Justice League-- happy birthday to you-u-u..."

Years later, Steve Englehart produced a JLA story, "The Origin of the Justice

League-Minus One!" in which it was revealed that these heroes plus other 1950's heroes had all gotten together for a mission a few months earlier, but

didn't form a permanent group at the time. That was a fun story, but unfortunately it seems to have been dropped from continuity. Later, in 1988 after Crisis, Keith Giffen, Peter David and Eric Shanower produced an updated

version of the story for SECRET ORIGINS, reflecting various retcons such as Black Canary replacing Wonder Woman and Superman not joining the team initially. Despite the clunky aspects of the original tale, such as the coincidence-- and stupidity-- involved in the heroes all arriving just in time to be turned into trees-- I don't think the update was any real improvement.