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
“Batmania” may have dominated the pop culture landscape in 1966, but it was by no means the only thing going on at the time — not even within the smaller sphere of pop-cultural activity that was of special interest to nine-year-old boys such as myself. For one thing, there was also The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (that’s the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, for those of you who don’t already know, and yet might actually care for some reason), in addition to being something of a mini-phenomenon of its own, was of course also part of the larger wave of popularity of the “super-spy” genre in the early-to-mid-Sixties. The wellspring of this popularity was author Ian Fleming’s James Bond, the hero of a series of espionage thrillers who’d debuted in 1953, but who’d really taken off (especially in the United States), when it was revealed that President John F. Kennedy was a fan. By 1966, the enormous success of Agent 007 had yielded a crop of imitators as well as variations on the “spy-fi” concept, including TV’s spoof Get Smart and Western-spy-fi genre hybrid The Wild Wild West, not to mention comics’ Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents series. Read More
By October, 1966, United States military forces had been operating in Vietnam for over a decade, though mostly in an advisory role for much of that time. Beginning in 1961, however, President John F. Kennedy had greatly increased the number of American troops stationed in the region; and his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, had used the authority of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, passed in August, 1964, to escalate the U.S.’s military role in the conflict between North and South Vietnam. The deployment of 3,500 Marines in March, 1965, effectively began the American ground war there. By December of that year, the number of U.S. troops had been increased to 200,000. 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
If you’ve been a comics fan for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with the concept of the “Silver Age of Comics” — a hallowed era of comic book history extending from (probably) 1956 to (maybe) 1970. You may even have an image that comes to mind if someone says a phrase like “the Silver Age Flash”, or “the Silver Age Thor”, visualizing an emblematic artistic interpretation of a character that flourished in that era. But even if you’re as old and grizzled a fan as this blogger, you may find yourself hesitant, and even confused, should someone ask you to visualize “the Silver Age Batman.”
That’s as it should be, frankly, because the decade-and-a-half period we call the Silver Age encompassed a number of distinct interpretations of Batman, all involving different approaches to depicting (in story, as well as art), the character and his world. My own, personal inclination is to identify the “Silver Age Batman” with editor Julius Schwartz’ “New Look” version of the character, introduced in 1964. And I can make a strong case for that, I believe, based on Schwartz’ role in the Silver Age revival of superheroes like Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, and the Atom — said revival being one of the main markers of the era. But, when it comes right down to it, my inclination probably owes at least as much to the fact that that version of Batman happens to be the one I first encountered as a reader, way back in 1965. Read More
According to both the Grand Comics Database and Mike’s Amazing World, this issue was released to newsstands and other retail outlets on July 26, 1966. I probably received my mailed subscription copy a week or so before that — but whenever it was that I finally held this book in my grubby little nine-year-old hands, it had been a long, long month-and-a-half since the conclusion of the previous issue — the first half of the first bona fide continued story I’d thus far encountered in comic books — had left me hanging precariously off the edge of a cliff. Summers always seemed longer when I was a kid, of course, but that summer was probably the longest of my life, either before or since.
Beyond my overall excitement on finally having the issue in my possession, I have no specific recollection of what I thought when I first looked at the cover — but I’d like to think that I was at least momentarily nonplussed by the sheer immensity of the figure of Batman. The Caped Crusader had been given greater and greater prominence on the covers of JLA over the last several issues, but for him to literally dwarf every other hero depicted in the cover scene — that was new. 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
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
By December, 1965, I had been buying and reading comics for almost half a year, and in that time Justice League of America had definitely become my favorite comic book — the one series I would buy whenever I saw a new issue. That’s not surprising, I guess, considering its all-star cast of heroes. Concurrently, I had also sampled individual issues of a number of the Justice League members’ own series (and most of those that I hadn’t gotten around to yet, I’d be checking out before long). But there were other DC heroes I only glanced at when perusing the spinner racks at the Tote-Sum. These particular heroes — characters like the Doom Patrol, the Metal Men, and Ultra the Multi-Alien — were a little more bizarre, and a little less-human seeming, than Superman, Batman, and the rest of the JLA gang. Nevertheless, there was a way for such characters to get my attention, and that was to appear in the JLA’s own book — as Metamorpho, the Element Man, did in Justice League of America #42’s “Metamorpho Says — No!” (produced, per the Grand Comics Database, by the series’ regular team of writer Gardner Fox, penciller Mike Sekowsky, and inker Bernard Sachs). Read More
Before re-reading this comic in preparation for this blog post — probably the first time I’d cracked its cover in at least three decades — I had been remembering it as a more typical example of the JLA stories of the period than the first one that I’d bought and read, the philosophical and essentially villain-less “The Indestructible Creatures of Nightmare Island!” in JLA #40. As it turns out, however, this issue has a good bit more in common with its immediate predecessor than I’d previously recalled. Like in that story, the main action here turns upon a character manipulating people’s attitudes and behaviors by artificial means. However, in “The Key-Master of the World!” (uncredited, but produced by the book’s regular creative team of Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, and Bernard Sachs, according to the Grand Comics Database), the manipulation is limited only to the titular heroes rather than affecting the whole world, and the perpetrator’s intent is malicious, rather than benign. Read More