Wednesday, November 5, 2014


A good general rule when surfing the internet is to avoid any website which advertises "Strange Sports"
DC Comics had been trafficking in the “Strange Sports” genre for a while – primarily stories about haunted joggers and empty uniforms that won their own games, kids who get magic powers from space and become Olympic level athletes overnight, the 1969 Mets, you know, whimsical things like that. By the time DC Super-Special No.10 rolled around, though, “The Mystery of the Headless Golf Champ” or whatever gave way to its natural successor, a bunch of super-heroes and super-villains playing a moderately competent baseball game against one another with conditional ethics at stake!

Baseball being a game of statistics, it’s appropriate that DC’s Answer Man Bob Rozakis pens the tale, with JLA regular Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin illustrating, since the story had the general air of the annual JLA/JSA crossover. I say that in the sense that the idea was much more thrilling than the execution. Then again, these things are intended for eight-year olds. What are we even doing here? We’re all grown-ups, let’s go get drinks and mortgages.

Our story begins in the warm, golden setting of the supervillain suburbs where nefarious husband and wife crook-team, The Sportsmaster (he’s a master of … SPORTS!) and The Huntress (Being a tiger-striped bad girl, rather than the purple-bedecked Bat-belle of recent years), dubbed here “Mr. and Mrs. Menace,” beat the holy living shit out of each other. Ah, domestic violence. Is there anything quite so romantic as a guy in a mask waling eight kinds of tar out of a woman dressed like Daniel Striped Tiger? It must be Springtime.

It's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf  for Super-Villains
The issue of contention is that the Huntress has evidently been reading the comics she appears in, and has come to the conclusion that – since heroes always win and villains always lose – she’ll become a superhero! After knocking her into the side of a doorframe with a solid steel tennis racquet, Sportsmaster convinces her to give him the opportunity to prove her wrong. His tactic: challenging the forces of good and evil to nine solid innings of America’s pastime.

This involves kidnapping two full teams’ worth of heroes and villains, plus a stadium full of onlookers, so Huntress’ theoretical career as a good guy is launching a little wobbly.

Appropriately enough, many of the super-heroes and their foes happen to be at sporting events when their abductions take place. Green Arrow, Black Canary and Batman are attending a bowling championship, as billionaires tend to do, while Kid Flash and Robin are playing the ponies. Good habits begin young, kids. Speaking of good habits, Superman’s busy playing (tennis) with himself in front of millions watching at home in the television audience, because that’s what super-heroes did in the 1970s: They played tennis against themselves. So what, so can I, where’s a brick wall? Sign me up for the Justice League.

The teams are comprised of Superman (P), Batman (C), Plastic Man (1B, literally), Wonder Woman (2B), Green Arrow (3B), Kid Flash (SS), Robin (LF), The Huntress (CF) and what can’t Black Canary (RF) catch? On the villains’ side, it’s Sportsmaster (P), The Joker (C), Felix Faust (1B), Matter Master (2B), Dr.Polaris (3B), Tattooed Man (SS), Weather Wizard (LF), Lex Luthor (CF), and Chronos (RF), with Uncle Sam and Amazo playing Umpire. It’s difficult to imagine them putting together a comic like this now, because the villains woulda been too busy trying to rape second base and stab the field through their backs to mount any sort of reasonable offense.

Either the play-by-play of this game (reprinted on the final page of the issue) was generated by one of those table-top baseball simulators you play with pachinko balls (I had one!) or this is one of those scenarios where Superman forgets that he has every super-power ever plus five more you never heard of before, all jacked up on Creatine and atomic energy. The splash panel of the book shows Superman serving a genuine award-winning curve at the Joker and the fact that it doesn’t end with the Clown Prince of Crime screaming, suddenly armless, as powdered ash and cork rain down in a fine mist, mingling with the blood, is frankly shocking.

Robin always gets picked last for a reason.
The heroes take very little convincing to take part in the game, given that they’re held in place by only a vague threat. Somehow, reveals Sportsmaster, the 60,000+ fans in attendance will be trapped in the stadium forever if the superheroes fail to participate. “All right” says Superman, inexplicably picking up a glove instead of using heat vision to tattoo a picture of genitals on Sportsmaster’s exposed forehead and throwing him into orbit around the sun, “Sounds good to me, PLAY BALL!”

Naturally, the game begins under the rules that super-powers are illegal, but this is already a pretty boring book so we’re not making any friends in the readership by leaving the powers out of it. Of course, once the villains start breaking the rules, and the heroes follow suit, what’s the point of the exercise again?

In one of my favorite scenes in the book, Plastic Man successfully disguises himself as Wonder Woman's magic lasso. Even as a kid, reading this, I remember thinking:
(A) Way to go, Plas!
(B) How did Wonder Woman not notice Plastic Man replacing her lasso right on her hip?
(C) Why is Plas glowing? Well, as I think about it, rubbing up against Wonder Woman's satin, star-spangled fanny would probably illuminate even the most stoic among us.

The superheroes win, naturally, squeaking by at 11-10 which I guess means Huntress is a superhero now? Except for the matter of 60,000 accessory counts of kidnapping, I suppose. I guess we’ll see her own starring in her own book in … any second now … wait for it … these things take time, now.

It’s probably for the best that Huntress gives up any pretensions towards villainy, anyway, because if this story teaches us anything it’s that she and her sinister spouse apparently all along possessed a device capable of teleporting superheroes anywhere on the face of the Earth and they only just now decided to use it to play baseball.

And just your reminder that Plastic Man's superpower is the grossest of them all.

1 comment:

BillyWitchDoctor said...

Poor Tigress nee Huntress. Once Wildcat's very own Catwoman, she's been so marginalized she lost her name. I don't know if anyone tried to do anything with her after Robinson's The Golden Age (in which she basically was Catwoman), but she's popped up a couple of times in WB animation: she was Artemis' reformed-retired-disabled mum in Young Justice and had a funny Brave and the Bold cameo in which she's "vacationing" with Sportmaster and their daughter, all in full supervillian costume.

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