Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Classics - Justice League of America #56

The writer of most of the first 100 issues of the original Justice League of America was Gardener Fox, and he's one of my all-time favorite DC writers in the Silver Age.

But he's often been attacked as a "hack" writer because of a few less-than-stellar issues he wrote.

I've always thought that was unfair - certainly he had a few issues that were average at best, and a few goofy ideas in there (the usual one that gets tagged is when the heroes are choked by exhaust from a fleeing car - that scene isn't in this issue), but that's to be expected when cranking out a monthly comic on schedule, each one featuring a small army of characters.

I'll wager that any writer who tackles a significant number of issues on a team book has a few issues or moments they'd love to get a "do-over" on.

As a young reader, I loved this title, even when it fell into a standard format: heroes discover menace, break into teams, confront the problem, then gather together to solve the problem.

It was an effective way to give all the characters "stuff to do" and keep the story barreling along to its conclusion.

And it's important to remember that Fox made this comic a huge success - it was (I believe) DC's best-selling title. And that made sense - why buy single issues with a hero when you could get eight or more heroes for the same 12 cents?

He also expanded on his Flash-based idea of two worlds - Earth-1 and Earth-2 - and made the annual crossovers between the JLA and the Justice Society of America an event to brighten up each summer.

This issue was the last of those crossovers written by Fox (who would depart with issue #65) and drawn by Mike Sekowsky (#63 was his last issue) with Sid Greene inks, and while it's certainly not the best of their work, it includes some surprising moments.

Both teams were shocked in issue #55 when they are defeated by four villains who have gained immense powers from some parasitic alien spheres. They find a possible solution - but instead manage to infect four of their own team members with the same alien force. How can the team fight the bad guys - and their own teammates?

The solution is a bit of a stretch, but offers a fun (or even silly) resolution. And you have to love that iconic cover by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson.

Fox's work was always a treasure for its sense of fun, energy and optimism. These were characters you wanted to root for, you enjoyed visiting every month - and there are plenty of modern comics that can't make that claim.

The stories might be on the basic side, but they were always entertaining, and always fun. That's why, even in 1967 when I was gravitating to Marvel's comics almost exclusively, I kept picking up the JLA.

(One of these days I'll talk more about Sekowsky and why I was always a fan of his work.)

Grade: B



El Vox said...

Looks like an interesting issue. I think comic readers can be split between two camps: team readers and lone wolf readers. I read both and still do time to time, but generally prefer, lone wolves. Sometimes the wolf might have a side kick to aid in the storytelling like Batman, or a team behind them, like the Shadow, but for whatever reason those appealed to me most. I guess I always felt, these heroes take on the criminals and aliens all day long, and now they need a team? However, sometimes that interaction can be fun.

Chuck said...

El Vox, good point. I've always been a fan of the team books, because of the character interactions - but that's not to knock the solo hero comics.