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
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
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
Back in 1967, when DC Comics’ newly-promoted Art Director, Carmine Infantino, discovered Neal Adams toiling away in a production room on one of the company’s “third-string” (Infantino’s words) titles — The Adventures of Jerry Lewis, perhaps — and determined that the young artist’s talents could and should be put to better use, one of the first better uses he put them to was to produce covers for DC’s “Superman family” books. These comics had been under the editorship of Mort Weisinger for a long, long time — decades, in some cases — and their covers all had a particular “look”, typified by the style of artist Curt Swan. The advent of Adams’ more dynamic style represented a sea-change for the Superman books, and, by extension — given the Man of Steel’s flagship status — the rest of DC’s line, as well. Read More
If you’ve been reading this blog for a few months or more, you’ll recall (I hope) our post back in June about Superman #199, the classic DC comic book that featured the first-ever race between Superman and the Flash. That race ended in a tie, but the end of the story promised us readers a “terrific rematch, coming soon in The Flash!” So when the DC house ads for Flash #175 began appearing a few months later, my ten-year-old self was pumped. Surely, when the second race was run in the Fastest Man Alive’s own series, he’d win the victory that he so obviously and logically deserved (in my mind, anyway. See that earlier post for more details of my reasoning). And regardless of the outcome, with Carmine Infantino (the artist who’d pencilled every single Flash solo story I’d ever read) drawing the book, it was bound to look great.
Well. Things didn’t quite work out as my ten-year-old self expected. Read More
About two years ago, a couple of months following the debut of this blog, I wrote a post about the first issue of Justice League of America I ever bought (#40), a comic book I credited with making a significant contribution to my personal moral development. As I said at the time, I thought that that particular issue, though missing the mark in some ways (and simply feeling dated in others), still held up pretty well as an earnest endorsement of individual ethical responsibility, informed by an awareness and appreciation of the common humanity we all share. Since that time, I’ve been looking forward to re-reading and re-appraising Justice League of America #57, an issue with a similar theme, produced by the same writer, penciller, and editor as #40 (Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, and Julius Schwartz, respectively) — and expecting that it would hold up just as well.
Now that the time has come, however, I regret that I have to say that the book doesn’t hold up quite as well as its predecessor — at least, it doesn’t for this reader. Which is not to say that it’s wholly without merit, or that it’s not worth a visit (or re-visit), fifty years after its original publication. 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
Justice League of America #44 was the first comic book I ever got through the mail. It came in a brown paper wrapper. And it was folded in two, lengthwise.
Which, of course, would significantly lessen its future value as a collectible, but my eight-year-old self hardly cared about that. After all, I was the kid who cut the logo off the cover of Superman #181 and cut up a story page in The Brave and the Bold #64 for the subscription coupon on the back — said subscription coupon being the very reason why I was now receiving my first issue of JLA through the mail, just a few months after I’d mailed the coupon in, accompanied by a single dollar bill. (One dollar for 10 issues! I saved a whole 2 cents per comic book.) 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