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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Justice League is Like a Baseball Team...

One of the things I've learned from an increasingly-wasted lifetime of reading comic books is that superheroes love to play baseball. Heck, when Chris Claremont's writing your book, you're going to get out to the diamond every few years, and I've read about an annual softball game that Marvel and DC used to play against each other.

I'm not sure if it's a tradition that continues to this day, but just the idea of Warren Ellis slouching up to the plate with a frosty pint in one hand and a threatening aluminum club in the other just warms my heart in a way I can't really express.

Regardless, super-heroes and baseball go together like Chuck Norris and roundhouse kicks. But sometimes, every now and then, the villains get into the game too, and when that happens, it's a nine-inning showdown of epic proportions that could only be told in DC Super-Stars #10:

That's one big ball."The Great Super-Star Game"
December, 1976
Writer: Bob Rozakis
Pencils and Cover: Dick Dillin

I've mentioned my affection for DC's utterly insane Strange Sports Stories before, but this one has a good claim on being the strangest. One of the bizarre brainchildren of editor Julius Schwartz, this thing's crazy even if you ignore the fact that the Joker looks happy as hell to be getting punched out by Batman on the cover. It's the type of wacky story that could only take place in the Silver Age, back when the Joker was more concerned with pulling boners than shooting young ladies through the spine. Ah, a more innocent time, when comics made slightly less sense than they do now.

He changes into baseball gear later.Our story opens in the suburban home of married super-villains known collectively as Mr. and Mrs. Menace, the Golden Age Huntress (later called the Tigress) and semi-professional Alan Scott Punching Bag the Sportsmaster. It seems that Huntress wants to give up the crime game and become a super-hero, but the Sportsmaster, who obviously knows what happens when a couple stops having shared interests, wants her to stick with robbing banks. That's all beside the point, though, which is this:

They're at home in the suburbs, arguing and chucking furniture at each other while wearing their costumes. There's no getting around how weird that is, especially since Sportsmaster's costume, a set of tennis whites and a full-face mask, somehow manages to be even stranger than Huntress's tiger-striped leotard and cape.

Sportsmaster suggests that they resolve the dispute by playing a Heroes vs. Villains baseball game. Me, I think that's a little on the crazy side, but as Chad said, she knew he was the frigg'n Sportsmaster when she married him, so she should expect that sort of thing. Then they use a mysterious and completely unexplained Diabolical Machineā„¢ to spy on a bunch of super-conflicts and abduct the participants to New York's Crandall Stadium. All of the heroes are abducted from sporting events, including Wonder Woman, who's hanging out at the UN Soccer Game with an unexpected guest:

What the...?Exactly why Plastic Man's pretending to be Wonder Woman's lasso? Never even close to being explained. But who cares, we've got a baseball game to get to!

Batting for the Heroes: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Robin, Kid Flash, Plastic Man, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and the Huntress.

And the Villains: The Joker, Chronos, Weather Wizard, Dr. Polaris, Matter Master, Felix Faust, the Tattooed Man, Sportsmaster, and Lex Luthor, who seems to be pretty excited about giving up his chance to kill Superman so he can get out to Center Field.

And officiating the game are Amazo and, of course, Uncle Sam.

The two sides agree to play without powers, although really: Silver Age Superman's going to smack the ball out of the park every time he gets to bat, and that's just all there is to it. And really, considering that the Hero team has Batman, who proved he was the "World's Greatest Natural Athlete" in an issue of World's Finest by wrestling a fucking bear at ten years old and Weather Wizard and Felix Faust don't exactly strike me as the jock type, I assumed it would be a rout.

It's not.

It goes on and on, with the villains trying to cheat by having the Tattooed Man use his "latest tattoo," a catcher's mitt, which he apparently thinks will come in handy in his next crime wave. The heroes respond in kind, with Green Arrow shooting down a pop fly, but everybody pretty much settles down to finish the game, which the heroes win 21 to 15, thus ensuring Huntress can drag her husband off to the big house before they all get back to their own life-and-death struggles.

Joker bunt-singles, eh?It's not as exciting as it sounds, but as a Special Bonus Feature, this issue includes a full-page play-by-play of the entire game. It combines all the fun of reading about baseball with all the fun of super-hero stories with no pictures.

It does, however, include the phrase "Batman bunts safely," which I'm considering getting tattooed in gothic script in an arc across my stomach.

It's my generation's "Thug Life."


Blogger Michael said...

I loved that story when I read it. I was about 10 at the time and superheroes playing baseball was just the strangest (and coolest) sports story I had ever seen.

You have GOT to read The Comic Treadmill's version of this issue. H did a separate post for each inning in all its post-Silver Age glory this past summer. The ninth inning is at http://www.comictreadmill.com/CTMBlogarchives/2005/2005_Individual/2005_08/000884.php

While googling for that, I found a post on Spandex Justice that speculates what that story would look like in today's market: a 12-issue limited series called "Crisis on Infinite Bases".

Man, the blogosphere cracks me up sometimes.

1/04/2006 12:41 AM

Blogger Philip Looney said...

The reason these comics are popular, especially with kids, is because when you're a kid in gym class playing a game, you probably think "boy, I sure wish I could hit the baseball like Superman. Then I'd be awesome!"

As sad as this sounds, when I was in elementry school, I use to imitate Bravestar while playing Basketball; so when running after the basketball, I'd say to myself "speed of a puma!" and I felt like I got a special burst of speed. It's crazy the things you think of as a kid.

1/04/2006 1:49 PM

Blogger Adam said...

"Batman singles, driving Robin home."


1/04/2006 6:41 PM

Blogger kelvingreen said...

I'd suspect that Plas is pretending to be WW's lasso largely because of where she keeps it.

And I suspect that Warren Ellis, invited to a baseball game, would say something along the lines of "f*ck off, it's a girl's game" before storming off to the pub.

1/08/2006 12:11 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The final score was 11-10 Heros according to the box score in the bonus features.

Surpised Superman's fastball wasn't working better that day

4/14/2006 3:11 PM

Anonymous generic cialis said...

Well what can i say, i don't like this stuff, i mean cartoons or comics they are very boring.

5/17/2011 12:30 PM


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