When I was a young lad in the early 70's, my friends and I were hardcore "Marvel Fans" (this was long before the term "Marvel Zombies" was coined). However, something that began to change our minds when it came to DC Comics (or "Dumb Comics" as we dismissively called them) was the animated TV show Super-Friends. Essentially a simplified version of the Justice League of America, Super-Friends familiarized us with DC's basic "pantheon" of heroes. Of course, we already knew who Superman and Batman were, but the rest? It was all new to us...and quite exciting to explore some interesting new "fictional territory".
It wasn't long before someone in our merry little band picked up DC Limited Collector's Edition C-46 (1976), an oversize treasury edition of Justice League reprints. The dynamic cover (by either Neal Adams or Dick Giordano...or both, from the look of it) featured the now-familiar core group on the cover.
However, it was the back cover that really blew our minds.
At first glance, we thought the back cover was simply a duplicate of the front cover...but upon closer inspection, we realized that some of the heroes were subtley different versions of the familiar icons on the front, or...in some cases, completely different characters occupying the spaces of JLA members.
(click on the images for larger views)
Why was the Flash suddenly wearing a helmet and blue pants? Is that a skirt on Wonder Woman? What's the deal with Green Lantern's red shirt...and his ring on his left hand? How about the slightly different chest logos on both Superman and Batman...and who's the guy with the cool golden helmet?
This was obviously my first introduction to DC's legendary "multiple earths" concept and, counter to the conventional wisdom that new readers are frightened away by such "confusing concepts", I still remember how my friends and I couldn't wait to find out more about these fascinating new (yet familiar) heroes.
Gradually, I dug up other comics here and there (mostly from friends, considering this was the pre-comic shop era), and eventually found out about The Justice Society of America, and how it all fit together with the JLA. Over thirty years later, those characters and their connection to their Earth-1 counterparts are just as interesting and exciting to me...despite DC's over 20-year banishment of the concept. Happily, DC seems to be warming up to the multiverse concept once again, so perhaps that same delightful sense of "anything goes" the above pair of covers suggests can find it's way back into our modern cynical age.