My Own Private Justice League

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I have not seen Justice League yet - I want to. I love these characters. I'm sad that it hasn't done as well as other super hero films.

Flickering Myth has a story about a revised Warner Bros. DC Comics film slate. Dropped is a Justice League sequel, the 2020 Cyborg stand alone film and a sequel to Man of Steel.

For me, Wonder Woman proved that the Marvel blueprint works. A solo stand-alone film can build excitement and anticipation for a team, ensemble film. Iron Man started that ball rolling. Over the course of the MCU, there seems to be a single story being told. About the Infinity Gems and the Infinity Gauntlet. Yes, each film has told a single story. Each character seems to be heading toward the Infinity War story with Thanos.

Warner Bros./DC is telling multiple individual stories. That's fine. That's okay. Marvel and DC have been copying each other in the comics since the dawn of Justice, er time. Marvel strikes a brilliant idea; DC copies it. DC strikes a brilliant idea; Marvel copies it.

I'm a huge fan of the DC Characters. Probably more of a Bronze Age fan than a modern era fan. I read Geoff Johns' and Jim Lee's 2011 "Secret Origin" reboot. I took the first issue with me on an eight week trip to Kiev, Ukraine when my wife and I adopted our first child. Probably my favorite Justice League story is JLA: Liberty and Justice. Paul Dini and Alex Ross really nail the Bronze Age Justice League.

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The panel above says everything. There's a small African village infected with a plague. Diana calls J'onn to join her, Barry and Hal. Where's Batman? Up in a corner, in the shadows. Only J'onn knows he's there. As the story builds, Arthur is drawn in. So are Batman and Superman. Every member of the team has their own "beat" or moment.

No, there's no "Big Bad", like Thanos or Darkseid. The story is basically the Justice League meets The Andromeda Strain.

I would pitch this story as a Justice League film. Why? Because, if you're going to argue that DC shouldn't copy Marvel, and an "inverted" blueprint can work just as well by launching a team film and then follow up with breakout, solo, stand alone films, then Warner/DC should counter Thanos with Steppenwolf or Darkseid.

Loki works as an Avengers villain. So does Ultron. Does the Justice League even have an A-List rogue like that - outside The Legion of Doom or Secret Society of Super-Villains? Maybe Doctor Destiny?

Maybe a cool Justice League film would be Justice League: A Midsummer's Nightmare?

What do you think?

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Batman '66 Meets Ricardo Montalban

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I have to confess that with everything going on in "mainstream comics", I have retreated to a niche. There's a couple reasons for that. I'm adoptive dad of three teenagers. I have two high school juniors and a freshman. I just became a grandfather. over the last few years, I've looked at my comics - taken a good, hard look - with the question of what I actually have time to re-read. That's left me with Starman, Justice. And Batman '66. A few other odds and ends, here and there, like Archie, Star Wars and The Six Million Dollar Man. I have the Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four that was really enjoyable. Three kids and a granddaughter leaves a pretty tight budget; so there's that, too. $4.99 a pop is a pretty hard sell.

We're streaming on Netflix and Hulu, so most of what we watch is catch-up.

I'll probably see Thor and Justice League on DVD after all the dust has settled.

That's the backstory.

Actor Ricardo Montalban was born on this date. He is best remembered as Khan from Star Trek The Original Series. He reprised the role in the classic Star Trek II. Legend has it that he and William Shatner never saw one another face to face while filming. That's not to say that they didn't hang out off camera. They just never shared a scene together. Not like the original episode.

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An enjoyable read was Batman '66 Meets Wonder Woman '77; a primer for this past summer's Wonder Woman film. Jeff Parker brought the pair together to face off against Ra's Al Ghul. It looks like Parker's The Demon's Head was based on "The Man With The Golden Gun" Christopher Lee. Lee is mostly known as a film star, as Dracula, a Bond villain, The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films and Star Wars prequels. As great as he would have been on the small screen opposite Adam West, I would have gone with Montalban instead.

As big a film star as Montalban was in the '40's, by the '60's he had moved to the small screen. Not only was he on Star Trek, but he was on Mission: Impossible, The Wild, Wild West, I-Spy, Gunsmoke, The Man From UNCLE and Hawaii Five-O. He was in the pilot for Wonder Woman with Cathy Lee Crosby in '74.

If I were to think of what The Demon's Head would look like, and picture someone who could chew scenery - and refer to The Bright Knight as "Detective" - if it weren't David Warner's voice from Batman: The Animated Series, I could hear Montalban's voice. It might be typecasting based on Khan, but I think he'd make a better Ra's Al Ghul. I just find some of Lee's work around that time to be kind of stiff and flat. Lee's Scaramanga is kind of aloof and disconnected. Maybe that was intentional. It wasn't until The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars films that he really loosened up. Maybe that was how I saw him.

I'd love to see Batman '66 revived with Ra's and other characters getting more attention. I'd love to see more of Bookworm, Shame, The Minstrel and The Archer. I know they were Quality characters at the time, but I'd love to see Sonny and Cher as Punch and Jewelee.

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Another Day, Another Penguin

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It's no secret that after the live action Batman series was cancelled in 1968, Julius Schwartz enlisted Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams to return The Dark Knight to his Gothic roots. Dick Grayson was shunted off to college and became The Teen Wonder. The Batcave under Wayne Manor was shuttered. Bruce Wayne moved downtown and launched Wayne Foundation and Wayne Enterprises. Stories like Batman #217 - One Bullet Too Many! and Detective Comics #395 - The Secret of the Waiting Graves ; Drop Out... or Drop Dead! One of my favorites was a story that could have been narrated by either Cain or Abel. My folks got me the Batman: From the 30's to the 70's hardcover. Close to the end was a story that involved Alfred's niece. There was a death-trap that involved The Caped Crusader being hung. The story ended with him finding a framed portrait hung on a tree limb in the woods. It was a haunting story.

The New Adventures of Batman launched in '69. The '70's was all about Super Friends. Adam West and Burt Ward reunited for a couple late-'70's live action Super Friends specials - when the super hero craze revived once again with Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, The Man From Atlantis, The Amazing Spider-Man, Dr. Strange and Captain America.

The '80's was Superman's decade.

Batman returned to launch the '90's.

In 1992, Michael Keaton faced off against not only Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman, but Danny DeVito's Penguin. Tim Burton's take on the character was truly horrific. Gone was the goofiness of Burgess Meredith or the cartoonishness of the '70's. He was more monster than tragic figure. More feared than jeered. Until he sent out an army of armed penguins.

On Danny DeVito's 73rd birthday, what I'd like to see in the next Batman film, whether it's Ben Affleck or Jake Gyllenhaal is a live action version of Batman: The Animated Series. Or The Batman Adventures. Something that can appeal to both kids and adults. It may be an unfair comparison, but something like an Iron Man movie. I see Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne cut from the same cloth. I'd like to see Bruce Wayne passionate and obsessed. Focused. Not crazy because he wears his underwear on the outside. I see Batman as determined. Kind of the way Paul Dini and Bruce Timm have portrayed him. Batman: War on Crime is a n awesome story.

Celebrating the DeVito Penguin's birthday, what would you like to see from the next Batman movie?

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A Cagey Bird

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"Witness Mr. Henry Bemis, a charter member in the fraternity of dreamers. A bookish little man whose passion is the printed page, but who is conspired against by a bank president and a wife and a world full of tongue-cluckers and the unrelenting hands of a clock. But in just a moment, Mr. Bemis will enter a world without bank presidents or wives or clocks or anything else. He'll have a world all to himself... without anyone (in The Twilight Zone!)"

If my math is right, Burgess Meredith was 58 when he was cast as The Penguin.

He was a legendary entertainer. Not just an actor; but a producer, director and writer for stage and screen. His credits include appearances on The Twilight Zone - the classic episode that everybody remembers, as well as a role in the '80's film; the original Clash of the Titans, Foul Play with Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn, and as George in Steineck's Of Mice and Men. Not only was he The Penguin, but he was also Mickey, Rocky's trainer in the first three Rocky films.

According to legend, Meredith was a favorite of the Batman '66 producers. Word is that they always had a Penguin script ready for when he was available. He was one of the few guest-villains that returned time and again to wage his fowl villainy on Gotham!

He also made a cameo in an episode of The Monkees.

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Liberace made a cameo on The Monkees. He was Chandell on Batman. Superman made a cameo, too. The Monkees were also The Monkeemen! If you look closely in Kingdom Come, you'll see they make a cameo there.

I've blogged before about how The Penguin was not one of my favorite comic rogues. On singer Paul Williams' birthday, I wrote that he was the one that made me a fan. Maybe it was how Dini and Timm wrote the character for Batman: The Animated Series. The theme of a social climber was much stronger than on the '66 series. It was there, with Meredith's "pompous Penguin" marrying a wealthy heiress; opening a restaurant; and running for mayor.

One of my favorite issues of Batman '66 was his partnership with Mister Freeze! It's the second issue. Written by Jeff Parker, with art by Ty Templeton. They created a floating nation of an iceberg!

He later teamed-up with Lord Death Man and Black Widow. There was a cool back-up story, by "Ty The Guy", that had Catwoman, Joker, Riddler and Penguin as '66 Mad Men. It was hilarious.

Had there been a Season Four, it would have been cool to see Penguin open his Iceberg nightclub, and become more of a Signor Ferrari of Gotham. What if... he booked The Monkees as one of the acts into his club and he and Poison Ivy used the band members to commit crimes? That would make a pretty cool Batman '66 Meets The Monkees.

Do you have a favorite Penguin story? Aside from the obvious, Mister Freeze, who would be perfect for a partnership with Penguin?

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Lamentation For The League

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This is my "lamentation" for the Justice League of America.

Someone once posited that the League is all about Barry Allen. He's the Everyman. The Average Guy. I would argue that the League is about Barry and Hal. Barry has super-speed. He's a meta-human ("Thank you, Captain Obvious!") Hal can just take off his ring.

The point is; Hal - and, maybe, Barry - are surrounded by fantastic beings. A martian. A humanoid fish; or, merman. A nigh invulnerable woman - made of clay.

That was the original Justice League of America. Aquaman; The Flash Barry Allen; Green Lantern Hal Jordan, J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman. The Dark Knight and The Man of Steel came later.

Green Arrow joined in issue 4. Superman and Batman were involved in the Felix Faust adventure in issue 10. Then when the annual JLA/JSA team-ups started, that's when they really started hanging around. I know, I'm kinda generalizing.

I'm definitely a Bronze Age fan. I started reading comics around '74. The first issue of JLA I ever read was Justice League of America #145 - The Carnival of Souls!, August of '77. The next issue I got was the one with Black Lightning; Justice League of America #173 - Testing of a Hero! That was December of '79. When Firestorm joined the League, along with George Perez, I started following, too. But then, when Perez flipped to New Teen Titans, so did I. I followed Batman to The Outsiders. I did follow Arthur and J'onn's Detroit League through Crisis. I came back with Giffen and DeMatteis.

Maybe I'm a bandwagon JLA fan, or a casual JLA fan.

Paul Dini and Bruce Timm brought me back with the animated series.

Alex Ross brought me back in a real big way with probably my two favorite stories; Justice and JLA: Liberty and Justice.

What was missing from Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's reboot in 2011 was the "core" of the League. I see why Victor was added to the team. The sci-fi craze of the Silver Age is outdated. Technology has replaced sci-fi as a thing. So, Cyborg on the League makes sense. Connecting his cybernetics to the New Gods' technology makes sense. A fresher, younger look to the team. I get that.

What's missing, for me, is the original core: Arthur, Barry, Hal, J'onn and Diana. Kinda like the original Titans; Dick, Wally, Garth, Donna (Roy and Gar.) I want to see that - like it was shown in Liberty and Justice. Yeah, I'm old school that way.

I'll probably see the Justice League movie. I'll probably enjoy it and maybe like it.

...I'd still like to see Liberty and Justice adapted.

Is there a Justice League of America story that has not been adapted you'd like to see? As always, I appreciate the feedback.

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Parting of the Ways

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My wife and I started our adoption process in 2004. At our first agency we were one of fifty in a ginormous white binder that would be handed to a birth mom to look through. The agency said it could take any where from eighteen months to four years to find the right connection. We'd been married fifteen years. We weren't in a hurry, trying to rush the process, but looking at another four years, after trying to have kids on our own...

We switched from domestic to international. Vietnam stopped doing adoptions with the US. One year, right before the holidays, our dossier, translated into Vietnamese, was FedEx-ed back to us. We didn't meet the criteria for China. We switched back to domestic. Then the economy tanked. It was 2008. The agency we were with gathered all twenty or so prospective couples into a brainstorming meeting and asked if we had any ideas on how to connect with birth moms. It was a dry spell, apparently. It just seemed if it weren't for the bad luck, we'd have had no luck at all.

And then I posted a social media status about wanting to be a dad in 2011.

Then the roller coaster ride started. We connected with Number One Son in January of 2011 and he was home at the end of October. December 7th, 2012, Number Two Son came home. Number One Daughter came home at the end of May, 2014. All from the same orphanage in Kiev, Ukraine.

I looked and looked and did not see a comic book store in Kiev. Magazines and newspapers at the newsstand. There were a couple English book stores. I bought a couple Artemis Fowl books on our trips. I carried the first issue of the 2011 rebooted Justice League on the first trip in 2011, along with my three trades of Justice. I carried the first issue of Batman: The Brave and the Bold with Superman in Kandor.

Over the course of our second and third adoption, I looked at my collection. I started selling some of my comics to help fund bringing our son and daughter home.

When all three kids were home, and our new normal got a little busier and more active, I started looking at my comic collection. What comics would I really have time to re-read? Two of my kids are Juniors in high school now. We adopted older, special needs children.

The answer to that question meant a parting of the ways with my Green Lantern collection. I still have the trades and Showcase collections. But not the individual issues.

I had drawn a line at Starman, The Batman Adventures and Ultimate Spider-Man. I had whittled down my stash to what I considered essentials of X-Men and Teen Titans. I'm still giving those boxes the hairy eyeball. It was sometime last summer, I think, that I took a deep breath and realized that while I had enjoyed Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man; and how awesome The End was for Ultimate Peter Parker, it just wasn't a series I re-read. I had gotten extra copies of the post-Ultimatum book, when it became more of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. It just wasn't a book I went back to. Not the way I went back to the Talking With David, or Tales of Times Past.

So I said goodbye.

I still have Bendis' New Avengers in trades. That I still re-read. I guess the idea there was The Big Guns, like the JLA. I guess it was a lot of the over-exposed characters, like Wolverine. But, he is one of Marvel's Big Guns. Thing is, I still re-read New Avengers.

While I enjoyed Ultimate Spider-Man, I didn't go back to it the way I did other comics in my stash. That's not meant as a sleight to Bendis. The stories were enjoyable.

Word broke yesterday that Bendis was moving from Marvel to rival DC Comics. It was described as Kirby's switch back in 1970.

I don't know that anyone can predict what to expect next. I could see him on a team book. Maybe Teen Titans or Justice League. I haven't read the League since Meltzer posited that it was Red Tornado, and not J'onn J'onzz that was the heart of the League. His Tornado story was pretty cool. I just got tired of the seeming tone deaf bashing of J'onn. He was good enough for the Justice League animated series. Why doesn't he work in the comics or live action? I get why Cyborg was substituted. Technology is bigger thing now that sci-fi and alien races. I liked the Justice League animated Secret Origin better than the 2011 rebooted version. I still re-read Liberty and Justice.

I could see him on a character book like say Nightwing or Green Lantern. Maybe Superman. I haven't read a Superman comic since The Death of Superman. I have the Superman Adventures I still re-read.

If you're a Bendis fan, what book would you like to see him on? I've seen criticism that he has a certain tone deafness himself. But every writer has their fans and detractors.

That's my story. What's yours?

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Variant Madness

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You'll have to pardon me, I'm just getting caught back up. I've been following comic book news somewhat casually. Not intensely.

I hate variant covers. I believe they are an obvious cash grab. Why would I spend another $3.99 - or more - just for cover art? There was some kerfuffle with DC Comics over the last couple of years with specialized covers. Something about them didn't work and there was a special matrix for ordering the covers. A few months ago, back in August, Marvel was gearing up for September's Legacy launch. A number of comic book stores balked at the matrix for ordering the lenticular variant covers.

Yeah, I know. A story from August about something happening in September, and here it is November.

I bought both the variant covers for Wonder Woman '77 Meets The Bionic Woman. The first issue came out around the same time as Batman '66 Meets Wonder Woman '77. The first issue of both books featured an Alex Ross cover. I'm a fan. Probably one of many. I bought Justice in the monthly issues. I bought the hardcover collections. And then I bought the softcover trade paperback collections. The soft cover trade paperbacks were the first things I packed for three trips to Kiev, Ukraine when my wife and I brought our three kids home forever.

I'm buying the variant covers for Your Pal Archie that when all five covers come together form the picture of Pop's restaurant.

I'm even buying the variant covers for Harley & Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica.

But then, I bought two issues every month of The Batman Adventures and series that followed it. I'm probably going to go back and try to catch up with an extra copy of Batman '66. I started getting two issues around 13. I spent the extra money there, because I wanted to support the book, and let my wallet be heard. I bought extra copies of the Talking With David and Tales of Times Past issues of Starman. I have the extra issues of Tales of Times Past in chronological, not numerical order. From time to time, when the mood strikes, I'll sit down and re-read the Talking With David issues. I'll tear up at the reveal in the pirate issue. I'll get choked up at The Red Bee's confession.

When DC did the "Faces of DC" covers back in '97, I bought a few extra copies, framed them and hung them.

I talked to my friend who runs the comic book store I shop at. He's ordering me all three copies of The Archies 4. The Archies meet The Monkees! My first album was a hand-me-down from my sister. The Monkees Headquarters album. I grew up on The Monkees reruns.

That reminds me, I need to up my order to two copies of all three covers.

Do you buy the variant covers? Which ones? Why?

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Aunt May's Sally Field Best Batman Cameo...

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Today is both Sally Field and Emma Stone's birthdays.

Field played Aunt May in the two The Amazing Spider-Man movies. She took over the role from Rosemary Harris, who turned 90 in September. Emma was Gwen Stacy. Bryce Dallas Howard was Gwen, a kind of throw away role in the Sam Raimi-Toby Maguire Spider-Man 3. You know, the one with the awkward dancing sequence. The Raimi-Maguire films went right to MJ, kind of bypassing Gwen.

I think Andrew Garfield is going to be remembered in the same way George Lazenby is remembered as James Bond. Sort of as a footnote or as an asterisk.

Both actresses are quite talented. Gwen was the highlight of both movies for me. Sally Field has always been awesome. As Tom Hanks' mom in Forrest Gump. They worked together in a very odd film, where Field was a housewife breaking into stand-up comedy. Hanks was the crude professional. She's had a lot of great roles, going all the way back to the goofy Smokey and the Bandit films in the '70's; Gidget and The Flying Nun in the '60's. Legend has it that Gidget didn't catch on and was cancelled. The Flying Nun was created for her. She hated The Flying Nun and was disappointed by the cancellation of Gidget.

Field is one actress that would have been cool for either a cameo or a guest starring role on Batman. Maybe as a date for Burt Ward's Dick Grayson. Maybe as a window cameo for a Bat-climb. With this passed summer's Batman '66 Meets the Legion of Super-Heroes, maybe Field could have played one of the Teen Titans.

...What might have been.

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The Best Star Trek...?

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My wallet doesn't allow for streaming of the new Star Trek: Discovery. My wallet doesn't allow to watch this new The Orville on FOX. Which is okay...for now. Tonight, I am watching one of my favorite sci-fi films - Galaxy Quest!

"Never give up! Never surrender!"

It's Sam Rockwell's birthday. I could watch just about anything he's in. He was great in Iron Man 2. Moon - wow. His Guy Fleegman rounds out an awesome ensemble cast. The late Alan (Severus Snape) Rickman = "by Grabthar's Hammer!"; Sigourney (Ripley) Weaver; Enrico Colantoni as Mathesar; Tony Shaloub; Daryl Mitchell; Justin Long; and, Tim Allen, the ringleader, in the triple role of Captain Kirk, Jason Nesmith, alias Commander Peter Quincy Taggart.

It's hilarious. It's actually better than Mel Brooks' Spaceballs - which was a Star Wars parody! But your mileage may vary.

Even better; according to the Wikipedia page on the movie it was voted the seventh best Star Trek film! A Star Trek parody gets voted seventh best!

I was reading somewhere online, I can't remember where, that in the choice between Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville - The Orville is coming out the winner as more Star Trek - than the Star Trek series!

Are you watching either series? If you were going to recommend one of the two to binge watch on Netflix, which one would you endorse? Why?

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Heroes of The Greatest Generation

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I grabbed my copy of Famous First Edition #7, the giant size reprint of All-Star Comics #3, the first meeting of the Justice Society of America; along with DC Special #29 - The Untold Origin of the Justice Society and Secret Origins #31 - The Secret Origin of the Justice Society of America.

November 5th, 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt is elected to an unprecedented third term as President. He platform is neutrality in the face of the growing Axis powers. It isn't until December 7th, 1941, when Japan attacks Pearl Harbor that he is given carte blanche to engage with Britain and the Soviet Union to fight Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito. Legend has it that we knew about the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was "allowed" in order to step in.

However, in September of 1940, FDR launched a secret operation, pulling together masked mystery men to drive back a German attack on Britain.

The Justice Society did not get a "secret origin" until 1977!

JFK learned Superman's secret identity, just before his November 22nd assassination. Other presidents have been featured in comics. Nixon. Reagan. Remember the '90's? When Jim Lee featured Vice-President Dan Quayle in the four-issue mini-series that launched WildC.A.T.s? If I remember right, the VP was one of the Daemonites.

I think FDR is the only president to have launched a super-hero team. Wasn't it Senator Robert Kelly was involved in the Sentinel program that identified and hunted mutants? The Avengers had a government liaison, Henry Gyrich. Reagan was featured in Legends. There have been crises - both real-world and comic-world since WWII, but no president has come near FDR. I don't mean to make this a political blog; but - what? - since Kennedy's assassination; Johnson and Nixon, we've all kind of disconnected from the Commander-in-Chief. I don't want to get all political, but can you imagine President Trump launching a super-hero team? It would definitely have an The Apprentice approach. Booster Gold would probably be chairman - Ha!

November 5th, 1940, FDR is re-elected.

November 5th, 1968, Richard Milhouse Nixon is elected to his first term...He was probably our first or second modern scorned presidents...

I'm just glad FDR got his third term so we could have our JSA and All-Star Squadron!

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