In the summer of 1970, while on vacation in Santa Cruz, CA., I bought my very first comic book. I had seen Archie and Disney comics before, and I knew Batman and Superman from the TV, but I had no idea that they existed in an integrated universe. And who were all these other masked heroes on the cover? The comic was JLA #83, the second of a two-part JLA/JSA crossover, and I must have read it dozens of time until it finally fell apart.
I recently reread an archive version of Justice League of America #83 and my gawd was it a good story! I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was also my first Denny O’Neil comic, a marvelous writer who went on to redefine Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Batman, and Superman. In JLA #83, however, he wove a fantastic tale of two earths (Earth 1 was the home of the contemporary DC heroes and the Justice League; Earth 2 was home to the older WWII-era versions of those same characters in the Justice Society) that are slowly merging as a result of alien machinations in the hope that both will be destroyed in order to release enough energy to build a new planet. The images of startled people seeing their doppelgangers on the street, stretching away into the horizon, and the Spectre stretching his body into a thin membrane just to keep the two earths apart, seared themselves into my memory and inspired my own imagination for decades.
Interestingly, after all these years, I finally read JLA #82, the first part of the story. Although I had been curious about it, it turns out that #83 was really the best one to get. There was no reliable source for these comic books back in my hometown, so I had to content myself with Archie and Disney again for a couple of years until we got back to Santa Cruz. Finally, in the summer of 1972, I picked up another JLA/JSA crossover, JLA #100, written by Len Wein. I’m looking forward to re-reading that soon!