Comic: "Justce League of America #89"
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Mike Friedrich
Artist: Dick Dillon
Reviewer: Max Burbank
Plot: A Mopey, jaded TV writer Harlequin Ellis hits on Black Canary until Green Arrow threatens to beat him up but good. Bad move, as it turns out, Ellis is SO creative and his unrequited love for Black Canary is such a MASSIVE bummer, his desires begin to warp reality. Aquaman dies, Superman agonizes that itís all his fault and then Superman morphs intoÖ Harlequin Ellis! Batman fights a Minotaur, gets extra moody and morphs intoÖ Harlequin Ellis! Eventually Black Canary groks whatís going down by being super intuitive and spiritual, and she goes on a date with Ellis to a really bad comic book seventies rock concert, after which she lets him down easy, easing his mind bending Jones for her enough to let things go back to normal. We are then treated to a drawing of the writer, Mike Friedrich, explaining the whole subtext to us just in case we were stupid and took it literally.
Review: When I read this book, I thought it was simply the best comic ever written. It was 1979, and I was and I was nine. Lucky for me, at nine I had also read several short stories by Harlan Ellison and was young enough to think that getting thatís who Harlequin Ellis was supposed to be made me better than the kids who beat me up at recess.
Itís still a fantastic comic in several ways, but none of them have much to do with good writing. I doubt it was the very first example of a comic breaking the fourth wall or the writer introducing himself as a character, but itís got to be an early example and pretty daring in itís way, if also goofy and embarrassing. It also deals with a fairly complex issue. The folks that write heroes are those heroes in a very real way, but the fact is the hot chick in the fishnets is going to hook up with another drawing, not you. As badly as its handled, thatís a pretty heavy, bittersweet idea for a comic book to work through, especially back in í71.
My absolute favorite thing has to be that last panel, with Friedrich explaining at painful length that not only is he Superman and Batman, heís also... HARLEQUIN ELLIS! ĎCause, you know, Friedrich is like, the writer, so heís everybody he writes. It didnít occur to me until several years later that this meant he was also Black Canary, but that level of self awareness just isnít for nine year olds. The icing on the cake? A little yellow dialog box in the lower right hand corner, that reads, in script:
ďTo H.E., That you might understand, brother... Michael Friedrich.Ē
GET IT? ĎH.E.í? HARLEQUIN ELLIS? HARLAN ELLISON?!
At the time, apart from confirming that I was part of the extra cool set that really got this comic, I thought that Box meant Friedrich and Ellison were pals, and that Ellison was going through some deep thing, an Friedrich was trying to cheer him up. Maybe thatís true, I certainly donít know. As an adult, I think it far more likely that the whole book was an impassioned fan letter to a writer working in a ghetto art form to his idol who was selling critically acclaimed fiction. Raw pathos, baby. You cannot make that shit up, which is why JLA #89, ďThe Most Dangerous Dreams of All!Ē is so damn awesome.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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