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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I don't think that's a fair assessment, Jimmm. I didn't like McFarlane's work when he started out, and I don't like it now. I simply don't like his art. I'm not required to take into account the circumstance of the artist -- relative age,  poverty, whatever -- when I make that assessment. The work is being put out there for me to judge, and I have every right to judge it on its own merits.

Now, If I started talking trash about McFarlane the person, then I'd accept your criticism. I have no right to do that. But I have every right to like what I like, and dislike what I dislike.

Just as you have every right to take those circumstances into account when you make your assessment. You have a sliding scale, apparently, based on the circumstance of the artist. That's fine, and I applaud your empathy.

But I still don't like McFarlane's art! :)

When I look at most comic artists' early work, it's pretty bad. Some became amazing good artists, some didn't. So I think it's unfair to look at the early art and judge. Later you can judge. But even then, whether they were bad in their early days is never an indication how they will turn out. 

McFarlane in his early days, I felt was at least trying to do a good job. That was in '85 when he started on INFINITY, INC--and he stayed for two years. Then he went on to Marvel. For me the breaking point was in '90, when he became the wirter/artist on the new SPIDER-MAN tilte. And there, yes, I agree--it was all flash and no substance and that set the tone for the '90s.

But iin '85, I don't think it's possible to judge where McFarlane might go. It's a bit of 20/20 hindsight to look at that work--which is pretty much to the standard for any artist starting out and already know how he's going to turn out.

As well, from what I remember there was no big fan following for McFarlane when he started out on INFINITY. It was when he went over to Marvel and started doing HULK--two years later--that the fanboys discovered him and started acting crazy.

It's telling that Roy Thomas ended up working with so many green artists when he was at DC. He never could hold onto the established artists and always had to go finding new talent. I think this shows how little support he got at DC.

Zero Hour:

I'm not going to do an in-depth discussion of this book, I'll just note what happened to the JSA in it.  Extant kills the Atom, Doctor Mid-Nite and Hourman.  Doctor Fate is "dispersed". Some weird business that I never really understood happens with Hawkman and Hawkgirl. The others are all aged to about the age they should have been, except for Green Lantern, who is still young-looking, but is wearing that horrendous costume they had him wearing during this period.  Alan Scott gives his ring to Kyle Rayner, who subsequently drops it! It is picked up by Parallax, who subsequently drops it and steps on it.  Jay Garrick summons the Spectre, who gets in on the final battle.  The surviving JSAers pretty much give up.

 

Overall:  You know, I don't necessarily object to them killing off the JSAers. By the  1990's, it did sort of begin to stretch credibility that all of these guys would go on forever. But at least let them go out achieving something, rather than just being wiped out to show what a hardcase the utterly forgettable Extant was.  (What the hell kind of name is "Extant" for a character, anyhow? The 90's were a dark time...) And having the others just give up - particularly the still-powerful Alan Scott? Bleh.

 

NEXT:  The JSA returns! Sort of!

ZERO HOUR was supposed to be the end of the Justice Society as we know with the deaths of three longtime members and the accurate ageing of the rest except for Alan Scott who, as Baron said, quit but didn't.

It also gave us the awful Fate and the excellent Starman who used the now really elderly Ted Knight and Wes Dodds to great advantage.

The Golden Age Hawks were merged with the then current Hawkman (the Post Crisis Katar Hol who was revealed to be half American Indian {??}) with some sort of Hawk God to create an All New, All Different Hawkman who was rapidly forgotten.

However they very quickly back pedaled on the utter retirement of the JSA as the Flash, Green Lantern/Sentinel and Wildcat were still active along with a retconned Hippolyta as the "Golden Age" Wonder Woman.

As for the rest, their names were reused for different characters  with different numbers behind them: Doctor Mid-Nite II, Hourman III, Mister Terrific II, Hawkgirl III, Sandman IV, etc.

 

DC's seemingly pathological hatred of the JSA is linked to its addiction to reboots, I think.  They seem convinced that if they just keep renumbering the titles and making the characters dumber and the costumes uglier, readers will somehow believe that Superman, Batman, etc. are all really brand-new shiny characters just out of the box.  Having characters around who actually remember careers that span decades (not that it matters which decades) just spoils everything.

John Ostrander (and Tim Truman) spent 5 whole years essentially telling the "origin" of the new Post-Post-Crisis HAWKMAN. It was a magnificent effort.  And within about 6 months, Bill Loebs SPIT all over it. There's just no excuse for that.

Meanwhile, when I finally got around to reading the issues of INFINITY INC. with Todd McFarlane... well, I could not believe how AWFUL it was on every single level. There's no sense of panel-to-panel storytelling at all, characters just stand around stiffly for 20 pages (I'm sure a big part of that problem is Roy Thomas' fault, he seemed obsessed with writing a soap opera and completely forgetting he was supposed to be writing an adventure series), and the obsession with totally uncalled-for and distracting "design" elements suggested someone trying to avoid people realizing he had no idea what he was doing.  On top of all that, Tony DeZuniga was TOTALLY WASTED doing inks on that.  When you add in the change in paper stock & the coloring, you wind up with issue after issue hardly worthy of being used as bird-cage lining.

BUT THAT'S ME...

The captain said:

"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."

I wonder to what extent the "jihad" is informed by monetary motives.  I don't know what DC's compensatory policies were at the time of INFINITY INC, but in some cases the creators got some money for creating new characters.  Very recently Len Wein publicly stated that he paid off his house thanks to his co-creatorship of Lucius Fox back in 1979.  In some cases perhaps the JSA is marginalized by creators because those creators would have liked their original characters to make some money for them, even if DC continued to own thopse characters outright.

 

But if that was any kind of motive for Roy Thomas' creation of INFINITY INC, you would have thought he'd have tried to make the characters more multi-dimensional.  Obviousl the X-MEN were the Team to Imitate for all subsequent youth-groups, so why not follow that template?  Instead, if anything Thomas made his new characters more simplified than his treatment of the Silver Age AVENGERS. 

 

Maybe by that time, Thomas was an old dog who just couldn't learn any new tricks.  Having been a fan of the old AVENGERS, I take no pleasure in saying that.

 

Carrying on with this threadjack photo threadjack.gif about the merits, or lack thereof, in Todd McFarlane's art ... 

Where one sees an artist using gimmicks like symbols outside the panels to stand out from the pack as a good thing -- or, at least, an honest effort to entertain the reader -- I see an amateur covering for his lack of ability, because people with ability don't need gimmicks.

At the time, Todd McFarlane was an amateur, so how much slack should he get for that? Not much, in my book. Yes, an artist can grow and improve over his or her career, but he or she should still have the basics down if doing work for paying customers. 

Some guys starting out just barely meet the threshold -- like John Romita Jr., whose early work on Iron Man is full of all kinds of mistakes, but he grew into a great talent. I'd say McFarlane starting out was better than Romita Jr. starting out, but was he in the same company as early Nasser, early Giffen, early Rogers, early von Eeden? In my book, maybe, yes, absolutely not, and no.

But, as we are wont to say around here, that's what makes horse races. 

Where one sees an artist using gimmicks like symbols outside the panels to stand out from the pack as a good thing -- or, at least, an honest effort to entertain the reader -- I see an amateur covering for his lack of ability, because people with ability don't need gimmicks.

And it was definitely the gimmick that grabbed me, in McFarlane's case. The page design wowed me -- the figure work, not so much, And by the time he got to Spider-Man, I was definitely off the bandwagon. 

As for the gimmick of panel borders -- well, it is a gimmick, but when someone like Mark Buckingham does it in Fables, it becomes wonderful again. (And a useful tool, as the borders give context to whose story we're looking at, in a cast of hundreds.)

In that vein, I have to add that I liked Todd McFarlane's Infinity Inc. Was it great? Of course not but it was different than anything DC was doing at the time, even with Tony DeZuniga's inks overwhelming it. The Helix storyarc was great and DC had high hopes for him as he started both "Batman: Year Two" and Invasion!, though he soon left.

His work did improve at Marvel but his solo Spider-Man book? Five part stories that could have been done in two or even one! That's why I never bought Image! Artists drawing endless pages and not actually telling a coherent story!

And Roy Thomas has said numerous times that the reason why he kept using old names instead of creating new ones was the royalty rights. So he creates Infinity Inc under DC's new royalty plan and as soon as DC cancels it, they systematically eliminated every one of them or made them unusable.

I know this is a bit off-topic, but since you brought up Fables, I'm starting to get bored with Buckingham's borders. It's become awfully predictable. One of the reasons I enjoy the guest artists--aside from the fact that they're generally terrific artists in their own right--is the fact that they don't use panel borders. And you know, it still looks like Fables to me.

Rob Staeger (Grodd Mod) said:

As for the gimmick of panel borders -- well, it is a gimmick, but when someone like Mark Buckingham does it in Fables, it becomes wonderful again. (And a useful tool, as the borders give context to whose story we're looking at, in a cast of hundreds.)

Gene Phillips said:

The captain said:

"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."

 

I wonder to what extent the "jihad" is informed by monetary motives.  I don't know what DC's compensatory policies were at the time of INFINITY INC, but in some cases the creators got some money for creating new characters.  Very recently Len Wein publicly stated that he paid off his house thanks to his co-creatorship of Lucius Fox back in 1979.  In some cases perhaps the JSA is marginalized by creators because those creators would have liked their original characters to make some money for them, even if DC continued to own thopse characters outright.

 

But if that was any kind of motive for Roy Thomas' creation of INFINITY INC, you would have thought he'd have tried to make the characters more multi-dimensional.  Obviousl the X-MEN were the Team to Imitate for all subsequent youth-groups, so why not follow that template?  Instead, if anything Thomas made his new characters more simplified than his treatment of the Silver Age AVENGERS. 

 

Maybe by that time, Thomas was an old dog who just couldn't learn any new tricks.  Having been a fan of the old AVENGERS, I take no pleasure in saying that.

 

 

I don't know ... it seems the monetary motives worked the other way, in that writers and artists were far more likely to use legacy characters instead of creating their own, because they had the Horrid Examples of Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Jack Kirby and Steve Gerber to show them that if they created new characters, said characters would be owned by the company and the creators would be cut out the massive potential windfall, and might even be denied any mention that they had any part in the creation -- which is what happened to Bill Finger.

But there definitely at the time was a bias against the legacy characters, as noted here. The Earth-Two Batman was killed off in Adventure Comics #462 (April, 1979) in part because he was thought to be superfluous with The Huntress around.

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