Some fifteen months ago, I blogged about Avengers #70, which featured the first full appearance of the Squadron Sinister. Regular readers may recall my sheepish confession in that post that, despite how blindingly obvious it is to me now that these four characters were homages to/parodies of (take your pick) DC Comics’ Superman, Batman, Flash, and Green Lantern, in September, 1969 my then twelve-year-old self didn’t pick up on the joke at all.
Nor was I aware that this comic book was one half of a “stealth crossover” of sorts between Marvel Comics’ Avengers and its counterpart title over at DC, Justice League of America. Said crossover apparently had its origins at a party at which comics writer Mike Friedrich suggested to a couple of his cohorts, Roy Thomas (the writer of Avengers) and Denny O’Neil (then the writer of JLA), that they each present a “tip of the hat” of some sort from the super-team book they were writing to its rival, in issues coming out in the same month. Thomas and O’Neil both agreed, and Avengers #70 and JLA #75 were the results. But while the inspiration for Thomas’ Squadron Sinister was all but self-evident (though of course not to me, or to the other fans who chimed in after my September, 2019 blog post that they hadn’t caught on either), the relationship of the supposed Avengers analogues in O’Neil’s story — evil doppelgängers of the Justice League called “the Destructors” — to their Marvel models was obscure to the point of opacity, with the parallels being limited to such bits as having Superman’s dark twin refer to himself as being as powerful as Thor. (Um, sure.) I didn’t actually buy JLA #75 when it came out, but I’m all but 100% certain I wouldn’t have realized what O’Neil was up to with such subtle shenanigans, even if I had. Read More
The second half of 1969’s iteration of DC Comics’ annual summer event teaming the Justice League of America with their Golden Age predecessors, the Justice Society of America, sported a cover that was — for this particular twelve-year-old’s money — considerably more exciting than the previous issue‘s. That cover had featured a row of JSAers looking on passively while some nameless kid ripped up a lamppost; this one, pencilled and inked by Neal Adams, heralded the first meeting between the Superman of Earth-One (the one currently appearing in multiple DC titles every month) and the Superman of Earth-Two (the one who’d ushered in the whole Golden Age of Comics in the first place in 1938’s Action Comics #1) — and from the looks of things, it was going to be a, shall we say, rather contentious meeting. That I would buy this comic book was never in question; but I have a hard time imagining anyone who was even a casual reader of DC superhero comics seeing this book in the spinner rack in July, 1969, and not picking it up. 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
In May, 1968, I was a regular buyer and reader of The Spectre — or at least as regular as I could be, short of shelling out for a year’s subscription by mail, considering the state of comic book distribution at the time (as well as my ten-year-old self’s lack of reliable weekly transportation to a comics-selling outlet). I had first come on board in 1966, with the Ghostly Guardian’s third and final tryout appearance in Showcase, and had bought the first issue of his own self-titled series when it finally appeared over a year later. I’d failed to score issue #2 (the first drawn by new regular artist Neal Adams), but otherwise, I had ’em all. 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
When I picked up this issue of Brave and the Bold fifty years ago (give or take a couple of weeks), Batman’s co-star in the book, Plastic Man, had been around for over twenty-six years — almost as long as the Caped Crusader himself. But he’d only been a DC Comics hero for a little over one year — which is about as long as my ten-year-old self had been aware of him. Read More
In January, 2016, some six months after the debut of this blog, I posted “a spoiler warning for all seasons” — a page dedicated to the idea that, while some might find the idea of spoiler warnings for comic book stories of a half-century’s vintage to be a little absurd, others might expect them as a matter of course. Since then, that single page has served as my blanket spoiler warning for any and all fifty-year-old comics discussed over the course of the blog. Today, however, we have a somewhat different situation, as I’m planning to refer to the concluding scene of a very recent comic book, namely Batman (2016) #32, which will have been on sale for only about three weeks at the time of this post’s publication.
So, here you go: if you haven’t yet read Tom King and Mikel Jamin’s concluding chapter to “The War of Jokes and Riddles”, and you’re planning to, and you’d rather not know what happens on the last page — consider yourself hereby warned.
And now, on with our regularly scheduled 50 Year Old Comic Book… Read More
Fans of the Flash who’ve only been reading about him in comics for say, the last quarter century or so — not to mention fans who primarily know him from the current CW network TV series — may find this a difficult notion to grasp; but, back in his Silver Age heyday, Barry Allen did not regularly share his adventures with other costumed speedsters. While it’s true that my own first issue of The Flash, bought and read in the September of 1965, featured an appearance by Barry’s teenage protégé Wally West — aka Kid Flash — as of summer, 1967, I hadn’t seen the two together again since. And while I was familiar with Barry’s Golden Age predecessor as the Flash, Jay Garrick, I’d only actually seen him in action in a vintage 1947 adventure that had been reprinted in Flash #160. — I’d yet to see him team up with “my” Flash, or even with his fellow Justice Society of America members in one of the annual Justice League – Justice Society team-up extravaganzas..
All of which is intended to convey to you, dear reader, that when this comic book came out in July, 1967 — with its terrific cover (penciled by Carmine Infantino, inked by Murphy Anderson, and strikingly lettered by the great Ira Schnapp) promising not one, not two, but three Flashes in one story together — it was a big honking deal for my ten-year-old self. Read More
From June, 1966 through May, 1967, DC Comics published nine issues of Justice League of America, all of which capitalized on the enormous popularity of the Batman television show by prominently featuring the Caped Crusader on their covers. Upon its publication on June 13, 1967, Justice League of America #55 clearly marked the end of that year-long run of exploitative, Batman-dominated covers.
Um, sort of. OK, not really. Because this issue’s Mike Sekowsky-Murphy Anderson cover, featuring the debut of “a grown-up Robin” whose costume was an amalgam of the duds traditionally worn by both the Boy Wonder and his august mentor, was obviously trading on Batmania as much as any other JLA cover that editor Julius Schwartz had seen through production in the last twelve months. 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