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July 08, 2009

Comments

Nimbus

"Without my power ring, I'm super powerless - except from the waist down".

Hal, the playa. Such a great line.

There always seemed to be a lot of explanatory text based (somewhat dubiously) on real world pseudo science in the Silver Age. Like the Coombya cannons and the migrating birds in the images above. Like they're trying to be educational but going way too far.

Servo

"Without my Power Ring, I'm Super Powerless - except from the waist down"

I immediately started laughing at this. I can imagine a few bloggers taking full advantage of this for humor.

I tend to agree with you on Fox/Sekowsky era. Having grown up reading Justice League from the Englehart and also the Perez era, I have a hard time looking at this stuff.

On the other hand, I find it somewhat refreshing for its strange plots. The stories remind me of the "Challenge of the Super Friends" era on TV - the ideas of the Legion of Doom were interesting.

In both the comics and cartoons, it just seems like the Justice League was there to "react" to the events, not really active particpants.

It's still a slog to read, admittedly.


Brian Disco Snell

The ironic part is, Fox just wasn't very good at writing team books (and remember, most of the Golden Age JSA stories were just linked solo stories with everybody gathering together at the end).

Everybody in Fox's JLA speaks with the same "voice"--8.5 times out of ten, you could swap the word balloons between the heroes and nobody would know the difference (except, of course, for Hal Jordan's "super powerless--except from the waist down." That could only come from Hal). It's enough to make you pine for gratituitous Claremontisms like "Mein Gott" or "Begorah" to at least break up the monotony.

Servo

"I can feel my success factor flowing back into me."

Sounds like Wonder Woman finished that Tony Robbins' self-help class.

Sorry, had to throw that one in.

Dr. Retro

"Leg-swaping??" Now that's just too bizarre. So did any of the male heroes get to be Wonder Woman "from the waist down"? Wait! That's just sick.

zubzwank

Stan Lee said "Let your characters tell the story." and he did-sometimes with those cool little talking heads at the top of the panel.

You are right, however. Way too much talking in old JLA. Many have done an about-turn on Sekowsky's art though, nostalgically remembering it from childhood. Swan, Infantino and Kane he was not.

The difference in silver Marvel and DC was brought home to me a few years ago when, at a show, I bought FF Masterworks Vol. 2 (1963-64) and a Legion of Superheroes Archive edition (same period); The FF were practically jumping off the pages while the Legion (who I love nonetheless) were more like over-talkative stiffly-posed action figures.

A few years ago, I bought a current FF issue.
On the splash page, there were 10--count'em--10 exposition boxes, and no, these were not "what came before..."

Hey writer--It's a visual medium. There's another place for that kind of writing--it's called a novel.

Mark Engblom

""Without my power ring, I'm super powerless - except from the waist down".

Yeah, good ol' Hal. Even with Fox's cardboard cut-out characterization, he somehow manages to shine through.

The pseudo-science thing was another endearing quality of Silver Age DC, which was probably a carry-over from the science fiction backgrounds of several DC editors...who seemed to fancy themselves as "journeyman scientists" in the tradition of Isaac Asimov (despite their very anecdotal grasp of the scientific priciples they incorporated into stories).

"On the other hand, I find it somewhat refreshing for its strange plots. The stories remind me of the "Challenge of the Super Friends" era on TV."

You're right...the Super Friends TV show is very similar in tone to the Justice League comics of the early 60's. Plot-driven with very stiff, 2-dimensional characterizations of the team members.

"Everybody in Fox's JLA speaks with the same "voice"--8.5 times out of ten, you could swap the word balloons between the heroes and nobody would know the difference"

Great point, Snell. Bad enough the characters talked incessantly...they talked incessantly with the same "clinically observational" voice.

"Sounds like Wonder Woman finished that Tony Robbins' self-help class. "

LOL...it does have that batty New Age self-help ring to it, doesn't it?

""Leg-swaping??" Now that's just too bizarre."

Pretty much par for the course in Fox's JLA, Doc. Regarding Wonder Woman, see the above panel where she's holding an unconscious Atom? Well, a few panels before, the League's molecules were disassembled, and the Atom used his willpower (or smarts, or something) to mentally reassemble them all...but botched the reassembly of their lower bodies. Ahh....but the one Leaguer who was reassembled correctly before Atom lost consciousness was, of course, Wonder Woman.

To the relief of the Comics Code Authority and young male readers everywhere.

Mark Engblom

"Hey writer--It's a visual medium. There's another place for that kind of writing--it's called a novel."

Another great observation. The Fox/Schwartz JLA was very novel-like in its reliance on words to tell the story with the art relegated to a supporting, almost incidental role. In fact, the stories almost read like Little Big Books, which (as many of you will recall) were mostly prose with single panel illustrations that supplemented the narrative...but did not advance it or tell its own story in any significant way.

Wes C

I rather like Sekowsky. He's not a favorite of mine, but I've never quite gotten why he gets singled out as such a bad artist.

I wouldn't have wanted him to have drawn everything, and the barrel chested thing is rather jarring, but I find a certain charm to his work... in small doses at least.

When I flipped through the Showcase, I found his art to have a nice "crispness" to it, not unlike early 60's Infantino and Giella.

Of course I haven't actually bought any of the Archives or Showcases, so obviously I'm not that blown away by it.

BTW: Silver Age Marvel can also be a bit of a slog. As much as I love the Kirby/Lee FF, it can be a bit tedious getting through some of Lee's overwrought text, especially when Kirby has already done such a good job of laying out the story visually. It's like Lee felt he needed to justify his writing credit by cramming every panel with text. Sometimes it just gets painful.

Mark Engblom

Sure, Stan could get wordy too...but I think the difference lies in what Snell brought up. Stan was great at giving each character his or her own "voice" so there was a sense of real personalities interacting with each other...and not the interchangeable "do-gooder speak" of the Fox JLA.

For example, you couldn't imagine Reed Richards with Ben Grimm's dialogue...or vise versa. Or Spider-Man's in place of the Hulk's. Very different verbal styles for very different characters.

David Morefield

My six- and four-year-old sons love me to read comics to them, which is cool, but given a choice they always want these blasted early Justice League stories. Trust me, as exhausting as it is reading them in your head, it's even more sapping to read the entire thing out loud!

CM Nite

Compare Fox/JLA w/Hamilton/Legion. The Legion stories of the early 60's are far more entertaining. Hamilton didn't care if a planet was 10,000 light years from Earth. For purposes of the story, the Legionnaires could be there in ten minutes.

Rottgutt

Is it just me or does Despero kind of look like Richard Nixon in that one picture?

Pat Curley

Try Planet that Came to a Standstill from Mystery in Space #75, Mark. It's the best JLA story by a very wide margin, written by Fox but illustrated lovingly by Infantino and Anderson.

Sekowsky was one of my least favorite artists back then, and time has not changed my mind. Characters would seemingly gain or lose 50 pounds in between panels. And when he drew people running, they always looked more to me like they were roller-skating, badly.

I did like the final two stories (JLA #29 and #30) in that book, with the whole notion of home field advantage for superheroes and villains.

I agree with you about the gimmicky stories and excessive explanations. As an aside, I have an issue of Detective Comics (#150) where no kidding, Batman spends the final two pages--12 panels in all--explaining how the crime was done. Unbelievably tedious.

suedenim

I rather like Sekowsky, myself, particularly his faces, which have a lot of cartoony life to them compared to the norm. He seems particularly dependent on a sympatico inker (IMO, the Sekowsky/Giordano team on "Diana Prince, Wonder Woman" looks great), too, and I don't think he was terribly well-served or well-suited for JLA.

And come to think of it, neither was Fox, except in the sense that he could write competent JLA stories at all. His style works a lot better in solo books.

Granted, it's notoriously hard to write the JLA, since not only do you have a large cast of characters, they're also incredibly powerful characters. But it's still annoying how often JLA adversaries are able to incapacitate Superman, GL, Wonder Woman, et al, basically by writer fiat. The villain has some nutty all-powerful device that works because... because shut up, that's why.

And another thing... Many writers have put a lot of effort into doing stuff with them, sometimes with success, but... the JLA villains (i.e., the ones created specifically for the title) suck. ALL of them, pretty much. And where they don't (for example, Despero), it's because they don't act at all like they did in Silver Age JLA stories.

Chris Mullen

What bugs me most is how inconsistent Superman's S-shield is. I thought the shield had been more or less standardized by the mid-40s. Why does it look so off-model here?

David Morefield

Sekowsky was lousy at drawing the S-Shield. Then he was replaced on the book by Dick Dillin, who if anything did an even worse job of it. Jim Mooney was another artist who never figured out how to draw it. How hard can it be? In Mooney's case, it didn't even look like an "S", much less THE "S."

Funny how DC would go to such lengths to replace the heads on Kirby's Superman art, but was so laid back about the mishandling of arguably its most important marketing symbol of the era.

Wes C

I remember around the time that Byrne's "Man of Steel" came out he said that when he was a child he didn't realize Superman's symbol was actually an "S".

He said he thought it was two yellow abstract designs (or "fishes") on a red background. That's the way he approached drawing it, and it makes a lot of sense to draw the negative space instead of an "S" since we all approach hand writing so differently.

Now that I think about it, it may have been mentioned in the back of "Man of Steel", it was a long time ago.

BTW: I know mentioning Byrne and Superman is near blasphemy on this site ;), but cut me some slack, I was 13yrs old at the time and this was John "Fantastic Four" Byrne we're talking about.

Mark Engblom

Nah...no calls of blasphemy from me. While Byrne's Superman wasn't my cup of tea, I do acknowledge that the Superman comics of the mid-80's were long overdue for a change, and Byrne seemed up for the challenge. Many of the changes were wrong-headed, silly, or excessive...but others really did give the franchise a shot in the arm.

Plus, now that most (if not all) of Byrne's changes have been retroactively erased, I'm much more charitable toward that era than I used to be (now that it's essentially been reduced to footnote status).

And when it comes to the Fantastic Four, Byrne takes the backseat to nobody but Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. I still think F.F. was the greatest thing Byrne's ever done or ever will do.

Al Bigley

I have to agree..My interest in the JLA doesn't start until around the 1967 era or so, but...tough read!

Sekowsky's figures all have that same body type, not matter if it's Superman or Wonder Woman...That straight line from the armpit to the ankles...

But seek out his other work, mostly on the early 70s WONDER WOMAN..Much better work!

Al Bigley

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