Featured Screen Shot
Narrator: The Justice League of America! The combined might and power of the Man of Steel and the Cosmic Crusader. The Winged Avenger and the King of the Seas. The Tiny Titan and the Scarlet Streak. All working together for good against evil as the Justice League of America!
Atom: Stop This Boring Action!
Synopsis "In Between Two Armies"
“A strange drill-nosed craft streaks out of space, torpedoes down, and bores beneath the Earth’s crust”. It is followed by a second craft which observes the descent of the first. The crew of the second craft, the tall yellow-clad “Crystal Men”, are determined to continue their pursuit of the first craft and its crew, the short green-clad Rock People. The Rock People have already set-up a base on the Earth and test their super-weaponry by using magnetic beams to rain meteorites down upon the Earth.
“Within seconds the Justice League is in action”, Hawkman searches for the source of the magnetic waves while Superman and Green Lantern take care of the raining “space junk”. Hawkman notices the Crystal Men’s space ship and follows it towards the Rock People’s base. He radios ahead to the Flash and Atom and they intercept the craft. The captured Crystal Men explain that they have come to destroy the Rock People before they can use their weapon to destroy Mercury (their homeworld). Hawkman recognises that the destruction of Mercury will cause the Crystal Men’s own super weapon, the Nuclear Core, to explode destroying Earth and the rest of the Solar System.
Superman sends Green Lantern to destroy the Nuclear Core and positions Hawkman to intercept the magnetic beam. He then searches for the Rock People’s base while the Flash and Atom guard the Crystal Men. Unfortunately the Man of Steel arrives too later to stop the firing sequence and Hawkman’s ship is forced to blocks the magnetic wave with its own weaponry. Superman then destroys the weapon before the Rock People can fire again.
The Crystal Men on Mercury have detected Green Lantern’s approach, but his mighty power ring repulses the attacks. He smashes into the hall containing the Nuclear Core, but a Crystal Man’s attack ricochet off of his shields and hits the unstable Core. The Green Lantern envelopes the exploding Core with his emerald energy and uses his formidable willpower to safely contain its explosion. “A short while later back on neutral ground”, the Crystal Men and Rock Men agree to a lasting peace overseen by the Justice League.
- It’s the first animated appearance of the Justice League! What more do you want?
- Why, during the opening narration, do the Flash, Atom, and Aquaman fly?
- At one point Hawkman responds to the Crystal Men’s statement by talking to a completely different alien who doesn’t appear in the rest of the segment.
- The design of the Crystal Men’s ship switches design half-way through the short.
Filmation were expert proponents of TV animation where low-budgets required the producers to be ruthlessly efficient with every single frame of animation. Their later catalogue included a string of cartoon adaptations of popular comic book and science fiction properties including the Archie comics characters, the Star Trek animated series, and the He-Man franchise. However it is really these early DC cartoons that set the mould for that later work. Many of the same devices they refined later on are here – the quality of the stock shots may have got better, but their frequency of reuse always remained high.
I’m certainly not old enough to have watched these go out the first time around, but I do remember when they were shown in the United Kingdom. It was Channel 4 (I think) who had an early morning cartoon segment in the 1980s showing cheap cartoons they’d picked up from somewhere. These included the early Filmation Aquaman show and some of the early Marvel cartoons. I think they may have included the Marvel cartoons just to make the DC ones look good – no matter how basic the Filmation animation was it was still light-years ahead of the Gantray-Lawrence’s Marvel work.
For my generation Norm Prescott, Lou Scheimer and Hal Sutherland’s Filmation studio will forever be known as the creators of the He-Man and Masters of the Universe cartoon. There is a repertoire of blaster sounds, dimensional portals, and stock shots that are just seared into my memory. There is one sound in this episode, the overloading Nuclear Core, which I’m convinced popped up often in Masters of the Universe. So for me these show is interesting from an almost archaeological perspective. Neither of the two warring sides, the Crystal Men and the Rock People, are really that villainous and their conflict wouldn’t have been out of place in a Gardner Fox comic story.
Taken on its own this is a 6-minute short that packs in a tremendous amount of plot (just like the early League comics). Some of the logic is hard to follow (did GL just destroy the Crystal Men’s sole power source), but it still retains a certain charm and energy. The Justice League are all very dynamic and there is a good display of powers. It’s noticeable that the Justice Leaguers don’t really work together at any time. They are all off on separate parts of the adventure (with the exception of the Flash who only really serves as the Atom’s ride). This may have allowed them to replicate stock parts of the heroes individual shorts, but it also matches the classical JSA/JLA format so works surprisingly well.
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