All-Star Comics #3 (Winter 1940):

1)I expect that if you've only read one Golden Age adventure of the JSA, this is the one.  It's not bad, but this first issue is more like an anthology than a team book, per se.

 

2)Line-Up: The Atom (Al Pratt), Doctor Fate (Kent Nelson), the Flash (Jay Garrick), the Green Lantern (Alan Scott), the Hawkman (Carter Hall), the  Hour Man (Rex Tyler), the Sandman (Wesley Dodds) and the Spectre (Jim Corrigan), with gate-crasher Johnny Thunder and the Red Tornado (Ma Hunkle), to whom Hourman says "Why, we meant to inviite you but we heard you were busy!" All white guys, of cours,e but only to be expected in those less progressive days. Nowadays, things are much different, since when the Justice League was recently revamped, the founding members were just mostly white guys. That aside, I have no real beef with the membership except the inclusion of Johnny Thunder, a character I've always loathed. If they had to have a "comedy" character on the team, I would've much preferred the Red Tornado.

 

3)The JSA gathers for a dinner. Johnny Thunder crashes the party and offers the suggestion that they each narrate an adventure to pass the time. During the dinner, the Flash is summoned to Washington, DC, to meet with Madam Fatal the head of the FBI.

 

4)No origin is given for the team - they all just sort of seem to know each other, already. Johnny Thunder is aware of the meeting, but the Sandman later says that the meeting is a secret. Although knocking out everyone in the lobby actually seems like it be more likely to draw attention than discourage it.

 

5)Doctor Fate: ""The Spectre and I do not touch food." Just as well, Doc, I wouldn't want to see you try to eat with that helmet on.

 

6)Superman, Batman and Robin and the Tornado are described as being "busy".  I find I don't miss Supes and Bats from the team.

 

7)The art is generally OK - nothing exceptionally good or exceptionally bad.

 

8)The Flash tells how he battled some pirates. A light-hearted story, particularly his encounter with a shark. Comics are far too serious these days to have a scene like that in it.

 

9)Hawkman tells of his battle with some fire people. Moldoff draws his wings REALLY HUGE.

 

10)The Spectre tells of his battle with Oom the Mighty, the goofiest demon ever.

 

11)Hourman tells of his battle with jewel thieves who all dress as Hourman.  Amusing because in the end, everyone thinks Rex Tyler was posing as Hourman when he actually was Hourman!

 

12)We have a brief interval where the Red Tornado drops by long enough for it to be revealed that she tore her pants. The Flash is aware of her as a comics character.

 

13)The Sandman tells of his battle of a mad doctor who creates giants in a particularly creepy tale.  I notice alot of these guys, their girlfirends know their secret ID's, with out it being the end of the world.

 

14)Doctor Fate introduces himself thusly:  " I am not human...I never was a child...I had no youth. The elder gods created me just as I am now, and placed me here on Earth to fight evil sorcery!"  I'm pretty sure this is the only place I remember the character's provenance being set out in this manner. anyhow, Fate tells of his battle with an evil sorceror.  Probably the most distinctive art style on this one.

 

15)Johnny Thunder, having suggested story-telling, says he's too shy to do it, "So the editors have written a story about something that happened to me."  So, he knows he's a comic book character, too. Anyhow, his adventure is a text pice about some silly damn thing he did.

 

16)The Atom battles a gang of gold thieves.  Whenever I see the Golden Age Atom's original costume I wonder why the crooks don't all just laugh themselves to death.

 

17)Green Lantern tells of his battle with some racketeers.

 

18)Cliffhanger: The Flash returns with the message that the head of the FBI wants to meet with them all!

 

Overall: This first issue holds up pretty well, all things considered. I still find it a fun read.

 

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America Vs The Justice Society, an underrated series IMHO, was the first book to actually have the phrase "Justice Society" as part of the title. Roy goes through the entire history of the JSA here as he uncharacteristically focused of the Golden Age Batman and the relationship between Robin and the Huntress. The premise was the publication (by The Daily Star, no less) of the "Batman Diaries" where the Caped Crusader from beyond the grave accuses the JSA of treason during WWII, except for Superman. Probably because he felt that would have been too much for anyone to believe.

There were some great character bits and explanations with an old "friend" being the true traitor and an attempt to mitigate Batman's pointless death.

As for The Last Days of the Justice Society, it was supposed to be a graphic novel but it was released as a "special". By that time, the JSA was in rough shape. Robin and the Huntress were killed off (and soon forgotten), Superman went to another dimension (and was soon forgotten), Wonder Woman ascended to the hidden part of Olympus (and was soon forgotten), Wildcat was crippled, the Sandman was frail and the rest had replacements already or were soon coming. DC wanted the JSA gone. Forever. Period. So instead of killing them off which he could easily done, Roy sent them to Limbo where their "eternal" battle with Surtur safeguarded the new reality. Not the happiest of endings but at least they had the chance to return.

Doctor Fate was kept as he was joining the new Justice League but he was soon revamped. And kept on getting revamped. No one wore the Helmet of Fate for long.

The Star Spangled Kid was spared as he was Infinity, Inc.'s leader and the character Roy saw as most like himself which was odd because he kept on diminishing the power of his cosmic converter belt. He renamed him "Skyman" and things went well after that! ;-)

Power Girl also was retained but she could no longer be the cousin of Superman. Her Post-Crisis origin was centered on a most unlikely character but the story seemed to change all the time from a magical base to a pseudo-Kryptonian to an apparent Kryptonian to whatever they wanted to at that moment!

But Roy didn't sugarcoat it. He told the readers that DC wanted the Justice Society out of their books so the "new" heroes could have their chance!

The one bright side of sticking the JSA in a temporal loop fighting Ragnarok was that during that time, their "real time" rule was suspended, so when they were ultimately returned to action, they hadn't gotten any older. Now, the way they were written off in Zero Hour was harsh!

No kidding! What was DC's problem with the JSA, anyway?

And to think they tried to kill 'em off in favor of Infinity, Inc. I loathed that book when it was coming out, and now I have more reason to loathe it!

Well, if it makes you feel any better, DC did wind up dealing with the various Infinity, Inc. characters like they were the cast of a cheap horror movie.  My only problem with them was that, by the 1980s, they should have been the JSAers' grandkids, which also would have provided more chances to mix and match powers.  For all we saw of Earth-2 in the 1960s, the JSA's kids could have had their own super-team then, The Justice Happening (or whatever) that DC forgot to tell us about.

But still, someone at DC must have really despised the Infinitors, considering the way they were depowered, disgraced, demented, etc.

I couldn't stand Hector Hall. As written, he was the whiniest, brattiest, most self-absorbed superhero I'd ever read about. If I was Hawkman, I'd have taken him over my knee. He couldn't die fast enough for me.

Tell us how you really feel Cap...

Yeah, I wasn't terribly impressed with Infinity Inc. myself.  I kept wanting the kids to sit down and shut up and let the vastly more interesting grown ups do the talking. 

Of course, we did get Mr. Bones out of it, so not all bad.

Ok, I admit that Hector Hall started out obnoxious, and then went downhill with every "fix" from there, altho I thought his Doctor Fate had untapped potential.  Northwind was no prize either, but mostly on the grounds of his utter uselessness--when they finally gave him vague mystical powers, they wrote him out.  Obsidian was clearly made out of pieces of several different concepts (as Roy Thomas' articles in Alter Ego attests), and only really came together as much of anything after he came out--we'd all have been better off if they'd just used Ordway's "Gay Male Harlequin" character for Jade's brother in the first place.  I liked Fury (until Gaiman got a hold of her), Brainwave Junior,  & Jade (however improbable that she was born with internalized power ring energies).  Nuklon could have been something, but never quite made it, and the female Wildcat really deserved better than she got.

I really liked the premise of Infinity, Inc. It had and still has potential. As a kid, I "created" the next generation of the Justice League (Superboy II, Kid Krypton, Mighty Lad, Batlad, Catgirl, Blue Mist, Red Flash, Gold Flash, etc and so forth). So the idea appealed to me. But I agree that DC just didn't want to keep paying Roy Thomas for them.

Hector Hall was an annoying guy who had everything: rich and famous folks, connections, hot girlfriend who could protect him. God, he's like Scott from Keeping Up with the Kardassians if Kourtney was blonde and had super strength. He became the Silver Scarab because he was entitled to, using his father's discoveries. Worse his backstory got uber-confusing with stints as the new Sandman and a version of Doctor Fate.

Lyta Trevor could have been something special. Fury had the pedigree much like the Huntress had and that Donna Troy did not. But she was a blonde with super-strength in a world that had Power Girl who was stronger! And her backstory got uber-uber confusing. I explained it once. I'm not doing it again!

Al Rothstein was a nice enough guy and useful enough to graduate to either the JLA or JSA. But as Nuklon he was boring. As Atom Smasher, he was either boring and good or boring and bad.

Northwind had potential too. I liked his look, his weapon and his later mystic powers but they used him to mimic Kingdom Come's Hawkman and lost everything unique about him.

Jade was cute and more powerful than her father because her power was natural though she looked more like the Hulk's daughter! She actually was THE Green Lantern for a cup of coffee, then given silly plant powers and then killed off, more than once I think!

Obsidian had switched from good to evil, sane to insane and even from straight to gay. It never made much sense.

Nor did the idea that Alan (Green Lantern) Scott had two children that he knew nothing about! And that they would inherit powers from his power ring! That's Tony Stark's kids being cyborgs!

The new versions of Doctor Midnight (African-American woman) and Wildcat(Latina) didn't live much longer after Infinity Inc got cancelled.

Hourman II (White Guy) after some hard times made a comeback!

The most interesting member was SOLOMON GRUNDY!

BTW, that cover got Roy in a bit of trouble because it had the GA Green Lantern on it and the official policy was to have NO Golden Age heroes on the covers anymore!

I liked Jade & Obsidian, as well as Nuklon and Brainwave Jr. Didn't care for Hank or Lyta at all. Northwind was mostly just dull.

But man, that title was blessed with artists for a while. Ordway, then Newton for an issue or so (man, I was so sorry to hear he'd passed), and then McFarlane -- and while I can see all the flaws in his art now, back then, his layouts made my eyes pop. 



Rob Staeger (Grodd Mod) said:

... and then McFarlane -- and while I can see all the flaws in his art now, back then, his layouts made my eyes pop.

I had the advantage of being an adult -- mid-twenties -- when Infinity, Inc. debuted, so I saw all McFarlane's flaws then and was baffled at his popularity. It was at this point, when McFarlane and Liefeld were really popular, and I thought they stunk, that I briefly toyed with dropping comics. I was a lone voice in the wilderness.

As to content, Randy said it perfectly: "I kept wanting the kids to sit down and shut up and let the vastly more interesting grown ups do the talking." I was unaware that DC had some sort of jihad against its own legendary founding characters, so I was baffled why I was reading about Hector and Lyta Hall when I was a lot more interested in Carter and Shiera Hall. (And I still have no idea why Hector was dressed up like Blue Beetle.)

But I was a minority of one back then, so I generally kept my mouth shut. It feels good to get that off my chest after all these years!

I'm sure you weren't alone, Cap.  If only they'd had some mechanism whereby all the geographically displaced fans with similar gripes could get together and discuss the sad state of then-modern comics?

 

:-P

I don't like what became of McFarlane, but I liked his work when he was starting out on INFINITY, INC. I think he was just as good as all the other artists that started out at DC and didn't yet have a lot of experience and tried as best they could to wow us. It doesn't seem fair to measure any of these artists against the seasoned pros who had years of experience. I would easily put early McFarlane in the same company as early Nasser, early Giffen, early Rogers, early von Eeden.

One thing I liked about early McFarlane was the way he used the page design. At that time, with all the Deluxe Format comics that allowed full bleed art, you had artists doing these full bleed page layouts--which just looked ugly to me. You still have artists like this and the best way I can descirbe it is it looks like a mirror that was smashed and there are shards laying haphazardly on the floor. But McFarlane didn't do that--he tried to design the layout so it made some sense, but still taking advantage of the full bleed. He did things like putting symbols outside the panels--maybe a bit gimmicky but I liked it. And every new artist has to have his own gimmick to stand out from the pack. 

You can talk trash all you want about the later ego-maniacal McFarlane--the guy who abandoned Canada and sold out to the American dream--but the early Calgary artist who was humble and hard working, I liked. Also it doesn't seem fair to beat up on any artist when they are first starting out. I hate it when I see posters doing that. You have to give every artist a break for the first few years of their career--if they don't improve and turn into terrible hacks, then it's fair game to brutalize them.

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