It may be difficult for some younger comics fans to believe, but Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman haven’t always been perceived as a “Trinity” of characters standing head and shoulders above the rest of their fellow DC Comics heroes, in the Justice League and elsewhere. That’s not to say that fans in earlier eras didn’t appreciate the special status of these three characters — the only superheroes to remain in virtually continuous publication in their own titles from the 1940s to the present day — but that appreciation didn’t necessarily equate to seeing the characters as equals.
When I first started reading comics in 1965, Batman and Superman were each headlining two titles of their own in addition to co-starring in World’s Finest, and were also appearing regularly in Justice League of America. Add to that the two titles featuring Superboy, and (from late 1965 on), Batman’s frequent co-starring turns in The Brave and the Bold, and it was clear to me that these guys were DC’s Big Two, and no one else was in the same class. Wonder Woman, after all, starred in just one title, and also appeared in JLA — which simply put her in the same good-sized camp as Aquaman, Atom, Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkman. Of course, Princess Diana also had the distinction of having been around in the same incarnation since the Forties, unlike most of those guys, as well as the unique quality of being the only female superhero with her own comic book, which put her a step ahead of Supergirl. Still, all that wasn’t enough to give her iconic status — at least, not in the eyes of the (admittedly ignorant) little boy I was at the time. 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
DC Comics actually published two issues of Justice League of America in September, 1966: the subject of this post, issue #49, which was released on September 13, according to the Library of Congress Copyright Office’s filing records (accessed, per usual, via the amazing web site Mike’s Amazing World); and issue #48, released a little less than two weeks earlier, on September 1. That might seem odd, considering that JLA was only being published nine times a year at this point, but the extra November-dated issue was actually a reprint collection — an “80-Page Giant” featuring three of the premier super-team’s earliest adventures. Read More
For a couple of months in the autumn of 1965, readers of most DC comics were confronted with this enigmatic message, which appeared in the borders of pages, and even within the panels of stories, all through the publisher’s line:
It was an unusual marketing campaign — although my eight-year-old self didn’t know that at the time, since I’d only been reading comics for a few months. Nevertheless, I can recall being vaguely curious about this “Spectre”, the eerie green lettering of whose name suggested that he might not be the warmest and friendliest of characters. I had no idea whatsoever who he actually was, however — nor would most of the rest of DC’s readership at that time. Read More
By the time JLA #46 arrived in my mailbox one day in early June, 1966, I had a pretty good idea who the Justice Society of America was. I knew about the “Golden Age of Comics” that had thrived a decade and more before I was born, and I also knew all about the “Earth-Two” concept that allowed for the “old” versions of the Flash, Green Lantern, and other DC heroes to co-exist with the current models I read about every month. But I hadn’t yet experienced the extravaganza that was the annual two-issue JLA-JSA team-up — I’d missed the 1965 event by just a couple of months — and I didn’t have any real familiarity with most of the characters who didn’t have “Earth-One” counterparts. So I don’t know exactly what I expected when I opened up this book for the first time (after flattening out its mailed-subscription-copy crease, of course). I’m pretty damn sure, however, that I wasn’t the least bit disappointed. Read More
This issue featured the second appearance of the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, as a guest star in the comic book headlined by his “successor”, Hal Jordan. Alan’s first guest shot had occurred less than a year previously, in Green Lantern #40’s “The Secret Origin of the Guardians” — a tale that eventually turned out to be one of the most consequential stories DC ever published, at least in terms of fictional universe-building (or, more accurately, multiverse-building). Although this second team-up of the two Lanterns, “Prince Peril’s Power Play”, was produced by the same creative team of writer John Broome, penciller Gil Kane, and inker Sid Greene, it wasn’t destined to achieve the same fame as the first one; still, it had (and has) several special things going for it. One of these was a second, different “guest appearance”, of a wholly different sort from Alan Scott’s, which we’ll get around to discussing a little later. Another was a greatly expanded role for a supporting character who’d only appeared briefly in GL #40 — Alan Scott’s chauffeur and sidekick, Charles “Doiby” Dickles. Read More
Once upon a time, in the long-distant, antediluvian past, comic books were a lot like movies, or television shows. You caught them when they first came out (or on), or you were out of luck. Eventually, as we all know, the advent of consumer videotape technology changed everything for TV and film. Similarly, the gradual development of the comics collectors’ market ultimately made it economically feasible to reprint old, ephemeral newsprint periodicals in brand new, designed-to-last, real-book editions, and then to keep them in print for, if not ever, then a lot longer than a month or two. These days, in fact, you can even download a digital copy of a fifty-year-old comic book for less than the cost of a new one. (What a world we live in. You kids today, you just don’t know.) Read More
Hawkman was the fourth member of the Justice League of America on whose solo adventures I eventually decided to gamble 12 cents, his having been preceded by Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, and the Flash. (Wonder Woman, the Atom, and Aquaman would eventually follow, though unfortunately Green Arrow had already lost his supporting slot in World’s Finest by this time, and I wouldn’t get around to checking out House of Mystery until well after its doors had shut on the Martian Manhunter.) Most of what I knew about the Winged Wonder came from Justice League of America #41, where I’d learned that both Hawkman and his wife, the similarly attired and identically powered (but perhaps slightly smarter) Hawkgirl, were alien police officers from the planet Thanagar, operating undercover on Earth for reasons I didn’t quite understand yet. Read More
Guest appearances and crossovers are par for the course in the superhero comics of today, but it wasn’t always that way, at least not at DC Comics. In 1966 you had DC’s big guns teaming up every month (more or less) in Justice League of America, and Superman and Batman appearing together regularly in World’s Finest. And The Brave and the Bold had by now evolved into a book featuring a constantly revolving lineup of (usually) two headliners (although Batman would soon lock down one of the co-starring slots as an ongoing gig). But to have, say, Aquaman turn up in an issue of Wonder Woman? That sort of thing didn’t happen very often. Read More
I’ve mentioned DC’s The Brave and the Bold in a couple of earlier posts. This comic got its start in 1955 as the home for a variety of historical adventure series, starring swashbuckling heroes like the Viking Prince, the Golden Gladiator, Robin Hood, and the Silent Knight. Later, it became a tryout book, showcasing new characters and concepts that could be spun off into their own series if their “pilot” issue sold well enough. In this iteration, the book saw the first appearances of the Suicide Squad, the “Silver Age”Hawkman, Metamorpho, and (most successfully) the Justice League of America. With its 50th issue, however, the book began a transition towards becoming a one-off team-up comic, with a rotating roster of (normally) two characters sharing cover-billing. My own first issue of The Brave and the Bold, #64, was the second to feature one of DC’s two most popular heroes, Batman, as one of the two headliners; over the next eighteen years, however, it would be succeeded by 132 more such team-ups starring the Caped Crusader. It was thus a typical issue of the series in terms of what was to come, if not what had gone before. Read More