Thursday, August 12, 2004

Identity Crisis Research

Last night I pulled down the Justice League of America longbox and started rifling through, looking for issues with Dr. Light and Hector Hammond. (We're told that Light's assault on Sue came while the League was fighting Hammond.) I also looked at the DCU Guide online to make sure I wasn't missing anything. I re-read the 3-part Secret Society story from Identity Crisis #3 too, but that's another post.

Hector Hammond first. His only fight against the League during this period was as a disembodied spirit, controlling the new Royal Flush Gang, in Justice League of America #s 203-05 (June-August 1982). Because this story features Firestorm, who's apparently not part of the League at the time referenced in IC, I believe the reference is to an "untold tale." I could be wrong; Firestorm may play a more prominent role in Identity Crisis later on. Still, the 1982 story is also long enough after Iris Allen's death that I don't believe it's the same one referenced.

Dr. Light appeared only a few times in Justice League of America during the "Satellite Era." The first, JLA #122, is eerily significant, but I'm saving that for later; and besides, it's not clear (because it's a "casebook" story) whether it takes place before the League moved into their satellite headquarters. The second, JLA #136, is part of a JLA/JSA crossover, and Light was just one of a horde of villains.

The third was December 1977's Justice League of America #149, entitled “The Face Of The Star-Tsar!” JLA #149 has a number of elements significant to Identity Crisis. It opens with Light "at long last" finding a JLA transporter terminal (which, of course, he later hijacked in IC). He doesn't get to use it because the League chases him off. Light easily escapes from the Leaguers, but runs afoul of new villain Star-Tsar. Eventually, Flash and Superman find Light's invisible hideout. Light traps the various Leaguers in a sphere of whirling titanium slivers, traveling at near-light speeds so they’ll slice to ribbons anyone (even Supes) who tries to pass them. He then turns the “Spectriminator” on them, which splits them up into little pieces, each colored a different part of the spectrum because each is in a different dimension. Because GL’s power ring isn’t in a yellow part (still in a green part, in fact), he reunifies himself and the others, and Star-Tsar frees the League from the titanium prison. Light reappears, but Hawkman decks him.

Throughout the issue, Light says he wants the League to die, and refers to a “war” between himself and them. Batman calls Light a “clever criminal mastermind – very deadly,” and the Hawks, GL, and Wonder Woman all agree. Light calls his spectrum-trap “the definitive destruction – because you remain alive to suffer, but have no hope of ever reuniting your scattered parts!” Thus, Light shows a sadistic side, and is still considered a genuine threat. Indeed, we see that if GL's ring had wound up in the yellow dimension, the League would have been trapped forever by the Spectriminator.

If JLA #149 helped set the stage for Identity Crisis, then JLA #122 is certainly its direct ancestor. In "The Great Identity Crisis!", Dr. Light disguises himself as an ice-creature which the League defeats and takes to the interplanetary zoo in Supes’ nearby Fortress of Solitude. While the Leaguers are occupied, Light takes “Amnesium” from Supes’ armory and puts it into a weapon. The Amnesium will transfer the memories of each Leaguer's secret identity to Light's mind. Aquaman doesn’t have a secret ID, and Supes is invulnerable to the weapon, but Light's got plans for them too. Light shoots the five other Leaguers with the Amnesium. He then scrambles the information and returns it to different minds: Green Arrow thinks he’s Ray Palmer; Green Lantern is Barry Allen, Batman is Oliver Queen, Atom is Hal Jordan, and Flash is Bruce Wayne.

The five confused Leaguers leave the Fortress for their "homes" without Supes or Aquaman being any wiser. The "switched" Leaguers are each trapped in various ways, and unable to escape because they can't quite use their new bodies' powers. Meanwhile, Aquaman is knocked out by Light’s exploding fish-trap.

Light, still in the Fortress, reflects that Supes and Bats once switched identities to trap him (in JLA #12, June 1962). Supes returns, but Light traps him in Kryptonite rays. The rest of the Leaguers show up, led by Aquaman, who reveals he wasn’t fooled by the exploding fish. (Aquaman also says that Light didn't think he had another identity, but he does -- Arthur Curry, the name his human father gave him.) Checking with the Fortress’ computer, he learned Light’s scheme; and from there the other members were rescued. After an extended fight through the Fortress, Light is captured. The Amnesium erases the secret identity data from Light's brain, but Green Arrow points out that if they’d known each others’ identities, this wouldn’t have happened in the first place. The League agrees to share secret identities among all members from this point forward.

This looks a lot like the inspiration for Identity Crisis. The title alone would be enough, but here we also have Dr. Light learning the Leaguers' secret identities, and the Leaguers erasing that knowledge and changing their protocols to make sure something similar doesn't happen again.

However, if this story shows up in IC, it would have to be heavily altered. Superman didn't have a Fortress of Solitude at this point in post-Crisis history, nor did he know Batman's secret identity (or vice versa). Flash, Green Lantern, and Green Arrow probably knew each other's secrets. I don't know about Atom. Besides, "amnesium" as a plot device wouldn't fly with today's readers. Although Brad Meltzer has talked about "reclaiming" the Silver Age stories, hokum and all, it would be a stretch to revisit this one.

Next up: the Secret Society of Super-Villains!

Justice League of America #122, September 1975. "The Great Identity Crisis!" Written by Martin Pasko, pencilled by Dick Dillin, inked by Frank McLaughlin, and edited by Julius Schwartz. JLA Roll Call: Aquaman, Atom, Batman, Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, and Superman.

Justice League of America #149, December 1977. “The Face Of The Star-Tsar!” Written by Steve Englehart, pencilled by Dick Dillin, inked by Frank McLaughlin, and edited by Julius Schwartz. JLA Roll Call included Batman, Hawkgirl, Red Tornado, Superman, Flash, Hawkman, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman.

No comments: