Justice League of America was the first comic book title that you could say I “collected”, though I wouldn’t have used (or understood) that term at the time. I bought my first issue, #40 (Nov., 1965) at the age of eight, just a month or so after buying my first comic book, period, and didn’t miss a single issue out of the next twenty-eight — a run of a little over three years. Of course, it helped that I sent “National Comics” (i.e., DC) a dollar in the mail for a year’s subscription early on (and was then obliged to live with the legendary, dreaded folded-in-half crease for the next ten issues); but even after that ran out, I was able keep the run going without a break up through #68. If you’re old enough to remember how unreliable standard newsstand distribution was in the latter half of the 1960s (or if you just happen to be a regular reader of this blog) you’ll realize that was something of a feat — especially for a kid who had to rely on his parents for transportation to the convenience stores where he bought his comics, and couldn’t be certain of getting to the spinner rack every single week. Read More
For the first year or so of the Justice League of America’s existence, the stories of DC’s premier superteam followed a fairly strict formula. Beginning with the team’s three tryout issues of The Brave and the Bold in 1959 and 1960, the tales told by writer Gardner Fox, penciller Mike Sekowsky, and editor Julius Schwartz played out according to a prescribed pattern; the team members (Aquaman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter, Superman, and Wonder Woman — and, from JLA #4 on, Green Arrow) would come together at (or at least near) the beginning of the story; then they’d encounter or discover a menace; then they’d split into teams to battle different aspects of said menace; and then, finally, they’d come together at the end to secure their ultimate victory over the menace. Also as part of the formula, at least for the earliest adventures, Superman and Batman took no active role in the central team-up chapters, and sometimes didn’t even show up for the group scenes at the beginning or end; this was due to editor Schwartz deferring to the preferences of editors responsible for those heroes’ own titles, Mort Weisinger and Jack Schiff, who didn’t want DC’s two marquee characters overexposed. Even after the restrictions on using the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader eased up somewhat, there were issues when they were entirely absent (“on assignment” in Dimension X, or something else of that sort), and neither of them appeared on a cover until JLA #10 (March, 1962). Read More
1968 was a watershed year for my first favorite comic book, Justice League of America, though I don’t think that my then eleven-year-old self fully realized that at the time. Sure, artist Mike Sekowsky — who’d drawn every single issue since I’d started buying the series three years before, as well as every earlier JLA story I’d seen reprinted in DC Comics’ “80-Page Giants” — had left the book with issue #63, with Dick Dillin coming in as penciler starting with the following issue. And Gardner Fox, who’d written every League story I’d ever read, was gone as well, just two issues later. But Sid Greene was still inking the book (for now), so it still looked very much the same* (to my young and unsophisticated eye, at least). But, even with both Greene and (more importantly) editor Julius Schwartz still in place, there had most definitely been a changing of the guard; and JLA #66 represented the beginning of a new era — whether I knew it or not. Read More
When last we left the non-costumed, non-codenamed, but nonetheless quite formidable supervillain T.O. Morrow — at the conclusion of the first half of 1968’s Justice League of America-Justice Society of America summer team-up extravaganza — he’d just managed to kill all the current members of Earth-Two’s JSA (some of them for the second time that issue), and was preparing to head back to his home world of Earth-One to similarly wipe out the JLA — secure in the knowledge provided by his future-predicting computer that the only way he could be stopped was if the Red Tornado intervened; and since the Red Tornado was 1) his own android creation, and 2) also dead, he was sitting in clover, as the saying goes. Read More
As longtime readers of this blog may recall, Justice League of America was the first comic book title I ever subscribed to through the mail, way back in early 1966. By June, 1968, that one-year subscription had long since expired, but I was still managing to score every issue off the stands, and at this point had an unbroken run extending back to my first issue, #40 — twenty-five issues in all. I think it’s safe to say that it was still my favorite comic book series at that time (although The Amazing Spider-Man was definitely beginning to give it a run for its money). Read More
What defines a comic book superhero as a unique character? Is it a name, or a costume, or a power set? What about a hero’s “secret identity”? Does it even matter who’s wearing the costume?
For what it’s worth, I suspect that the majority of people reading this post have a general conception of “Superman” as a single, unique character, albeit one with multiple versions — “pre-Crisis”, “New 52”, “Golden Age”, and so on. It’s probably the same with Batman, or Wonder Woman — or with Captain America, Iron Man, or the Mighty Thor, for that matter. Even if these heroes undergo occasional costume modifications or power fluctuations — and even if someone else steps into their heroic role for a time in the service of a storyline — there’s still a sense of a core character underneath it all — an “ur-Superman”, an “ur-Batman”, and so forth. Read More
I’ve written before on this blog about the fact that as much as I loved the Justice League of America as a young reader — their series was the first comic book I actively collected — it took me some time to get around to sampling all of the team members’ solo titles. While I bought comics starring Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkman all within the first six months or so of my picking up the comic book habit, it took me another whole year, and then some, to give the last three JLA headliners’ books a shot. Then, as I’ve related in earlier posts this year, I finally got around to buying an issue of Wonder Woman in May, 1967, and an issue of Atom in June. That left only one to go — Aquaman.
Unlike with Wonder Woman and the Atom, however, where I’m not sure what exactly motivated me finally to take the plunge and pick up an issue of their series, I have little doubt what ultimately sold me on the King of the Seven Seas. It was television. Read More
Like Wonder Woman, the Atom was one of the last of the Justice League of America members with their own book whose solo adventures I decided to give a try. I’m not sure exactly what took me so long to get around to gambling twelve cents on the Mighty Mite — his book was another Julius Schwartz-edited book, after all, regularly featuring the art of Gil Kane, whose work I’d been enjoying on Green Lantern since the fall of 1965. My best guess is that I simply hadn’t been that impressed with the Atom in most of the JLA adventures I’d read featuring him. Let’s face it — in a team featuring heavy hitters like Superman and Green Lantern, it could be difficult for even the cleverest comic book storytellers, such as JLA scripter Gardner Fox and his editor Schwartz, to find ways for a six-inch hero to shine — and, with the notable exception of 1966’s Justice League-Justice Society two–part team-up story, in which the Atom played a decisive role in helping to save both Earth-One and Earth-Two, the Tiny Titan tended to fade (or perhaps shrink) into the background. Read More
Throughout the 1960’s, as their upstart rival Marvel Comics distinguished itself with the development of a complex and more-or-less consistent fictional universe that linked all of the company’s heroes, villains, and other characters into one ongoing meta-story, DC Comics resolutely continued to operate as a collection of mostly independent fiefdoms, each under the dominion of its own editor. Sure, all the A-list heroes showed up for Julius Schwartz’s Justice League of America, regardless of who was editing the heroes’ solo series, and they could also pair off in George Kashdan’s (later, Murray Boltinoff’s) The Brave and the Bold — but, by and large, DC’s editors didn’t pay much attention to continuity across the line.
Within an individual editor’s purview, however, there were occasional stabs at crossovers and other signifiers of a shared universe — especially within the books guided by Schwartz. As we’ve discussed in a previous post, one way Schwartz accomplished this was be establishing close friendships between pairs of his heroes (Flash and Green Lantern, Atom and Hawkman) which provided frequent opportunities for guest-shots in one another’s books. Another way was to set up a plotline in one book that would carry over into another book — as was done in the classic “Zatanna‘s Search” story arc that ran through multiple Schwartz-edited books from 1964 through 1966, culminating in Justice League of America #51’s “Z — as in Zatanna — and Zero Hour!”. Read More
It’s a well-known fact of comic book history that, in the 1960’s, editor Julius Schwartz often came up with an idea for a cover, had one of his stable of artists draw it up, and only then assigned a writer to script a story around it. I don’t know if any of Schwartz’s fellow DC editors of the time followed a similar practice — but if there’s any one non-Schwartz cover of the mid-Sixties that might be considered a candidate for “cover first”, it’s surely the Carmine Infantino-Joe Giella cover of The Brave and the Bold #69, edited by George Kashdan.
That’s partly due to the fact that Infantino is the same artist who pencilled many of those classic covers for Schwartz’s books — but mainly, it’s because of that big, red, iron bat holding Batman prisoner. That visual is so bizarre and unlikely, yet also so striking and memorable, that I find it easier to believe that someone — whether Infantino, Kashdan, or someone else — came up with it all on its own, and then found a way to work it into a story, rather than that it emerged naturally during the plotting of the story it ultimately came to illustrate. Especially since “War of the Cosmic Avenger”, written by Bob Haney and illustrated by Win Mortimer, doesn’t really have a whole lot of use for the big red bat after the first few pages. Read More