Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Opposite of the JLA: Crime Syndicate of America

Back in the early days of comics, there weren't a lot of powerful villain groups around, certainly not any that could take on the combined might of the Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America....that is, until the introduction of the Crime Syndicate of America!

Bring On The Bad Guys

The Justice League were set on Earth-1, the Justice Society on, the bad guys must come from Earth-3. a world where Christopher Columbus came from America to find Europe, England got its freedom from the USA in the Revolutionary War, actor Abraham Lincoln shot President John Wilkes Booth....all ideas introduced to the readers in Justice League of America #29 and #30 (August and September, 1964, in the stories "Crisis On Earth-Three" and "The Most Dangerous Earth of All!" both by writer Gardner Fox and artist Mike Sekowsky).

These issues also introduced us readers to the Crime Syndicate of America, evil versions of the most popular heroes of the two Earths introduced in previous Crises...

Johnny Quick, a speedster who seemed to have powers via his helmet; Superwoman, a renegade amazon with strength, speed and a magic lasso she could control; Ultraman, the mightiest villain of all, who gained a new power every time he was exposed to Kryptonite, Power Ring, possessor of a mystical ring with nearly limitless power that he got from a mad Buddhist monk called Volthoom; and Owlman, a schemer and plotter, with a plan for everything and a mind so powerful, he could dominate others without their knowledge.

The team was defeated by the combined forces of the JLA and the JSA, and imprisoned between dimensions...and mostly forgotten....

Bring Back the Bad Guys

With the Secret Society of Super-Villains #13 and #14 (March and April-May, 1978, by Gerry Conway and Mike Vosburg), three of the members of the team (Johnny Quick, Superwoman and Power Ring) were able to escape their prison.

The Crime Syndicate members ended up facing Captain Comet (who was pursuing the SSOSV, who were crossing between Earths at the time), and the Captain ended up on Earth-3, working to defeat the team, and in the second issue of the series, meeting the Lois Lane of Earth-3, who was actually happy to meet a man with power who was fighting the villains, and seemed to like the idea!

Taking A Super Detour

With DC Comics Presents Annual #1 (1982, by Marv Wolfman and Rich Buckler), Ultraman got a chance to shine as he was freed by the Luthors of Earth-1 and Earth-2, and the trio worked together against the Supermen of Earth-1 and Earth-2.

The two Supermen needed help, and they got it from scientist Alexander Luthor, who against his will decided to use his science to become Earth-3's first super-hero!

Along the way, he also met that world's Lois Lane (as Lois will usually end up with the Earth's hero), and the two of them quickly fell in love...


The entire Crime Syndicate of America was back together again for the 20th Anniversary of JLA-JSA team ups, that spanned Justice League of America #207-#209 (by Gerry Conway and Don Heck) and All-Star Squadron #14 and #15 (by Roy Thomas and Adrian Gonzales) in October to December, 1982, as the team was freed by time-travelling Per Degaton in an attempt to end the JSA once and for all, and this five issue mega-epic even involved Earth-Prime (the world where we readers all lived in), with John F. Kennedy, and the nuclear armageddon of the Cuban Missile Crisis (though everything ended up okay....).

The team was given a name check in Justice League of America #232 in November, 1984 (dealing with the Commander, and summarizing the multiple Earths with the Monitor and Lyla), and leading into....

Crisis On Infinite Earths

With Crisis On Infinite Earths #1 (April, 1985, by Marv Wolfman and George Perez), the team was seen for what seemed to be the last time, as Luthor himself freed the team to try to save Earth-3 from the approaching anti-matter walls, but the villains weren't able to (leaving Alexander Luthor and Lois Lane Luthor to launch their son, Alexander Luthor, Jr.) to another Earth, hoping that there, he would find love and a chance at life (paralleling Superman's origin from Action Comics #1, and starting a chain of events that would touch the life of everyone in the DC Universe as worlds would live and worlds would die...).

...and Beyond

The Crime Syndicate of America came back, altered a little by the changes in the DC Universe (with everything being shrunk down to one Earth).  The team got a little name check (and their status in limbo confirmed) with Animal Man #23 and #24 in 1990, when Animal Man was looking for his creator (really just current writer Grant Morrison); the original team was revealed to be Qwardian as of Justice League Quarterly #8 (Autumn, 1992, by Mark Waid and Rod Whigham), and new members that looked like other JLAers were introduced as a new Congolmerate...

...and a whole new, alternate Earth (the new Earth-2) was introduced in JLA: Earth-2 (2000, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly), that was a little closer to the original team, as the Crime Syndicate of Amerika, with Ultraman (Clark Kent), Owlman (Thomas Wayne, Jr.), Superwoman (Lois Lane), Johnny Quick and Power Ring...but also plotted against each other quite a bit, and used an enslaved Brainiac to help them out.

That team returned for Adventures of Superman #603-#605 (June through August 2002, by Joe Casey and Carlos Meglia, in the Mirror, Mirror 3-parter, echoing Star Trek's Enterprise evil grouping), revealing quite a dysfunctional trio (as Ultraman and Superwoman were married, yet Superwoman and Owlman were having an affair), and all five members returned with JLA Secret Files 2004 and JLA #108-114 (in January to July 2005, though, like in the JLA, the identities of Power Ring and Johnny Quick changed in an epic by Kurt Busiek and Ron Garney).

Change is Constant

With the newest changes to the DCU, making it a New 52 Universe, the Crime Syndicate returned as well, with Justice League of America #23 (October, 2013, by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis), and the team added a few members beyond Ultraman, Superwoman, Power Ring, Johnny Quick and Owlman, evil version of the Atom (Atomica), Firestorm (Deathstorm) and the Aquaman (Sea King).  

These villains were the focus of the Forever Evil seven issue mini-series of November, 2013 to July, 2014 and its spin-offs...

...proving that evil never quite goes away....

...yet these weren't quite the original team.

The originals weren't quite gone though....

But It All Stays the Same

The original Crime Syndicate returns with Convergence: Crime Syndicate #1 and #2 (this week and on 5/27/15), with the original team (more or less) facing off against the JLA-type heroes of DC One Million in stories by Brian Buccellato and Phil Winslade.

So, evil keeps coming back like a bad penny!



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