Justice League of America #103 (December, 1972)

I may be misremembering, but I have a vague recollection of my fifteen-year-old self looking at this one at the spinner rack back in October, 1972 and thinking, “The Justice League standing around a grave site?  Again?”  After all, it had only been three issues since artist Nick Cardy had built his cover for JLA #100 around a similar idea.  On the other hand, it was October — the spooky season — and what could be spookier than an open grave?  Especially when said grave was being ominously loomed over by… hey, is that the Phantom Stranger?  In an issue of Justice League of America?  Forget about repetitive cover concepts; I couldn’t wait to buy this one and take it home.  Read More

Justice League of America #102 (October, 1972)

Fifty years ago, this issue brought the conclusion of the tenth annual Justice League-Justice Society summer team-up extravaganza — a special event which also served to commemorate the League’s reaching its 100th issue milestone.  Making the occasion even more memorable, this JLA-JSA get-together was the first to take up three whole issues; it also featured the unexpected return, after twenty-seven years, of yet another DC Comics superhero team: the Seven Soldiers of Victory.

Or maybe that should be most of the Seven Soldiers of Victory, since one of the key mysteries of the storyline concerns a lonely grave standing on a Himalayan peak, with a stone marker inscribed to an “Unknown Soldier of Victory”.  As of the conclusion of JLA #101, small teams of Justice League and Justice Society members have retrieved four out of seven of the time-lost Soldiers (or Law’s Legionnaires, as they’re also called) — the Crimson Avenger, the Shining Knight, Green Arrow, and Stripesy — with three more left to go.  So who’s buried in the Unknown Soldier’s grave?  Is it Vigilante?  The Star-Spangled Kid?  Speedy?

The answer, as many of you reading this already know, is:  none of the above.  Which is, and simultaneously is not, a cheat.  But we’ll get to that soon enough — just as we’ll get to the solution to the separate mystery posed by Nick Cardy’s superb cover (his best yet for the title, in the opinion of your humble blogger) — who else among our heroes is doomed to die?  Read More

Justice League of America #101 (September, 1972)

The fifty-year old comic book that’s the subject of today’s post features the middle chapter of the three-month-long celebration of Justice League of America‘s reaching its hundredth-issue milestone, as well as of the tenth annual summer event co-starring the JLA’s predecessors from the Golden Age of Comics, the Justice Society.  Your humble blogger is as eager as the rest of you to jump back into the story by writer Len Wein, penciller Dick Dillin, and inker Joe Giella — but before we do, let’s take a good, close look at the cover by Nick Cardy.

Like all of the other JLA covers of this era, it features a left-hand column of League members’ floating heads (this particular issue also includes a right-hand column of JSA heads as an added bonus).  But unlike virtually any other such cover, there are only three full-time active members of the League included in this group of five — the presently non-powered Diana Prince being on a leave of absence, while Metamorpho is only a “reserve member”.  That meager number is the max number of “official” JLAers appearing in the story as well. Read More

Batman #244 (September, 1972)

Neal Adams’ cover for Batman #244 is probably one of the most famous and iconic comic book covers of its era.  There are a number of good reasons for that, starting with the sheer drama of the moment it depicts, as our hero lies vanquished, perhaps even dead, at the feet of his greatest enemy, Ra’s al Ghul.  Then there’s the strength of Adams’ composition, which frames that dramatic moment so perfectly, as well as the sophisticated coloring by Adams and Jack Adler, which wonderfully enhances the mood as well as the visual appeal of the illustration.

And then there’s the chest hair.  Oh, and the nipples, of course.  Mustn’t forget the nipples.  Read More

Wonder Woman #202 (Sep.-Oct., 1972)

In July, 1972, I bought my second-ever issue of Wonder Woman.  My first issue had been #171 (Jul.-Aug., 1967) — and as I wrote here on the blog back in May, 2017, my nine-year-old self hadn’t been all that taken at the time with Robert Kanigher’s silly scripts, nor had the art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito held much appeal for me.  So, what motivated me to finally get around to giving the title another go, five years later?

It wasn’t the whole “New Wonder Woman”, white-jumpsuited Diana Rigg Prince thing, for sure; that had been around since 1968, and if it hadn’t inspired me to lay down my coin to check it out yet, it wasn’t going to.  No, it was the appearance on the Dick Giordano-drawn cover of perhaps the two most unlikely guest stars I could have imagined — science fiction and fantasy author Fritz Lieber’s sword-and-sorcery heroes, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.  What the heck were those guys doing on the cover of any DC comic book — let alone Wonder WomanRead More

Justice League of America #100 (August, 1972)

In the spring of 1972, Len Wein had been writing comics professionally for almost four years.  The career trajectory of the 23-year-old fan-turned-pro had thus far taken him from writing scripts for DC titles like The Adventures of Jerry Lewis, House of Secrets, and Hot Wheels, to similar work at other publishers including Marvel, Skywald, and Gold Key (Star Trek being among his gigs at the latter outfit), and then back to DC, where he’d been scripting Phantom Stranger for about a year, among other assignments.  But his experience with the publisher’s best-known super-heroes had largely been limited to a single issue of Teen Titans, one Batman story in Detective (both co-written with his friend Marv Wolfman), and, more recently, a smattering of tales in Superman, Flash, World’s Finest, and Adventure.  So you can imagine his surprise (and excitement, and trepidation) when, out of the blue, editor Julius Schwartz asked him if he’d like to write Justice League of America on a regular basis:  Read More

Batman #242 (June, 1972)

In addition to being a fine piece of artwork by Michael W. Kaluta, the cover of Batman #242 represents a minor milestone of sorts; outside of those for a small handful of giant-sized all-reprint issues, it was the first cover since October, 1969 for either Batman or its companion title, Detective Comics, not to have been drawn by Neal Adams.  (That particular month, not so coincidentally, was the same one in which those titles’ editor at DC Comics, Julius Schwartz, introduced the Caped Crusader’s “Big Change” — a return to a moodier, more grounded approach to the hero that was largely inspired by what Adams had been doing over in Brave and the Bold for the last year or so.) Read More

Justice League of America #97 (March, 1972)

During the nearly yearlong period (June, 1971 through April, 1972) that DC Comics published most of their books in a giant-sized, 25-cent format, Justice League of America presented a particular sort of challenge for its editor, Julius Schwartz.  The problem arose from the fact that the new, larger format called for a certain amount of reprint material — generally, 13 to 15 pages’ worth — to fill out each issue.  And whereas for Schwartz’s other books, such as Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Superman, there was a ready archive of suitable old stories featuring the titular stars, the same wasn’t true for JLA, which from the beginning had been devoted to issue-length tales of more than 20 pages.  Such stories weren’t going to work as backups in the new format without being either cut in half or severely abridged, neither of which options seems to have appealed to the veteran editor.  Read More

Batman #237 (December, 1971)

Batman #237’s “Night of the Reaper!” wasn’t the first comic book story set at the real-life Rutland, VT Halloween Parade; that distinction goes to Avengers #83, which was published one year earlier (and was covered here on this blog last October).  Nor would it be the last such tale.

But it was almost certainly the best of the bunch.

That’s really not surprising, given that the story was crafted by one of the most outstanding creative teams of the era — writer Denny O’Neil, penciller Neal Adams, and inker Dick Giordano — as well as that it, more than most of its fellows, aspired to be about something more than either the Parade itself, or conventional superheroic goings-on — something decidedly more serious, in fact — and was largely successful in achieving this aim, ultimately addressing the subject of the Holocaust in a dramatic, but sensitive, manner.

Nevertheless, the origins of this classic story in certain actual (but not very serious) events — and the appearance within its pages of several equally actual persons who either already were, or would soon become, well-known comics industry professionals — can’t help but be responsible for a certain amount of “Night of the Reaper!” lasting appeal.  And it’s with those events, and persons, that we begin.  Read More