Fire & Water #157 – “The Great Identity Crisis”

This week Rob welcomes fellow Network All-Star Ryan Daly to discuss one of Rob's favorite comics, the Aquaman-centric "The Great Identity Crisis" (Sept. 1975) by Martin Pasko, Dick Dillin, and Frank McLaughlin from JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #122!

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8 responses to “Fire & Water #157 – “The Great Identity Crisis”

  1. I’ve never read this story but now I think I need to hunt it down. What a hoot.

    To riff on Jerry Maguire, ‘you had me at Amnesium!’

    As always, you have to question the mindset of the super-villain. Isn’t there anything Light could have done with this technology that would have been actually profitable. Don’t you think that the Luthor of this time period would have paid billions to have a means to break into the Fortress? Or maybe he could patent some of this stuff?

    But my favorite panel is the hand-holding final one. That just looks awkward. I bet 2 of these heroes were thinking ‘what the hell is everyone doing? Holding hands? Crap, I better join in.’ I mean, it looks like they are about to start singing ‘ring around the rosie.’

    All that said, Dillin is a god in my mind. Oliver Platt is a good analogy. I might have said John Cusack.

    Thanks for fun episode.

  2. Fun show fellas!

    Doctor Light in a story with “Identity Crisis” in the title. Hmmm…I wonder if Brad Meltzer bought this one off the stands? As you said, at leat Light is less rapey here.

    Over on the Back to the Bins show on the Two True Freaks Network, there’s been a running debate as to whether DC REALLY had a Bronze Age. I think this story supports the theory that, no, not they didn’t. As Ryan pointed out, this seems VERY Silver Agey.

    Rob, do you think Pasko was trying to address the ever-changing, willy-nilly status of the League knowing each other’s secret IDs? Normally, the entire team didn’t know. Superman and Batman knew each others. Flash and GL. GL and Green Arrow. Hawkman and Atom. But occasionally, the writers would stretch things or just goof up. GL knows Robin is Dick Grayson in one issue, for some reason! Maybe this was Pasko’s way of setting this back in the past a bit to patch that up.

    Nice to be rid of Shag…er…I mean, nice to hear Ryan to stop by! He’s good people! 😉


  3. Fun trivia: Amnesium was also used in Justice League of America v1 #19 to again erase the knowledge of the Justice Leaguers’ secret identities — not just from each other but from the entire world.

    The plot involved evil duplicates of the Justice Leaguers causing trouble and leading the United Nations to legally ban the real JLA from the Earth. So the Leaguers decide to return to Earth in their secret identities so they could stop their duplicates without breaking “the letter of the law”. Aquaman, sadly, “had no secret identity” and thus had to stay off-planet since none of his teammates had a “porn star disguise” for him to use…

    Amnesium first appeared in Superboy v1 #55. Superboy used it in thst story to erase the knowledge of his secret identity from a time-travelling Jimmy Olsen before Jimmy returned to his own time (as well as the memory of his entire time-travel trip). I do not believe it was explained that Superboy “found this mineral in space” until Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #35, when Superman tried to use it in a failed attempt to restore an amnesiac Lois Lane’s proper identity…

    Am I perceiving a pattern here? Superman also used Amnesium gas to, again, erase the knowledge of his dual identity from a time-travelling Jimmy Olsen in Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #121.

    The only use of Amnesium I recall that was not related to an “identity crisis” was in Superboy v1 #135, when the Boy of Steel accidentally and serendipitously erased his own memory of an adventure involving a future Lex Luthor and a preview of his future Fortress of Solitude. In the present, Superman intentionally erased Luthor’s memory of the secrets he had learned in the Fortress during that same adventure…

  4. Also, according to Independent Comics Group’s The Official Justice League of America Index #4, it was presumed this Casebook story takes place between Justice League of America v1 #74 and #75.

  5. Loved this story! My first issue of the JLA was #120, with Adam Strange and Kanjar Ro. That was next followed by 121, with the marriage of Adam and Alanna Strange. Then, this one. This was just a really entertaining period of the book. I particularly enjoyed this as it introduced me to the alter egos of the members (apart from Batman and Superman), when they were, mostly, new to me. It’s a fun little gimmick tale, making good (if goofy) use of Dr Light, when he was somewhat dangerous (before being turned into a moron, then a rapist). It also showcases Aquaman as a thinker, not just someone who commands fish.

    I rediscovered this in college, when I went into my first comic shop. They had a lot of JLAs from this era, for less than $.50 each. I bought a bunch of Bronze Age DC and Marvel at that shop, for pennies (compared to later) The story was goofier, when read as an adult, and the dialogue could be stilted (compared to what was on the stands, in the mid-80s); but, it was still fun.

    I really enjoyed the JLA, in the satellite era. They were friends and colleagues and acted like adults. They called each other by their birth names (or adopted, in the case of Superman). By contrast, Marvel seemed more juvenile, in character behavior (rather than in the stories) with characters constantly bickering. I always shook my head when critics and historians would label the Marvel stuff as more sophisticated, since they had “real problems.” To me, it always seemed they had problems in the extreme, like a soap opera (which they were). DC, by contrast, felt more like a prime time adventure show, where the character was fun, well developed, and the adventure would conclude by the end of the episode (or next, in rare two-parters). You could miss an issue and didn’t feel like you missed out on something and couldn’t read the new adventure, until you tracked down the missing part.

    Dick Dillin was another reason I loved the JLA. He was a great storyteller, handled all of the characters well and kept them on model. He wasn’t as flashy as a Neal Adams; but, his Batman looked like Adams’, his Superman looked like Swan’s, etc…. He could handle a wide variety of stories, time periods and genres and got to do all of that in JLA. He was a pro, when that really meant something.

    Nice episode, which brought back a lot of memories.

  6. Well that was fun. I never had this issue so off I popped to Comixology and there it was for the princely sum of 69p!

    You weren’t kidding when you said the pacing was off, Rob, it felt as if Marty Pasko, then a new writer, got to his almost-endpoint to quickly and then had to spend pages and pages vamping. The convolutions were never ending.

    Aquaman’s smarts and cocky attitude apart, I wasn’t a big fan of this story, too much of Dr Light’s guns being able to do ruddy well anything except take out the heroes. He can make ‘Kryptonite-lite’ (shouldn’t that’s be ‘light’?) that can hurt Supie? Then just kill him! He can encase Hal in expanding clay! Choke the life out of him! And so on. Dr Light had immense smarts – of course he was a proper doctor – but not much nous.

    Still, he did have one of the best costumes of any hero of villain.

    The absolute best bit of the issue? ‘Aquaman… commanding fish… to shatter window… so I can escape.’ Good lord, but those titchy fish had some strength, moving an entire aquarium so they could, er, kill themselves. And why is Ollie so breathless in his thinking?

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