Some comics stories stick with you because they’re inarguably good, others because they’re ridiculously bad.

Then there are those that stick because of unthinkably terrible body horrors inflicted upon your favorite superheroes.  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Justice League Of America #130 awaits!

JusticeLeague130JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #130
Writer: Martin Pasko
Penciler: Dick Dillin
Inker: Frank McLaughlin
Letterer: Uncredited
Editor: Julius Schwartz
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 30 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $30.00

Previously in Justice League Of America: Originally formed by seven of the most powerful heroes around to defeat the menace of alien warriors trying to claim Earth for their own, the seven-member Justice League initially headquartered in a cave outside the city of Happy Harbor.  When team mascot Snapper Carr was manipulated by the alien Joker to betray the team’s location, they were without a headquarters for some time, until they began operating out of an orbital satellite headquarters in Earth’s orbit.  Though their move happened a couple of years earlier, the story of what happened during that satellite’s grand opening has remained untold tale…

…UNTIL NOW!  (Now, in this case meaning 39 years ago last summer, but hey, it’s comics.  You can’t quibble about time distortions.)  We open in New York City, where the Midwestern members of the JLA, Flash and Hawkman, have for some reason chosen to meet…

JusticeLeague1301

There are those who denigrate the League’s ‘Satellite Era,’ but based on when I started reading comics, this is actually the first JLA incarnation I encountered, which means that my tiny human brain thinks of it as the “right” one.  I first encountered this comic reprinted in black-and-white form in a paperback-sized collection of League stories when I was still in grade school, and it has stuck with me for years, for reasons you’ll see in a moment.  While the Thanagarian winged warrior and the Crimson Comet discuss the League’s new status quo, a strange experiment is taking place a few floors below that will change everything for the heroes…

JusticeLeague1302

The experiments taking place at S.T.A.R. Labs (which I don’t remember having existed this far back in DC history, but which apparently dates all the way back to 1971) involve rocks from Earth’s moon, brought back by the Apollo mission, but these rocks hold an earthly, amorphous secret.  Meanwhile, on the roof, Hawkman continues explaining the extraordinary security measure that the new JLA satellite holds…

JusticeLeague1303

Among those security features are retinal, fingerprint and body scans that should theoretically keep out any non-authorized personnel, but it apparently doesn’t work on gaseous monkey-lizards from beyond space.  As their molecules are scrambled up (which any Star Trek fan will tell you is bad news for the scramble-ees), the Justice League members are distracted by the possibility of bugs in the new Kryptonian/Thanagarian hybrid computer system, so much so that they don’t immediately notice the terrifying gigantic horrors that step out of the transporter system…

JusticeLeague1304

Whatever intellect guides this creature is a sharp one, as it not only manages to override Katar Hol and Barry Allen’s minds, it immediately takes out an unsuspecting Superman (who looks weirdly like Peter Capaldi in panel 5, there), depriving the team of its biggest gun in seconds.  The sudden attack does it’s job, as another tentacle zaps the mind of Green Lantern, while The Atom and Black Canary are simply outgunned by the trio of the Fastest Winged Alien Monkey-Thing Alive.  Using Flash’s vast speed, the creatures escape, leaving a stunned League to puzzle out what has happened.  Ray “Atom” Palmer theorizes that the interloping creature confused the computer system, revealing a fatal bug in the alien systems, and the team sets off to figure out how to stop the three monstrous beings without killing two of their closest colleagues…

It doesn’t really go well for them.

JusticeLeague1305

With each of the creatures possessing Flash’s super-speed, the weird polymorphic abilities of the alien and something something Hawkman is nice, too, they prove a match for the all-too-cautious Justice League.  Worse still, the strange creatures absorb enough information from the JLA library to begin modifying the Justice League satellite with propulsion engines.  Green Lantern engages the monsters in the vacuum of space, only to find that they’re also aware of each Leager’s weaknesses!

JusticeLeague1306

The creature makes one fatal mistake, though, when it uses telepathy to control the mind of Aquaman, whose own telepathy reflexively reads the creature’s mind.  Calling itself a Dharlu, the monster is preparing to “skyjack” the satellite, using it as the alien’s ride home to its own distant world.  The team finally manages to rally together, and discovers (thanks to Superman’s freeze-breath) that the creature has a sensitivity to extreme cold.  (How that lines up with its ability to survive in an airless vacuum is unclear, but…  y’know, comics.)  With this knowledge, Aquaman puts together a desperate plan, setting the six untransformed Leaguers into action…
JusticeLeague1307The JLA transporter separates the Winged Wonder and the Vizier Of Velocity from Dharlu’s sinister clutches, and thankfully, even rebuilds them in the proper order at the receiving pad elsewhere in the satellite.  Unfortunately, the creature still has control of the satellite, altering the conditions to deprive Superman of his powers, and directing the hurtling satellite out of our solar system…

JusticeLeague1308

Fittingly, given that the transporter malfunction is a venerable trope of Star Trek, Superman uses Captain Kirk logic against the Dharlu, forcing the being (now fused to the central computer system) to tell him how to stop its own scheme.  The creature’s mind fights the computer’s programming, and things start to get explodey.  A shot of Superman’s freeze-breath to the computer saves the day, allowing him and Green Lantern to halt the satellite’s flight, and return it to Earth in time for the team wrap-up, as Superman explains that he figured out the Dharlu was actually an expectant mother, ready to give birth…

JusticeLeague1309

…and that’s the story of how the Justice League Of America’s satellite headquarters was powered by an enslaved alien monkey-lizard from beyond space.  The Satellite was blown up about 10 years later, during the ‘Crisis On Infinite Earths’, which presumably left the Dharlu a pile of monkey guts floating in airless space, but y’know, the computer worked well!  This story stuck with me for YEARS, mostly due to the body-horror of seeing Flash and Hawkman all glorped together and forced to work for an alien being, and it’s an example of some of the wild and out-there tales that the 70s JLA comic has to offer.  Though this issue does go out of the way to take out the most powerful Leaguers, it’s less obvious about it than other tales of the same period, and Dick Dillin’s art is serviceable, and even disturbing at different points during the issue.  Justice League Of America #130 is one of my earliest exposures to the greatest heroes of the DCU, featuring an interesting cast showing off their various heroic strengths, making for a well-balanced tale with just a hint of nightmare fuel and some unfortunate implications, earning 3 out of 5 stars overall.  Given that the book started with the heroes being turned into wood by aliens from planet Appelaxia, it’s a fittingly weird tale for our heroes…

JUSTICE LEAGUbE OF AMERICA #130

Writing
Art
`

Body-horror, the threat of impending death and a strangely unnerving ending make for a memorable JLA tale.

User Rating: Be the first one !
[signoff predefined=”PayPal Donation” icon=”icon-cog”][/signoff]
Share.

About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

3 Comments

  1. I think I read the same black & white reprint digest. I remember this story quite vividly for all the reasons outlined in the review. I also remember that the second story was a two-parter that had the JLA fighting off an invasion of aliens who had received a garbled SETI message and were mistakenly led to believe the JLA were themselves aggressors attacking Earth. The aliens had some sort of “equalizing” adaptation that instantly made them the equal to whomever they were fighting. That story had body horror in it to as Aquaman’ legs were transformed into a fish tail (like a mermaid.) I remember a big part of the story was Hawkman abruptly taking off for Thanagar and the whole team thinking he’d deserted the League in their hour of need. (Of course Hawkman rescues everybody in the end, but I don’t remember how.)

    The body horror aspect of the story upset me less than the idea that the JLA had enslaved a sentient being and imprisoned it within their computer. I remember thinking about that alien while reading the “Crisis” mini-series and the JLA satellite exploded and crashed to Earth.

    In hindsight, the transporter system was not the “fool proof” security system Flash bragged about; not only did this alien being sneak in, but as we found out years later so did Dr. Light.

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.