Even though All-Star Comics #3 hit the newsstands a full thirteen years before I was born, I’ve nevertheless harbored a life-long affection for the Justice Society of America…
Why, you ask, would this child of The Silver Age feel such a deep connection to those costumed bastions of comic’s Golden Age? Timing, friends, timing!
Y’see, back in 1961, at the tender age of eight, I had barely begun buying my own copies of DC’s superhero line (Superman #146, with an on sale date of May 4th was the first) when the company released their treasured Secret Origins #1 collection a month and a half later on June 15th (and no, my memory isn’t THAT good - there’s a wonderful section over at the Mike’s Amazing World of DC Comics website that groups each month’s titles from every year the firm’s been in business together sequentially by release date called, aptly enough, The Time Machine! It’s proven to be a fun way for me to relive those grand old days loitering around the comics rack down at Heisenbuttels General Store in Yaphank - and has also shown me that Secret Origins #1 (pretty much the closest thing you could find to a Readers Manual for beginner comic book fans in those days) was merely the 14th DC Comic yours truly ever bought!).
And included in that landmark issue was perhaps the single most important Silver Age story of all (at least, up to that point in time, with the emergence of a certain foursome still a few months off) - the origin of The Flash. We all remember what Barry Allen was READING early on in that tale, don’t we class? Uh huh - an issue of Flash Comics ! Only, not one featuring the sleek-domed red-garbed speedster we kids were familiar with during the dawning days of JFK’s administration, but rather a fellow adorned with a Mercury-styled helmet dating all the way back to midway into FDR’s White House tenure! I couldn’t help but be curious - who WAS this guy?
Little over a month later, my question would be answered. July 20th saw the release of my second ever issue of The Flash, #123, featuring the justifiably legendary “Flash Of Two Worlds”…
I was immediately intrigued by this Jay Garrick fellow. I liked his looks - nice hat, dude - and the fact that he was already married to HIS romantic interest was a breath of fresh air. Hey, in those days, it only took a few months of collecting to become weary of DC’s woefully overworked snoopy girlfriend shtick! Yeah, THIS Flash didn’t have to pretend to be a slowpoke just to throw off his (seemingly clueless anyway) gal pal the way Barry did “reporter” (hah!) Iris Allen! More please!
A week later, I got my wish - sorta. That’s when Showcase #34 made its appearance, featuring the debut of the second-generation Atom. All well and good, but to me, clearly the coolest part was the pair of text pages wherein editor Julie Schwartz took the opportunity to explain the genesis of such characters as The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, this newly minted Atom - even the august organization known as the Justice League of America - by revealing to us young ‘uns (via an illustration reproducing the gathered greats sitting around a table as pictured on All-Star #3’s cover) the inspiration behind all our (then) modern day favorites!! Wow! You mean there was an entirely DIFFERENT group of super-heroes saving the world from evil-doers way back before I made MY arrival on the scene - ANY scene? Cool! And since there was absolutely no way I was gonna get my hands on any of those old comics at the time, a sort of romantic, almost mystical quality grew in my mind, surrounding any and all characters from the Golden Age of Comics, but most especially members of the Justice Society.
Well, after that one-two-three punch, I had to wait nearly an entire year for another glimpse across the fog of time. Flash #129 hit the stores on April 19th, 1962, and not only did it feature the second ever pairing of Barry and Jay (the latter of whom was referred to throughout, interestingly enough, as “the other Earth Flash”, sans numerical designation), but a memorable three page flashback to the JSA’s final adventure as well, bringing such characters as Dr. Mid-Nite and the Black Canary out of limbo for the first time in decades, alongside some of the JLA’s prototypes/dopplegangers! Wonderful stuff!
Nearly a day to the year, it got even better! Flash and Flash, round three (in Flash #137) found several members of the Justice Society playing a small - yet happily, non-flashback - part in the proceedings as the Crimson Comets took on forties’ menace Vandal Savage for the first - but not last - time in the modern era. At stories end, there was some conjecture amongst the reassembled JSAers about maybe, y’know, getting back together for a little more fun and games! GREAT idea! And WHEN exactly might this much anticipated event occur, I wondered?
How about nearly two months later, on June 13th, 1963? THAT’S the day the word “Crisis” firmly entered the comic-book lexicon - and as we know all too well, it sure hasn’t left yet!…
Was there ever a more majestic cover scene that the one illustrated by Mike Sekowsky and Murphy Anderson (and, like all the other pieces included in this edition of “The Fred Hembeck Show,” lovingly redrawn by your humble host)? Literally emerging from the very mists of the past, this initial meeting of the two Justice organizations spawned an annual tradition of two-part summer team-ups that lasted for over a decade, always the most eagerly anticipated JLA issues of the year for moi!
(Here’s part two of that first monumental assemblage…)
After that, gee whiz, you wouldn’t have supposed it would take very long for the two Lanterns to ring up an adventure together, would you? Well, you’d've been wrong - over a full two years later, on August 26th, 1965, DC FINALLY put their two green good guys together in one adventure - and what an adventure it was, too!
“The Secret Origin Of The Guardians”, we would learn just over two decades later in the pivotal maxi-series, Crisis On Infinite Earths, was nothing less than the basis for the creation of the entire DC Comics Universe! Gosh, and at the time I thought it was just another piece of pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo that the company had long had a reputation for churning out - who knew? (The unadorned truth is, as fond as I am of these characters, unlike the contemporaneous adventures of their Marvel Comics counterparts, there’s very little I recall about the actual STORIES, just a certain “feel” that the art - and especially those iconic covers - exuded. The plots, though, never stuck with me the way Stan’s did - sorry Fox fanatics…)
And then there were the two Atoms, one big (relatively speaking), one small. They teamed up twice - once on December 1st, 1966, when Atom #27 was released, and later (as seen below) in 1968’s 36th issue. (February 1st, 1968 - I just know SOMEONE’S keeping score out there!!..)
Nice, but not only was I growing up by then, the novelty of finding JSAers on sixties’ comics racks was clearly fading. (Come to think of it, we never DID get a Hawkman/Hawkman pairing. Mighta had something to do with those two outfits being practically identical…)
But still, to this day, I have a definite soft spot in my heart (and yes, my head as well!…) for the JSA. That’s one of the reasons I got such a kick out of redoing the classic covers you see above (another reason being was cuz I was PAID to! Quick plug - go here if you’d like to commission me to do up my version of a favorite cover of yours, ANY cover - but be advised: on February 1st, my rates will increase an additional $25 per cover. Still a good deal I’m thinking, but if you’re looking for a bit of a financial break, better hurry!).
Y’know, I kinda dig Captain America for a lot of the very same reasons DC’s premier super-group so appeals to me, but hey, that’s a whole ‘NOTHER episode, isn’t it now?
(Oh, and if you’d like to see slightly larger versions of today’s featured Classic Cover Redos, they each have their very own page over at my home site, Hembeck.com . You can access each individually by clicking your mouse over these links: All-Star #3, Flash #123, JLA #21, JLA #22, Green Lantern #40, and Atom #36.)
-Copyright 2007 Fred Hembeck (Earth Prime version, natch)
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