Justice League of America vol.1 No.37 – EARTH WITHOUT A JUSTICE LEAGUE
Bear with your Humble Editor just a tetch.
In DC Comics, there was a long-running tradition – which I’m sure anyone reading this blog is probably already intimately familiar – of teaming the young, modern-day heroes of the Justice League with the veteran superheroes of the original super-team, The Justice Society of America.
Now, way back in the early days of the JLA, smack in the Silver Age, this required traveling between parallel earths, digging some old heroes out of storage, matching lookalike heroes with their younger and otherwise identical OR completely different counterparts, lots of duplicate names, et cetera ...
(I mean, your humble editor thinks often about the chummy relationship that existed between the Supermen of Earth-1 and Earth-2, which seemed to be a relationship between equals. They treated each other not just like peers but like beloved relatives, cousins maybe, even though they were essentially the same person with a couple of decades separating them. Come to think of it, Superman was always pretty chummy with any duplicate selves who ever popped up from some pseudo-scientific nonsense, from Superman-X to Supermen-Red and –Blue. Maybe the guy just really likes himself. Hm)
Now, this particular team-up was the third of the series, so they’d already cashed in on the spectacle of the affair, then used the second occasion to introduce a third earth of evil superheroes (Which, technically, I guess you’d call those supervillains. You’d think I’d never read any of these things before).
Having gone large-concept previously, the storyline for this crossover involves underdog Earth-2 superhero and all-around hot-boiled fuckup Johnny Thunder (who commands a magic wish-granting Bahdnesian Thunderbolt with the power of impolite grammar). Curious about his own Earth-1 counterpart, Johnny wishes his way across the gulf of reality into the apartment of the other world’s crooked, black-hearted Johnny Thunder. The criminal Johnny, in short order, steals control of the Thunderbolt from the original Johnny and goes about setting up an unconquerable criminal empire – but first, to do away with the Justice League!
So Thunderbolt obeys his new master’s wishes and flits back and forth through time, preventing the formation of the Justice League by intervening in the members’ individual origin stories. In short order, T-Bolt shock-blocks the bolt of lightning which had been the vital component in transforming Police Scientist Barry Allen into the super-fast Flash, turns Krypton’s unstable uranium core into stable lead and thereby erases the need to send little baby Superman to safety on Earth, and banishes the “yellow radiation” (which is radiation that the huskies have peed on, don’t eat it, even if someone tells you it tastes like lemonade) which doomed Green Lantern Hal Jordan’s predecessor. Additionally, he smashes the Atom’s white dwarf energy source and short-circuits the machine which teleported the Martian Manhunter to Earth. (He also somehow stops Green Arrow’s, Aquaman’s and Wonder Woman’s origins although two of those must have involved getting the heroes’ moms to change their minds about having kids. Hell, maybe all three. Maybe he’s persuasive).
Eventually, T-bolt – of course – makes his way to Batman, and how does he keep Bruce Wayne from becoming Batman, using only the magic powers that allow him to chest-bump lightning and travel through time? Well, he could have merely slapped the gun out of Joe Chill’s hand, but that’s apparently too uninspired. I suppose he also could have had the movie break in the middle and everyone went home from the theater too early to get mugged. Maybe he could’ve put a detour sign in front of Crime Alley, although calling a murder-besotted urban byway “Crime Alley” already seems like enough of a detour sign to make your average pedestrian reconsider their walk home. Maybe he could’ve given Joe Chill a happier childhood.
It’s a tough call, you have the entire universe of possibilities open to you – and keep in mind that, despite acting under the orders of a criminal tyrant, T-Bolt has managed to perform acts of incalculable good while circumventing these superheroic origins. Up to this point, he’s spared the Martian Manhunter the exile from his people, he’s saved the life of Abin Sur, and he’s reprieved the uncountable species and peoples of Krypton from extinction. Surely he’ll want to remove Batman from the timeline by an act of incalculable good.
Nope, here’s what T-Bolt did:
Apparently the way to convince Batman not to be Batman is if, on the first night of his career, he gets his ass so badly handed to him that he immediately retires. Like, he didn’t even have a chance to get knocked down, this makes it look like two shots to the breadbasket and a little chin music nixes the Caped Crusader’s drive for justice. “Oh shit, crooks might punch me! I never considered that!” “I thought bats were immune to punches!” Maybe Alfred told him that his bat-costume was magic and would turn him invisible. Maybe Alfred is a dick.
Of course, without that last thought balloon, it would’ve looked like Thunderbolt had just helped murder him. Problem solved!
Later in the issue, Thunderbolt is ordered to create criminal equivalents of the Justice League, and that’s how this unshaven mouth-breather becomes Batman.
I mean, to be fair, he looks like he can take a punch.