JUSTICE LEAGUE # 183-185 (O-D'80): Where Have All The New Gods Gone?/ Apokolips Now!/Darkseid Rising!
By Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin (#183), George Perez (#184-185), Frank McLaughlin and Len Wein (editor).
Personal Note: George Perez is an amazing artist whose work has gotten even better over the years. Fantastic Four, The Avengers, Justice League of America and, of course, New Teen Titans have all benefitted from his contributions. Any true fan would want him on their favorite title. And he wanted to do JLA but not under these circumstances.
Dick Dillin, after drawing Justice League of America since #64 in 1968 (missing only two issues in that run) died at the young age of 51. He also had long runs in Blackhawk, World's Finest and DC Comics Presents. He was the artist of two of the first four comics that I ever read. His work improved throughout the 70s and he drew the majority of the heroes and villains of the DCU at one time or another. The news of his passing shocked the fifteen old me and was truly the end of an era. Thinking back, perhaps his passing combined with New Teen Titans #1 signaled the end of the Bronze Age, my Golden Age.
Character Notes: By this time, Gerry Conway had added to the Justice League his own creation: Firestorm the Nuclear Man! But as he giveth, Conway also tooketh away as Green Arrow resigned because he felt he and the League weren't on the same page anymore. That and his candidate for membership, Black Lightning, didn't even want to join!
The JLA: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and Firestorm
The JSA: Doctor Fate, Wonder Woman, Power Girl and the Huntress
The New Gods: Orion the Hunter, Metron, Mister Miracle, Big Barda and Oberon
The InJustice Society: The Fiddler, the Icicle and the Shade
More to follow!
Somehow, that reminds me of something Steve Englehart complained about at his website. In the late 80's, there was a general editorial mandate at Marvel to "put things back as they were", and a lot of forward-thinking character evolution was completely overturned in favor of ensuring their "properties" would be more recognizable to casual audiences. This was when Tom DeFalco took over as EIC, and of course, he got his start writing ARCHIE COMICS.
I said on this thread that superheroes are torn between what they ARE - ideal heroes embodying something mythical and engaging on a human level - and what they DO - take part in stories that build on each other over time and depend on dramatic, often traumatic events.
Looks like DeFalco was taking a particular stand on that issue. There's no happy resolution of the quandry that I can see. Some of the most successful superhero comics eg the Silver Age Superman basically reset the continuity back to the start before each new story. Lois never puts together ALL the previous times Clark has seemed to be Superman, but had an excuse that one time in each case.
I recently got an issue of Comics Interview from 1884 or so with a really long interview with John Byrne. I'd love to discuss it on its own thread. Some of it was a fascinating look at a particular moment in time. Byrne was at the very pinnacle of his success as a creator and surveying his work from that lofty unassailable height.
Anyway, he mentioned the Questprobe comics that tied into the computer games. He said that he had to show them that the Marvel U was a DYNAMIC universe where things constantly changed and grew. Thus he had to lay out where each character was in their development at the point the comics were set in, rather than point to a single timeless status quo for each character. He boasted that he got thousands of dollars for a few hours work for that. (It was that kind of interview.)
All in all, I disagree with DeFalco's project, in principle, if it was what you say it was. At the same time, Marvel Comics had strayed very far from what I conceived it to be by the late-80s and I only got interested in them again when it became more recogniseable later in the 90s.
I'm wondering if so much of DC in the late 70s was so anodyne because that was where the highly publicised campaign to channel some of the millions generated by Superman and its spin-offs back to Seigel and Schuster was taking place? The blockbusting Superman movie would have concentrated a lot of thought on the issue at the same time. The writers would have been thinking about how not to gift DC with anything too original and brilliant for only page rates while they were working for them. Recycle tired old concepts and continuity points while saving their best stuff for their novels and screenplays.
I read the Starro issues of Conway's JLA last night. They weren't bad. The mini-Starros on people's faces were very striking. Was that the first time that had been used?
Hmmm. Edited to add: I guess it was riffing on the facehuggers from Alien of a year or two before.
Just to give a little counterpoint, Figs because there were new DC characters debutting in the late 70s. And yes, some of them are revisions and reimagining of older heroes and villains but that was going on since 1956 and the Silver Age Flash!
Granted not the most impressive list but it does show creators not afraid to add to the DCU. And Marvel had many more!
(Thanks to Wikipedia!)
I could quibble with quite a few of those. Aren't the Wonder Twins from the Superfriends show?
But I'm not saying there was no innovation and evidence of real engagement from the writers across the board.
I haven't a great exposure to late 70s DC, but DC Comics Presents and the Justice League of this era, which I have looked at, both are dominated by rehashing of old concepts and continuity points. Storytelling is its own reward too, and the creators couldn't help but bring in new concepts and good character innovations as they went about their work. However, those two series do show, to me at least, that the concerns about ownership and lack of incentive to produce stories that have a life beyond the newsstand that month are dragging down the stories.
Occasionally, creators resolve to forge ahead with great stories with full awareness of the conditions they are writing in. Mantlo, Claremont, Byrne, that I know of, produced great stories around this time with an open-eyed understanding of their relationship, financially etc to the work. It was a new professionalism after the kind of wholly understandable disengagement and insincerity that I am seeing in Conway's work, and that I feel was shared by many of his contemporaries in the mid-to-late seventies.
(Late 70s Legion of Superheroes might be brilliant and I look forward to reading it some day!)
Silver StCloud resulted from one writer resolving to tell one great sequence of stories despite how the comics companies ran things, before he planned to leave comics altogether in frustration.
Perez' start on Teen Titans, a great series, is concurrent with these JLA issues I'm looking at, and its another example of a professionalism that I see in early 80s comics.
I always got the impression that George Perez (like Keith Giffen) brought a LOT of ideas to any book he worked on, very much in the spirit of "the Marvel Method" where a penciller may contribute 50% or more to any given issue's plot. So George Perez' issues of JLA tend to be MUCH BETTER reads than any other issues Gerry Conway worked on, simply because George was doing them.
I met Perez at a store appearance about the time he and Marv Wolfman were starting up TITANS. I remember he kept mentioning "Titans" and it took me some time before I finally realized what he was talking about. They wanted to call it "Titans", but DC insisted on keeping it "TEEN Titans". I forget if he'd made his decision by that time. I know I heard that after being fired for blowing too many deadlines (he picked up Rich Bucker's worst habit, doing 4 projects at once and blowing deadlines on al of them), he finally decided to get his act together now that he was at DC. Between JLA and TITANS, he realized he had to decide which book to pick and which book to DROP... he picked TITANS, dropped JLA, and within months, got WAY ahead on deadlines. I believe he may have been a whole YEAR ahead on the book when they decided to do a 4-issue mini-series spin-off, and then, an Annual. Except for the one early issue where Curt Swan filled in (what a cool fill-in that was!!!), George did the longest unbroken run of anything he had ever done up to that point. It was wonderful to see. (I'd been writing fan letters for years by then nagging him to do just what he wound up doing!)
I forget who at DC it was that started improving things for freelancers, I know Jeanette Kahn was involved, I believe Paul Levitz was also involved (long before he became EIC), but they started paying royalties and working out deals for anyone who actually CREATED new characters if they turned up in licensed projects, from merchandise to movies. Even the most minor, insignificant-seeming character could net a writer a small fortune if that character turned up in a movie (as happened with Lucius Fox in BATMAN BEGINS).
Marvel's most progressive activities (designed to make it more attractive for creators to work for them again, and to compete with the then-growing direct market) were in their Epic line. I know Jim Shooter kept fighting the whole time he was EIC to improve the lot of freelancers (despite his almost total lack of people skills, which totally alienated scores of freelancers). Sadly, he also made a lot of enemies in upper management by doing this, so when he eventually got booted out, it seemed he had no friends on either side. And management apparently retrenched as much as possible, to screw over freelancers as much as possible. (The upper-level behind-the-scenes B.S. which led to them declaring bankruptcy in the 90's only made things worse.)
I'm sorry, what was the question? : )
So George Perez' issues of JLA tend to be MUCH BETTER reads than any other issues Gerry Conway worked on, simply because George was doing them.
Just read a few more, done by Perez, and would have to agree. Things pick up! Buckler might be good artwork, but Perez is good comics.
I'm also reading some Teen Titans these days. Pretty wonderful so far.
I wonder can we put a year on the time when they brought in the royalties for new creations deal at DC?
so when he eventually got booted out, it seemed he had no friends on either side.
It's always hard being caught in the middle like that. Shooter's story is a bit more nuanced than him being just an ogre.
I don't get how the 'kid audience' argument excuses anodyne, somnolent comics.
It's not a fault in a comic intended for adults that it doesn't appeal to kids; I think likewise it's not a fault in comics intended for kids if they don't seem exciting to us adults. I bought my niece some second-hand Richie Rich comics a few years ago, partly to take the opportunity to read them. I found I just didn't like them, but I went through a phase as a young reader where I liked them.
I don't remember the JLA/JSA New Gods story as great, but I think you're too harsh on "ordinary" material. I found the story OK when I first read it.
I agree with Luke that Conway's JLA/JSA/New Gods was your basic comic book story, getting a "C+" grade if only for the Young Gods rebellion subplot which had little to do with the main narrative.
But Conway did write some great JLA stories and shook things up a lot. Off the top of my head (and this is from memory so the issues may be wrong), he
That's of course not including the multiple JLA/JSA team-ups, the Ultraa issues, the other George Perez stories and the DC Western crossover!
It's amazing how many new people joined (or almost joined) the JLA during that run, balanced out by Ollie quitting in a huff. Firestorm felt more personal, as he was Gerry's creation. It later led (I believe) to Firestorm joining the team on the last 2 seasons of SUPER FRIENDS. Revealing that Red Tornado's origin wasn't what everyone believed it had been all that time felt like a continuiation of the strange parallel between him and The Vision, whose Steve Englehart had fleshed out during the "Celestial Madonna" period of AVENGERS. (Not too long before Perez got on that book the first time.)
"and the DC Western crossover!"
Isn't it nuts they got "technical" inker Brett Breeding (whose style was similar to Bob Layton) to ink the WESTERN story? At the time I thought it was the best Don Heck had looked in ages. Looking back, it makes me think someone really missed a sure bet by NEVER having Heck & Layton together for even one issue of IRON MAN. (Of the two, Heck was by far the better visual storyteller, even if his inks didn't really suit superhero books, which Layton's DID.)
Steve Englehart & George Perez (him again?) had already done a time-travel "Western Team-Up" in AVENGERS #142-143. Maybe it would have been too much for George to do both of them. Much later, THE GAMBLER: THE LUCK OF THE DRAW did something vaguely similar, when it featured multiple cameos by 60's TV western heroes, and one 70's western hero (Kwai Chang Caine). Several of the same characters reunited later on in a time-travel episode of KUNG FU: THE LEGEND CONTINUES. It's funny, until this minute, I never connected the 2 TV films with those 70's comics...
OK, first of all, when I wrote ‘Rubbish’ at the end of my first post on the New Gods crossover, of course I admit that is the worse kind of drive-by ‘because I say so’ criticism.
(It was still fun to write though!)
With a word like ‘Rubbish’ it’s a given that it’s a very subjective opinion. I was experimenting with brevity, but what the hell, I’ll elaborate...
I’m not sure that ‘I liked it when I was 10, and didn’t know any better’ is a good defence of something, nor its cousin, ‘lots of 10 year olds, who didn’t know any better, liked it.’ I liked Benny Hill’s comedy when I was 10, but as an adult, much of it is simply offensive. I’d never dream of defending it by saying ‘It was good when I was 10’.
Way back in the dim mists, shortly after I bought the collection that contains this story, I did read this 3-parter and found it to be ‘harmless’. Not quite C+ though. That was before we started rereading Kirby’s New Gods and I re-experienced how fantastic and personal that epic was shaping up to be before Kirby was thrown off it. Everything has its context and that is the context of Conway’s New Gods efforts. It’s great to be 10 and not know much, but the trouble with knowledge is that it can’t be unknowed once you've acquired it.
On the grounds of pure artistry/aesthetics, as any sort of continuation of the comics we are looking at on the Kirby thread, this JLA/New Gods story is insulting, so there’s that.
Anyone attempting to take on the King at his own game deserves all the critical brickbats that can be fired at him if they go down in flames. To fail is one thing, but to fail when he’d so obviously not bothered doing any homework or attempted to understand remotely what Kirby was trying to do with the properties is all the more pathetic.
Further, from what I understand, insofar as he would have known about/looked at the New Gods books produced between New Gods 11 and Hunger Dogs, it would have been deeply painful to Kirby himself to see his cherished project being so horribly mishandled by the people who took them off him in the first place.. I know fanboys have to have their superhero comics and this talk of any restraint on the corporations’ output of them due to respect for creators is a touchy subject. Still, any enjoyment/profit this New Gods spin-off created amongst the 10 year olds of 1980 doesn’t outweigh in my mind the actual pain it would have caused to Jack Kirby, a great man and a colossus of our hobby.
That Corporations should make money is an undisputed pillar of our modern world, (which people can get touchy about defending too), so I know I’m not speaking a universal truth here, when I say that this is another instance of DC behaving in a less than civil fashion towards their creators, and as such, it's a mark against it.
So this is how I look at these ‘ordinary’ issues of New Gods. They are insulting rubbish, and shame on all concerned! :-) (It’s good to vent sometimes!)
Having said that, I’m still enough of a fanboy myself, to happily see any of Kirby’s (or Fox’s or Ditko’s, etc ) vast incredible output used well in good modern stories. (OK, I'm a hypocrite,)
There's more to say on why I found the surrounding JLA stories so disappointing but I aint got the time right now.