From the minute I first laid eyes on the Justice Society of America, I've been a loyal fan of comics' first superteam. For the next several years, the only place I was able to see the JSA in action was their annual team-ups with the Justice League of America, but in 1980 that all changed with the debut of The All-Star Squadron.
Written and edited by Golden Age guru Roy Thomas, the series was initially a vehicle for DC's more obscure wartime superheroes, but when the JSA heavy-hitters became the core focus (and inker Jerry Ordway was promoted to principal artist), The All-Star Squadron enjoyed several glorious years of unforgettable adventures.
Of course, all good things must come to an end...and in the case of The All-Star Squadron...boy, did they ever. Following its third year of publication, after Jerry Ordway and his able successor Rick Hoberg moved on to other pursuits, Roy Thomas began assigning much less accomplished artists to the title....to the point where the interior artwork was almost as crude as the Golden Age JSA stories of forty years earlier. As bad as things got, the killing blow for the series came in 1985-86 as DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths did away with the multiple-earths concept, effectively obliterating Thomas' Earth-2 fiefdom.
Following the Crisis "washout", a demoralized Thomas seemed to have thrown in the towel, as more and more filler or "file" stories appeared, each more poorly-drawn than the last. Perfectly symbolizing this dreary period was the cover of All-Star Squadron #57 (1986), which featured artwork by Mike Clark that clearly had no business appearing on the cover of a "major league" publisher like DC Comics.
Since the spotlight is on the Atom, Starman, and Wonder Woman, let's take 'em in order:
The Atom: Sure, he's always been a short, scrappy guy...but the normally 5' 3" superhero looks to be at least two feet shorter here...and who knows where his left forearm could be? In Starman's...uh...holster?
Starman: A mishmash of incompetent foreshortening, Starman appears to be at least twelve feet tall, with a left thigh measuring as long as his torso. Add a formless, gigantic cape, a pig's hoof of a left hand, and what appears to be billowing yellow smoke (or a golden space-brain) surrounding his Cosmic Rod, and you've got yourself one cosmically-confounding drawing.
Wonder Woman: Woah! Check out the long, lustrous hair growing out of her left armpit! And that mannish face! And that pointy hair-hat! Or that long, lanky left arm capped off with knuckle-free needle fingers! And what's going on with that deformed right leg? Is it behind Starman's left foot or behind it? Well, it really can't be behind the foot, since Starman's left arm is behind her, making her look as child-like as the Atom.
1. What's with the Floating Head of Hourman (upper right) appearing to float in front of Starman's cape? The whole point behind the Floating Head Cover is that the heads are symbolic (conveying drama or concern), not literal heads sharing space with the main characters.
2. You know you're in for amateur hour when an artist signs his name inside of what appears to be a tiny piece of parchment paper. It's sort of the illustrator equivalent of playing "Stairway to Heaven" in a guitar store. Inflated "I Am Legend" greenhorn grandiosity at its worst. Some advice: Spend a little less time on the "Scroll of Legends" signature and a little more time practicing your figure work and foreshortening.
Happily, since the current JSA series is one of DC's top-sellers, the dark days represented by that atrocious cover are (hopefully) far, far behind us.