Hello once again fans of the JSA and welcome to April’s meeting of the JSABC all @JSABookClub members.
This session is going to feature the Golden Age. I know a lot of you are probably groaning right now and thinking “JT why must we go back there again?” Well my friends @TheCosmicMoth pointed out an interesting comparison between All Star Squadron #7 and All Star Comics #11 that I thought might be interesting to explore more in depth. I thought an exploration of how these two issues written decades apart handle the question of getting people to join the war effort and deal with members of the JSA ‘joining up’ to defend the country they love and protect.
After that I will be including the next two issues of All Star Comics for those that want to read them.
Because these will be Golden Age stories I feel the need to stress that some material may contain attitudes, art or language that may not be in line with modern ideals of equality and acceptance and we of the JSABC do not condone such attitudes etc. These stories are a product of their time and should be taken as such with the understanding that we as human beings have, for the most part, changed our attitudes for the better.
So lets call this meeting to order and dig into these issues!
Am I the only one psyched for this? As far as Golden Age Justice Society stories go, All-Star Comics #11 is one of the better ones. There are a lot of great first meetings between major characters in this one. I’ve also mentioned before that I am a big fan of how Roy Thomas built his All-Star Squadron stories within the Golden Age continuity.
If anyone wants a recap of the Justice Society events leading up to these issues (without reading more Golden Age comics than you need to), I’m going to post brief issue by issue recaps in the SPOILER blurred section below:
All-Star Comics #3- Justice Society of America forms (Roster: Flash, Spectre, Doctor Fate, Hawkman, Sandman, Hourman, Green Lantern, Atom) and swap stories of their most exciting adventures. First appearance of Oom the Mighty.
All-Star Comics #4- Justice Society of America is tasked by the FBI to break-up Nazi spy and saboteur rings across the United States.
All-Star Comics #5- Mister X and his crime syndicate fail to assassinate the members of the Justice Society which causes Mister X to turn himself in. Shiera Sanders dresses as Hawkgirl for the first time.
All-Star Comics #6- Flash is made an honorary member of the Justice Society for life alongside Superman and Batman. Johnny Thunder is “initiated” (hazed) as a full member to take Flash’s place after Johnny apprehends “Killer” McPanzee.
All-Star Comics #7- Green Lantern becomes chairman of the Justice Society. The Justice Society raises $1,000,000 for orphans of war-torn democracies after honorary members Superman, Batman, and Flash show up to provide the final $300,000.
All-Star Comics #8- Green Lantern becomes an honorary member of the Justice Society for life. Hawkman becomes chairman in his place. Doctor Mid-Nite becomes the new full-member in Green Lantern’s place. Hourman goes on a leave of absence and Starman replaces him in the interim. The Justice Society uses Solution K to counter-act Professor Elba’s chemical that drives men insane. Professor Elba accidentally kills himself during the struggle. Princess Diana of Themyscira meets Steve Trevor and wins the right to take him back to man’s world.
All-Star Comics #9- The Justice Society is tasked by J. Edgar Hoover to smash Nazi spy rings in Mexico, Cuba, and South America.
All-Star Comics #10- The Justice Society defends the Time Trust from Nazi assassins. The team then uses Professor Damon Evers’ Time-Ray to travel to the year 2442 to find the secret to an airtight defense against bombings.
As we start All-Star Comics #11, the Justice Society of America’s membership stands as:
Honorary Members- Superman, Batman, Flash, and Green Lantern.
Full Members- Hawkman (Chairman), Doctor Mid-Nite, Sandman, Starman, Atom, Johnny Thunder, Doctor Fate, and Spectre.
Just got through All-Star 11. I cannot say I enjoyed it until I switched to another method, quit reading and just look at the pretty pictures. My main problem with most early team stories is instead of fighting together they all do their own thing individually.
The good is I did really like the Hawkman story (I know, big surprise coming from me), especially Hawkgirl in it. At the very end I was really enjoying Thunderbolt’s insults, and that is why I much prefer Johnny to Jakeem.
That was a really dumb reason for keeping them out. The plan should be have Dr. Fate transport them all to Tokyo.
I am surprised they showed the Americans using a submarine, since America hid their useage so much that it was only recently we learned the subs were the MVPs against the Japanese partly as they really stunk at fighting them. Also the Japanese tendency to make their ships look cool and be really expensive isntead of making them practical made them especially vulnerable to subs.
Today is “JSA” day, so here goes at least part 1 of my dive into the deep dark DC past:
Some general observations concerning reading tales from the JSA of the early 1940s:
A) At first, like others on this thread, I was hoping the team would actually be a TEAM instead of a club room where heroes would gather to regale each other about their solo adventures. Very similarly another club here on the DC Community site has discovered World’s Finest never teamed up Batman and Superman until something like 73 issues of covers showing them together: their adventures were separate in the comic for many years.
B) What I like about the anthology approach is, we get to experience several writing and especially art styles this way. I would rate over half the stories as “acceptable” art but a nice smaller slice are exceptional artwork.
Storywise this time around, not much to wriite home about, fairly bland “patriotic” predictable fare. No one was ever in danger, the JSA basicallly mopped the floor with the opposition troops, almost one handed.
Q1: What did I think of their experiences?
I felt some of the heroes and their adventures were at least enough to keep my attention from start to finish: Hawkman in particular was a great fit for the Air Force, and truly a singular person being able to fly at the altitude and speed of the enemy planes with a machine gun in hand would be believably formidable, much like the smaller English ships against the gigantic for the time Spanish Armada centuries earlier; the English ships were much more agile and deadly in some ways.
The not so entertaining stories for me anyway were the Sandman which is one of the worse versions of him out there, just zero powers or abilities that I can determine beyond the gun, and Dr. Fate who’s claim to fame here is he can fly…that was it mainly except bullets seemed to miss him and oh, he floated through a ceiling, there was that.
That’s what I’ve read so far. I’ve found from past experience with this club it’s best to s l o w l y read through these gigantic early '40s anthology comics, especially since none of the individual stories are related much if at all.
“What about their use of their hero identities to help out their allies?”
I would say some more than others. Starman and Hawkman seem to use their identities productively and believably as pilots for the war effort. The Dr. Midnight plot of assisting with an alternative cure for malaria was pretty big deal. Malaria really hit a lot of World War II vets many decades after the war, and Japan was sitting on the then-known cure quinine.
More examples of the storylines and artwork I felt were above the rest:
That is something I enjoy about the anthology books. There are times when I want to read several stories by multiple writers and artists instead of just one story. Also I don’t mind shifts in art styles as much in an anthology versus when it happens within issues of an ongoing or especially when there is a shift in art styles mid issue.
Given the year these stories were published the patriotism was the point. All of the media of the day was full of the same. Also seeing these heroes beating those opposing troops (whether it was realistically depicted or not) probably gave the kids that read this issue a lot of comfort and hope. I wonder how many kids reading at the time had fathers or brothers off to war? Probably a lot. I know in my own family we had several in the services during WWII, each with young families back home.
If I saw Hawkman coming at me with a machine gun I would high tail it out of there myself. Probably quit the war altogether too.
There is something about the Golden Age Atom that I enjoy a lot and this story was another one.
That one got a chuckle out of me.
Yeah, I read these over several days myself. Hence why I made this session a month long one.
Overall I actually prefer All-Star 11, mainly because it has more appealing art due to better costumes. Honestly the most important part of a character’s success might be the design.
I noticed both issues put plenty of focus on the heroism of normal soldiers who are risking their lives without any superpowers. This is more the case in Golden Age, since the war was still being fought.
It makes me realize something. If DC really wants to just get rid of a hero who has not been around since the Golden Age they could always say he/she just died fighting in World War II at the Battle of the Bulge or something.
Them using their hero identities is not something I like. For one it makes simple soldiers too easy to beat. It raises the questions about why not just have Flash run Yamoto, Rommel, and Manstein back to allied prisons to cripple Axis leadership (double screw the Afrika Corp),and fighting Dr. Fate should really change Axis battle plans. I think he could wipe them all out all by himself if there is no superpowered counter.
After reading Dr. Mid-Nite I am going to marathon the most beloved JSA run, so lets see if I get to next month’s readings before May 1st.
I get why people find these stories a bit dull (there are even times that I do). Golden Age stories often lack the complexity and character development of modern day stories and then some. Any criticism that has been thrown and could be thrown at these stories is valid. However, I think there are some great things happening here.
I’ll start by mentioning Wonder Woman’s meeting with Hawkman and Shiera Sanders (AKA Hawkgirl). This has been brought up a few times before, so I won’t go too into detail. However, aside from the fact that this is Wonder Woman’s first meeting with another superhero and it’s dropped that the JSA knows her secret identity, this is also the start of a bit of in-universe continuity building that would exist between Wonder Woman’s adventures with the JSA in All-Star comics and her solo adventures in Sensation Comics and the Wonder Woman book. I will discuss this more later, but it makes this moment more significant.
There are two other moments I want to mention even though they don’t occur on the front. First, Spectre’s inability to enlist because he is ded:
Well, the real reason Spectre can’t enlist is because Wonder Woman was taking his story space for the month. However, there is something to this moment as not everyone could enlist to fight in WWII despite significant pressure following Pearl Harbor. Spectre’s declaration here is a rallying cry to those who may feel a bit less than because they couldn’t enlist to fight.
Also, this nearly huge decision by Doctor Mid-Nite:
The fact that Chuck almost tells Myra his secret identity here is a big moment. In the Golden Age, heroes very rarely ever considered telling their love interest their secret identity. Some kid with a good right cross who wants to help you fight crime, sure, tell that kid, but you would rarely consider telling the love interest. The fact that he almost does helps convey the gravity of the moment in post Pearl Harbor America.
The actions they took in the war in their costumed identities also showed some departures from form. Let’s start with Hawkman using a sub-machine gun:
Part of Hawkman’s gimmick was that he used ancient weaponry to fight crime. He was an archeologist, so he would pick a different outdated murder device to use each adventure. Here, he is using modern weapons of war. This change conveys how the heroes are willing to adapt their methods to the war.
This includes killing:
Golden Age heroes certainly killed more often than modern heroes do. Sandman is also not the first society member to kill in this issue (Hawkman threw a bomb at a Japanese boat). This image, though, is pretty pretty striking. Also the fact that it’s Sandman, the man who passively puts his enemies to sleep, doing the killing is pretty chilling. This is war, though. There will be casualties.
I can’t really pick a favorite between the two. I’ll just say that I love how both stories work in tandem. For instance, I like how Roy Thomas offers some explanations that can help clarify things from the old All-Star Comics stories.
This is the Atom in All-Star Squadron #7 suggesting that his leave was due to FDR already knowing his identity. If the president is aware of the identities of the Justice Society members and he was tracking their war-time exploits then that would explain how quickly many of our heroes moved to the front and how easy it was to smuggle in their costumed identities.
I also love Thomas’ slavish devotion to history and continuity. All-Star Squadron #7 contains retellings of events from All-Star Comics #11, DC Special #29, Winston Churchill’s 1941 Christmas Message, and even a little bit of More Fun Comics #80:
That walking disco ball is Spectrum, the King of Color. He is the villain that Spectre fought in More Fun Comics #80 which came out around the same time as All-Star Comics #11. If you wanted to know what Spectre was doing on the home front while the rest of the Justice Society enlisted, Thomas gives you a hint at the exact answer. That attention to continuity detail is incredible.
Of course I read them, lol! Just a few things I want to note.
First, the Justice Society goes toe-to-toe with the Black Dragon Society in issue #12. The Black Dragon Society were a real-world nationalist group in Japan. My feeling is that a lot of America’s anti-Japanese sentiment following Pearl Harbor was focused on the Black Dragon Society as they have come up in other Golden Age comics I have read. Notably, they also ran afoul of Black Condor, Minute-Man, and Spy Smasher. I have no other conclusion to draw from that. I just find it interesting.
Also, @Don-El mentioned that no one was really in danger in All-Star Comics #11. You would start to see major characters in mortal peril more and more in All-Star Comics starting with Johnny Thunder in issue #12:
Then there’s issue #13… I don’t want to spoil anything, but All-Star Comics #13 plays a significant role in a major DC crossover that, in part, plays out in the pages of later All-Star Squadron issues (Crisis on Infinite Earths). Since that crossover takes place towards the end of All-Star Squadron’s run, that suggests that most of the All-Star Squadron stories take place within the span of All-Star Comics #11-13. Maybe gives a little reference to how long the Justice Society members were in the army/navy.
Finally, I mentioned the universe continuity building between All-Star Comics and the Golden Age Wonder Woman stories. This gets cemented in All-Star Comics #13. In Wonder Woman’s All-Star Comics #13 story, she meets Queen Desira of Venus. The Queen gifts Wonder Woman with magnetic hearing:
This sets up later appearances of Queen Desira in Golden Age Wonder Woman issues. In modern comics, that’s nothing special. For the Golden Age, however, that is HUGE. In the Golden Age, you were lucky if you got any continuity in a single hero’s comic as many different creators would likely work on that hero and because… who cared. To have continuity between TWO different comics AND have one of those comics be a TEAM BOOK. That was special. If you ever decide to read the Golden Age All-Star comics in full then do yourself a favor and read Wonder Woman’s Golden Age material alongside them.
There is soooo much more I want to say and that I passed on saying, but I could be at this for hours. I’ll just stop here. Thanks, guys! This was fun.
I’m definitely enjoying sampling a little of the Golden Age at a time. Some of the artwork is exceptional, Hawkman in particular. In fact, I just picked up a nicely priced hardcover The Golden Age Flash Archives V2 (none digitized yet that I can find). Imagine my surprise when I saw that the first two volumes are stories written before the Pearl Harbor attack!
Roy Thomas for sure is a national treasure of 40s and 50s comic book lore! What he did at DC to connect with the glories of Golden Age he did as well over at Marvel like with 3-D Man and the Invaders.
As I recall Roy Thomas came up with some magic spell that prevented the DC heroes from participating in World War II for the very reasons you mentioned…hopefully I am not confusing something Roy Thomas did at Marvel lol.