Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Classics - Justice Society of America #1

This blog tends to focus on writing and story for a simple reason - I don't really know much about art (although I know what I like).

But for this week's "Classic Comic," I wanted to focus on an artist who was with us for entirely too short a time.

When the Justice Society of America was finally released from its post-Crisis on Infinite Earths purgatory, the team got a try-out mini-series and then graduated to its own comic (which was cover dated August 1992).

It was written by Len Strazewski, who did excellent work on this and every other series he worked on.

Mike Parobeck was tapped for the art duties (with Mike Machlan inking) and his art was a real delight.

At a time when comics were focusing on grim and gritty, here was an artist whose style was light-hearted, fun and downright optimistic. It was a perfect match for the scripts, which brought the first super-team back as the "greatest generation" of heroes. They were wiser and older - though not as old as they would have been in reality, thanks to some rejuvenation.

The first issue actually has the team retiring from super-heroics, only to realize that it's not easy to walk away from your life's calling.

Parobeck's art is credited by some as kicking off the "animation" look for comics, but I really think his art is rooted more in classic, deceptively simple styles by artists like Alex Toth and (more recently) Steve Rude.

His layouts were lively, his characters distinct and heroic, and his enthusiasm for his work just spilled off the page.

Sadly, despite strong sales, this series was canceled after 10 issues - reportedly because the editors didn't like the idea of "old" heroes - and they didn't like the art. As someone who bought and enjoyed all those issues, I can only say, "Pshaw." (Of course, the series would return in 1999 - this time to stay.)

Parobeck went on to greater success drawing Batman Adventures, but his career was cut short when, at age 30, he died (he had been diagnosed with Type One diabetes).

It's a real shame, because his style was timeless, and he brought a breath of fresh air to an industry that really needed it. His work lives on, of course, and his style is more widely accepted today - but it's a shame he's not around to see it.

Grade: A-

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5 comments:

-> Ray said...

I met Len Strazewski recently, and he showed me his own bound set of these comics. It made me long for an offical collection one day, to go along with every other JSA collection DC has published. I do not understand why they've overlooked this great series.

Chuck said...

Ray, awesome! Everyone I know who's met him has great things to say about him. And I was shocked to realize this series (and the mini-series that preceded it) hasn't been collected. Come on, DC!

Superman Fan Podcast said...

I still have this series, and the original JSA mini-series. I relly liked Parobek's art. It's too bad when an editor gets in the way of a good series. These days, it seems some comic book editors don't know when to step in to keep a title on course, and on time, and when to step back and let the creative team run with it.

Anonymous said...

It's too feel-good and upbeat for the grim 'n' gritty style of comics
then, and now. Nice work by the men
involved, but it wasn't successful when it was published, and unsold copies went straight into the bargain boxes. Compared to the JSA title(s) we have now, this classic mini-series would have to be relegated to some Elseworlds
universe! Not enough darkness and angst, y'all.

Sam Kujava

Kyle said...

Hey! I had forgotten about this series... it was sure a blast. It's a shame, but as Sam said, this really didn't fit in with the comics of the times... believe this series started around the same time as Image kicked off...(?) ha! what a juxtoposition to have Leifield and Parobeck next to each other on the rack...