"You talk too much, you talk too much,
I can't believe the things that you say everyday
If you keep on talking baby,
you know you're bound to drive me away."
"You Talk Too Much" by George Thorogood and the Destroyers
Although the target of Thorogood's blues/rock classic was a chatty girlfriend/wife, it very well could have been directed at the Silver Age Justice League of America!
Confession time: Although I generally enjoy the simple pleasures of Silver Age (1950's-60's) DC comics, I have to admit there are some titles that are a really tough slog for me....such as The Justice League of America.
Having collected several DC titles from that era, I'm well aware of the factors that made them such a unique and often peculiar reading experience. However, there's always been something about the JLA stories of writer Gardner Fox and artist Mike Sekowsky that drives me away ...despite my best efforts to appreciate them. In fact, my latest attempt took place just last week when I checked out the Justice League of America Archives (volume 4) from the library.
Reprinting issues #23 (1963) through #30 (1964), I began reading in the most charitable frame of mind I could muster...only to be bored senseless a paltry two stories in! Once again I asked, "What is it about these stories that instantly turns me off?"
Well, one of the most obvious turn-offs remains Mike Sekowsky's stiff and stocky figure work which, as my pal Scott Tipton observed, made the JLA resemble "a bunch of middle-aged businessmen dressed up for a Kiwanis Club masquerade party".
Adding to Tipton's impression is a recent observation of my own that Sekowsky's JLA looked more like stiffly-posed action figures than dynamic, living beings. In short, not my cup of tea.
However, as bland and uninspiring as the artwork was, it's recently dawned on me that my biggest hang-up with the Silver Age Justice League is the writing of Gardner Fox. A prolific writer during the 1940's (a.k.a. "The Golden Age of Comics"), Fox was the co-creator of The Justice Society of America, comics' first superteam and the direct predecessor of the Justice League. Still, as impressive as the Fox resume was, his gimmicky, plot-driven Golden Age sensibilities didn't translate especially well to the emerging character-driven style of the Silver Age. Of course, it didn't help having Julius Schwartz as his editor, who was legendary for his own infatuation with stories low on characterization and high on plot-driven gimmickry. Further dampening Fox's effectiveness was DC editorial's over-arching preference of heavy exposition over visual storytelling to propel their stories forward...with characters often telling the audience (and each other) what they were doing rather than letting the visuals convey it (as their new crosstown rival Marvel Comics was able to do so masterfully).
In other words, the Justice League of Gardner Fox (at the direction of DC editorial) was extremely heavy on the talky-talk and skimpy on visual storytelling and spectacle...as this montage of random panels more than demonstrates (Warning! Do no drive or operate heavy machinery while reading these long, rambling word balloons!)...
Although supervillains have always been known for their self-indulgent monologuing, Fox's JLA villains took it to an entirely new level of eye-glazing blather (click to enlarge)...
When Fox wasn't trying to break the world record for long-winded blabbity-blah, his Justice League stories featured some of the strangest, most surreal whack-nuttery of DC's Silver Age era...which could often be fun in DC's other books...but when you're barely engaged in a JLA story to begin with, stuff like leg-swapping superheroes, flowing "success factor", recharging "victory force" and pantomiming dinosaurs would have the opposite effect...and obliterate whatever minimal interest or goodwill it might have earned up to that point.
For those who genuinely enjoyed the Fox-Sekowsky Justice League stories, my apologies...and, frankly, a small measure of envy. I really wish I could look past their limitations and enjoy them like I can with so much of DC's Silver Age output...but for the reasons I touched upon (and maybe some others I haven't yet identified), the Fox/Sekowsky JLA stories remain in the "I don't get it" column.